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Rough Day

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Maker, why is this even a thing?

You don’t know his name.  You’ve never seen his face.  He barely says a word, doesn’t even move much unless he needs to.  If he didn’t have such an obvious complex about droids, you would’ve thought he could be one himself, quietly forged and hidden beneath gleaming beskar armor for an untold number of years.  You know practically nothing about him other than the few things you’ve heard about his culture—most likely either grossly exaggerated or just flat out nonsense.  Everything about him is an enigma, even down to the vaguely impersonal things, such as the technical name for his “poof gun” or what insane percentage of his body weight metal has to account for.

But that doesn’t stop you.  Nope, the fact that you’ve never even seen a strip of his skin doesn’t stop you from nursing a stupid, helpless crush on the quiet bounty hunter.  Stars, it’s ridiculous.  The modulated, low baritone, the intimidating way he carries himself, so stoic and dark and foreboding and tall—

He terrifies you.  You’re absolutely terrified of bothering him, of being too forward or inquisitive.  You sit in the cockpit with him for hours in dead silence, kid perched on your lap in the copilot’s seat to keep him from touching anything, hypnotized by the way his helmet subtly reflects the streaks of hyperspace as they race by and thinking about all the impossible things you want to know but can never ask about.  The last thing you want to do is accidentally test his patience, possibly get marooned on some backwater planet somewhere because you just couldn’t accept something so beautifully mysterious for what it is.

So you ultimately strive to be almost as quiet as he is, always helpful but never in the way.  You troubleshoot mechanical issues with the vessel when they make themselves known, take the baby in one of the secluded areas of the hull and play peekaboo for a bit when he gets too fussy, or just pick up a rag and start cleaning when there’s nothing else to occupy your time.  You sleep occasionally, curling up on the floor of the hull with a blanket to avoid taking up too much space, living out of your suitcase and making a generous ten percent of his commissions just by copiloting and keeping watch over the child while he works.  With the strict schedule he keeps, your pay is always handsome and consistent, even if it is all a bit boring.

Watching him wrestle his bounties into carbonite is admittedly the most exciting part for you, the rest of your days filled with nothing but the interior of the vessel as it either travels through hyperspace or sits stationary on a planet.  He always returns to you bruised and dirty, manhandling and shoving his bounties up the ramp and into the carbonite chamber one by one, not bothering with the fuel needed to collect payment until at least three or four have been retrieved.

You try not to constantly replay the incredibly vivid memory of one of them snarling something sexually obscene at you once and how quickly the bounty hunter whipped his fist out and broke his nose before freezing him.

“Isn’t… isn’t he still conscious in there?”  You remember asking, studying the disgustingly crooked angle of the man’s shattered silver nose, to which the Mandalorian shortly replied, “Yes,” before clambering into the cockpit and taking off.

You had to bite down on the back of your hand to keep from whimpering when you touched yourself later that night.

Maker, you want him.  You want to help him relax, give him something soft and warm to come back to after exhausting days spent in the elements, after not sleeping for who knows how long and toting elusive criminals behind him.  Sometimes you can’t think about anything else besides how hard he’d fuck, how much he desperately needs it, how sexy his voice would sound raggedly gasping your name through the modulator in his helmet.  You want to get on your knees and give him the reward he deserves for putting himself in danger for a living, risking his life time and time again for mere credits.  If he even returns your feelings by ten percent, it’d be gracious and far more than you deserve.

But then one day he comes back limping, dragging a dead body on the ground behind him by the hem of its ankle.  The baby is already fast asleep in the cockpit so you thankfully have nothing better to do but watch as he silently hauls the dead weight into the hull, heaves it upright into the carbonite chamber.  He’s slow—too slow in pressing the button.  He looks at it for too long.  It’s like he has to double-check it’s the right one, adjust his vision until it fully focuses and registers.  Breath coming out stunted and shallow through his helmet, every movement somehow looks like it’s increasingly more difficult for him, limbs heavy and weighed down with iron braces and pure exhaustion.

His silhouette slowly approaches through the thick haze of freezing gas, and you blink rather stupidly down at your hand when an emergency cauterizer is suddenly pushed into it.  Without a word, he turns around and starts working at his chest plate.

You’re… you’re actually kind of worried now.  He usually takes care of these things himself, shuts himself away and tends to his own wounds after capturing unexpectedly difficult quarry.  How serious must his injury be to not bother getting into hyperspace before treating it, much less even closing the door to the ship?

Finally managing to find some sense of urgency, you quickly reach up to fiddle with the complex magnetics below either of his pauldrons.  Once the beskar, utility belt, and underplates are all removed, the Mandalorian abruptly drops to his knees with a loud clang and curls over, reaching behind his gleaming helmet to pull weakly at his cape and tunic.  You lower yourself to the floor and help him, hands trying not to shake as the warm, tan skin of his spine gradually reveals itself from under the dark fabric.

Your heart somehow leaps and contorts simultaneously, soon catching sight of the ugly tear of a knife wound steadily dripping crimson down his side.  “Shit,” you whisper, fumbling with the unfamiliar piece of medical equipment in your hands.  “Shit, Mando, are—are you sure this’ll be enough?”

“Not deep,” he punches out through the modulator.  “Just need… close it.  Be alright.  Sleep.  Set coordinates…”

The cauterizer zaps red and reflects against the gradually dissipating fog in the air, its threatening buzz echoing throughout the quiet hull with impending pain.  

“Try not to move,” you warn, swallowing thickly and reaching your hand out to rest along the smoothness of his bared skin.  He noticeably flinches.

Your fingers squeeze gently, reassuringly as you bring the laser down and start at the very edge of the wound.  The Mandalorian manages to stay remarkably still for being in what you can only imagine must be incredible pain, the skin of his back feverishly warm under your palm as it periodically flickers and illuminates a glowing red.  

You have to bite down on your lip when he suddenly shoots a hand back to firmly grab hold of the bend in your knee, taking slow, deep breaths through the modulator and trying to relax the tensing muscles wrapping around his spine.

Maker, this is like a fever dream.  His skin is so smooth, firm and lovely and bronze under your gentle touch, muscles pulsing with life as you slowly work to stop the bleeding by scarring over the tissue.  It’s so… intimate.  The silence broken only by the zapping cauterizer and his tight breaths, the way you’re both holding onto each other for entirely different reasons.

His grip on your knee suddenly turns to steel and he huffs out a ragged gasp in wordless caution, giving you just enough time to pull your thumb off the button before his body jerks a few inches in pain.  His tunic falls down your wrist with the abrupt movement and nearly touches the sizzling wound before you can catch it, quickly yanking the fabric up his curled back as far as you can and readjusting your hold on him.

You give him a beat to recover like that before softly reassuring under your breath, “Halfway done,” and brushing the knuckles of your other hand down his spine in a small gesture of comfort.

His muted grunt of acknowledgement follows a minuscule little tremor under your palm, the way his body seems to be responding to your touch filling you with some new, radical kind of bravery.  You quietly shuffle closer to him and turn the cauterizer back on, carefully framing his hips with your open legs.

“That little green thing up there is a monster, you know,” you suddenly say, wanting to distract him by filling the void but not wanting to overwhelm him with conversation.  Even small talk is considered uncharted territory here, but you figure it’s better than letting him suffer in silence.  “I saw it eat a live fish today.  A fish.  Grabbed it out of the pond over there like it was nothing and just swallowed the damn thing whole, fins and all.  Most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

You don’t hear him or see him move, but you do feel a subtle shake of his ribcage under your hand.  It fills your heart with air.

“Was twice as big as the little hairball,” you continue on.  “Surprised he’s not still flailing around in there right now, throwing him off balance.”

“Not with…those ears,” a modulated voice returns quietly, his gloved thumb barely brushing a half inch across your kneecap when you suddenly breathe out a laugh in surprised delight.  

“Maker, it’s worse than I thought.”  Your hand soothes gently along his back, trailing over the hills and valleys of each individual rib while you work.  “A Mandalorian just told a joke.”

“S-symptom of… of impend—ing death.”

“Yes, well.  At least the dramatics are consistent,” you remark.  “I deserve a raise, by the way.  Holding that little gremlin over the toilet and having him stare up at me while he does his business is getting real old real quick, tell you that much.”

“Reason…” he breathes out, trying not to wince, “…hired you.”

“Jerk,” you accuse with a smile.  “He’s healing you next time.”

There’s a small huff through the modulator, and his helmet tinks against the metal floor when he abruptly drops his head to rest there.

“Almost done,” you tell him, curling your fingers and softly dragging your nails down his side in hopes of distracting him from the pain.  It works like a charm, his whole body instantly going boneless at the sensation.  “Finish this up, close the door, set coordinates.  Get you clean, then you can rest for a few days.  You work too hard.”

“Mand—lorean…” he barely croaks out in response, as if the almost inaudible word counts as a valid explanation.

“Hadn’t noticed,” you say, finally reaching the other end of the wound.  You turn the cauterizer off and double check your work, hating the deformed scar for marring his beautiful skin but reasonably satisfied it won’t accidentally reopen.  “Alright.  Done.”

He doesn’t move.

“… Mando?”

His body stays completely still, unresponsive to your inquiry and his breaths no longer immediately audible.  Your blood instantly turns to ice in your veins as you drop the silver contraption to reach around his body and shove two fingers under his helmet, pressing them up against his lower jaw as best you can.  Only, the thick fabric of his cape wraps around his neck in layers like a shawl, blocking you from feeling his pulse.

“Shit,” you hiss, your other hand quickly rounding his side under the tunic to travel up the front of his bare torso instead. Pointedly ignoring the way his chest hair tickles your fingers as you wiggle them up firm pectorals and a prominent collar bone, you eventually find and push against a scruffy jawline.

The quick, steady beating under the tips of your fingers allows you to relax just slightly, but then the Mandalorian suddenly grunts and shifts, trapping your elbow under his arm and bringing his hand up to cradle the back of yours over his shirt.

You freeze with your body nearly folded over him on the floor like that, praying you haven’t overstepped somehow.  This is an emergency, surely he wouldn’t think you’re—

Slowly, so achingly slowly, he starts to pull your hand down the strong lines of his neck.  You gasp, fingers trembling under his as he gradually leads you lower, letting you trace the dip in his collar bone, spread out across the solid curve of his chest and feel his heart beat unexpectedly rapidly under your palm.

Maker, this is real—he’s real.  Warm, sturdy, clearly too delirious and lost in the same exact euphoria you are to snap himself out of it.  Touch.  Skin-to-skin contact after so much isolation, so many years spent by yourself.  In other circumstances, you might be worried that you’re taking advantage of him in his clearly exhausted state, but his grip on the back of your hand is so strong—his path so steady and clear as you both travel across the hard ridges of his sternum and abdominal muscles.  If anything, he’s not giving you much of a choice in the matter, and for some reason that fact alone serves to make you incredibly bold.

When your fingers eventually bump into the hem of his trousers, you cautiously lean forward and press your lips to the Mandalorian’s exposed shoulder blade.

He instantly goes rigid at the gentle kiss.  And then his entire back quakes with a shudder.

“Fuck,” comes that dark, gritted baritone through the modulator, losing all sense of composure and frantically shoving your hand beneath the fabric hugging his waistline.

“Maker,” you whisper against his skin, equally as fervent, letting him spread his legs slightly in his hunched-over position and maneuver your palm to wrap around a warm, thick cock.  He groans and gives them both a good, rough squeeze over the thick layers of fabric.

“Fuck—you’re—“ he moans hoarsely, moving to brace an arm above his head on the floor with a metallic clatter so he can slowly start to thrust his hips into your clenched fist, “fuck—soft.  How’re you so f-fucking—sof—oft.  ‘N pr-pretty.”

Your body fills with wildfire, ladling heat into your lower tummy.  “Softer somewhere else,” you admit quietly, brushing your thumb along the tip of his cock and humming when his body jerks with it.

“I—fuck—be-believe you,” he gasps, growing harder and harder in your hand.  “Bet you feel—per-perfect.  S’perfect.  H-home.  Rough—” his breathing stutters, helmet rolling to the side on the floor with a dull scrape, “Ngh, fuck—ro—ough day.”

“Let me handle it,” you murmur, beginning to stroke his throbbing length up and down in time with his cramped, stunted thrusts.  It’s not ideal, of course; it’s dry, probably too dry but for some reason you think he might like it more this way.  He gets to feel every ridge and crevice your fingers catch, gets to use his hand to tighten your grip around him even more and desperately start dry fucking your fist like he’ll never get enough of the sensation.

“Let you do anything,” he agrees mindlessly, the words sounding slurred and distorted as he groans them deliriously into the floor.  “Give you—give you anything.  Fuck.  Sw-sweet girl.  Helpful.  Always—always taking care of things.  The k-kid.  L-look so—look so pretty.”

You press soft, open-mouthed kisses along the heaving curve of his spine, letting your warm tongue come out to taste the thin sheen of moisture glistening there.  He growls low in his throat and freezes, holding himself perfectly still and clenching his hand into a fist on the floor as you flutter your tongue against his skin.

“I like taking care of other things, too,” you say softly into the dip in his shoulder blade.

“Ah—fucking, stars—like it—like it, too,” he grits, his cock pulsing between his legs.  “T-too much.”

“Relax,” you encourage, reaching your other hand down to gently cup his balls.  “Relax.  You need rest.  Just cum like this, I’ll go down on you later if you want.”

And then quite suddenly—so suddenly that you think it might actually surprise him more than you—he does.  

The Mandalorian cums.  Hard.  In your hand, right there on the floor, dark clothes bloody and prestigious armor halfway ripped off his body.

A ragged gasp tears through the modulator and his back straightens, the chin of his helmet lifting off the ground a few inches with it and his balls pulling up deliciously tight under your palm.  Warmth immediately begins to coat your fingers in throbbing spurts as he clangs a clenched fist against the hull, growling the first part of your name before it turns into a savage, wordless snarl.

You bite down on his back and moan with him, caressing the swollen head of his cock as it pulses spectacularly in your hand.  His orgasm is long and achingly slow, draining his body of its dwindling energy with every thick rope of cum you’re able to milk out of him.  He gasps and swears his whole way through it, until he finally exhausts every last reserve he has and collapses weakly to the floor.

With careful precision, you’re eventually able to remove your hands from his crotch.  His back continues to rise and fall with quiet, steady breaths, clearly passed out from overexertion, but it does give you the opportunity and privacy to lick your fingers clean without feeling embarrassed for doing so in front of him.

Nope, no embarrassment, just so fucking turned on that you might actually die.  He tastes absolutely divine—warm and masculine and gorgeously thick coating the shallow hills and shores of your knuckles.  Following your own advice, you manage to stand on shaky legs and close the hatch of the ship, deciding you should probably plot a course for… somewhere, before trying to clean Mando up or dress his wound.

You take a second to look back at him, laying there in a gorgeously disheveled pile on the floor, dead asleep.  It fills you with a surge of pride, being able to reduce such an untouchable, reputable bounty hunter to the level of any other man.  You already want him again, you’re already addicted to the glorious power trip of feeling him let go and fall apart under your touch.

Later, you silently promise yourself, climbing the ladder to the cockpit.  Later.

Chapter Text

So… you don’t go down on him later.

Which—y’know, sucks.

But as it turns out, the reasoning behind it actually ends up sucking more than the actual… well, lack of sucking.

Turns out, Mando isn’t used to having someone dress his wounds while he’s unconscious.  The ugly, purple welt on your cheekbone is a glaring monument to that; somehow numb and throbbing in equal parts, painting the side of your face dark and swollen as you stare at it in the mirror of the tiny bloom closet sized fresher.  Maker, it’s ugly.  You wouldn’t complain if you deserved it, but you’re pretty sure he was still passed out cold when a flash of beskar suddenly came up and clocked you one good right in the side of the face.

One unintentional twitch of his elbow and you suddenly have a black eye.  Imagine the damage he could do if he was actually awake.

Perhaps it was an act of folly on your part, but next time you’ll be sure to reattach his armor and underplates after applying bacta to his scars as opposed to before.  Not like you were trying to be helpful or anything, make sure he wasn’t needlessly exposed unless circumstances absolutely dictated it.  He already made himself vulnerable enough just by losing consciousness in front of you, you didn’t want him to have to wake up in such an open, susceptible position as well.

But see, that ended up presenting a problem you now have to deal with.  Because, after finishing patching him up to the best of your ability (one-handed, with a piece of scrap metal extended cautiously in front of you like a shield), you originally just planned for a quick, ten-second excursion to the fresher to check out the gnarly bruise still throbbing painfully along the entire left side of your face.  You didn’t expect to get so distracted by the slightly bloodshot eye and the split lip framing the corner of your mouth.

Holy fuck.  He hit you harder than you thought.  It’s not like you’re actually upset with him or anything, but.  Holy fuck.

And then of course, things go from bad to worse when you suddenly jump at the sound of steel clanging outside the fresher, the Mandalorian abruptly startling awake in the hull.  Maybe it’s a testament to your compassion that you immediately want to hide it from him, spare him the knowledge that he accidentally whacked you in the face so hard you saw stars when you had nothing but pure intentions.  Then again, a small voice in your head supplies unhelpfully as you glance back in utter shock at the mirror, still working to process just how fucking horrendous you look right now.  He called you pretty, didn’t he?

Yes, he did.

Twice.

He’ll need a shower and a change of clothes as soon as possible, but everything’s in here with you.  Which means you’re going to have to pass by each other.

… Which means you’re going to see him in his cum-stained pants, and he’s going to see you with this hideous mark swelling across your cheekbone.

It’s unavoidable.  Duck and hide under your hair all you want, it’s unavoidable.  You should just do it, you reason.  Just open the door and get it all over with while he’s still regaining his bearings, still working to process what happened.  Maybe if you’re quick, you can slip by without him looking at you too hard.  Maybe he won’t even look at you at all, too ashamed and consumed by his own state of disarray to notice yours.

Once you finally work up the nerve to slide the door open a few inches however, you’re able to catch just a single flash of armor through the small space between either piece of sheet metal before you’re immediately yanking it back shut again.

But then—oh, no, he’s way too quick.  Maker, how is he so fucking quick?  His speed is downright ferocious—a gloved hand suddenly shooting out like lightning and ripping the door to the side while the other one reaches up to grab hold of your chin.  It all takes place in one singular movement, in the span of one single second, even your body’s response to it is spectacularly delayed in comparison to the swiftness with which he moves; it’s not until your face is being tilted up and back toward the fluorescent lights that your brain actually reminds you to flinch.

The Mandalorian’s touch is gentle but unyielding as he silently studies your injury through his gleaming helmet, held so utterly still in the doorframe for so long that you could probably paint him if you wanted.  The bend of his forefinger rests just under your chin, firmly holding your left cheekbone up to the artificial light, and for some reason the quiet seems to grate on you more than ever now.  The deafening silence of hyperspace muffles the sound of the ship’s interior mechanics as it races by the hull at a little over a thousand lightyears per hour, alerting you to every subtle change in his breathing.

“You think this is bad,” you finally hear yourself saying, decidedly looking anywhere but the thin metallic blade of his visor as it reflects the bright light from over the miniature sink back at you.  “The other guy had a knife wound.”

You don’t get a laugh out of him this time, unfortunately.

A quiet little coo coming from the cockpit suddenly snaps through the tension like a rubber band.  You’re already past him and halfway up the ladder before you even realize you’ve moved, scooping the baby up with one hand and quickly whipping the door shut behind you with the other.

Mando doesn’t say he’s sorry until later.  Much later.  Not that he really has any obligation to do so, obviously; you’re a reasonable person and you know that no one should ever feel the need to apologize for something that was completely out of their control.  Still, it’s not until you’ve made it about halfway to your next destination—the last known location of quarry number three, some flashy little inner-rim city called Canto Bight—that the door to the cockpit finally slides open and he silently joins you.  With the relatively complex way time passes in hyperspace, you’re not sure exactly how long you both spent sentencing yourselves to solitary confinement on either sides of the incredibly tiny ship prior to that point, but if it’s to be measured by the circadian rhythm of the annoying, handsy little middle-aged frog in robes you happened to get stuck with, then you’d probably guess about two and a quarter naps, give or take.

You tried sleeping as well, but the way the starlight continuously streaks across the observation shield above you serves as a distraction even through closed eyes.  In a way, you’re glad he’s here.  Even if you do find yourself lowering your head as he quietly sits down in the copilot’s seat behind you, the Mandalorian’s presence serves to fill the air with… something.  Something solid, and safe.  Still wildly intimidating and mechanic in all the ways that count, but.  Safe.

Especially now that you know how warm blooded he is under all that cold armor.

“I don’t remember,” he eventually says, and for some reason hearing him speak to you entirely unprompted absolutely blindsides you after sitting in perfect silence for so long.  His voice is so smooth and lulling through the helmet, somehow managing to transfer seamlessly through the quiet, breaking the stillness between the two of you without disturbing it.  “…Doing that.  It’s not—I… apologize.  It wasn’t intentional.”

“It’s okay,” you say, because there’s not really anything else to say.  You do attempt a smile to lighten the mood a bit, ease his conscience as much as you reasonably can, but then abruptly abandon the gesture when a blazing shot of pain radiates down the side of your cheek.  Yikes, okay, so no facial expressions then.  “Looks—” you try not to grimace, doing your best to let out a huff of amusement without moving any of the muscles in your face, “—looks worse than it feels.”

He doesn’t say anything back, but for some reason you can gauge the extremely dubious expression he’s hiding under his helmet with your back to him.  Sure, the silence says.  Sure it does.

After a while, he stands up.  You can’t see him, but you nevertheless hold yourself as still as possible in the pilot’s seat and listen for any indication of movement, inwardly willing him not to leave just yet.  If you thought polite conversation would have any positive bearing whatsoever on his decision to stay, you would’ve immediately started filling the quiet with any old nonsense, but he’s not like other people.  Mando doesn’t need that, he doesn’t require forced colloquy just for the sake of it.  If he doesn’t want to talk, then he won’t.  And if he doesn’t want you to talk, then he’ll just turn around and leave, right in the middle of your sentence.  He prefers the silence, so in a way, you figure just shutting up and dealing with it is the best chance you have of keeping him here.

But in another way, that means that when a dark glove suddenly appears in your peripheral and presses the button on the front panel of the napping child’s crib, the loudest sound that can be heard in the cockpit is the soft mechanical shifting noise the white spherical shield makes as it closes.

He stays hovering over the back of your chair for a second like that, the underlying implication of the simple gesture not lost on you in the slightest.  You can hear your breaths now—too heavy for the environment, too noisy for how statuesquely you’ve been holding yourself.  He’s close—closer than you’re used to, and the quarters are cramped.  Maker, you can smell him now.  Clean, fresh linen and metal.  You’re torn; you want this so bad you can feel it in your neck, but you’re also still subtly turning your head away from him, still trying to hide the left side of your face so he won’t have to look at you or your awful battle wound.  But that only lasts for so long.  

After a suspended moment of tension, you’re this close to giving in and doing something to ease it—anything, coughing, clearing your throat, swiveling your chair around to look up at him.  But then you practically stop breathing the second you feel something hard and sturdy brush against your hairline.  It’s too rigid to be part of his body, too heavy to be his gloves—

Mandalorian iron.

His helmet slowly lowers over the top of your head, fitting snugly to the contours of your scalp.  You inhale quickly through your nose and blink desperately behind the visor to adjust your vision, but all you’re able to see is pitch blackness in front of you.  The hollow piece of armor significantly amplifies the sound of your breathing, reflects it back at you so much closer to your face than you’re used to, but the empty void of nothingness in front of your eyes feels like the space contained within could theoretically be endless.

His helmet.  You’re wearing his fucking helmet.  But then—wait, oh—that means—

“Breathe,” comes a soft, gorgeously full baritone from behind you, two gloved hands coming down to settle on your shoulders.  Fucking stars, the bass of it nearly burns a hole through you with its richness, no longer distorted by a modulator and somehow sounding so unbelievably warm even through all this metal.  So present, so alive.  So… real.

“What is—” your voice comes out tinny and wrong even to your own ears, run through a high-pass filter and ringing back through the helmet louder than it should.  It’s vaguely claustrophobic, stifling in a sense.  “—Stars, Mando, how do you see in this thing?”

“Photon deflector mod,” he says.  “People like hiding on evac’ed planets orbiting too close to their parent stars, this is as high as the setting goes.  Breathe.”  His thumbs dig into the tight cord of muscles at the base of your neck and you’re so tense you can literally feel it tug somewhere in your scalp.  “Give it a second.  Close your eyes and focus on something else, something outside.”

Something outside.  Like how his fingers start to slowly adjust themselves to you, spread out along the lines of your shoulders and carefully massage the knots there until they start to loosen.  It’s strange; you know perfectly well your mind is still connected to your body, but it’s like every physical sense besides touch now exists in an entirely separate dimension from reality, the abyss dark and endless and so incredibly vast in front of you.  His hands and the leather seat pressing against your back are the only two things that anchor you to the present, allow you to adjust to the debilitating blindness until you can slowly come to terms with it.

“Isn’t—shouldn’t there be a rule about this somewhere?”  You finally ask, taking deep breaths and hyperfocusing on the strength of his grip as he rotates his fingers into the tight muscles stretching across your upper-back.

“Loophole,” the Mandalorian replies shortly.  But somehow, only using his title as a descriptor like that just feels all wrong now that you’ve heard the stunning robustness of his unfiltered voice.  It was all fine and part of the allure when you were still somewhat convinced he was just a fancy bounty droid built inside an incredibly expensive suit of armor, but now things are different.

Now, you can’t help but feel like his starkly vivid humanity—in all its endless mysteries and complexities—at the very least ought to deserve a name.

“Was it… was it really that bad?”  You ask, lolling your head forward and humming when his fingers slowly travel up and grip the top of your neck just under his helmet.  Every little breathy sound you make comes audibly through the modulator, slightly higher and softer than when he’s wearing it but working to expose you from under the mask nonetheless.

“Looks like it couldn’t have felt good,” the low voice carefully admits from above you.  “Wasn’t any worse than seeing you hide.  Don’t—don’t do that.  You don’t have to.”

Your breathing starts to pick up when he trails his hands around either side of your neck, running the tips of his fingers down the column of your throat and slowly tracing the line of your collarbone.

“Take off your gloves,” you whisper, quite suddenly emboldened by the visual isolation.  The gentle caresses pause at the very top of your chest, holding there for a second while he seems to think about it.

Soon his touch lifts away and you hear the way his hands sound as they move against each other, the muffled shuffling of fabric rubbing against itself somewhere close by and the soft noise it makes dropping to the floor.  And then suddenly—

“Oh, Maker—” you breathe, nearly melting into the seat when large, warm palms meet your skin and slowly start to ride the curve of your sternum downwards.  Stars, why does it feel so good?  It’s just two hands, just ten fingers, but they’re so strong and dry and big butterflying out across your chest, dipping just below the neckline of your shirt and squeezing the soft, pillowy flesh of your cleavage.  “Ho—fuck, like that.”

“I know,” he murmurs, his voice ocean-deep and scraping across the ground in ways it just simply couldn’t before.  He lets one hand drift down into the space between your breasts and rub circles on the hard plane of bone there, the other coming up to cradle your chin and urging you to stretch your neck up and long for him.  “You look—good.  Like this.”

“You can’t even see me,” you breathe in protest, letting the heavy beskar tip backwards to rest against the seat as he slowly drags his palm down the line of your throat.

“I see a woman wearing the helm of the Mandalore,” he says, and you’re helpless to stop the embarrassing way your knees suddenly jerk apart when his hand moves to grab your breast.  “Don’t take it off.”  

And then he squeeeezes, and your hips nearly come off the seat with it.

“Wouldn’t—wouldn’t dr-dream—” you stutter, eyes rolling back under the helmet before he quickly lets go and removes his touch from you entirely.  “—ah, f-fuck, Mando—no—”

Everything shifts left—no, wait, your seat just swivels clockwise, but you can hardly even picture the layout of the cockpit right now, much less find your place inside it.  Nothing else exists besides the pair of hands now gripping the bottom of your chair, the steel arm braces pressing tight against the side of each leg.

You hear yourself take exactly one shaky breath through the modulator before his forearms suddenly shift, slithering under your knees and hauling you forward.  Your lower back caves in at the angle, your pelvis now jutted out and propped up by the edge of the seat.  

Which means the Mandalorian can unbuckle your belt with ease and wedge the fabric of your pants down your legs.  He apparently decides to abandon all pleasantries and take your underwear with him as well, a fact you only register once your bare ass touches leather.

You feel more than hear him lowering himself to the floor in front of you, running those same, deliciously strong palms up the length of your thighs now.  Your kneecaps press up hard against his chest plate; the lack of space encourages you to spread your legs for him, if only just to give you both someplace to go.

Yes, you think, feeling the cool air meet your hot, slick center and hearing the sound of his breath hitch at the visual, this is better.  He opens you up wider, subtly moves himself closer into the gap and lets you cradle his torso with your knees.

“Stars,” the Mandalorian rumbles quietly, his grip on your thighs tightening.  “You look… fucking good like this.”

“I—I won’t take it off,” you promise, trying not to squirm too much in this position, knowing his face has to be somewhere close to your cunt but antsy from not being able to gauge exactly where.  “If this is what happens when I wear it, I-I’m never taking it off.  I’ll—I’ll become a f-f-full-fledged Mandalorian, you’ll have to fucking pry it from my col—”

And then you’re abruptly cut off by your own gasp when a soft, dexterous heat slowly envelopes your clit.

Maker, it nearly hurts with how fucking good it feels.  The noise you make through the helmet is indescribable in its obscenity—desperate and long and seeking.  His mouth is a furnace, a slick furnace between your folds and his tongue comes out like velvet to flutter gently over your clit, humming low in his throat as he tastes you for the first time.

Fuck, this is heaven.  This is fucking heaven, laying with your legs open and letting him learn you this way.  He knows as much about you as you do about him—which is to say, absolutely nothing—but now you both know the taste of each other’s pleasure, the intimate knowledge of its gorgeous heat and how right it feels in your mouth.

“M-Mand… oh, fuck—”  Your words are barely discernible through the modulator, warped by the heavy sound of your breaths and gasps.  “Can—Can we do this, like—?  Al-always?  Like, from now on?”

His fingers curl against your thighs, his tongue starting to swirl gentle circles around your swollen clit.  Your hips almost feel like they’re doing too much to seek it out, extending and tightening and refusing to loosen until you know his exquisite mouth won’t abandon you and leave you here in pieces by yourself.  Part of you doesn’t even want him to answer you, because then he’d have to remove his tongue from your pussy and you are honestly not fucking equipped to deal with that right now.

But then you nearly combust when instead of verbally responding, the Mandalorian just sinks two of his thick fingers deep inside your cunt.

Both of your hands thrust out blindly without thinking, the impropriety of the movement lost on you the second your fingers bury themselves into thick waves of hair.  “Oh—f-fuck—”

You can’t tell if the short, rough little growl he makes into your warmth is from the way your fingers feel tugging on his hair or the way you feel clamped around his own, but it still rocks down your spine and sparks lightning deep inside nonetheless.  It doesn’t matter, because he pulls them out and then pushes them back in again, starts doing that steadily, over and over until you’re sweating, hips arching up in presentation and doing everything you can to entice him to hurry the fuck up.

Only, he doesn’t.  You know well enough by now that Mando doesn’t do anything unless he wants to.  He’s unbelievably slow, continuing to lick his hot tongue through your folds and finger fuck you, so utterly patient and steadfast in the way he manipulates your body.  

Something wicked begins to burn in your core, spread threateningly along the muscles in your pelvis.  It rises up through your abdomen like high tide, seeps down into your knees and wraps around them.  Your breathing gets shallower, the base of your lungs too cramped by the oncoming storm to fill properly.  He still doesn’t speed up though, and for some reason that rock steady display of restraint makes you want to cry.

But then at one point, his mouth leaves you at the same time his fingers do, and there’s just a split second delay in his rhythm before they both come back—only the thickness at the base of his knuckles feels just a bit slicker than it did before.

And Maker, there’s just something about the thought of it, the thought of him on his knees for you, wanting to know how you taste everywhere—the way he had to look pulling his fingers out, tilting his head down and slipping them into his mouth, before returning them back to your dripping cunt like he just can’t get enough of your body.  Something about it hits you just right, settles down low and locks your hips in position.

“—I-I’m gonna cum,” you breathe, everything inside you quickly pulling up fierce and tight, your chest heaving and your grip in his hair turning to iron.  “—Oh, fuck, I’m g-gonna cum—I-I—”

A quiet mhmmm sound rumbles low in gentle encouragement, and then he takes a second to softly suck on your clit as if he could pull it out of you that way.  His fingers curl, press up hard against something absolutely fucking devastating inside you, and it’s all you can do to stifle a sob when your body suddenly erupts in searing hot ecstasy under him.

Your back arches and the black abyss in front of you instantly flashes a blinding white, thighs going rigid and pussy flooding itself between your legs.  You shatter and cum in his mouth like the bursts of starlight streaking across the heavens above, wailing the only name you have for him while he groans raggedly and drags you through it.  It’s hot and wet and everything is seismic, nuclear fusion at the subatomic level, detonating and radiating from your center in equal parts chaos and bliss.  

Things slowly return to you one by one; his tongue still fluttering against your throbbing, pulsing clit, the angle of his fingers still pressing up tight against ground zero inside you.  The coldness of beskar between your knees, the solid weight of it hugging your scalp.  Your fingers are clamped so tight in his hair, you think they might actually make a small creaking noise when you finally loosen them.  He slowly pulls out of your swollen heat and holds your thigh open with wet fingers, pauses to give your sensitive clit a few more lazy, gentle sucks and only lets go of you once you jerk away from the sensation.

You feel flattened.  Exhaustion is an incredible inhibitor, so much that your eyes are still closed when the helmet is carefully removed from your head.  A hand covers them as soon as the brightness of the cockpit returns, the sterile air almost feeling fresh in your lungs.

You’re still trying to calm your breathing when a gentle softness presses against your lips, mindful of the split curving down the left side.  It’s gone way too soon though, and by the time he uncovers your eyes and you blearily blink them open at him, he’s already standing, the helmet is already tipped forward and looking down at hands halfway encased in gloves.

“Are you hungry?”  He eventually asks, the low frequency of his natural voice now masked by the modulator.

You blink up at him twice, still slouched over in the pilot’s seat, pants and underwear wrapped around your ankles on the floor.

“Starving,” you finally say.

Chapter Text

They’re all scared to death of him.

It’s remarkable.  You’ve never seen so many drunk, uninhibited people instantly sober and part for anything.  On the small handful of occasions you’ve accompanied him out to get food and supplies, you usually saw more curiosity in the eyes of the locals than the sheer terror you’re witnessing now.  Stares, not averted gazes.

Apparently they don’t get many Mandalorians in Canto Bight.  Probably too shiny, too reflective in the spotlight and spectacle of the flashy casino of a city.  They don’t fit in; they’re meant for a much darker, grittier crowd—one that frequents dusty outer-rim cantinas, drinks booze out of worn metal tankards as opposed to champagne glasses, foregoes the bouncers in tuxedos and just shoots people when they cheat at Sabacc.

The stares, you liked.  You liked flanking him when he was a source of intrigue, got high off the second-hand prestige of walking next to him.  You liked that the immediate question in everyone’s mind subsequent to why is he here? was what do you think that girl is doing with him?  It made you feel protected and guarded in dirty, backwater shitholes you normally wouldn’t be, gave you a thrill to be part of the mystery just by extension.

But this?

The way people subtly move their casino chips closer to them as you both walk by?  How the bartender doesn’t even look at you when you order, simply waves off the atrocious amount of credits your food and drink costs when you try to exchange them with the beskar statue silently hovering over your shoulder?  How every patron in the general vicinity manages to find somewhere else to linger and converse the second he leads you to a corner of the establishment, how you can see the servers bickering quietly amongst themselves about who has to cover your table as he slowly lowers himself into the booth with his back to the wall?

It’s… well, it’s a fucking turn-on is what it is.

It strokes some weird, primal instinct deep inside you, one that preens at the raw display of intimidation your companion exudes.  Your plate of food comes out faster than you would’ve thought possible with the insane amount of people here, the red wine tasting so strong and sharp and expensive on your tongue, so much more bitter than the Gamorrean ale or Trandoshan spiced cider you’re used to drinking.

You’ve grown accustomed to eating at vastly different times from Mando, so the lack of food on the table in front of him while you devour yours doesn’t really bother you as much as it used to.  To be honest, you’re not even exactly sure how he does it.  You’re not dumb enough to believe he finds someway to intake sustenance through the helmet, obviously; it’s the speed with which he manages to accomplish it that continues to elude you.  You swear he doesn’t even chew his food, just inhales the nutrients in the thirty seconds he takes to shut himself away somewhere and eat from time to time.

“Is this a…?”  You find yourself saying at one point, waving your fork around at the stunning abundance of space surrounding the two of you compared to the compact way everyone seems to be huddling together outside a glaring twenty or so foot threshold.  “…a common thing for you?”

This wine is different.  Even when you’re tipsy, you’re not necessarily talkative, just… slower.  Less anxious.  But somehow, with this incredibly top-shelf shit (now in short supply after Alderaan’s demise a few years ago—a quality which you most definitely do not remember ordering), you’ve barely finished half a glass and you’re already initiating conversation.

For a second you almost think he’s going to ignore you, just let the question hang awkwardly in the air and use his silence to remind you what business of his is or isn’t your place—until he looks around at the terrified crowd as if he’s only just realizing they’re there and says, “Inner-rim?  Yeah.  Sometimes.”

“Do you like it?”  You ask carefully after a moment, poking at the exotic-looking meat on your plate.

He shrugs, the lights of the bright cantina reflecting off his shoulders as they move.  “I prefer it to threats.”

The blunt answer reminds you of his incredibly dangerous profession, how the general public’s collective apprehension of him isn’t really all that unfounded.  Nothing’s actually changed in the grand scheme of things, just your own unique perspective of him.  “Do you have a location on the next quarry?”

The Mandalorian shifts and then slowly sets a tracking fob down on the table in front of you.  In other circumstances it probably would’ve been alarming to do so in the presence of so many people, but the glaring lack of a blinking red light on its front metallic plate coupled with the fact that everyone seems to be going out of their way to avoid looking at you appears to work in your favor for the moment.

“Not here,” he says, almost a sigh.  “We can take a look around, but.  Probably long gone.”

“Smart guy,” you remark, taking another sip of your wine.  “What’d this one do?”

“Has a thing for gambling, if you can believe it,” he replies, the end of his sentence quite suddenly getting drowned out by a stampede of race fathiers galloping around the track outside.  The sound is obnoxiously loud even from where you sit, rattling every piece of glass dishware in the bar.  He waits patiently until they’ve passed before attempting to speak again, leaning back in the booth and casually returning the device to his belt in the meantime.  “Owes a few credits to some people, apparently.”

“Not so smart,” you correct yourself.  “Pretty unlucky, too, sounds like.  I mean—the money’s its own thing, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want someone like you picking up my fob and coming after me for it.”

The Mandalorian looks at you for a second.  You blink dumbly a few times back at him with your mouth full, and then your heart suddenly smacks against your ribcage like someone picked it up and threw it when he doesn’t respond.

Ah, shit, was that… offensive?  Did you finally overstep?  Fuck—but it was supposed to be a compliment, why is he not—?  Fuck—fuck fuck fuck this is why you don’t talk to him, this is why you just keep your mouth shut.  Your halfassed attempt at flattery just accidentally insulted him somehow, you know it.

The tender meat suddenly feels bone dry in your mouth.  “It was… a—a com-compliment.”

“I know.”  He doesn’t sound upset.  He doesn’t sound like… anything, really.

It drives you crazy that you can’t ever seem to get a read on him, yet he can probably tell your entire life’s story just by looking at you for too long, like he is now.  It’s like he inherently knows how much the unexpected attention riles you up, forces you into a position of submission under his indecipherable steel gaze.  “I… I didn’t mean…”

His helmet tips to the side, bright light glinting off the curve of it.  “What did you mean?”

Stars, why is your heart suddenly beating so fast?  It’s like it’s about ready to pound out of your chest.  He’s only asking for clarification, yet you feel like he’s somehow got a blaster trained on you under the table.  Hell, you can’t be entirely sure he’s even looking at you right now behind the mask, much less attempt to gauge the severity of his facial expressions.  For all you know, this could just be his idea of messing with you.

“You’re—you’re a good b-bounty hunter, that’s all.”  Your shrug looks as forced and unnatural as it feels.  “Wouldn’t want to be the one that has to run from you.”

In contrast, the way he’s relaxing in the seat almost seems out of character for him, so lazy and asymmetrical across from your stunningly rigid spine.  He takes up nearly the entire booth with it, stretching long and wide for you while he casually glances around at his surroundings.  You’re not sure if it’s because this is his way of posturing himself, just taking up as much space in front of you as he can to subtly intimidate you even further, or whether it’s simply because he wants you to look at him.  Either way, the result is the same.  “Where would you hide?”

For a second, you wonder if you heard him wrong.  “What?”

“If I was hunting you,” he says, slowly tilting the chrome visor back to you.  “Where would you go?”

The hypothetical and blunt phrasing somehow has your heart pounding even faster.  Maker, you don’t even want to imagine the situation, how utterly fucked you’d be if you were trying to outrun him.  If you’re being realistic, you have just enough survival skills to stay alive without a trained soldier tracking you.  “I, uh.  I—I don’t know.  I probably just… wouldn’t.”

“You’d give yourself up?”  He sounds curious.  The first true glimpse of him you’ve gotten since you left the ship a half hour ago, the child happily playing in one of the hub nurseries with all the other younglings of gambling tourists.   “Let yourself get captured?”

“If you were chasing me?”  Shit, you didn’t mean for it to come out as flirtatious as it sounded, you honest-to-Maker meant to specify.  “I’d try—uh—”  Your thoughts are quick but your filter is slowing down, his heavy gaze and the alcohol mixing into a dangerous cocktail of their own and just barely allowing you to change your answer in time.  “—I’d hope you’d think I was anywhere near as cute as the kid you decided to pick up once.  Take it easy on me, too.”

The Mandalorian suddenly moves to sit forward in his seat, sacrificing the intimidating wideness of his body for equally intimidating closeness to yours, and you can’t help the way you flinch back slightly and wonder if you’ve somehow made things worse by bringing that whole mess up.  “What were you going to say?”

“I—wh-what?”

“You said you’d try—what?  What would you try?”

Okay now you actually can’t breathe at all, the sheer vulgarity of all the images that spring to mind shattering what little composure you had and causing your response to stumble spectacularly.  “I—Uhm… muh-may-maybe.”  Stars, fucking breathe.  “I’d try to see if—if maybe you were the kind of person who could be—uhhh… per-persuaded.  With other… other things?  I’m—uh.  I can be.”  You gulp.  “Use-useful.”

“Useful,” his modulated voice repeats slowly, testing the word out as if he hasn’t heard a thousand different versions of it from the bounties he’s retrieved over the years.  Somehow you only realize how ludicrously high-pitched you were getting once his low baritone reiterates your own word back to you, contrasting so dark and brilliantly with your squeaky suggestion.

The fathiers race around the track outside once more and bless you with a quick moment to pause and regroup.  Except—the deafening clattering of their hooves also happens to be the only sound loud enough to mask the way your kneecap abruptly slams into the table when a gloved finger just barely brushes along it.

“Ye-Yeah—?”  Your voice cracks.  “I’m a good—good pilot…?”  Your proposition is breathless; you’re trying to remind yourself that none of this is real, that you’re not actually negotiating your livelihood with the bounty hunter currently sitting in front of you and staring you down.  “Can fly… fly stuff.  Different stuff.  Good.  I-I fix—fix stuff, too.  Mechanics, y’know.  ‘N things.  Uh, also—also—I like… babies?  Specifically little green ones, the ones with the—th-the ears—?”

“I don’t entertain bargains with quarry,” the Mandalorian informs you, dangerously quiet, though his thumb slowly sweeps over the bend of your knee as he speaks.  “It’s disrespectful of you to imply I would.”

“O-oh, n-n-no—of course not—” you stutter, food long forgotten in front of you, “th-that would be an—an insult to your st-sta-sta—y-you’re—you’re a good b-bounty hun—the best.  The best bounty hunter, h-how dare anyone ever assume you w-would—would actually—br-bro-broker deals with—”

“Even if they were useful to me.”

“—e-even if they were usefu—”

“Even if I do think they’re almost as cute as the kid is.”

“—even if—”  Your heart does this awful, giant lurch like it can’t decide whether it wants to sprint or stop beating altogether so it tries to do both at the same time.  A flash of heat comes before your blood quickly starts pumping again, immediately spreading warmth across your entire face, and something in the way he holds his shoulders and gently pats your leg a few times through the struggle makes you think he’s smiling at you.

“You’re funny.”  You say after a moment, wanting so desperately to deny him the sight of your sheepish grin but soon finding it incredibly difficult to do so, cheeks burning as you turn to look at literally anything else.  “Can’t imagine why you started hunting when you’re so obviously a stand-up comedian.”

“Come on,” he says, gentle amusement now audible through the modulator.  He subtly jerks his head to the side and squeezes your knee.  “You’re done eating.  Let’s go.”

You blink down at your plate.  “Wh—?  I think that’s quite an assum—”

“Which makes us even for assuming I wouldn’t just throw your ass in carbonite with all the rest of them, now come on,” he gruffs, shaking his head.  “Stars.  ‘Fly different stuff good’?  I’ll fly.  You—work on your negotiating skills.”

“But—b-but Mando—?”  You look back up at him with wide eyes now that you know he’s being serious, pointedly ignoring the fact that he pays your ass to fly different stuff good.  “—The food.  It was so expen—”

“It was free.” He slaps the side of your leg, as if you’re some kind of animal he’s encouraging to move.  “Let’s go.”

“Well then all the more reason t—”

“Let’s.”  His grip on your thigh suddenly tightens, voice sharpening.  And then he pauses for just a second and allows the word to hang openly in the air by itself, just long enough for him to tilt his head down slightly and tug your leg forward a little, like he’s trying to get you to understand something without actually saying it.  “Go.

Oh.  Oh.

“O-okay—”

He quickly releases you to allow your scooching and scrambling out of the booth more flexibility, immediately following as you begin making your way through the casino.  The gambling patrons part for you now, nearly trip over themselves to avoid your path once they catch sight of your masked escort trailing a few paces behind.  For some reason you’re increasingly hyper aware of his distance from you, close enough to stay with you through the crowd but far enough away to almost feel like he’s stalking you.

You’re… a bit drunk still.  Not necessarily anything intense, but couple it with the way his proximity so easily sets you on edge and the combination is enough to keep pushing you forward even with an unbelievably incorrect sense of direction, immediately taking a sharp left after leaving the establishment when you should’ve gone right.

And now—realistically, he should’ve corrected you.  Mando knows exactly where his ship is, where the kid is, and where the two of you are relative to them both.  He should’ve caught your wrist and dug in, steered you the other way with the angular momentum until you both were back on course.

—but he doesn’t.  He doesn’t do a damn thing.  He readily allows you to lead through large droves of people mingling outdoors, keeps his mouth shut while you confidently make your way through every single wrong twist and turn in the sleepless city.  Easily tall enough to see over you, the bounty hunter is perfectly content with just diligently scanning the streets around you like Maker knows you’re not, silently memorizing the route of your slightly tipsy power-walking for later.

That is, of course, until you come to an abrupt halt in front of a dead-end street.  It’s quieter here; darker, the secluded alley only partially illuminated by the soft light of the moon overhead.

You look to your left, and then your right, turn around in front of his quickly approaching figure—say, “Huh, coulda sworn the ship was—” but then he doesn’t stop walking, just grabs your shoulders and hauls you with him a few steps until you’re being shoved backwards into the wall behind you.

And then suddenly he’s crowding you up against it, dwarfing you with his ridiculously broad stature, laying a hand flat to your sternum and forcing you to arch against the shallowly curved structure behind you.  The architecture of Canto Bight is circular—bulbous to a degree, so while your thighs are pressed up hard against the plates of beskar covering his, the rest of you is afforded the ability to lean back just slightly, just enough to escape the chaos of his rapid advance.

But that just means your chest can now openly heave up and down between the two of you with the evidence of your arousal, the rest of your body frozen in position as he stills.

… It also means you get to watch every single step of the way as he eventually lowers his chin to look down at your rising and falling cleavage, moves his hand up to hook a gloved finger over the hem of your neckline, and then slowly pulls the fabric down and over the curve of your naked breast.

Moonlight glides silently along the contours of his helmet as he lazily tilts it sideways and looks down at your bare nipple, stiff and aching in the cool night air.  You’re trying your best to breathe with your stomach now, hold your chest still and puffed out as much as possible in front of him so he’ll want to touch it.  He does, eventually, but it’s so light and delicate, you’re not sure it actually counts.  Your flesh doesn’t even move under his finger as he brushes down the swell of it, barely even lifts when he gently tests the weight of it in his palm.  He’s slow enough in his exploration that it’s somehow making you wetter and wetter even though he’s hardly done anything to physically encourage it; the longer he leaves you so incredibly exposed in the alley, the more he reinforces just how much he doesn’t care if someone sees.

No, you quickly realize, he likes this.  He doesn’t just not care—he likes it.  He likes looking down at you with one of your breasts hanging out of your shirt, likes tracing an arch over the hard bud at its peak and taking all the time in the galaxy with it while knowing anyone can walk by at any second.  He gets off on it, you think—the drastic contrast between your brazen display of skin compared to his lifelong, enduring concealment of it.  It turns him on, allows him to live vicariously through your threat of exposure.

“Look at you,” the Mandalorian murmurs softly, drawing tight circles over your nipple.  “Shameless.”

Your whimper is just loud enough to echo through the quiet alley, body turning to liquid under his hands.  Fuck, he must stay like that for a full five minutes before he even thinks to drag his finger across the fabric and reveal the other one, his erection thick and rock hard as it pulses steadily against your thigh.

But he doesn’t touch it just yet.  Instead, he reaches up to your mouth and holds his fingers there for a second, letting you feel the leather against your lips.

“Bite,” he whispers.

Your teeth slowly close over the seam right above his middle finger, and you blink softly up at him as he lowers his bare hand back down to your breast.  The glove instantly drops at the same time your jaw does, still not over how warm and strong his touch is as he starts squeezing your naked flesh, grabbing solid handfuls of you and pulling.

“Fuck—do you like this?”  He suddenly asks, and his voice sounds rougher, raspier through the modulator.  “You like having your tits out and letting me do this to you?”

Your pussy clenches and you’re about halfway through coming up with an answer for him when he pinches your nipple and firmly rolls it between his fingers.  You gasp, words instantly forgotten, arching up even more under him and trying not to moan.

“Stars—look at you,” he groans quietly to himself, watching the way your head slowly head tips back at the sensation.  “You like this, don’t you?  Fuck—r-right here in the fucking street, l-like—” his breathing stutters, hips beginning to rock against yours.  “—Will you—will you let me—just for a second, l-let me—put it in?  Ngh—r-right—right now?  Let me—f-feel you a little bit before we go?”

Maker—for being such a quiet person, Mando sure does like to run his mouth when he’s rubbing his hard cock against you, doesn’t he?

You don’t even respond, just desperately start snatching at the fabric covering your hips with what little space you’re afforded.  His exhale is stuttery and uneven as he moves back just enough to quickly work at his own belt, watching you whip yourself around to face the wall and cursing breathlessly when you reach back and yank your pants down over your ass.

Cold beskar presses into you from behind and molds you up against the structure, a bare hand coming up lightning-quick next to your face as your cheek moves to rest against its curve.  The movement is too fast—you react before you even realize what he’s doing, flinching back to avoid an accidental collision.  But then gloved fingers firmly thread into your hair at your nape and pull, tugging sharply and holding your mouth stationary in front of his hand until you finally understand what he wants.

Slowly, you flutter your eyes shut and open your mouth to lick the entire length of it, dragging your soft, warm tongue along the dry lines of his palm.  The grip in your hair tightens at how unbelievably wet you get it on the first try, how you continue to taste the salt on his skin for as long as he allows it, even after your saliva coats every inch.

“Fuck,” he breathes, looking down at the way your ass pushes back up against his crotch.  “You—fuck, you were so sh-shy before.  What happened?”

“W-working on—” you gasp over the slick, dirty sound of him reaching down and smearing your spit on his cock, fist tangled in your hair as he positions himself up behind you, “—nego—tiating—sk—”

Oh—fuck

The Mandalorian sheathes himself in one slow, achingly strong roll of his hips, and you think you might actually bruise yourself with how hard your fists suddenly come up to slam into the wall.  It knocks the breath out of you, literally collapses your entire chest in on itself with the sudden lack of air and burns white hot through every nerve like fire.  Your hands feel like they need to grab hold of something but the building is smooth under your palms, forcing you to just aimlessly claw down its face and flex back up against the sturdy chest behind you.

Shit—” he snarls, steel forearm coming up to brace across your sternum, “fucking—shitshitshitshitshit—” as he lowers his helmet to your shoulder and keeps going, steadily burying himself to the hilt.

You can’t say anything.  You can’t even inhale until he hits something deafening inside you at the apex, and then everything below your neck starts writhing desperately against the wall because you can’t fucking handle the way he just holds there right up against that spot and lets you both feel each other like this for a second, clenching and throbbing in turns.  He releases your hair to catch both of your restless arms by the elbow and pull down, tightening his grip and crushing your thighs into the wall until you can’t move at all, until all you can do is just take the way you’re being impaled and cornered, boxed in and split open.

“F-fucking knew your—your cunt would be p-perfect, sweet girl,” he groans softly next to your ear, and then he griiiinnds his hips up into yours and your heaving, broken gasp echoes through the dark alley.  Fuck, you never want anything else, never need anything else besides the way his cock feels splitting you open from behind, stabbing and shredding up against something magnificent inside you that makes it impossible to say anything back.

The silence makes it that much easier to hear the vulgar sucking noise your pussy makes when he finally does decide to ease out of you.  You hug tight and hot to every single ridge and vein of him as he inches himself out, rolling your eyes back at the way you can feel how obscenely wet you’ve made his cock as it gradually leaves your warmth.

He pauses with just the head penetrating you and holds there for a moment, breathing raggedly through the helmet like he’s trying to decide what to do.

“Don’t—sto—op—” you barely manage to wheeze, and then nearly go blind when he instantly slams himself right back in with a growl, letting you make up his mind for him.  He doesn’t stop.  He starts brutally pounding you into the wall, gritting quiet curses over the sound of your stifled sobs and how audaciously loud your pussy dares to be while taking his cock in public like this.  Everything is explosive and euphoric and rips you apart from the inside and—

—and he gets about six or seven good thrusts in before the tracking fob on his hip slowly starts blinking.

It takes you both a second to recognize the source of the subtle red flashes at the edges of your blurry vision, but when finally you do, your reaction is admittedly a bit more pronounced than his is.

“N-n-no, wait—” you beg against the wall, heart seizing at the way he abruptly jerks to a halt, “—d-don’t—not yet—”

His grunt of irritation is short and gravely through the modulator and he smacks your ass with his cock still halfway buried inside you, clearly dealing with the interruption through frustration instead of distress.  “Have to.”

“You have to keep fucking me,” you return, displeasure making your tongue loose.  “Fuck—p-please, you—y-you said—s-said I was cute, r-remember?  Al-almost as cute as—as the—”

“I did,” he concedes with a low groan, and then he pulls out of you, tucking his painfully hard and wet cock back in his pants nonetheless.  “I turned the kid in, too.”

You sag against the wall.  “Mando—”

He spins you around and shoves you back up against it with a firm hand to your chest, pressing dangerously close to your windpipe.  “Quit.”

Your face is flushed and everything inside you trembles at the finality in his voice, blinking up at his helmet and trying to calm the rapid beating of your heart.  He gives you a little bit to recover like that, taking a moment to slowly look down at your body glistening with sweat as it rests haggardly against the wall.  Your naked breasts heave up and down under his palm, your pussy lips wet and just barely visible peeking over the waistband of your trousers.

He carefully reaches down with his other hand to let bare fingers glide up the length of your drenched slit.

“Wait for me on the ship,” he murmurs hoarsely, rubbing a few tight little circles around your clit.  “Understand?”

Yes,” you sigh, arching your hips up into his touch right before it leaves you.

He yanks your pants back up, helps you cover your chest with the stretched hem of your neckline, shoves his hand back into his glove, and then disappears into the darkness without another word.

You stand there for a minute, trying to regain your bearings.

 

Wh… where is the ship—?

Chapter Text

Mando doesn’t come back to the ship.

You sit and wait for almost a full day, only bothering to leave homebase for quick, occasional supply refills (food for the kid, caf for you).  At first it’s not too bad—the vessel is a disaster and you spend hours of your time sorting and organizing the clutter as best you can with your unhelpful little helper sitting perched on top of his favorite spot in the entire galaxy, your left hip.  When that’s done, the baby sits on the floor of the cockpit and plays idly with his little metal ball while you solder spare connectors to backup power cables and run test sims on the nav-comps to double check everything is still functional.  It’s not really necessary, but it’s something to do.  You occasionally try scanning the area for Mando’s signal, but it seems he’s too far out of range for the pre-imperial radar tech every time you bother.

Things start to get a bit more difficult from there.  It’s probably been forever since you last slept but you can’t right now, not when meter droids are magnetically tripping the hatch exoshield to collect landing fees every three hours.  The giant hub is loud and blindingly fluorescent, booming with constant activity in a tourist city with no permanent residents and no visible clocks.  And of course, the baby napped nearly the entire trip here which means he’s all kinds of wide awake now, leaving you completely preoccupied during the intervals separating your repetitive timekeeping and scanning the crowd turnover for any subtle flash of armor.

Another day goes by.

You’re usually not this worried about him—things happen, his profession is complicated, he’s probably more capable than any person you’ve ever met.  Still.  Maybe it’s just the stunning lack of sleep starting to slowly eat away at you, but after the handful of months you’ve worked together, you’re somehow only now realizing the life-changing consequences that would befall you should something happen to the Mandalorian on a hunt, Maker forbid.  Mainly, the fact that you’d become the sole guardian of a troublesome, elderly baby who seems to feed off the exhaustless energy of Canto Bight around him and refuses to keep his six grubby little fingers to himself.

Hours blur.  Stars, you need sleep.  Soon the caf stops working, just starts making your hands tremble and your stomach do flips while you stare blankly at the glowing buttons on the console with the kid caged in your lap, fighting desperately against the urge to let your eyes droop.  It’s been days since you last rested.  Your body drags, vision shifting in and out of a dreamlike trance, and everything sits just a little bit further back than it should.  Your coordination and depth perception are getting worse by the minute and you know you’re only continuing to exacerbate the problem by refusing to sleep, but the timing just never seems to work in your favor.  If it’s not the kid, it’s the meter droids.  If it’s not the meter droids, it’s the earsplitting, repetitive announcements in different languages over the loudspeaker, the endless reminders of lost luggage and public transport departures.  If it’s not that, then it’s your increasing anxiety over Mando, where he is right now and how you’d probably never be able to track any sort of distress beacon through all this frequency traffic if anything happens to go wrong.

But then instead, something amazing happens.  You blearily hand the credits to the meter droid, the kid just fell asleep in the cockpit, the last announcement was made a few minutes ago, and you can’t even think anymore (much less think about Mando), which means—

At least an hour.  An hour can’t hurt, right?  No, an hour’s perfect.  Just give your body a chance to rest, you don’t even have to sleep.

Yes, just—on the floor here.  That’s fine.  Put yourself between the kid and the hatch just in case, leave all the lights on, set the loudest alarm you have on your holopad, don’t even cover up with a blanket.  Rest.  That's fine.  Just… rest for an hour…

 


 

You jerk awake to the sound of piercing cries and footsteps descending the ladder to the cockpit, and your instincts shoot adrenaline through your veins regardless of how unbelievably exhausted you still feel.  Maker, it’s like you barely slept a wink, but you’re still ripping off the blanket and launching up from the floor like it burned you, nearly falling over your legs to whip around and gauge the situation.

Your mind is still ridiculously slow in processing, so you only notice one thing at a time:

First—the kid is too loud.  The cries sound like the cries children make right in the middle of crying, breathy and needy and all in, like the entire galaxy is falling apart.  Surely you would have woken up far earlier into the tantrum, especially after being so on edge when you hesitantly passed out, but you didn’t.  You have no true basis for how long he’s been crying and the rippling shock of it physically squeezes your heart through your chest.

Second—the hull is completely silent other than the baby’s sobbing.  No constant, low drone of hundreds of people making conversation outside, no loudspeaker, absolutely nothing.  If anything, your surroundings sound muffled, some deterrent of sound encasing the metal.

Third—it’s dark.  You notice it late.  Why?  Because it’s so dark, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between having your eyes closed and having them open.  Your only clue to distinguish the two is the faint, twinkling glow of red and green buttons sprinkled throughout the hull.  You don’t even see him until he’s standing right in front of you.

Fourth—a silent suit of beskar, cradling a distressed little lump of brown wool in his forearm.

It takes a second to remind your heart that the Mandalorian’s presence is a good thing, that this is the best possible outcome to waking up in such a chaotic state, but it’s like your body is still on a ten second delay.  Every single muscle seizes at the mere fact that there’s even somebody standing in front of you, and it’s not until he speaks through the modulator over the sound of the high-pitched wailing that you remember to breathe.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” he says bluntly, looking down at the source of all the commotion.  “I fed him.”

You whip your arms out for the bundle automatically, trying not to shake too hard while making grabby motions with your fingers.  He has no trouble at all handing him over to you, and somehow that alone does more to ease your wild panic than anything else.

The little fuzzball is nearly drowning himself in tears by the time you look down at him, suffering from a massive design flaw by having such a tiny nose sitting downstream from such oversized eyes.  Immediately you can tell what’s wrong with him, just from the way he’s looking back up at you so squinty and mad in the darkness.

“Fighting sleep,” you slur, voice cracking in two and harmonizing with itself with disuse before you clear your throat.  Stars, you wish you hadn’t done the same exact thing for so long; you feel like the lingering adrenaline and the loud cries are the only two things currently keeping you upright.  Even then, you’re still swaying on your feet a bit, trying to play it off like you’re gently rocking the baby to quiet him.  Maker, how long were you asleep?  “How long was I asleep?”

“Not sure.  Haven’t been in warp more than half an hour,” the Mandalorian answers, watching you steady yourself so you can carefully clear the gunk from the kid’s eyes with your thumb hooked in your sleeve.  “He woke up a few minutes after we got back.  I… I didn’t want to bother you, but.  He won’t stop.”

“I had an alarm.”  Your eyebrows pull together, trying to make sense of the situation.  “I didn’t wake up.”

“No,” he confirms.  “I was quiet.  And.  The guy was dead, so.”  He shrugs.  “Quiet, too.”

You blink slowly up at him, mainly just seeing the lights reflect against his suit and only grasping the basic gist.  “You… turned my alarm off?”

“You were tired.”  A hand comes up to sweep the hair away from your eyes, and if you were barely even half awake right now, your heart probably would’ve exploded in your chest at the gesture.  Instead you just yawn, trying not to tilt your head into his touch.  “When’s the last time you slept?”

“Whatever was before…”  You close your eyes, finding it easier to think without expending the energy involved in all this seeing.  You still have to think about it harder than you should though, and then you suddenly wish you were sitting down.  “Mm…  Canto Bight.  Yeah.  Before that.  Can’t remember.  Had trees.  Pretty sure it had trees.”

“…That was over three days ago.”  It’s quiet.  Quiet enough to make you feel like you might’ve actually imagined it.  Stars.  Maybe you’ve finally reached the ‘auditory hallucinations’ stage of tired; it’s not like you’d have any way of knowing.  You’re fucking exhausted.  So unbelievably slow in responding.  You don’t point out what you probably should’ve—which is that it's most likely been just as long for him without rest, if not longer.  You don’t try to explain the circumstances behind it, why you delayed it for so long.  Part of you actually takes a ludicrous second to consider the complex amp design in his helmet before you answer, what settings it uses and how quiet he can get before the compressor’s gate kicks in and doesn’t pick him up at all.

“Mm.”  You finally settle on, figuring that about sums it up.

The baby’s cries slowly but surely die down to soft hiccups and whimpers, but the few measly pounds in your arms somehow feel heavier than ever before.  Without another word to him, you slowly make your way back over to the blanket, turning around and plopping down on your tailbone harder than you really planned but too worn out to even react properly to the jostle, just mindful enough to keep your elbows upright and balanced.  The kid just did a marathon of crying and hasn’t stopped being a fucking nuisance for days, so he’s naturally tuckered out and droopy-eyed by the time you finally manage to check.

Maker, it’s so dark in here, so calm without all the noise…

“You need sleep,” a voice says, sometime later.

“Space is cold,” you murmur, head halfway tilted down and barely moving your lips.  When did your eyes close?  “Anything else?”

“Yeah.”  Your hair is slowly brushed back over your shoulder, tucked carefully behind your ear.  “You get mouthy when you need sleep.”

The only muscle you can be bothered moving is one of your fingers, lifting and pointing in your general direction from wherever your hands are right now.  “Cute.”

“Keep bringing it up and I’ll take it back.”  His voice sounds warm.  Soft and warm.  What kind of frequency response curve does his monitor have to make his voice sound that warm through a high-pass filter?  And perhaps more importantly, why does your engineering hindbrain apparently decide to kick in and start analyzing shit when you’re otherwise incapable of analyzing it perceptively?

“Nope.”  You don’t know where he is relative to you, even as soft leather knuckles gently trace down the line of your jaw.  You’re not really sure you care to be honest, not when the lack of awareness almost makes him sound like he’s coming from everywhere at once.  “Y’can’t.  Sorry.  The Way says no take-backs.”

You can tell from the abrupt halt of his touch and the lingering silence afterwards that you’re probably right.  You threw it out on a conversationally reactive whim without having any real knowledge of the code of the Mandalore whatsoever and yet you’re totally fucking right in your own stupid, half-conscious way, and he’s probably too stunned to say anything.  Which is why you press on before he can come up with a response.

“S’too late, shiny,” you slur simply, nuzzling your cheek into his palm.  “S’adorable, jus’... witness it.”  You allow him a beat to do just that, before turning your head just a fraction to kiss the leather hill at the base of his thumb without opening your eyes.  “Mmmmmm.  Cute.  Now c’mere.  Know y’need sleep too.”

Later—you have no idea how much later—you’re just conscious enough to feel the child eased out of your arms.  You quickly fall back asleep to the sound of footsteps on the ladder.

 


 

“Why do you sleep on the floor?”  He asks, low and gravelly into the crook of your neck.  His chest is sturdy and broad and radiating heat behind you, pressed up tight against your back.  Maker, who would’ve thought the cold metal ground beneath you could feel so fucking comfortable when he’s right here with you, wrapping himself around you and breathing hot air on your skin.  “Why don’t you sleep in the bunk?”

“Fuck—s’your bed,” you say, eyes already rolling back before they’ve even opened.  “Be rude, wouldn’t it?”

“Sleep in my bed,” he rumbles, mouthing at the hollow just under your jaw.  You shudder in his arms and make a soft, happy sound, tipping your head back to give him more room.  He pulls you tighter against him, starts rocking what feels like reinforced steel against your ass.  “Don’t sleep on the floor anymore.”

“Can stretch out this way, though,” you point out dreamily, pushing your hips back into his to illustrate, arching your chest up and straightening your legs until your feet kick out of the blanket and tangle with his ankles.  “Mmm.  See?”

“Yeah,” he murmurs, dragging his hand over your tummy.  “I see.  Almost didn’t, though.  Almost tripped over you earlier.  You need to find another spot on my ship to slack off that isn’t right in front of the hatch.”

“Pff, now tha’s rude.”  He just huffs a breath of air against your throat, pressing a soft kiss to the delicate, sensitive skin there.  “S’you only want me in your bed so ’m not in your way whenever y’come back?  Mm.  M’kay, I see how th—”

“I want you in my bed so I can fuck you through it whenever I come back, you sleepy little thing,” he says quietly behind your ear.  “A clear path leading up to that would be a perk, not a requirement.”

All this kissing, all this breathing, all this touching—and yet it’s only when he says something like that that you finally realize he’s got his helmet and armor off.

It still takes a second for you to fully grasp the gravity of it, though.  That doesn’t happen until he eases your head to the side and slowly sinks his teeth into your neck.

You gasp and your eyes finally flutter open, but it’s somehow even darker in here than before.  Half the machines in the hull are powered down and you can’t see a half an inch in front of your nose.  Maker, is he really cuddling up to you on the ground right now?  Part of you almost thought you were dreaming, but no—he’s actually here, so warm and strong pressing into you from behind.

“Y’say that…” You slowly start to wiggle and rotate in his hold, gradually move your body around to face his in the pitch black hull.  “Mm.  Say that like you can’t fuck me on the floor like this, too.”

“You want me to fuck you on the floor like this?”  He asks lowly, brushing your hair back from your face and cupping your jaw as you turn and fit yourself to him this way.  He lets you slither your arms around his unarmored sides and scooch up as close to him as possible, brushing a bare thumb over your cheekbone as you work to resettle yourself.  “Hm?  Take you on the dirty fucking ground?  Like I was raised by Hutts?”

“You’re right,” you say, slowly tilting your chin up and bumping noses with him.  “Dirty Canto Bight backstreets are so much more appropriate.”

And then you kiss him.

But fuck, just saying it like that doesn’t seem enough somehow.  To say you ‘kiss him’ just feels like a severe disservice to what you both end up sharing—it’s better to say you melt into his warm body, softly brush your lips against his and breathe adoration into his lungs like he’s the only other person in the entire universe.  He makes a noise low in his throat in response, uses his hand to hold your jaw open and steady as he licks deep into the hot cavern of your mouth.

Fuck, you had no idea.  You had no idea.  You had no fucking idea what you were missing, letting him hide under his helmet for so many months and never knowing the taste of him from the source, never realizing just how mind-blowingly slow and thorough he would go about exploring you if given the chance.  

He eventually tilts you on your back and hovers over you, and you just lay there on the floor and let him do whatever he wants to you with his tongue—let him lazily slide it over your bottom lip, dip inside and taste you, trace the dull edge of your teeth and massage your own tongue until you’re dizzy and delirious.  You don’t know exactly how long you make out with him in the darkness, but it’s long enough that your body completely relaxes while he does it, opening for him and knowing neither of you want to do anything else until you’ve both had your fill of each other.  Which means it could probably go on just about forever without any external influences if you wanted, each of you taking turns slowly biting each other’s lips and sensually licking into each other’s mouths.

It’s only when you start unwittingly lingering in one spot for a few minutes at a time that you realize you’re actually close to falling asleep again.  Having it happen at such a radically inopportune time is just a testament to your utter exhaustion.

“Fuck—wanna fuck you so bad,” you whisper at one point, lifting your chin to break away from him and trying not to make it sound like a whine.  “But I can’t keep m’eyes open.  Fuck.”

“Can I—can I just put my mouth on you, then?”  He asks, breathing the words against the edge of your jaw like he can’t stand to be away from you for even a second, and you can literally feel the way his cock jumps in his pants as soon as he says them aloud.  “Fuck—like… l-like last time?  But for… longer?  Please, I just—I won’t even… won’t go inside at all.”

“…I might fall asleep,” you confess quietly after a moment, hoping he won’t take any offense.

“Good,” is all he says, squeezing your hip and moving back up an inch or two to bite your bottom lip.  “You need to.”

Stars above, he sure is twisting your arm here, isn’t he?  Maker—is the Mandalorian actually asking you to fall asleep to him licking your pussy right now?

…Are you going to say no?

“I, uhm… o-okay—”

“Okay?”

Yeah…” you breathe into his mouth, feeling the way his body subtly straightens at your answer even as you slouch.  “If you’re okay with me probably passing out, then… yeah, okay.”

“Okay,” he repeats, gently closing his teeth around your bottom lip once more.

 


 

He goes down on you for hours.

He does everything for you.  Without a word, he moves down your body and slowly removes everything covering your lower half, spreads your legs for you and positions himself on the floor between your thighs—

—and then he goes down on you for fucking hours.

You slip in and out of it, falling asleep whenever he mouths at your thighs or sucks on your lips, waking up whenever he gently touches your clit with his tongue.  He can talk shit all he wants but the floor is so incredibly comfortable like this, spreading out on the blanket with your legs open, letting him taste you without any real aim or drive, lick your cunt just because he wants to.  He’s unbelievably gentle about it, doing as much as he possibly can to urge you to relax and surrender to the rest you so desperately need.

And then you wake up at one point and realize you’re suddenly, achingly, sickeningly close to orgasm, sweaty and shaking and about to burst at any second.  Mando’s got your clit in his mouth and he’s doing something fucking exquisite to it with his tongue, and you have no idea how long he’s been doing it for but that somehow makes it even hotter—

“—gonna cum—” it’s half-gasped, half-garbled at the ceiling before it whips through you like a bolt of lightning, fierce and blazingly tight, wringing every ounce of strength from your muscles and every last bit of sanity from your mind.  You cum hard in his mouth and then just lay there weakly afterwards and let him keep licking you, let him keep caressing your swollen pussy with his tongue even after it’s stops throbbing.

There has to be something about this.  Something he just truly fucking loves about it, because even then, he doesn’t stop.  Not even when you eventually fall back out of consciousness with your legs sprawled open, his warm tongue never leaves you.  He licks your cunt like it’s not for you, like your benefit isn’t even a variable in the equation, just existing as a steady, independent constant outside of everything else.  He buries his mouth between your thighs at his own pleasure, swirls gentle circles around your clit through your dreams.

It’s taste, you realize, floating halfway between worlds.  Another sense he craves but has always been denied.  Such is life behind a helmet, never allowing himself more than a few minutes to enjoy the food he occasionally eats.  Of course he’d spend hours with his tongue inside you if he could, obsess over your softness with his mouth without any real sense of time or responsibility or goal, burdens that seem to dictate practically everything else in his life.  Taste, touch, smell, hearing—almost all of them are here in all their glory with his helmet off.  His vision may have even adjusted to the incredibly dim light by now, no digital display of his surroundings to project in front of his eyes.  Everything up close, perfectly vivid and crystal clear.  Reveling in all of his senses while you can’t seem to focus on a single one of yours.

And if he happens to bring you to several slow, lazy orgasms on the floor while he does it—well then, all the better.

 


 

Fingers carefully dip into your slit and gather the obscene amount of wetness leaking from your entrance with his hand.  He rises up to his knees and starts slowly jerking himself off with your slick, holding onto your thigh the entire time and occasionally giving it a gentle squeeze.  He murmurs breathless praises to you through the darkness—telling you how soft and sweet your pussy is, how good you taste, how he’s going to fuck you long and hard as soon as you wake up.

And then he starts moving his hand faster and getting honest, probably thinking you’re still asleep.  Maybe you are.  Maybe you’re actually just dreaming right now, because he starts telling you how much he thinks about you when he’s gone, how he’ll always come back to you.  How he can’t ever leave now, he’d never be able to.

He cums with a gasp, having just enough time to jerk the hem of your shirt up before warmth splatters all over your lower stomach.

You stay awake afterwards just long enough to feel him shuffle back slightly, lower his head and start licking it off you.

You’re out like a light by the time he slowly drags his mouth back down to your cunt.

Chapter Text

“Mando?”

“Hm.”

“I have to pee.”

He grunts.  “So go pee.”

“I can’t see.”

“Turn on a light.”

“But…”  You don’t even want to say the words aloud.  You’ve so far convinced yourself that if you just never mention the fact that he’s got his helmet off right now, he’ll somehow forget to put it back on again.  

It’s not that you necessarily want him to deviate from the ways of the Mandalore, obviously; you have more respect for his culture than that.  No, it's just that.  This is so nice.  Hearing him speak without a modulator warping the natural frequency of his voice, being able to feel his skin directly under your lips with your face buried in the crook of his neck like this.  Practically everything on this fucking ship is metal—the floor beneath you, the mechanics, the hull, the cockpit, the blasters, the armor.  When he puts it on, he becomes nearly invincible; an unreadable, impenetrable fortress that abides by a strict code he rarely deviates from.

But without all that, he’s so… human.  Not a Mandalorian, just a man.  Everything that gives him prestige and recognition stripped away.  Every weapon he straps to his body removed.  The code he’s honored his entire life suspended in a paradisiacal loophole that you never want to end, even if it means having to walk around in the dark for the rest of your life.

He has to put the helmet back on at some point, you’re eventually forced to remind yourself.  What starts out as an impossible task slowly becomes easier as the pressure in your bladder increasingly makes itself known, a reminder that you too are only human and sometimes humans have to pee soon after they wake up.

Which, y’know, a lot of times is okay.  But sometimes, like right now, it really fucking isn’t okay.  Because right now, his hand is so big and warm resting against your upper-back, shoved up underneath the fabric of your shirt and spread out across your shoulder blade.  Right now you can feel his heartbeat through his chest, feel his lungs expand and contract slowly against you.  The last thing you want is to move, and the darkness makes a perfect scapegoat.

You’re quiet for too long, apparently, because he eventually turns his chin to brush his lips against your temple.  “Turn on a light.  Just don’t look.”

You honestly don’t blame him.  He hasn’t had as much time to contemplate the staggering predicament you’re in.  “Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, shiny.”

“Go.  I trust you.”

Your lashes brush against his neck when your eyes pop open, and the giant pang you feel in your chest shouldn’t be nearly as debilitating as it is.  You know he trusts you, it goes without saying.  But it’s one thing to travel around the galaxy with him, cultivate that inherent trust that comes naturally with odd partnerships that work surprisingly well.  He trusts you to look after the kid, trusts you to pilot and maintain his ship, trusts you to cauterize his wounds when he’s incapable of doing so.  He even trusts you enough to fall asleep next to you, leaving himself unarmored and vulnerable in ways you know you’ll never truly be able to understand.

But this—this is entirely different.  This is the Way.  And he’s half-asleep right now, putting a proverbial blaster in your hand and painting a target on his livelihood, telling you he trusts you enough to uphold one of the strictest, most foundational pillars of his belief system for him.

Okay.  Okay.  If this is what he wants.  You’re not sure you’d put nearly as much blind faith in your own abilities (pun totally intended), but okay.  You trust him and apparently he trusts you, so by some weirdly paradoxical extension inwards, you’re just going to have to trust yourself, too.  He’s always been a man of relatively few words, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you that somehow only three of them work to provide you with more motivation than you’ve experienced in your entire life.  If this is what he wants, then you’ll fight logic with gloves on and downright force yourself to see without seeing.  Somehow.

You slowly start to wiggle out of his arms, but then pause for a second to tilt your chin up and press a soft kiss to his lips, trying not to get distracted from your task when he mmphs low in his throat and his hand comes up to cradle your jaw, holding you there for just a bit longer than you originally planned.

“Go,” he eventually breathes into your mouth.

“You’re not making this any easier.”

“Go.”

“Fuck—fine.”  You carefully remove yourself and do your best to stand up on the blanket with unsteady legs, but then you stop for an entirely different reason, patting the skin on your bare hips in the pitch blackness to check.  “Wait, hang on, did—did you not put any pants back on me last night?”

“…Was I supposed to?”  Eventually comes from somewhere by your feet.

No.  No, he most certainly was not.  You’re honestly just surprised it took you this long to notice, especially since you’ve been subtly clenching your thighs and delaying the inevitable in the darkness for so long.  

You don’t end up answering him, determined instead to find your way to the fresher without the use of sight so you can come back to him quicker.  That’s easier said than done, though.  It’s slow going from the start, trying to step over him without actually knowing exactly where he is, carefully tapping your toes to the ground three times before putting any weight on them and hoping you don’t accidentally step on anything important.

He takes the possibility away when you hear him sigh and strong fingers wrap themselves around your ankles in the dark, pulling and guiding your legs up over his body while muttering inaudibly under his breath.  Something tells you he’s still getting used to having companions that are so blatantly helpless without him, but he does good in rising to the challenge regardless.

The second he releases you and you take a step forward off the blanket though, you immediately trip over something bulky and painfully hard on the floor, catching yourself just in time but managing to stub your toe in the process.

“Careful,” his voice says from behind you, over the loud clang echoing throughout the hull.  “Beskar’s there.”

“Thanks, I almost tripped.”  Once you get closer to the machinery standing upright against the far wall of the hull though, it’s a bit easier to see.  The red and green lights act as your navigation beacons, stationary air traffic control wands guiding your turbulent body through the darkness.

The fresher light is fucking blinding when you finally make contact with the switch, and with the illumination comes an incredibly stern reminder to yourself not to look behind you.  It… it’d be so easy, wouldn’t it?  Turning your head just a fraction right now would be the equivalent of pulling a blaster’s trigger a mere inch—devastating, life-altering, and permanent, yet somehow so fundamentally easy.

You don’t, of course.  It’s just the fleeting thought of it that jars you for a moment.  You quickly shut the door behind you, use the toilet (annoyingly slanted thing you need to have a talk with him about soon, more of a weird space urinal than anything else and not really designed to be used by people with vaginas at all), and then wash your hands.

Your slightly damp fingers press tight to bridge over your eyes before you carefully open the door again, knowing you’re now facing him and the fluorescent light over the sink behind you is probably shining directly on him.  

“Is it… safe?”  You ask after a second.

“I’m not a rancor.”  The sound of his voice makes you sigh in relief and your heart drop in disappointment simultaneously.

Modulated.  Filtered, and familiar.

Sure enough, you peek through your fingers to see him laying back with an arm casually folded behind his head, his helmet back on.  Even though the only skin you see is his bare hand resting on his stomach, he still looks fucking gorgeous like this—waiting silently for you in the make-shift bed you shared, blanket twisted around his lower half.

You pause there in the doorway so you can just admire him for a second.  Relaxing, looking so trim and flexible in his long sleeved under-armor without all that beskar weighing him down.  He looks back at you through the chrome visor, letting it tilt to the side and rest lazily in the cradle of his arm, and you suddenly remember with a jolt just how incredibly pantsless you are right now.

“Come here.”

Maker, he still makes you nervous.  Stars, he had his mouth buried between your legs for longer than you can even imagine last night, why are you still so nervous?  Is it the proximity?  Just the literal act of seeing him in front of you?  Not being able to feel like yourself around him unless he’s a disembodied voice in the darkness?  Not being able to remember he’s an actual fucking person under there if you’re not actively touching his body in some way?

You feel… kind of shy now.  Why?  It’s like a flip inside you he can switch at will, just ever so subtly change his posture or tone of voice and bam—he’s dangerous, remember?  He’s an underground bounty hunter, remember?  He’s a mystery, he’s unpredictable—he’s an invincible, unreadable, impenetrable fortress, and you know absolutely nothing about him.  Remember?

You trip over his armor again for an entirely different reason on your way back to him this time, despite how much better you can see now.  You catch yourself once more, looking down at the offending pile of beskar like it did that on purpose, but then stop to consider it for just a second.

It’s just metal.  And he’s just a man.  You know he’s probably killed more people than you can count and he’s intimidating as all fuck, but you also know he stutters when he gets really worked up and decided to fall asleep next to you without his helmet on.  Because he’s just a man, and men aren’t born with shields on their backs and visors covering their eyes and grenades in their hands.  Not even Mandalorians.

So you slowly bend down and grab his hefty gloves, taking a moment to study them before fitting your comparatively small hands into each of them one at a time, flexing your fingers inside the fabric and feeling how much space the tips of them have to move before reaching leather.

He says your name shortly as you’re carefully stepping your right foot into his oversized boot.  You ignore him, balancing precariously on one leg while your left foot slides in the other one.  “Hey, guess who I am.”

“No.”

You reach down and lift the unexpectedly heavy ammo belt over your head, letting the thick leather drape between your breasts and come to rest just below the curve of your bare hip.  “I’ll give you a hint,” you say, gathering the mass of dark fabric at your feet and making sure your butt doesn’t get caught on the thick bandolier when you rise back up again.  You wrap the cape around your shoulders and lift your chin to tie it in a sloppy, makeshift little knot around your throat, fingers noticeably less nimble when confined in loose leather.  “Handy with a blaster, not real big on droids.  I also wear a helmet, probably because my face is too pretty to match my menacing vibe but those rumors are unconfirmed.”

“Come here,” he gruffs impatiently, but you just turn around and waddle back a few steps in the baggy getup, much too tiny feet clomping around awkwardly in his roomy boots and the floor-length cape dragging on the ground behind you.

And then you stop, before grabbing the hem of it and whipping around dramatically to face him, giving him your best bounty hunter pose.

“I can bring you in warm,” your voice is a deep as you can get it, your eyebrows narrowed as you fingergun and shift with flair.  “Or—”

“Hey—careful—” he quickly sits up and points at your hand, “—don’t touch your thumb to the—”

“—I can bring you in—”  And then an actual, real life, giant ass blaze of fucking fire suddenly shoots from your wrist and scares the living shit out of you so much that you stumble backwards and trip over your cape, choking and flailing as you come down hard on your bare ass.

You blink up at him from the ground with wide, terrified eyes.  He looks back at you, arm outstretched and frozen in midair.

And then he laughs.

Mando actually fucking laughs at you.

You stare at him in utter shock as he abruptly drops his hand to his lap and his helmet to his chest, his shoulders shaking with it.  As lovely and uplifting the sound is, you’re not really sure how to feel about the fact that the first time you managed to get an outright laugh out of him was at the risk of your own mortality.

“Excuse me,” you say after a second, trying your best to sound appalled.  You carefully remove the death gauntlets with your hands extended as far away from your face as possible, fingers spread and thumb held completely rigid in position.  “Are you actually laughing at the fact that I almost just died horrifically in front of you?”

“Stars, just—” he lifts his head back up to look at you, “fucking—come here.  You’re worse than the kid is, I swear.”

You slowly stand up, and the boots are so big around your ankles that you don’t even have to kick them off, you can just leave them there in position on the floor as you lift your feet and begin walking over to him.  “I’ll have you know I am a fierce bounty hunter—”

“Terrifying,” he mutters, and you’re about halfway done untying his cape when you get close enough for him to reach out and snatch the bottom of it, swiftly yanking you down on top of him and removing the fabric from your throat at the same time.  He ignores your dramatic choking noise, catching your flailing body with barely a grunt.  “Craziest in the guild.  Your first kill was yourself.”

“Yeah, I—” you oof and giggle as he immediately flips you around, downright giddy at the ease with which he maneuvers you on the floor and gets on top of you, “—I bring them in warm, or I bring them in hot.”

“Stop,” you can hear his smile through the helmet as he catches each of your wrists and pins them to the ground by your head.  “Maker.”

“Wait—” you try to wiggle out from under him.  It’s futile, of course, not just because he’s all muscle while he holds you down and straddles your hips, but because all your body weight is now laying on top of his ammo belt as it slings around your chest.  “Wait, h-hang on—the fresher light’s still on.”

“So?”

“So I can see you right now, which means—”  you can’t take that stupid thing off your head and kiss me.

That’s what you want to say.  You catch yourself just in time, biting your lip and blinking up at your warped reflection in the chrome visor.  He releases your wrists and lifts his torso up tall.  “…W-which means—”

Mando’s too smart for that, though.  You’re not getting one by him anytime soon.  Before you can come up with an alternative, he hooks his fingers under the thick band of leather trailing down through the valley between your breasts and calls you out.

“Do you want me to take my helmet off?”  He asks, tilting his head down at you and letting his hand slide back and forth under the ammo belt idly.  For a second you think he’s going to remove it, try and find some way to wiggle it off you in this position, but then he just lets the heavy bandolier drop back down to your sternum again and continues moving his hands down your tummy.  “Hm?  Or do you want to see?”

And then one of his thumbs catches the hem of his trousers and ever so slowly starts to pull the fabric downwards.  Your breath stutters as tan skin and dark, coarse hair are gradually revealed right in front of your eyes, the hemline making a mouthwatering triangle shape that runs alongside the lines of his Adonis belt.

When he stops just at the very base of his cock, it takes you a second to realize he’s waiting for an answer.

“Uh—”  Stars, what the fuck kind of harrowing, existentially crippling question is this?  Kiss him or look at him?  Is he serious?  “Uhhhh…”  You legitimately feel torn, blinking up at the visor and noticing the struggle blatantly written all over your reflection.  Why in Maker’s name would he put this on you?  On the one hand, his mouth.  On the other hand, his—

“I want you to see,” he admits quietly, and you flick your eyes down to look at him slowly running his thumb along the slope of flesh peeking out of the dark curls.  “Can I show you?”

Oh fuck, what is happening?  And why are you so wet already?

“Uh… ye-yeah—” and then he’s immediately using his other hand to reach inside and shift up just a bit, before he eases his gorgeous cock out of his pants by cupping his balls and letting the fabric hooked in his thumb rest under them.  He’s already half-hard for you, already deliciously thick as he carefully lowers himself back down again.  Against all reason, his skin practically glows under the artificial lighting, somehow looking sunkissed in places that never see the sun.

Maker, you want it in your mouth.

You have no idea why that’s your first thought.  Okay, well no, that’s not true—you know exactly why that’s your first thought, especially when you can physically see him getting harder and harder right in front of you, watch him trace his fingers down his shaft and lazily brush them over the head.  You love the way he touches himself, how his hands look cradling the base, the beautiful contrast between the dark hair and his warm skin tone.

He slowly starts to move down your body, slide his legs back on either side of you until he’s straddling your lower thighs, and it’s not until his cock goes in the exact opposite direction you want it to (away from your mouth) that you find your voice.

“Hey, wait—I want—” his touch immediately stills along your hips and he lifts his helmet, letting you scramble to prop yourself up with your elbows, “—let me go down on you.  Please.”

“I told you I’d fuck you when you woke up,” he says, dropping his gaze back down between your legs.  His voice somehow sounds deeper through the filter.  Maybe not the pitch exactly, but the… color?  Fuller, darker, more depth.  “You want to make me into a liar?”

“Never.  Fuck my mouth instead.”

His hands tighten and his breathing subtly picks up through the modulator.  “I want your pussy.  First.  We’re almost to Corellia and I’m not risking my life on another hunt until I’ve fucked it like I want to.”

“You decide that timeline,” you remind him breathlessly, pushing your upper-body up off the floor and catching the fabric of his tunic near his neck.

“I have to earn credits somehow, I can’t just—” he abruptly cuts himself off when you yank his collar to the side and lick a slow, hot, wet line up his throat.  “—I… I-I can’t just stay on this ship with you f-forever and… and…”

His breath catches when you bite down on the thick cord of muscle connecting his neck to his shoulder.  And then he murmurs your name when you wrap your hand around his hard cock.

“You can do whatever you want to my pussy,” you whisper against his skin, feeling him shudder under your lips as you slowly pull your hand up and down the thick length of him.  “Whenever you want.  I made that clear last night.  All I’m asking is that right now, you lay back and let me suck your cock for a little bit.  Is that okay?”

He doesn’t answer with words, but he throbs under your hand and his body is surprisingly malleable as you urge him to move back slightly, just enough for you to collect your legs out from under him and rise up on your knees to face him.  You keep stroking him the entire time, sucking marks down his neck while you hold the hemline to the side.  Nobody will ever be able to see them, but somehow that makes it even better.  A secret only you and him know.  Next time he scares off a crowd of locals, he’ll be wearing your signet under his armor.

When you’ve sufficiently bitten and kissed marks along his neck and the fabric won’t stretch anymore, you reach down and pull it up from the bottom, lifting it up up up—up until it rests right above his sternum and you can see almost the entire length of his torso underneath, tan and dusted in dark hair.

You strongarm him back to sit on the floor with one hand and hike your own shirt up over your breasts with the other, letting the fabric bunch under your armpits while his ammo belt bisects your chest diagonally.  He curses when you immediately climb on top of him and start dragging your skin against his, rolling your exposed tits and pussy against the hard planes of his body and letting him feel how soft you really are.

“Is that okay?”  You ask him once more, rubbing yourself into him.  “Will you let me suck your cock, Mando?”

“Fuck—” he growls, grabbing your hips, “—why are you—h-how do you always make it feel so… so good—?”

“It’s supposed to feel good,” you tell him, beginning to slide down his body.

“Not like this,” he pants, tipping his head back when you slowly lick down his chest.  “Not—not everything, n-not all the time.”

The warmth that settles in the pit of your tummy is intensified by the clear drop of precum shining at the tip of his cock, now achingly swollen and a mouthwatering shade darker in color than the rest of him.  “Keep talking,” you whisper.  “It’s sexy.”

And then you slide his head into your mouth and let your tongue flutter gently along his frenulum.

Mando instantly goes rigid and grabs a fistful of your hair as you hum and taste his precum, slowly brushing your tongue over his tip to see if you can get any more out of him like this without going deeper.

Fuck—” he grits while lifting his helmet to look, every muscle in his body tensing under you.  “Y-your mouth is—” he gasps when you gently swirl circles around the pulsing head, his open palm coming down hard on the blanket with a dull thud, “—fuck, your mouth is s-so—so fucking good—”

You open your jaw and take him down a few inches so he can feel your throat, satisfied when his helmet falls back and his grip tightens in your hair.  You slowly begin bobbing up and down, dragging the flat of your tongue along the underside of his shaft and getting him nice and wet.  His thighs almost feel like he’s wearing beskar over them, his entire body held so incredibly tight and stiff as you softly pleasure him.

You can only get around half of him in your mouth without straining for it, so you soon lift off him and start coating your palm and fingers in spit.  His head raises immediately, exposed chest heaving as he watches.

“You’re so tense,” you murmur, reaching down and starting to jerk him with your slick hand.  He doesn’t relax into it, instead he straightens his back even more, his hips starting to thrust into your grip.  “Do you want me to stop?”

“I want to fuck you,” he growls, the exact opposite of relaxed.  “You—you can’t w-walk around half-naked in—in my clothes and expect me t—”

He cuts himself off with a groan when you take him back down again, deeper this time.  And then he relents and starts slowly fucking into your mouth, gradually rolling his hips further and further with every thrust.  One hand fists itself into the blanket while the other holds your hair back as you open your throat and work the rest of his length with slippery fingers.

When you take him down as far as you can and you drop your palm down to cradle his balls, Mando just about loses his mind.

“Fuck—let me fuck you,” he starts rasping at the ceiling, “please, l-let me—let me pound you into this dirty f-fucking ground like you wanted, like—like the filthy little girl you are—”

You hold there and swallow around his thick cock, letting your other hand slither down between your own legs and start rubbing your clit.  He probably can’t see you do it from this angle but it feels so much better this way regardless, having him as far down as your throat as possible and listening to him babble while you touch yourself.

The sound you make pulling off him to breathe isn’t necessarily the most attractive thing in the galaxy, but with the way he groans and tugs your hair sharply in response, you’d think it was the sexiest thing he’s ever heard.  You keep jerking his throbbing cock and rubbing circles around your clit, before moving down to take one of his balls into your mouth.

His grip tightens, along with the gorgeously soft skin under your tongue.  “W-Wait—stop—

You look up at him.  He’s covered in a thin sheen of sweat and everything about him is unbearably stiff, even with the way his body is sprawled out and his chest rocks up and down with exertion.

“Sorry, I just—I was—” he gasps, “—I d-didn’t want to—to c-cum—”

“I want you to cum,” you murmur, blinking up at him and dragging your tongue up the length of his swollen, throbbing cock.  “Please.  Want it down my throat.”

You don’t know how it’s possible for his body to go even more rigid, but it does.  “You—?”

He possibly could’ve stopped himself, you think.  Even with the way you start gently sucking on his tip and looking up at him innocently after telling him you want to swallow his load, maybe he could’ve stopped the way his balls suddenly pull up tight, the way his grip on your hair turns to steel and his helmet rolls to the side.

But then the subtle shift of his head means he can see your hand moving between your legs, you can tell.  You can tell, because he makes a choking sound through the modulator and his stomach flexes, and then he’s cumming down your throat exactly like you wanted him to.

There’s a second between the moment of detonation and the explosive result of it.  It’s just enough time for him to slowly tilt his chin up and let out the smallest, quietest moan you’ve ever heard from him before his cock starts throbbing on your tongue, his balls working to steadily pump cum up his shaft.

You pull up and start swirling circles around his head just as the first spurt hits your tongue, moaning at the taste of him and preening at his hoarse whisper of your name.  You swallow everything he gives you, drain him until he’s completely empty and spent, trembling in pieces on the floor.

Admittedly you do keep him there in your mouth just a little bit longer than you should, just taking a minute to savor how good he tastes and how fucking beautiful his cock is, how stunning his body is exposed and spread out for you on the ground like this.

“Keep—keep doing that and I’ll get hard again,” he eventually warns, though his voice comes out sounding like sandpaper in his throat.

You hum and finally pull off him.  “That’s got to be the least threatening thing you’ve ever said to someone, I think.”

“Not able t—” he jerks when you bite his hipbone, “—to scare you off, apparently.  Most people run from me.”

“Nope.  Told you I wouldn’t, remember?  Back on Cantonica.  I’m also the craziest bounty hunter in the guild, so.  Look.”  You lift up to show him.  “I even have an ammo belt, see?  It holds all of the bullets, for all of my guns that I have.”

His hand slowly comes up and you think he’s going to grab the band of leather across your chest to either take it off you or pull you forward with it, but then he just grabs one of your breasts and gently squeezes it instead.  “You’re beautiful.”

Your breath catches.  You blink twice at him, your heart suddenly thundering under his hand.

“Wearing my armor.  Not wearing it.  Not wearing anything.  Wearing your clothes.  In complete darkness.  You’re beautiful.”

You think—for one ludicrous, insane second, you think that the enormous swelling in your chest literally transfers itself up to your brain and causes you to have an aneurysm right there on the floor in front of him.

But nope—it’s just the entire hull starting to violently shift and shake, swerving sideways and jerking upwards with rapid, unpredictable shifts in gravity.

You thrown on top of him in the chaos and try to find some sort of stable ground without accidentally kneeing him in the crotch.  Mando grunts and gets rolled on top of you when the ship immediately veers the other way, the weight of him suddenly crushing your lungs and making it impossible to breathe with the brutal changes in g-force.  Did he—did he leave the baby in the fucking cockpit?

He left the baby in the fucking cockpit.

Chapter Text

Isn’t it weird that nobody really ever talks about what happens immediately after you have a dead body in front of you?

It’s the part leading up to it that’s usually the most crucial, obviously.  The adrenaline of the actual moment is overwhelming—you react without thinking, danger pumping through your veins alongside your blood and sharpening your survival instincts until they’re deadly.  You do what you have to do to stay alive, nothing more.  So it’s not really until you have a still moment with the evidence of your actions right there in front of you, glassy-eyed and staring lifelessly up at the ceiling, that you suddenly don’t know what to do.

Shocking is a word.

Debilitating is another.

Things… things come in flashes.  You have blood on your hands; it’s thick and cold and electric blue in color, not dark or warm or crimson.  One of them is vibrating violently, clutched around something heavy and clunky and unfamiliar, something with a handle made to fit a six-fingered grip.  The kid is passed out in your other arm after expelling all his energy helping you take down the brutal assailant, choking him with… with some unknown baby shaman toad powers and holding him in place so you could grab this knife and you could… and you could…

The body of the man you just stabbed lays in a bloody pile on the floor in front of you.  It was self-defense, but the reasoning behind it doesn’t take anything away from the gore, the blank state of shock rendering you motionless for Maker knows how long.

Corellia is a fucking shithole, you knew that coming in.  If it was a sewer even with the Empire’s shipbuilding industry boosting the economy, it’s even worse after its collapse.  To circumvent any unnecessary danger or attention, you chose to land the ship in one of the dense forest areas on the outskirts of the tracking fob’s radius.  But unluckily for you, rats like forests just as much as they like sewers, and one of them apparently crawled his way onto the vessel a few minutes ago.

You drop the vibroblade to the floor with a clatter and slide down the hull wall, clutching the baby to your chest and trying to calm your breathing.  There could be more of his friends close by.  What you should do is climb into the cockpit and find somewhere else to lay low, send Mando a coded message with word of your new location.

But there’s a dead body in front of you.

And it’s… it’s dead.

Strangely, you default to something you’ve never actually done before.  Something you probably shouldn’t ever do, in case your companion is in stealth mode or trying to hide from something, because it’ll immediately give away his position.  You could theoretically get him killed, but you’re not thinking straight.

Your wrist trembles as you hold it in front of your lips.  “Uh… M-Man-Mando?”

The sound of blaster fire and grunting crackles through your emergency comm link, before you hear a quick, breathless, “What’s wrong?” come through the speaker.

“It, uh—” you stare down at the oddly-colored blood on your fingers, wondering how you voice is able to come out so calmly, “it s-sounds like you’re busy, I’ll—I’ll just—”

More grunting.  A thud.  “Tell me what’s wrong.”

You’re at a loss for words.  You take a second to look down at the dead body, before lifting your wrist back up to your mouth.  “I’m o-okay now, but I… but someone followed me into the Crest and he tried to… I-I mean he’s—he’s dead now, but—”

“Are you hurt?”  He suddenly sounds urgent.  It’s ridiculous that he didn’t actually sound urgent until now.  “Is the kid hurt?”

“We’re—we’re both fine, but…”  You look down at the child in your arms.  “But the baby did something I—I c-can’t explain—and now he’s… I-I think he's asleep…”

“Good,” he replies shortly.  You can hear him running now, pounding footsteps and heavy, quick breaths.  Another blaster shot.  “We need to get out of here.  Rendezvous Sector-15, soon as you can.  You’ll see me.”

“Do I…”  Maker, you sound like an absolute idiot.  “Do I just… just leave the body here, or…?”

“I’ll take care of it when you get here.”  He doesn’t sound frustrated with you, but for some reason you feel incredibly frustrated with yourself.  You should be able to pull yourself together, but your hands are all tingly and you can’t actually feel your fingers unless you really work for it.  Stars, when’s the last time you actually blinked?  “Can you fly?”  

You don’t respond.  You don’t even feel like you can stand up right now.  The blaster shots scream through the crackling comm link for a second, and then you jump when he barks your name even louder than the gunfire.

—Listen to me,” he urges, and you blink rapidly, the seriousness of his low growl hitting you right in the chest.  “You can fly.  Understand?  Get the kid, get in the cockpit, put your seatbelt on.  Fly out to me, right now.  We’re leaving.”

His voice doesn’t call for argument.  It’s abrasive and rough and unquestionable enough to get through to you.  Of course you can fly, you can fly with your fucking eyes closed.  Coming that firmly and doubtlessly from him, it’s a universal truth.

“Copy.  Sec-Sector-15.”  You say, adrenaline beginning to pump blood through your veins again.  Just.  Just don’t look at the body, okay?  Don’t look at the body, you can do this if you don’t look at the body.  “I’ll see you?”

“You’ll see me,” he repeats.  And then the noise cuts off with a click.

You struggle up to your feet, heart pounding.  You can do this.  You can totally do this.  You can walk, because you can fly.  Duh.  Mando said so.

You admittedly almost fall a couple steps down the latter while trying to climb up it one-handed, the baby held tightly to your chest, but you’re eventually able to get the both of you into the cockpit.  The kid is carefully buckled into his little booster seat before you’re collapsing shakily into the pilot’s chair and swiveling forward.

Okay.  Flight check.  Now.  To your left, flip down these few switches here—one two three four five—okay, good.  To your right, press those two buttons sitting just above the nav console.  Yep, got it.  Up top now, those two red ones overhead.  Good.  Good, you can do this.  Type coordinates into the nav comp.  Sector-15, locked.  Easy.  This is easy.  That big, knobless lever to your right—yes, the one with the exposed threading at the end, push that long metal stick forward and set thrusters to full.  Okay.  Left thruster, looks good.  Right looks good, too.  Okay.  Seatbelt… seatbelt is… Seatbelt: on.  Hatch: sealed.  Shields: engaged.  Flight check complete.  Now all you have to do is take off.

Now all you have to do is take off.

All you have to do… is…

You stare down at the joystick in front of you blankly.

And then you shake your head back and forth frantically, hoping the rapid movement will jar some sense into you.  Maker, get it the fuck together.  What did Mando hire you for?  You told him you were useful, didn’t you?  This is what you do.  You fly.  So fucking fly, yeah?

You lift the ship off the ground and immediately take her around southeast, taking deep breaths and feeling the powerful rumble beneath your chair.  Yeah, you can do this.  Don’t think about the blood on your hands, the dark streaks of sickly purple now smudged all over the controls.  Don’t think about the dead body in the hull.  Don’t think about how you’re the reason it’s dead.  Just fly the ship.  This is something you can do.

You coast over the thick treetops and into the industrial sector, carefully scanning the gritty streets below.  You don’t know what he meant when he said you’ll see him—until you suddenly see him.  Smack in the middle of the airspace, rising phoenix strapped to his back and hovering a few hundred feet above absolute chaos wreaking havoc in the slums below.  Blaster flares light up the night sky, though the sparks and flash grenades illuminating the dirty Corellian streets have nothing on the beauty of seeing those small twin jets in the darkness, the ones beginning to fly towards the ship.

“Got eyes,” his voice says through the comm link.  Relief pounds through you.  Stars, relief shouldn’t feel like this much of a struggle for your cardiovascular system, should it?

“Beginning deceleration,” you confirm breathlessly, slowing down and pressing a few buttons to open the hatch with your free hand.  You bring both of them back down to swing her around until he’s got a clear path, feeling the ship dip just slightly with the sudden weight of him dropping in.

“Landed,” he grunts.  “Set course for Nevarro.”

You floor it and elevate the Crest up through Corellia’s smoggy atmosphere, punching in coordinates in the meantime.  The ship dips just a touch once more while the computer takes a few seconds to calculate a hyperspace path, and your eyebrows narrow before it quickly pulls back up again.  It’s not until you see the manual hatch override indicator light blink next to the nav console that you realize he must’ve dumped the body before closing the door himself.

Well, that’s one way to handle that, you suppose.

The computer beeps quietly when it’s finished.  “Standby for jump,” you tell your wrist.

“Copy.”

You triple-check the positive seal integrity readings before your hand is reaching for the double-reinforced hyperjump control, still trembling slightly.  You lean all your weight forward into it, trying to keep your arm from buckling as the stars slowly shift across the observation shield for a split second, before you’re being hurled into the interdimensional wormhole.

Quiet.  Hyperspace is fucking quiet.  You forget, sometimes.  Not how quiet it is—but how loud everything else is, not until you’re hurtling through the closest thing to purgatory you’ll ever experience in life.  It looks… indescribable, even after the thousandth time.  Empty space collapsing in front of you and expanding behind you simultaneously.  Starlight streaking across the windows, space-time curving around the ship faster than the ship itself is moving through it.  You take a moment to consider it as you unbuckle yourself shakily, before standing up and checking the seat behind you.

The kid is still knocked out cold, but you press the button to close the shield to his crib just in case, setting an alarm protocol to Mando’s remote arm brace should it open.  

And then you slowly make your way around bulky cockpit chairs and down into the hull, shakily climbing down the ladder one step at a time.  As soon as you turn around, there’s a caped wall of beskar rummaging through something with his back to you.

“Did you…”  You announce yourself while looking around, trying not to sound as small as you feel.  This is a such stupid question, you already know what he did with the body.  But you… you should make sure, right?  “You already took care of… of the…”

“Yeah.”  Mando spins around and pulls out the cot from the wall at the same time, and you jump when the bed rattles loudly on its track and ricochets a few inches backwards after reaching its full extension.  He quickly makes his way around it and over to you.  “It’s gone.  Come here, you’re hurt.”

“I’m f-fine,” you insist, feeling your hands shake when he abruptly grabs the left one and turns it over, pulling your wrist out towards him and up to the light so you both can see.  “What about the qua—oh.”

There’s a long, ragged slice decorating the inside of your forearm, dried blood staining the ripped fabric along your sleeve.  You blink down at it, not able to recognize its pain even with the evidence of the injury in front of you.  It doesn’t look deep, but its edges are a little nasty and it’s still bleeding.  Why can’t you feel it?  Shouldn’t you be able to feel that?

He makes a noise through his helmet—something you can’t quite figure it out.  Something between a short growl and a low huff of breath, before he’s grabbing your hips and steering you over towards the bed, lifting you up and setting you on its suspended platform when you’re close enough.

“Didn’t find the quarry,” the Mandalorian says quietly, turning around and looking through the first aid kit once more.

“You didn’t find the…”  You blink down at your injury.  He didn’t even find the quarry?  But then what was all that ruckus about?  And why are you going back to Nevarro to collect payment?  Shouldn’t you be turning around and… and…?

He’s suddenly in front of you again, and this time he’s got a… a syringe in his hands?  An E-bacta shot, you realize with an uncomfortable jolt.  He pulls the cap off and sets it down on the bed next to you before holding out his gloved hand for you, waiting patiently but expectantly.

“No,” you immediately tell him, heart beginning to pump faster as you bring your arm up and hug it to your chest.  You didn’t even know those things were street legal—they heal incredibly quickly but people have been known to abuse them because… well, because they’re supposed to give you a wicked fucking high.  Bacta isn’t addictive and there’s no possibility of overdose, but this shit is concentrated.  You can’t imagine how expensive it was.  “Don’t b-be ridiculous, Mando—you—you almost bled out from a knife wound and we didn’t use one of those.”

“What do you think that is?”  He looks down at your arm.

“It’s a scratch!”  You exclaim, starting to feel a bit hysterical now from the adrenaline comedown.  Maker, that needle is big.  You knew bacta injections were thick but holy fucking stars.  “It doesn’t even h-hurt!  I could’ve… I could’ve done this to myself on accident for all I—”

“This has boosted antibiotics, too,” he cuts you off, quickly losing his patience and grabbing your wrist when you still don’t hand it over to him.  He levers your forearm down, holding it parallel to the floor on your lap.  “We don’t have any bacta kits left, I looked.  This’ll work fast and it won’t scar.  Hold still.”

“No—” you try to pull your hand away, hating the way your voice jumps when you’re aiming for calm and reasonable.  “—I’ll be fine, w-we shouldn’t waste th—”

He tightens his grip.  “Listen.  This isn’t a scratch.  It’s a torn laceration from a dirty Corellian vibroblade.  Now I’m giving you at least a quarter dose, so hold,” he tugs your wrist forward, “still.”

You see the large needle heading towards your arm with determination and you’re instantly going rigid with panic, whipping your head away from him and squeezing your eyes shut as you suck in a terrified breath.

You wait like a statue for the pain, frozen in anticipation and fright, but it never comes.  Slowly peeking one eye open, you look back to find a chrome visor staring intently at you, unmoving.

“I’m—I’m sorry,” you eventually gasp when he doesn’t say anything, and Maker, are your eyes actually starting to water?  “I-I’m sorry, I’m just—that’s a b-big needle and—and I actually just k-k-killed someone and it’s just—” oh stars, here come the sniffles, “—I’m s-so sorry, I’m trying t-to keep it—keep it togeth—”

He carefully places the syringe down on the bed next to you as you turn your head away from him and try to stifle your short, panicked breaths with the back of your hand.  But then you’re being caught and pulled forward, hauled into an iron chest without a single word.

It should be uncomfortable, you think.  You should want to take the armor off and feel the muscles of his arms wrap themselves tight around you instead of cold metal, but for some reason, you don’t.  He feels… right like this.  Like the beskar is a natural extension of his body, like it holds just as much comfort as his bare chest does.

The Mandalorian stands there between your knees and silently embraces you, holding stoic and steady for you, tilting his head so you can calm your breathing into the crook of his neck.  It’s covered in fabric but it smells like him, warm and soft and damp with sweat.  You breathe him in, clutching him tight with your uninjured arm and feeling your heartbeat gradually begin to slow as it’s pressed against cool metal.

“E-bacta has calming properties,” he says quietly after a moment.  “It’ll help more than this.”

“Shut up.”  You mutter against his throat, doing everything you can to drown yourself in him.  Maker, he smells good.  He just got finished bringing down an entire Corellian sector, why the fuck does he smell so good?  “I'm not—not letting you stick that thing in me.”

“Yeah?”  He returns softly, dragging a hand up your back.  “Bet I can make you want it.”

“Not happening,” you grunt, tightening your hold on him.  “You’ll put regular bandages on my arm until we can resupply on Nevarro and save that torture device for another poor soul who needs it.”

“This isn’t over,” he eventually warns you, gently pulling away.  He turns around and starts picking out gauze and tape from the first aid kit regardless.  “I was just blindsided.  Tears don’t work on me, but.  Don’t ever do that to me again.”

You relax, smiley and dopey-eyed and happily sticking your arm out for him for whenever he comes back, so fucking glad he gave in.  You’ll get bacta on Nevarro, that sounds perfect.  “So… so all that fuss and you didn’t actually find the quarry?”

“Someone tried to take off my helmet,” Mando replies shortly, starting to rip open a few packets of sterile gauze strips without looking at you.  And then he doesn’t say anything more, like that should be explanation enough.

“Ah.”  You remark after a second, thinking about how many blaster fires you saw.  Maker.  “I see.”

What a pair you two make.  Someone who went into shock from hurting another person in defense of your life, and someone who brought an entire block down because another person tried to take his helmet off.  

Something he’s done with you twice now.  Without ever being prompted.

Stars, you’re both so different, aren’t you?  Such massively different problems, different ways of life.  You’re suddenly struck with how much you could learn from him, if he was ever willing to share.  How much the both of you could probably learn from each other.  His assertiveness; your humanity.  His decisiveness; your consideration.  His secrets; your honesty.  None of them are true opposites, not in the way people normally think.  They’re not polarizing, they’re… complimentary.  Filling in the gaps neither one of you can fill in yourself.

“Does that scare you?”  He finally asks, when you’ve been quiet for too long.

“No,” you tell him blankly, watching his hands work.  “Just… no.  Not really.  I mean.  It makes sense.  Was just thinking about how different life must be for you.”  You tilt your head thoughtfully.  “Showing my face, telling people my name.  Things I take for granted, I think.”

Maker, maybe you’re getting a little too honest here.

“Is that why you never ask about those things?”  He’s quiet.  You both stare purposefully down at your arm as he begins laying down the strips of white cotton over your cut.  “Because you recognize what it means to give them up?”

“What—like your name?”

“Anything,” he says, and though he keeps working, his hands start to slow down.  “You never ask me about anything.  My name, my past… why I don’t take the helmet off.  Everyone always asks, but.  You never have.”

You shrug a shoulder.  “Figured you get tired of telling people no, don’t you?”

His fingers still, hovering over your injury.  He doesn’t move, so you elaborate.

“I mean… yeah, I’ve thought about those things, but…” you speak slowly, choosing your words very carefully.  Your eyes narrow with the effort, trying to pinpoint and voice your exact opinion without making assumptions.  “But I respect you.  And your creed.  I call you Mando because that’s what you told me to call you.  And if you don’t take the helmet off, then you don’t take it off.”  You shrug once more.  “Some things don’t need explanations.  They just are, and I’m okay with that.”

It’s a while before he goes back to dressing your wound, and even longer before he speaks again.  When he does, he’s almost completely finished securing the bandages and it’s barely above a murmur.  “Nobody usually thinks that simply about it.”

“Well.  Fuck ‘em.”  You blurt.  “I think it’s the simplest thing in the galaxy.  You should be the one who gets to decide who you are and what’s important to you, right?  No one else.”

He stops again, this time tilting his visor up to look you in your eyes.  You blink up at your own warped reflection.

“I think that shit is yours.  Fundamentally.  Doesn’t matter if you want to share it, change it, hide it, or burn it away forever.  It’s your decision, and you’ll tell people what you want them to know.  So fuck ‘em if they don’t respect that,” you tell him bluntly.  “They obviously don’t know anything about you at all.  Else they wouldn’t be asking.”

He doesn’t move.  He just stares silently at you for a few seconds, and Maker, for some reason you wish now more than ever you could see his face.  Even though it contradicts everything you just said, you wish you could see his face.  What color are his eyes?  You bet they’re brown.  You bet they’re a warm, deep brown—expressive and soft and lovely behind such hard, unforgiving steel.  His features are probably just as warm as the rest of him.  Dark hair, wavy hair.  Plush, gentle lips.

His hand comes up slowly.  Gives you ample time to pull away before he’s softly cupping your cheek, tilting his helmet to the side as he studies you.

“Would you.”  He’s quiet for a moment.  And then he clears his throat through the modulator, before he tries again.  “Would you like to know my name?”

You go shock-still, blinking at him and barely breathing.  Why?  Why is he asking this?  He wants to give you his name?  Immediately after you just told him why you don’t need it?

Your throat is a desert.  “Only… only if you want to give it to me.”

He tilts his head the other way and takes a moment to consider you, gently trailing the leather of his thumb along your bottom lip.  Your eyes dip down the length of his body, heat suddenly filling you when you realize how close and well he’s positioned right now, how his hips are at the perfect height standing right between your legs like this.

Mando slowly lowers his helmet to look down at your parted thighs, too.  And then he’s shifting the visor to the side just a bit, eyes catching on something on the bed next to you.  “Want to give you a few things,” he says lowly.

You probably would’ve melted into a puddle if he didn’t immediately hold up the E-bacta shot in front of you in both hands.

Your heart starts pounding though, all the same.  “No—”

“Listen to me,” he tells you calmly, as if you could do much of anything else right now with how much space he’s taking up in front of you.  His size and proximity gave you a thrill just a second ago, but now he’s nothing more than a giant fucking metal wall armed with a needle and blocking your escape.  “I want to give you a few things, but only if you say yes to all of them.  Are you going to listen?”

Maker, your heart is racing, rapid calculations going off in your head as your eyes flick between the syringe and his visor.  Where the fuck is he going with this?  “Y-yes.  I’ll—I’ll listen.”

He holds the shot up between the two of you, as if you didn’t see it the first fifty fucking times.  “First.  I’ll give you a quarter dose of this.  I’ll be gentle and I’ll give it to you somewhere where it won’t hurt, where you won’t even be able to see it, and it’ll make you feel better.  Even good.  Okay?”

You narrow your eyebrows at him.  “You’re not doing a great job at selling me h—”

“Second.  I’ll give you my name.”

Your breath catches.  He continues on casually with the terms of the deal, as if he didn’t just set your whole world on fire with five words.

“You can’t ever use it around other people,” he tells you.  “Only here.  With me, on this ship.  In front of the kid is fine.  But if anyone else ever asks, you don’t know it.  Okay?”

“Okay…” you whisper after a second, your chest filling with flames.

“Third.”  He slowly catches your uninjured wrist in a gentle grip and begins to guide it forward.  “If you… if you want, I’ll… I’ll give you this,” he murmurs, bringing it down to cup his cock.  “I… won’t be gentle.  But I will make you feel good.”

Maker, he’s already rock hard under your palm, throbbing and swollen for you.  Almost as quickly as the urge first came on, you suddenly don’t want to escape anymore.  Instead, maybe you can just… appeal.

“What if we…”  You carefully reach down into his pants, holding his hips still between your knees and beginning to caress his cock.  His skin is like silk under your hand, as hard as the beskar he straps to his body but so warm, and pulsing with life.  “What if we reverse the order, maybe?”

“No,” he grunts immediately.  “You’ll take the shot first, it’ll be a—” his breath catches when you give him a good, rough squeeze.  “—a-a show of—of good faith.”

“That’s literally the only thing I don’t want from this all-or-nothing deal,” you reason, wrapping your legs around him to bring him closer.  He acquiesces cautiously, slowly moving forward.  “I’d be an idiot to give it up first.  Ideally it should go second if there are three terms.”

“I know what you’re d-doing,” he tells you flat out, though he makes no attempt to stop it at all.  He just growls low in his throat when he’s close enough for you to lean up and bite down onto his neck, one of his hands landing on your thigh and locking down onto it tight.  “It won’t… won’t work.  You’re—you’re t-taking the shot first, that’s the deal.”

“I could try crying again,” you proposition breathlessly, squeezing his cock once more and feeling him shudder.

“Ngh—meant it when I—” he gasps when you brush your thumb over his head, dampening the fabric covering his neck with your hot breaths.  “When I-I said that you—you need to w-work on your… your negoti—tiating—”

“What if I just ask you really, really nicely?”  You whisper, slowly starting to jerk him off.  Your grip is tight and strong, and he practically sags and grabs the metal bedframe on either side of you.  “Will it work if I ask you to please fuck me?  Please?  And then I’ll take your shot?”  But then you’re struck by a sudden thought, and maneuver your head away just enough to look up at where his eyes should be.  “But we don’t… we don’t actually have to… y’know, do the other thing, though, if you don’t want to.  It’s okay.”

Mando abruptly pulls back, pinning you with a blank chrome stare.  “W-what?”

“If you…”  You want to find some way to word this to get the correct sentiment across, but it’s difficult with him looking at you so hard.  The last thing you want to do is sound ungrateful.  Your hands stop moving, carefully letting him go and resting on his hips instead, so he knows this isn’t you just trying to find some way out of this.  “You don’t have to tell me your name, y’know.  It’s okay, I’ll—I’ll take the shot, it’s fine.  We don’t need to… to turn something like that into a.  A deal, or anything.  You can still tell me if you want, of course, I just… I don’t want it to be part of like, some sort of… agreement between us, or something.”  You tap a thumb over his hipbone, tilting your head.  “So I’m taking it off the table.  Even if you were the one who put it on there.  No pressure.  I’ll take the shot.  And then you can tell me whatever it is you want to tell me after that.  Apart from that.  A… a show of good faith.”

Mando holds still as a fucking statue in front of you.  If you couldn’t feel the warmth of his skin under your hands, you’d say he looks like a droid in sleep mode almost.  He stays like that for so long, you actually start to worry a little bit.  Was that a thankless, bitchy thing to say to him after he offered to reveal such a big secret about himself?  Should you have just kept your mouth shut?

You suppose he was right, your negotiation skills could use a bit more work.  You did technically just… willingly give up something incredibly valuable in exchange for absolutely nothing in return, didn’t you?  Actually not absolutely nothing, you just agreed to have an actual fucking needle shoved into your body just so he wouldn’t feel any sort of obligation to reveal himself to you whatsoever.  That’s like… rule number one of what not to do when negotiating, isn’t it?  Fuck, what have you done?  Is it too late to take half of that shit back?  Can you start this whole thing over real quick?  How much pressure do you think that glass syringe can handle?  You know you can’t outrun or overpower him, but do you think you’d be able to smash it with your foot before he can stop you?  No.  No fucking way, you would.  Don’t be stupid, don’t be fucking stupid.

And Maker, he’s… he’s still not moving.  You actually start to squirm a little bit under his unreadable gaze, before he eventually brings both hands up to your face and gently cradles your jaw in his gloved palms, bringing you to a still.

“Unbelievable,” the Mandalorian says softly, tilting his helmet at you and carefully brushing his thumbs along your cheekbones.  He doesn’t sound upset.  He sounds truly mystified by you.  Stumped.  Reverent.

You blink at him.  “What?”

“Nobody w-would… but you’re…”  He seems like he’s trying to find the words to describe what he’s thinking, but he can’t.  “You can’t—you… t—?  Not just.  But be—because of.  On—on… pr-prin…”

“I… I do still want you to fuck me, though,” you eventually whisper when he never finishes his sentence.  He’s not the best with words, but that’s okay.  You’re perfectly willing to entertain other mediums.  “First.  Even if it is part of a deal, I don’t give a shit.”

You bring your hand back to wrap tight around him, beginning to pull up and down in strong, steady strokes once more.  The tips of his fingers tighten just slightly on your jaw.

“Please,” you whisper, turning your head to kiss one of his palms.  “Just show me, it’s okay.”

He stays like that for just a split second more.

And then he’s suddenly whipping one of his hands down to grab your wrist.  The other wraps itself more fully around your jaw in its absence and firmly holds your head in place in front of him.

“I won’t be gentle,” he tells you once more, voice coming out hoarse and shaky.  “I—I c-can’t—”

You nod in affirmation as much as you can with his iron grip wrapped tight over your chin like this.  “Th—”

You can’t even get a single word out before Mando shoots both hands down to grab your hips, abruptly yanking your ass off the bed.  Your legs have just enough time to buckle once they hit the ground, but then he’s spinning you around and practically shoving you right back on top of the metal platform, facedown with half your upper-body and both arms hanging over the edge.

Your pants are being snatched over your ass and down your legs as you still work to adjust yourself to the chaotic shift in position.  Holy fuck, he wasn’t ki—

Something blunt presses up against the apex of your thighs, pushes forward, and oh, holy fu—

—oh—holy fuck—

You’re surprised you have enough breath to shout as loud as you do when he slams full-force into you, rattling the bed as he sheathes himself in your slick warmth to the hilt, fully armored behind you and pressing cold beskar tight up against your ass and thighs.  You claw your fingers over the smooth metal surface under the cot and try to brace yourself on something, but there’s nothing to hold onto.  Fuck, he’s so fucking thick.  Forcing you to yield to his hardness, tightening his grip on your hips and keeping you locked in position.

And then he pulls out and then slams back in—starts pounding into you, using your body as a counterweight to thrust himself into and Maker, you would probably be screaming if you could even breathe right.  The inability to inhale just means you can hear him groan through the modulator, shuffle up closer to you and start to drill into you harder.

“Sweet, sweet girl,” he murmurs, and fuck, you would think he was suffocating you if it weren’t for both of his hands being anchored to your hips.  It blazes through you like wildfire, burning your lungs and setting your body alight with flames.  He leans over you and clamps a hand down over your shoulder, and your eyes roll back when he moves up and adjusts his angle just the slightest bit, pounding down into you instead of just into you, and—

“Maker, h-how did I deserve this?”  He whispers quietly to himself, delirious and tight as stars explode behind your vision.  His helmet rests on your shoulder blade, the beskar as heavy and unyielding as his thrusts are as he pummels into that one blinding, heavenly spot, over and over and over again.  “What did I d—where were you when I was—when I was—?”

You finally gasp a ragged, desperate breath in like you’ve been underwater for the last minute instead of under him, taking his cock the way he needs to give it to you.  And then you’re writhing, grinding your body back against his as much as you can, choking on the burning air and trying to put your needs together into a coherent sentence.

“T-take your helmet off,” you finally manage to lift your head up and beg, “please—please, I-I won’t—I won’t look, I sw-swea—” and then your cunt clamps down hard when he shoots up from you and practically rips the thing off his shoulders without another word, the sound of steel clanging loudly on the floor by your feet.

His hand comes around your throat and yanks you to the side before his teeth are sinking into your neck, not a single break in his hard, pounding rhythm.

He probably gets about ten good thrusts in like that before you’re going rigid under him and cumming—hard.

Everything below your waist locks down tighter around him than a fucking vice, and then you explode wet and hot around his cock with a hoarse shout, squeezing him and spasming through each rough, steady thrust as it launches you higher, and higher—

“Fuck—” he snarls into your neck, and then he suddenly kicks up from the rapid slapslapslapslap that got you over the edge to a surging, brutal bam—bam—bam that wrings a sharp, ragged cries from your throat.  Your face screws up and you try not to scream at the sensation, wondering how it was possible that he could make the bliss even more debilitating.  “Fuck, th—your cunt gets… s-so fucking tight when you cum—”

You just whimper for him helplessly, listening to the vulgar sounds of him fucking into you, the loud squelching as he keeps rocking mercilessly deep.

“You hear that?”  He murmurs next to your ear, and the slick sound of it echoes obscenely through the silent hull.  His voice is soft, contrasting blindingly with the way he’s holding you down and fucking you so strong and steady through the aftershocks.  “Fuck—you get fucking wet after you cum, too, don’t you?”

You try to move, try to adjust yourself just slightly, but he locks down around you and holds fast to his rhythm.  Fuck, it feels like he’s fucking the air out of you faster than you can breathe it in, grip like iron and tightening the more you struggle.

“‘M never leaving this,” he slurs, dropping his head to rest between your shoulder blades.  “Never.  Fuck, I’m—you’re—you’re never getting rid of me, sweet girl, I’m—I’m never—never f-fucking leaving—”

“Fuck, I’m—” you gasp, closing your eyes and trying to focus on the spark of a feeling deep inside you.  “Stars, I think I-I might—”

And then Mando licks a slow, warm line up the curve of your spine and a second orgasm is suddenly burning a fucking hole through you, tearing another broken wail from your throat.  You spasm and arch under him, bearing down on his thick cock and trying not to sob.

“Fuck, there we g-go—” he grits against your skin, picking up his speed and fucking hammering into you, completely deaf to your hoarse squeal at the change in tempo.  “Good.  Ngh, fuck—you—y-you want me to cum now?”

“Please,” you beg.  “Please cum, p-please—”

“Where?”  His voice is tight, breathless and shaky.  “Tell me where—quick—”

“Fuck—inside,” you moan, eyes rolling back at the thought of taking his load deep inside you.

Mando’s hips stutter.  For the first time in what feels like an eternity, they jerk back in before they could fully extend all the way out, and your abused lower muscles start to squeeze him in anticipation.

“I can’t—” he rasps, “—I’ve—I-I’ve never—and y-you’ll—”

“Safe,” you wheeze, because you don’t have enough air in your lungs or composure in your thoughts to tell him you have an implant contraceptive.  All you can manage is a shameless, breathless, “Cum deep,” half-tossed over your shoulder.

Your hair is gathered and locked in a tight fist behind your head and if you thought he was fucking you full force, you soon realize he was only at about an eight.  He flattens you against the bed and yanks your head up, arm coming around to brace across your chest and starting to just fucking wreck you from behind.

The change in angle forces his cock to spear up against something that blinds you, something so raw and impairing that you can’t speak anymore, even if you could find the air to.

“Fuck—m’gonna cum,” the Mandalorian grits, the bed rattling on its tracks as his head drops to your shoulder, “f-fuck, s’too fucking good, sweet girl—m’gonna f-fucking cum, I—”

He plows his hips into you just like that once, twice, three—

You lock down and everything goes blurs and goes out of focus, white hot pleasure ripping you apart from the inside as you do scream this time, clamping down and straightening your spine and convulsing in ecstasy.

He snarls and bites down on your neck, grrriiinndding his cock as deep inside you as it’ll go and shuddering above you.  You can feel him pulsing, throbbing as he growls his way through it, breathing heavy and giving you his load just how you asked.

Mando pulls out of you much quicker than you want him to and stumbles backwards, suddenly dropping to his knees on the floor behind you with a metallic clang.  He doesn’t do anything more than that, though; he just stares at your fluttering hole as you slowly start to leak his cum, one of his hands coming up to brace itself on the back of your thigh as he catches his breath and watches.

Fuck, you’re spent.  Panting and exhausted in the same position he left you.  You try to move, but you can’t.  You just sprawl there on your tummy and slowly wait for the feeling to return to your body.

But then he says something.  It’s too quiet—a soft, one syllable word you can’t quite make out.

“Wh—?”  Your muscles feel like lead.  “I couldn’t hear y—”

Gloved hands trail gently over your ass.  And then you feel a small, sharp little prick on the swell of one of your cheeks, but it’s gone after a split second.

And then… fucking bliss.

You sag into the metal bed, feeling the room begin to spin.  Fuck.  He gave you the shot.  The fucker just gave you the shot.  How dare he?  Before you could even work yourself up to the point of tears again?  While you’re still… still fucking dripping with cum right in front of his face?

Until—

“Din,” he says softly.  “It’s Din.”

Din.

How perfectly appropriate, you think.

Short, simple, and to the point.  No flourishes.  A quick, one-syllable punch of air.  One singular, closed I vowel sitting quietly between two consonants, guarded on all sides.  Hard at first, but then tapering off to a soft sound if you let it.  Din.

“Din,” you whisper, fighting the overwhelming high with every last fiber of your gradually depleting consciousness, wanting so desperately to hear the word out loud with your own voice before you’re pulled under, trying to make sure it’s real.  It comes out sounding that way, too; weak and quiet and straining for these last few precious moments with him.

Both of his hands wrap around the back of your knees and you feel his plush lips press gently against your upper-thigh, just below the curve of your ass.  He opens his mouth and licks hot and warm along your damp skin, pulls both your knees apart just slightly and then starts to drag his tongue to the side a bit, and then—

And then everything goes dark.

Chapter Text

The first thing you see when you blink your eyes open is… green.  Green, and sideways.  Three little fingers, grabby as usual, clutched onto a strand of your hair and tugging.

Gigantic, pitch black eyes blink slowly at you as you focus your vision, lifting your head just slightly from where it’s resting on a balled-up, makeshift pillow.  The baby coos at you, a musical and happy sound, tugging your hair once more as you take in your surroundings.

The cot you’re laying on is pulled out of the hull just partially, just enough to bathe your legs and the lower half of your torso in light while the upper half is still in the confined within the tight space inside the wall, but that still doesn’t explain how the kid got in here with you.  How did he climb—?

Something—a hand—comes down to thump over your ankle, not too hard but not really overly concerned about it either.  “We’re here,” grunts a modulated voice, interrupting your adorable little alarm clock.

Ah.  That’s how.

You immediately reach out and scoop the baby up into your arms just because you can, turning him around and holding his back to your chest as you cuddle him on the bed.  “Okay,” you sigh dreamily, kissing his wrinkly, hairy yet somehow also completely bald little head and gently smushing your cheek into it.

You settle back down with the kid for another few hours of rest, only a hand thumps down on your ankle again.  “Come on,” Mando’s voice drawls through multiple layers of metal.  “Let’s go.  Karga is waiting on us.”

Your eyebrows pull together, just as your little, little spoon starts to wiggle in your arms.  “What?  Who’s us?”

“Us,” he repeats shortly, pulling the bed the rest of the way out of the wall by your ankle but slowing it to a gentle halt right before it can reach the end of the tracks.  “Now hurry it up.  And stop smothering him.”

You groan and sit up in the brightly lit hull, blinking around at the… remarkably tidy ship.  

It wasn’t like this before.  Where’s all the clutter?  The first aid kits strewn about?  The excess pieces of gauze and tape on the floor?  The… the blood on the walls?

Your eyes fall to the corner near the hatch almost immediately, the sight of… The Incident.  Only you find it completely spotless, not a single thing out of place.  Come to think of it, you don’t think you’ve actually ever seen the hull cleaner than it is now, even when you’ve spent literal days working at it.

There should be blood there.  There was a pool of blood there.  Wasn’t there?  There was a pool of blood right there, right in that little space between the—

“Hey.”  Your jaw is caught in a gentle grip and pulled left just a little, and you suddenly come face to face with a metallic visor.  His helmet is nothing but sharp angles and your own warped reflection staring blankly back at you, but his hold is steady and his voice is soft through the modulator.  “Us.  You, me, and the kid.  Right?”

You blink at him, suddenly reminded of the child held in your arms.  And then you nod slowly at him, hearing the baby gurgle softly near your chest as he looks up at Mando.

“I’m not leaving you today,” he tells you, moving his hand up to cradle the side of your face.  “But I also have to meet up with Karga.  It won’t take long.”  He jerks his helmet to gesture over at the open hatch, before looking back at you and brushing a thumb across your cheekbone.  “So let’s go.  Okay?”

You nod once more.  “Okay.”  But then you remember the blood all over your hands and clothing.  “No, wait, Mando—I have to change clothes—”

“No, you don’t,” he interrupts.  “Come on.”

“Yes, I do,” you protest, gathering the child in one arm and bringing the other up to show him.  “Look, I still have blood all ov—”

A black, long sleeve tunic.  Baggy, clean, and worn.  Not what you passed out in.  Not actually your shirt, you don’t think.  There’s not even gauze covering your arm anymore.  The blood’s been wiped away and the wound marring the inside of your forearm completely healed overnight.

“Hey, look at me,” he says once more, bringing his other hand up to hold your face completely still in front of him.  The baby makes grabby hands up towards him, but Mando just stretches your neck and makes you lift your chin to keep your attention focused on him.  “I let you sleep for as long as I could.  But we have to get moving now.”

You nod, trying to figure out how you feel.  Grateful, you suppose?  That he did as much as he could to erase what happened yesterday?  If he asked, you probably wouldn’t want to talk about it, so… so what’s the problem?

Nothing.  Nothing is a problem.

 


 

Alright, so maybe you… get it.

You get it now, why E-Bacta is just as sought after as spice.  You can still feel traces of the partial dose lingering in your bloodstream even now, even while trailing behind Mando and his equally reflective spherical shield as you three make your way into the crowded cantina.

You feel… physically, you feel spectacular.  Glowing.  Radiant and awake.  Not so much high anymore, but almost like the Maker hit a reset button on your entire body.  You’re incredibly well-rested, no aches or pains, absolutely nothing to suggest something major happened last night.  You know you should at least have some trouble walking, but you don’t.  Fuck, even your skin feels clearer and healthier than ever before.

If you hadn’t killed someone yesterday, you might even have a spring in your step.

You’re… you just have to stop thinking about it, you tell yourself.  You’re being stupid and childish.  You killed one fucking person in self-defense.  Mando disintegrates people.  He’s taken out more people with fucking doors than that, of course he’s not going to openly acknowledge it unless you bring it up yourself.

You’re so lost in your thoughts, you almost don’t respond when a booming voice calls your name over the chatter and music.  It’s… it’s almost a bit startling to be recognized first when you’re standing next to someone like the Mandalorian, and you immediately whip around as a warm, equally as loud, “Mando!” soon follows it.

A hand is clapped down on top of your shoulder, Greef Karga beaming at you both as he mirrors his other hand on Mando’s pauldron.  “And baby!”  He adds brightly, catching sight of the little green monster hovering next to you.  “Hey, baby!”

“We don’t have much time,” your companion immediately informs him.

“Oh, of course not!”  He turns his head to look down at you with a wide, almost secret smile.  “Always down to business, isn’t he.  Never one to dally with small talk.  Come, join me!”

You casually trail a few steps behind everyone, feeling just slightly out of place in the dusty cantina even with the forward acknowledgement from Mando’s guild contact.  You’ve met him once or twice, never for very long.  It’s... unexpected, the sudden attention.

Mando unclips his rifle and leans it against the table before taking a seat, and then you slip into the booth next to him, huddling your arms inwards a bit and trying to take up as little space as possible.  Greef gestures for a round of drinks from one of the rusty droids prattling around the bar as the bounty hunter beside you eventually presents three pucks to him.

“I seem to remember you leaving with four of those, last time you were here,” he remarks, visibly surprised.  You don’t know why, but you immediately stiffen, even though Mando doesn’t move a muscle in response.

“The last one wasn’t worth the effort,” he eventually grunts.  You keep your head tilted down just slightly and Greef’s attention is subsequently captured by the droid as it approaches the head of the table, taking three shots of glowing blue liquid from its circular tray and then waving it away.  He places one of the glasses down in front of you.

“I like the days Mando decides to collect,” he says to you, holding up the other two shots of alcohol in both hands.  “The droids are stupid, they always bring over an extra drink.”  He winks at you, tipping one of them in your direction.  “My gain.”

He downs the drink, and you blink down at the one meant for you.  It would be impolite to refuse it, right?  But you don’t really... really feel like drinking right now, especially considering you woke up probably not an hour ago.

“Come on!”  Greef eventually gestures, before downing the other shot of glowing liquor.  “Don’t tell me you’re as much of a stick in the mud as this one is.”

Your hand comes out for the shot glass without thinking.  Mando is completely silent next to you as you tip your head back and drink the entire thing in one gulp, the liquid burning as it slides down your throat.  The man sitting across from you smiles, before digging his hands around in his pockets for payment.

A palm quietly settles on your knee under the table.

“As promised,” Greef exchanges a sizable portion of credits for the pucks.  “Someone is already collecting the carbonite plaques from your vessel as we speak.”

Mando nods his understanding, but doesn’t say anything in return.  Neither do you.

“So.”  Greef slowly settles back in the booth, looking between the two of you.  “This is new.”

“The next job, Karga,” the bounty hunter next to you reminds him shortly.

“Is he this pushy all the time?”  Greef turns and asks you, pointedly ignoring Mando.  “This rushed?  Or is it just because he doesn’t like me?”

“No,” you answer on instinct, and when neither one of them say anything, you eventually flush a brilliant shade of red and realize they’re waiting for you to elaborate.  “He’s not… al-always rushed.”

Greef blinks at you a few times, and then he quite suddenly barks out a laugh, loud and abrupt enough to make you jump.  While chuckling, he pushes four new tracking fobs across the table.

“I was only going to give you three of these, since that’s all you came back with,” Karga says, gesturing for another round of drinks with a lazy twirl of his finger.  “But I like her.  More than you, Mando.  So I’ll forgive you this once, but try not to make it a habit.”

“And you’ll get two extra drinks this time as a token of appreciation.”  Mando slides his hand down to cup your knee and give it a gentle squeeze.  “We’re leaving.”

“Of course you are,” Greef huffs, watching you both scoot out of the booth and gather your things.  “It’s already been five whole minutes since you first sat down.  Far too much socializing for one day.”

“Thank you for the drink,” you tell him politely.  “It was very nice seeing you again.”

“Likewise!”  He projects, widening his arms and beaming up at you.  “If you ever get tired of him, you are always more than welcome here on Nevarro.  You’re far nicer to look at than anyone else in this sector.”

Mando’s palm rests low on your back, his voice quiet through the modulator and partially lost in the chatter of the crowd.  “Let’s go, sweet girl.”

Greef waves three fingers at the kid in his metal sphere.  “Bye, baby!”

Mando doesn’t let go of you.  Not when you turn around and start walking away, not when you leave the cantina, not when you’re making your way through the busy Nevarro marketplace afterwards.

“That was rude,” you eventually turn your head and tell him under your breath, not at all used to him walking side by side with you like this.  You usually always trail slightly behind the both of them, but his arm on your lower back keeps your strides aligned with his.

“I know,” he agrees lowly, guiding you through the crowded public square, the kid hovering in his shield next to you and blinking up at all the excitement going on around him.  “He was being too bold.”

“I mean us, Mando,” you correct.  “We were rude.  He was being friendly.”

“Karga doesn’t have friends,” he responds lowly.  “He has business associates that tolerate him because of his connections and position in the guild.  You were already nicer to him than most of his contacts ever are.”

You don’t say anything back to him.  How long ago was it that you were likewise nothing more than a business associate Mando tolerated?  Less than a few weeks, maybe?

And yet, it’s only when you reach the ship that he finally lets go of you.

 


 

You love the kid.  Honestly.  You’d die for him.

But sometimes.  Sometimes you just want to… step on him.

Okay, no—you shouldn’t say that.  He might choke you in your sleep with his insane fucking demon powers if he hears that.  No, it’s just… it’s like he feeds off the energy around him sometimes.  Which is great, especially when you’re exhausted and his naps tend to align with yours.  Canto Bight was a different situation considering you were in such an incredibly crowded area, but in hyperspace?  The kid only has you and Mando around to take his cues from.

Which means, if you’re buzzing with energy and just waiting for him to fall asleep, guess what?  Guess who suddenly gets a second, or third, or fourth wind?

It’s never ending.  The moment you think he’s about to pass out, he bounces back with even more energy than before.  Sure, he’s cute and all, but that shit only lasts so long.  It’s a facade meant to deceive everyone and it’s all just a clever, systematic fucking ploy.  After all, if you needed someone else to feed you and protect you and take care of you for the first fifty plus years of your life, evolution would make you adorable as fuck, too.

Hours.  Maybe even a full day or so before the little shithead finally decides to close his eyes for longer than a few seconds.  Mando so graciously left you alone to babysit him while he shut himself away in the cockpit and navigated to the nearest quarry destination, and the baby was such a handful from the second you stepped back on the ship, you didn’t even catch where you’re headed to.

Not to mention all the cleaning Mando did earlier today leaves you with little to nothing else to do to occupy your time besides supervise the little terror.  And of course, the entire time, all you can think about is Mando’s hand on your thigh under the table.  The way his voice sounded calling you an endearment in public.  

How he felt railing into you last night.  How you wish you could still feel it now.

You close the kid’s shield and stow him safely in the pitiful little cot you slept on almost the exact second he falls asleep.  You don’t waste any time.  You’re immediately climbing up into the cockpit to seek out your armored companion.

Mando is sitting with his back to you in the pilot’s seat when you open the door and quickly shut it behind you.  You lower yourself into the copilot’s chair on his flank, completely silent.

He doesn’t move.  Neither do you.

Time passes differently in hyperspace.  It’s almost like everything somehow drags and blurs simultaneously.  Over the handful of months you’ve been partnered together, you’ve probably spent a little less than half that time in hyperspace with Mando, and excluding these past few weeks dedicated to locating this last set of quarry, it’s hard to recall any one singular instance from the hundreds of hours you must’ve spent with him in this exact setting.  Hyperspace, silence, and this damn cockpit.

Except—except this time, everything is different.  This time, you’re hyper aware of every second that passes as you sit behind him, not moving a muscle.  Your eyes are glued to the headrest behind his helmet, your jaw clenched and your nerves buzzing at the proximity between the two of you.  Though the ship is deafeningly silent, the energy burning inside you almost makes it feel like it’s too loud in here.

Mando can feel the tension.  You can tell, because it’s steadily continuing to rise.  If you were just left to simmer by yourself, you probably would’ve just plateaued at some point.  As it is, he almost acts like an amplifier, reflecting the anticipation in the air as much as he is the starlight overhead.

You’re feeding off each other like always.  But unlike all the times before, this time, you’re the initiator.  

This time, you want to fuck.  

His chair slowly turns around to face you.

And then you both just look at each other for awhile in perfect silence, like Mando absolutely fucking knows it.  Like he knows exactly how much you fucking want him again, and he’s dragging it out.  Savoring the way you’re perched on the edge of the seat, staring at him and waiting for him to make the first move.

“If there’s something you want from me,” he eventually tells you, shattering the quiet with his modulated voice.  “All you have to do is say so.”

Fuck, he has no idea.  You want more than something, you want everything from him.  Anything he’s willing to give.

Instead of answering him, though, you quietly stand up and take a few steps closer to him.  Mando doesn’t move a single muscle as you slowly hook your thumbs around the waistband of your pants and begin pushing them down your thighs.  He just watches you silently as he sits back in the pilot’s chair, likely taking note of the way you consider taking your shirt off for a second as well but then ultimately decide against it.

You probably would’ve taken it off if it was actually your shirt, but something tells you he likes you in his clothes.  After all, he could’ve dressed you in your own clothes last night, but he didn’t.  He knows where you keep your go-bag, he knows how easy it would’ve been to dig through it for a clean shirt.  But he didn’t.

So, with nothing but your undies and his dark tunic draped over you, you carefully brace a hand on his pauldron and lift your leg to settle yourself down on his lap, situating yourself between him and the flight console and straddling the hard beskar on his thighs.

“There is something,” you eventually admit, dragging your palms along the unarmored curves of his sides.  “Something I want from you.”

“It’s yours,” he says immediately, both of his hands coming down to settle on your thighs.  “Tell me.”

Fuck, the unhesitating conviction almost throws you for a second.  The way he’s looking at you through the helmet, so fucking sincere.  You bite your lip and consider him for a moment, his body physically barricaded from you as much as he always is but never looking or sounding so open before.

“Will you take this off?”  You eventually whisper, pressing a gentle kiss to the beskar shielding his face.  “I want to kiss you.”

“It’s—it’s too bright in here,” he tells you, sounding a little out of breath underneath it.  “You’ll be able to s—”

“I won’t open my eyes,” you promise, kissing the front of his visor once more.  “You can put it back on right after if you want, I just—I need to kiss you.  Please.”

His fingers tighten on your thighs, and your own reflection is the last thing you see before you’re slowly and purposefully squeezing your eyes shut in front of him.  You carefully let your fingers drift up on his chest plate, over the rigid lines of his collar bones, before finally bumping into the hard metal at the base of his helmet.

His hands immediately lift to cradle yours, quick enough to imply it’s entirely instinctual.  While his hold isn’t painful, it’s strong enough to keep you still.

So, you wait.  Patiently, with your eyes closed, hoping he trusts you enough to give this to you.  When he doesn’t pull your hands down, you press a soft kiss the beskar again, and then slowly begin pulling the helmet up.

“Wait,” he murmurs.  Wait.  Not a stop, not a get away from me, not a don’t even think about it.  Just a… wait.

You pause and don’t move.  With the way you’re wrapped around him like this, the tips of your toes barely rest on the ground, but you can still feel the floor of the cockpit start to circle underneath you.  Mando’s thighs shift underneath you as he slowly rotates the pilot seat all the way backwards, keeping his hands anchored to yours as you continue to hold onto the bottom of his helmet.

It takes you a second to realize what he’s doing.  Most of the light source in here comes from the stars streaking across the observation transparisteel, but it’s concentrated at the front of the ship where all the glowing buttons also happen to be.  He’s silhouetting his face as much as he can by facing the ladder to the dark hull.

It’s pointless, you immediately recognize, so you readily let him have it.  You know well and good that if you slip and open your eyes for even a split-second once he lets you take his helmet off, the cockpit is too bright to keep Mando hidden regardless of what direction he faces.

These are high stakes.  But the prize is far too appealing to pass up.

So you kiss the cold beskar again and slowly begin pulling the helmet up once more.  And this time, he lets you.  This time, he holds the backs of your hands and lets you keep kissing the metal as you gradually lift it up, your crotch still pressed tightly to his even though there’s now much more open space behind you to utilize now.  Your lips touch the hard edge of the helmet and you dip your chin to follow it downwards, and then suddenly you’re touching something soft and giving, something that instantly parts and licks into your mouth before you’ve even removed its shield halfway.

Heat burns through you and you moan in relief at finally getting what you wanted.  You completely forget your task as soon as his tongue is in your mouth, but Mando’s hands around yours help you guide the helmet off completely, before carelessly tossing it to the side as he kisses you.  He’s grabbing hold of your jaw and fitting his mouth perfectly to yours before you even hear the beskar clang against the metal floor.

You keep your eyes shut tight as you immediately relax into his body, making a soft noise and melting into him.

Fuck, this is worth it.  This.  This, right fucking here, this is worth everything.  Sitting on this forsaken ship and waiting on him for days or even weeks to come back, never seeing his face, always having this damn beskar separating him from you—it’s all fucking worth it when he kisses you like this.  When he makes a low sound in his throat and moves his mouth against yours like he was just fucking made for it, wraps one of his arms around your lower back and presses you tight against him while the other holds your jaw open.

You can feel yourself get wetter the longer he drags it out, every second he spends slowly biting your bottom lip and tasting you is another dark spark of arousal between your legs.  It’s lazy and hot and so, so good, you nearly whimper into his mouth and push your hips down on top of him.

The navcomp beeps a few times, the autopilot function signaling an upcoming drop from hyperspace.  Apparently your destination was much closer than you expected.

“Shit,” he huffs, breaking away from you.  “Shit—we were supposed to get bacta on Nevarro, I—shit.  I forgot.  You… y-you distracted me.”

“Tell you what,” you bury your face into his neck and reach your hand down between you two, wiggling it into his pants.  “We’ll just promise each other real hard not to get stabbed until we can get more.”

“That’s not—” his breathing stutters when you grab onto his cock and downright purr into the crook of his neck when you find him rock hard and throbbing, “that’s—n-not funny.  You’re lucky I even had that shot to give you.  Wouldn’t—wouldn’t have woken up nearly as happy as you did this morning if I didn’t.”

“How much of that would’ve been from the vibroblade though?”  You pull him out of his pants and moan hot air into the fabric covering his throat.  “Bacta on my arm wouldn’t have helped me walk any straighter, would it?”

Mando gets a single syllable out in response before you’re hooking your panties to the side and moving your hips forward, engulfing the hard underside of him between your slick, swollen lips.

His entire body jerks at the blazing heat of you, and he grits a curse when you gradually begin to move back and forth along the thick length of him.

“I don’t want you to do that next time,” you whisper, wrapping your arms around his shoulders.  Your hips drag against his as you slide his cock through your drenched slit, pressing a gentle kiss to his neck.  “Don’t do that.”

“You’re—you’re right, I’m—” Mando gasps, tilting his head to give you more room and hands coming down to clamp tight over your hips, “fuck, I’m—I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have been so rough w-with y—”

“No,” you breathe into the crook of his neck, grinding your pussy against his throbbing cock.  “The shot.  Don’t do that.  Bacta kits only,” you gasp, tightening your hold around him as your clit drags over his thick erection.  “From now on, that’s all I get.”

“Fuck, come on,” he contests, slowly tipping his head back.  “It wasn’t that bad.  You barely felt it.”

“I know,” you whine, rolling your hips along his body.  “That was the worst part.”

“You—” Mando cuts himself off abruptly with a growl, his grip turning to steel on your hips.  “You… you wanted…?”

“I wanted to hurt today,” you moan, trying not to bite down on his neck with how fucking good it feels to rub your cunt along his cock like this.  “I wanted to feel you when I walked.  When I sat down in that cantina booth next to you.”

His fingers dig into your hips so hard, you’re forced to immediately stop gliding your slick pussy over him.  The navcomp beeps once more, this time rapidly.  Ten seconds until hyperspace drop.

One of your hands moves to clamp down over his shoulder while the other threads through the thick locks at the back of his head.  You pull your hips up and tilt them just a bit, just enough to position the tip of his cock at your entrance.  And then you bite his neck and slowly start to sink down on him.

Mando grits out your name, just as the navcomp beeps reach a crescendo.

The Razorcrest is thrown out of hyperspace with a giant lurch in g-force that practically shoves your cunt the rest of the way down his thick cock and then further, pressing him up so far up inside you with such a chaotic shift in gravity that Mando actually chokes next to your ear.  You’re surprised you can hear him at all, considering the blast of white noise at the rapid intrusion and the way you sob through your teeth as they dig into the thick muscles wrapped around his neck.

Fuck, he hits so fucking different from this angle.  He stretches you and fills you spectacularly, forces you to yield to him while you breathe heavy through your nose, wondering how dark of a bruise he’ll have on his neck from your bite.

Mando fucking likes it, though.  You can tell.  From the way his hand immediately comes up to tangle in your hair and hold your face in the crook of his neck while you gradually begin to pull your hips up, clamp down around him as hard as you can and slowly drag his thick cock out of your pussy, you can tell he fucking likes this.  He likes feeling your teeth in his neck while you start to fuck yourself onto him, riding his cock so steady and unhurried in the pilot’s seat of his ship.

“Fuck,” he nearly spits, his hand squeezes your thigh hard enough to leave a mark.  “Is this—is this what you n-needed, sweet girl?  Hm?  Just a little—little attention?”

You whimper, wondering how it feels so fucking amazing like this.  How the head of his cock is pushed up tight against your g-spot, spreading wildfire in your lower belly and seeping through your pelvis and into your upper thighs.  Fuck, you grind the head of his cock slow and hard against it and try not to dig your nails into his arms where your fingers are clutching tight to the dark fabric.

“Needed—Needed you to touch me in that cantina,” you whisper, already half out of your mind with the aching bliss, saying whatever the fuck comes into your head first and not thinking anything past it.  “Needed you to… to put your hand down my pants while you talked to Karga—”

“Shit,” he snarls, his hips jerking up into yours almost unintentionally with the sentiment.  “Shit—I—”

“I would’ve let you,” you moan, starting to move as best you can with his thrusts.  The positioning doesn’t allow for him to do much besides roll his hips in short, stunted movements, but it’s just enough to let you slowly build your pleasure until it’s simmering and burning through you.  “Do you think he would’ve still flirted with me if he knew you had two of your fingers inside me under that table?”

“Shut up,” he snaps, but it’s way too breathless and worked up to be anything close to threatening.  “Maker, you have to—have to sh-shut up or I won’t last—”

You can hear how fucking wet you are.  Your pussy is nearly drowning him now, slick and hot and drenched as you roll your hips up and down on top of him.  “Does that turn you on?”  You murmur, breathing hot air onto his neck and riding his cock slow and steady.

“Fuck—you’re—” Mando growls, tugging a fistful of your hair and fucking up into you as best he can in this position.  “You’re asking if it… if it t-turns me on to hear you s-say—say you wanna cum all over my fucking hand while I talk b-business with someone?  You f-fucking kidding… kidding me?”

Your cunt starts to tighten around him.  Fuck, the power trip you’re experiencing from being on top of him is starting to go to your head.  You feel brash.  Reckless and bold.  It translates to a quicker, harder pace, your hips starting to shove down onto him at the apex of his thrust upwards and hitting a spot inside you that flashes lightning down your spine.

“Fuck, I used to—used to th-think about it,” you gasp, your eyes squeezed shut and just trying to breathe through it.  “Some—sometimes.  Used to get off thinking about it.  Used to think about you and touch myself and make myself cum on the floor of your fucking ship, Din.”

Fuck, the sound he makes is one you’ve only heard once.  The time he had a jagged knife wound on his back.  An agonizingly tight, ragged gasp of a sound, the one he only makes when he’s in incredible pain and trying to hide it.  The blast of heat from it nearly sears through you and suddenly everything is pulling up hot and tight, settling low and locking your hips in position as you start to grind down hard on him—

Fuck, you’re almost there—you’re almost there, you’re almost there, you’re almost—

But then suddenly you’re being lifted up, and you nearly sob into his neck and desperately claw at him when his cock falls out of you with the jostle.  But then you’re being carried backwards and your back is slamming down into the floor, and he’s shoving his arms under your legs and positioning your hips up over his thighs.  For a split second, your eyes nearly come open with the chaotic shift in position.  But as if he knew exactly what would happen, Mando claps his hand over your eyes and braces himself on the floor by your head with the other hand, and then—

And then he starts fucking you.

Actually, no, because that word isn’t nearly good enough right now.  One of the very few occasions where a word as universal as “fuck” just doesn’t quite seem to cover it.  It would be better to say he shoves back into you and starts shattering your entire galaxy to pieces on the floor of the cockpit, making you scream his name—his real name—as he starts jackhammering his hips against yours, hand held tight over your eyes and legs braced over his broad shoulders.

It’s fucking debilitating.  It’s absolute madness, snatching your body up and wringing it dry of any last traces of your sanity.  The adjustment to his angle and speed is like a nuclear detonation inside you, and it launches you higher than you thought you could go.  You just dig your nails into his arms and sob brokenly for him at the ceiling, letting his hips collide roughly with yours as he fucks you down hard into the floor.

His mouth is at your neck as he grits the words darkly against your throat.  “Fuck, you need to learn how to be quiet when I fucking tell you to, understand?”

“I’m—” you gasp, eyes screwed up so tight behind his fingers that you don’t even notice the tear slipping out.  “I’m s-sorry—”

“Fuck—shut up,” he growls once more.  Stars, he’s hard and throbbing and he’s shredding up against raw heaven inside you, and you can barely hear him over the sound of your crying, so fucking close to the edge and begging for him.  “Maker,” he snarls, bringing his elbow down next to your head and shifting his weight so he can reach down in between your legs, “if you want it that fucking bad, I’ll f-fucking do it.  I’ll rub your pr-pretty little clit in the middle of that fucking cantina next time just like this.  Make you cum right in front of him, show him that you’re fucking mine—”

You feel like you can’t even breathe anymore.  “He—he didn’t w-want to fuck me—”

“Everyone in that d-dirty piece of shit bar wanted to fuck you, you s-sweet little thing,” he grits, rubbing tight circles over your clit and pounding directly into your g-spot with such precision and force, your eyes roll back under his hand and your spine suddenly goes rigid.

“Fuck, I’m gonna cum, Din,” you whisper, your voice frantic and rushed and breathless as you claw aimlessly down his chest plate.  Everything pulls up sharp and burning and you’re already starting to bear down on him, starting to slowly squeeze his cock and tighten down hard in preparation for it.  “I’m gonna fucking cum—”

“Fuck, yes—” he gasps, “—fuck, let me f-feel you cum—let me feel this fucking cunt g-get wet, little girl, let m—”

He keeps talking, but you don’t hear him.  Everything is suddenly drowned out by the roaring of blood rushing through your ears, your body locking down so fucking tight around him that you wouldn’t be able to see anymore, even if his hand wasn’t clamped down hard over your eyes.

Din keeps fucking you as your orgasm slams through you with such force that your voice cracks, the blaze of white hot bliss ripping you apart.  He rubs your clit and holds you down and makes you take his cock the entire time, forcing you even higher through the explosive pleasure and muttering filth about how fucking gorgeous you are when you cum on him, how he wants to make you cum again but he can’t hold it back—

You’re saying something.  Repeating it, over and over again breathlessly in time with his ruthless thrusts, pleading and gasping it through shuddering tears.

Din—Din—Din—Din—Din—

“Shit, I’m gonna cum,” he groans, stuttering to a halt inside you.  You can feel him swollen and throbbing hard inside you now that he’s still.  “Can I—can I c-cum—o-on your—”

“Yes,” you gasp, not needing anything else.  “Please.”  He can cum wherever the fuck he wants to and you’ll beg for it all the same.

So he abruptly pulls out of you and drops your legs down from his shoulders, letting them sprawl out on the floor and shake as he clambers over your body.  His breathing is ragged and you can hear him jerking himself off already as he continues to climb over you.

“Fuck,” he nearly wheezes, “fuck, don’t open your eyes, sweet girl, don’t open your pretty f-fucking eyes, I’m gonna—” and then his hand is coming off your face and tangling in your hair to hold you still, “—fuck, you’re—you’re so f-fucking p-pretty, baby, m’gonna c-cum all over your pretty fucking f-f-face, I—”  His breath catches, and the only sound that can be heard besides his hand jerking himself off over you is a hoarse, tight, “open your m-mouth—o-open your fuck—ing—”

His body jolts with pleasure above you and a moan tears from his throat as you immediately do as you’re told.  And then he’s cumming, spurting thick ropes of his warmth all over your face and parted lips and gasping out curses and his satisfaction with you.  Fuck, you feel him paint your cheeks and mouth with it, feel him shudder and hear him growl your name as he lets go.

When Din’s body finally stops shaking and he slows down his hand around his cock to squeeze the last bit of it out of him, you wait a few seconds before asking.

“Do you want me to eat it or do you want me to keep it on my face like this?”  You whisper, eyes still obediently shut.

“Fuck,” he pants from above you, trying to catch his breath.  Metal clangs next to your head as he braces himself against the floor.  “F-Fuck—eat it.”

You immediately bring your hand up to gather the sticky warmth from your cheeks on your fingers and dip them in your mouth.  He watches you the entire time, even though you can’t see him.  He watches you eat his cum off your own face, your eyes closed and content to just lay here and clean yourself off as he catches his breath.

Suddenly his tongue is hot and wet as it slides under your jaw, gathering a bit that you missed and then attaching his lips to yours and pushing it into your mouth.  You hum under him and tangle your fingers into his hair, feeling him move back a bit to stretch his legs and settle himself down on top of you.

You break away from him and turn your face just in time to feel all the oxygen rush out of your lungs the second he plops down on you.

“Maker, you are so fucking heavy,” you say, trying to conserve as much air as possible while speaking because he’s making it so fucking hard to breathe like this.

“Tell me about it,” he sighs, nibbling at your collarbone and sounding completely undisturbed by your predicament.  “It wasn’t so bad when I was younger, but now my back is always just fucking killing me.”

“Fuck, get off,” you grab his pauldrons and try and shove him off you, your eyes clenching tight with the effort.  He eventually rolls off you, but it’s very obviously because he eventually decides to take pity on you and do it himself.  “I don’t even know what fucking sector we’re in but I’m pretty sure we’re gonna be dropping into an atmosphere real quick now.”

“Fuck,” Mando grunts, just as the navcomp starts beeping rapidly.  “Fuck, I can’t—can’t get up.”

“You can’t get up?”  You bite out, draping an elbow over your eyes so you won’t have to worry about accidentally opening them.  “Put your fucking helmet on and fly the ship before it crashes.”

He grumbles under his breath and eventually drags himself off of the floor, and the only thing you’re able to catch as he stumbles into the pilot seat and swivels around to face the console is “Karga” and “I was pushy.”

“Can I open my eyes now?”  You ask after a moment, feeling the thrusters kick in and hearing the beeping abruptly cut off.  The sound of metal scrapes across the floor before he answers you.

“No,” he eventually says, but the voice is modulated and run through a familiar filter.  “Keep laying there with your legs open like that.”

You would’ve snarked back at him if the last part of his response was nearly as sarcastic as the first part.  He almost sounds… vaguely serious.  “What are y—”

“Don’t move,” he tells you, and you still can’t fucking gauge the tone of his voice, especially now that it’s coming through fucking beskar.  “It’s the first quarry and the kid is still passed out.  I’ll land somewhere and… we can keep going.  Just for… just for a little bit before I leave.”

He… is he serious?  He wants to… keep going?  What does that even fucking mean?  He just made himself cum all over your face, what the fuck does he mean by “keep going”??

All you can do is lay there on the floor, waiting to find out.  After all, you stand by what you said earlier.

Mando isn’t always rushed.

Chapter Text

Alright so this bed is, like.  Atrociously uncomfortable.

It’s not even a bed.  It’s a cot.  Just a bare minimum place to sleep, shoved into the wall and taking up less space than the ship’s armory.  Like a… like a really shitty gurney almost, except no padding.  So not even a gurney then, just a fucking.  Piece of metal.  Just a piece of fucking metal to sleep on.

There’s surprisingly a bit of space to maneuver yourself when you’re pulled into the cubby completely like this, and yeah, it’s quiet and dark in here but man does your back hurt.  Is his spine made of metal, too?  Is that why he prefers this?  The floor isn’t a feather mattress by any stretch of the imagination, but at least there aren’t any uneven support bars digging into your side.

You’re on Coruscant, and Mando’s been gone for over three weeks.

It.  Fucking.  Blows.

You’ve literally run out of ideas to occupy your time.  You’re far enough above Coruscant’s dangerous underworld to not worry about any potential… mishaps, like what happened on Corellia, but the only issue with the ground being so far below you is that it’s not like you can just stroll down the road and buy yourself a deck of cards at the nearest merchant.  The only shop within walking distance of this hub contains the bare essentials; things like food, medical equipment and bacta, spare electronics and parts—all of which you purchased without hesitation.  Other than that, you need a ship to travel anywhere in this massive galactic capital, and while you just so happen to have a ship, what you don’t have, at least right now, is a Mando.

Fuck, but you did.  Before he left, you had Mando all to yourself for at least a full hour.  After he landed the Crest in a long-term terminal and turned his attention back to you, for some reason, he was insatiable.  It didn’t really make much sense back then, but in hindsight, it’s like he knew good and well how long he was going to be gone this time, attempting to search for a quarry on a planet with a population that broke a trillion last year.  It makes sense.  With this many people, a biometric tracking fob would be almost useless, and sure, you realize he set the ship down in the long-term terminal for a reason, but long-term with Mando typically means a week or two.  You suddenly realize that in a handful of days, he’ll have been gone a full month.

You suppose you probably could fly the ship somewhere else and send him a coded coordinate set of your new location, but for some strange reason, you can’t seem to reconcile going to all that trouble just because you’re bored out of your fucking mind.  You don’t want him to have to travel another however many miles out of his way to get back to you just so you won’t have to twiddle your thumbs for weeks on end.  You don’t want to run the risk of trying to make a quick trip there and back without alerting him of any change in location, either, especially on a planet this size.  He could return to the hub at any time, and if he comes back to a different ship parked in this lot, you’ll probably never see him again.

Okay, no, that’s not true—he hunts people for a living, and you have his kid.  You probably just wouldn’t see him for at least another month or so, and by then he’d be fucking livid.

So.  You stay here.  The baby offers a distraction, but only to a certain point.  The ship is pristine right now, inside and out.  Fucking pristine.  Almost… almost compulsively so, you reluctantly admit.  The console’s entire motherboard has brand new soldering and connections.  You used ear swabs to clean and polish each individual button, key, and knob in the entire flight deck.  You… may or may not have even labeled and color-coded the heat shrink wrap on every single cable in the Crest’s patchbay, all five-hundred and something of them.  When you pried open the metal paneling that covered all the ship’s interior routing jacks, you remember gasping at the sight of a mechanic’s worst nightmare and wondering if the last person who touched it took even more than a few hours on its installation.  What used to be a horrifying tangle of haphazard wiring is now a lovely set of rainbow snakes meticulously gathered and bound together with zipties, and you’re incredibly proud of it, though you still haven’t decided whether or not you should be.

There’s also a very particular reason you’re in this poor excuse for a bed.  You still very clearly remember Mando’s unfiltered voice in the pitch darkness, telling you he wants to come back to find you in his bed.  To find you in it, so he can fuck you though it.  

Well.  Three weeks ago, sleeping in here sounded like a good idea.  You even have a pillow now, and a blanket you can lay out beneath you while you curl up under the one you brought from home.  It’s thick and warm—probably a shock blanket, to be honest, since you did happen to find in the medical section—but it still doesn’t offer near enough padding to feel like you’re laying on an even surface right now.  Mando could theoretically get on top of you in here and fuck you—there is enough room vertically.  He might break one of your ribs on accident though, just judging from the way this one Maker-forsaken support bar seems to dig into your ribcage no matter which way you position yourself in here.

Stars, your back hurts.  You should just lay on the fucking floor.  If he hasn’t come back by now, what are the chances of it happening tonight?  But then your mathematical hindbrain immediately reminds you that statistically, the chances are the highest they’ve ever been.  The longer Mando’s gone, the more likely he is to come back every single day that passes.

It’s just as well, you figure, grabbing the tracks beneath the bed and slowly beginning to squeak yourself out of the wall.  You try not to let your fingers get pinched between the railing and the slider, but that just means the quickest you’re able to inch out is in intervals the approximate length of your index finger.  It’s dark in the hull—the baby is fast asleep in his crib in the cockpit, and the long-term terminal you’re parked in is quiet.  It would be a perfect time to sleep, if you could.  But here’s the thing—

It sucks that Mando’s gone for this long, absolutely.  It sucks that you slept on this awful fucking bed for three whole weeks when you could’ve done this ages ago.  But most of all, it sucks that you don’t have anything else to do.  Because that means you can’t occupy yourself, and when you can’t occupy yourself, your mind starts to wander.  And then you start to fixate on things you probably shouldn’t fixate on, for your own good.

Things like blood on your hands.  The baby limp in your arms.  A voice spitting, “pretty little bitch like you would sell for at least—”

Your eyes snap to the corner of the hull for the millionth time, the sight of where it happened, before you shake yourself out of it and hop down off the suspended cot.

“This’ll be good,” you whisper quietly in the darkness to yourself, pulling the blankets off and grabbing the pillow.  It’s… it’s something you’ve started to do when you need to instantly snap yourself out of a dreaded line of thinking but you don’t have anything stimulating around you to help.  Talk to yourself, talk about anything, just talk out loud and focus on the sound of your own voice.  If you listen hard enough, it’ll drown out your thoughts.  “The floor will be great.  The floor kicks ass.  I like the floor.”

You spread the fluffiest blanket down on the ground as far away from the offending corner as possible, and then close the much shittier metal bed into the hull wall before collapsing on your clearly superior one, never once ceasing your rambling nonsense about the floor.

Oh, this is nice.  This is fantastic.  Your back is still tight and achy from three awful weeks of sleeping on a “mattress” clearly made for someone with no concept of comfort, but being able to stretch out on a flat surface with a large shock blanket that feels like a fucking cloud under your body?  Your eyes are already starting to droop.

“The floor is better,” you whisper, yawning and snuggling deeper into the pillow.  The terminal is quiet.  The kid will be asleep for a while.  Mando won’t come back tonight.  Mando won’t come back tonight.  “The floor is better.  The floor… the floor…”

 


 

You jerk awake to something kicking your leg, hard.  

Gasping, you’re instantly pulling the blanket over your chest on reflex and bracing yourself for another impact, except then whatever kicked you is immediately toppling over your shins and stumbling to the floor with an unfamiliar grunt.

You and a man you don’t recognize blink at each other for a few seconds; him taking in the way you’re curled up on your makeshift bed, and you taking in the way he’s got his face squished against the metal ground, apparently not quick enough to use his arms to try and soften the abrupt tumble.

It’s like all your blood suddenly thickens and the adrenaline digs claws into your chest.  Your first instinct is to fucking bolt, but then your eyes instantly flick to the cockpit, where you know the kid is still sleeping.

Only—you can’t move.  You’re frozen in terror, quickly blinking your wide-eyed gaze back at the man on the ground.  You know you could’ve only been staring at each other for a few seconds at most, but with the way your mind is hurtling right now, it’s long enough for you to have just the briefest flicker of confusion as to why he hasn’t appeared to have moved either.

Except then another set of footsteps slowly begin clanking up the ramp.

Your heart is fucking slamming up against your ribcage at about the rate of four beats per footstep, but as soon as you catch a flash of beskar stepping onto the ship, you‘re reaching up to clutch your chest with your palm like you just finished a long-distance sprint and trying to take deep, calming breaths.

It’s just a quarry.  It’s just a quarry.  His hands are cuffed behind his back.  It’s a quarry.

The Mandalorian slowly comes to a stop right in front of your outstretched legs and the sharp angles of his chrome profile silently stare down at them, unmoving.  You swallow thickly and try not to blush as his helmet tilts towards you and follows your knees up to your hips, along your heaving abdomen and chest, before eventually coming to a rest on your face.

He holds there for a second, taking you in.  You bite down your lip and feel your heart thundering under your ribcage, blinking up at him as your cheeks flush in a boiling hot mixture of panic, embarrassment, and relief.

His metallic visor carefully follows the length of your body back down again, pausing once more at your feet.  

And then he sighs heavily through the modulator, loud enough to echo through the silent hull, before slowly stepping over them.

“Well, well,” the quarry says, stealing your attention with a sick smile creeping across half his face as it’s smushed against the floor.  “Who’s this, Mando?  She’s just darling, isn’t she?  Does Gideon know your crew has a lovely new addit—?”

The bounty abruptly cuts off with a strangled yelp when Mando bends down and grabs him by the collar, yanking him to his feet and then shoving him forward towards the carbonite chamber.  

You collapse back down onto the floor with a relieved breath and try not to tremble with the adrenaline comedown.  Maker, you woke up barely a minute ago but almost all of it was spent in fight or flight—or in your case, freeze—mode, and you’re already fucking exhausted again.

“I’ll tell him—” you can hear the quarry snarl just before Mando slams him into the metal frame.  As much as you try to just tune the confrontation out for the moment and focus on slowing your heart rate, you still manage to catch bits and pieces.  “See him again… be interested to know…”

You close your eyes and breathe deeply, counting to three during each inhale and exhale.  Fuck, that scared you.  You almost had a fucking heart attack, and it takes you a few seconds to get your body under control again.  But then you realize you haven’t heard anything from Mando’s side of the hub for an extended moment, and the carbonizing gas hasn’t yet filled the room.

Your head turns and if you squint from this distance, you can make out a leather glove clamped tight around the quarry’s throat, the man’s face a red-purple by this point as he sags weakly against the chamber.

“Mando!”  You bark quite suddenly, and beskar shoulders jerk straight at the sound as the bounty immediately takes in a giant, ragged breath from under a marginally loosened grip.  Mando quickly releases his neck altogether and punches in a few buttons on the control panel to the right, and then freezing gas soon solidifies the gasping quarry into solid carbonite.

He stays with his back to you for a moment, letting the cloud disappear completely before he moves a single muscle.  When he does eventually turn to look at you, he still doesn’t say anything.

He just stares.  The lights in the hull glint off his helmet, and you tug the blankets up your chest a little further on instinct.  Fuck, three weeks is a long time.  You’re defaulting in a way, finding it impossible to not reevaluate him after a long absence.  Before he left, you’d gotten a bit better at gauging his mood and countenance, been more relaxed and friendly around him, but now, after some time away from him, he’s still so… jarring.  Unpredictable, even when standing still.  Especially when standing still.  

You’re just trying to play it by ear, trying to respond to him the way he responds to you.  Only—it feels like he’s either not responding to you at all, or you’re just too rousing of a stimulus to show a response.

“You…” you breathe, and for some reason your heart rate is beginning to kick up again instead of decelerate.  You should be calmer now that he’s here, but he still hasn’t said a word.  “Y-You scared me.”

Mando stays rooted to the spot, just a motionless suit of armor, with the exception of his chest moving with breaths and his fists repeatedly clenching at his sides, and fuck.

Fuck, you’re wet.

You feel like prey right now.  You’re starting to gradually build into another fight or flight mode every second he’s staring you down, refusing to speak, but you also feel a stirring deep down in your floor muscles.  He’s so fucking tall from this angle, so broad and—

He steps a single foot forward.  You flinch at the abrupt movement, practically soaking your underwear now.  Mando takes another step forward, and you wet your lips and start to crawl back on the bed just a bit, staring at him with wide eyes.

Maker, the tension is making it hard to breathe.  You’re silently begging him to come take care of you after such an agonizing three weeks apart, and Mando’s body language looks like he’s more wound up than you’ve ever seen him.  He starts pacing directly to you, crossing the hull rapidly, and your heart thumps furiously with every step he takes.

But then he gets right to the edge of the blankets and suddenly stops short.  He looks down at the neatly made bed at his feet, and then down at his body.

You try not to make an audible huff of disappointment when he abruptly collapses down onto his back with a clatter right there on the floor, just a few inches shy of the blanket, immediately bringing the backs of both hands up to press against the face of his helmet.  It should look weird considering his knuckles are pushing hard against the visor, almost like he’s covering his eyes or has a headache but is rubbing the beskar instead of his forehead, but it doesn’t.  It just makes you want to rip that armor off his body even more and remind him again of what his skin feels like.

“What are you doing?”  You try not to make it sound like a breathless pout as you squirm impatiently under the blankets.  “Come over here.”

“I’m dirty,” is the first thing that comes through the modulator, gravelly and distorted but his voice burning a fucking hole through you after not hearing it for almost a month.  “I need to shower before I touch you.”

You don’t know why, but something about the way he says it makes you throb hard between your legs.

“Will you please just…” you bite your lip, stopping yourself short of saying take your clothes off and go with, “please, just—hurry.  I’m…”

Maker, you don’t know how to say it, and Mando soon rolls his helmet to the side to look at you when you don’t finish your sentence.  Desperate for it?  Hurting?  Feeling your clit pulse right now even though he hasn’t laid a finger on you yet?

“I missed you,” you eventually finish lamely, breathless as you fidget and bite your lip.

“Yeah?”  He breathes, suddenly turning the rest of his body on his side to face you.  “Tell me.”

“I… I want to show you,” you return quietly, scooting closer towards him.  “But you’re being withholding.”

Mando doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, but the front of his visor burns into you, steadily increasing your need for him the longer he silently stares at you.

“Show me, then,” he says after a moment, and the sentence rolls through you with a shudder.

You swallow thickly, and slowly start to pull the blanket down.  It’s unnerving that his helmet doesn’t move, even though you can literally feel his gaze lowering and searing hot along your newly revealed body.  You’re not even naked, not in the slightest, but with the way his shoulders tighten and his spine tenses just slightly, you would think you were completely exposing yourself to him right now.

“Do you want…”  Your fingers waver near your belly button, caught somewhere between wanting to pull the hem of your shirt up for him and wanting to pull the waistband of your pants down.  “What do you want to see?”

A breath comes through the helmet; slow, but shaky.

“I have to shower,” he grunts sharply, suddenly, his fist clenching at his side.  You don’t take offense to the stern tone.  He’s clearly repeating the sentence as a reminder to himself, not to you.

“You can get me dirty,” you breathe regardless.  “I don’t care.”

“I just spent three weeks on Coruscant’s surface,” Mando grits.  “I can’t touch you, I’ll infect you with someth—What are you doing?”

You bite your lip at him as an answer, bypassing your prior conflict altogether by slithering your hand down the front of your pants.

“What are you doing?”  He repeats through the modulator, just as your fingertips wedge underneath the hem of your panties.  

You shiver at the sensation, your eyes losing focus just slightly as you trail down the front of your pussy.  “I… I missed you.”

“Fuck,” Mando barks, and then he scrambles to stand up.  “Stop.  I’m taking a shower, just—just stop.”

You ignore him, turning on your back and widening your knees so he can still see the way your hand is still moving down between your legs, your finger just barely brushing the top of your slit.  “But it feels good.”

“Take your hand out of your fucking pants,” he orders tightly.  “Right now.”

Your eyes flutter up at him as you do what he says, slowly bringing your hand out of your trousers.  “Hurry,” you murmur, biting your lip and blinking innocently up at him.  “Please.”

He doesn’t say a word, but his cape does make an audible sound with how quickly he whips around and shuts himself away in the tiny fresher.

 


 

You forget how long it takes to undo the beskar armor sometimes.  In fact, throughout the entire duration of Mando’s shower, you’re able to quietly sneak up to the cockpit and navigate the ship out of the terminal, pull up the coordinates for the next quarry on the navcomp while rising to a high enough altitude above the galactic capital, make a jump into hyperspace, return to the hull, shut off the lights, and slither back under the covers before the fresher actually turns off.

Soon, Mando raps his knuckles against the door separating the two of you, and you’ve completely wiggled out of your clothes by that point, the blanket resting just below your naked waist.  “Hey,” his unmodulated voice calls from behind the thick slab of metal.  “Eyes closed for a second.”

“I’m not looking,” you agree, draping your elbow across the bridge of your nose and waiting patiently.  He gives you a few seconds regardless before the door is sliding open.  You expect it to quickly shift shut again, plunge the room back into pitch blackness like before, but he hesitates.  It takes another moment for you to realize that he’s probably just staring at your naked chest while he stands there in the doorway, light spilling into the hull and illuminating you waiting for him with your eyes obediently shut.

“I thought I told you not to sleep on the floor anymore,” he murmurs after a quiet second, and you bite your lip and shuffle your shoulders impatiently against the floor, arching your chest out just slightly to entice him to come closer.

“Fuck that bed,” you breathe with your arm still pressed over your eyes, and your nipples feel tight in the cool air.  “Your armory is bigger than that bed, Mando.  Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“Yeah,” he returns, finally shutting the fresher light off and shifting the door shut behind him, beginning to make his way over to you.  “Tells me that there are more guns than people on this ship, as well it should be.”

“Maker, you’re impos—”

You’re cut off by Mando dropping to his knees and slowly crawling over your body, and fuck he’s as naked as you are, he’s naked and his skin is warm and damp from the shower and his hair is still dripping as you slither your arms up his chest and comb your fingers through it.

You can’t see a damn thing but you’re instantly thanking your lucky stars for that fact when his head drops down and a hot tongue drags up the curve of your neck.  Okay, this is better.  This is always better.  Even when you can’t see a damn thing, feeling the hollow of your jaw be caressed by a blazing wet furnace and tugging your fingers through his hair will always be better than when he keeps the helmet on.  Maker, you almost forgot how fucking good his mouth is, how soft and warm it is, and you can’t bite down a whimper when his lips finally trail up your chin and seal against yours.

You moan when his tongue gently slides into your mouth, unable to stop yourself as your cunt fucking throbs between your legs with arousal, and Mando even lets out a short huff of air through his nose and a low noise quietly slips through his vocal cords as he tastes you.  The barely audible sound is enough gasoline to your fire that you wrap your arms around his shoulders and your legs around his lower back before tugging, wanting his cock pressed against your cunt so you can rub yourself against it while he kisses you.

Only, something in the way Mando’s elbows immediately buckle and the hiss of air through his teeth before he unceremoniously collapses on top of you makes you instantly let him go.

“Hey,” you say, letting him bury his head into the crook of your neck and puff a short few breaths of hot air against your skin.  “What’s wrong?”

“Fuck,” he grunts, sounding somewhere between discomfort and legitimate pain, moving to prop his arms up next to your head again but taking a moment before trying to push himself up.  “Back.  Back hurts.  Too—” he winces when his shoulder moves a certain way, “—too old for this.”

“Here.”  There’s just enough space between you and Mando to wiggle out from underneath him, quickly turning around and swinging a leg over his back as he abruptly drops to the floor with the extra weight.  “Let me rub your back.”

“Shit—come on,” he groans against the blankets.  “I haven’t touched you in three fucking—”

Your hands trail up his spine, slow and gentle, and Mando cuts himself off.  He shudders under your palms as they carefully push and roll into the small of his back, and the muscles curving down under your touch gradually rise as he breathes in a lungful of air.  “Let me rub your back,” you repeat softly, letting your voice lull just a bit in a lower register, and all the air immediately releases from under your hands.

“Okay,” he relents, but his spine still holds straight and tight with tension.

“Okay?”  You repeat, dragging your palms back up until they’re roughly in the middle of his spine.  “Tell me if I go too hard.”

Mando barely huffs with a chuckle beneath you.  “Yeah, okay, I’ll tell you if—nghh—

You dig your knuckles into the dip right beneath his shoulder blades and start kneading, and Mando makes a strangled noise and sags into the floor.  Your smile is almost impossible to hide, but the pitch black hull does the job just fine as you press and roll your knuckles into the hills and valleys of his back.  The noises he makes are a mixture of soft gasps and chokes, but it gives you the perfect opportunity to explore his body in ways you haven’t been able to before.

Your thumbs you dig in and follow the curve of his spine down, squeezing through the tightness in his lower back.  The skin under your hands is soft and giving, even though you can feel massive knots hidden underneath.  You take all the time in the galaxy with it, isolating each ache and pain and then grinding your knuckles into them steady and hard enough to make Mando groan brokenly under the pressure.  You work at it for a while, trailing your fingers up to his neck and massaging the base of his skull, not being able to imagine how much those muscles have to hurt after holding up a heavy beskar helmet every single day.  Your hands explore everything you can from this angle—you squeeze the tops of his shoulders, slide your palms down and squeeze his biceps, the muscles under his elbows, the ones wrapped around his forearms.

“This alright?”  You ask after a while, and you barely get a hoarse grunt from him in response.  His body is perfectly relaxed under yours, almost dead if he wasn’t still breathing, and you slowly walk your hands down the length of his back until you’re braced upright on him once more.  “You gonna make it?”

Eventually, he drags his forearms up so he can prop them against the blankets and slowly roll over underneath you.  You allow the lazy movement, lifting your hips up as he rotates, feeling his smooth skin shift under your palms until he finally comes to a rest on his back.

“My turn?”  He asks through the darkness.

“Your turn for wh—?”  You gasp as his grip instantly tightens, and then he’s abruptly switching your positions until he’s on top of you.  Almost all of your breath is knocked out of you when Mando grabs you and flips you over until you’re on your tummy, and then whatever remains suddenly whooshes out when he straddles you and plops down on your lower back.

“My turn to give you a massage,” he says, and you let out a quiet, “fuck—” when his palms land on your shoulders.

“Wait—” You pant, “—Wait, hang on, I don’t need a—”

Thank the fucking Maker you turn your head quick enough to muffle a loud moan when his fingers begin rubbing hard circles into your deltoids.  Stars, sleeping on hard metal for three weeks was truly a nightmare for your posture.  The knots in your upper back burn under the steady push and press of his touch, and it’s like your muscles can’t decide if they want to relax under the manipulation or tense up against it.

“Maker,” he murmurs, his thumbs frame either side of your spine and slowly drag downwards, and your voice almost cracks as you hide another groan in the pillow.  “Why does your back hurt?  What did you do to yourself?”

“I slept—” you gasp when his knuckles roll up the length of your sides.  “Slept—on that piece of fucking scr-scrap metal—you call a—” his fingers press firmly against the valley below your shoulder blades, and then widen apart to start squeezing your arms, “—a bed for three weeks,” you manage to gasp, sparks of sensation shooting down to your fingertips as he rubs the muscles along the length of your biceps.

Soon, Mando’s hands come back down to rest on the small of your back, and he begins digging his thumbs into the base of your spine.  “Why did you do it for so long if it hurt?”

“You said—” You cut off with a moan into the pillow as he slowly scoots back until he’s sitting on your thighs, his hands moving downwards and kneading the soft flesh of your ass, pressing deep into the sore muscles while you struggle to remember what you were going to say.  “Said you wanted me to sleep in y—”

His thumbs start slowly moving inwards, his large hands butterflying out along both cheeks and squeezing.  He spends a second just grabbing and pulling your pillowy flesh, shamelessly spreading you and manipulating it until you’re throbbing between your legs again.  He’s being so brazen about it, too, gradually moving his thumbs closer and closer together until they’re digging into the crevice.

“Hey, uh,” you pant, starting to tense up a bit as his thumbs begin moving downwards.  “Ma—h-hey, you’re getting really… close to m-my…”

His hands keep steadily moving down, and you’re starting to squirm just a bit at the unfamiliar sensation of someone’s fingers pressing and kneading the unexplored skin between your cheeks.  

“Getting real close to your what?”  He drawls out from above you, low in his throat, and your cunt pulses with need.

Fuck, you’re gasping raggedly into the pillow, wondering if the absence would truly make him this bold.  You’re halfway caught between nervousness and being incredibly fucking turned on, and the way he pauses right above your asshole and just holds there makes your the muscles deep in your lower abdomen twist in anticipation and heat.  Fuck, you’re soaking the blankets beneath you, you can tell.  A thin sheen of sweat breaks out across your body and it’s all you can do to just lay there and wait for it with bated breath.

But then his weight is suddenly lifting from you and sliding down the length of your legs, settling at your feet.  You barely have enough time to let out a deep sigh—half of it relief and the other half… disappointment, maybe?—before he grabs hold of one of them, the size of it only slightly bigger than his hand, and firmly presses both thumbs into your arch.

A groan of approval slips through your vocal cords and you go practically boneless underneath him, not realizing how tense you just were a second ago.

“Fuck, that’s s-so good,” you murmur into the pillow, grabbing the blankets at your sides and fisting them subconsciously as he clamps his large hand around your heel and squeezes.

After spending just as much time and attention on the other foot, you feel him grip both your ankles and start working circles up the length of your calves with his thumbs.  His hands flex against the backs of your knees when they get there, and then your breathing kicks back up again when they gradually drag up your subtly clenching thighs.

But then they come to an immediate halt about halfway up, and you have to bite back a huff of distress when he just holds there.  Fuck, why did he stop?  Why did he stop?

“Sweet girl,” he eventually breathes out, sounding somewhere between chastising and shocked.  Your eyes flutter in the darkness at the tone, the endearment after nearly a month without it, and you wiggle slightly on the bed with arousal.  “Is this…?”  Mando brushes his fingers along the inside of your thighs, and you can feel the way his cock pulses as he presses it tight against your leg.  It’s not until he drags his hand down to your calves that you feel the slick heat coating the tips of his fingers, wiping it off on your relatively dry skin.

The pitch blackness makes it impossible to truly tell, but you’re sure your eyes roll back.  Stars, you are so wet for him, you’re leaking it halfway down your thighs.  It’s been too long since he’s touched you.  You can feel your lower muscles bearing down and coiling tight, your entire pelvic area now cramped up with need.

When his hand carefully moves up and a finger just barely ghosts over the soft flesh of your lips, you can’t stop yourself.

“Touch me,” you hear yourself suddenly beg, goosebumps breaking out along your skin while he begins to slowly trace the outside of your slit, up and down, up and down.  “Oh, fuck—please, Din, touch me, I—”

“Hush,” he tells you softly, and fuck, he’s on top of you and you physically can’t do anything to encourage him to hurry up.  The only thing you can do is kick one leg out as wide as possible and just shudder helplessly against the floor, trying to give his hands more room to work.

You feel desperate, your blood pounding through your ears as he takes all the time in the universe exploring you.  “Stars, don’t do this—I need you to—”

“Hush,” he murmurs once more, before moving both fingers to spread your lips apart ever so slightly, your slick heat seeping out to coat his fingers and the blanket below.  “Relax for me.”

Maker, your lower muscles are tightening down and throbbing in equal parts, and you just can’t relax, you can’t relax when you’re this close to cumming all over his hand even though he’s barely touched you.  You’ve been aching for it this whole time, but now there’s a bite to it, a slow burn that begins to engulf the lower half of you in simmering heat.  “Din, please, I missed you so m—”

You choke when you feel the slightest brush of a fingertip next to your clit, before he’s firmly pushing down and tracing a torturously strong semi-circle around the top of it.

Your toes curl and your body locks up and you gasp his name into the pillow, flexing every single muscle in your body in response to his touch until you’re impossibly rock hard with tension under him.

“Poor thing,” Din whispers, slowly tracing an arch back around the other way, and your entire body trembles with it.  Maker, you’re soaking his hand, slippery and hot and every nerve from the waist-down feels sharp and exquisite at the same time.  He leans down to press his lips to your shoulder blade while starting to rub strong circles around your clit.  “All alone for three weeks, nobody around to look after you.  Make sure you’re seen to.”

You’re not sure which way is up right now, and not being able to see anything isn’t fucking helping either.  You feel dizzy with sensation, shaky as his tongue slowly drags up your skin, and you actually feel water rush to your eyes in torment when he pulls his hand away.

You open your mouth to beg him not to stop, but then he’s already moving.  Grabbing your hips and slowly lifting them until your knees have to shuffle up to compensate.  He still keeps your head buried in the pillow, though, still keeps the upper half of your body firmly pressed against the floor.  You pant into the fabric half covering your face and fist the blanket underneath you, biting your lip and clenching your thighs as two hands carefully settle along the backs of them.

Fuck, he keeps you there for so long.  He drags out the anticipation until you’re downright hurting for it, waiting with your ass up in the air for him to do something—anything to help relieve your stress instead of continuing to build upon it.

“Fuck—” he whispers, “—missed you, too.”

When his hot, velvety tongue finally glides through your slit, something about it makes you moan brokenly into the pillow, spread your knees and arch your back even more in presentation.  Fuck, there’s just something about the mindblowing eroticism of your positioning right now, how you’re bent in half and letting him lick through your folds however is easiest for him, something about it hits just right and makes your orgasm suddenly pull up tight and fast.

“Din—” you breathe frantically, your knees shuffling apart and your hips pushing back against his mouth.  “Din, I’m gonna cum—”

His hands come up to clamp around your thighs and hold them steady.  And then he lowers his chin to seal his mouth over your clit, slowly dragging his slick tongue over it, again and again and again, and fuck, you can’t do anything to stop it.  Everything surges up, searing hot and wet as you go rigid and gasp his name, shuddering your way through the debilitating bliss as it arcs brilliantly up and down your spine.

By the time you’re finished, you’re slumped against the floor in exhaustion.  He pulls away and sits up, and you try to push yourself up too, but a large palm firmly flattening along your spine stops you.  The sound of him spitting and the subsequent slick glide of his hand around his cock makes you groan hoarsely against the pillow and relax back down again.

Din eases his way inside you and the thickness of him as he slowly breaks you open is fucking electrifying.  Your sensitive channel hugs tight to every fucking inch of him, lighting your nerves up from the inside and sending skittering shocks down your thighs.  You melt into the floor and take what he gives you until his hips touch your ass, sagging against the ground as he stands so tall and upright on his knees behind you.

When he slowly pulls back out, you can hear the wet sound it makes echo throughout the pitch black hull.  Maker, he just starts up a slow, steady rhythm, his steel grip on your ass holding you steady as he pushes in and out of you.  It’s blinding, making you writhe against the floor while he gives you his cock at a languid pace, dragging the pleasure out but snapping his hips against yours whenever he does reach the apex of his strong thrusts.

It’s as agonizing as it is blissful, and you moan softly into the pillow the entire way through it.  Except—you’re too full of mindless pleasure, too stimulated to want to remain stationary for this long.  You need to move, you need to show him how much you thought about him while he was gone.  

“Din—” you whimper, breathless and needy, turning your head back slightly to unmuffle your words.  “Turn over.”

“In a second,” he huffs, his cock continuing to steadily rock into you.  You’re bent in half, taking it the only way he’ll give it to you and not even being able to push back into him.  “No—l-later.  After.”

You whine, frustrated, clawing and pulling at the blankets under your arms.  “Please—”

“Fuck,” Din pants, “fuck, what do you need?  You need it faster?”  His speed kicks up the slightest bit, and stars, you have to bite the back of your hand to muffle the ragged noise you make in response.  “This what you need?  Tell me.”

There’s not a good way to phrase it.  Mostly, you just… feel the need to participate in this more directly.  You know from experience that he likes to finish when he’s on top, but after weeks apart, you… you need to be what makes him cum, not what he holds steady and uses to get himself there.  

Your voice comes out frantically, pleading gasps for him to grant you this one thing.  “Just turn over, please—pleasepleasepleaseplease—”

His thrusts falter, until they stop completely.  He sounds like he’s having as much trouble breathing as you are, but his hard grip on you gradually loosens.  “You—do you not—?”

You don’t let him finish.  As soon as he lets you go, you’re pushing yourself up and turning around, grabbing his shoulders and all but wrestling him down to the cushioned blanket.  Din grunts and lets you do it, dropping down onto his back and snaking his hands up your naked chest as you climb over him with weak, trembling limbs.  Once you get his cock into position and sink down though—fuck, you grab his wrists and yank them up until his palms are cupping your tits, and Din hisses below you.  Your hands are barely large enough to wrap around the backs of his, but you force him to squeeze them nonetheless, and then you begin to ride him in earnest.

He curses, bracing his feet against the floor and shifting his knees behind you, and then he starts pushing his hips up into yours in time with your downward rolls.  Maker, he hits something deep inside you at the angle, something that makes you gasp every time your hips meet.  Your palms drag down his wrists and forearms as he keeps groping your breasts, throwing your head back in ecstasy as another orgasm starts to stir somewhere low in your core.

“Stars, I—I think I m-might—” You barely have enough time to gasp it out before he’s releasing your breasts and anchoring his grip tight to your hips, beginning to angle and isolate in on that one spot that drives you fucking crazy.  The strong thrusts pull you forward until your palms are braced on the floor next to his head, and you just moan and push back against it as he fucks deep into you.

“Fuck, I missed you,” Din says again, his disembodied voice sounding tighter and more desperate in the darkness, like it’s coming out against his will.  “I—I missed you, t-too, sweet girl, I f-fucking—missed—

You choke out a cry as another wave of euphoria all but fucking evicerates you.  Your elbows buckle and you fall into his chest, but Din wraps both arms around your back and keeps fucking you through it, gritting breathless curses at the ceiling as your cunt spasms around his cock.

“Tho—ught about you—” he groans, husky and low next to your ear, “every… fuck, every fucking day—thought about y—”

His body tenses and his thrusts stutter to a halt, and then he grinds up into you, gasping your name into the pitch black hull.  Your body is crushed into his chest when his hips jerk against yours, and you bite his shoulder in satisfaction, squeezing hard around his throbbing cock.

When Din finally settles back down to the floor again, both of you are spent.  Neither one of you fucking move.  You don’t say anything while you catch your breath against his chest, slumping down into him as his knees suddenly drop flat.

“Fuck,” he breathes.  “Fuck.  I’m.  I’m never taking a bounty on Coruscant again.”

You laugh lightly, swallowing and turning your head to settle in the crook of his neck.  Your knees shuffle up slightly until you’re resting all your weight on top of him, his cock still engulfed in your hot center.  As soon as you lift off him, you know you’re just going to dribble a mess all over these nice blankets, so you decide to put it off for as long as he allows it.

Din doesn’t seem to have a problem with it at all.  In fact, his chest shifts just slightly beneath you when he reaches down to catch one of the blankets and pull the fabric over the both of you, collapsing back into the pillow with an exhausted sigh and doing absolutely nothing to encourage you to move whatsoever.

“Corellia was worse,” you tell him instinctually, and he grunts and brings his hands up to trail his fingers along your lower back.

“Corellia was over within a day,” he points out, and.  Shit.  You know he’s just being diplomatic about it, but something in the way he casually brushes it off suddenly makes you go quiet.  He’s right, you probably weren’t on Corellia for more than a few hours total.  Not that you necessarily expected him to, but he clearly doesn’t realize the events that took place there have haunted you for weeks.

When you don’t immediately say something in response, Din stops dragging his fingers up your spine.  You can feel his chin lower slightly, his jaw brush against your forehead.  “You oka—?”

“I killed someone on Corellia,” you whisper, and your words hang heavy in the still air immediately afterwards.  “A man is dead because of me.”

He doesn’t speak.  For a long time, Din doesn’t speak.

By the time his voice eventually does come through the darkness, you’d almost convinced yourself he wasn’t going to say anything at all.

“You’re right,” he tells you bluntly, brushing your hair back from your shoulder.  And, for some reason, you’re not expecting it.  If you were able to get a verbal reply out of him at all, you… you hoped he’d argue with you even just a little bit, if only to make you feel even the slightest bit better.  “A man is dead, and you killed him.”

Though his voice is soft and you know he’s not being intentionally cruel, it’s like he reached through your ribcage and crushed your heart himself.  Your shoulders tense at the feeling, wanting to instinctively curl yourself inwards and make yourself smaller in response to it.  Only, Din’s broad chest prevents it.  All you can do is hide your face as best you can in his neck and let the unfiltered truth weigh heavy on you in the silent hull.

“But you’re wrong about one thing,” he eventually says.  “He’s not dead because of you.  That implies you had a choice.  You didn’t.  He’s dead because of him.  He gave you an ultimatum, and you did what you had to do.  Don’t feel bad that you won.”

“I didn’t win anything,” you whisper against his throat, uncomfortable with the implication.

“He initiated a confrontation, and you finished it,” he asserts.  “You did what you had to do, and you did great, so don’t—”

“Great?”  You close your eyes and try not to sound as upset as you currently feel, because you know this is just him being polite.  He does this for a living.  He’s probably lost count of how many people he’s killed in his lifetime, so what’s one body to him?  You shouldn’t have let the conversation lead here, especially after such a lovely moment.  “I… I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have brought it—”

“Listen to me,” Din suddenly says, curling the tips of his fingers against your shoulder blade.  “There’s something you need to understand, and I’m not trying to hurt your feelings by telling you this.  But the galaxy will never be as kind to you as you are to it.  You’re tenderhearted, and that’s not a bad thing.  Hang onto it, but recognize that it’s rare.  It’s not something that you’ll come by often.  You’ll never see as much of it in anyone else as I see in you.”

Maybe it’s because you know he’s not used to comforting people that the words actually manage to make you feel somewhat comforted.  They’re blunt and honest, but they also allow an unobstructed glimpse into his feelings for you, specifically because of that.

“I just…”  You bite your lip and snuggle your head deeper into the crook of his neck.  “I just wish I could… somehow…”

His chest expands fully with air underneath you, and then you can literally feel yourself slowly sink down a few inches with how deeply he sighs.  But… this isn’t the normal Mando sigh.  He doesn’t sound frustrated with you, exasperated, or impatient.  He sounds… empathetic.  Understanding.

His hand comes up to cradle the back of your head and comb his fingers through your hair, tugging at some of the tangles at your nape.  “What would you have done differently?”

You don’t answer him, because you immediately see what he’s getting at.  You’ve told yourself these things a million times over in the weeks he’s been gone.  Regardless, he goes on for you.

“Would you have chosen to land the ship in a different spot?  Risked a different person following you onto it?”  He asks, and though the overarching point to this line of questioning is already blatantly obvious, his voice is still kind.  “Would you have taken that vibroblade to a different part of his body?  Given him a slower death?  What else would you have done, sweet girl?”

You stay silent, fluttering your eyes shut.  His fingers lazily trail up and down the length of your spine, goosebumps breaking out on your skin once again.

“Even if there was something you could’ve done—even if his death had been your fault,” Din murmurs, “—listen, do you remember what you said to me?  When I told you my name—before that, do you remember what you said?  You said that some things just belong to people.  That there are certain things that people just own, right?  Fundamentally.  And you can do whatever you want with them.  You can choose whether or not to share them with others, you can hide them, or you can.  Change them.  Burn them away.  Remember?”

You nod as much as you can with your head buried into his neck like this.

“Well, you’re right,” he continues, his voice softening.  “Some things do belong to people.  But some things… some things you can’t change.  Some things you can’t hide, and you can’t just burn away forever.  But that doesn’t make them any less yours, understand?  You killed someone.  It doesn’t matter what I tell you, or what you tell yourself.  The end result won’t ever change.  It can't change.  You own that now, and you’ll carry his death with you.  Just like I carry every single one of mine.”

He’s… he’s right.  You don’t have to like it, but he’s right.

“I don’t like it when you quote me to me,” you eventually whisper, your lips brushing his throat.

“Too bad.  I got another one for you,” Din rumbles, and you can feel his gentle smile against your hairline as he tilts his head and presses his lips to your temple.  “The Way says no take-backs.”

You narrow your eyebrows into this perfect little corner of him, not liking how curt and unapologetic it sounds rolling off his tongue.  “Did I say that?”

“Yep,” he huffs at the ceiling.  “Half-asleep, yet observant enough to be annoying.”

Your mouth twists, trying to appear visibly offended in the pitch blackness for some reason but fighting back a smile.  “Would you rather I be oblivious and adorable?”

“No,” he says immediately, and then you blink a few times in the darkness at the sincerity in his tone.  “You’re smart.  Well—you’re an idiot sometimes, but you’re smart.  That’s good.  That’s your best weapon.  Use it.”

“Use it?”  You ask, your voice quiet but curious.  “For what?”

He takes a second before responding, his fingers continuing to trace gentle, subconscious shapes along the curve of your spine.  “What planet are we going to next?”

The abrupt change in subject is stark and immediately noticeable, but you wrack your memory for the coordinates you brought up earlier when he was in the fresher nonetheless.  “Naboo.”

“I was thinking,” Din says, shifting just the slightest bit under you.  You groan when you realize his cock is still inside you, soft but still gorgeously thick enough to not slip out.  “Might… might be a good idea to show you some things.  Give you a few self-defense tips before I head out again.  Naboo is one of the safest planets in the galaxy.  We can… take a few days.”

“Yeah?”  You breathe, a spark of excitement bringing an immediate smile to your face.

“Yeah,” he repeats softly, the scruff on his jaw rubbing against your temple as he nods.  “Been awhile.”

“Okay,” you bite your lip on a grin and try not to let him hear the happiness in your voice.  Fuck, a few days.  A few days he’s delaying his job to spend with you.  Maybe you’ll be able to sleep on an actual mattress at some point.  You truly can’t fucking wait.

You two stay like that for quite a long time, just resting and breathing with each other in the pitch black hull.

“We just wouldn’t have gone to Corellia, how about that?”  You find yourself saying after a moment of comfortable silence.  When Din doesn’t speak, you elaborate.  “You asked me what I would’ve done differently.  We just wouldn’t have gone to Corellia.  Avoided the whole fucking sector altogether, like I plan on doing for the rest of my life.”  

And then your whole body abruptly jerks up and down exactly once with his genuinely amused huff of laughter from underneath you.

Your expression immediately narrows.  This is the third time you’ve ever made him laugh in all the months you’ve known him, and somehow all three of them have been at your own expense.  “What’s funny?”

“Absolutely.  You could’ve—” he clears his throat, “—convinced me.  Not to hunt down a bounty.”

He doesn’t make a sound beyond that, and had you not been laying on top of his chest as it subtly vibrated with stifled chuckles, you wouldn’t have known at all that he found that to be so funny.

“I could’ve… wooed you,” you try after a second, and nope.  You feel like you’re on top of a silent, quaking faultline now, and you do your best to keep a frown on your face as you rock back and forth on top of him.  His cock almost slips out of you in the commotion.  Almost.

“Get some sleep, you sweet talker,” he eventually sighs when he calms his breathing, kissing your forehead and settling back down into the blankets.  “The kid will be up in a few hours, probably less.”

“He’s your son,” you grumble, still sulking somewhat at his blatant disregard of your seduction talents.  “Takes after you.  For all I know he looks just like you, too.”

“Sleep,” Din tells you, bringing a hand up to cup the back of your head and push it deeper into the crook of his neck.  “That’s enough talking.”

You stomp down the playful urge to bite him and settle into him instead, closing your eyes and breathing him in.  Fuck.  A few days on Naboo.  You’ve only heard nice things about the beautiful planet.  You wonder if it has an ocean.  Could a planet be called beautiful if it doesn’t have at least one?  You’ve seen rivers and lakes on planets Din has taken you to, but there was always land on the other side.  You’ve never seen an actual ocean before, you’ve only heard about them.  Water, as far as the eye can see.  There has to be an ocean on Naboo, right?

“Hey Din, are there any—”

“Stop.”

It’s alright, you’ll ask later.

Chapter Text

“What?”

“Hm?”

“What is it?”

“Nothing.”

“What’s the hold up?”

“I’m just…”  The helmet looks you up and down, considering.  You scrunch your nose at him and rock back and forth on your feet impatiently as he sighs.  “It’s going to be like teaching a foundling to read.  I’m just trying to figure out where to even begin.”

“Because it’s so fucking pretty here, I’m just going to pretend you didn’t say that,” you say pointedly, looking around at the vast field of flowing grass surrounding the two of you and breathing in the warm, fresh air into your lungs.  “Your vibe is clashing, Din.”

“Because I don’t really know what that means, I’m also going to pretend you didn’t say that,” he returns, and the child’s giggles float up alongside the breeze as he chases after another, slightly smaller green reptile that you also currently have no name for.  He tilts the beskar thoughtfully at you, and you squint against the way the sun catches the visor directly in your eyes from this angle.  “What do you want to learn first?”

“I want to shoot a gun,” you blurt without thinking.

“Okay, hand-to-hand it is,” he nods firmly, and then pats his unarmored chest with one bare hand.  “Hit me.”

You blink down at the dark fabric stretched across his left pectoral, and then back up at the metallic visor staring back at you.

“Hit me,” he says again in response to your silence.  “Hard as you can.  Right here.”

“Are you sure?”  You ask, lifting your gaze up to him once more with a twist of your mouth, already out of your comfort zone.  “What if I hurt you?”

“Are you fucking kidding?”  He actually sounds… pissed off.  “Hit me.”

You immediately shove your hand up against his chest in response to the sharp order, and your palm makes a quiet slapping sound as it collides with what feels like solid rock concealed underneath black fabric.

Din says absolutely nothing.  Almost a… forced silence.  Like what he wants to say will very likely be vaguely mean and dismissive of your feelings, so he’s keeping his mouth firmly shut under the helmet.  He just pats his chest again, each one purposeful and distinct, easily making twice the amount of noise hitting himself as you did hitting him.

You ball your fist up this time and whack him with it, considerably harder this time and even making a solid thud against his pectoral, though he doesn’t even move a fraction under the blow.

“I am…” he tries to choose his words carefully after another moment of purposeful silence.  “…insulted.”

You grit your teeth and raise your arm up and back, swinging it out at him as hard as you physically can, but then the curve of his broad shoulder suddenly jerks back just before you can touch him and your fist is caught from the side with a gentle grip.

“Better.  You wound up that time, that gives you momentum.  But never come at someone like this,” he tells you, lifting your arm back up to the way it was before and then slowly hinging it down again against his chest.  “This is how you were going to hit.  See how your pinkie is taking the brunt of the punch when you come down at it from an angle like this?”  He pushes your fist against his chest a few times to demonstrate your pinkie squishing against the solid plane of muscle.  “No matter how hard you hit me, your hand is going to take that much force, too.  That attempt had about half the power you want, but you might’ve broken your finger if I let you make contact like that.”

Half the power?”  You narrow your eyebrows at him.  “You’ll break my whole hand.”

Din angles your wrist straight and pushes your closed fist against his chest again, this time head-on instead of at a downward angle.  “Always try to use these first two knuckles to reinforce against the impact, they’re the strongest and best aligned with the bones in your wrist.  You should also physically brace yourself for it.  Flex your arm—create as much rigidity around your joints as you can, keep your fist clenched tight to maintain integrity of the soft tissues in your hand, and your body should protect itself against the blowback as long as you land right.  Try again.”

You diligently wind your fist up again and then go to snap your arm straight forward this time, but he steps up and catches your elbow before you can even move.  “Wait.  Look at this—see this chicken wing?”  He flaps your elbow back and forth while his other hand holds your fist in place next to your head.  “This is no good, this is where you’re losing half your power.  And having your arm up like this is making you open to rib and kidney shots.”

You squirm to the side when he taps the bend of his knuckle against your kidney, and the vulnerable spot is tender even though he barely uses any force.  “I’m winding up,” you inform him with a huff.

“You are,” Din acknowledges.  “But your movement is limited like this.  See where your elbow is compared to your center of gravity?”  He flaps it again, and your shoulder pulls uncomfortably when he pushes it back just a bit too far.  “You’re restricting yourself, look.  Your shoulder is in the way, this is as far as your body will let you go.  You’re also using up too much energy trying to swing your whole arm around just to make contact; it’s sloppy technique, it slows you down, and it’ll tire you out.  But, if you wind up like this—” Din lowers your elbow until it rests flat against your side, and then hinges it backwards instead of up near your head, “—see how much further away your elbow is from your body now?  Instead of swinging outwards, think of a slingshot forwards.  Use explosive, forward momentum that you generate from your shoulder—you’re aiming for a sharp, streamlined jab.  This way you conserve energy, produce twice as much power, and your arm now covers up all this important stuff under here,” he explains, trying to tap his knuckle against your side once more but being blocked by your forearm.  “Good?  Now go again.”

He lets you go and steps back, and this time you instinctually plant your foot behind you to give you a solid base foundation that’ll allow you more room to twist, your physics brain lighting up as soon as he said slingshot.  His helmet quickly drops to your stance and then immediately lifts back up to your face again.

You do exactly as he said—you wind back, keeping your arm tucked tight to your side, and then explode forward with a sharp spin of your shoulder and snap of your elbow, colliding your clenched fist into his chest as hard as you possibly can.

He grunts and takes two steps back.

You howl.

“FUUUUUCK!”  It gets lost in the giant field of grass as you clutch your fist, torn between cradling it to your chest like a baby and shaking it out violently at your side like… something distinctly not a baby.  You settle for just bending over and holding it tightly to your stomach, eyes clamped shut and screeching with such fervor that the back of your throat stings sharp with it.  “WHAT THE FUCKING—FUCKFUCKFUCK—!?”

“Good!”  Din encourages over your wailing.  “That was good!  How’d that feel?  Holy shit—that felt good.”

“What’s the point of hitting you when it hurts me and makes you feel good!?” You cry out over your shoulder, somewhere between genuine hatred and agony.

“That was perfect,” he tells you immediately, almost sounding vaguely… out of breath behind you?  “Don’t change a thing—that’s how you punch every single time from now on, okay?  That’s how hard you hit.  Fuck, that felt fucking good.”

The… something in his voice is enough to take your mind off your throbbing hand for just a second, quickly snapping upright and whirling around to face him with your eyebrows very, very narrowed.  He stands there in front of you and you continue to eye him with as much silent skepticism as you can express, until the both of you speak at the same time.

“What was that?”

“Let’s go again.”

Neither of you move, and you feel like your face is scrunched up as tiny as possible at him right now with dubiousness.

“Let’s go again,” Din suddenly grunts out, hooking an arm around your elbow and tugging you to face forward once more.

“Did that turn you on?”  You ask him bluntly, your battle wound completely forgotten by your side.

“I swear if you don’t—”

“You get hard when you get hurt?”  You ask dumbly, all sorts of lightbulbs suddenly illuminating in dusty, cobwebbed corners of your mind.  Maker, that would explain so much.  “Is that why you wanted a handjob immediately after I burned a knife wound shut on your back?”

“You wanna learn how to punch today or you wanna learn how to block?”  Comes through the helmet, thoroughly unamused at your antics, but you just break into a mischievous little grin in response and push just one more button of his, knowing he’s only mostly joking.

“I’ll punch you,” you purr.  “Hold your arms up, show me your ribs.”

There’s a split second of silence before he quickly snaps his fist to his chest once again, oh, but it’s enough.  Your shoulders do a little victory shimmy and have to bite your lip to keep from beaming at him, so unbelievably proud of yourself for being able to read him this well without seeing his face. 

But—for the very same reason, you also plant your foot behind you and wind your arm back once more, knowing you were already treading on thin ice.

“Am I gonna have to start calling you chicken wing?”  Din suddenly barks out, a split second into your forward launch.  You almost stumble into him with all the generated momentum and catch yourself just in time, eventually stepping back and resetting with a frustrated huff.  Purposefully tucking your arm tight into your side, you pull back once more.

He mmphs when you make equally hard contact in the very same spot but he doesn’t move this time, and you somehow forgot how horribly painful it is to slam your clenched fist directly against a solid object with all your strength—much less, the second time around.  You attempt to deaden your response as well, but he has the luxury of the helmet to shield his face.  Silencing your scream just makes yours contort unattractively in front of him while your eyes clamp shut and you clutch your wrist, trying to bite back the crippling pain.

“Other hand—use the other hand instead,” he tells you quickly.  “You have two of them.”

“I used to!”  You snarl through the way you can’t even flex it anymore, how your muscles aren’t working through the angry sparks of acute sensation jumping down your fingers.  “Your stupid fucking pecs just broke my good one!”

“Want me to kiss it?”  Din asks—quickly, almost like he can’t help himself, and the snarky tone of it through the modulator coupled with the throbbing pain makes you grit your teeth.

“I used to love your body,” you lift your head and growl up at him while you cradle your swollen claw.  “Why did you take that from me?”

“Give me your hand,” he says calmly, holding his palm out for you.

“No,” you spit, the pain making you stubborn and resistant to anything you don’t immediately offer yourself, but he’s not impressed.  Din easily catches your elbow and brings it up, his other hand gently lacing through your fingers even as you try in vain to pull it away.  “Stop it—”

He completely ignores you and looks back over his shoulder at the kid, dwarfed by the tall grass and continuing to hop around behind what will likely be his lunch, before the helmet turns back to you.  “Eyes closed.”

“This isn’t fucking funn—”

“Close your eyes,” he tells you once more.  “Don’t open them.”

You take a deep breath and grind your teeth, not wanting to be treated like a baby.  It irks you that he’s dedicating so much time and effort into just infantilizing you and your very real pain.  Though, the pain is so real that it makes it almost impossible to express the sentiment—it comes out sounding childishly short and bratty.  “It hurts.”

“I know,” is all he says, soft and lilting and quite possibly as gentle as you’ve ever heard him.  “Close your eyes, sweet girl.”

His tone of voice is the only thing that compels you to listen.  You finally do as he says and flutter your eyes shut, overly aware of the hard grimace on your face now that you can’t see anything.  One of his hands releases you while keeping your numb fingers laced between his, and then a few seconds pass, before you suddenly feel soft lips pressing against your knuckle.

You hiss and tighten up on instinct, more in fear of the pain than the pain itself, but he holds your hand steady as he carefully trails gentle presses of his lips against your knuckles.  After a moment, you breathe out shakily, your eyebrows lifting just slightly at the sensation—before his mouth opens and his warm tongue glides delicately across your sensitive skin.

You gasp and your fingers twitch in between his, suddenly able to move again.  They knock against cool metal as his tongue slowly drags down the valleys between your knuckles—but then Din abruptly drops your hand at the sudden sound of sunshine giggles coming from afar.  Your eyes pop open just as his helmet is yanked down over his jaw once more.

“Let’s…”  He clears his throat through the modulator, taking a small step back.  “Let’s go again.”

 

 


 

You collapse down into a pitiful little pile on the grass, trying to catch your breath.  This is ridiculous.  You somehow have tender bruises all over your body and yet you’re the only one who’s done any sort of hitting whatsoever.

“That’s fine, we can take a break,” Din says gruffly from above you, but you’re too tired to even comment on the sarcasm.  You just groan, flopping down flat on your back while he sits in the grass next to you and silently waits for you to start breathing normally again.

“I hate this,” you pant, resting your numb hands against your forehead and squinting against the late afternoon sun.  “I don’t like this.  My body hurts and I barely did anything.”

“You’re good at it,” Din is quick to respond, and the blunt sincerity in his voice takes you aback, making you glance over at him in shock.  “I know,” he nods once the beskar turns and he sees the look on your face, “I didn’t expect it either.”

His tendency to compliment you while simultaneously insulting you doesn’t go unnoticed, but if anything, you decide to take it as a testament to his honesty and comfort in your presence.  Clearly he’d have no issue telling you if you were terrible at this.

Instead of responding, you lace your fingers behind your head and continue to just lay there, closing your eyes against the warm sunshine.  It’s gorgeous here, you get why this planet is renown throughout the galaxy.  Perfect weather, stunningly green rolling hills for miles, the gentle breeze dancing through the tall grass, brilliant white clouds suspended against a beautiful blue backdrop.  The only thing that’s missing is—

“When can we go see the ocean?”  You blurt up at the sky, unable to stop the words before they’re out of your mouth.

“What ocean?”  Comes tiredly through the modulator, monotone and filtered as he shuffles into a more comfortable position.

“Any of them,” you immediately respond, shrugging your shoulders against the grass.  “The closest one.  I’m not picky.”

“…Naboo doesn’t have any oceans,” Din tells you blankly.

You startle slightly, jerking your head over at him.  “What?  But—but I saw it through the transparisteel when we dropped.  This whole planet is practically covered in water.”

“It is,” he agrees with a tilt of his helmet, following you with the visor as you finally scramble to sit yourself upright.  “But it’s all one big… body of water.  Locals call it the Abyss, it stretches across the entire planet through a system of underground caves and tunnels.  It only surfaces as rivers and lakes and swamplands, though.  No ocean.  Not really.”

“Oh.”  It’s blank, but it’s… lacking.  The sun glinting against metal gives you an excuse to subtly turn your head away from him, and you hold back your sigh of disappointment.

“What’s the matter?”  He grunts after a moment, somehow succeeding in sounding mildly disinterested while still bothering to ask.  He props his knee upright to rest his elbow on it, apparently able to read you better than ever as well.

“Nothing,” you say on instinct and shake your head, already knowing it’s dumb.  You’re being dumb, there’ll be other planets with oceans—you just haven’t had the opportunity to go to one yet.

Din doesn’t say anything after that, but he also keeps the helmet subtly turned towards you, like he’s just… waiting.  The quiet almost doesn’t sound quiet anymore, not when there’s such a loud unspoken question still lingering in it.

“It’s just,” you say after a moment, trying to smile, but it doesn’t feel real.  It’s nothing more than a movement your mouth makes and it feels at odds with the mild disappointment you’re trying to hide.  “I used to be a moisture farmer.  Back on Arvala-7, where we first met.”

His continued silence tells you nothing.  You don’t know whether he’s confused and you should elaborate, whether he understands and doesn’t need an explanation, whether he’s interested or disinterested.  Nothing.  So after another few more seconds of nothing, you decide to keep going.

“There's something about water that just… hits different when you spend your entire life on a planet without any,” you say quietly, picking at a few blades of grass by your knees instead of looking at him.  “When I was a little girl, I used to think it was as rare in the rest of the galaxy as it was where I was born.  A limited resource you had to farm from the atmosphere to drink, because it didn’t occur naturally in liquid form.  It was… valuable.  Delicate.  Crystal clear—never saw more than a few dozen gallons of it at a time.  Something to be cherished.  Something you’d never want to waste even just dipping your hand into, because the dirt on your skin would contaminate it.”

You smile once more, but this time it feels a little bit better.  “You know… the first shower I took on the Crest the day I left that Maker-forsaken planet was the first time I ever felt my hair get wet.  We only ever had sonic showers on Arvala-7.”  And stars, the memory of it makes you want to shudder.  Ultrasonic waves vibrating the dirt and sweat off your body sounds a lot more thorough than it actually is.  You never felt truly clean until you were soaking wet on the Crest with shampoo in your hair, giggling like a child in the fresher while you made yourself a soapy little beard.

It springboards into another memory—the moment you first reached for a towel after showering, catching a glimpse of your hands and startling at the sight of your wrinkled, pruny fingertips.  You’d never heard of such a phenomena before that point.  You thought you’d asked Kuiil about everything, but to be entirely fair, he might not have even realized it happened, not from the leathery texture of his xenospecies’ skin.  The questions he did answer for you were plenty though, and you suddenly remember something he said to you years ago that was so jarring and unexpected that it’s stuck with you to this day.

“Kuiil told me once that water was loud,” you suddenly hear yourself say, and though your soft laugh is nostalgic and sincere, you don’t know why, but you instantly tear up as soon as the words leave your mouth.  “Loud.  How could—could water be loud?  What… what noise would it make?”

You sniff and continue to pick at the grass, a bit more vigorously this time, purposefully keeping your eyes down and blinking quickly.  “He said… he said streams and brooks… b-bubble.  They bubble.  And rain… rain is like static—like white noise, but… natural.  Not generated by a machine.  He said the ocean is the loudest, though.  It roars.  It’s powerful.”

Swallowing the lump in your throat and glancing up, you try to distract yourself from the memory of your close friend by looking out at the wavy grass, trying to see if you can spot the kid being dwarfed by it.  You can’t, not from this low angle, but you can still hear him playing happily in the distance.

“I’ve seen all the others now, thanks to you,” you confess quietly.  “Rain, rivers, lakes—but I always wanted to see an ocean.  A big, scary one, where the sound would just be… deafening.  Water, tons of it, crashing up against rocks and filling the air with mist.  Used to dream about them.  Wanted to see something I used to think was rare fill my entire field of view.  Wanted to see something I always thought was precious turn into something formidable.”

Din continues staring silently at you through your peripheral while you keep picking at the grass absently.

“I just—I don’t know.”  You finally look over at him and sigh, smiling softly and shrugging your shoulders.  “I just always dreamed of a place where I could go, a place where I could open my eyes and all I’d be able to see—all I could hear—was water.”

You stop talking after that, having run out of things to say and realizing you probably shared a little too much without ever being prompted.  The sunlight is gentle and easy, however, and it encourages you to close your eyes and just breathe, letting silent, eternal gratitude to the man next to you fill you.  You’d never know any sun that isn’t harsh, you’d never know the greenness of the tall grass in this sprawling field had he not found you, given you a chance to tag along the galaxy with him and his carnivorous little sidekick.

The sun begins making you sleepy the more you sit here in the middle of paradise, eyes closed and tasting the gorgeous air in your lungs.  But eventually, Din stands up and steps in front of you, opening both of his bare palms towards the setting sky and bouncing them up and down a few times.  “Up.  Come on.  I’ll teach you how to throw an uppercut before nightfall.”

You groan but lift your hands in his direction all the same, trying not to wince while you make grabby fingers at him, your knuckles slightly bruised and red.  He sighs and wraps his hands purposefully around your elbows, urging you up as he takes a few steps backwards.

It’s awkward.  You’re still feeling lazy and droopy-eyed, and the cool shadow he casts makes you even more sleepy.  You think he’s going to help more than you have to pull yourself up, and he clearly thinks he’s there to be your platform instead of your forklift.  What results is just you being dragged uselessly by your arms in front of him, until your torso and legs are stretched in an uncomfortable J-shape on the ground and your forehead bumps into his lower tummy.

He stops and holds you there, before grunting out, “Use your feet.”

“Just let me fall,” you tell him, your lips brushing against the dark fabric while your shoulders and spine pull tight at this angle.  “Just leave me here like this.”

The sigh he makes above you feels like he puts his whole entire being into it.  Din leaves you propped up against him for a second while he grumbles and readjusts his hold further up near your shoulders, before he maneuvers you until you’re gently settling down on your knees in the grass.

You think (hope) he’s going to release you and let you take a nap, but then you gasp when he shifts and the toe of his boot suddenly wedges itself between your closed thighs.  He lifts up on your arms just slightly, enough to take the weight off your knees so he can swipe his foot out and kick one of them open, before plopping you back down again and letting you go.

Up until that point, you’d been good.  You were content with being boneless for him and seeing how he’d deal, but then he gracefully crouches down in front of you and wraps one powerful arm around your back, hugging you tight to his chest.  Din’s open thighs frame your kneeling figure and you can feel his cock pressed against your tummy from this angle, and it sends a shiver down your spine.

For some reason, he decides to take this next part slow.  Maybe it’s because he can probably feel the way your heart is starting to kick up against his unarmored chest right now, but he drags it out.  Broad shoulder dropping and his helmet finding a home in the crook of your neck, Din braces you to his chest with one arm while the other slithers down the curve of your ass and then under—his forearm pressing firmly between your cheeks and then his open palm flattening tight along the length of your pussy from behind.

You moan softly next to the helmet while he works the thick muscles in his thighs to gradually lift you both from the ground.  Maker, the tips of his fingers are curved hard against your slit through your pants while he rises, pulling you up until gravity causes your thighs to slowly meet around his hand and your legs to dangle.

The feat of strength turns you on just as much as his choice of positioning does.  Fuck, you know you’re not the lightest person in the galaxy, but Din carefully sets you down on your feet without even so much as a grunt of effort, his hand staying tucked tight between your legs for longer than necessary.  Biting your lip and pressing your face into his shoulder does nothing to stop the quiet whimper you make when he decides to grind his strong fingers up into you just a bit.

“Din,” you whisper, wanting to melt into him, but then he’s instantly ripping his hand away and taking a step back.

You nearly fall over at the sudden lack of support after relying solely on him for it for so long, but you don’t even have enough time to open your mouth in upset.  There’s just a split second before a green blur bursts through the tall grass with a squeal and trips over the baggy potato sack around his body.

It’s like it happens in slow motion.  You both watch as he flies forward, skidding more than once on the ground and then landing face-down on your shoe, the little thump on your foot feeling so adorably anticlimactic after all the buildup.

Nobody moves for a second, except for the way your eyes flicker up at the visor currently tilted towards the ground.  You can tell Din is just holding his breath, just waiting to see if—

A hiccup.  You see broad shoulders tighten under the dark fabric, and then a sudden piercing wail is released against your shoe.

“Shit,” Din curses, already scooping the little thing up and bouncing him slightly to pacify him.  You bite your lip against the way his ears flop from the movement and he screams even louder.  “Hey hey hey, stop.  Stop it.  Stop crying.”

“Uh oh!  Where’d your little friend go?”  You ask while Din immediately turns the kid around to face you, your voice pitched soft and high in your register as you step closer.  “Did you eat him already?”

He just shudders out a cry, probably an affirmative, his mouth dropping and his little teeth peeking through while he sobs and his giant eyes well with tears.

“Shit,” Din curses again, this time in defeat, but you won’t give up that easy.

“Hey—hey goose, wanna see me beat your daddy up?”  You ask, lightly booping the little bump of his nose.  “Huh?  Wanna see me fight?”  You pull your top lip up into a ridiculous little snarl and flex your arms threateningly, and the sobs suddenly stutter to a stop within a few breaths.  “Op, yep.  See—he knows I’ll kick your ass, Din, he just got scared.”

“Please,” the modulator pfftts quietly, but the kid just blinks at you while you keep growling.

“I’ll hurt him real bad,” you promise him, putting your fists up in front of you and bouncing your weight back and forth like a prized boxing champ.  “I’ll, uh…” your list of trash talk repertoire is admittedly rather short, and both of them wait in silence for you to figure it out, the bigger one a lot less entertained than his miniature counterpart.  “I’ll punch him just.  So hard.  So hard that… it’ll bruise.  Yeah—I’ll make him bleed underneath his skin.”

“No, this is good, keep going,” Din encourages after a moment of awkward silence.  “Maybe you’ll be able to find your way there at some point.”

You ignore him, bobbing and ducking and then popping him one good in the shoulder with an accompanying vocal sound effect—except you quickly jerk your hand away and shake your wrist out, staring up at the helmet like he deeply offended you and mouthing, “Ow.”

A smile.  The smallest ghost of one, but you see it on the kid’s teeny green mouth when you flick your eyes down to him.

So, Din spends the rest of the lingering daylight teaching you the proper uppercut technique while he cradles an adorable little bug-eyed baby in one arm.  You keep making faces at him while throwing your fist up against his dad’s extended, downturned palm, until he finally starts giggling again.

 

 


 

Whelp, turns out you’re a fucking idiot.  Or maybe just a selfish bitch, either way.  Not a good look.

You thought, from the way the lovely afternoon went, that you were getting better at reading Din.  Knowing when to joke around, when to keep pushing, and when to stop talking, all from just his body posture and tone of voice alone.  But you’re also an idiot, as you’ve already established.

As you three headed back to the Crest through the dusky twilight evening, you remember telling Din that if there weren’t any oceans on Naboo, then you’ll at least be able to sleep in a bed on this planet.  A real one, one with a—oh stars, an actual mattress.  The word alone sent shivers down your spine, and the baby cooed while blinking his eyes slowly, well on his way to being tuckered out from the long day outside.

You don’t remember Din directly responding, but then again, that isn’t really all that rare in the grand scheme.  Granted, he was arguably more talkative today than ever before, and he did get a little bit quieter after that, but still, you couldn’t have known.  Only an incredibly hyper-observant person would’ve noticed in the moment—you’re lucky you can even recall this much in hindsight.

Though, this next part should’ve been more of a direct giveaway.  Once you were in the Crest, he put his armor back on.

You still didn’t think.  It’s such a normal thing, the beskar fitting tight to magnetic plates around his shoulders, thighs, and chest.  It’s normal, he wears it all the time.  Having him walking around in broad daylight sans armor and gloves today was odd, that was the outlier.

He flew the vessel to the nearest town, a quaint little village on the edge of a gorgeously full forest.  The ride was as gentle as possible—you were feeling soft and decided to hold the baby as he drifted off instead of placing him in the quiet darkness of his cradle.  The ears tend to make things a bit awkward, but after months of practice with it, you’re now a pro at rocking the little guy to sleep in your arms.

Din’s continued silence didn’t bother you—or really even register, considering you were trying to be quiet as well.  He slung your go-bag around his shoulder and pressed a few buttons on his vambrace to set the kid’s sphere protocols to follow behind him, before pressing a gloved palm to your lower back and leading you down the ramp, the sleepy baby tucked tight into your arms.

There were people in the village mingling while you three walked down the cobblestone path to the nearest inn, giving your ragtag group double-takes as you passed.  The innkeeper, however, was blind.  Not only did you not receive the same terrified courtesy the barkeep on Canto Bight had afforded you before, but he was clearly used to spotting and swindling newcomers, sightless or not.

“Only room left’s a suite,” he drawled, the cloudy whites of his pupils hovering just between your left shoulder and Mando’s right pauldron.  “Five hundred credits a night.”

The color drained from your face, your heart doing a giant flip in your chest and completely fucking up the landing.  You turned to Mando to reassure him that absolutely nothing about this was necessary, but he was already dropping the ridiculous amount of credits on the desk without a single word.

That should’ve been the nail in the coffin, to be honest.  His immediate willingness to hand over that many credits without the slightest protest, grumble, or sigh was the kicker—that’s how you should’ve known something wasn’t right.  He didn’t even allow you to split the cost when you offered to reimburse him on the way to the room.

But again.  You’re an idiot, so.

At least the suite is gorgeous.  Slightly old-fashioned and moonlit enough to skip even flicking the lights on, illuminated by large open windows with views of the village streets and sprawling mountains and forest beyond.  Everything inside is either cream or white, so clean and soft, and being able to feel the breeze billowing through the gauzy curtains is just.  After months of traveling in that enclosed ship, it’s restorative.  Almost nothing in here is made of metal.

So it’s not until right now—almost immediately after you settled the kid down into the incredibly large guest bed and walked into the master bedroom to find Mando sitting perfectly still on the edge of the mattress—now something feels off.  He looks so out of place as you quietly snap the door shut behind you.  The enormous floor to ceiling window decorating the far side of the room bathes him in pale light, highlights the blaster marks and bits of dirt clinging to the beskar as he sits on the bed.

“You’re going to get the sheets all dirty,” you, an idiot, tell him, your voice barely above a murmur.  “Take off your—”

“I can’t,” he rushes, though he jumps up from the mattress all the same.  You snap your mouth shut and freeze.  “It’s safe here but it’s… it’s still not a good idea, not if I want to sleep.  Not with people around, and all these… windows.”

The words send you reeling.  You had no idea, you thought… “Oh.  I’m sorry, that—”

You immediately go silent, feeling absolutely fucking awful.  You didn’t think.  All you could think about was that bed underneath you, and you maybe… blindfolded in some way?  And then of course, him, in it—completely naked, helmet off, and laying next to you.

“You’re okay,” Mando tells you with a shrug, not sounding like… anything.  He looks like he’s about to say something else—his chestplate lifts with an inhale as he turns to you, but then seems to stop right as he’s about to speak.

“Shit—please sit on the bed, I don’t care if you’re dirty,” you quickly say, just as he blurts out, “You can still take your clothes off though.”

You blink at him for a second, not sure you heard him right.  “…What did y—”

“You can, uh.”  His voice is soft.  “I can… lay down.  On top of the sheets.  In my armor, just like this, and then you can take your clothes off and just.  Rub up on me a little bit.  If you want.”

A shudder quite suddenly rockets down your spine at the tone of his voice, the quiet, slightly hesitant murmur through the modulator.  The gulp you take is audible through the room, the only other sound being the closest trees rustling in the breeze outside.  The spread curtains dance with it, but they’re too sheer and light to make a noise.  “O-Okay.”

“Yeah?”  He asks lowly, and you quickly nod.

“Yeah,” you whisper, your body beginning to tingle, “sit—sit back down.”

He goes to move but then abruptly stops, and you hold your breath while you watch the visor jerk just a fraction to pin you in place.  Something instantly feels… different about him, a silent shift taking place within just a singular moment.  Like he all of a sudden realized that he didn’t actually like that very much.

Instead of acquiescing, Mando slowly steps in front of you, straightening up to his full height and absolutely dwarfing you with it, and your palms start to sweat.  Maker, when he speaks, it sends shivers down your body and the last thing you hear in his voice is hesitation.

“Take off your clothes,” he tells you, a dangerous edge to his soft tone.  The quiet dominance in it feels like the floor beneath you rumbles from it.

On instinct, your eyes flick over his shoulder to the open window and the village outside.  It’s barely been a few hours since sundown—townspeople are strolling down winding streets in the distance, ghostly moonlight mixes with the warm glow from large oil lamps lining the pubs and street corners.

You look back at him barely a split second later as he stands there in front of you, waiting.

You startle and immediately move to grab at the hem of your shirt, and your fingers unintentionally tremble as they start to pull it up. 

“Stop.”

His voice breaks through the silence, the modulated order halting your movements immediately.  You blink up at him, letting your shirt drop back down again, and Mando takes a second to look back at you, studying you from under the beskar.

“Go stand by the window,” he suddenly says, lazily tilting the helmet to gesture at it.

Your blood pounds in your ears during the still moments following, the thrill of it making you nearly go deaf for a second.  After you recover from the visceral heatwave that rockets through you, you slowly walk over to the window and then turn your back on the ballooning curtains to look at him.  The beskar is still pinned to you over his shoulder, though the rest of his body hasn’t moved.

“Turn around,” he tells you, and you shakily do as he says, rotating to face the open window.  You’re close enough to make out people’s expressions from here—friends mingling as they stroll down the sidewalk, their mouths moving but their voices and laughter muted at this distance.  An outdoor restaurant serving local cuisine to patrons and out-of-towners, a violinist and cellist performing a silent duet on the street corner.

There’s shuffling behind you.  The creak of the bedframe as he lowers himself on it and moves around, before eventually coming to a rest in what you assume is a comfortable position.

“You can keep going,” eventually comes his filtered voice from the bed.

Your eyelashes dip and flutter as more hot sparks of arousal kindle deep in your floor muscles.  Lifting your shirt up over your head has never felt like such high stakes before, but even as the fabric falls to the ground, your gaze continuously searches for anyone outside who may catch a glimpse.  Though, you’re not sure if it’s in dread or some kind of sick excitement.

The breeze hardens your nipples while you work at your pants, and the hair on your arms stands up when you remember who’s behind you, silently watching you get turned on by this.  Along with your underwear, your pants are pushed down your thighs, but instead of moving back from the pool around your ankles, you take a purposeful step forward towards the open window.

“Fuck—you dirty little thing,” you hear him breathe out, and a shiver rolls through you.  “Tell me how many people you can see right now, count them.”

You try your best, but give up halfway through and provide a rough estimate.  “F-Fifteen.”

“Scanner says seventeen from here,” Mando challenges lowly.  “Seventeen pairs of eyes that can look up any second and see your naked body.  Stripped bare, shaking, vulnerable.  Your gorgeous fucking tits.”

As hard as your teeth dig into your bottom lip at the rasp through the modulator, your nails dig into your palms even harder.  Still, you don’t move, and the open drapes flick and brush against your thighs as you hold there, the gentle wind doing absolutely nothing to cool your flushed skin down.

And oh, he waits.  He’s good about that, especially when he can probably read your infrared signature through the helmet right now.  You’re surprised you haven’t outright blinded him by how white-hot your body feels.  But after what feels like a small eternity, he eventually murmurs, “Come over here.”

Once you turn around and see the way he’s just laying back on the bed, relaxing and enchanted with the show, it’s a miracle you don’t trip on anything with how quickly you hurry towards him.  You’re already standing next to the edge of the mattress by the time you even register his body is subtly tilted so that his boots are hanging purposefully off the side of it.

Regardless of the hard dominance he’s exhibiting, the symbolic gesture somehow feels like it flips a switch inside you and lights up pure, aching adoration for him.  But against every instinct screaming at you to just scramble on top of him and show him how much you appreciate his thoughtfulness, you wait.  You wait for him to tell you what to do.

His glove lifts, comes up to gently touch the side of your face and cradle your jaw, and you have to clamp your hands together to stop yourself from reaching for him.

“Are you wet?”  Mando murmurs, sounding like his lips barely even brush against each other when they move under the beskar.  You don’t trust yourself to say anything without it turning into a desperate plea, so you just close your eyes and jerk your head in a nod, feeling your cheek graze against the leather on his palm with the movement.  It’s hard to swallow when your mouth feels so dry, and he lets you just suffer there and tremble for him a little while longer, letting out a quiet hum through the modulator as his thumb carefully rides the line of your cheekbone.

Maker, where does all this fucking patience come from?  Under normal circumstances, Mando is probably one of the most impatient people you’ve ever met, and yet.  It’s like he stores it all up.  Hoards it and refuses to dip into it most of the time—perfectly content to have a quick temper in most interactions, if only so that he can keep it handy for moments like this.  If only so he can have a seemingly endless supply of patience to sustain him while your average-sized stockpile is gradually and inevitably being depleted.

“You want to get up here with me?”  He asks quietly, and stars, that’s still not a directive, no matter how much it could casually imply one.  The ridiculous thing is—he never even told you this was expected of you.  Not once did he tell you to follow his words like they're gospel, not once did he say there was something wrong with speaking directly to him without prompting, or acting without explicit instruction.  He never even implied anything like that at all, but you still hold your body completely rigid as you jerk a nod against his palm once more.

Stars, it just isn’t fair.  He doesn’t look any different from how he looks every single day—there’s no patch of golden skin to tease you, beskar is covering him head to toe, but you’re hotter for him than you think you’ve ever been.  He’s stretched out long on the bed, a portion of him darkened by your silhouette but the rest bathed in gorgeous moonlight, breathing slow as he takes you in.  You stare silently at the visor, and for some reason, you—you’re quite suddenly struck with how gorgeous he could secretly be under there and you’ll just… you’ll never know.  You know his hair is thick and dark, you know the softness of his mouth, the sunkissed color of his skin, the prominent nose and straight teeth on the rare but blissful occasions he’d let you kiss him.  His eyes, though.  They could be any color.  Your credits have been on brown for a while, but the thought of you not knowing for sure… the thought of you actually having to ask him something like that is just—it makes you ache to touch him even more.  To give him something tangible at least, when you know the only way to ever have a true visual connection with him is with a dark visor between you.

You try to let the sentiment transfer through your needy expression, hoping he can read it from there.  His cock is hard—you can see it in your peripheral, pressing up against the dark fabric of his pants, but it’s like you’re the only one who notices.  He’s still admiring your face, or fuck, maybe he’s looking at your body—you can never tell for sure, but regardless, you stare purposefully at wherever you think his eyes ought to be, silently pleading with him and starting to get desperate.

Finally—fucking finally, the helmet rocks to the side just slightly, just the smallest tilt of his head towards his body, but the nonverbal invitation is enough.  Air you didn’t realize was even in your lungs suddenly whooshes out of you as you all but launch forwards onto the mattress to try and climb on top of him.

—Except, then his hand quickly drops from your face to press firm against your thighs, blocking the way your far leg tries to lift to swing over him in a straddle.  Disappointment crashes through you with an audible whimper and you start to panic a little bit as you shakily plant both knees back on the bed, wondering what you possibly did wrong.  Was it because he didn’t specifically say it was okay?  Was he just testing your obedience?

The beskar vambrace feels cool against your burning skin, and you try not to let the trembling of your body manifest itself in your breathing as Mando lazily drags his glove along your thighs.  Neither one of you says anything as he eventually trails his hand back and around, leather fingers coming to a rest between your legs while his thumb rides high, just under the curve of your ass.

And then he slowly starts pulling, before he gradually leads the leg closest to him up and over his body instead, until you’re settling into a straddle on top of his hips.  Backwards.

Everything in you shudders violently as both gloves gently trail up the length of your naked back, letting you brace your hands on the beskar strapped to his thighs and settle on top of him.

“Look at that,” he hums, letting his hands fall back down to the meat of your ass, grabbing handfuls of it and squeezing hard enough to make you bite back a gasp.  “Fucking pretty.  Pretty girl.  Stars, I fucking love looking at you, know that?”

The praise makes you mewl quietly and spread your knees even further, dropping your hips down until the underside of his cock presses up tight into your aching pussy.  You arch your back and walk your hands forward just a bit, just until you’re holding onto his knees and you have the right angle to start slowly rocking your body back and forth.

Maker,” you whisper, your head tipping back while you drag your pussy against his pulsing erection, and his hands keep massaging your ass while the words start falling out of you now that you released the floodgate.  “Maker, I love your body.  So big, and—and strong.  Fucking hard, thick cock.  Fuck, I love your cock.  I love how fucking hard you get—”

“Bend over,” Mando breathes out behind you, his hands suddenly releasing fistfuls of your ass to grab around your hips and bring you to a stop.  “Fuck, keep talking like that, but show me your—just let me… let me look at it.”

Your heart slams against your sternum, your clit pulsing against the hard ridge of his cock, knowing exactly what he’s talking about.  Slowly, you bend your upper body over until your tummy lays flat along the cool beskar shielding his thighs and your tits are pressed against his kneecaps.  Your arms are long enough to rest your hands on his ankles like this, and your thighs are spread wide to keep your cunt pushed up against his cock.  But stars, you know he has a perfect view right now.  The slick lips of your pussy smearing against his dark pants, both holes on full display for him in the moonlight.

“Keep—Keep talking,” Mando reminds you after a moment, sounding painfully turned on while his cock jumps against your clit.  “Keep going.  Use it, get yourself off.  Let me watch.”

“Fuck, I love your cock,” you hear yourself repeat, breathless and needy as your hips start grinding down against him once more, the words coming from you without giving them any thought whatsoever.  He grunts and pushes it up for you, letting you get at it easier.  “I think about it all the time.  Think about the first time I felt it, how you were already rock fucking hard for me when I touched you.  You came so quick, right in my hand, in your pants—it was so fucking hot.”

“I’d had—” he grits out in his defense, “—shit, I’d had a… a rough day, and your hands were.  Fuck, s-soft, and—”

“Maybe,” you concede, biting your lip and closing your eyes against the swirling pleasure spreading hot through your body, the heat that burns you alive hearing the familiar warble through the modulator when he’s starting to lose himself in pleasure.  “Or maybe it was because you were half-conscious with a brand new scar on your back.”

His filtered groan rolls down your spine and his cock pulses hard against your cunt through the fabric of his pants, making you spasm in delight.  Fuck, your head drops down completely, just dragging yourself back and forth on top of him as you chase your orgasm like this.  Shameless—your ass flexing in front of him with every roll of your hips, your lower muscles fluttering with every drag against his cock.

“Fuck—fuck, let me touch your asshole,” Mando whispers suddenly, lifting himself up on one elbow and dragging the other hand up the curve of your cheek.  “Just—just a little bit, I won’t pu—”

“Oh stars above, fucking please,” you gasp against one of his legs, nearly jerking back against his hand as your pussy fucking leaks through his pants with it.  “I’ll let you do anything you want, you can—can put your thumb inside it—”

His other hand leaves you for a split second, and you think he’s taking his glove off, except then it swings down to crack hard against your ass, making you gasp and instantly go still for him on his lap.

The smooth leather covering the pad of his thumb carefully glides down your crevice, and you hold your breath until it finally brushes over the tight ring of muscle flexing for him.

“That all you’ll let me put in here?”  Mando asks quietly, and you let out a complete mess of a whimper, trying your best not to move under the bold touches.

You get another firm smack on the ass for being rendered mute for too long.  “Tell me,” he growls, rubbing his thumb against the vulnerable entrance while his cock throbs against your cunt.

“I’ll—I’ll let you do anything you want,” you moan once more, and stars, you can’t help it.  Your hips start to grind down against him even harder than before, and Mando curses as he slowly rides your movements with his hand.

Dirty,” he grits out.  “Dirty girl.  You ever take it back here before?”  And stars, the way his cock drags against your pussy starts to make you lightheaded, how casually he’s talking about this while starting to circle his thumb around it and press firm against it.  Not hard enough to push inside, but enough to feel the natural resistance give just a bit.

“No,” you breathe, starting to pant while you work against him.  “Boys have tried.  But I’d let you.”

Fuck,” he hisses, suddenly rocking his hips up against yours.  You nearly choke and your legs start to lock up, making your movements stunted.  “Fuck.  I bet you’d let me do it right fucking now, wouldn’t you?  Right here in front of this f-fucking window, where everyone can see?  Let me flip you over and stretch you out, and then fuck your tight little—virgi—”

“Maker, get your cock out,” you gasp, heat burning at your center and beginning to spread outwards.  It tingles hot through your lower abdomen and you start to get frantic, knowing you don’t have much time before your orgasm hits.  “Please, just let me ride it, let me cum on it—”

“No,” Mando immediately grunts, and you make a small sound of distress that quickly turns into a high-pitched mewl against his leg when the very tip of his thumb just barely breaches the haloed entrance.

“But—but I’m so wet,” you whisper, “oh stars, can’t you see it?  I’m dripping.  You could just slide it right in right now, I’d take it so fucking easy—”

He rips his hand away just long enough to smack your ass once again, hard enough to ring through the room and make you gasp.  “Quit.  You’ll take whatever the fuck you’re given and you’ll endure,” he snaps.  “Not here, not tonight.”

You bite back desperate protests.  He’d fuck you in a dark alleyway on Canto Bight but not here?  As if you haven’t already done so multiple times this evening, you immediately lament your stupid mouth and the thoughtless mattress comment.  You wish you could take it all back—you don’t care how nice this bed is, you want to sleep in anything he’ll fuck you in.  Nonetheless, your orgasm gallops forward and leaves your body struggling to keep up behind it—but Maker, you want so badly to feel him inside you when it finally hits.  You want to sink down on him and feel him break you open just as you start to cum.

“Oh fuck, please give me it,” you whine, sounding on the edge of delirium, the words pressed high and unintentional as your hands clutch at his legs.  “Oh Maker, please, please fuck me—fuck me in a real bed, please, just—fuck me right now and I swear I’ll sleep on fucking rocks for you every single night for the rest of m—”

A snarl rips through the modulator and he shoves your hips forward just enough, just enough to rip his waistband down—

You gasp in blinding relief and flip your head over your shoulder to watch, but then subtle movement catches in your peripheral.  You glance up just in time to see the doorknob slowly turning.

Thank your lucky stars you react on instinct alone, squealing and jumping off him before quickly shuffling under the covers.

“What the fu—” comes an enraged, filtered growl, metal clanking with how quickly he flips over to reach for you, but then he cuts off and the helmet whips to the door as it unlatches and slowly creaks open. 

The blankets are pulled tight under your chin as you shuffle down as far as possible, and though you can’t see the intruder from this angle, Mando is instantly reaching back to rip the pillow out from under the helmet and press it tight over his crotch, huffing out a sigh.

Soon, you’re able to spot one pointy little ear pop up, followed by the rest of the little gremlin scaling the treacherously tall comforter, pulling himself over the edge of the mattress with a determined three-finger hold and then doing a completely unnecessary little barrel roll once he’s on the level springtop.  The fact that it’s so fucking adorable just serves to irk you even more, and both of you silently watch the kid push himself up on two feet and then waddle slowly in between you two.

He finds a pillow he likes—one that happens to be placed directly in between you and his dad, before he settles himself down on it like a small bed on top of a much larger one.  The little stinker then flutters his abnormally giant eyes closed and seems to instantly fall back asleep.

There’s a few minutes where you just blink across from Mando, flicking your gaze between the chrome visor and the baby’s peaceful face.  Is this… is he serious right now?

“Were we being too loud?”  You eventually whisper, barely above a breath.  “Or is he just being purposefully annoying?”

He doesn’t answer you.  And, well, you suppose he has a point.  Regardless of why, it appears he's here now. 

You let out a slow breath and just try and relax, try and think beyond the flare of annoyance at the interruption, how close you were to feeling him fuck you into this mattress.  He’d still have the armor and helmet on, of course, but it would be just domestic enough to ruin you. 

But then again—you suppose this, if anything, is even more domestic.  Doing your best to calm your racing thoughts so you can eventually fall asleep directly across from him with his mildly aggravating, heartstealing little adopted kid snoring quietly between you.

Quite a while passes before you feel your eyelids growing heavy.  You spend almost the entire time studying every single inch of Mando while he faces you on the mattress.  The sharp angles and smooth curves of his helmet, concave in places but convex in others.  How fitting, you think.  To cover a man with a helmet just like him—sharp, smooth, contrasting, and deflective enough about what lies underneath to be reflective.

Then you find yourself thinking about what he’s hiding under it.  Once more.  You try to picture him, but it’s… it’s difficult.  You’re not used to translating things you’ve only touched into visual representations, it’s just not a skill you’ve ever needed to have handy.  And what about all the things you can’t, or haven’t been able to feel?  Freckles, or birthmarks?  Dimples?  Are his lashes long or short?  Do they stick out in a fringe when he clamps his eyes shut?  Does his nose scrunch up when he laughs?  Do his ears stick out?  Does he have wrinkles on his forehead, or around his eyes?

Maker, what color are they?

You continue to stare at the metal faceplate, blinking droopily at it but forcing yourself to stay awake just a bit longer.  Enjoy the feeling of the soft mattress underneath you while you still can, relaxing into the cool sheets and delaying your inevitable descent into dreams.  Savoring his extended presence here with you for as long as possible.

“Do you have brown eyes?”  You hear yourself murmur to him through the quiet darkness, lips barely touching and the words slurred from exhaustion.  You want to know.  You want to be able to color in the last paint-by-number of his face before you begin your work on the finer details.

Again, he doesn’t answer, and you figure he’s probably asleep.

Chapter Text

Whelp.  At least you’re in a good mood. 

In contrast, Din and the kid have been causing problems all morning, the both of them.  Like two… two annoying, middle-aged children competing to see which one is less mature.

The smaller of the two, and older (most likely) is bouncing with energy.  Acting a complete fool.  Ready and willing to launch out of his restricting little sphere at any second, a bright green bundle of energy that slept way too well last night and is just rubbing it in at this point.  He was fine earlier—checking out of the inn, picking up some food at a local market, riding in the Crest as it navigated towards the most isolated sector on this planet—but the hike to this field has been like pulling teeth.

In fact, Din is currently wearing a singular gauntlet on his left hand for that very reason—so this child’s hyper ass could be contained within the hovering, reflective prison.  He’s restless, though, continuing to act out.  At one point you suggest just letting him walk to let some energy out like yesterday, even if he slows the group down with his tiny little legs.  Once you let the little menace out on parole though, he just continues to veer off in his own direction and irritate his dad even further.

And, oh stars—his dad.

Din has barely said a word, only answering with short responses when directly prompted and spending most of his energy just silently stewing inside his own little grumpy teapot on his head.  The helmet is the only other piece of armor he’s donning besides the lone vambrace, and you’re surprised steam hasn’t started whistling through the top of it with how frustrated he is, how many times you’ve seen him curl his hands with impatience. At first it was amusing, though you know better than to tease him about it right now.  You keep your mouth shut and try your best to wrangle the kid, doing everything you can to be helpful while also steering clear of unintentionally exacerbating his silent irritation, knowing Din isn’t in the mood for jokes after being interrupted at a very crucial moment last night.  The sun shines directly on the front of his helmet and blinds you with every single annoyed step, so you follow just far enough behind him and try to use his enormous refrigerator of a body to shield your eyes.

At first it was amusing.  But then the baby catches sight of a gorgeously patterned butterfly floating through the field that he probably wants to snack on for breakfast, and he breaks off from your entourage once more with a quiet little coo that should strike pure terror into the hearts of small animals everywhere.

Immediately you’re turning to go get him—but then a large hand quickly snatches the front of your shirt before you can take a single step, pulling until you’re colliding with an unarmored chest with an oof.  

A bare hand catches your jaw and tightens until you’re staring deep into the thin blade of his visor, before Din whispers rough through the modulator, “As soon as he falls asleep.”

That’s all he says.  And then he’s releasing you and letting you stumble back towards his wayward son a whole lot less amused than you were before, and a whole lot more achy.  The baby shenanigans are far less amusing too.

“You’re killing me here, kiddo,” you breathe after quickly catching up with him, having to bend in half to lead him back towards his impatient dad. 

His hot, moody… incredibly well endowed dad, thick arms crossed tight over his chest as he waits for your return.

The monster’s hand lifts high above him as his three fingers cling to just one of yours, the baggy brown sack exposing his pudgy little green elbow as he follows next to you with a waddle.  It’s slow going, but at some point he decides to pull himself up onto your wrist and you catch him, cradling him in your arms before quickly hurrying back to Din.

Thankfully he begins to calm down a little after that.  As you three eventually find a spot in the endlessly breezy field to settle into, the kid clamors back into his shield while Din carelessly drops the dark bag of supplies he carried from the Crest into the tall grass.  You twist your back to let some of the stiffness out, rotating your arms to encourage more movement as he approaches.

“Same thing as yesterday,” he gruffs when he’s in reach, patting his chest again with a bare hand.  “Hard as you can.”

“My… My hands hurt,” you eventually admit, not wanting to frustrate him even more and hoping you would be able to work on blocking today instead, but Din just nods while you gently brush your thumb along your sore knuckles.

“That’ll happen until it doesn’t,” he tells you quietly, reaching out to touch your elbow in a quick, awkward gesture of comfort and then dropping his arm to his side.  Short, but not unkind.  “Push through.  You can do it.”

You nod, knowing that’s probably the very best motivation you’ll get from him.  His beliefs, condensed down to quick, stunted sentences, presented with such unwavering surety that they must be truths.  Weirdly, it works wonders for you.  Maybe it’s just the person it’s coming from.

You drop into stance and then slam your fist into his chest before he’s ready, and Din steps back on impact with a small grunt while you bite your lip to silence your own noise from the pain reverberating up your arm. 

“Good,” he huffs nonetheless, rubbing the spot on his chest he’s historically designated as target practice.  “Good.  You’re… hitting harder than yesterday.  That’s… fuck.  Good.”

“Good?”  You ask lowly, chancing a quick look over at the kid.  Who blinks directly back at you, wide-eyed and staring purposefully from his crib.  You deflate just a little bit at the sight of him still wide awake, and Din’s fists are clenched by his sides when you turn back to him.

He doesn’t say anything, but you can feel the pent up tightness in his body as you spend the next couple hours throwing more hits at him, different types.  Left hooks, right hooks, crosses, jabs, elbow strikes, palm heels.  He was absolutely right though—the more you make contact with him, the less you begin to feel the pain, until it eventually feels like nothing at all to you.

But then, at one point, you pull your hardened fist back, aimed and focused directly on that same spot on his chest once more—when suddenly his hand flashes up and he flicks his finger against the lower part of your open ribcage. 

He barely puts any strength into it at all—it’s the pressure you’d use to tap someone on the shoulder if you were trying to get their attention, but for some reason the incredibly well-placed reminder throws you.  A little fucking touch like that shouldn’t hurt nearly as much as it does, but you nearly tip sideways and have to catch your footing with how dizzy it makes you.

“That’s what’s called a liver shot,” Din tells you calmly, watching you wrap your hand around your ribcage and wince at the lingering pain through gritted teeth.  “Keep your arm down like I told you.  That’ll happen every time you wanna get lazy with me, little chicken wing.”

You hiss and shake your head a little bit, trying to clear the fog, and then purposefully tuck both arms tight to your sides.  But then—

His hand flashes up again and taps the side of your face this time—not hard enough to hurt but enough to make you flinch on instinct and take a step back.  “That arm stays up.”

Your quick huff of air is suppressed.  Somewhat censored—it doesn’t duly portray the sharp flare of annoyance you experience.  You do exactly what he says, however, and keep your arms in position in front of you.

But then you jerk back and sputter angrily when the tips of his fingers lightly connect with your cheek once more.  “Stop that!  My hands are up!”

“Then why’d you let me do it?”  He asks, stepping up as you retreat to poke you square in your chest.  “Stop letting me do it.”

He goes to tap your face again, but this time your forearm comes up to swat his away before he can make contact, and he seems pleased for the moment.  Din steps back and hits his chest again.  “Come on.”

He lets you get in just a few more blows before coming at you again.  You smack his hand away and then go to throw another punch, but he’s quick.  He cheats—goes for you twice in a row when you’re not expecting it, and taps the vulnerable spot on your side for the second time today.  It hits you like a bullet and takes you a second to snap out of the abrupt shot of pain.

“Come on,” Din taunts once more, curling his mismatched fingers at you—one hand leathered and the other tan and bare.  He sounds like he’s grinning under the helmet, starting to enjoy this way too fucking much.  It makes your blood boil, makes you just stand there like an idiot for a few seconds and fume at his audacity.

Apparently you take too long getting pissed off at him.  He comes at you first, going for your side again, but you shove his arm out of the way with a growl.  Except his other arm flashes and you react instantly, ducking under the wide, careful swipe aimed for your cheek and then zeroing in on the same exact spot below his ribs he’s been torturing you with all day, the one left wide open while his arm misses its mark.

Except—yours isn’t a tap, or a flick.  It’s a hard uppercut.

Air rushes through the modulator as he groans and stumbles sideways, gasping and trying to steady himself.  Triumph surges through your veins as you watch him, shaking your hand out at your side to quickly encourage the numbness away, your knuckles not yet used to hitting bone.  He clutches his side and shakes the helmet violently in an effort to regain himself, breathing hard through the filter and—

The visor instantly jerks to you and you’re already taking a step back on instinct, adrenaline roaring.  He snaps upright as you continue to retreat—until you trip over yourself and plunge to the grass.

A reflection catches in your peripheral, and you whip your head to the side to see the kid completely passed out in his metallic cradle, eyes closed and mouth drooping a bit.  The sight shoots pure exhilaration through you, but it’s nothing compared to the thrill of only seeing him there for a split second before chrome shields instantly slide shut over his head.

You look back to Din just in time to see him dropping his gloved hand back down to his side and taking quick steps towards you—and you react without thinking.  You scramble over on your hands and knees and then launch forwards before you’re even halfway off the ground, finding your feet as you stumble into a run and hearing footsteps pick up behind you.

Maker, it’s been ages since you’ve run like this.  You don’t even know why you’re running—you just do, it just feels like you should.  Your body barrels through tall grass and your heart thunders faster than the sound of your pumping legs, louder than the wind whipping through your ears.  You don’t know if he purposefully allows you to get this far or if you’re genuinely quick—

—nope.  Nope, you’re not quick, because he suddenly bursts into a sprint behind you and gains way too much ground way too quickly.  You try to break left as soon as you realize what’s happening, but he’s too fast and hooks an arm around your stomach just before you’re out of reach.  Din yanks you back to his chest as he twists around and takes you both to the ground, his shoulder blades slamming down first and softening your landing with his whole body and a grunt, skidding you both to a halt in the endlessly wavy field.

The wind is knocked out of you regardless.  You try and struggle off of him but the positioning makes it almost impossible—your abdominal muscles are no match for the strength of his arms wrapped around your stomach, keeping your body pinned tight to his as you wrestle to lift against him in the grass.

“Fight harder,” Din growls raggedly in your ear, and your pussy seizes with need when you feel how rock hard he is against your ass.  It encourages you—you make a rough sound towards the sky and then lift against him with all your strength, and your elbow comes down hard into his ribcage.  Air whooshes out of him and his arms loosen just slightly.  You’re able to wiggle off him and start crawling away, but then he heaves over and snatches at your pant leg—

Which means you pull them down yourself as you keep clawing yourself forward by your arms, raw excitement coursing through your veins, the fabric pulling tight over your ass and then bunching around your thighs.  You squeal and flounder and kick at him—but Din just grabs at your ankle and then pins your leg to the ground, pushing up and using your calves to clamor on top of you with brute strength, catching your underwear and ripping them down too.  Your heart pounds and your pussy just about floods itself hearing him dig in his pants to pull his cock out, his breath coming heavy through the helmet.

Maker, you’re so fucking ready for it.  You keep struggling just because your body is telling you to, but nothing close to the word ‘stop’ ever leaves your mouth, never even comes to mind.  You feel wetness slicking your inner thighs as Din grunts and plants an arm next to your head, his bare hand shooting out to hover in front of your face.  You flinch—but he keeps it there, palm open in front of your lips in silent expectation.

“Wet or dry,” he snarls when you don’t immediately react.  “I don’t give a shit.”

Still, his hand stays right in front of your face long enough to let you make up your mind.

And… not lick it.

After a moment, Din makes a sound that drops another wave of white hot arousal down through your stomach—a furious, growly noise that resembles distorted static passing through the filter.  He angles his cock against your opening and when you hear him muttering angrily, you think he’s scolding you for it.  Calling you dirty under his breath, promising you you’ll regret saying that in a second.  But no—he’s—

“Perfect.  Perfect little girl, fucking perfect,” Din hisses darkly, pushing into your soaking entrance without anything but your slick to ease his way.  “H-How are you—s-so fuck—ing—

Oh Maker, you turn your head into the grass and cry out through the delicious, blissful intrusion, pushing your hips back against his—and Din curses as he quickly bottoms out, making sure he lurches fully into you before his hands find out exactly where they want to be.  They land on your lower back and he mounts up, pinning your body hard to the ground with almost his full weight.  It means you can rip out as much grass with your useless arms as you want—he doesn’t even give you a single moment now that he’s successfully rooted you to the crushed greenery.  You bloom for him all the same, as soon as Din pulls out with a wet sound and then starts fucking you strong and steady.

It’s sharp.  Biting.  Even the pleasure has a hard edge to it, completely paralyzing you even if you could struggle in this position.  His hands are pushing down so hard that the ground digs into your tummy and makes his cock angle and slam right into your g-spot each and every time.  You want to moan out your ecstasy but he’s wringing the air from your lungs with every shattering swing of his hips back and forth, quickly speeding up as he goes and taking out a full night’s worth of deprivation on you.

Ngh.  Take.  Cock.  So.  Fucking.  Good—” Din grits with every mean thrust, the staccato growls of praise getting lost in the echoing, rhythmic clap of his hips.  You can’t fucking breathe—the pleasure is too overwhelming, your face is pressed into the grass, he’s got almost all his weight on you.  You’re helpless to do anything besides close your eyes, furrow your brows, drop your jaw, and just let him own your body in the middle of this beautiful oasis.  The heavy, wild thrusts steal every sense away from you, any ability to think beyond the fractured piece of heaven he’s striking inside you over and over.  You don’t even feel him grabbing your asscheeks and spreading them—

Somebody makes a pitiful, breathless whine—it’s you, you realize.  You make that sound, because worn leather lands right on the entrance he was denied last night and shamelessly breaches it before anything else can interrupt him.

“Tight,” he hisses, slowly sinking his thumb all the way down to the knuckle while you clench your eyes shut and choke out his name, “—f-fucking tight—”

His cock pulses inside you and you bear down as hard as you can on it in return, trying to get accustomed to being penetrated in two places at once.  He doesn’t move his thumb after that—he just keeps it there, deep inside you while he continues wrecking you with the brutal hammering of his hips from behind. 

Still—the impropriety of it starts to burn you up, how… dirty it is.  Getting the life fucked out of you in broad daylight, in the middle of a wide open field, the thickest finger he has buried deep in your ass, helpless to do anything else besides lay here and let him—you feel yourself start to clamp down, steadily getting tighter and tighter around the intrusions while he grits out hard curses and keeps giving it to you through the rapid build.

His name—you start repeating it into the ground like it’s the only thing you’ve ever known.  The word scrapes from your throat over and over, and you try to pull at the grass but your hands are clenched into fists and you can’t seem to remember which muscles to use to open them.

“You like this?”  You’re able to hear him grit from above you.  “Like when I—fuck—when I fuck you l-like this?  When I just.  H-Hold you down and take—” he chokes, “—take what I w-want—

You can’t respond, but fuck yes, you do.  The kindling spark inside you suddenly flares up and starts to spread through your body like wildfire, tightening, tightening, tightening, but then—

He’s so pent up—Din cums.

Devastatingly early.

The savage thrusts suddenly stutter to a halt and the gasp he takes in sounds like it physically hurts him.  Like the orgasm is just ripped out of him.  His hold turns to steel on you, as if he thinks you can somehow get away right now, and Din cums deep inside your spasming cunt with a shuddering, desperate groan of your name. 

It’s like it drains everything from him—he slumps, just conscious enough to slowly ease his thumb out of your tight asshole, and then he collapses in the grass next to you.  You stay there for just a second and shake next to him, muscles feeling like they’re creaking even while just laying on the ground like this, completely motionless.

“Shit—was that—”  Din pants, turning and scooting over to you to brush your hair out of your face with his bare hand, “was that… okay?  Do you… do you need…?”

You’re still so submissive, still so high on the overwhelming rush of pleasure, your mouth opens and croaks out a response without your permission.  “It was good.”

“Yeah?”  He huffs, dropping back on the grass and trying to catch his breath.  “Good.”

And… it’s true.  It was good, it was absolutely fucking amazing.  So overpowering, such a hard fuck that you almost don’t think about the fact that you didn’t actually cum from it.  The thought doesn’t really even register with you fully, not yet.

Eventually you both push yourselves up, each of you equally lacking in energy, just in different ways.  Din looks like he’s drunk—unbalanced and dizzy while he removes his glove and stuffs it into one of his pockets, before carefully tucking his spent cock back in his trousers.  In contrast, you’re nothing more than another trembling blade of grass in an enormous landscape of them, flimsy and yielding to the powerful, rippling wind as you attempt to adjust your clothing.

It’s fine, you tell yourself on the slow, quiet walk back.  Sex doesn’t always need to end in a fiery orgasm.  Sometimes a rough pounding hits the spot, scratches that itch.  You feel like you’re a newborn blurg trying to balance your oddly proportioned weight on two noodle legs as Din’s hand patiently guides you from your lower back, and a bright flare of arousal arcs through you feeling how gentle his hold is compared to the way his cum is steadily leaking from your throbbing, aching cunt.

You don’t need to cum every single time he fucks you.  It’s fine.

 


 

Upon returning to the sight of the unbothered, napping kid, you both decide to walk a bit more, and you learn your lesson this time.  The sun glints bright against Din’s left side while traveling in this direction, so you stick purposefully to his right the entire time.

In the meantime, you share easy conversation and attempt to regain some semblance of control over your still slightly… restless body.  Slowly but surely, your feverish arousal for him dims and fades to the backburner, replaced instead by… softer, quieter feelings.  There’s not a solid word for it, not really.  If you were mixing on a palette, you’d start out with a base of gentle contentment and then add a big dollop of affection, diluted with silence until it’s a swirling, pastel… color you don’t have a name for, but cherish all the same.

The baby wakes up about halfway through the afternoon hike, and he’s better now too.  Eventually your ragtag party finds a place to settle for the night—a small clearing in the field at the edge of a thick forest.  There’s a sizable log and boulder situated relatively close together, with a wide open space to make a fire in the center.

Din disappears for a bit to go get some firewood from the looming forest while you entertain the kid; the log is tilted perfectly to allow you both to watch the sunset, and you easily converse with the riveting baby talk as if he’s an absolute genius.

“I’m not so sure about that, honestly,” you tell him diplomatically, receiving nothing but unintelligible babbles in response as he climbs all over you.  “Well, no actually, because there’s two major schools of thought concerning that, the first being—”

He pops up in front of your face to interrupt you heatedly and you scoff, rolling your eyes over the loud gibberish.  “Look, I’d appreciate it if we could tone down the passive-aggressiveness, okay?  If we can’t have a respectful discussi—”

Three green fingers settle over your lips and you gasp at the nerve of him, forced to let him continue to ramble on your lap about absolutely nothing at all, the size of his ego soon growing to match the size of his ears.

“Hear that, shiny?”  You turn your head and ask his father upon his eventual return, and Din grunts distractedly as he dumps the firewood down and rummages around in the bag for a lighter.  Tilting your head back towards the kid, you prompt him with a raised brow.  “Tell him what you just told me.”

The baby bursts into more nonsense, encouraged by your attention, and Din crouches down to set the wood into position in the dusky twilight glow while saying nothing at all, and it somehow manages to pass as listening intently.

It continues to go on like that far longer than you expected it would, the baby apparently having quite the bone to pick about something that’s been on his mind, and one point you have to rest your hand over his mouth so he finally stops babbling.  “Hey, that’s not very nice,” you scold him quietly.  “I’m sure his face is perfectly normal under there.”

The helmet turns just slightly towards you, unamused while you snort at your own joke for a little bit. 

I didn’t say it,” you remind him after far too long of just celebrating your own hilarity, clearing your throat through the stifled chuckles.  “I’m just translating.”

“Oh yeah?”  He eventually murmurs, beginning to ignite some of the crumpled twigs at the center of the pile, and if you worked at it, you could probably convince yourself he’s sharing your gentle smile.  More muted than yours perhaps, but beautiful and easy on his face, fitting him simply and perfectly.  “What did… What did he say I look like?”

You would’ve shot something ridiculous back at him, something snarky and facetious, but you stop short.  You catch it—underneath his voice, it sounds… timid, almost.  Uncertain.  It makes you take just a second in responding.

“Brown eyes,” you tell him after a moment, and Din doesn’t visibly react, just continues to slowly add small branches to kindle the flame.  It’s so quiet out here, but it’s different from hyperspace quiet.  This quiet is… natural.  Warm, and.  Free.  Fleeting, allowed to roam.  In a way that hyperspace just feels compact, stifling.  “He said you have… brown eyes.  And a… a strong bone structure, striking features.  A sharp, chiseled jaw, dark facial hair.  And, uh.  He also said…”

Din keeps silently feeding the fire until it’s crackling and bright, and then he settles back on his butt next to it, both elbows resting on his knees, not moving the visor towards you but waiting for you to finish regardless. 

The stunning backdrop gives way to a stunning surge of bravery.

“He said you make a bunch of faces under there that nobody ever sees,” you say softly, blinking at Din in the fading twilight while the kid sits silently in your lap.  “That you’re an open book.  Behind a metal wall.  And you have a really nice smile, I bet—he bets… he bets you probably do it more often than anyone realizes.  And your… your hair starts to curl when you let it grow long, and.  And you’re almost guaranteed to be drop dead gorgeous under there, and it’s a real fucking shame that you’ve probably never had anyone tell you it.”

Din tilts his helmet at you, looks at you for a long time—long enough for blood to rush to your cheeks and for you to get fidgety.  But when he finally does respond, his voice is gentle through the modulator.  “He said that.”

You mhm at him quickly, nodding your head and turning away as casually as you can, heart beating incredibly fast for some reason.  “Just the translator.”

A lovely silence soon blankets the both of you, a warmth permeating through to your bones that has nothing to do with the steadily growing fire.

 


 

A little while later, the kid has retired to his reflective cradle and the dancing flames are the only source of light besides the bright moon hanging directly overhead.  Din sits with his back to the large boulder and digs through the bag, pulling out all sorts of food you picked up before leaving the village this morning and handing them to you.  Something red and unfocused flashes oddly against the curve of his helmet when he reaches his hand back in, but it’s only for a second—he’s already pushing more food at you and filling your arms with bags of dried meats, fresh fruit, and loaves of bread.

“Stars,” you whisper under your breath, examining the feast in the flickering firelight.  “Here, take—take some of this, it’s too much.”

“There’s more in here,” he counters lowly, zipping the bag and dropping it somewhere on the other side of his body.  “The kid hasn’t eaten all day.  Might crawl away and catch himself a Gungan later if you don’t feed him soon.”

“No, I mean—” you let all the food drop into your lap and start sorting the items, “—you need to eat.  What do you want?  There’s plenty.”

“I’m not hungry,” he answers, far too quickly to have actually taken a moment to check.  “Just give me whatever you two don’t eat when you’re finished, I’ll put it back in the bag.”

Okay, if he’s gonna play it like this, you’ll just have to choose for him.  You’ve already dedicated at least two bags of dried meat to the kid, which takes care of him.  So, you take an extended moment to methodically find the ripest fruit in the bunch, the one with the most squish to it, and then search for the softest loaf of bread, not caring that Din is silently watching you.  You gather both of them in your arms and then pluck three bags of meat from the pile, before depositing all of them back into his lap.

“Eat,” you urge quietly, grabbing another portion of food for yourself, heavy on the fruit.  “Don’t inhale it.  Please.”

With that, you grab the kid’s food and then scoop the little guy up from his shield with your free arm, standing and walking to the other side of the fire.  You carefully plop yourself down with your back purposefully to Din, the kid happily finding a place on your lap with his back to you and reaching six little fingers out for the food.

You start eating, and after a moment, you smile around the large bites of fruit at the sound of metal clinking against stone.  The baby, of course, refuses to even open the bag of dried meat you set in front of him, so you roll your eyes and do it yourself, hoping he’ll at least eat like an adult and give you some time to feed yourself.  But no—the fifty year old creep demands to be hand fed, and any other day, you wouldn’t have let him get away with it.

Today, you’re just really fucking.  Happy.

You’re unbelievably happy.  Having spent a few days on this gorgeous planet, your two favorite people in the galaxy with you.  It fills your heart with air.

You start out quiet, praying you aren’t bothering Din as he (hopefully) continues to relax and enjoy his food behind you.  You begin humming your favorite melody under the sound of the crackling flames, the source of heat burning pleasantly against the curve of your lower back, setting another piece of dried meat into the kid’s cute little mouth and only just slightly annoyed that he refuses to do this himself.  Admittedly though, you do love babying him, especially when he shows you his adorable little chompers.

One bite for him, two bites for you.  That’s the deal, even though you’re hungry and you deserve way more than double his food intake rate.  You try to be quiet enough that your gentle humming will get lost with the fire between you and Din, and he never says anything or tells you to cut it out, so you just continue to let your cheerful mood provide a quiet soundtrack to the moonlit evening.

Even better, you and the kid actually finish snacking before he does, and you’re more than willing to wait for him, thrilled that this is actually happening.  It’s so simple, such a throwaway thing, but.  Knowing he used to eat his meals as quick as he can and now he’s comfortable enough to just take a second and enjoy it… you don’t know, there’s something inherently meaningful about it, something that you specifically notice.  Something about this, about sitting around a fire and sharing a meal together for the first time—even with your back turned to him, it just feels… familial.  In a way.  More than it’s ever felt before.

You have a little moment.  It’s nice.  You drop your head back and gaze up at the night sky, in awe of how different the stars look from this side of the galaxy and remembering how far you’ve come.  The kid follows suit, leaning back against your tummy and blinking silently at the universe, the star-speckled sky reflecting in his gigantic dark eyes.

He starts to doze after awhile, listening to you hum softly to yourself, but the noise of a helmet finally lifting from the boulder and most likely fitting itself back in its rightful place snaps him awake just enough.  The kid pushes off you and waddles over to his dad, and you scoot yourself back over to your little log while he unceremoniously clamors up onto Din’s thighs.

Admittedly, it’s really fucking cute.  The visor moves just enough to watch him plop his little green butt down and find a comfy position on his lap, not helping but not preventing the movement either.  A heartwarming, silent kind of tolerance hardened men have for innocent little creatures that makes you bite your lip to hide your smile.  What a softie.

You sit there in companionable quiet, staring deep into the dancing firelight and losing track of time just a bit.  They’re hypnotic, the flames.  Crackling and popping, warming just the forward-facing parts of you and nearly burning your cheeks, but you love it.  Breathing in the woodsy campfire air, hearing the gentle breeze float through the field surrounding you, the quiet forest waving dark and deep in the distance.  The midnight sky stretches long above you and the stars seem… brighter than they were on Arvala-7.  They probably aren’t—that planet is practically abandoned and has almost no light pollution whatsoever compared to Naboo, but… maybe it’s because now they feel… in reach.  Something you can touch.  Interact with.  Something you can cover your eyes, blindly point at, and then say—that one.  That’s where we should go next.

After awhile—you have no idea how long—you blink your gaze over to Din and startle to find the helmet facing you directly, shamelessly, the kid completely passed out on his lap as the flames reflect in the visor.

Without intending to, you’re already thinking back to earlier today.  How quickly he bolted after you, how strong he was bringing you to the ground, pinning you under him and taking what was so rudely denied to him last night.

You didn’t actually finish, and you can still feel it simmering down low.  Din’s cum has been steadily leaking from you all day, and while you eventually became successful at blocking out the sensation, it suddenly slams to the forefront of your mind again.  The visor pierces deep into you while you start to squirm just a bit against the rough log pressed into your back.  You can still feel him when you flex your lower muscles, and you bite your lip and do it repeatedly while blinking at him, waiting, squeezing your thighs together and loving the reminder.

He still hasn’t said anything to you, and you start to get antsy under his stare.  Your body works itself up even more, fueled by the flames reflecting in his helmet.  After a few more moments of silent tension, you’ve finally had enough.

“Din,” you whisper, trying not to make it sound like a whine and his head quickly lifts when you didn’t even realize it was slightly tipped forward.  The helmet rolls back in a drowsy little circle, as if his neck is suddenly remembering the weight burdening it.  Embarrassment instantly floods you.  “Oh.  Shit.  I’m so stupid.  I’m sor—”

Only he’s already pushing himself up with his free arm, lethargic and drunk with exhaustion, not saying a single word as he sets the conked out kid in the cradle and closes the shield over his sleepy little head with the push of a button.

You bite your lip as he drags himself over to you, swinging a leg behind you and then dropping down without any ceremony, firmly inserting himself between the uncomfortable log and your back.  Your butt is shoved forward from the sudden displacement but he’s not done.  Din wraps both his arms around you and pulls, dragging you up onto his long torso while his legs close under you and you’re off the ground completely.

Oh Maker, he’s already thousands of times more comfortable than sleeping up against the log would be.  He makes the best bed in the galaxy, big and warm and firm under you, letting you stretch out long on him.  You lounge on his lap and drop your head to his shoulder, resting your arms on top of his as they drape heavy across your belly.

“Sorry,” he gruffs, voice low and rough through the modulator.  The filter rings sharp through your ear when it’s pressed up against his helmet like this.  “Just need a few hours.  Didn’t… didn't sleep great last night.”

You close your eyes and internally scold yourself, now taking responsibility for his lack of rest for the past two days.  Shit.  You don’t actively respond, feeling slightly put out, but your body is of another mind altogether.  It still continues trundling down the steep slope you shoved it towards earlier, when you stupidly thought he was giving you eyes under the helmet instead of him being passed out cold.  You wiggle against him just slightly under the guise of finding a comfortable position, but it has unintentional consequences.

You breathe out a soft sigh when your hips move over his cock, biting your lip at the sensation but trying so hard to stop it in its tracks.  He’s exhausted, and he already fucked the life out of you today, there’s no way he’ll want to go again this soon.  Except—then he shifts and mmms low in his throat.

“And you,” Din murmurs quietly, reaching a hand down to slowly push under your pants, “need to start being more honest with me.”

“What are you t—oh, stars,” you whisper, your body shuddering as one of his thick fingers slowly dips into your slit.

Shit, you’re wet,” he groans, sinking his hand down lower to feel remnants of himself still easing its way out of you.  Your lashes flutter as your jaw drops, and his cock gets hard against your spine almost immediately.  “You’re fucking… soaked.  I—I asked if you came and you said yeah,” he whispers low to you, but you shake your head.  “Why’d you lie to me abo—”

“No, no—” you protest breathlessly, “—you asked if it was okay, and then I said—”

“You said it was good.  It’s not good if you didn’t cum,” he grunts quietly, and the tip of his finger now drawing tight circles over your clit makes it damn near impossible to argue.  “I didn’t fuck you right if you didn’t cum.  You should be fucked right.”

“Maker, you fuck me exactly how I need to be fucked,” you whimper, tilting your head until your lips are pressed against the curve of his helmet while his hand steadily works under your pants.  “And—oh, fuck, that’s… h-however you need to fuck me.”

“Fuck—obedient little thing…” he huffs, starting to rub harder over your clit.  “What I need is for you to cum.  From now on, you’ll tell me.  Say yes.”

“Yes,” you moan into the beskar, your eyes fluttering back at the slowly building pressure.

“Say, ‘yes, Din,’” he breathes.

“Yes, Din,” you dutifully repeat, lifting your hips up against his hand, and he groans softly through the modulator.

“Say, ‘Din, I need something to cum on’,” he whispers.

You’re delirious, you don’t even catch it before most of it is already out of your mouth.  “Din, I need something to c—” you cut off but he’s already reaching down between your bodies to ease his cock out, before yanking your pants down your ass just enough to position himself up against your entrance.

He rocks his hips up and he slides in easier than ever before, and you… don’t know what you’re expecting, but he surprises you nonetheless.  He doesn’t start thrusting into you at all.  Even though he’s rock hard inside you, thick and pulsing and breaking you open, he doesn’t move a single inch.  He just keeps himself there, continuing to rub circles around your clit and giving you exactly what he prompted you to ask for.

Something to cum on.

Your body tenses and squeezes him, and Din shushes you before you realize you were making noise.  His free hand comes up to settle tight over your mouth and guide you turn your head away from his helmet.  At first you think it’s because your heavy breathing was probably fogging the visor up, but no—his fingers leave your pussy for a split second and you hear him maneuver himself out of it.  The hollow noise it makes thunking to the ground is beginning to become your favorite sound in this universe.

But then of course, Din buries his face into your neck and starts talking again, whispering low praises behind your ear with that bassy, dark chocolate rasp, and you have to remind yourself to keep breathing.  His fingers return to your cunt to slowly rub your clit and his cock throbs hotter than sin inside you, building your pleasure into a strong, slow crescendo.

You start to whimper unintentionally, but his hand is wrapped tight around your mouth, muting and confining the desperate sounds to your throat.  His finger presses down harder on your clit and his cock flexes inside you.

“That’s it, sw—sweet girl,” Din mutters, his voice interrupted by his own staccato breaths and tight gasps the longer he talks you through it, the longer he keeps himself perfectly still while engulfed in your drenched, fluttering cunt.  “That’s—that’s it, I can feel it c-coming.  Fuck—make it good for me, give me a good one—”

His words shove you right over a cliff you didn’t even realize was there until you were dangling over the steep drop for an extended moment like a cartoon.  Everything squeezes around him unbearably tight—your hands dig into his forearms, your back arches up against him, your pussy constricts his thick cock until you feel like you’re hurting the both of you with it, and Din’s breath catches next to your ear while you’re both suspended in thin air for a split second—

—before you’re convulsing in pure bliss, flooding his cock with cum while he rasps out, “good girl,” into the crook of your neck and rocks his hips up into yours.  The few heavenly inches of movement hits something jaw-dropping inside you and nearly makes you scream against his palm, launching your body even higher into mind-bending rapture.  Fucking Maker, you cum hard for him, on him, around him.  You downright drown his cock in your pleasure, suffocate it and work out the aching tightness in your pussy all over him until you feel like you can’t breathe anymore.

Mmm…” Din murmurs quietly, continuing to circle your swollen clit hard through the shattering aftershocks.  His voice is deep and sinful and vibrates your whole back with its frequency, but something underneath it also sounds as if he’s considering, before he seems to land on an answer to a wordless question he just asked himself.  “…One more.”

And, like the fucking Maker himself commanded it, another blazing hot wave of fire suddenly rips you apart and sends you spasming rhythmically around the throbbing cock buried inside you once again.  This one wrings you completely dry, robbing you of every sense.  The ragged whine you make behind his hand must be too loud—his fingers quickly tighten around your jaw and lock down, keeping you as still as possible while you give him everything you have to give.

Eventually the sparks die out and you’re left a shell of what you once were, clamping down hard on him and shuddering your bliss at the night sky.  He lays there silently under you, holding you as you fall back down to reality.  Your breathing is a mess and so is everything below your waist, and your whole body jerks when Din carefully slides his hand from your pussy and rubs gently over your thighs, your tummy, your chest.

“That was…” you croak out, trying to remember how to speak, “ … g-good.”

“Go to sleep,” he whispers, pressing soft kisses against the side of your neck.  You can hear the gentle grin he’s hiding from you, knowing he completely incapacitated you.

“But what about—” you start to protest, when Din’s teeth sink into your flesh and your pussy seizes up tight around him, making him choke a hoarse little groan into your skin.

After a moment, he eases his throbbing cock out of you, and he resets your clothing while you whimper in distress.  “Go to sleep,” Din murmurs, before softly kissing your neck once more, and your eyes slowly droop against your will.  Fuck, his body beats a king size mattress any day of the week.  “I’ll be here when you wake up.”

 


 

He…

He isn’t.

Chapter Text

You jerk awake to the sound of whimpers.

It’s late.  The bonfire is nothing more than glowing coals, and your back is resting against a scratchy log instead of a long, comfortable chest.  You blink rapidly, trying to figure out where that noise is comi—

The kid.  Fussy in his crib, his gasps starting to turn into quiet sobs.

“Hey,” you murmur, aiming for soft and comforting, but the sleep sits right in the middle of your vocal cords and splits your voice in half, making you sound like an exhausted demon.  Weirdly enough, it seems to chill him out (did a demon actually teach him how to choke people without touching them?) and you sit up to blearily look around.  Where’s Din?  “Where’s—” you rub your eyes and squint around once more, “—where’d your dad go, bug?”

The clearing is bare.  The field is, too—no path, excluding the one you three made on the hike here.  Nothing in the distant forest, and the black duffel bag sits somewhere near your feet.

Alright, no worries, maybe he just… went to take a leak or something.  Really… oddly far away.  That’s fine.  Sometimes humans have to do that—maybe he has a.  A shy bladder.  Or something.  You’re totally fine.  The kid blinks back at you through equally tired eyes, his head tilting as he seems to be taking cues from you right now in the absence of his father.  You both should just try to go back to sleep…

Or you can wait up for him.  That sounds like a better plan.  Don’t panic, just trust him.  Give him the benefit of the doubt, it’s the least you can do.

You take a second to look around again, still coming up empty.  It’s dark out, but the moon is suspended high in the sky.  The fire doesn’t even give off much light anymore, just dying embers.  Your eyes scan the ground again, catching on the black bag at your feet.

Was that there when you went to sleep?  No, the last person who had it was Din, and he was sitting over there, in front of the boulder behind the kid’s shield.

You blink down at the stationary bag for a few more seconds, studying it like it’ll spill all of its secrets if you glare hard enough, but then something sparks in your memory.  Something odd, something you only noticed for a second last night.  There was a red light that reflected off Din’s helmet when he reached into the bag for food earlier, wasn’t there?

You think back on it, try to isolate the hazy memory.  If it was a laser sight, you would’ve recognized the bright beam and panicked, but you didn’t.  It was unfocused, dim.  Flashing.

Had… had Din brought a tracking fob with him from the Crest?  But why?

Maker, it’s like your mind knows it should speed up but it’s still too stupid to actually do it.  You should… you should check the bag, right?  Just in case… you don’t know.  You’re being ridiculous.

You reach out to catch the dark bag nonetheless and then unzip it, rifling through it for a particular item you figure should be in here somewhere.  Food, food, more food…

Somewhere…

—It’s not here.  No tracking fob here.  No red light to be seen of.

Had you been imagining it?

No, you determine after a second.  No, because you remember thinking it was odd—you specifically noticed it, clearly recognized it but didn’t contemplate too much into it at the time.

Alright, no worries, maybe he… maybe he went on a quick little hunt while you were both sleeping.  He must’ve gone back to the ship to grab his armor and guns and then set off.  That’s fine, there’s more food in the bag.  He said he’d be here when you woke up, which most likely means morning.  Right?

Cool.  Cool cool cool, you can wait until morning.  You can just settle back down against the log right here and find a comfortable position—there we go—and just wait for the sunrise, wait for the inevitable return of your missing party member.  Party leader, arguably.  He’ll come back, he always does.

Your body begins to relax, even though something still seems… strange about this.  Like there’s something important you’re still missing.

… The field is bare.

You instantly sit up and turn back to study it in the moonlight, study the single path you left on your way here.  You remember hiking at least… a grand total of two hours to get here from the Crest, maybe?  Granted, you took quite the detour, but that just means he would’ve carved a distinct, new path on his way back—

Would he… would he really go on a hunt without going back to the ship first?  Would Mando truly venture out—without telling you—to go collect a quarry without any weapon on him whatsoever?  Any piece of armor besides a helmet?

Does that seem right to you?

Fuck, you suddenly feel wide awake, and the baby starts gasping out troubled cries again.  You push yourself up to your feet and stumble around the dying flames to go comfort him, dropping to your knees next to the reflective sphere.  Your head stays on a constant swivel as you quiet him, brushing the pad of your thumb along his wrinkled forehead and shushing him as you keep looking out at the breezy field of grass, trying to see if you missed anything.  

Fuck, maybe you’re just overreacting.  What direction is the ship?  Which way did you…?  You think back, trying to piece together limited information of what you can remember about today.  Glancing back down at the log you slept on and then the path leading away from the clearing, rapidfire calculations start going off in your head.  No, you realize after a second of frantic thought—no, the sun would’ve—if you walked…

Eventually, you’re able to pinpoint a general idea of where the ship should be, and if you’re right, then he definitely would’ve left a new path to get back to it.  You don’t like this.  It’s out of character for him.  It sits too weird with you, and the kid rarely starts crying unless something is bothering him.

Alright, alright, don’t panic.  Din is a professional.  He must’ve left on purpose—you would’ve woken up if there was any sort of struggle, or even just an exchange.  Odds are, he grabbed the tracking fob and just… went to go get the quarry.  

Without waking you.  Without telling you.  Without bringing anything else with him.  No armor.  No guns.  Just the fob.

Some strange sense of dread begins to fill you, one that feels all the worse when there’s no clear explanation for it.  You won’t pretend like you’re an expert, but to a Mandalorian, that seems like it could be considered suicidal, wouldn’t it?  What reason would he have to do this?

The field continues to wave, undisturbed, in all surrounding directions except one.  You look over at the clearing leading to the dark forest, the treetops too thick to let anything but traces of crystal moonlight through.  If he left… he’ll have gone that way.  The only direction that wouldn’t leave a path.

Okay.  So there's a decision that needs to be made.  You can either stay here, in the middle of this wide open field until the sun comes up, and hopefully he comes back by then.  Or… you could.  Go check if something went wrong.

The forest is gorgeous from here, you can see that.  Thick treetops, drifting gently in the breeze, steady and quiet and picturesque.  Admittedly, you can also see a haunting, looming nightmare of darkness warning you to stay away from whatever it’s hiding.  This is an unfamiliar planet.  You know it’s safe, this is the most isolated sector and Din said practically no crime happens here, but.  He also said he’d be here when you woke up.

Hang on, wait.  Something catches in your peripheral.  There—right on the other side of the kid’s crib, you see—

A glove.

… He left the glove.  Whether on purpose or by accident, Din left his glove.  The one connected to the vambrace, the one that houses all his controls.  

The one that houses the comm link.

The piece of armor is already in your trembling fingers before you realize you even went to grab it.  Anxiety, stress, dread—you don’t know which weighs on you heavier while you slowly rotate it in your hands, trying to understand what’s happening right now.  He left his emergency communicator.  The only chance you have at contacting him unless he decides to come back.

Panic suddenly constricts in your chest, and you make your decision blindly.  The kid continues to squeak out little whimpers as your arm sinks down into the leather and you pull the gauntlet up almost to your elbow, flexing your fingers inside the fabric and feeling your heart beating in your throat.  The controls are fairly basic, it doesn’t take much time to figure out which button he synced with the hovering sphere, which command he uses to lock the two locations together.

“Chill out, kiddo,” you whisper, doing your best to calm your own raging uncertainty.  Conviction is key, you think.  You made your decision.  Not wanting to waste any more time in case something went awry, you sling the bag over your shoulder and set off in the direction of the trees, feeling… woefully underprepared for whatever may potentially face you.

The forest is quiet as you finally make your way past the first few trees marking its beginning, or end, and you need a second to blink and adjust your vision.  It’s dark—if you thought it was dark when you awoke, it’s nothing compared to this.  The treetops are thick and barely allow any moonlight to pass through their dense leaves whatsoever, just bits and pieces scattered here or there.  There’s no path, no trail, just nature.  Fallen logs, moss, rock and boulder formations you have to avoid.

You shush your agitated ward again, wanting to control yourself because you’re getting the kid worked up into baby battle mode with no visible threats to see.  He reads energies—he’s capable when he wants to be, when he deems the situation fit.  Right now he’s quieted somewhat but he’s still on high alert, recycling your inner panic outwards until you feel the air shifting around you, an… unexplainable phenomena you can’t even describe properly.

Well, you figure.  If anything, he’s far more dangerous than any weapon Din typically carries with him.  You tend to forget, most of the time.  He’s never hurt you, no matter how boisterous the tantrums sometimes are, and you find yourself very rarely thinking of him as anything other than an innocent, helpless baby you’re tasked with protecting.  Though it appears that most of the time, he’s been the one protecting you.

What are you saying?  There’s no need for protection right now, you’re simply searching for your absent ally.  You’re not being brave—no matter how quickly your heart is beating or how much your hands are sweating, you’re not being brave because bravery implies facing something you fear.  You have nothing to fear, it’s nothing more than an abandoned forest.  A backdrop for your endeavor.

Though… though now that you think about it, this setting looks eerily similar to one you’ll have seared into your memory forever.  The forest on Corellia.

You will the thought away with a frantic shake of your head.  Naboo is safe, Naboo is safe— it’s not like Corellia.  It’s not crawling with people desperate for food and credits, desperate enough to resort to kidnapping and slave trade.  Naboo will economically prosper no matter what threat befalls the galaxy, its industry comes from tourism and resorting.

You stop for a second, needing a breather.  Just for a second.  You haven’t been walking more than fifteen minutes but the terrain makes your feet hurt.  Sure, there are clearings between trees and the ground isn’t complete overflowing with obstacles, but they’re still present.  The scattered rocks dig in under your shoes and some of the bushes you pass by have sharp leaves or thorns—but it’s the sprawling root systems that prove to be the worst.  They crawl across the ground like they can’t decide whether they want to be part of it or not, and more than once you stub your toe on a hidden tube arching a few inches out of the mossy soil.

A part of you almost has to remind yourself that you’re here because you’re looking for somebody, rather than being trapped here trying to evade something.  The adrenaline and fear are starting to get the best of you, make you too antsy, warp your senses.  You’re deep in the forest now, but not enough to feel the wind disappear yet—you can still hear it rattling around above you, leaves slapping against each other, branches creaking as they tower over you.  You almost wish it were quiet.  You don’t feel comforted by the breeze anymore, it doesn’t feel like an ever present reassurance as much as it does a burden that masks the noises you could otherwise be hearing.  The snapping of twigs that could potentially be there.  The crunching of leaves under feet that aren’t your own.

So.  You should probably admit now that this was actually a horrendous idea.  Because you’re fucking stupid for not realizing this earlier, but.  Din ventured into this hellscape to find a quarry, did he not?

A… wanted criminal.

Shit.  What the fuck.  That’s a hell of a fucking thing to register this late, isn’t it?

You can turn around, you figure.  You can turn around right now and head back to the campsite—actually, that sounds like a great idea.  You should do that.

You spin around and begin retracing your steps… which, you figure out about five minutes later, is an impossible feat.  None of your surroundings look familiar—or shit, maybe it all looks familiar.  Like… trees.  And fucking rocks.  Trying to distinguish landmarks is almost impossible now, and there’s no way to tell which direction you’re going with no visibility overhead, no celestial body to guide you.

You don’t immediately panic, not until you (quite literally) stumble upon a small stream of water flowing through some stones under your feet.

Well, okay.  That’s not good.  Okay, well, no, you suppose that could be good.  It’s water—it’s a landmark, sure, the tiniest little landmark you've ever seen, but that’s exactly the problem.  You’ve never seen it before.  Which means you’re most definitely not going in the right direction.

At this point, the only option you have is to turn around again.  Maybe you can unintentionally make the same series of stupid mistakes once more to start you right at the beginning.  The kid is still glancing around in his cradle, making sure no harm comes to your useless ass, but then you freeze when you begin to hear something in the distance.  

It’s an unfamiliar sound—a deafening one, even from this far away.  Long and echoing, a giant chorus of… something.  Something you’ve never heard before, something you can’t place.

Your heart is thundering as you walk closer to the source of it, moving slowly and cautiously forwards and having no clue what it could possibly be.  It doesn’t seem to amplify much as you travel closer, which means it must be a ways away still.  It’s terrifying nonetheless—the anticipation, how sweaty your hands are, the way you’re very aware of the muscles in your stomach for some reason.

The baby coos softly at your side, but the suddenness of the gentle noise nearly makes you jump out of your skin.  You gasp and look down at him for the first time in what feels like ages, clutching at your chest, but then—

—then footsteps rush you from behind and something grabs at your shirt.

You react completely on instinct, your body nearly throbbing with adrenaline as you whip around and launch a mean jab aimed at the dark silhouette behind you.  It slams directly into his solar plexus hard enough to bend him in half and ripple through your whole arm with the blowback.  Your other fist pulls back and instantly goes for him again, but he just barely manages to jerk his arm up and block it in time—

And thank the Maker he does.  Because you were just an inch shy from colliding your knuckles against the side of his head in your wild stage of panic.  The one currently covered in devastatingly strong, shiny metal, the helmet just barely visible in the dark forest.

It’s like it doesn’t even register with you—you’re already going to hit him again when Din’s hand hooks around your arm and he yanks you forwards.  Your body slams into his and then he’s wrapping himself around you and holding suffocatingly tight.  Everything inside you still wants to struggle against him, gasping into his shoulder as your heart continues to gallop with terror no matter what your logic tells you.  But he holds harder than steel and the sound of his voice eventually returns to you after a moment, repeating harsh words at you through a familiar vocal filter.

“—me, it’s me, it’s me, I’m right here, stop it, stop it, stop—”

You blink desperately against black fabric, letting the familiar scent, touch, and embrace bring you back down again.  He’s so solid—has such a strong hold on you, absolutely no give to be found, and the devastatingly tight embrace manages to quickly settle you.

But he doesn’t wait long.  As soon as you stop fighting him, he releases you in favor of grabbing your shoulders and shoving you out at arm’s length, frantically jerking the helmet up and down your body and twisting you back and forth while he looks.  Your arms dangle with the inspection and you readily let him move you around like a rag doll, not having enough sense to register anything beyond safe .  You’re safe.  Everything seems to exist in a box right now, far away and yet compact at the same time.  The visor snaps back up to your face and you blink dazedly up at him.

“I’m sorry,” you immediately tell him, voice pitched high and awkward, “woah, hah— whew , ahah—I’m sorry, I-I’m just—“

His fingers hook at your chin and he pulls it up, tilting your head back and forth, allowing the small patch of moonlight beaming through the treetops to catch the water in your eyes.  It glints in shameless betrayal, and you try unsuccessfully to blink it away despite the damage already being done.  Din drops his arm and you lower your chin without the platform propping it up.

“You just—you just—” you gasp out, delayed relief suddenly filling you and making your voice wobble dangerously, “—y-you went on a hunt but you left your armor.  You left your guns, you left everything.  I didn’t know—what could’ve happened, I—why’d you do that?  W-Why—why didn’t you t-tell m—”

He wraps his hand behind your head and pulls you into his chest once more, not saying a single word.  This hug is just as tight as before, just in a different way.  He still uses it as a way to calm you and it still squeezes the air from your body, but this one doesn’t feel like it’s entirely for your benefit anymore.

It takes you a few more seconds to realize his hands are trembling.

You go to pull back, but he tightens, anchoring you to him.  “What’s—” you gasp against the fabric covering his shoulder, “—what’s wrong?  Are you okay?  Where’s the quarry?  What’s—what’s making that sound?  Are we safe?”

Din takes slow, shallow breaths, and you hear it almost too well with your ear shoved against his body.  Little by little, he loosens his grip on you.  Both of you are still panting by the time you’re able to wrench back and look up at him.

Bare, shaky hands push your hair back away from your face, eventually coming to rest framing both of your cheeks.  They’re warm and strong where his fingers wrap around the bend of your jaw, securing you in place, and when he speaks, he sounds like he’s been through hell and back.

“Don’t ever, ” Din whispers brokenly, tugging a little bit to make sure you’re listening.  “Don’t ever— ever run away from me like that.  Ever again.  Understand?”

You stare up at him, wide-eyed and dumb, unmoving.  Is that what he thinks?  That you were trying to… to run away from him?

“I—I wasn’t running,” you immediately stutter out, blinking rapidly at him and trying not to let the confusion show on your face.  “I’d never run—I-I told you I wouldn’t—” 

“I came back and you were gone,” he breathes, his quivering thumbs brushing along the height of your cheekbones.  “I—my kid, he was gone, everything was gone, I-I…”  The helmet shakes back and forth the slightest bit, and then he drops his grip to clamp down on your shoulders, clearing the fragile turmoil from his throat and hardening his tone.  “Listen, you can’t do that—you can’t take my kid and just… just disappear like that, please, promise me you won’t do that agai—”

“You disappeared,” you accuse with a whisper, but it’s like he doesn’t even hear you.

“Promise me ,” he urges, shaking you enough to make your head bobble just slightly, and the quiet plead of his voice through the modulator compels you to acquiesce without a second thought.

“I promise I won’t disappear,” you vow to him, unwavering and earnest.  “Now promise you won’t, either.”

Din stares at you for a moment, his body tense and completely stationary.  He’s still breathing heavy though, his chest rising and falling hard enough for you to count.  One, two, three…   Seven.  Seven whole breaths, before he finally responds.

“I promise,” he eventually declares, before taking a step forward and crowding you, pulling your shoulders in and slowly tilting his helmet down until it rests against your forehead.  The cool metal feels like ice on your burning skin—but you ignore it and allow him to get as close as he can possibly be, to hold you tight and keep you there.  “I promise,” he goes on, “that if you ever—that if something ever happens to you two, and you just… just vanish on me like that again—then I’d—I’d…”

And then his next words steal the air from your lungs, wipe your head clear of any thoughts whatsoever—the hushed, vehement sincerity in his voice.  Yet… calm.  Certain, composed, and with purpose.  Almost as if he could only get you to understand one thing, then he would want it to be this.

“Then I’d tear this whole galaxy apart to find you,” he tells you quietly, tightening his hands on your arms and swearing an oath to you.  “Both.  Both of you.  I’d—I’d never stop.  I’d rain hell.  Tell me you understand.”

“I… I understand,” you finally murmur, and Din quickly pulls you to his chest and wraps himself around you once more without another word.  His fingers tangle in your hair and encourage you to rest your face in the crook of his neck, so you do.  Even though his helmet jabs uncomfortably at your cheek like this, you do your best to just settle down and breathe him in, bring your hands up to rub at his back and wait for his heart rate to slow.

Eventually it does.  It seems like it takes ages, but eventually he's able to unwind his large stature from around you, letting you have a bit more of your own space.  He doesn’t take his hands off you, though—his palm drags down your elbow and catches your bare hand in his, gently tugging.

“Let’s go,” he says quietly, beginning to lead you… somewhere.  Probably out of the forest and back to the ship, but you don’t question it and completely forget about the low rumbling still echoing in the distance.  You follow directly behind him and away from the mysterious sound, the fingers of your right hand still laced with his left, knowing there are far more important questions to be asked.

“Din,” you whisper, but he doesn’t need anymore prompting.

“I thought I’d be quick enough,” he admits, pulling you along by your hand.  “It’s barely been a couple hours.”

You stay silent and focus on your feet, letting him go at his own pace.  More than once he plays bodyguard, standing in front of wickedly sharp branches while you and the kid pass, and there’s never anything said beyond a quiet ‘thank you’ every time he does it.

“I’ve…” he says after a while.  “I’ve been doing this job for awhile.  And there are things… things you learn.  Quick.  Ways to predict people, ways to get in their heads.  Last known locations tell you a lot about a quarry.  Smart ones go to populated planets, planets like Coruscant, planets that make it nearly impossible to find people.  Brave ones go to dangerous planets, suicidal ones try their luck in the Unknown Regions, idiots continue to go about their business on their homeworld without caring.  But planets like this—like Naboo… those are the pacifists.  The ones that don’t ever put up a fight.  Watch your feet.”

You blink and stumble over a hidden root nonetheless, trying to keep up both physically and mentally.  Din tightens his grip and catches you by your elbow.

“This one was like you,” he goes on, pulling you up and leading you forward once more.  “Wasn’t trying to run.  Just wanted to spend his last few months hiding out on the most beautiful place in the galaxy before he got caught.”

“Why didn’t you wake me up?  Why’d you go in the middle of the night?”  You whisper, not upset anymore.  Just trying to understand.  “You couldn’t have waited until morning?”  But Din just shrugs.

“I didn’t want to remind you.”  His sentence is short and stunted, yet serves to answer all three of your questions without providing any information beyond that, the unspoken sentiment barreling forth and smashing into you full force.  He didn’t want to remind you.  He wanted to leave while you were asleep and then return before you woke up, never letting you remember that responsibilities exist beyond this gorgeous planet for the time being.

You’re a bit shocked, to be honest.  In hindsight, though, you suppose it makes sense.  Din was the one who navigated to this sector, kept the bag out of your reach the whole day.  If the kid had decided to wake up just an hour or two later, he would’ve been back by then, and you would’ve never known any different.

“Anyway,” he clears his throat, and a wave tiredness suddenly grips you.  Fuck.  Too much thinking.  “The quarry went willingly, they always do when their last wish is to chase down a pretty landscape.  Nice guy.  Found him camped out by a giant—”

Din suddenly goes oddly quiet, and you’re too exhausted to push it.  You’re starting to drag a little bit.  You woke up in blind panic and have been on edge ever since, and now that you know things are okay, your body just wants more sleep.  The trees blur as you keep moving forward, zoning out and knowing you likely have another few miles of walking before you’re back.

You almost trip over him.  You don’t even notice he’s there until you nearly run into him.  In your defense, the only visible part of him is his helmet; the clothing is too dark under the thick treetops to see anything else.  Still, it takes you a second, and you blink down at Din’s crouched figure in front of you, blocking your intended path.

“Up,” he turns to mutter over his shoulder when you ultimately fail to comprehend.

…There’s no way.

Hesitantly, you lift one of your knees to his side and feel his arm firmly hook under it.  Emboldened, you lean down until your forearm can wrap around the front of him, and then you do a stupid little bunny hop along the curve of his spine.  Din easily catches your other leg before rising up.

He bounces you higher on his back once he’s upright, and you’re automatically resting your chin on his shoulder and clinging to him, your heart filling with butterflies as he begins trudging forward.

It’s… oddly comfortable.  As long as you keep your arms wrapped tight around his chest, you can bury your face into him and drift in and out.  He goes out of his way to keep you as level as you can possibly be, trying to soften his steps so your jaw doesn’t bounce on top of him while he steps over fallen logs and ducks to avoid low hanging leaves.

Later—you’re not sure how long it’s been, his voice comes through the modulator, ringing with your ear pressed against the helmet no matter how quiet he tries to be.  

“How’d you know I went on a hunt?”  He asks, and there’s a soft reservation in his tone, as if he doesn’t really want to speak but needs to ask you anyways.

“Mmm?”  You slur into the fabric stretching over his shoulder, probably drooling on it a bit, too.  “Hmm?”

His voice increases marginally in volume, but still maintains a gentle undertone that lulls you into relaxing deeper.  “You knew I left to look for the quarry—how?”

“Fob,” you tell him tiredly, not having much energy to spare the words.  “Wasn’t in the bag.”

You’re too out of it at this point, it takes a moment to realize Din has abruptly slowed down.  “How’d you know there was a tracking—”

“You’re… reflective?”  You ask, though you don’t really know why you’re asking.  “S’to your detriment.  Sometimes.”

That seems to stun him somewhat, halting him in place for the time being.  The biggest response it gets from you is the tiniest little eyebrow twitch inwards, wondering why the steady movements of your transportation seems to have temporarily stalled.  “How’d you know I left my armor?”

“Hmm?”  You ask again, not really hearing him.

“Hey, stay awake for a second,” he bounces you and you groggily mutter something under your breath that even you can’t comprehend.  Din glosses over it while you blink your eyes open.  “Tell me how you knew.  You didn’t go back to the Crest.”

You drag your head off his shoulder and squint around, looking around at the edge of the forest and the flowing grass beyond and trying to think with your stupid, tired brain, really needing to focus on the question.  “…No?”

The curiosity in his voice can’t be masked, not by him nor the filter through which it’s processed.  “So how did you know I left my armor on it?”

“You would’ve left a trail,” you shrug. “The grass is tall.”

“I could’ve just taken the path we made earlier,” he eventually proposes, still completely motionless in the middle of the relatively sparse number of trees leading to it.  “Gone back to the ship exactly the way we came.”

“Y’could’ve,” you admit with a yawn. “But the ship is that way,” you lazily raise your arm and point a good fifty or so degrees to the left, and Din follows his own outstretched gauntlet you’re still sporting around your hand with the visor.

“I’m impressed,” he finally says, shifting you on his back but perfectly content to keep his feet rooted to the spot.  “I didn’t think you had a good sense of direction.  You know where the Crest is on this planet but not when we were on Canto Bight.”

You snort a laugh.  No, no you have no such thing—you got lost as fuck in this forest.  A good sense of direction counts as a solid survival skill, and you’d say you still very much lack most of those.  Besides pulling water out of thin air, you can’t claim to know much of anything at all in that department.

“Mmm.  No, that was just—“ you shake your head.  “Y’know, jus’ some… panicked?  Math?  That’s all.”

“Panicked…” Din repeats slowly, “…math.”

You nod, frustrated that he’s still not moving, clearly waiting for you to explain your rapid, chaotic thought process from earlier.  Still, you do your best for him, trying not to slur your words too much.  “We… walked towards the sun this morning to get to the field.  I remember, because your shiny ass was blinding me the entire time, what must’ve been like.  A whole fucking hour?  At least.  And… and then we walked a little less to get here, forty-five minutes probably, then me ‘n the kid watched the sunset leaning up against that one log, which was at a solid angle—little more than fifty degrees to the right from the path.  You could’ve retraced your steps from earlier if you really wanted to, but taking the shortcut would’ve shaved off about...” you snuggle your face into his shoulder deeper for a moment and think really hard about it.  “Thirty minutes?  Or an hour round trip.  Give or take, since the kid slowed us down.”

He still doesn’t move, and you huff quietly, feeling like you’re on top of a stubborn blurg that just can’t be fucking bothered.  Should you squeeze your legs around his middle?  Will that work?

“You… went on a hunt, sweet girl,” Din finally says, bluntly, after way too long of a pause.  He sounds vaguely impressed for reasons beyond that of your comprehension right now.  “In your own little… panicked way.  How does it feel?”

“Unsuccessful,” you breathe, burying your forehead into his shoulder once more and blinking your eyes shut.  Too much thinking, too much thinking.  You need to sleep.

“You were on the right track,” he hums, bouncing you up and setting off again, and you can’t help yourself.  It’s completely involuntary, tumbles out of your mouth without thought.

“Craziest bounty hunter in the guild,” you slur, and Din doesn’t give you even a shred of the laughs that deserves.

“I should make you walk just for that,” he threatens instead, though he does no such thing.  He just keeps leaning forward in a position that can’t be comfortable for him and lets you fall asleep on his back, holding you tight to his body as he finally breaks out of the last trees and continues hiking through the familiar field to go back home.

 


 

You rouse twice.  Once, when hands allow your legs to slowly slide down a firm body and settle on solid metal.  He spins around to catch you before you can collapse, and then slowly eases your exhausted body down to the floor.

A bare hand cradles the back of your head until that finally settles down, too.

The second time, you can’t quite be sure of.  One of those moments where you’re barely conscious, drifting to the point where everything around you could be part of your dreamscape, where you can’t trust your own ears or mind to differentiate between what is real and what isn’t.  All you’d need is a single person telling you this didn’t actually happen and you’d accept it without question.

Pacing.  Quiet footsteps moving back and forth across the floor as you sleep, pausing every once in a while to stand in front of your slumbering figure.  Something unintelligible is mumbled as he walks away, the hollow thunk of boots clambering up a ladder.  Engines rumble to life under your ear, and gravity gently pushes you deeper against the flat metal supporting your body.

The footsteps soon return and start to pace around once more.

 


 

“Hey,” a quiet voice murmurs, your shoulder rocking back and forth slightly.  “Wake up.”

You blink your eyes open to a familiar visor looking down at you, his hand quickly leaving your shoulder and brushing a gloved thumb across your cheekbone when he sees you’re awake.  “Mm?  Din?  Wha’s—” you glance around you at the dark hull of the Razor Crest, before blinking your tired gaze back to him, “—s’going on?  Wha’ time s’it?”

“Late,” he whispers.  “We’re in the air.  I had to wait until the kid was asleep, but I want… I want you to see something.”

“What is it?”  Still blinking blearily, you sit up, but then Din grabs your hands and keeps your momentum going until you’re slowly dragged to your feet.  What you do when you’re standing upright doesn’t really qualify as standing or upright—you just sag against him with exhaustion as he wraps his forearms around your lower back, keeping you pressed tight against him as your ankles drag uselessly against the ground.

“Use your feet,” he reminds you quietly, and you harumph in a grumpy response.  Maker, you want to go back to sleep.  You’re sure you tell him as much, but he just shushes you and encourages you to hold yourself up, letting go while you steady yourself but hovering his palms a few inches away from your arms just in case.  “I want you to put my helmet on.”

“Excuse me?”  You ask him, swaying slightly and rubbing one of your eyes, not feeling amused.  “Is this some kind of… power trip?  Or something?  Because you’ve spent the last few days literally beating me up, I’d assume that would be enough for y—”

“I let you beat me up,” he grumbles under his breath.  “How are you ever gonna take a punch if it hurts you that bad to just throw one, sweet girl?”

“I’ll punch first,” you respond groggily, trying to move forwards so you can lean on him again, but being stopped by a firm grip on your shoulders.

“I know you will,” he mutters, letting go after a second to brush your hair away from your squinty eyes.  “Listen, I want you to put my helmet on, okay?”

You nuzzle your head into his leather palm and hum, giving it some thought.  “Are you gonna… turn on the light thingie?”  You clarify, not being able to remember what the setting is called, and he nods.

“Yes,” he tells you very seriously.  “There’s a… stars, a ‘noise thingie’ that I’ll turn on, too.  You won’t be able to see or hear for a little bit—you’ll have to trust me.”

“Is this for sex?”  You blurt as soon as the thought occurs to you, and Din sighs heavily, letting his head drop to his chest in exasperation.  “Like some sort of a… sensory deprivation thing?  Because if so, I can like—I mean I can get into it.”

“If I say yes, will you put it on?”  He tries, and.  Well, that question shouldn’t wake you up nearly as much as it does.  You blink at him, actually registering the sight of the mirrored visor this time.  Your gaze drops to see he’s back in full beskar regalia, his body looking even larger and broader with it on.

“Oh,” you say quite suddenly, remembering the question.  “Oh.  Shit yeah, I will.”

He shakes his head.  You’re getting better and better at reading him—becoming more fluent in helmet, one could say—and this head shake says he can’t believe he’s actually surprised that worked.  “It’s not for sex,” he tells you immediately, deadpanning the delivery even more than he typically would.  “Will you still put it on?”

You look at him blankly, wondering why this is even happening.  He said you’re in the air right now, and there’s… something he wants you to see?  Whatever this is, it’s spur of the moment.  Something he felt the need to wake you up for, but likely won’t push if you decline.

“Yeah,” you nod, “'course I will.”

“Close your eyes,” he murmurs, tipping your chin up slightly in the dim hull so he can watch.  Since they already want to do so regardless of the gentle command, your lids readily dip shut and you wait patiently as his touch leaves you for a moment.

You’re already sagging a bit by the time one of his hands returns to your cheek, and then plush lips press gently to yours.  The sigh you give him is completely involuntary—aching and quiet and longing as you let it go right in his mouth, your expression narrowing with concentration.

But he’s quick.  He leans back before either of you can get lost in it and reminds you with a gorgeous, rumbling baritone, “You’ll have to trust me.”

You nod in confirmation and soon his helmet is carefully being lowered over your head.  This is the second time around he’s done this—and you suppose if you couple that with your still lazy demeanor, the silent darkness that comes along with it doesn’t bother you as much as it did a few months ago.  The padding still grips your cheeks and you still feel disconnected from your surroundings—even more so now than the last time he put it on you—but it’s welcoming, in a way.  Giving you a reason to cling to him and tilt your head with the unfamiliar weight, breathing slow and easy while isolated in your own little pitch black world.

Oh Maker, you could probably fall asleep again just like this, so long as he keeps holding you up.  But Din has other plans, clearly.  He eases you backwards, continues to walk you back and back and back some more, and you have no problem just going with it.  He’s strong, taking almost all of your weight and somehow instinctively knowing how to hold you so that you’re fully supported no matter how you’re positioned.  He shifts you to one arm at one point, does something with his free hand that you can’t really figure out but aren’t really bothered by either.

He guides you both a few more steps backwards, and you start to wonder how long the hull actually is.  But then he suddenly grabs you tight —tight enough to make your eyes pop open to the black void in front of you and panic slightly, before he tilts you back even more and suddenly the ground is dropping out from under your feet, the air rushing silently around your entire body.

Okay, now you full-on panic.

He doesn’t let go, thank the stars, even when you scramble up to straddle and cling to him, heart clanging hard against your sternum at his fucking audacity.  The jet pack?   Are there just no fucking rules anymore?

Sure enough, the thrusters kick in and he’s good enough with the phoenix to counteract the gravity shift as much as possible, making it a gradual thing instead of a rapid change in motion.  You’re almost confident you would’ve slipped out of his grip and gone slamming to the ground had he not done the preventative maneuver.

Regardless, you’re gonna fucking kill him.  You’re going to murder Mando and get your own bounty puck, one with your name on it.  It won’t end well; everyone after you will have a personal vendetta considering you offed one of their own.  If you survive the confrontation then you’ll likely get taken to mine spice somewhere for the rest of your miserable life, probably Kessel—that is, assuming he doesn’t kill you first, within the next however many minutes.

And oh, he seems like he takes his sweet fucking time, hauling your fuming, decapitated ass along on a late night joyride.  Every second he continues to allow you to fly in blind, deaf isolation is another butt whooping you’re vowing to give him, and it pisses you off even more that you can’t even express your righteous fury because you can’t let go of him.  You’re a parasite in midair, clinging to his metal body while he slowly descends, navigating you both down until you feel his boots finally meet solid ground.

You carefully reach for the ground with one foot and try to feel it with your tippie toes just in case he’s somehow tricking you, until Din drops you down and your feet mercifully meet dirt.  As soon as you find your balance, you shove an open palm against the metal of his chestplate in anger and Din quickly catches your wrist, the beskar shaking slightly under your hand like he found the whole thing rather humorous.

You don’t have much time to fuss.  He spins you around and then his hands settle on your shoulders, and for some reason… you only notice it now.  The fabric covering your torso and legs is gradually becoming damp for some reason.  You can’t feel any real splashes of water—no raindrops or anything, but it gets worse and worse the longer he holds you steady in front of him.

His hands eventually drag down your arms and elbows, until they’re catching your wrists and slowly pulling both of them up.  Din cradles the backs of your hands as he presses your palms against the cold metal helmet around your head, and then he gradually begins to pull it up, and—

—Loud.

You stop for a second.

… Tears spring up.

Din keeps pulling.

What starts out as a dull hiss continuously amplifies as the beskar slowly lifts, growing louder and louder in volume until it’s a deafening, violent, thunderous roar.

Yet still, you don’t open your eyes.  You just… listen to it.  Let the sound of it fill your heart, the same sound you caught earlier in the forest but now amplified exponentially, almost surrounding you with reverberating white noise.  Your whole body is practically drenched in water by the time you finally open your eyes and blink through the heavy mist.

He said no oceans, and he was right.  It isn’t an ocean—it’s… something so unbelievably beautiful that you don’t even have a name for it.  You don’t want one, not really.  There isn’t a name that would be good enough.  It’s easily—by and far, in your measley handful of decades of existence—the most majestic thing you’ve ever seen.  A gigantic, enormous cliff dwarfs you on three sides, with tens of thousands of tons of water arcing over their sharp edges and plunging into the rocky lake below.  

The cloud of droplets ricocheting from the base of the jaw dropping cascade is massive in and of itself—easily taking up a good quarter of your field of view even from this distance away.  The shore sits close enough but the spectacle is still somewhat distant, remaining an untouchable heaven, a gorgeous lake separating you from it and rippling with waves that settle to lap at the sand.

The rest of the setting comes later, after you’re able to process the main event.  You’re in the middle of the forest from before—familiar colossal trees wrap around the shoreline and vibrant shrubbery blankets the edges of the falling water, evergreen and fed by a constant nourishing mist.  The sun is also beginning to come up.  You can’t see it yet, but you can see the way the sky is starting to gradient itself from a starry midnight blue to pale lavender, the first rays beginning to peak over the treetops.

You feel yourself take a few, slow steps forward, but leather catches your hand from behind and gives it a firm squeeze before you can move completely out of reach.  You don’t even have to look back at him to know what it means.  The sentiment transfers seamlessly— be careful , he says, before dropping it and letting you continue forth.

Reaching the shore brings even more beauty to a backdrop you didn’t think could get any better.  You have to carefully step over—oh, heavens— small, transparent crystals tinted every color you can imagine to reach the water, sparkling under the gently lapping waves.  They’re like thin, flat shards of glass, and you know that if the sound of the falling water wasn’t so deafening, you’d probably be able to hear the muted crunching noise they make shattering under your boots with every cautious step.  Jagged edges and multicolored powder is all that’s left in your wake, no matter how careful you try to be.

You almost don’t want to move since they’re so delicate and everywhere , probably blanketing the entire floor of the lake, but you push forward with purpose until you’re just close enough to squat down and dip your fingers into the cool water.  It’s crystal clear and reflects the lightening sky with every gentle ripple and disturbance.  You study the pieces of glass as the repetitive waves distort their shape, the colorful shards turning to smooth, round pebbles the closer they are to the water.  A large green one catches your eye—circular and comparatively tiny, but standing out amongst all the rest.

You pluck it from the shore and let the almost perfectly round emerald sphere roll around in your palm, scanning the shallow water once more.  Then, ah— there, you reach out and grab a slightly larger, heavier, unassuming brown one that you have to hold up to the gradually rising sun to see its sparkle.  It’s got harder edges and feels rougher in your hand but you like it that way.  You like that there’s a bit of a warm amber at its center when the light hits it right.

Perfect.  Taking another moment to study your choices, you eventually end up finding a gorgeous, slightly pearlescent piece that sits just between the size of the other two in your collection.  It’s tinted a pale, off-white amongst a sea of color and there’s something gentle about it that speaks to you, something that feels right about the gradual sloping curves and how it sits in your palm.

Carefully pocketing the three pieces of fragile glass and rising up, you glance back to see Din standing there, helmet on once more and frozen right where you last left him.

He looks… awkward, almost.  Holding his hands behind his back, all his weight shifted to one foot while the other twists back and forth against the ground just slightly.  Nervous, for some reason.  Feeling unsure of his place.  The posture tugs at your heartstrings, as well as the spectacular gesture, and you soon make your way back to him.

“Where did you… where did you find this!?”  You have to yell over the rushing water once you get close enough.  “I didn’t see anything on the navcomp—”

“—wasn’t—navcomp—” he replies, barely just loud enough for you to hear.  You miss most of it, but you’re able to piece together the gist based on what little you can catch.  “—quarry—isolated sector—uncharted.”

Uncharted.  It’s uncharted, the navcomp wouldn’t register it.  Untouched by millennia of progress.  Plenty of people have probably seen it before, but apparently none of them have ever told anybody about it.  The universe is vast but it’s also old— it’s unbelievable that cartographers have plotted almost the entire galaxy but they still missed something like this.

The roar of the marvel is so deafening, it takes you a moment to realize he’s still speaking

“—nobody—yet—it—” he nods the helmet out at the spectacular landmark, “—it’s yours—you want—”

“My what!?”  You bellow, but he doesn’t clarify or add anything new.  He just spins you around again, extending his arm out over your shoulder to point at the breathtaking view and then dropping his helmet down next to your ear.

“Yours,” Din repeats firmly, resolutely.  Nothing more to be said.

You’re not sure if you’re crying yet, there’s too much water in the air to tell.  All you can do is just instinctively lean all your weight back into his chest and let his arms lace around your body, and you have to blink the droplets away as they start to trail down your forehead and into your eyes.  He keeps you like that until the rising sun begins to reflect off the cloud of mist at the rocky base of the monument, scattering light in all directions and splitting it into a beautiful spectrum that reflects every color.

You wonder if Din can see it.  You wonder if there’s a filter on his helmet that isn’t infrared or night vision, where a computer isn’t constantly alerting him to movement or sudden changes in atmospheric pressure.  Just… pure, unobstructed, visible light.  You know there’s probably all sorts of tracking measures programmed in, you know he can zoom and spot a sniper from a vast distance—you know he sees things you don’t.  Things you won’t ever see.  But you also hope the visor isn’t shaded too dark—you hope there’s a setting that works like a one way mirror, if only so that he can also see the beauty of this planet the same exact way you can.

You eventually turn in his arms and take one small step away from him just so you can look at him, and sure enough, the visor is tilted up towards the natural beauty.  Your eyes study every inch of him as if you’ve never seen him before, as if he may as well have taken the helmet off right in front of you.  This is thoughtful.  It’s so fucking thoughtful of him.  For being such a mystery, this right here… this is soul bearing.  It’s not an ocean, it’s a million times better than one and the fact that he not only remembered you telling him something like that, but he actually flew you out here to see it.  It makes your chest ache with an unknown feeling, one you still have trouble recognizing.  It settles down right in the softest part of you, makes your mouth open and give it a four letter name.

You say it so softly, confess it knowing he’s not looking, knowing he’d never be able to hear above the sound of the cascading rapids crashing against the rocks below.  You can’t hear it either, but you can feel it.  The way the word lilts off your tongue, the simple truth in it that’s impossible to hide from any longer.

He glances back at you, before doing a double take.  Gently, Din pushes at your shoulder and urges you to face forward again, to take all of it in while you still can, and yet.

All you can see is him.

His head slowly turns back down to face you, and your eyes keep shamelessly scanning every bit of him, watching the mist droplets chase each other down the reflective metallic curves and contours of his helmet.  Din slowly leans in, carefully eases his arm under yours and wraps tight around your lower back to bring you closer to his side.  You sigh and press up against him, your palm creeping up the damp fabric wrapped around his throat.  The visor doesn’t leave you, even when your temple comes to rest against his pauldron.  No, he just allows the smooth metal covering his forehead to gently touch yours for a moment and hold there.  Both of you tucked away in the middle of a hidden paradise, standing in front of a gorgeous monument crafted by the hands of the Maker himself.  

And, like the two starry eyed idiots you are, neither one of you can seem to look away from the other.

You mouth a silent thank you to him, hoping he can read the heartfelt candor from your lips.  Something tells you your message was received, because his grip tightens.  As if in slow motion, his whole body lazily drops down just enough to scoop you up with an arm hooked under your knees—before Din suddenly rockets upwards.

You squeal and cling tight to his shoulders as he lifts you up higher, and higher—he slowly rises across the considerable length of the lake and closer to the falling water.  You’re already beyond drenched but as he gradually approaches the base of the falling water, it starts raining down and splashing you in buckets.

Once he’s near enough to the powerful, arcing column pouring over the long rocky edge, Din carefully spins around and hovers until his back faces it, which means you can hide your nose and mouth from the splashes against the armor shielding his shoulder.  He slowly rises up the length of the natural landmark and lets you watch the rushing water up close behind the safety of his body, sacrificing his own view so that yours can be all the better.

Eventually the falling waves break and you look down at the broad, gorgeous rapids flowing out towards you, the sun casting its dawning light over their foaming peaks.  Din spins around and you adjust yourself accordingly against his chest, knowing you’ll never have a view like this again.  He flies low along the river and you can see the colorful glass sparkling through the strong, yet completely transparent current.  Soon he levels out and you cling tight to him, burying your face in the soaking wet fabric of the cowl wrapped around his neck and sighing, unable to recall a time you’ve ever been happier.  It swells in your heart and warms your entire body even as it’s drenched in cool water, and you wonder again how he could’ve ever thought you were running from him.  How could he ever think you’d run from him when all he’s ever done is give you wings?

 


 

The Crest hurdles through hyperspace while Din silently removes his armor and then strips you both of your sopping wet clothes.  You remember your glass souvenirs at the very last second and carefully remove them from your pockets despite your closed eyes, reaching out to hand them to Din without looking.  His palm catches the pebbles with the quiet sound of them clinking together, and you feel him pause for a second, probably studying them as he cradles them in the dim, single fluorescent light he left on.

You feel him leave you momentarily, hear him gently set them down someplace safe without a word.  When he comes back and his warm arms snake around you once more, he lowers you down to the blankets and then proceeds to make the softest love to you he knows how on the floor of his ship.  

A small part of you wishes you were still on Naboo, but somehow.  Somehow, despite the dead quiet hull, it’s better than anything you can remember.

His naked body presses tight to yours, his mouth always open and tasting wherever you’ll let him venture, never letting you forget for a single second that he’s just as bare and exposed as you are.  Your hands take full advantage, feeling everything.  The strong, rippling muscles of his back as he props himself over you, the soft hair curling at his nape, the length of his spine shielding you from the rest of the ship, allowing you the opportunity to pretend you’re somewhere else if you really tried.  If you tried, you could convince yourself you’ve got a mattress beneath you instead of a blanket draped over hard steel.  You could convince yourself your eyes are open while he kisses you, despite knowing it’ll never be allowed.

But… you don’t.  You don’t need to.  There’s nowhere else you’d rather be.

And then at one point, his mouth is between your legs and you see a flash of his forehead on complete accident.

To see it on any other person would be nothing, it would mean absolutely nothing.  It’s not like it somehow makes him anymore recognizable to you—plenty of people share the same exact features, you still wouldn’t know him out of a trillion different faces.  He could walk right by you and you’d never know.  Technically, it’s not even his face—it’s just a small fragment of it.  But to you, the quickest glimpse of dark, wavy locks curtaining over the smooth, golden skin just below his hairline… it means everything to you.  You sear it into your memory, right alongside the sight of crystalline water roaring over an enormous cliff edge.

You never tell him you saw.  He never finds out.

Chapter Text

“Well,” a modulated voice gruffs expectantly from behind you, clearly tired of waiting.  “Turn around, let me see.”

“No.  I look ridiculous,” you sulk from the corner of the hull, refusing to do as he says.  You thought this was stupid from the very beginning and openly told him so, but you’re also a complete pushover for him with just enough backbone to be frustrated when you inevitably give in.  “And don’t you ‘sweet girl’ me, it’s not gonna work this time.”

“Sweet girl,” Din’s deep voice lulls through the helmet, raspy and soft.

Fucking fine , if he’s gonna twist your arm about it.  You spin around with a deep frown and a chrome visor stares back at you as you waddle forwards, and you don’t even need to look at the kid cradled in his forearm to know he’s smiling toothily as you clunk and rattle.  Once you’re standing directly in front of them both, you blow the stray hair out of your eyes and plant your hands on your hips, just waiting for the inevitable response.

Only, you don’t get practically any response at all from him.  He stays perfectly still and says absolutely nothing, and though the baby’s mouth falls open with happiness and he reaches for you, he doesn’t make a sound either.

“I told you,” you grumble after a few moments of pained silence.  “I look ridiculous.”

Still, nothing.  You purse your lips, shifting from side to side uncomfortably, and eventually your suspicion grows and festers until it finally bursts forth.  Oh for the love of Maker—

“I know you’re laughing under there,” you accuse with a growl.  He doesn’t move a single muscle but you don’t buy it, not for a single fucking second.

Then suddenly the helmet glances away from you and stares purposefully at the wall of the hull as the kid starts giggling, and you knew it.  You fucking knew he was laughing.

“You look great,” comes tightly through the modulator after a moment, and you pull your lip up into a snarl, vindicated in your findings but not happy about it.

“Is that how this is supposed to protect me?”  You wave your arms, hearing them squeak and clank like you’re a droid that hasn’t been maintenanced in centuries.  The rough metal jerks up and smacks your chin with the shoulder movement and you grimace.  “Make the bad guys laugh themselves to death?”

“It's bad,” Din finally turns back to you and admits with zero shame, and your cheeks burn at how stupid you must look right now.  “Way too big.”

“Too big?”   You blink at him.  “That’s your criticism?”

When he presented it to you, your first impression was some sort of brown paint—but no.  It’s fucking… rust .  It’s damaged and scraped up and it looks like it’s been through the ringer and back, and not in a way that gives it character.  There’s almost a literal hole in the fucking chestpiece and it’s dented so much that it actually creates more than enough space for your breasts, what the fuck happened—?

“You’re telling me you went from this— ”  You ask pointedly, knocking your knuckles against the ill-fitting piece of metal and feeling it wobble against your chest, “—to that—” you tap the pristine, gleaming armor strapped to his body that easily costs more than probably quadruple your entire life, “—without any go-betweens?  It’s missing one of the shoulders, Din.”

He ignores you, flipping the chestpiece over your head with his free hand and letting the metallic clatter of it meeting the floor behind you ring out through the hull.  “I’d hoped at least something would fit,” comes his filtered sigh.  “This planet isn’t nice.”

That sobers you up a bit, and you feel your heart thump painfully.  “Are we on Corellia?”  You ask without thinking.

“No,” he tells you immediately, quelling your panic while pulling off your one singular pauldron.  “Tatooine.”

You’ve never heard of it, but from the grave undertone of his voice, you know the drill.  Different setting, same kind of people.  Smugglers, rogues, criminals—the type he’s used to being around and knows exactly what to expect out of them.  You always feel safe when he’s with you, but when he leaves?

“Oh,” you say, because you don’t really have anything else.  It’s quiet for a little bit, but then he continues on before you can come up with something to fill the sudden uncertainty on your end.

“I know someone here,” Din murmurs, bending his knees and sinking down to start undoing and pulling the shoddy thigh braces off your legs.  “Someone… nice.  It’ll be safe as long as nobody sees me leaving or coming back, and the kid would be happy to see her.”

Your eyebrows pull inwards, something… unfamiliar settling inside you.  Din doesn’t have friends, he’s made it clear that he doesn’t really like anyone that he knows well enough to introduce you to.  Even when he’s lowered himself in front of you and is technically undressing you, you feel a spark of… no, not jealousy, that’s crazy.  But for real, who is he talking about?

“Why can’t me and the baby just lay low somewhere remote like normal?”  You ask instead, but he shakes his head.

“No such thing,” he grunts, pulling off the other thigh brace.  “Tuskans or Jawas will find you even in the middle of the Dune Sea.”

“I like Jawas,” you blurt, having had many positive experiences trading with the little creatures on Arvala-7, but his helmet immediately tilts up to pin you in place and you shut up, feeling the tangible unamusement radiating from the thin blade of the visor even when the kid starts giggling again.  “I mean I… don’t like Jawas?”

Din sighs and rises back up to his full height, finally handing the baby over to you now that you’re not weighed down by that ridiculous getup anymore.  “You can either stay with her while I get the quarry or run the risk of pirates finding you drifting above the atmosphere,” he reasons bluntly, not mincing words.  “But it’s not a good idea to be stuck on the surface without protection, someone will find you.”

You bite your lip, hugging the kid closer to your chest for a second.  “Okay, that’s fine,” you murmur quietly after a moment.  “We can stay with your… friend.”  

You clear your throat and move to let him pass by to get to the cockpit, except Din doesn’t take a single step.  You blink up at him and after what feels like an eternity of no response, the helmet slowly tilts sideways at you and… oops.

Was that not subtle?  You didn’t know what to call her, genuinely, that’s why you hesitated.  You didn’t want to use the word acquaintance , it felt too detached for the fact that he said the kid would be happy to see her again.  That’s what’s called a friend, right?  

Maker, why are you being so weird about this?

Thankfully, you end up getting away with it.  After a few painful seconds of looking at every single thing in the hull besides him and humming a song you make up on the spot, Din slowly walks past and disappears up into the cockpit.  You take a deep breath and gently rub the baby’s ears between your fingers as the Crest powers up with a ferocious rumble beneath your feet.

 


 

It’s bright.  Fuck, it’s so bright here.  You hold the kid to your chest with one hand and shield your eyes with the other as the ramp slowly descends, dust immediately kicking up around it.  Din’s palm is resting against your lower back and his thumb gently brushes back and forth, but your heart decides to drop the very moment his hand does, and as soon as the ramp clanks against the landing platform, he’s striding down into the blazing hot desert sun without you.

Something in your chest squeezes and whispers to you that he probably doesn’t want to touch you when he’s about to see an old friend again, so you wait a few seconds of space before descending down the ramp behind him, not really knowing how you feel right now.  But you’ve barely taken a single step to follow when a woman’s voice screeches out from across a vast distance.  “Oh no, no no no— don’t you even think about it!”

Din slows to a halt at the end of the ramp and gives whoever it is a small nod, nothing beyond it, and if you weren’t purposefully looking at him for cues right now, you’d probably miss the greeting entirely.  You stand on your tippy-toes from behind his cape as a fiery little middle-aged lady in a mechanic’s jumpsuit marches up to him with an attitude that more than makes up for the height difference.

“You’re not allowed here anymore,” she pokes his chestplate brazenly with one hand and props the other on her hip, clearly not excited to see him.  “Not after the ruckus you caused last time, no sir, not on my watch.

“That won’t happen again,” he gruffs shortly, not providing a single thing beyond it, and you blink.  What… what happened last time?

“It sure won’t!”  The strange woman agrees shrilly, crossing her arms and widening her eyes until she looks a bit like she’s been out in the suns too long.  “I’m still recovering, Mando!”

“I compensated you,” he reminds her, a quiet edge of frustration beginning to creep into his voice.

She suddenly narrows her expression at him, going from manic desert lady to sharp and discerning skeptic within a split second.  “How much do you think my life is worth?”

Din takes forever to respond, seeming to either be choosing his words very carefully or grinding his teeth under the beskar in frustration.  Probably both.  “I brought my ki—”

“You bring trouble!”  She bursts out, stomping her foot on the dusty landing platform and holding her ground.  “I don’t care how cute your little one is, go park your ship on some other poor soul’s hangar bay!”

He doesn’t say anything back, staying completely silent while you stand there awkwardly and wait for his response, and it’s almost like you… forgot.  How quiet Din can be, how unnervingly little he can choose to offer to conversations until he deems the information absolutely necessary to provide.  He allows you to forget that reserved nature of his.  He talks to you.  He never used to at the beginning, but somewhere along the way it just became increasingly common to hear his voice, both with a high-pass filter and blissfully without.  Now though, there’s just too long of a weirdly tense pause in the reunion for you to handle without doing something about it.

So you step out from behind him with the child in your arms, giving her an apologetic smile with as much friendliness as you can possibly put into an expression.

“Hello,” you greet her gently, musically, lifting the baby’s hand to give her a companionable three-fingered wave from the both of you while he coos.  “I promise I’m not trouble, but he did bring me along this time.”

Din and the woman simultaneously turn to look at you; her like you’re just as strange and jarring of a sight to see on this planet as the tiny unnamed boy in your arms and him like your voice by itself is enough to loosen his shoulders.  Though neither one of them ultimately respond to you, you can tell by the way his fists unclench that you’ve at least helped him relax, even if the frizzy-haired lazy otherwise ignores your introduction entirely.

“Now just what in Maker’s name are you doing with a poor little stowaway like that?”  She faces him and pokes his armor again.  “You runnin’ a charity out of that battered piece of junk you call a ship?”

“Three hundred credits to let them stay with you for a week,” he turns back to tell her, cutting directly to the chase.  Alright, so you don’t really understand their relationship at all at this point.  He said she was nice?  And yet he’s already bribing her that handsomely?

“Five hundred,” she immediately shoots back, and your heart sinks.  Fuck, there’s no way.  There’s no way he would spend that much, you’re going to have to find somewhere else to stay.

But… he doesn’t respond.  Which you now remember with a jolt of surprise, means confirmation.  Not wasting words agreeing, he’d say something back to her if he had an issue.  Maker, five hundred credits.  You’re starting to wonder if he’s really able to make any money at all doing this, or if the job is just… fitting for him, so he continues to do it.  He’s spending more and more credits on you every single time you turn around, and while you don’t feel great about it, you know Din well enough to know he’s stable and independent enough to make the decisions he wants to make.

So you just stand there and hold the baby to your chest, unsure of your place, while Din eventually turns around to face you.

Sometimes, if you’re being honest, you almost find yourself wanting to… do soft things with him that you know you shouldn’t while other people are around.  Granted, he’s never told you not to, but the last thing you want to do is undermine his reputation by unintentionally revealing his gentler side.  You want to give him a hug and maybe hand him the baby to say goodbye, but you don’t know if that’s how he wants to present himself to company right now.  Unfortunately, that ends up translating into you just looking at him and awkwardly waiting to see what he does.  Your feelings won’t be hurt if he just takes off without another word now that you know that that’s his intent—you promise, they weren’t hurt the first fifty or so times he’s done it.  You understand him, it’s alright, he doesn’t need to—

But then he leans in and lowers his voice until only you can hear it.

“I’ll be back soon,” he tells you, and you feel warmth creep into your chest.

You understand him.  Which is why you feel like you could almost burst with how much he didn’t have to say that but chose to do so anyway.  You already have a solid time frame—a week—which is more information than you usually get, and it’s such a small thing.  It’s insane; if you made a list, you’d have 1) talking to you, 2) knowing his first name, and 3) seeing a glimpse of his forehead as your top reasons why he might care just as much about you as you care for him.  That’s insane.

He takes a second to reach a glove out and rub the baby’s ear as he makes his adorable little baby noises up at him, before the helmet tilts back up just slightly to look at you.  

“Be safe,” he waits for you to whisper back.

And you think now is finally the time to go, right?  Except he waits just a few precious seconds more, just holding there, silently.  Maker, you don’t want to miss him, why is he doing this to you?  You’re trying to play it cool, see-you-later’s have been commonplace between you for nearing a full year now, so why does it feel like now is the first time he truly doesn’t want to go?

You hold the kid with one hand and start to reach for him the split second he turns to walk away, and you quickly drop it as the dry wind snaps through his cape.  He leaves and doesn’t look back.

Still, you watch him disappear, until eventually you’re reminded of your host’s presence with the tap of a wrench against your shoulder.

“Hope you know your way around a hyperdrive,” the woman says with a smirk.  Maker, Din didn’t even give you her name, you’re going to have to ask.  “Gotta repair at least two of ‘em by sundown.”

You catch the hefty tool with your free hand and turn to her.  “Pre-Imperial or post?  Never done a restoration, but I’m a quick learner.”

She blinks at you like that was probably the last thing she expected you to say, but you give her the same friendly smile from before and look towards the entrance of the hangar for the ships needing maintenance.

 


 

So Peli is… a character.

She’s quick and entertaining and whip-smart, but you worry that if she had a whip, she might actually use it.  She’s nice—she is , but she damn near works you to the bone once you prove yourself capable.  You don’t think she expected the extent of your practical knowledge of mechanics, she went into it assuming you were going to be useless and did a hard U-turn that very first night.  You both worked together to fix two malfunctioning hyperdrives by sundown, just like she told you she needed, but then she looked vaguely surprised and nobody showed to pick up until two days later.

The second day is more hectic, and the third day is worse.  You cradle the kid on your hip while you work one-handed, smudged grease all over your forehead and sweat sticking your hair to your neck.  Using Peli’s sonic shower never leaves you feeling clean no matter how many times a day you find yourself wanting to wash the dust and grime from your body, the same way yours used to back on Arvala-7, and you immediately get why her dark hair seems so frizzy and dry whenever you step out of the stall and catch sight of the similar rat’s nest on your head in the small mirror.  Hypersonic waves dry it out more than the blazing hot suns on this planet—you look the same exact way you’ve looked for decades and while you don’t mind hard work, you can’t stand the complete lack of water on this forsaken rock.

Din was right, though.  She is nice, but in a way that she never wants anybody else to find out about.  She cooks you food every night but expects you to clean the whole kitchen after, she lets you have free reign over the caf maker as long as you remember to make enough for her, and she allows you and the kid to pass out on the beat-up sofa in one of the secluded back rooms for the time being.  On more than one occasion, when she assigns you chores that require two hands and a steady focus to complete, you overhear her babytalk behind the control panel as she bounces the kid in one arm and plays with his ears.  It fills your chest with a quiet, subtle kind of warmth, and you understand why Din trusts her with him.

At least you stay busy—which, understatement.  She works you so hard that eventually she starts handing you tasks that don’t really seem… pressing.  Replacing the spherical joints on her three pit droids, hand-scrubbing the grime off the pots and pans she uses to cook the same two meals everyday, polishing the dusty windows overlooking the landing platform even though they’re caked over with dirt not even an hour later.  You realize soon enough that she doesn’t have nearly the workload here as she claims, periodically catching her playing cards with the droids while you’re busting your ass doing chores once all the real work has clearly been accomplished, but you’re not upset.  You like being busy, it’s how you’ve lived most of your life.  However, at some point, you actually end up running out of things to do.  After that, it’s like she has to actively look for tasks she still needs completed.

One morning you find her in the parked Crest, ripping open the guidance systems paneling and talking to herself.  You sip your caf and watch silently from the landing bay, hair pulled up in a messy bun and the baby on your hip as the suns rise on your shoulders and she mutters, whole sheets of metal being tossed out from the insides of the Razor Crest.

You've also learned she responds incredibly well to the prospect of credits, so you don’t spend too much time wondering what her goal is—find something in the ship for you to fix and then charge Mando extra for the materials whenever he comes back.

Hilarious though, as if there’s anything in your ship that actually needs fixing.

You spin around with a sigh and walk back into the hangar, knowing today will probably be the first slow day in awhile.

 


 

A few hours later, you’re invited to play a game of Sabacc for the first time in your life.

There are so many rules—so many suits and names to keep track of, so many values to memorize, only to be forced to choose one card after every round to keep just in case the rest of them happen to shuffle at random, which occurs at least once or twice every game.  There’s too much luck involved to figure out any sort of strategy; you feel like sometimes you’re hopelessly lost and end up winning anyways or you wager nearly your entire stack of bolts on a perfect hand and then you lose the entire thing regardless.

It’s an unpredictable nightmare.  But it’s something to do, and you’ve learned that playing just as stupidly as you bet allows you to easily stay in the game.  The baby sits in your lap and plays with one of your rusty metal gambling pieces while your leg bounces, and Peli grumbles under her breath once it appears you get ahead of her in winnings.

“Beginner’s luck,” she tells her favorite pit droid quietly, who focuses its singular eye at you in a way that somehow feels unfriendly and nods on a brand new swivel, courtesy of yours truly.

You don’t argue, because there’s no point.  The whole fucking thing is luck, but there’s no point.  You know enough about this game to know that you might give something away if you speak, so you keep your mouth shut and let her fill the void.  You know how to stay silent, you’ve learned from the best.  Wordlessly drawing a card from the deck and tucking it in between two others of the same value, you decide to trade one of your other cards at complete random and hope it all just works out.

“Ship looks like it’s brand spankin’ new on the inside,” Peli mutters into her mug out of nowhere, and you pause for a moment, before silently nodding at the offhanded comment and trying not to show how pleased you are by it.  “Was falling apart the last time I saw it.”

You keep bouncing the kid on your knee and fan out the cards in front of you, hoping his big black eyes aren’t reflective enough to reveal your hand.  “I have a lot of free time.”

“I can tell,” she acknowledges, crossing her legs and leaning back into her chair.  Peli sets the mug down and sighs.  “You’re a good mechanic.  I’d offer you a job here, but something tells me you wouldn’t even consider it.”

Now, you do smile.  But it’s a hidden one.  A fond one.  One you find impossible to fight when you’re reminded of him.  You miss him and ache for him and all those collectively angsty things, yes—but mostly you’re just… able to find a bone-deep solace in even thinking about him.  Your heart tightens, but it’s far less constricting than it is a comfort, a firm embrace.  It surrounds you in its safety; Din’s mere existence is your protection, wrapping around you the same way the beskar protects him.  Nothing can touch you.  You’re safe, from all the things you used to fear and all the new things you’ve learned to fear.

No, you’d never consider it.  This planet is too much like Arvala-7, just slightly more populated and dangerous.  You love the baby.  You love him.  You’d never consider it.

“Don’t you get bored?”  She asks you with a raised eyebrow, and your smile admittedly drops the slightest bit.  “Just waiting around for him to come back?”

You don’t have to think about your answer.  Of course you do.  If you’re being honest, it does feel a bit like your life is split between worlds—one with him, and one without.  Whenever he’s not here, you’re thinking about how much you want him to come back, and whenever he is here, you’re thinking about how much you don’t want him to go.  You’ve never experienced anything like that before.  There were a few local farmers scattered far across the arid landscape of the place you used to call home, and three of your neighbors all had kids around your age.  So you experimented when you were younger, since you never had much else to do in your spare time, but you never loved any of them.  You’d always go back home and continue to do chores, continue to look up at the sky and wonder what you were missing.

“Yes,” you admit quietly.

But what you don’t tell her is that in exchange, you get to see the galaxy.  You get to have experiences you’ve only dreamed about, take care of the cutest little baby you’ve ever seen and become part of a family.  You don’t know of anything you could want more.  Adventure, companionship, pleasure, and fulfillment.  Sure, you get restless, and sure, you don’t necessarily feel good about the fact that Din seems to be your driving force even when he’s away, but you know independence.  You know what it means to live for yourself.  You’ve done it long enough that you’ll never forget how to, you’ve experienced it more than enough to know you’re happy about throwing yourself off the cliff and falling into something different.  As much as it’s new and terrifying, it’s better.  Now you have other people to live for, too.  

You marvel at the change—not just from a year ago, but from a handful of months ago.  He used to terrify you.  You used to keep your mouth purposefully shut around him because you were scared of overstaying your welcome and being dropped off somewhere equally as remote as the place you grew up.  Never could you have imagined that the fiercest guardian the galaxy has ever seen would decide you’re also worth protecting.

No, you figure, you just need to… find something in addition.  Something else to also commit to, give yourself something to do.  You can practice the new self-defense maneuvers he taught you, that’s a good idea.  But maybe you can also…

You eventually decide to prompt Peli in a change in conversation.  “Hey, can I ask you something?”

“What do you want now?”  She takes another sip of her caf as if you’ve been bothering her about this all day long, and… well, it’s times like these that you wish you had a helmet, too, if only so you could roll your eyes.

“I’ve got a few pieces of rusted metal in the Crest,” you eventually tell her, careful with your phrasing and not sure how much you want to reveal.  “They’re in bad shape, but I want to keep them.  Could I use some of your tools here to hammer out some of the dents, dissolve whatever crud is on the surface?  I saw you have a forge back there that’s barely been used, just need the metal hot enough to be pliable without sacrificing its integrity.”

She furrows her eyebrows at you.  “But I still need your help with…”

You wait, but she’s got nothing and you both know it.  Still, you keep a pointed silence and wait for it, wondering if this’ll actually work.  This is what Din does, right?  Just refuse to say anything and make the other person crumble under the crushing quiet?  Miraculously, it proves to be successful—you watch her flounder for a response, her will wavering the longer you sit there and stare expectantly at her.

“Fine,” Peli finally acquiesces, and you grin.  “But only if you win this round.  What d’you got?”

You set down your cards to reveal your hand.  A perfect twenty-three if you’ve been counting right, unbeatable unless she or any of the droids managed to get the same, and you know it didn’t happen as soon as she takes a few seconds for mental math and then scoffs.

“Beginner’s luck,” you tell her kindly, pushing all your winnings back over to her side of the table with one hand and scooping the kid up with the other, before turning around and heading towards the Crest in search of Din’s old armor.

 


 

It’s late afternoon on day five and you’re on your back on a creeper seat, sweat dripping down your neck as you reach up to fiddle with the engine of a T-16, a Skyhopper similar to one you built yourself on Arvala-7.  They're not space-faring vehicles, they’re only capable of reaching the upper troposphere, but owning one allowed you to develop solid flight skills without ever truly being able to leave.  Honestly, you don’t think you’ve ever despised a ship more.

You know you’ve got engine grease all over and you feel like you’re boiling in your own sweat, but you’re almost done.  After this, you’ll be able to go back to working on your side project.

As soon as you’d been granted Peli’s direct permission to do so, you mixed the chemicals necessary to eat away at everything besides the basic structure underneath, and then spent all day yesterday manipulating the metal to better fit someone your size and shape.  You slaved over the wickedly hot forge and developed a whole new muscle in your arm from hammering and reheating, hammering and reheating.  You had to repair the way the chestpiece was tapered into a concave point by folding the thin metal back in on itself multiple times, strengthening it without flattening it back into its original shape too much, and then you ended up melting down some of the extra material from the needlessly large shoulder and thigh pieces to fill in the gaps.

Granted, you still have a ways to go on replacing the crushed magnetics box that was falling off the chestpiece and filing down the rough scrapes and sharp edges, but you’re now left with almost a full set of armor that’s a uniform dull silver in color and molds way better to your general figure than before.  You’re not a blacksmith or armorer by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re good with your hands and did what you could in the time allotted.  It looks better than you ever thought it would, and without access to Peli’s enormous collection of tools and machinery, you know it would’ve been better off in the trash.

Still, you have to finish this engine first before you can rip apart the control unit wiring on the armor to see how the whole set fits together and what else needs to be repaired.  You’ve been working on it for a few hours before you hear the door to the hangar open.  Yet, when you don’t immediately hear Peli’s voice calling out to you, or anyone else’s voice for that matter, your heart thuds in your chest with sudden excitement.

“You’re back early,” you tell the engine suspended over your head, knowing he must’ve already thrown the quarry into the Crest parked outside before coming to see you.  Right on time, footsteps approach and then a boot carefully catches the flat platform between your legs, slowly rolling your seat out from under the ship until the rest of the sunlit hangar is revealed to you.

You know you must look a hot mess right now.  Your hair is a disaster and there’s not a clean spot to be found on your body—sweat glistens and pools along every curve you have and you’re probably drenching the spare jumpsuit Peli let you borrow, but Maker, there he is.  Every time you see him is like the first time all over again, except this time the Mandalorian is looming like a giant over you, the helmet tilted down and silently taking you in.

Instead of settling you, his daunting presence gets you hotter than dual suns in the sky ever could.  Fuck, he hasn’t said a word to greet you, and yet you’re already wondering if you can entice him to shove you back under here and join you.

You slowly push yourself upright and he steps back just enough to allow it, but not an inch more than that.  You have to crane your neck up to keep looking at him, and he stands close enough over you that you wouldn’t have to reach far at all if you wanted to touch him.

And it’s crazy to think that… you absolutely could touch him, if you wanted.  He radiates danger, he hunts and tracks for his continued survival, he’s probably got fresh blood staining the dark fabric of his cape and he’s so fucking intimidating and if you wanted to, you could touch him.  

Maybe you can partially blame your sore muscles as to why you immediately drop your head back down, but mostly you just want to stare at a part of his body that happens to align perfectly at eye level.  And fuck, nothing stops you from looking.  He doesn’t help you up, but he also doesn’t move so you can haul yourself to your feet, either.  He just holds perfectly still with his body standing tall over yours, content to stay exactly like this while your hand slowly reaches out to wrap around one of his ankles.

He’s so warm, his muscles flex strong under your palm as you let it drift upwards, biting your lip as you flick your gaze back up to the chrome visor and then down again to the apex of his thighs.  Your other hand comes up to scale the beskar strapped to his leg and you roll yourself forward slightly, wondering if he’d let you…

The black fabric stretching over his crotch just barely touches your fingertips before his hand is suddenly whipping out and grabbing hold of your wrist.

You gasp and jerk your head up to look at him, somehow equally hoping that you’re both in trouble and not in it at the same time.  Din’s abruptly chest raises with a large, labored inhale, as if he wasn’t breathing at all that entire time, as if he just now remembered the setting, the fact that he’s not alone on the Crest with you right now.  Peli and the kid have to be somewhere in the hangar, you know that, but…

“We’re leaving tonight,” he breathes out through the modulator, and you have absolutely no fucking problem with that at all.  “But… shit, but…”

“But…?”  You prompt, wanting nothing more than to let your hands reach back up to his pants again, but you settle for slowly dragging one palm up his forearm as his grip on your wrist tightens.

“Fuck, I wanted to take you somewhere first,” he groans like your feather-soft touch is actually hurting him, his hands suddenly dropping yours and pushing you away to clench into fists at his sides.  “Maker—why do you always f-fucking do this to me…”

You raise an eyebrow at him this time, the curiosity starting to mix with the heat simmering down low, the kind that you'd feel even on a frozen wasteland of a planet as long as you were with him.  All at once, you decide to channel him and his trademarked silence, enthralled by the incredibly slim chance that it will work equally as well on its creator.

…Distract me,” he finally growls out an answer to the question you never asked him, sounding frustrated with you for reasons you still haven’t figured out, and your mouth is drier than the desert outside.  Oh stars, you feel… fucking powerful .  “From everything,” he goes on, talking honestly and openly, more words given to you in thirty seconds than he’s probably offered to anyone all week long.  “Fuck, I feel like I can barely do fucking anything anymore, I’m losing my fucking mind.”

Your heart slams in your chest, wondering if he possibly feels the exact same way about you as you feel about him.  Missing you whenever he’s gone, dreading the moment he needs to leave again whenever he’s with you.  The thought alone is enough to set off fireworks through your veins, pumping hope and excitement from your fingers to your toes.

“I’m sorry,” you breathe out, biting your lip in a way that doesn’t look or feel sorry at all.

“No, you’re not,” Din grunts, before reaching out and hauling you to your feet, and even if there wasn’t a flat seat under you with wheels, it’d still be awkward and uncoordinated as fuck.  “Shit.  I… I need to clean up.  Grab your things, go tell…”

Din trails off after a second, suddenly sounding at a complete loss.  You catch your footing and stare at him as he falters.  “Uh.  Go tell…”  He gestures with a sense of finality to the control room, as if he’s actually successfully communicating with you by doing so.  “Her.  That we’re leaving tonight.”

“What?”  You ask him, thoroughly fucking confused.  “What are you saying right now?”

“The woman,” he clarifies, clearing his throat.  “The mechanic, with the… droids.  Tell her I’ll pay her before we leave, but we’re g—”

“Peli?”  You blurt, completely flabbergasted at this point.  “Did you forget her name, Mando?”

“I…” he shakes his head slightly at you, like you should already know him better than that.  “Never asked.”

“But you—?”  You blink at him.  “But you said she was your friend?”

“You said she was my friend,” he immediately points out, with—oh Maker, just biting accuracy.  It wasn’t necessarily a jab or anything, but you still feel dizzy with how fucking spot on he is about it.  Yikes, you absolutely did say that.  You forgot.

“Oh…” you mumble, at a stunning loss for a response.  “Ha.  Oh.  Yeah, huh.”

There’s too many beats of awkward silence after that, probably because he’s just so blown away by your way with words that he’s just attempting to analyze the wisdom.  Stars, you’re making a complete fool of yourself in front of him, aren’t you?

“Were you jealous?”  He suddenly asks, and you jerk upright, your heart kicking up to a gallop in your chest at the question.

“I’ll go tell Peli we’re leaving soon,” you quickly agree and go to scurry away in abrupt panic, but he catches your wrist and hauls you back before you can get far.  You run into him with a gasp and immediately start to repeat your explanation for why you very suddenly need to depart, but the tips of Din’s fingers catch your chin and force you to look up at him.

“Hey,” he cuts your rambling short with a hushed murmur and the pad of his thumb brushes down your jaw.  “Tell me the truth.”

You don’t have an answer that won’t be incriminating, and you don’t think you can get the delivery right on a lie, not to him and especially not when he’s got you so cornered.  So you just keep completely silent and look up at him like a scolded child would.  Innocent, wide-eyed and scared shitless about the unknown consequences of your actions.

His helmet slowly tilts as he studies you, watching you look up at him for help.  His fingers gradually spread out across your jaw, flattening under the curve of your throat but so gentle, so careful that you’re almost worried he actually is mad.

“I’m sorry,” you immediately offer before he can say anything, your eyebrows pulling up in the middle.  “I’m so sorry, it’s just—I just…”

His thumb carefully stretches up to brush your bottom lip, and you…  Mind blank, no thoughts.  Stars, you’ve got fucking nothing.

“I’ve got nothing,” you admit, giving up before you can even try.  “There’s no reason.  I was jealous.  It’s stupid and I wasn’t going to say anything because I know it’s stupid, and I shouldn’t feel possessive over you but I do, and it’s stupid.  I don’t want anyone else to know you the way I know you, and I’m really sorry if that makes you feel weird, I don’t want you to feel like you can’t have—”

Your chin lifts slightly with the gentlest movement of his hand and the subtle pressure is enough to cut your mindless oversharing off.  Din’s voice lowers until it’s throaty and quiet.

“See that wall?”  He asks, keeping the visor pinned to you while carefully turning his hand to the right, and your whole head easily follows the movement as he guides it.  You have to blink your eyes into focus a few times, but then you immediately see what he’s talking about.  It’s a partition separating the welding room from the rest of the hangar.  He waits until you nod in the cradle of his palm, before leaning in and murmuring to you.  “If we were alone, I’d take you around behind it and show you exactly how that makes me feel.”

You pull back from him with a startled gasp just as a voice calls out from the entrance of the hangar.  “Well, look who finally decided to come back!”

Din slowly drops his arms and stares at you for just long enough to make you seriously worry that he’s going to say fuck it all and do it anyways, before finally turning around and greeting Peli with another silent nod.

She plants one hand on her hip once she’s standing right in front of him, cradling the kid on with her other arm, and you have to take a second to collect yourself now that you’re not at the direct center of his attention anymore.  “Sure did take you long enough, didn’t it?”

“I’m two days early,” he grunts in his immediate defense, but it’s like she doesn’t hear him.

“You’re leaving soon I hope,” she drawls while handing the baby over to him, who makes an adorable little happy squeak at seeing his dad again.  “You owe me five hundred credits.”

“It was five hundred for the full week,” he reminds her, and… he has a point.  Though it was never part of the agreement, you wonder if she’ll be willing to accept less compensation for having the burden of your company be lifted early.

“Five days count as a full week, far as I’m concerned,” she shoots back, and your heart suddenly sinks when Din’s shoulders tighten and he doesn’t respond.

“Peli…” you sigh from behind him before you even realize you’ve spoken aloud.

Your host quickly sidesteps your bodyguard to eye you dubiously, and at the same time, you also jolt and wonder what your goal is here exactly.  You’re ultimately just attempting to diffuse any tension sparking between them, you figure, knowing you’re probably the best mediator here.  She looks at you up and down for a long time, hard and judging, before the baby babbles something wordlessly and she sighs.

“I suppose we can just call it even,” she finally huffs, turning back to him.  “You’re lucky your girlfriend earned her keep, Mando.”

And then your jaw drops.  Holy shit, is she serious?  You assumed Peli valued credits above almost anything else, you never expected her to just… turn down the entire offer like that, so willingly.  Clearly Din didn’t either, because you both just stand there for a moment in front of her in a baffled silence.

Also… girlfriend?

Is that what you are to him?  Admittedly you haven’t talked to him about what to call your relationship, but then again, you’re a practical person and you never really saw a specific need to do so.  You care about him, he cares about you—what else is important?  You don’t need a title to recognize your value to him, and for some odd reason, calling yourself his “girlfriend” just feels like you’re a teenager again.  If you were actually looking for a different word to use instead, you wouldn’t be able to find it, but you know that one just feels… not enough.  Not old enough, not encompassing enough, not complex enough.  It’s an elementary school version of what this is.  And to refer to someone like Din as your boyfriend?  Maker, just saying it aloud would probably make his eye twitch.

“Uh.”  He stands there awkwardly, and you’re so blown away by both the sentiment and specific verbiage she used that you’re practically useless at this point.  Shit, what’s beyond girlfriend, you wonder?  Lover?  No, not good enough.  Partner?  No.  No, not wife, definitely fucking not—  “Thank you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Peli waves him away and spins around to leave, but not before throwing one final thing over her shoulder.  “That ain’t an open invitation to come back, by the way.”

All of a sudden, you just can’t stop yourself from breaking out into a wide grin, tucking your chin in hopes that she won’t see it with her back turned and decide to pounce on the display of weakness.  The three of you watch her stride out of the room and immediately bark an order at one of her droids to get back to work, who starts looking around in desperate search of something to do, and Din’s palm finds its usual place on your lower back as she disappears.

“What a nice lady,” you offer to him, and he gives you a wordless grumble in response.

 


 

So it’s a couple hours later and you think the kid might actually have the right idea this time.

You find yourself wishing you had a little hover pod of your own that followed Din around, one you could close the lid on and hide in while blaster fire whistles through the air around you like the baby is currently doing.  You’re trying to listen to instructions—you’re trying , but there’s a lot going on here.  Voices chatting, guns firing, targets being pinged, a lively little band playing in the cantina next door.  

When Din first led you through Mos Eisley and inside this specific adobe hut, if you’re being completely honest, you had hoped for food.   A comparatively large restaurant, perhaps?  Peli didn’t starve you by any stretch of the imagination, but her dinners were the exact same every single night, and you’ve learned to thrive on new things.  While you didn’t necessarily think he was going to take you on a… a date, or anything, you certainly didn’t expect him to take you to a shooting range.

Well.  Now that you think about it, this might actually be a date.

Luckily you’re hidden away in the furthest firing partition from the door, but even without the near-constant barrage of gunfire to your left, the distractions are still plentiful.  The kid actually reached down and pressed the button to close his crib himself as soon as the bright beams of plasma started zooming past and reflecting in his large black eyes, and oh how you wish that were you.  You don’t necessarily feel like you’re in danger or anything, but you’ve also never seen so many guns in one place before and you’re worried you’re accidentally going to hurt someone else.

So far Din has taught you the fundamentals for any firearm—always keep the safety on until you’re ready to fire, never point at anything unless you’re a hundred percent willing to shoot it, yada yada yada—and also the safety fundamentals for blasters specifically.  So, making sure there’s no leaks in the gas cylinder when you first load it, never letting a strong magnet get near the power pack, checking the surface of your target for deflection curves if you want to prevent a ricochet, or maybe in his case, inspire one.  He’s taught you your stance, he’s taught you how to read your sights, now all that’s left is just to… shoot.

Your arms raise up in front of you and the metal feels too heavy and awkward in your hands, and you have to hold the handle in your left and creep your right index finger all the up the side of the barrel until you feel the indented safety switch.  It clicks and you reset your grip to slowly ease your finger onto the trigger, staring down the sight, right at the bullseye.  Din is standing directly behind you next to the kid’s tightly closed hovering pod, arms crossed and just waiting for you to pull it.

Come on beginner’s luck, come on beginner’s luck—

You fire, and… well.  You don’t think you’ve ever seen a shot miss its target that spectacularly in your entire life.  You’re almost surprised the beam of plasma didn’t somehow ricochet back into the booth you’re both standing in, that’s how spectacularly you missed.

“Try again.”

There’s no amusement in his voice, nothing mocking about it.  Pure monotone under the helmet, as if he was just naturally expecting that to happen.  

No, you think in frustration.  You want to surprise him again, impress him with how quickly you can pick things up, turn him on like last time.  You just fucking know that would get to him—seeing you easily hit the target dead center with his own blaster, you know that would get to him.

You adjust your aim and fire a few more times.  Miss, miss, wild miss, miss.  Fuck, so many distractions, plasma flying in the corner of your vision and an increasingly heavy gaze from behind you.  Another miss, a miss, yeesh that’s a miss—

Alright, so you're just embarrassing yourself at this point.

“I think it’s broken,” you shrug in defeat, taking a second to find the safety switch and toggle it before going to set the gun down on the raised adobe platform separating the line of booths from the targets—but then Din suddenly snatches the blaster from your grip and extends his arm over your shoulder, firing off six rounds in rapid succession so wickedly fast that you jump backwards into his rock solid chest in surprise.  He doesn’t give an inch under the collision and even wraps his forearm tight around your tummy as he hits the bullseye with such deadly accurate precision that even the char marks and the line of smoke left wafting from the target’s center are razor-thin.

“Works just fine,” he grunts, setting the weapon back down again before urging you forward a bit.  “Go ahead, give it another shot.”

But you’re on a remarkable delay, just trying to process his sheer speed, how fluid and seamless the entire fucking motion was.  Fucking Maker, blink and you’d miss the whole thing.  He waited to grab the gun from you until you turned the safety on, but then… then how did he fire it so insanely fucking fast?  That’s like five different things he had to do with one single hand within a split second…?

“I turned the safety on,” you blink down at the blaster, clearly just trying to process.

“Yeah,” he agrees blankly, as if he’s unsure as to what specifically you’re so stuck on right now.

“So how did you toggle so fas—?”

He picks it from the shelf gracefully and lightning quick—as if he just can’t help but go that speed around his weapon—and then he twists it on its side, flexing his wrist back until the barrel is pointed upwards and you can clearly see his index finger extend all the way up to the safety switch, flipping it up and down while his middle finger rests over the trigger guard.

“How in the f…?”  You mutter, lifting your hand up next to his and positioning your fingers in the exact same L shape, only the tip of your index finger barely stretches an inch shy of the switch.  “Psh,” you huff, dropping your arm back down again.  “Design flaw.”

“For you,” he acknowledges, using the trigger guard to flip it back to its proper position in his hand like fucking spinning it like that is just the easiest and most natural way to handle the deadly weapon.  “This gun was made for me, it’s a feature.  Yours would be smaller and lighter, have the safety towards the back of the chamber instead of along the barrel.”

The words and the casual display of ability cause a rush of stirring excitement to burst forth inside you, suddenly giddy at the very thought.

“Wait,” you draw the word out with a grin, leaning back into him and gently nudging him with your elbow to make sure he knows you’re only mostly joking.  “You gonna buy me a blaster, Mando?  I did earn my keep this week, didn’t I?”

“Have to find one that fits a big enough sight first,” he mutters while setting the gun down on the table, and you scoff at him as his hands come to rest on your hips.  They squeeze and try to guide you forwards once again.  “Prove that you can at least hit the target with mine and we’ll see.”

“You only get to make fun of me if you give me a real answer,” you rule, planting your feet and refusing to budge.

“Okay, but we both know I’ll make fun of you anyways,” he sighs, and you have to dig your heels in and push back into him to keep yourself rooted to the spot.

“You’re not being a very encouraging teacher,” you accuse without trying to hide your grin.  “In fact I feel very dis couraged right now and I think that y—”

But then Din suddenly tips his helmet closer to your ear and lowers his voice, cutting you off.  “Did you know that gifting someone a weapon is considered a proposal of marriage on Mandalore?”

Your smile quickly drops and you gasp, wholly startled at the implication and immediately trying to spin around to look at him.  “Holy shit, are you serious?”

“No,” comes his modulated grunt, tightening his hold and keeping you firmly facing forwards.  “Of course not.  Pick up the gun.”

Okay.

Okay, so that one gets you.

You immediately start giggling, painfully aware that this isn’t the time or place for it, but that one actually fucking got you.  Din easily guides and parks your gullible ass in front of the window carved out of dried mud before picking up the blaster himself and forcing you to hold it with your loose hands, grumbling under his breath.

Shit, okay, focus.  Focus, you can do this.  You clear the laughter from your throat and suddenly get deadly serious, staring your target down like it’s personally gone out of its way to ruin your entire life.  The blaster feels cold in your palms but not when Din’s hands wrap warm and tight around the back of yours, letting you hold the gun how it’s most comfortable for you before gently settling his fingers down over yours.  His chestpiece presses tight against your shoulder blades when he guides the gun up and out, and his arms are long enough to extend yours fully even though he’s behind you and still has some bend to his elbows.  He uses his feet to kick your ankles apart until they’re shoulder-width and then you both carefully find the trigger together.

He’s quiet and slow about it and the whole thing is one giant fucking turn-on.  Maker, chill out.  Chill out, he’s teaching you how to shoot.  This is important stuff, there are people around, chill out…

Din takes a moment to aim the barrel and his hold is so fucking steady, so unwavering and strong.  You wonder if it’d be too obvious if you pushed your hips back a little, you might be able to feel his—

“Fire,” Din murmurs next to your ear, and you pull the trigger without a second thought.

The bright red plasma beam launches from the end of the blaster and hits the target dead center.  You gasp, pulling the trigger again, and unsurprisingly, it’s another perfect shot.

He suddenly lets go of your arms and takes a small step back, but the second he removes his body from yours, the rounds start bouncing wildly off the edges of the target.  Your eyebrows furrow and you try to emulate how you think the angle felt before, but you can’t find it anymore and you’re just failing spectacularly.

When you decide to pause for a second, Din steps up close behind you and wraps his arms around you once more.  You can feel the exact moment he’s locked in his aim, and you fire wordlessly as soon as you know it’s going to hit.  Bullseye, right on the nose.

This time, he lifts just his hands away from yours, staying perfectly still otherwise and you swear you don’t move a single fucking muscle in your entire body before pulling the trigger, but it still hits the far corner of the target.

“It’s broken,” you shrug once again, and Din drops his helmet to your shoulder with a sigh.  “This gun was made for you, which means there’s obviously some mod you have installed that reads biometrics and ruins the shot no matter how good it—”

“Not even close, but that’s not a bad idea,” he tells you, watching you click the safety on and set the uncooperative blaster down.  “I can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong.   Are you just distracted?”

Uh, fuck yeah you are.  So much is going on and more than that, he’s here and he’s just… fuck, you know what he meant when he said he felt like he was losing his mind.  He’s your biggest distraction, all the time.  He’s still standing so close to you and the baby is still isolated and tucked away in his hovering sphere, and you take a moment to think about it.  

Yes, it’s… it’s possible that you may learn better by example than anything else.

“Can I watch you do it?”  You ask him, and Din shrugs before reaching around you and quickly grabbing the blaster from its mud shelf.  “Wait—” you tell him while he raises and extends his arm over your shoulder, and then you wiggle sideways as much as possible in the small booth to squeeze around behind him.  He doesn’t say anything as you swap places with him and scoot up behind him, but you can tell by his body language that he’s confused.  You wonder if he liked that position and watching you shoot his gun, even if you’re complete shit at it.

He stands in front of you for a second and you give him an encouraging, “Okay,” to let him know you’re ready, but then the helmet turns back to look at the target like he’s still unsure as to what you want specifically.  You keep your mouth shut and let him figure it out.  You meant what you said—you want to watch him shoot.  You want to watch him where he’s infamous, watch him do what he’s best at and let completely loose in front of you.

As if it finally clicks for him, Din turns to face the target and suddenly throws the blaster into his left hand while reaching down and pushing a button hidden under the hollow platform with his right.  You have to lean around his broad shoulders to watch the target slide backwards on its track easily triple the distance before squeaking and slamming to a stop.  Din stretches his non-dominant hand out and subtly tilts his helmet before firing six times, easily hitting the bullseye with just as much accuracy as before, and you frown when you notice the only shots that have actually hit the target so far have all been dead center.

He sets the gun down and stands there for a second, staring across the range like it’s nothing at all to him and it’s… remarkable.  Not that he’s a wicked shot, you’ve known that the second you laid eyes on his armor all those months ago.  No, it’s just… you would think this is where he’d thrive, if anywhere.  The entire place is full of smugglers, raiders, scavengers, mercenaries—occupations that define themselves by their grit.  They’re talking as much as they’re shooting, conversing in languages you’ve never heard but suspect Din easily understands.  But instead of fitting in, he’s just… there.  He doesn’t look comfortable, but he also doesn’t look uncomfortable, either.  He doesn’t look like he’s having any fun at all.

None of this is considered a hobby to him, you suddenly realize.  It’s not fun because he’s too good at it.  This is life.  This is going back to school for the most basic fundamentals of a job he’s excelled at for decades—it’s not interesting, he’s gaining absolutely nothing from practicing.

You try to think of the last time you’ve seen him truly in his element.  You think back on all the different settings—he looked out of place on Canto Bight, got into fights on Corellia, hated Coruscant, seemed stressed on Nevarro, and even on Naboo, even in the middle of paradise, he looked unsure if he actually deserved to be there with you.  Now here on Tatooine, where he has real people that he trusts, where he’s surrounded by like-minded individuals shooting his favorite things in the world, it’s like he’s still not able to fully let go.

Is it just you, you wonder?  Does he stand out more just because you’re the one looking?

No, you think.  No.  You have seen him relax.  You’ve seen him laugh before, you’ve seen him be himself with you.  

But… only with you.  A hardened bounty hunter that much prefers the company of a young woman and an infant to literally anyone else in the galaxy.

Fuck.  Why does that turn you on so fucking much?  It’s the display of prowess, the sheer skill he’s developed, how fucking deadly he is—and how you’ve felt him use that trigger finger to trace slow circles around your clit.  The Mandalorian standing with his blaster raised has probably been the last thing too many people have ever seen in their lifetimes, and yet watching from this angle just makes you feel protected, guarded, and… so fucking horny for him.

“Do it again,” you eventually murmur, touching both your palms to his back this time just to feel it.  You want to feel him shoot, you want to feel his muscles move with it.  You want to touch how mechanically he’s able to aim, you want to know if he’s loose or tense when he fires, you just want to… feel it.

Din grabs the gun and as he extends his arms out, you slide your hands up his back to rest under his shoulders.  He’s so broad, he feels so warm and strong, and his trigger releases are so steady that nothing above his wrists move.

Shit, before he’s even finished setting the blaster back down again, you’re already scooting up behind him as close as possible and carefully slithering your arms around his waist, hugging your body tight to his back.  Din stays completely still while your mouth presses against the fabric of his cape and your hands begin to slowly slide down his stomach.

He doesn’t say a damn thing, which makes it even hotter for some reason.  There’s no warning he gives you, no low growl of your name or sweet girl being dragged through the modulator.  He stays completely silent and holds there while blasters continue to fire from stalls to your left, and it gives you the thrill of your lifetime.  Big strong man holding perfectly still for you to touch in the middle of a crowded room.

Your hand slips under his waistband and sink down low until you can trail your fingertips along his cock, hidden from sight beneath the edge of the clay shelf.  The small sound you make at feeling it already firm and at attention for you gets lost in the noise of the shooting range, but you wrap your palm around it and give it a good, slow pull upwards, feeling Din’s back expand with a breath from the sensation.

“Do it again,” you whisper into his shoulder blade, slowly playing with his cock in his pants with one hand while keeping the other wrapped tight around his abdomen.

Din immediately snatches the blaster off the platform and fires it the very moment he takes aim, and you can feel his cock pulse in your palm as he lets off the shots.  Dead center, as always, but he clunks the metal back down with a bit more force this time and then lingers his fingertips at the sloped edge of it for a second, as if he’s considering whether or not he should hold onto it.  

You’re already wet between your legs, but it gets worse the longer he allows you to keep doing this.  His skin is furnace-hot and he throbs for you, and you trail your thumb up to check—oh, Maker, he’s leaking for you, too.  You drag the pad of your thumb over the tip and gently rub the wetness along the curve of his head, before easing back down to give the shaft another slow pull.

A quiet puff of air comes through the vocal filter, but that’s all you audibly get out of him.  Still, it’s more than enough to fill you with a wicked heat and a desperate desire for more.  So you bite your lip and glance around just to double-check that nobody else has wandered over behind you and the kid is still tucked away in his crib, probably passed out in the secluded darkness at this point.  And then you barely take a split-second to consider it before your knees are bending and you’re slowly sinking down the length of his body.

Din is a fucking statue.  He doesn’t do anything to allow your wiggling underneath the raised platform anymore than he widens his stance to prevent it.  Once you’re on your knees in front of him in the dim isolation of your hiding spot though, he takes a single step forward and pins his waist to the hardened clay above your head, and a thrill skitters through you at being completely walled in on all four sides.

You reach up to hook your fingertips in his hem of his trousers and begin pulling them down, so tight and achy between your legs that you want to shove your hand down between them already.  You don’t though, not yet, because you need two hands to be extra careful in getting his cock out.  You don’t even want the fabric of his pants to touch it, you want your mouth to be the only sensation he knows here.

At the very last second, you decide to pull the waistband down far enough to let his balls rest outside the confining clothing, getting increasingly hotter at the thought that this isn’t going to be sneaky and dirty, even if you’re in public.  Din’s wide stance and the floor-length cape hide you perfectly from any prying eyes behind his back, so it’s going to be soft and it’s going to be slow and he’s going to be comfortable while you go down on him.

Your mouth is already watering, so you bend down just slightly and lift your chin to gently drag your tongue along the smooth skin of his balls before anything else.  Honestly—you don’t think he’s expecting you to go there first, because his whole body suddenly jerks at the velvet soft sensation between his legs and you let out a low hum in response.  He can’t reach you down here unless he tries to, so you scoot your knees up a little bit and just decide to go for it.  This way he won’t be able to get it confused, he won’t pull you out from under here halfway through when you suck on his balls before anything else.  This is what you want from him, what’s right here in your mouth.

You switch to the other one and Din twitches with a filtered breath, the skin already tightening up and responding gorgeously under your tongue.  His hand hovers somewhere near the raised platform above your head, fingers curling in his leather gloves and caught right between stopping you and letting you continue.  While he allows it, you ease your way up and make it just tantalizing enough to make him ache without providing any real stimulation, slowly trailing your tongue up the length of his cock and pressing plush lips to the flared head.

Din exhales a shakily while you take your time, tasting the precum as his body produces it, just kissing and licking and purposefully refusing to touch him with anything besides your mouth.  Without being able to see the rest of him from this angle, you're left to your own devices—you’re so gentle and soft about the pleasure that you start to separate the man from the throbbing erection you’re currently playing with.  You begin to enjoy yourself without thinking too much about the struggle he must be withstanding right now, you moan softly against his heated skin even though you know you’re being a tease at the worst possible moment, but no matter how you decide to take your time with it, Din continues to allow it.  He endures.  Silent, perfectly still, until you eventually decide to wrap your lips around the head of his cock and flutter your tongue up underneath it.

But then he jumps and your eyes open when a deep, unkind voice from the stall to your left calls out, “Hey, Mando!  Gonna fuckin’ shoot or just stand there, huh?”

You can hear his immediate frustration in the blaster scraping against the shelf over your head, and you moan softly around his cock the second you feel him tense and start firing.  The smooth skin pulses on your tongue and you slide your fingers around the backs of his knees, opening your throat and slowly taking him deeper.  

And, for a man that has repeatedly fired six perfect shots every single time he picks up his gun, he falters after just three this time.

The heat of your mouth must be too overwhelming.  Too fucking good, too detrimental to his focus and composure to even perform the most basic tasks he typically excels at.  Like a seasoned mathematician that suddenly struggles to count to ten, a renowned author that can’t recite their ABC’s—Mando can’t even fire a weapon right now and it’s all because of you.  

He has to keep trying though, he has to make an actual effort now that you both know someone nearby is paying at least some sort of attention to his performance.  The sound of more plasma arcing through the air over your head slowly disappears into the background in a way that it never could while you were the one firing—you’re completely hidden and safe down here, you can moan low in your throat while keeping your hands around his knees and begin to bob your head without another thought or worry whatsoever.  Handling it is all on him.  He just needs to stay quiet, be still, and shoot his gun.  It should be the simplest thing in the galaxy for him, right?

Wrong.  So wrong.  You hear the way the bolts are pinging off the sides of the target now, you listen to him grunt and let off a few more shots that also sound like they miss.  Your soft palate lifts and you’re practically drenching yourself at how wide he stretches your throat while you take him down as far as you can, and there’s a moment where you’re holding there and you think about doing something about the dull ache throbbing between your legs.  But once you pull off him for air and automatically touch your drooling tongue to your palm, you decide this is what you want more.

Your slick hand wraps around his cock and starts to slowly jerk him off while your mouth moves down to attach to his balls once more, your touch gliding strong and wet along his entire length.  Din almost doubles over into the platform, his hips stuttering up for the first time at the hard stimulation you’re finally giving him.  His skin swells and tightens in your mouth—you can feel the tension locking his thighs down, you can hear the shots above you start to decrease in frequency, and you know he’s already close.

So you move back up to suck on the head of his cock again and slowly swirl your tongue around it, continuing to use your hand to pull steady and firm on the rest of his shaft, and you just close your eyes and wait for him to give you what you want.  His firing soon stops altogether and you squeeze your finger between your thighs and press hard against your clit, just needing to relieve some of the ache.  You keep doing that, you keep drawing circles with your tongue while slowly jerking the rest of him off into your mouth, and at some point, it all just becomes too much for him.

“Shit,” Din gasps, along with the sudden sound of metal skittering against the clay above you, and your eyes pop open in surprise.  “Ah, sh— shhhhh—

Maker, did he just drop his fucking gun?

You start to pull back, but then suddenly a trembling hand shoots down and clutches tight under your throat, hooking hard behind your jaw to make sure you stay right there.

His cock starts throbbing and he shudders, slamming his other palm on the shelf and cumming hard in your mouth.  You’re already swallowing before he even gives you anything but Maker, you’re fucking desperate for it that your hand moves to curl your fingers against the exposed skin at his hips as if that’ll somehow help you get it sooner.  The first taste of him comes as soon as you dig in and drag your nails down his flesh, and Din is helpless to do anything else besides clutch your jaw tight and gasp raggedly while emptying himself down your throat.

He shakes and shudders and you don’t spill a single drop, clutching his hips and pulling him close to keep him in your mouth, and as he slowly comes down from that plateau, you lick every inch of him clean.  His fingers gradually lose their rigidity around your jaw and eventually, his fingers drop down to press gently against your throat while his hips pull back.

He slips from your mouth and you wipe the wetness from your chin, staring up at his cock wistfully and almost wanting to keep going.  Is that fucked up, you wonder?  What would he think?

He hasn’t moved yet, why isn’t he moving?  Your job is clearly finished here, no matter what kind of way you may feel about that.  The coast must not be clear, you have to assume.  Perhaps someone is wandering around behind him, maybe he’s still being cautious about the nosy person next door—all you know is that you can tell he wants to move but he isn’t, which likely means he can’t.  You know his cock must be so unbelievably sensitive right now, but he’s not easing his body back far enough away from the shelf to tuck it into his pants.  He’s keeping it right in front of your face and expecting you to stay there until he deems it appropriate for you to get up.

The longer you wait for him to step back and let you out from under here, the more your need sparks and grows.  What would he think?  That you’re so desperate for his cock that you still want it in your mouth even when it’s soft and spent?  Maker, he’d be fucking right on the money.

At some point, you can’t stop yourself.  You lean back up to slowly take his soft cock back in your mouth, and Din nearly spasms while you slip your hand under your waistband and widen your knees.

You don’t do anything spectacular to it—you’re not that cruel—but you do hold him on the heat of your tongue and keep him there, fluttering your eyes closed as your finger finally touches your clit.  Air puffs shakily through your nostrils and you think Din is actually shaking harder than you are, his body fighting oversensitivity while yours starts the race towards bliss.  He doesn’t stop you but it also feels like he’s purposefully trying not to, like everything in him is rebelling against the wet heat of your mouth but knowing you’re only doing this because you’re so painfully turned on.  You’re doing this because you need it, in spite of the electric shocks of wicked sensation it seems to be inspiring in him.

Your finger speeds up and you start gently sucking on the warm, giving flesh, and his hand trembles as it grabs at your hair.  Fuck, you don’t care if he thinks you’re desperate—you want him to recognize it, you want him to know exactly how much you love his cock—

That thought sends a dark thrill down your spine and pleasure burns bright and needy where you’re still rubbing your clit, dropping your hips and rolling them forwards against your hand.  And oh, your only lament is that you wish he was the one doing this.  You wish Din was building your pleasure instead of letting you use his body in search of your own, you wish it was his hand working between your legs and about to shove you over that ledge, but then again.  Something about this whole fucking scene is just so… undignified.  Debased.  And you’re getting off on it, quicker than you ever thought possible.

When you cum, you’re good and you don’t make a single sound when you cum.  You squeeze your eyes shut and your entire body jolts with every single shattering wave of ecstasy, and Din tugs a handful of your hair and slowly rocks his hips once, twice, fucking your mouth while you endure wildfire burning through your veins.  By the time you finish convulsing on the fucking floor of a Tatooinian gun range, you know you can go for another and probably get it equally as quick as that one, but Din is already pulling his cock out of your mouth and shoving it back into his pants.  You’re like jelly as your elbow is immediately caught in his arm and you’re hauled up from your hiding spot, dazed and disoriented.

The chrome visor stares you down and you want to shrink in on yourself, thinking he’s going to take your happy ass back to the Crest.  You should be in trouble, you know you should be in trouble.  Leaving the recesses of your dark cubby and coming face to face with your surroundings brings a brand new clarity to light—you totally should not have done any of that.  He was trying to teach you, for Maker’s sake.  He was taking the time to show you the valuable knowledge he’s gained regarding weaponry and self-defense.  Fuck, you even told him on Naboo that you wanted to shoot a gun, and he brought you here to do just that.

Except then he just spins you around and picks up the blaster from the adobe ledge in front of you, placing it firmly in your hands.

“Okay,” he pants quietly next to your ear, breathing hard and shallow through the helmet.  “Now you should be able to focus, right?”

Fuck…  Fuck, is he serious?  You can barely hold the damn thing, you’re shaking so hard.  How does this work again?  What does this do?

“Wh-What?”  You croak—fuck, your voice is gone.   “I… I can’t—”

“Try,” he encourages, helping your comparatively tiny hands flip off the safety but other than that, stepping back and leaving you to it.  Completely and hopelessly lost, you weakly twist around to watch him stand next to the kid’s closed metallic shield.  “Hit the target,” Din reiterates with a nod, trying to catch his breath.  “You can do it.”

You look back out with unfocused eyes to see it still all the way on the far end of its track, and there’s just absolutely no fucking way.  “I… can’t.”

“Hit the target and we can go home,” he tells you, and while you don’t exactly know what home is anymore, something tells you it’s somewhere in hyperspace.  A resting baby, a metal floor, a pitch black hull, and your cheek pressed against a warm chest.

It sounds… wonderful.

Inspiring a newfound kind of desire in you, you lift your arms as best you can and work so, so hard to keep them steady.  The target is in your sights and you do your absolute best—fuck, you really do, but you pull the trigger and the shot sadly bounces off the edge.

You drop your hands, already defeated and drained.  “I can’t.”

“Hit the target and I’ll buy you a blaster,” he ups the ante, and you instantly lift your dead arms again.  Fuck, come on, come on, you can do this.

You shoot.  Nope.  So you shoot again.  And then you shoot again, and again, minutely adjusting your wrists purely based on where the bright red plasma is landing and ignoring the scope entirely.

“A nice one,” he continues over the pew pew pew of you just continuing to fucking miss, fucking miserably, over and over again.  “Expensive.  Hand-crafted, one of a kind…”

Miss, miss, miss, and—no.  Just, no.  There’s only so much glaring failure you can take before you snap.  You finally stop shooting and growl in frustration, going to slam the metal down on its resting place.  “Mando, I ca—

“Hit the target and I’ll marry you,” he says quietly, and you freeze just before impact.

… What?  N… No…

Miraculously, you somehow manage to calmly switch the safety on and set the blaster down before turning back to see the helmet staring at you, unmoving.

You… you know it must just be a joke, right?  Just a stupid extension to the one he made earlier, it must be.  You blink dumbly at him and flick your gaze between the visor and two large black eyes staring at you from the crib, wondering if you glitched or if you’re just hallucinating.

“Uh…” you hear yourself say, even though you’ve got absolutely nothing, but Din doesn’t offer anything else to fill in the gaps of your startled misunderstanding.  If you didn’t have such a wild fucking reaction to the words, you'd probably wonder if he actually said them or not—that’s how much he gives away.  Silent, so unbelievably silent when you’re begging him to give you at least something.  Is he messing with you again?  Is he just that confident that you’re going to fail?

It takes forever for you to turn back around and face the target, but you eventually do when he refuses to elaborate.  Your heart slams in your chest and you wonder what you’re doing even attempting this.

The moment you lift your trembling arms is the moment you know your heart is pounding too fast—your finger twitches with the wild rush of blood flow and you end up pulling the trigger way before you’re ready.  You fire before you’ve checked your sights, you fire before you’ve taken any sort of aim whatsoever, you fire spontaneously enough to surprise even yourself and it—

—it hits dead center.

Your stomach drops and a jolt of some rabid feeling punches through you, you have no idea what it is.  You whip around so fast that you get dizzy, seeing him standing there, completely still.

“That was just beginner’s luck,” you quickly reassure him, suddenly feeling faint.  Holy shit, holy shit, what the fuck just happened?  “Listen—hey, no, listen, I can’t get it again,” you explain shrilly to the utterly dead silence from him.  “Look, watch this, double or nothing.”

You spin back around, well aware that absolutely nothing about what you just said or what just happened made any fucking sense at all.  Beginner’s luck when you’ve been consistently awful at this, telling him repeatedly to listen when you’re very, very fucking aware he hasn’t said anything, double or nothing on a literal proposal as if double marriage is something that actually exists?

No.  Shut up.  Don’t even think that word, don’t think about fucking anything.  Fire, fire without thinking, just lift the gun and pull the trigger—

You do, and oh.  Oh, no.

“Uh?!”  Your voice comes out on a squeak, now in a complete fucking panic.  What the fuck?   No fucking way.  Perfect, perfect , the odds are fucking astronomical—another deadly accurate shot.  “Ah, um, okay, scratch everything I said—th-third time’s a charm?”

Wide-eyed and having absolutely no clue what you’re doing at this point, you fail to see Din slowly turn his helmet down and to the right as he stands behind you.  You go to lift your arms and pull the trigger, but then he suddenly reaches out lightning-quick and bumps your elbow upwards at the very last second.  

The abrupt push causes your shot to be angled off course spectacularly and you can’t do anything but look up and gasp in horror, worried it’s going to ricochet off the ceiling and land somewhere this building isn’t architecturally designed to absorb.  There’s just enough time to wildly wonder why the fuck he did that—

—but then, like pure magic before your eyes… the beam of plasma adjusts itself in midair.  

It fucking bends.  Across the length of your entire firing lane, it curves in a downward trajectory and hits the target with absolutely impossible physics.

Your jaw fucking drops and you whip your body around in dumb shock to see Din staring hard at the closed shield next to him.

… that’s not closed.

The baby tilts his head at you and coos happily, one ear tipping up while the other tips down, and you’re completely blown away.  Not only at the entirely unexpected demon-power display, but what specifically he was hoping to get out of it.  You’re still stuck, blinking down at the adorable little goof with abilities you’ll never understand.

Only, a hand suddenly grabs yours and drags you back to yourself.

“We need to leave,” Din says quietly, switching the lid shut on the hovering crib and pushing it towards the booth’s exit while tugging you along behind him.  “I don’t know how many people saw that, we need to leave.”

Sure enough, voices in the next partition over start picking up, likely the only ones in here who had a good enough angle to watch the physically unthinkable shot somehow meet its target, and your adrenaline quickly begins pumping while you keep your head down and power-walk your ass to the door.  You don’t know the kind of consequences that could potentially arise from others witnessing the kid’s literal sorcery, but you know you’d rather not take the chance.  The voices start growing louder as you three make your quick escape, beginning to ask others around them if they just saw that, but you’re already out of the rectangular adobe structure and long gone by the time anybody steps out of their panels to hear the uproarious accusations of cheating beginning to fly.

Chapter Text

Everybody is asleep and you’re just a complete mess.

Truly.  And it fucking sucks, because this should be enjoyable.  This is home.  You’re in hyperspace, the hull is pitch black, the baby is asleep, and Din’s breathing is slow and quiet through the darkness.  Your cheek presses to his chest as it rises and falls hypnotically, you’re comfortable and safe and this would normally be a dream.  But your eyes are wide open right now and you are just going through it .  Spiraling in the midst of the most stable surroundings you could possibly conceive.

You suppose that this is partially your fault.  You don’t know why literally any part of you expected Din would explain himself without prompting from you, but you still couldn’t work up nearly the nerve necessary to ask.  Every potential question you came up with contradicted your intent, every way you tried to mentally phrase it gave off the wrong impression.  How do you ask somebody if they were being serious about something without revealing anything about your own intentions?  You can’t—that’s a downside of staying silent.

Din hasn’t said a single word since he urged you to leave the shooting range earlier, and he didn’t really seem like the quiet didn’t suit him, if that makes sense.  Yours was awkward, it fit you wrong.  You struggled for words while he easily ignored their existence altogether, able to navigate the Crest into hyperspace and exist comfortably around you without ever addressing the giant bantha in the room.  Maybe that’s part of the reason you floundered so hard—he didn’t avoid you, he held the kid while you took a shower in the small fresher, and even though he was quieter around you than he’d been in awhile, he gave no indication that anything was wrong at all.

You spent that time getting clean but also formulating some sort of plan.  As you bathed in actual water for the first time in a week and scrubbed your body clean, you tried to figure out at least why you were having so much trouble coming up with something to say, but even then, words evaded you.  You spent the entire time staring blankly at the metal wall, at a complete fucking loss.

When you came out of the fresher with wet hair and comfortable clothing to sleep in, Din was armorless and resting in your makeshift bed on the floor, the baby tucked soundly in his crib next to him.  You turned off the lights and carefully found your way under the blankets next to him in the pitch blackness, feeling him lazily reach around you and pull you to rest against his chest.  His fingers gently drew circles along your arm for maybe the first few minutes while you worked up the nerve to speak.  You needed to say something, this was your chance—

But then his hand soon fell to rest in one place on your shoulder and he passed out.  Helmet on, not even a few minutes of your quiet breathing next to him.

So now, you’re here, just… a little ball of stress in the middle of paradise.  Hours have passed, you need sleep after such a physically exhausting week but it’s like you haven’t even processed the fucking proposition he presented to you yet.  You’re having trouble even thinking the words, that’s how much he’s got you fucked up.

He said… hit the target and I’ll ma…. hit the target and I’ll marrrrr…

Fuck.  You stay on that loop for ages until your eyes begin to grow heavy, until you just settle on thinking about it with them closed.  Slow breaths from Din under one ear, the silence of hyperspace all around you—how are you supposed to contemplate when his body is so warm?  No, you can ask tomorrow, you’ll ask him tomorrow.

Eventually, you’re able to drift off into a troubled slumber, dreaming of bells made of beskar that deafen anyone who rings them.

 


 

You wake up what feels like two minutes later.

It’s not, but you don’t know that.  You’re so warm and the second your eyes open, they start stinging and burning and tearing up like your body just wants to cry for even being awake right now.  You finally got to sleep—you moan pitifully and start to turn your head further into the warm blankets, but then a gloved hand smooths your hair back and a voice whispers quiet through the darkness.

“I have to go.”

And oh, his touch is just the gentlest thing, but what he says makes your already fragile mental state want to shatter.  The first words he gives you in hours and they’re the ones you loathe to hear the most.

“W-Wha?  No,” you whimper and automatically reach for him, your throat starting to close up.  Maker, you’re so tired, you’re so tired, you feel so fucking emotional and vulnerable right now and you’re not even awake enough to realize it.  “Why?”

Din just catches your hands and brings both of them together in front of him, slowly pressing your knuckles to the cold beskar on the face of his helmet.

“I meet with Karga in three days,” he murmurs back, voice pillow-soft and barely loud enough to come through the steel under your fingers.  It’s gentle and lulling and it makes you want to sleep again, but you can’t and you feel like you could burst into tears for that reason alone.  “He gave me four pucks, I need four bodies.”

You can’t argue with it, the logic is perfectly sound.  But you still want to, and everything inside you revolts at the thought of allowing him leave like this without fighting for more.  Which means you have absolutely nothing reasonable or compelling to say to appeal to him; all you’re left with the glaring truth.

“But I don’t want you to leave,” you whisper, tightening your fingers.

And, perhaps if you were even half-conscious, you’d wince.  You’d cringe at the shake in your voice, you’d remind yourself that he has to make a living, he’s said it over and over again.  If you were completely awake, you’d scold yourself for being such a needy mess, but right now, all you can think about is how much you want him to stay, just this once.

After a moment, you feel the gloves carefully collect both of your hands into just one of his, and then he slowly reaches out with his free hand to cradle your jaw.

“I won’t be gone long,” Din murmurs.  “I can’t be.”

Your head turns slowly in his palm, and you’re just so, so sleepy.  Your voice is small and your words slur.  “Stay with me.”

Quiet, and though you can’t see him, the leather continues to press so warm to your cheek.  Your eyes slowly drift shut, needing him to stay exactly like this, stay right here just like this.  Karga can wait, the quarry can wait, the galaxy can wait—everything else can wait when things are like this, when he’s looking down at you breathing slow into his palm.

You’re almost asleep again when you hear him say something.

But… you have no idea what he says.  You hear it.  You hear his voice come through the pitch black, quiet enough to sit just on top of the silence and let the mysterious words simply become a part of it, but it’s strange.  Like his cadence lilts in a different way, the vowels are longer than what you’re used to, and your comprehension abruptly falters like it would if he was speaking another language altogether.

Maybe it’s just because it’s the first thing to pull you back from the edges of sleep, that has to be right.  It doesn’t sound like Basic because your mind is stupid and slow right now.  You need to ask him to repeat himself, but all that you can muster is the soft sound of confusion, not even able to open your eyes anymore.

His hands pull away from you and once again, you suddenly can’t decide between sleep and crying, quickly lifting and trying to reach out for him in the darkness.  You can’t feel anything, it’s like he’s completely disappeared from where you assumed he’d be, except then something tiny is placed into your hands instead and it makes an unhappy little sound at being disturbed.  You automatically hold the baby close to your chest and strong hands touch your shoulders, urging you to lay back down again.

“Leave the engine running, you’ll freeze if you don’t,” he mutters, quickly tucking the blankets up under your body while you close your eyes and feel the tears wet your lashes.  Fuck, you’re so exhausted, you just need to sleep.  “If I’m not back in sixteen hours, I’ll use my e-comm and you’ll have to fly out to me.”

He steps away from you, walks quickly and with purpose to the side of the hull, and a blast of frigid air fills the room before the door is slammed shut behind him.

 


 

Your head hurts.

Sparks and wires give your fingers mean, zapping reminders to pay attention every time your focus slips, but you still feel like you’re in a daze.

“Come on,” you drone, trying to use your voice to snap yourself back into the present, but the sound of it isn’t even interesting enough to pull you away.  “Come on.”

Maker, you’re going fucking crazy.  Is this just all an elaborate scheme to make you experience the same kind of insanity he told you he struggles with in your absence?  Because you don’t like this—you hate feeling like this, you can’t concentrate on anything and even if he hadn’t instructed you to do so, you’d likely still be counting the hours of his absence.

Fourteen have passed so far, not the sixteen you’re waiting for but getting close.  It’s one thing you’ve been able to accomplish.  Counting.  You can still count right now, so at least there’s that.

Oh, and another hoop you’ve jumped through.  Understanding words.   You can listen and repeat, even if you still can’t fully comprehend, but you’re getting there.

Din said… hit the target and I’ll marry you.

He said that.  Yep.  You’ve accepted it, you’ve accepted the words that were said.  Indeed.

Okay, but now… like…

What did he mean by that?  Why did he say that?

No matter how much you tell yourself he was just messing around—no matter how many times you offer up that perfectly logical answer to the burning question you’ve been sitting on, you still aren’t satisfied with it.  Something keeps tugging your mind back to it, a tether constantly pulling you away from the work that’s designed to be your distraction.

You frown down at the box of machinery.  Whelp, if he was serious, he’d probably immediately take the offer back after witnessing your behavior this morning.  You embarrassed yourself terribly , you acted like a clingy baby in the looming shadow of unconsciousness and what’s worse, you can’t even remember what he said after you begged him to stay.  It could’ve been a quiet, “Stars, pull yourself together,” for all you know.

And honestly, just… fuck these electronics.  You’re at the point where you’d probably cheer on whatever brutal impact damaged them so atrociously if you weren’t also well aware that this box was very likely attached to Din’s chest when it was crushed.  The magnetics are a complete mess, and you’re mostly just attempting to see how the individual components of each piece are supposed to communicate.  Turning the switch on doesn’t do much at all besides make the capacitors put out heat.  Not enough to shut it down or be a hazard to the housing when you close it, but enough to know that it’s going to present a problem for you at some point.

What’s more, you’re so lost in your own thoughts and busywork that you don’t see two green ears poking out over the top of the pile of armor on your temporary workstation (literally just the floor) until one of the thigh braces comes clattering down and the whole thing collapses with a ruckus.

You suddenly shove the metal box away from you in frustration and you reach for the little troublemaker with a sigh, scooping him up and getting to your feet.

“This isn’t going to work,” you grunt to him, hearing your words better for some reason when you direct them at the baby instead of talking to yourself, and his eh? allows the thoughts to come clearer and easier.  No, you can’t be distracted when your distraction is just another part of your status quo, you can’t use fixing mechanics to occupy yourself because it’s what you’ve done to occupy yourself your entire life, it’s worn off at this point.  You need something newer.  Something that takes your entire focus to do.

Eventually, your eyes drift over to the one metal panel on the wall that you’ve rarely ever opened.  One that takes up a comparatively enormous amount of space in the hull considering what you know it holds.  You eye the kid in your arm, who suddenly has sneaky painted all over his expression.  “You thinking what I’m thinking, demon?”

He squeaks his affirmative and you move over to the armory, pressing a few buttons before the doors slide open by themselves.  Because of course Mando invested in hydraulics for the gun closet but not for the hidden cot he used to sleep on, of course.

“Maker above,” you groan as the metal slides open, needing to lift your chin to eye the enormous collection.  How many fucking…?  All this for just one person?  What does that big one in the middle do that the others stacked strategically around it don’t?  They all kill whatever you point and shoot at, you’re assuming?  Are you missing something?

The baby makes a tiny sound of awe as you carefully look over your choices, not expecting nearly this many to be offered, before settling on one that looks the simplest.  A sleek silver one that’s still too big for your hand but smaller than anything else on the rack.

Grabby fingers reach out for the shiny metal as soon as you remove it from the shelf and you very purposefully set it down out of his pitiful wingspan.  “Nope.  Now come on, gotta bundle up.”

You make your way back over to the bed and pull one of the thickest blankets up, settling it over the open shield and then situating your partner in crime in his usual spot inside.  You strategically stuff and stack the fabric around him to make sure he’ll be warm enough in what you know has to be far below freezing temperatures, lifting it up over his ears and wrapping it around his neck in a loose hood.  He blinks up at you with gigantic eyes and an open mouth, clearly thrilled about your willingness to go on an adventure with him this time instead of being the tall nuisance that consistently holds him back from one, and you scoff down at him as you partially close the lid on his levitating nest of blankets for extra protection.  He should be warm enough, you’re not going to be outside long.

And then you pull out nearly half the amount of clothes you own and suit up in what feels like ten layers before grabbing the blaster.  The swirling wind nearly shoves the heavy hull door into you as soon as you open it and— Maker.

You look back at the kid behind you for a second, wondering if it’s too late to change your mind.  His expression narrows and he makes a triumphant ha! while pointing three fingers at the grey blizzard through the small open space in his crib.  Try as you might, you can’t ignore a call to arms when delivered with such ferocity.

Both of you step outside and take in the view after you wrestle with the door to haul it shut.  You don’t know the name of this planet but from what you can see, it’s one giant ice ball, mountainous and cold as fuck .  Though, to be honest, your only indication that it’s truly cold as fuck is the continuously accumulating snow blanketing the landscape and the flurries dancing in the whipping wind.  You’re too warm-blooded for climates like these—anything below room temperature and you’re freezing, you have absolutely no tolerance for cold whatsoever.

Keeping that in mind, you don’t travel far at all.  Just a few steps beyond the entrance to your shelter before eyeing what appears to be a large white boulder in the distance.  There’s a solid target, you figure—you’ll be able to see chunks splintering off when you hit it and the ice isn’t strong enough to bounce plasma back, you won’t have any ricochets.

Okay.  Okay—safety, where’s the safety on this one?  Ah, yes, okay—safety, off.  Stance, find your stance.  There it is.  Alright, now lift.  Lift, get that stupid frozen ball right in your sights, line it up.  Hold.  Hold.  Hold.

Inhale, exhale.  Inhale, exhale—

Fire.

You watch with bated breath as the bright red bolt launches from the end of the barrel and travels across the distance before melting a hole in the snow just to the right of your target.

“Mother fucker!”   You yell into the frigid landscape without warning, suddenly infuriated.  What’s the point of even having a sight if every gun is just gonna say fuck you no matter what?  Could there be some sort of mathematical reason why you seem to be fucking atrocious at this, you wonder?  Are you fucking up the angle somehow while trying to read the scope?  Should you just ignore it and try to aim without thinking too hard?

Admittedly, you spend the next five minutes shooting at that stupid fucking thing, not making a single shot.  It’s not been long at all, but your entire body is already trembling uncontrollably and it is just too fucking cold out here.  Freezing your fucking ass off isn’t going to help your aim of course, but it’s almost just tragic at this point.  Either you’ve got to accept that you’re just absolutely hopeless at this, or you’ve got to… blame the little womprat behind you for messing up your shots, yeah.  It wouldn't surprise you.

As a last ditch effort, you consider trying something a bit ridiculous to see if he really is fucking with you.

“I’m firing one last shot,” you call out loudly over the sound of the bristling wind and flurries, making sure he can hear your narration from his little blanket cave behind you.  “If I hit the target… I will present our demon overlord with a chunk of raw meat later for dinner.”

You give the offer a moment to sink in before raising the blaster, and then you jerk it up at the very last second while pulling the trigger.  The arc of plasma quickly disappears into the gloomy skies over the top of the ice boulder, completely straight.

You switch the safety on and turn around to say something smart to him, but… well.  Uh.  That’s an empty crib.

Sudden panic rips through you at the sight of the wide open shield, the blanket left abandoned inside.  Your head whips around in horror, wondering where the fuck he could’ve gone—but then you’re able to spot tiny footprints in the snow.  Your eyes quickly follow them up and see the baby wading his way up a large hill, slow against the terrain and trying in vain to get to something at the very top.

You drop the blaster and bolt through the blizzard to get to him while calling out through the freezing air and wishing, not for the first time, that you had a name to roar and strike fear into his tiny little heart.  In this case, you prefer a middle name as well.

Finally reaching him and yanking him up from the snow, you tuck him under the warmest part of your arm and open your mouth to start venting the terror from your body, but he makes a distressed noise and starts climbing.  You fumble with him on your way back down, not expecting that response, but he’s so distraught and preoccupied that he’s unable to stay still, trying to find different ways of escaping your grasp and making more and more sounds to indicate something is wrong.

“What the fuck are you—” you stuff him into the shield and at least get the blankets wrapped around him before looking back and trying to spot whatever he’s still wiggling and attempting to get to.  Frustrated cries start filling the icy air and… okay.  “Okay,” you tell him, your breath puffing like smoke in front of you, “okay okay, we can go look, but you need to stay warm.”

You clutch the edge of his metal shield and urge it to follow you back up the snowy hill, feeling the crunch of your feet disappear further and further into it as you climb.  Your outer two layers are probably soaked by now— stars, it’s so fucking cold.  You know you’re not exactly the best judge, but you’ve been outside less than five minutes and you’re already worried about getting sick or frostbite, already jumpy and wanting to go back to the warmth of the hull.

But as you reach the top and look out in the distance, you can just barely make out a familiar metallic glint on the horizon.  

Your heart picks up, but the baby makes another distressed sound.  Not… happy, not thrilled that his dad is coming back.  Some strange sort of dread begins to fill you, carefully holding the kid in his shield with one hand and looking at the bright reflection of light a little ways away just to make sure it’s…

No, it’s not moving.  Not disappearing and reappearing, not catching the sunlight differently.  Completely stationary in this absolutely horrendous weather.

You immediately make your way in that direction, your body deciding to outright abandon its trembling in the wake of this newfound worry.  You’re suddenly sweating, way too warm.  That’s Din, you recognize the glint of his armor anywhere, but why isn’t he moving?

The closer you get, the faster you move and the more you’re able to see.  He’s laying facedown in the snow.  There’s quite a bit of it covering the back of his cape, maybe a few inches, and… there’s also someone laying equally as lifeless behind him.  Your heart is slamming now, you’re doing your best to run in the unforgiving terrain, and you finally see that it’s… a corpse, a frozen corpse is behind him with a rope tied around its ankles, clutched tight in Din’s unmoving fist as it lays against the pure white backdrop.

“Mando?”  You call out, dropping to your knees as soon as you reach him.  “Hey—hey, can you hear me?”

The beskar strapped to him is frozen over and feels colder than ice when you try to shake him.  He doesn’t respond.  He’s dead weight; you do your best to turn him over on his back, but you still get nothing from him.  You shove your trembling fingers up under the helmet, and the only reassurance you have that he’s even alive comes from the petrifyingly slow pulse beating underneath.  His skin is ice cold.

Shit, he’s still breathing but he’s hypothermic, you have to get him back to the Crest right fucking now.

You fumble to get in position above his head while hooking both your arms under his, before leaning everything you have into it—but fuck, he’s so heavy.  You can barely lift him even just a few inches off the ground—the snow is deep, his armor makes him weigh a ton and the fabric wrapped around him is sopping wet.  You try again, making a tight sound in your throat while you haul, but it’s no use.

“Fuck,” you curse, starting to panic even fucking harder.  You’re gasping and breathless and getting dizzy and scared, continuing to try and find different angles to heave—

—until suddenly the burden is lifted.

You nearly fall backwards on your ass at the abrupt removal of tension, playing tug-of-war with a team that decided to give up with no warning.  But it’s like it almost doesn’t even phase you; you don’t even look behind you to see the baby’s eyes closed tight in concentration, you just recover and pull with both arms, feeling Din’s body gliding easily along the snow now and leading him all the way back down the hill.

Once you get inside the Crest and shut the door to the raging blizzard behind the three of you, there’s an extended moment where you just… you don’t know what to do.  You know all about how to deal with heatstroke, but this is the opposite—he either spent too long in the cold, or he exhausted himself trying to get back too quickly and then spent too long in the cold.  He said he’d use his e-comm if he wasn’t back in sixteen hours—was that the cutoff?  The point where the temperature outside would shut his body down and he’d need you to come get him?

Regardless, you need to warm him up.  Yes, that’s your priority, and you figure the quickest and safest way to accomplish it has to be the shower in slow increments.  The kid helps you move Din into the tiny fresher in the hull and then you sit on the floor with him, holding his limp body to your chest while reaching up to turn the faucet on.

Cold water sprays down and then suddenly— oof, he’s heavier than fuck again .   Air leaves your lungs and your neck cranes back under the unexpected increase in pressure on top of you to see the kid climbing down from his shield, no longer focused on mentally bearing most of his father’s weight or directing his own hovering form of transportation along behind you.  The baby disappears out of sight and you huff, completely trapped under Din as freezing water rains down on you.

Fuck, it’s so cold.  It’s way too fucking cold for you, but your core body temperature is also mostly normal right now.  Din’s isn’t, you’ll probably shock his system if you try to warm him up too quickly.  So you reach up and twist the knob, keeping it at a temperature he’d probably find just the slightest bit warm while inspiring violent shudders from you.

“H-Hey, I’m gonna t-t-take this off, o-okay—” you stutter down at him, knowing damn well he isn’t conscious to hear you but giving him that reassurance on the small chance he is, and then reach with trembling fingers to work at his armor.  You worry that the beskar is keeping the cold trapped the same way his clothes are, like having solid pieces of ice strapped to his body and nothing to protect him besides a few layers of soaking wet fabric.

The chestpiece comes off and you throw it blindly over your shoulder into the hull with a clang—admittedly, without thinking about where the baby is at all anymore.  The pauldrons come off next, but not before you reach up and turn the heat up just the slightest bit.  Your jerky limbs just want to blast it and remove the rest of his clothes in steamy hot water, but you can’t.  Even though your mind is hurtling at a thousand lightyears an hour, whatever reason you have left reminds you that you have to be patient or risk losing him entirely.

Eventually you’re able to get all the armor off but you hate the way he’s breathing right now.  Slow and shallow, like he just doesn’t really need the air at all but his body is still fighting for it on instinct.  His chest barely moves with it even when it’s got nothing weighing it down.

“You’ll b-be okay,” you say aloud, talking to the both of you even though only one is capable of responding.  “Y-Y-You’ll be o-okay—”

You reach up to inch the temperature a little higher, shivering terribly now.  His body feels slightly warmer under the shower than it did with the beskar, but you know you need to keep going and take the fabric off now.  Maker, it’s nearly impossible—the black clothing clings to his skin and its such a small space to maneuver, but it gives your mind and hands a clear goal to focus on while the water incrementally heats up.

Strangely, your adrenaline has been rocketing for so long that you almost lose track of time.  You just keep deadly focused on your task of undressing him and slowly heating the shower, trying not to think, trying not to get in your head and bring about disaster in such a crucial set of moments.

At some point, the water is warm.  Comfortably warm, and Din’s body isn’t ice cold anymore.  It’s warm, too, laying back into your chest and naked besides the helmet, but he’s still not moving.  No response, no matter how much mindless drabble you supply, no matter how steamy and hot the shower has become, no matter how much your own body has heated up.  Your fingers have found their home under his jaw, pressed right to his pulse point and feeling it continue to beat slow and faint, but you’re starting to feel the terror set in.  Real terror, the kind that makes you stupid and emotional, the kind that turns you back into a child again.

“I don’t know if it’s working,” you suddenly choke out, close to tears.  He’s warm, what else can you do for him?  Why is he not waking up?  “I-I don’t know what to do, Din, I…”

No— no, you cannot lose your shit, not yet.  You will exhaust every fucking option before you let that fear set in.  He’s not waking up because he needs to recover, his body needs time to work things out in a warm, comfortable environment.  He’s breathing , his heart is beating, he’s warm, and he’s still with you, so… you need to still be with him.

You turn the water off and clumsily get up, grabbing him under the arms and hauling him back into the hull.  He’s still heavy but it’s so much easier than before to move him; there’s no armor weighing him down anymore besides the helmet, no cape or snow or friction to catch him, no cold to lock your muscles up.  It’s slow going but you’re finally able to settle him in the warmth of your shared bed and then cover his body in the collection of blankets you’ve amassed.  You stand up and peel off all your wet layers of clothing, letting them plop to the metal floor while glancing around for the kid—

—who is currently swinging from the ladder to the cockpit with one hand.

It startles you for just a moment, just long enough for you to wonder what the fuck he thinks he’s doing up there, but then you figure that if he found some way to get up there then he can surely find his way back down again.

As you quickly drop to the bed and scoot up next to Din’s limp body under the blankets, the Crest’s engine suddenly gives a low rumble below the floor and heat starts blowing through the hull vents.  Again, you’re too preoccupied to even notice the gift much.  You’re tugging and tucking blankets around him and up under the metallic edge of his helmet when...

Maker, you need to take this off.  If the inside is wet, it’s probably keeping his head cold while the rest of him is warm from the shower.  You know it’s not a light thing—you know… you know at least a fraction of what this means.  You won’t look, you won’t look unless something absolutely drastic happens and it’s completely unavoidable, but you need to take his helmet off.

You catch the shoulder furthest from you and tug at his heavy body until he’s on his side, facing you on the bed.

“Din, I have to take your helmet off,” you warn him, saying it slowly and clearly.  Again, just in case.  “I’m not gonna look.  Nobody is gonna look—” your gaze flicks behind him to eye the baby, who is now somehow on the metal ground and waddling up to you both.  He blinks enormous black eyes at you, looking between you and his father huddled together under the blankets.

“Close your eyes,” you tell him very seriously, no room for negotiating.  “I know you understand me.”

It takes just a few seconds before he lifts his hands up and does exactly what you say, placing his fingers over his closed eyelids and then even so much as toddling around to face the wall.  You gasp in relief, clenching your eyes firmly shut and then pulling the helmet up, making sure you catch his head before it falls with one hand while tossing the beskar somewhere in the hull with the other.

Cold.  His hair is soaking wet and so cold , and his head rolls slightly as you guide it to rest in the warmest part of your neck.  Your hand stays attached to the back of it, wanting to transfer every single bit of warmth from your palm to him, and your eyes open to the kid’s back as your other arm wraps around Din’s bare spine.

And then all at once, you just feel… helpless.  He’s in your arms but Maker, you don’t know what else you can do.  The heat is blasting, you’re warm and pressed against him under multiple blankets, the engine is slowly heating the metal floor, but his breathing.   Slow.  Shallow.  Barely able to be felt against your neck.  He’s here but he’s not.  And you have no way of knowing if he’s getting closer or further away from you.

Tears start coming before you even realize.  But you have nothing to say.  After spending the entire time talking out loud, providing reassurances, narrating, distracting yourself—you don’t have anything anymore.  The silence twists you tighter, the nothing becomes inescapable, and the sudden sob that leaves you echoes hauntingly throughout the hull.  You pull his limp body as close to you as possible for comfort.  Wake up.  Wake up.

Your vision is watery—you don’t see it.  You don’t see the kid slowly turn around and take a few steps forward.  You only notice he’s there when green catches in the abstract blur, but you sniff and blink quickly to clear it.  It only takes a second to see the baby’s hand, extending and pressing against the blanket covering Din’s back, and you watch with wide eyes as he closes his.

And then there’s a second.  A second where you dare to hope.  Where you wonder if it’s even something that can be done.

The kid lowers his hand just a moment later and stumbles back a few steps, before plopping down on the ground and slowly falling backwards.  You have just enough time to see his little body inhale and exhale a few times as he sleeps, and then—

—and then Din suddenly jolts in your arms, bursting with too much life after spending too many heart wrenching moments without it.

“Shhh,” you breathe, instantly tightening your grip on the back of his head so he doesn’t pull away from you in a panic and keeping it tucked into the warmest part of your neck, right where your pulse thrums fast and present.  Your eyes clench tightly shut just in case and your heart bursts with pure, blinding, heavenly relief.  “Shhh sh sh, stay right here, just stay right here…”

As soon as he seems to recognize your voice and figure out that he’s not dead, his body immediately starts wreaking with shivers.  You squeeze him tight to you, feeling his large, quaking frame curl inwards into you for warmth, burying his own face into your neck even further and breathing shallow but quickly now, like his body actually wants the air again.  You do your best to will your blood to pump faster and provide him that relief, stretching and opening your body as much as possible to give him warmth.

And then you spend the next few hours like that.  Holding him, murmuring gently to him, providing him with your body heat and stars, he fucking clings to you.  He presses tight to you and trembles, and you don’t even know if he’s listening, but you keep talking.  Finding words for hours, and while some of them are just different ways of saying the same thing, you say them anyway.

He’s okay.  The kid is okay.  Everyone is okay.

Eventually, the shivering dies down until it stops altogether.  Din stays in one place and goes completely limp again, but this time he continues to breathe you in, slow and deep into the crook of your neck.  Fast asleep in your arms, and you thank the good fucking Maker above for the little angel passed out on the floor behind him.

 


 

He has to meet with Karga in two days.

After a few more hours of holding him and making absolutely sure he’s going to be alright, that’s all you can stupidly think about.

A deadline.  A very quickly approaching one.

You don’t know why.   But it might have something to do with the fact that you want nothing more than to climb up into the cockpit and navigate the ship off this horrid planet, and you can’t.  You’re confident that the hull and blankets are warm enough by themselves to keep Din comfortable as he recovers, and you’ve also had quite a while to regroup and get your mind thinking logically again, so you’re not worried about getting up and leaving him right now, no.  That’s not the problem.

The problem is that there’s a corpse outside.  You know this.  You know it’s there, and you know he needs it.  Nobody’s gonna take his word for just saying they’re dead, much less pay him for his services; no body, no bounty.  You also know it’s probably being covered with fresh snow right now, or maybe some sort of wild animal has already gotten their teeth into it, if anything can even survive out there.  And you’re the only one awake.  The only one capable of going to get it.

You’ve been arguing with yourself.  For about an hour, you’ve been struggling with the thought.  Din is soft and warm and every breath makes you focus less on the terrifying moments that occurred and more on the need to step up once again.

In the end, it’s the kid who gives you the final push.  You’re not going to leave him laying on the floor like that for any longer.  Not after what he did.

You take a second, grabbing the blanket and pulling it up all the way over Din’s head as it rests warm and comfortable in your neck.  You’re incredibly careful to cover his face, and even while climbing out of the warm cocoon of the bed, you keep your eyes firmly shut and continue to pull the fabric even higher, making absolutely sure you’re not going to see his face on accident.  You shouldn’t, you don’t think, as long as he doesn’t jerk awake and pull it down himself, but you want to take extra precaution regardless.

After quickly yanking on some clothes, you immediately make your way over to the kid and pick him up, seeing his little mouth open as he snores—and oh, you just have to.  You pull him to your chest and give him the most heartfelt, thankful embrace you can while not squishing him, before setting him down in his much more comfortable hovering blanket palace and closing the lid on it.

You know you have a very clear task now, but for just a few moments longer, you do your best to stall despite the ticking clock.  You start to pick up the mess in the hull—you close the fresher door, pick up Din’s discarded armor and set it in a neat pile close to the bed, place the helmet under the vent to encourage the padding inside to dry faster, and then you collect his old armor and stuff it back into one of the storage cubbies with your toolbox.

Only, an idea suddenly occurs to you as you’re putting away the chestpiece.  When you open the door to the hull, you know that a blast of cold air is going to flood the ship.  The engine is still heating everything inside and making sure you don’t get trapped in the snow by continuously melting it on the outside, but you don’t want Din to start shivering again.

So you grab the dented piece of electronics you were working on and flip the power switch, feeling the capacitors slowly start to heat up inside the housing.  You go back over and lift the blanket near his feet just enough to tuck the metal under it, close enough to Din that he’ll feel the same amount of warmth your body was providing him but not enough to overheat.

And then you make your way over to your bag and pull on the rest of your clothes, now exhausting almost every single clean thing you own just to make another trek through the snow.  You’re in the middle of pulling on your fifth pair of pants when the thought truly sinks in.

A corpse.  A dead body.  That you’re actually considering going out into the worst fucking weather in the galaxy to search for, haul back to the ship, and put into carbonite.  Because of a fucking deadline for an occupation very much not your own, very much not chosen by you.

You quickly walk over and leave through the door on the side of the hull before you can change your mind, slamming it shut behind you.

 


 

Well, it’s…  It’s not too terrible, you guess.

It’s been frozen out here for hours, that’s why.  It’s not bloody, not gory, not demented or malformed in any way.  Tranquil almost, like the creature died in its sleep in this nightmarish landscape, perfectly at peace.

You still don’t want to get anywhere close to it, but you have to.  You pull a face and slowly reach out, absolutely not thinking about the literal impossibility of it playing dead and just waiting for the moment to strike, but even still…  Even if there was nothing more sinister hiding underneath the surface of this scene, it’s still… existentially fucked up.  The last time you were confronted with a dead body, Din had to be the one to dispose of it—you couldn’t even think about it without threatening another wave of shock to your system.

And now you’re voluntarily grabbing the rope around one’s ankles and dragging it back down the pure white slope to the Razor Crest.

It doesn’t weigh that much and its icy exterior seems to work in your favor; it slides easily along the snow as soon as you get it moving.  As the ship comes back into view, you hurry to the door and you’re just about to open it when you suddenly get the feeling that you’re forgetting something…

Oh—

It takes a few moments of searching around in the freshly fallen snow, but eventually your fingers brush metal underneath and you stand, reaching behind you to tuck the blaster into your waistband.  When you’re positive you’re not going to accidentally shoot a chunk of your ass off on accident, you shove open the door and pull the body inside, before locking it tight behind you and keeping the frigid winter from touching this warm, quiet safe-haven.

There.  Halfway done.  You almost don’t want to look in case he wakes up unexpectedly, but then you find yourself peeking over your shoulder at the silhouette of Din’s body still passed out under the blankets and you’re thankful the squeaks and slams didn’t disturb him.

And then you take just a second to wonder if this is what it must be like for him.  Minus your obvious discomfort and ickiness at beginning to haul the corpse over to the carbonite chamber, it seems like it’d be reminiscent of any other time he’s brought back a dead quarry while you and the baby slept soundly.  Trying to be quiet, wanting it done and over with just to get back in bed that much faster, doing everything you can to prevent anything out there from so much as breathing on anything in here.

You do your best to hold on to the loveliness of the thought, because this part is the part you’re most anxious about.

The body needs to go into this slanted upright space so you can freeze it in carbonite.  And in order to do that, you have to grab it and put it there.  With your hands, you have to grab it.  With your hands.

You look down at its face, calm and at peace, frozen and forever etched into that expression, and something twists in your heart.  If it weren’t for the kid, that could’ve been Din.  If it weren’t for the kid walking barefoot through snow, fighting an uphill battle to make sure you get to him, helping you drag him back here and then overexerting himself to make sure he’d be okay, that could’ve been Din.  He drives you crazy on a consistent basis, but he came through today.

Know what?  If that little squirt can save a grown man’s life twice in a few hours, then the least you can do is finish this job for all three of you and fly your asses out of here.

Weirdly enough, being frozen solid allows for way better handling than the alternative.  It means you don’t actually have to touch it too much; you don’t have to deal with the limpness of death, it doesn’t seem as much like a person as it does a rigid board you’re simply moving from one place to another.  You can just grab the shoulders and yank and the entire fucking thing goes with it, solid and upright, naturally wanting to lean back into the chamber so you don’t even have to hold it in place.  The perfect quarry for you basically, day one stuff, as easy as it could get.

Almost done, almost done—you study the key panel on the upper-right frame before eventually pressing a few buttons, and then you step back as gas freezes and solidifies the corpse in its carbonite prison.

Yes.   You’re done.  You already want to take another shower just from touching it for a few seconds, but that can wait.  Quickly making your way up the ladder and into the cockpit, you fire up the thrusters and then navigate the ship through and beyond the swirling white atmosphere of this dreadful fucking planet, before punching in familiar coordinates to Nevarro.

 


 

“Din,” you murmur, making sure you have your eyes completely covered with one hand before gently easing the blanket down from his face with the other.  “Din, I want you to drink some wat—”

He jerks awake so suddenly that you hear the metal canteen fall over on the floor next to you, thank the Maker its lid is on tight.  You automatically reach out to steady him, pressing your free hand to his bare chest and continuing to speak calmly and gently to reassure him, but he still scrambles to take in his surroundings after sleeping longer than he probably has in weeks.  

You know what he’s seeing, even though you’re blind right now.  You took time to make sure everything was settled before waking him.  The hull is clean with only a single light to illuminate it, the baby is still snoozing in his closed crib, his armor is stacked in a neat pile, the blaster is put away, and you retired your makeshift blanket heater box so the only thing left is you.  Freshly showered, hair dripping, offering him water, and dressed in just a thin shirt with nothing else (you ran out of things to wear).

“Wh-Where’s my h-h-helmet—” is the first thing he asks, voice broken and raspy.  Stars, he needs water .

“The padding inside is wet,” you quickly supply, keeping your hand tight over the bridge of your eyes to make sure his freshly conscious mind immediately understands that you have no bad intentions.  “I swear I didn’t look, and I made sure the kid didn’t either.  He’s sleeping now, it’s just me—I swear nobody looked, I swear.”

You might just be saying the exact same thing over and over again and admittedly, that might be putting some weird kind of suspicion on you, but you just want to make sure he knows.   Beyond a shadow of a doubt.  It’s important that he knows he’s safe and that everything is okay now, even if he collapsed and spent an unknown amount of time in a purgatory where nothing was.

His body trembles under your palm, waves of shudders attacking him even after hours of keeping him as warm as possible.  “Are—Are we st-still on H-Ho—H-Hoth—”

“No,” you answer.  “We’re in hyperspace.  Everything’s okay now, I took care of it.  We’ll get to Nevarro on time.”

It’s like he takes just a few extra moments, as if he’s trying extra hard to remember before responding.  “But—I d-didn’t—”

“You have four bodies for Karga,” you tell him, not letting him get too lost trying to recall something that no longer poses an issue.  “I took care of it.  You need rest, I only woke you up to make sure you drink some water, so please—” you blindly reach your hand out for the canteen you know has to be around here somewhere, but all you feel is…

His.  Catching yours.

“Y-You took c-c-care of…”  His hands are trembling harder than his voice.  “Sh-shit, I’m freezing, I

“Drink some water,” you tell him, squeezing his fingers.  “I’ll go turn off the light so you can sleep more, but you need water.”

His hand feels like it doesn’t quite want to let go of yours yet, but eventually it does and you hear the sloshing of water as the metal flask is picked up with an unsteady grip.  Purposefully turning your back to him and making sure he’s not in your line of sight whatsoever, you finally let your hand drop and blink your eyes open at the wall across the hull.  You hear Din shakily unscrew the lid while you stand up and find the light switch, before turning around in the pitch blackness and using his loud gulps as your guide back.

Your hands and knees are barely on the blanket when you hear him toss the empty canteen to the side and grab you, pulling you down to him.  

Fuck, you’re not expecting it.  You fumble in the dark but he doesn’t really give your clumsiness much of a choice—Din pulls you under the blankets like he needs you, his body craving that warmth even though his skin doesn’t feel cold at all.  He hooks a strong forearm around your tummy, keeping your back pressed tight to his chest while the rest of him curls to fit every part of you, and you have to adjust the blankets yourself.

It’s not even a few seconds after you settle into position when his trembling hands jerk down to grab your shirt and yank it up.  You quickly scramble to help him get you as naked as he is, feeling his palms drag greedily across the heat of your tummy and breasts before you’ve even finished wiggling the fabric over your head.  The shirt lands somewhere in the darkness and you’re squeezed back against him, your hands landing on his forearms as they wrap around your waist and he clings shamelessly to you.

“You…”  Din’s body still shivers every once in a while but the heat and closeness allows his voice to even out just a bit.  He clears his throat and swallows, tucking his head and burying his face in your hair before trying again.  “You brought back the qu-quarry?”

“Yes,” you confirm, confident in your reassurance but gentle at the same time.  “It’s in carbonite.”

All you can feel or hear in response is his breathing.  His heart beating steady and strong against your back.

And then Din’s arms suddenly squeeze you tight— tight.   He lets out a low shaky exhale against the back of your shoulder and presses his lips to your skin.  “Sweet girl.”

And he says just… so much with those two words.  Slow and purposeful, the steadiest thing you’ve heard from him in hours.  But the two biggest competing emotions you hear tugging at his vocal cords are gratitude and apprehension.  Like he already knows that it couldn’t have been easy for you.  Like he’s not taking it lightly.

You don’t want to talk about it.  You don’t want to talk about anything that happened in the past few hours, not right now.  “It’s okay.  Please.”

This time his silence seems to be on the brink, as if he wants to say more but the extra plea you put on the end makes him hold onto his words, at least for now.  

“How d-did you find me?”  He asks instead, scooting his legs up enough that yours actually go with him.  Cradled in his naked body, radiating heat so he can recover, pressed so close to him that you feel like gravity itself would be pushing you into his lap if the world weren’t sideways.

“The kid,” you tell him.  “We were goofing around outside and he dragged me ov—”

It’s like he’s still so cold that even just the surprise of hearing you say that makes his whole body lock down and convulse a few times against your back.  “You were wh-what?”

“I was practicing,” you openly admit to him, feeling like the earlier events already occurred a lifetime ago and you have no reason for being shy about it anymore.  In fact, you’re glad you were there, being terrible at shooting.  The alternative is unthinkable.  Though, something tells you also improbable, having a little supernatural sidekick who cares so deeply for him.  “I raided your armory.  We weren’t outside for more than five minutes before I wanted to go back in, but then he found you.”

And you think he’s going to get after you, for some reason.  Seems about on par, you figure—going outside for even just a few minutes on a planet whose name you now remember is colloquial slang for hell, even if it’s the only reason he’s not an icicle right now.

But he’s just quiet.  Breathing.  So you just relax into him, thinking that’s the end of it.  You take a few deep breaths in through your nose and just… rest.  In the near perfect silence of hyperspace you used to find haunting, but now only find comfort in.  It reminds you of him.

“Did you hit the target?”  He asks you quietly, and at first you scoff, about to ask if he’s kidding.  No, of course you didn’t hit the…

Only, after a remarkable delay, hearing him phrase it that way suddenly makes your stomach decide to drop and do a fucking somersault on the ground out of absolutely nowhere.

Everything comes flooding back.  The conflict you used to think was the most pressing thing, the one that kept you awake and your thoughts scrambled for hours.  It feels like it was ages ago.  An entire lifetime has passed since that happened, you might’ve forgotten it altogether if he didn’t decide to ask that very simple question in a very specific way.

“I…” you mumble in response, your heart suddenly pounding.  “Not… not yet.”

Okay, that’s a good answer.  It’s the truth and you’re giving nothing away by saying that.  So now what is he going to say?  What is he going to say?   You spoke your piece, it’s his turn now, that’s how conversations work.  Well typically, that’s how conversations work—but with Din… you probably should’ve known.

He falls back into silence almost immediately, appearing to accept your answer just the way it is without anything else to add.  You feel his heart continue to beat strong against your back, but there’s something too tense about his stillness that doesn’t imply he’s relaxing anymore.  His body goes slightly taut, but not from the lingering chill in his bones.

He’s going to make you ask him, you realize.  He’s waiting until you confront him about his choice in words at the shooting range.  Which means he wasn’t just joking around.  He wasn’t just messing with you.

“Din…” you whisper uncertainly, and his face suddenly finds its way into the crook of your neck as soon as the word leaves your mouth, arms tightening up around you.  You spent forever trying to find the words to even bring this up, and here he is, already knowing exactly what you’re asking just by the tone of your voice.  Still, you ask anyway, sounding small and so unsure of yourself in the darkness.  “Why did you say that?  On Tatooine, why did you…”

Din’s chest expands against your back with a long, slow breath, and then he lets it out against your neck, hot enough to raise goosebumps all over your body.

“I… don’t know,” he admits, voice muffled and quiet, but it’s not… casual.  Not like he’s brushing you off or indicating he doesn’t want to talk about it, but like it’s actually a complete fucking mystery to him, just as much as it is to you.  “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know…” you repeat slowly.

“You had said something,” he mutters, shifting just a bit behind you.  His palm slides up your bare tummy, stopping in the warm spot just under the swell of your breast.  “Earlier that day.  I thought about it, and then I just… s-said it.”

You?  Said something that made him ask that?

“What?”  You blurt out, genuinely startled and having no fucking clue.  “What did I say?”

“Something about…”  He gives the smallest shudder from behind you, and you don’t actually know if this one is from the cold.  “Not wanting anyone else to know me the way you do.”

Your heart rapidly kicks up and you flush, hating how unbelievably possessive your own words sound coming out of his mouth.  “Oh shit, I… I didn’t mean for that to be… that sounds so bad, Din, I swear I didn’t mean for it to—”

He cuts you off by clutching you tighter, burying his face deeper into your neck and breathing out shakily.  “Tell me you meant every word.”

You blink a couple of times in the pitch black before sighing, letting go of any charade or front you think about putting up for him to save some dignity.  “I meant it.”

Because it’s the truth.  You said it when you were caught off guard, throwing it out to him along with other mindless drabble that came from a place that was very real.  You don’t like the way you phrased it, but you meant it.  You do mean it.  Every word.

If there weren't so many things still left unsaid right now, you might actually worry he fell asleep on you.  Din loosens up considerably after you admit it, letting go of more tightness you didn’t even know was inside him.  His head slowly drops from the crook of your neck to the back of it and he breathes hot air on your nape, quiet for a long time.

And, you suppose you’d actually be okay with it if that was the end of the conversation.  There are, of course, millions of things left to ask.  But he doesn’t know the answers, just as much as you’re left clueless about the questions.  You’re not expecting him to elaborate anymore, and if he’s waiting for you to ask, he’ll be waiting a long time.  Soon your eyes close and you almost feel yourself beginning to drift.  It’s been such a rough day today and to just be here in his arms, it’s more than enough for you.  

But then his low baritone comes through the darkness.

“In Mando’a,” Din’s voice suddenly whispers against your skin, “the verb, kar’taylir… it means to know.  Su kar’tayli, you know, kaysh kar’tayli, they know.  Ni ke kar’tayl nu … I don’t know.”

Your eyes pop open and you immediately forget all about sleep, wide awake and suddenly hanging onto every word as it rolls so gently off his tongue.  You’ve never heard the language spoken aloud, you’ve never heard anything about the Mandalorians directly from one before.  All of the stories seem sensationalized, passed down by word of mouth and chipping away at the kernel of truth until it disappears completely.

“The language is dying,” Din continues, murmuring soft and gentle along your nape.  “By the time I learned it, too many words had been lost.  The ones left were the ones that were needed.”

“What do you mean?”  You whisper, almost afraid of breaking the quiet.  Not wanting him to feel distracted or pressed, but needing to express your curiosity lest you somehow overflow with it.

“There are only three pronouns,” he answers slowly, and you’re already fucking fascinated.  “ Ni , for I or we.  Su is you or you all, and kaysh is third person.  Subjective, objective, possessive, singular, plural—doesn’t matter.  Three words, for every individual or collective in the entire galaxy.”

You blink in the darkness, your logic telling you that it sounds so simple it’d become confusing and then your logic also telling you that doesn’t actually make any fucking sense at all.  If that’s true, it’s unbelievable.  How do they differentiate?  Just context?

“How do you distinguish?”  You ask him.  Admittedly, you don’t know much about linguistics—not anywhere near the extent he does, but it seems so counterintuitive.  I can’t be the same word for we , the amount of misunderstandings would be a nightmare.

“We… don’t need to,” he explains to you, slowly, like nobody has ever asked him these things before and so he’s unsure how to phrase it.  “Individuality isn’t valued, it’s not a concept.”

And… you almost can’t wrap your head around it.  “What do you mean?”  You ask again, knowing you’re sounding like a broken record without specifying more, but trying with your whole heart to understand.

“I mean… we swear oaths to never reveal our faces,” Din tells you, something you shouldn’t need to be reminded of.  “We abandon our names.  We become… whispers, of the same voice.  There’s not many words in Mando’a with a unique meaning, almost all of them are homonyms.  Interchangeable.  Transient.”

Your eyebrows shoot up, suddenly blown away by the implication.  Almost all of them are homonyms?   How in Maker’s name are you even supposed to communicate at that point?  That’s… unthinkable.

“Most words have two meanings?”  You clarify, wanting to be absolutely sure you’re getting it right.

“Most have five or six,” he returns, and you’re downright shocked now.  “Everything just depends.”

“Stars…”  You breathe, moving a palm up the length of his forearm and holding the back of his hand with it.  Fuck, you hope this is the direction he’s intending instead of veering him off course, but you’re incredibly invested.  “What else does, uh… kay— er, kar… kar’taylir mean?”

Din lets out a slow breath from behind you, and you can… you can feel his own heart beating faster when it presses up against your spine at the apex of his inhale.  “It’s… a rare word, it only has two meanings.”

You bite your lip and start to feel butterflies in your stomach for some reason.  Slowly, his hand begins to travel up your breast and then to your sternum before heading just the slightest bit left, and your own hand moves with him.

“To know,” Din says quietly, “but also… to care very deeply for.”  He doesn’t stop until his palm presses right above the rapidly pounding organ in your chest.  “To hold in the heart.”

“To know,” you swallow thickly, curling your fingers around his hand and praying he’s saying what you think he is, “or… to love?”

“When Mandalorian’s take vows, there’s no ceremony,” he whispers into the back of your neck.  “No witnesses, no celebrations.  We just take our helmets off in front of the other and look.  It doesn’t sound like much, but… our secrecy is our survival.  Letting someone see our face and swearing lifelong devotion to them, it’s the same thing.  To know is to love.”

Your eyes close tight and your lungs empty themselves, too full of emotion to even fit oxygen inside you anymore.  Din’s lips press feather soft behind your neck, and now you’re the one shivering uncontrollably.  The move up and trail along your neck in the darkness.

Ni kar'tayl su, ” he murmurs, shifting back just slightly and pulling at your shoulder.  “I know you.”

You go with him, facing the ceiling as he fits his head under your throat and places slow, open mouth kisses down the curve of it.

“Ni kar'tayli gar darasuum,” he goes on quietly, his voice starting to sound raspy again, dragging his hand down your torso while his lips brush your collarbone.  “For an eternity, I’ll know you.”

Water wets the corners of your lashes and you inhale three or four times before exhaling, shallow hiccups and desperate for air.

Ni ke vaabi nu kaysh ke kar’taylir su te ni kar’tayl su.”  Din says, slowly moving his mouth back up when your fingers tangle in his hair and beg him to come that way.  The words dance along your skin as he whispers them, forever searing themselves into your memory.  You can’t see them, you’ll never have a visual to reminisce upon, but you’ll know how they felt.  Right under your ear, brimming with quiet devotion.  “I don’t want anyone else to know you… the way I know you.”

Your face goes blazing hot at the sound of him translating your own rushed and half-assed sentence into something gorgeous and flowing, something that sounds so much more beautiful than when you blurted it out earlier.  You told him you loved him in that hangar, right to his face.  Unashamed and stupid about it, but meaning it with every part of your body.

“I knew you’d say no,” he finally admits, staying in this one spot.  Unmoving.  Telling you the truth, allowing you to know it.  “I just wanted to… say it.”

That… that makes sense to you.  The last part does, at least, it makes so much sense to you.  The first time you said you loved him, you said it just to say it.  You wanted to feel the words, sound them out even if neither one of you could hear them.  It felt freeing, like coming to accept a universal truth.

The first part, though.  You’re still behind.  “You knew I’d say no?”  You ask him, feeling him ease back just slightly.  Staring down at you through the pitch black, even if he can’t see either.  Keeping his palm over your heart as the ship hurdles through nowhere and everywhere at once.

“You wouldn’t take my first name without convincing,” he reasons quietly, and then moves back to lay in the blankets once more, leaving the rest unspoken.

But he’s… oh stars, he’s so right.  If he’s going to take his helmet off and let you see his face—if he’s going to commit to you that way, it is not going to be because you shoot a blaster correctly.  Not after today, not after what he’s told you.

So you move up to your elbow and turn to face him, trying to let him know why even if he’s already guessed the what correctly.

“I want it to mean something,” you say after a moment.  “I want it to… have the meaning it’s supposed to have.”

Your palm finds its way to his chest in the silence following.  Right over the beating of his heart, feeling it thrum hard and rhythmic while he considers his response.

“This is The Way,” Din finally murmurs, settling his hand over yours, and you repeat the words back to him.  Respecting them.  Feeling like, for the very first time, they now apply to you in some way instead of belonging to some mysterious creed you’ll never know anything about.

But when a shudder subtly rockets up and down his body, you realize the blankets have been pulled down with the changing positions and his whole torso is bare and exposed to the hull.  So you pull them up until you’re both covered again, before you lean down and press a soft kiss to his shoulder.

Din shudders again when your mouth opens and the hot glide of your tongue catches his skin, but you know it’s not from the cold this time.  His breathing deepens while you slowly move over him.  You ease him further on his back and let him keep feeling the warmth of your mouth on his body, alleviate the lingering chill by sucking gentle hickeys into his skin and feeling the goosebumps raise under your tongue.  He moves with you; he stretches his neck when you want to nibble his collarbone, arches when you mouth down his chest, shifts his elbow to let you drag your tongue along his ribcage.

And… and it’s as if all the stars and systems hold even more still for you than the relative physics of faster-than-light travel can explain away by themselves.  You’ve always felt timeless in here, living from one fleeting eternity to the next, suspended in perpetuity while the rest of the galaxy ages without you.  But when you’re with him and it’s pitch black and there’s no light to streak across your vision, no evidence that time and space have all but disconnected from each other just to let your insignificant little bodies through… it’s like you’re meant to be here.  In some strange, unexplainable way, you feel like you could’ve died out there with him in the frozen wasteland today and this is exactly where you’d still end up, no matter what.

To know is to love.

“Do you have brown eyes?”  You hear yourself whisper under his jaw, and you feel Din’s fingers thread in your hair and ease you up enough to brush his lips against your chin.

“Yes,” he whispers back, and then his mouth is on yours.

Chapter Text

Din said he’d meet you here.

You’re currently sitting across from Greef Karga in a cantina on Nevarro, a closed shield next to you and a blaster tucked into the back of your waistband, hidden underneath your shirt.  You’re barely even looking at him, though—your eyes are attached to the door by an invisible string, forcing your gaze back to it no matter how much it bounces around the room.

You don’t know where Din is, you haven’t seen him in hours.  But you do know that when he left, he was moving slower than you’re used to.  You don’t think anyone else would notice, but you sure did.  Not that he was obvious about it—you only picked up on very subtle hints.  Leaning up against things just a bit more than he usually does.  Taking slightly longer exiting the ramp of the Crest than his normal strides would carry him.

He didn’t say what he was going to do—just that he needed to find someone before meeting with Karga, and you accepted it.  But truthfully, you didn’t want to.  You were worried about him—still are, actually.  But for all intents and purposes, he was speaking and acting like himself, showing no real signs of exhaustion other than the smallest instances you described before, so you didn’t really have a leg to stand on.  He’s been through way worse, and you know it.  You just… find yourself worrying about him so much more than you used to, and you need to learn how to gain some control over that part of you.

The kid was still passed out from healing him and you remember Din carefully setting four pucks down in the sleeping baby’s sphere and giving his ears a gentle rub between leather fingers.  He turned back to you and told you to meet him at the cantina in three hours, but if it ended up taking him too long for any reason, to try your best to see if Karga will let you exchange on his behalf.

Admittedly, he didn’t sound too confident about it—the instructions were delivered with a tone that implied a doubtful, just-in-case scenario he wasn’t foreseeing happening.  Or maybe he just doubted the likelihood of Karga agreeing to do business with you, you’re not entirely sure.  All you know is that when he left, you were almost certain he wouldn’t be late, but you also took the time to grab the smallest blaster from his armory before heading out just in case.

Yet—here you are, three and a half hours later, eyes flicking between the door and Karga as you attempt to keep up polite conversation.  After turning down his offer of alcohol for the fifth time and still not seeing any glimpse of beskar coming to your rescue, you figure this may be as good a time as any to start the exchange.

During an extended break in the small talk, you slowly reach over to the corner of your booth and press a button on the face of the kid’s shield.  It hisses open and you completely miss the way Karga’s hand raises while three of his guards automatically reach for their hips.  The little green monster is still snoozing comfortably while you pull out the four glowing pucks Din left you and set them on the table one by one.

They scrape along the top of it as you slowly push them over to him, before sitting back in the booth and clearing your throat, flicking your eyes between Karga and his guards.  To you, nobody appears to have moved, so you muster a polite smile at him.

Karga smiles back, but makes no move to gather or inspect the offerings in front of him.

“Um…” you say after a moment, suddenly feeling your heart start to beat a little faster.  “Mando… Mando gave me permission to exchange on his behalf.”

“I believe you,” he drawls out in response, but the pucks still sit untouched in front of him as he leans back in the booth and studies you.  “Mando has always had a… let’s say, a frustrating penchant for disregarding the pillars of our code.  My apologies, young lady, but I’m afraid that I cannot accept these from you.”

Your voice comes out quieter than you’d like it to sound.  “Why not?”

“It is… unlawful,” he answers after a moment.  “Our organization operates under strict rules.”

Does it?  You blink.  No, it doesn’t.  You’re nothing to the Guild and you’ve sat next to Din quite a few times while Karga talked, listening to him drunkenly boast about return rates and out members by name.  You’re not sure why he’s barring you like this, but you’re also not self-assured enough to put practically any spine into it whatsoever.  “I’m… afraid I don’t understand.”

“I cannot legally do guild business with individuals not recognized as members in an official capacity,” he sighs, sounding grave and almost apologetic about it, but you don’t know him well enough to know if he’s a good actor or not.  “There’s nothing I can do for you besides provide you with my company, not until Mando decides to show.”

Well now that doesn’t make any sense, and you’re starting to worry that for some reason or another, he isn’t going to show.  Though it was incredibly well concealed, you’re well aware that Din was still lingering in the final recovery stages when he left the Crest earlier and all you have to go on is his word that he’d be here.  Something could’ve happened.  Something could be happening right now, you need to push.

“People pick up bounties for extra credits all the time,” you mumble, still way too fucking quiet about it.  Maker, you’re not even sure if he could hear that over the sound of the cantina.  Speak up, speak up.

“Yes, but those quarry are listed on the New Republic’s most wanted database,” Karga acknowledges diplomatically, educating more than he is arguing, before uncorking the bottle of glowing blue alcohol in front of him and beginning to pour himself another shot.  “They’re fodder.  Up for grabs—names, last known locations, and biometrics published for the entire galaxy to read.”  He tilts his head down at the four metal pucks on the table without removing his gaze from the gradually filling glass.  “Those pucks are different, they’re commissions.  Tied specifically to Guild contracts.”  Karga clunks the bottle back down again and corks it, pinning you with a stare.  “For all I know, you could’ve murdered a member of our ranks and come to collect payment for his bounties.  Can’t have that.”

Your blood suddenly turns to ice at the implication, eyes wide and your heartbeat rocketing as you look from Karga to the three guards casually stationed behind him.  “You—You think I murdered Mando?”

“No,” he says, easily and in the very same breath, before throwing the shot back and wiping his mouth with a grimace.  “Not sure I’d care too much if you did.  It’s not my rule, but I am required to follow it or risk losing my position in the Guild.”

Shit.  Shit.  What do you do?

You’re blank, left quiet and feeling increasingly unsure of how to proceed.  Karga, however, seems completely unbothered and even appears to be enjoying himself and your company.  He gives you another smile, this one a lot friendlier and more genuine than the one earlier, before setting his elbows on the table and leaning forward.

“Look, I want to help you,” he admits, keeping his tone light, “but my hands are tied.  Just relax and share a drink with me until he gets here, it’s not a problem.”

Fuck, you don’t like this, and a quick look around brings another reminder of Din’s continued absence.  Your chest feels tight, the anxiety starting to compound and make you jumpy.  It’s been too long—it’s been at least forty minutes or so of waiting by now and something just feels wrong about this.  Not having him next to you feels wrong enough on its own, but when he specifically told you he’d be here?

You clench your jaw and try to work up your nerve.  Karga is a nice guy, right?  He knows you by name, he knows who you are to Mando.  And while you never really thought about the bounty hunter’s omnipresent protection as being anything other than metaphorical, you suddenly realize that… it might be literal, too.  How much sway do you actually have here, you wonder?  You’re not stupid, you’re not going to try anything stupid, but maybe just another question won’t hurt?

“Well, um… how do you become a member, then?”  You ask him, and you watch as he leans back in the booth, raising both eyebrows at you.

“Excuse me?”  He asks, though there’s a genuine amusement in his voice.  Stunned that you’d even say the words aloud.

“I have four bodies,” you tell him shortly.  You’re still quiet about it, but his thoroughly entertained astonishment is beginning to rub you the wrong way.  You don’t want to be part of the Guild, you don’t want to be here, you’re doing this out of growing necessity.  “One of which I dragged through a blizzard on Hoth by its ankles and put into carbonite myself, so please just tell me what I have to do to get you to take them.”

“I can’t, ” he repeats, shaking his head like you’re just not getting it.  “New members are only accepted if they bring in an S-level criminal from the database or if they complete a commission that was granted to them by someone of my station—neither of which apply to you.  If you cannot present me with any sort of reasonable argument for which they could, then I’m afraid this is not a favor I can swing.”

“I was sitting right here,” you return, suddenly finding your voice.  If Karga wants an argument from you to get this to happen, then you’ll do it.  You just need to finish this exchange, go back to the Crest, and scan around for Din’s signal.  “When you first gave the pucks to Mando, I sat right here and you pushed them over to this side of the table—I was present for the commission and now I’m here to complete it.”

He shakes his head.  “But I didn’t give them to you , I gave them to Mando—”

“Yes, but you only wanted to give him three,” you immediately point out.  “The last one, the one I told you I put into carbonite—you said you threw it in because you liked me, it could’ve been for me.”

Karga suddenly stops and blinks at you for a few seconds, and you bite your lip, wondering if the logic will hold.  It’s flimsy as fuck and you know he could very easily rip it apart if he wanted to.  It could’ve been for you but it wasn’t, he gave it to Mando.  You also purposefully leave out the fact that you’re also the reason Mando only gave him three bodies in the first place; your only goal here is to complete this transaction as quickly as possible and leave.  You don’t like the fact that it’s taking Din so long, and you also don’t like the fact that Karga seems so keen on keeping you here with him, no matter how many reassurances he provides.  He said he wants to help you?  This can be his chance to prove it.

After a few extended moments of consideration, Karga finally shrugs like he really couldn’t care less before reaching across the table for the pucks and beginning to stack them in his palm.

“What is your last name?”  He asks, turning behind him to gesture for one of his men with a jerk of his head.  The bodyguard exits the cantina without another word and your eyes flick back to Karga’s.

“Why does it matter?”  You ask uncertainly, watching another guard approach with a holopad as he shrugs once more.

“It doesn’t, but we need something for our records,” Karga explains, grabbing the device as it’s tapped against his shoulder without removing his gaze from yours.  “I can just use Doe if you don’t feel like sharing—most of our members tend to prefer anonymity, including your companion.”

Your eyebrows furrow even as your heart continues to pound, wondering how they can afford to be so lax about some things but take others so seriously.  “You have him down as John Doe?”

“First name Man,” Karga grunts in response, finally breaking eye contact to begin navigating through pages on the holopad.

“Ah,” you say shortly, knowing you’d probably find the joke funny in other circumstances.  You’re not out of the trenches yet, you still feel the worry tugging hard at your chest.

“Very well,” Karga announces with a sigh, pocketing the pucks in his leather overcoat and then handing the holopad back to one of the men flanking him after a moment.  “Someone is collecting the carbonite plaques from your vessel as we speak.”

You give him a nod, taking a deep breath that you hope is slow and subtle enough to not give your anxiety away.  He helped you out, you’re halfway through this.  Now comes the exchange.  Now it’s his turn to give you the credits and four more pucks, that’s how this should go.

Only, Karga leans back in his seat and cocks his head at you.  “Unfortunately, I believe we have found ourselves in the midst of yet another predicament.”

Your heart continues to slam, praying you haven’t somehow majorly fucked things up by getting this far.  Din still isn’t here, why is he so fucking late?   He nearly froze to death and you handled a dead body just to make this meeting on time, where the fuck is he?

You raise an eyebrow at him, willing the building panic not to show on your face.  “Have we?”

“You’re lucky credits are attached to commissions instead of rank within the Guild,” he prefaces, pulling out a large handful of them to begin counting, and your eyes flick around the cantina while you know he isn’t looking, “or else you’d be getting about half of what I’d normally give him.”

Heart galloping when you still don’t see any sign of him, you just decide to keep extra quiet as you watch Karga divvy out a sizable stack of credits, hoping your prolonged silence will protect you somehow.

“The question now becomes…” he lifts an eyebrow at you while sliding them across the table to you, “how many pucks do I give you in return, hm?”

Fuck, you don’t like this, you’re trying to make it crystal fucking clear that your intentions do not extend beyond the perimeter of this table.  There’s no you to be found in this deal, you’re just an emergency proxy in Din’s absence and you only inserted yourself in the situation to accomplish that task.  “I told you I’m only here to exchange on Mando’s behalf, that’s it.”

“Be that as it may…”  Karga glances around the cantina like he’s thinking extra hard about it.  This is a made-up problem, you both know there’s no predicament here.  He knows you didn’t kill Mando, he knows there’s no real reason to be giving you such a hard time about this, and you clench your jaw as he still seems to take his time considering it.  “Tell you what, young lady,” he finally turns back to you.  “Do me the honor of sharing one sip of this fine spotchka with me and I’ll give you four pucks to pass along to Mando.”

Okay.  Okay, you can do that, if he really cares that much.  Karga gestures for the closest droid to come by with a glass for you, but you just grab the bottle in front of him and uncork it without thinking too much, balancing the glowing blue liquid with two hands and diligently taking a small sip of it before setting it down again.  Appearing satisfied with your demonstration of upholding your end of the bargain, Karga grins and reaches into another pocket.

“Four for Mando,” he pushes four pucks across the table, “same rate and return as last time, as promised.”  You nearly deflate in relief as you quickly gather them up and begin dropping them into the snoozing baby’s shield along with the credits, but then Karga reaches back and pulls out another puck, pushing it over to you.  “And one for you.”

You blink at him, frozen in place.

“Lowest level, lowest pay.  Not even a criminal by New Republic standards, just a missing person,” he goes on to say, but then quite suddenly… 

Quite suddenly you’re absolutely fucking horrified.

You don’t want it.  Everything inside you surges up to scream that you do not want that puck.  It’s a waste of time, even if it’s an extra job—it’s too much trouble, too much fuel for such a small reward.  You already know good and well that Din won’t want to bother, getting this extra puck would be considered a detriment to him.

“What if I don’t want it?”  You ask, sounding nervous and vaguely out of breath as you look down at it.

Karga scoffs.  “Of course you don’t.  Nobody wants these, why do you think I’m trying so hard to pawn one off on you?”

Shit.  This is not at all how you expected any of this would go.  You know he’s not really asking, even if his tone and continued courtesy implies it’s only a request.  There’s an expectation attached to this, and it appears you take too long pondering an offer that isn’t actually voluntary.  Karga stares at you and your clear apprehension for just a few seconds more, before finally giving you an ultimatum.  “You said you’re here on his behalf.  You either take all five pucks now or Mando only gets three next time, your choice.”

Oh.  Oh, no.   This is a lose-lose; three pucks means more fuel and less credits, five pucks means more fuel and less credits.  It’s not like you have any real bargaining power here—almost everything he’s done for you today has been a favor of some sort and you’re well aware that things can always get worse.

Still, you take a deep breath and try your best to throw around whatever weight you have left in one final agreement.

“Give me your word you’ll go back to giving him four from now on, no more hassling or hard time constraints and we’ll take it just this once,” you tell him, trying to conjure and put power behind your words even though you’re unsure if they’ll stick.

“Deal,” Karga readily agrees with a smile, reaching his hand across the table.  You have no choice but to meet him in the middle and clasp it, unable to feel anywhere close to good about your performance here.  It was clunky and insecure and even though you just barely succeeded in making the exchange overall, you’re massively disappointed in the specifics.

But then Karga’s eyes quickly flick over your shoulder.

“Ah, Mando!”  He suddenly calls out, and your hand nearly snatches away from his while your body goes rigid.

Oh, this isn’t good, this is not good.  Well, it’s good that he’s here but it also really fucking isn’t.  You don’t even turn your head; you sit completely straight and still while the cantina falls to a hush and heavy footsteps begin to approach behind you.  You fucked up—you fucked up, you didn’t wait long enough and you feel the sharp regret instantly twist in your stomach.  He said he’d be here, why didn’t you trust him?  Your anxiety and stress compounded and spurned you to act too quickly, you made the deal a few fucking seconds before he showed up.

And, as Din eventually comes into your peripheral, taking his time leaning his rifle up against the table, you immediately realize that you should not have worried.  Recovery isn’t even a word in his vocabulary right now—he’s more intimidating than he’s ever been, more powerful and certain and dangerous while he lowers himself into the seat next to you than he’s ever felt to you before.  Everything is so quiet now that he’s here; you feel like even just swallowing against the sudden dryness in your throat turns into an audible gulp.  The man sitting across from you may own this cantina and every material good under its roof, but the one sitting by your side feels like he steals the literal air from the room just by walking inside it.

Yet, in spite of the daunting presence of the Mandalorian, Karga beams and tips his glass at him.  “I believe you’ve arrived just in time for your favorite part of the conversation, friend.  The farewells.”

You stare wide-eyed down at the table as Din leans back into the booth and very slowly extends his arm behind your shoulders, saying nothing at all to him.

The testosterone is radiating from him to the point of near suffocation, you can taste the alpha in the air.  Your heart slams in your chest at the unspoken claim he just made with a subtle movement, and though you’ve never been one for masculine displays, this one weirdly feels… good right now.  You know it’s primitive and crude and you’re not a piece of meat to be fought over, but it doesn’t feel like that at all.  It’s the immediate feeling of security that serves to heat your cheeks, the fact that you’ve been a nervous mess trying to be extra brave this whole interaction and then suddenly you have the backup of an entire army contained within one single suit of armor next to you.

If you weren’t internally panicking at how badly you screwed this shit up, you’d probably be going fucking feral for him right now.

Karga says your name and your gaze snaps to his, feeling like you can’t breathe.  “My associate has collected the plaques, nothing keeps you here any longer.  It was a pleasure doing business with you.”

Still, nobody at the table moves.

After a moment, you carefully glance up and to the side at the sharp, metallic profile of his helmet.  Maker, you can’t explain it—it’s like you feel terrified but not really for yourself, if that makes sense.  You’re upset with yourself for not having enough trust in his word, absolutely, but something in Din’s demeanor tells you that he’s going to be considerably less understanding of how Karga handled this situation than the way you did.

The helmet slowly turns down to look at you, and you bite your lip while carefully placing your hand on his thigh brace under the table, letting him feel your fingers brush against the bend of his knee.

He turns back to Karga after a few seconds, still not saying a single word, until eventually Din’s arm is lifted from behind your shoulders and you feel his leather fingers gently clasp your hand, before he starts to rise from the booth and pull you along next to him.  You both stand, and he silently presses a button on his vambrace without dropping your grip, urging the kid’s shield to follow along behind him.

“Um, goodbye,” you just barely remember to tell Karga as Din begins leading you away, apparently not waiting for the polite farewells he arrived in time for.

“Wait!”  A voice calls out just before you can make your exit, and Din pauses just in time for Karga to extend that damned fifth puck out for you to grab.  Right in fucking front of him.  “Can’t forget this!”

Fuck.  Great.  Thanks.

Blood rushes to your face while you go to reach for it, taking the puck and then placing it in the open shield along with four others in a way that you hope is casual but you know isn’t.  You close the lid on it and then squeeze Din’s hand slightly, but he stays rooted to the spot for a few more seconds, having watched the entire exchange play out.  Though you obviously wouldn’t be able to read his facial expressions even if you could lift your head to look up at him, you can’t will yourself to do so right now.  You’re too disappointed in yourself and nervous—you just stand there silently as he looks back at Karga, staring at your feet and praying he doesn’t do anything brash.

After too many moments of uncertainty, you squeeze his hand again and slowly begin to pull on it.  Without needing much pressure at all, he goes where you go, and you end up being the one to lead Din out of the cantina by the hand still tangled with yours.

 


 

The walk back to the Crest lasts an eternity.

Neither one of you say anything at all to each other the entire way there, and you know he’s not mad at you yet , but you’re worried.  You feel incredibly self-critical right now and it’s really not helping that he seems even quieter and more wound up than usual.  You don’t know if it’s because he already figured out that you just handed him extra work or if it’s because whatever made him late to the cantina also altered his mood, hit a reset button and reminded him of the way he used to be, the armor he’s wearing.  Was there a confrontation, you wonder?  Is he okay?  He seems like he’s… extra Mandalorian right now, there’s not really a better way to describe it.

He doesn’t drop your hand, though.  As you pass through the markets and shanty huts lining the streets, Din holds onto you.  Shoulders tense and strides heavy, but his fingers stay tangled in yours.

Regardless, you keep your mouth shut and eventually the Crest comes into view.  The ramp drops to the ground and the three of you make your way up, and you have enough foresight to carefully drop Din’s hand and lead the baby’s shield over to the unused cot built into the hull walls, closing him in a safe quiet place to sleep and continue building up his strength again.

You turn around to see Din press another button on his vambrace.  He stays with his back to you as the ramp slowly closes, but as soon as it latches up against the hull and locks into place, he nearly whips around and suddenly he’s right in front of you, gloves cupping your face.

“What happened?”  He asks sharply, the helmet looking you up and down.  “Are you alright?  Why did you look so scared?”

You reach up to rest your hands on his, blinking up at him and not knowing what to say.  How are you going to tell him?  He’s gotta waste extra fuel and time on a bullshit quarry because of you, what are you going to say?  You don’t even know if it’s last known location is nearby; he might have to fly to some remote, desolate corner of the galaxy just for a handful of credits because you couldn’t wait a fucking hour for him.

“I, uh…  I-I’m sorry, I just…”  But it’s nearly impossible to form a coherent thought when he’s this close to you and sounding fucking sincere , genuinely concerned about you while you’re stuck worrying about how to break the bad news to him.  “Oh, stars, um…”

“Did Karga fuck with you?”  He asks in that same sharp tone when you don’t finish your thought, but you’re so absorbed in your own conflict that you barely even hear him.  “Because I can go back right now, the cantina is just—”

“Okay wait, please—” You suddenly speak up, “before I tell you, just… please keep in mind that I did save your life two days ago, so…”

“Sweet girl,” Din rumbles slowly, a subtle warning for you to hurry up and spit it out.  His fingers tighten just slightly on your cheeks, still so gentle but needing you to communicate with him right now.

Tell him, you just need to tell him.  If he gets mad, then he gets mad, but at least he’ll know at that point and you won’t just be springing it on him out of nowhere.

“I fucked up,” you breathe out, eyebrows pulling up in the middle as you tighten your own grip on his hands.  “I’m so sorry, I fucked up and you were late and I got nervous and I didn’t wait long enough and I tried to make the exchange like you asked me to but then I had to take a fifth puck and I didn’t want to but Karga threatened to short change you next time around unless I agreed to take an extra one for the lowest pay just this once and I didn’t have any bargaining power and you showed up right after I agreed to the deal and I’m so so sorry—”

You cut yourself off with your own ragged gasp, not having paused once to breathe throughout the entire thing while your expression twisted up with regret more and more the longer he allowed you to speak.

Din stands there in front of you and doesn’t move, hands still attached to your face.

“Okay,” he eventually tells you.  Stunted words, like he’s trying extra hard to find them when yours just fell out of your mouth in a complete mess.  “It’s okay.  You did… good.”

The silence is tense and you’re becoming more and more anxious the longer he takes to speak.  He’s lying for your benefit, he must be.  When he drops his hands from your face and takes a full step back, you take the gesture as symbolic and nearly launch into panic.

“Maker, I’m so sorry I didn’t wait for—”  You start to say, but Din cuts you off.

“Did he make you…”  His back suddenly goes a little straighter, voice finding a quiet edge through the modulator as his fingers subtly twitch at his sides, “…Uncomfortable?”

You pull back at the sudden change in subject and furrow your eyebrows.

“Who, Karga?”  You have to think about it.  Did he make you uncomfortable, or were you just uncomfortable already?  You might’ve just been scared because you were making it scarier than it really was, you can admit that’s a valid possibility.  “Um… no?  I don’t know, not… not really, I don’t think.”

“No?”  He asks, taking a small step forward.  “You don’t know?  Or not really… you don’t think?”

You know you can only see the blade of his visor, but something makes you feel like you’re looking right in his eyes.  You even go back and forth between where you’re pretty confident each one is, trying to read his intentions right now.  It’s like he’s purposefully trying to keep space between you even though he looks like he wants to move closer, fisting his hands at his sides when he looks like he wants to touch you.

“No, he just… lowballed me towards the end of it and I got intimidated, but I’m also not…”  Your expression narrows in concentration while you try to find the words to explain yourself, wanting to be as honest as possible with him.  “I don’t know, I’m not like you.  I’m not that strong, but I’m trying to get better.  I think he was probably just being normal.  He did offer me alcohol a bunch, but I’m pretty sure he also did that last time, so—”

“And I didn’t like it the last time he did it,” Din says quietly, taking another small step forward.

You blink up at him, completely dumb.  This is what’s bothering him?  Is he really not upset with you at all for giving him more work?  It’s like the major fuckup on your behalf just went in one side of the helmet and out the other, he barely even acknowledged it other than the role Karga played.  He said it’s okay and you did good, which are like… five of the most common words in Galactic Basic, a Wookiee could probably find a way to say them.  How are you supposed to take that?  Were you just overthinking this whole thing from the very beginning?  You know anxiety tends to be irrational by definition, but has none of your panic from the past hour been justified whatsoever?

“Why were you so late?”  You ask him, but it’s not accusatory in the slightest.  It’s… concerned, worried about his well-being without having a real reason.  He’s clearly more than fine right now, he’s like a hurricane enclosed in metal and holding still in front of you.  Too much potential energy just waiting for a reason to be released, too much tension held tight and ready to snap.

“I’m sorry.”  He quickly reaches out to grab your hand and squeeze it, before dropping it just as quickly.  Fucking lightning quick, you’ll never understand how he can be so damn quick with all that extra weight strapped to him.  “It took longer than I thought it would and she’s not really someone you can rush.”  His response, ironically, feels very rushed, like he’s trying to address the tangent but also keep things on track, but something in the answer he gives catches your direct attention.  “Did he flirt with you?”

“Who is she and what can’t be rushed?”  You blurt at the same time, not even taking a split second to think about it.

Din stops short at the blunt question, staring at you in a silence that feels like it’s vaguely taken aback.

After a few moments of that… strangeness, of the two of you realizing that you’re both feeling slightly possessive over each other for absolutely no reason whatsoever, you start to feel… warm.  In another weirdly stupid, primitive way.  You know that letting those kinds of thoughts have their day in a relationship isn’t a good thing, but you can’t explain it.  Some deep-seated, prehistoric instinct inside you just goes fucking nuts whenever he gets in either provider or protector mode.  Now you understand exactly why he wanted to get you alone after you admitted to being jealous once before.  You totally fucking get it, you’re right there with him right now.  He hasn’t said anything, but you think he feels it, too.

“She makes things,” Din finally answers you, careful with his words and somehow managing to address your question while also sidestepping it, leaving you with only the smallest bit of information to go off of.  “Did he flirt with you?”

“I don’t know,” you tell him honestly.  “Maybe.  He could’ve just been trying to be friendly.  What did she make for you?”

“She made it for you,” he responds, again not really answering the question but continuing to juggle two separate conversations for your benefit.  “Did he scare you?”

“For me?”  You ask, eyebrows shooting upwards.  Provider , that stupid cavewoman DNA whispers to your lower body, making your voice go a little breathless.  “You asked her to make something for me?”

“Did he scare you?”  Din repeats sternly, grabbing your hand and giving it a firm squeeze.  “Because I can go back, I swear—”

Protector , it whispers this time, and your knees nearly buckle.

“Everything is scary when I don’t know where you are,” you admit to him, knowing it’s the truth regardless of how self-deprecating it sounds.  The only times you’ve ever truly been brave was because of him or the kid.  Stabbing a Corellian and then immediately flying the Crest out to him afterwards, walking through a pitch black forest believing a dangerous criminal was hiding in it, dragging a dead body through snow and shoving it into carbonite, standing up for yourself and pushing a deal through when odds were stacked against you.  Though it’s nothing to him, it’s nothing, it’s leaps for you.  You’re slowly learning to find a backbone, and he’s the one inspiring it.

Din holds there for a moment, unmoving with his hand still clutching yours.  You can’t get a read on him but you know how you feel right now.  Achy.  Hot.  Needy.  Wanting him to come closer.

“Will you do something for me?”  He asks you after a prolonged silence.  His voice is quiet, but… incredibly restrained.  Controlled chaos—his body is rigid and he’s flexing muscles that aren’t necessary for just standing, feeling like a sprinter holding still on the starting blocks.

“Of course,” you breathe out.

Din lets go of your hand and tilts his helmet over at the corner of the hull behind you.  “Go turn around and face that wall.”

You freeze, immediately recognizing the undertone in his voice.  Heat ladles deep into the pit of your tummy, sends warmth pooling downwards.  He wants to do this here?  Right now?

“We’re—” you look around the enclosed hull, “Mando, we’re not in hyperspace, we haven’t even left the surface yet…”

He looks around too, taking a second to blankly take in his stagnant surroundings like he had absolutely fucking no idea, before turning back to you and not saying a word.  Maker, everything below your waist is already stirring, twisting hot and deep inside, but you’re trying to be the voice of reason for a second.

“What if somebody hears us?”  You whisper, and Din cocks his head to the other side.

“I can help you stay quiet,” he murmurs, and… fuck.  You don’t know what it means, but you immediately imagine his hand held tight over your mouth while he takes some of this stress out on you and you already feel yourself wilting at the thought.  Okay.

“Okay,” you breathe without needing anything else at all, before spinning around and standing exactly where he told you to.  It’s just a corner near the back of the hull, nothing else here to look at besides two metal panels meeting at a right angle, but that’s admittedly what makes your heart start beating quicker.  You can’t see him come up behind you but you can feel it.  Slow, measured, but so restrained.

But then he stops almost immediately, before the back of your shirt is suddenly being yanked upwards and you remember at the very last second.

Din carefully grips his blaster and then eases it out of your waistband, the metal sliding warm along your skin from pressing against it for so long.  You never told him you took it with you, and he’s so fucking quiet behind you You have no idea how he’s reacting to that piece of information you originally didn’t think twice about.

“Do you like carrying my gun around?”  Din’s voice murmurs soft through the modulator to you, but then the blaster is tossed uselessly to the side, skittering loudly across the floor of the hull.

“Yes,” you reply, beginning to shyly turn your head back to look at him, hoping to gauge his response.

“Don’t turn around,” he quickly interrupts you, pushing your shoulder back into position and keeping you facing the corner.  You blink at the metal walls in a bit of a daze but follow instructions regardless, feeling your heart pound at the sudden display of dominance from him.  He has a very valid reason for it and you don’t realize what it is until a few seconds later, but even if he didn’t and he was just telling you what to do for the fun of it… you’d still like it.

But then his helmet is carefully being lowered over your head and you shudder as your vision is replaced with a familiar black abyss.  Fuck, his helmet , why does he like it so much when you wear this?  Admittedly, you don’t have much time to contemplate—as soon as it’s fitted and secure, he spins you around and you have to just do your best to maintain your balance, not having any visual to help.

“Can you hear me?”  Din asks, and your clothes start to be ripped off of you.  Your shoulders tip sideways with how quick he is about it, feeling him pull the fabric off and hearing the soft sound it makes landing on the floor.

“Yes,” you tell him, but he doesn’t respond, continuing to strip you completely naked in the hull.  Once your upper body is bare and he’s yanking your pants and underwear down your legs, you try saying it again as you step out of them, louder for him this time.

“I can’t hear you,” his voice grunts after a moment.  You know he’s in front of you but you can’t really tell where, now that he’s not touching you.  “Scream.”

You take a second, not having hard evidence anymore but still very well aware that you’re parked close to a marketplace on Nevarro and multiple people are nearby while you’re wearing his helmet.  This is dangerous for him, and not sure if you should, but then an arm is wrapping around your back and a large leather palm rests directly over your chest.  Din repeats his last word very slowly and clearly for you, waiting to feel it under his hands.

Your sternum lifts while it rises with your deep breath and then collapses as you diligently yell as loud as you can into the helmet, feeling like you might deafen yourself with the trapped sound.

“Good,” he growls, suddenly spinning you around and pushing you back into the metal paneling.  “I can’t hear you, be as loud as you need.  Hit me or something, put up a fight if you want me to stop, alright?”

Arousal rockets through you and you let out a moan already, taking advantage of the noise suppression and beyond turned on at this point.  You feel like you’re buzzing with it, lit up with excitement and wondering with bated breath what he’s planning to do to you.

“Alright?”  Comes his voice from behind you once more, and you quickly jerk the heavy helmet in a nod for him.  You can put up a fight and you know he’ll stop, you don’t have any problem with that and the fact that he specifically made sure to wait until he knew you understood him makes you start to pant inside the hollow beskar.

But then you feel him flick a small switch at the base of the helmet and then everything abruptly cuts out and goes dead silent.

Nothing.  Nothing.  You’re standing in a pitch black room where no other sound exists besides your own labored breathing.  Just like the waterfall on Naboo, but you can’t speak this time.  Temporarily making you blind, deaf, and putting a proverbial gag over your mouth all with one powerful piece of armor.

You shudder and he kicks your legs apart before you can do much else, yanking your hips back while you just try your best to cling to the wall for stability.  You don’t know what he’s going to do, you’re completely isolated in here and the only way you can even tell he dropped to his knees is the hot glide of his tongue through your pussy from behind.

Oh fuck —you arch into position as best you can while hands wrap around your ankles to pull them apart, trying to make the angle better.  His tongue licks softly over your clit and each time is like an electric shock jolting through your body, making you twitch back and up for him, stretching and begging him to do it again.  You can’t see anything right now so your mind readily imagines the visuals instead, providing you with a third party view.  Din, fully clothed and face shielded by your thighs, eating you out from behind while you brace yourself against the wall, completely naked and at his mercy, head tilted down from the weight of his helmet and living for the moments he decides to drag his tongue across your clit.

Without warning, a sudden burst of sensation ripples along your backside and causes you to lift the beskar in surprise, but without being able to hear anything, it takes you a second to figure out that he just smacked your ass.  The realization comes more or less at the exact time he decides to flatten his tongue and follow the curve of you back and up.

You gasp into the pitch black and there’s a moment where you just hold utterly still for him, experiencing and processing the sensation for the very first time.  His mouth is soft and warm as he tastes you here, his fingers digging into the swell of your cheeks to spread you open.  You’re glad your face is hidden so he can’t see the shock in your expression, the way your mouth drops and your eyes close as you let him explore you this way.

His gloved hands leave you for just a moment while he continues gliding his tongue against you, along every single bit of skin he can reach, and then you feel a bare hand reach up between your legs and begin to rub slow circles around your clit.  His other arm pushes against your lower back and you’re forced into the corner even more, your naked breasts pressing hard against cool metal and feeling his hot mouth and strong fingers work you closer to the edge from behind.

You’re panting into the helmet, your hips arching back to feel that stimulation on your clit better, and as his fingers move over it slow and strong, you feel a soft vibration against your skin and you realize he’s moaning into you.  The knowledge sparks a different kind of heat through you and makes you suddenly go still and tense right here.  If he stays just like this for even just a few more seconds, you’re going to cum.

“Din, I’m gonna cum,” your voice warbles inside the enclosed steel —just as his touch decides to abandon your body.  You groan loudly in distress, completely alone without his hands or mouth on you anymore, but all he likely hears is the silence of the hull and the way your palm smacks against the wall with it.  You were so close, everything feels like it’s pulled up so tight and painful and it hurts—

A hand clutches your hip and then a thick cock is suddenly pushing up against your soaking wet entrance, going to alleviate that twisting discomfort.  Your eyes roll back and your whole body goes limp as he slowly eases forward and breaks you open, fitting himself deep inside where you love to feel him most.  Your hands claw down the walls with a swell of bliss as he pulls out and then starts thrusting—and fuck, you love this.  You love the way he’s trapping you up against the corner and making you see stars at the same time, the way he’s supporting your weight but crushing down into you, too.  It makes you go boneless and want to riot simultaneously, groaning loud into the quiet abyss as he gives you what you both desperately needed.

One of his hands sinks down between your legs to play with your clit again, while a slick finger presses up against your ass and you gasp as he slowly penetrates you there, too.  Din’s hips work steady and powerful behind you, pushing you into the wall with every desperate thrust, using the arm shoved between your legs to support you as well as stimulate, and you just feel yourself move into a different place.  You don’t have a name for it but it feels like hyperspace.  Silence so loud it feels suppressing, faster than anything light can touch, nowhere and everywhere, hurtling towards something you can’t see but know lies in the distance.  You can tell he’s still fucking the tension out of his body, you can feel him working another wet finger inside you and stretching the virgin muscles back there, but every sensation begins to slowly blur together in a wicked uprising of ecstasy.

You don’t know where you are anymore, just that his fingers keep rubbing your clit and you think he's trying to ease a third into you when your destination abruptly arrives.

You nearly collapse when you cum, contracting so hard around his cock and fingers that you cry out unexpectedly—and because of the helmet, you think it’s just as unexpected for him.  He stops moving—everything stops moving besides you.  Your hips stutter backwards into his stationary body, dragging your clit back and forth against the tips of his unmoving fingers and fucking him as best you can.  It shatters white hot and goes straight through to your soul, wringing pleasure and wetness between your legs in waves.

Your knees are knocking against each other when Din pulls out, his cock still deliciously hard and now soaking wet with your cum, and then they just suddenly decide to give up without warning.  You don’t fall necessarily, but you do slowly slide down the wall like a slug and Din follows you to the floor instead of holding you up any longer.  His sternum moves quick and heavy against your back as he breathes and then suddenly the same switch at the base of his helmet is flicked, and sound bursts into existence all at once.

He’s panting.  Harsh breaths behind you that match the rapid pace of his chest, and the ambient noise of the rest of the hull.

“Can you hear me?”  He gasps, sounding fucking wrecked , and you nod the helmet against the wall while gravity and exhaustion and his beskar chestplate squishes you into it.  “P-Put up a fight if you want me t-to stop, p-please— ” he rasps out, almost the entire thing air and so close to cumming, and then his knees lift just slightly and the blunt head of his cock presses against your other entrance.

And, if you wanted, you absolutely could.  He’s got you boxed into the corner but he’s not constricting your movements, he’s given you every ability to struggle.  You could easily throw an elbow back against his side, push against the wall to shove him away, smack at his arms or even just flail against his body in panic—you could do one or all of those things to signal him to stop and you know he’d do it immediately, he’s asking you to.  You could struggle.  If you wanted.

Instead, you just grab hold of the beskar strapped to his thigh and drop the helmet to your chest, nearly vibrating with the thrill and preparing yourself for it.  You know he’s gotta be inches away from orgasm, you know from the tone of his voice that he’s right there on the edge and it’s not like it’s going to last a long time.  Thanks to him, you also feel like you’re just as slick and wet back there as you are between your legs, stretched open by his fingers while you came all over him.  You want nothing more than to give this to him, to let him be the only person in the universe that knows how you feel this way.

When you pointedly do not put up a fight and even go so far as to arch your lower back for him in presentation, Din curses and his fingers begin jerking back and forth over your sensitive clit once more.  It might normally be too much for you, but your body is sparking with lust and quickly acclimates to the stimulation, learning to burn and ache for it, too.  Fuck, it feels so good, you tense and melt into it at the same time, letting him ease you back up to that peak once more.

He pushes up against the tight ring of skin and you can’t fucking explain it—his fingers keep rubbing your clit and he’s slowly pushing into your ass and—

“I—I think I’m—” you suddenly lift the helmet to gasp out in surprise, forgetting he can’t hear you, “ngh—D-Din, I think I’m gonna c—”

He’s just barely able to breach the tight entrance and fit the head inside before he freezes —and even though everything happens consecutively, it’s all so rapid that it feels simultaneous.

Your hips could go forward, but they don’t.  Your body decides to send you backwards into him, pushing him inside nearly halfway all at once as your muscles lock down and just fucking strangle his cock.  Your piercing scream gets trapped in the silence of his helmet as you cum once more—painfully, madly and with every fucking part of you for him.  There’s maybe one or two mind shattering pulses of ecstasy before the rest of your body catches up and starts convulsing, and by then Din is already gasping and fumbling behind you, suddenly realizing what’s happening without hearing the sound of your ragged warnings and then ripping himself away just in time.

He punches out your name when he cums like you just fucking snapped him in half—his body hunches and the beskar digs hard into your back as warmth starts splattering along your skin.  You crumple while he shoves his hips up against your spine, riding and working the orgasm out of himself while yours just fucking obliterates you.  You think you whine his name—or a curse word or something, but it gets strained and your lungs lose air every time his powerful armored body humps you into the wall of his ship.

Finally he eases up and you just lay there and listen to the ringing in your ears.  Blissfully empty, still pulsing from cumming so hard and feeling like your bones just decided to stop existing and the rest of you was okay with it since you were already on the floor anyways.  You feel him shudder and twitch behind you, letting go of that last bit of tension until he too allows gravity to slouch his heavy torso over onto you.

You both stay like that for a while, until your eyes close and your everything below your waist goes numb.  Eventually you feel him shift and your head bobbles as the helmet is slowly removed, but a large palm cradles your chin to stop your face from slamming into the wall in exhaustion once it’s off.  You just continue to melt into the paneling like you’re nothing more than goo of a human being while he trades it back to its rightful place on his shoulders and tucks his cock back into his pants, before wrapping his arms around you and lifting you both up.  The floor and metal walls, once feeling like you and them were one, suddenly decide to disappear entirely as you’re hauled up into Din’s powerful arms.

He slowly carries your naked, fucked senseless body over to the fresher, and you squint your eyes open over his shoulder to see… he’s still got his rifle slung around his back while his cum is dripping down yours.  Not a single thing on him is out of place and you’re, well… a mess is a word that works.  Limp and doll-like, carried like your weight is practically nothing to him after years of having the densest armor known to the galaxy strapped to his body.

Setting you down is a mess, too.  At some point you think he just gives up and decides to return you to your humble floor abode with a patience and care unexpected from someone who just defiled you so thoroughly.  You hear the fresher door open and the faucet squeak, before he turns back around and crouches to your level.

“Stay here,” Din tells you lowly, his modulated voice coming gentle and warm through the sounds of water raining down against metal.  You don’t feel his touch directly, but your hair moves away from your face.  “I’ll be right back, okay—just stay here.”

Can do.  Easy.   He waits until you murmur a soft mhm to him before he leaves the tiny compartment, and then you soon hear his heavy footsteps ascending the ladder to the cockpit.

 


 

You don’t think you fall asleep, but the powering up of the Crest’s thrusters make you realize your eyes were closed.  Opening them barely qualifies as a squint though; you look around to see steam slowly filling the fresher, the water already running hot and welcoming in the small room.

You know you need to shower but you’re so fucking exhausted, you feel like you can’t even move your body.  You also know you can just do the same exact thing in there as you’re doing in here, you just need to muster up the energy necessary to get inside it and then fall back asleep.  He set you down in the small little space outside the shower door and then got everything set up for you, you can at least stand up and take a few steps.

Unfortunately, you might pick just about the worst time possible to plant your hands on the ground and work to struggle upright on all fours like a newborn animal.  The steady rise through Nevarro’s atmosphere pushes gravity down harder than you’re expecting—is he trying to fly quickly or are you just that dead-limbed?—and then of course, by the time you do manage to fight it and successfully get on two wobbly legs to hold yourself up, the subtle shift of the hyperdrive kicking in nearly knocks you back down again.  You stumble and grab the walls, bracing yourself against them and looking down at your knees in exasperation.  Come on, work.  Move forward.  Come on.

You’re glad he’s not here to witness this monstrosity, honestly.  Just opening the door and taking a few steps into the fresher is a feat—while you’re not in any pain and he didn’t leave any marks on you, you just feel… steamrolled.  Ran over by a truck.  Only having the strength to keep your feet beneath you as you finally move under the water and close the door behind you.

Oh, but this is wonderful.   This was such a good idea, he’s so fucking smart.  The shower falls warm and lovely against your body, wetting your hair and immediately heating you down to your bones.  You don’t move really at all—you kinda just stand there and slouch, closing your eyes against the spray and slowly breathing the mist into your lungs.  It feels so nice—not really restorative even though you like that word, it would imply the water provides you with any energy whatsoever.  It just feels like a comfort, a relief and sedative for your already wildly fatigued body.

You haven’t been in here for more than a minute or two when knuckles tap gently against the metal walls of the fresher, before the natural bass of Din’s unmodulated voice murmurs from somewhere beyond it.  “Hey.  Keep your eyes closed.”

How did he know?  You figured you’d be way ahead of him.  You’re standing but slumped over, wanting nothing more than to just say fuck gravity and pass out right here.  The walls are too cold to lean against now that you’re all toasty from the heat and steam, so you’re just unconsciously swaying on your feet, trying to balance the precedence of sleeping versus not falling over.  You don’t even comprehend the sudden flip of the light switch overhead beyond the fact that it makes it easier to snooze without being so bright behind your eyelids.

The door eventually opens at the very same time you realize you never answered him, but you just commit to the silence at this point.  It’s easy, you like it.  Soon you feel warm hands touch your shoulders, slowly spinning you around while you follow and hang your head, your neck not wanting to support it any longer, and then suddenly a bare chest is pressing up against you and powerful arms are wrapping around your body, and you can just lean all of your weight into him while your head rests right here on his shoulder.

He holds you without moving for a long time, keeping you just like this—your ear pressed against his skin while water rains hot and comfortable down your back.  Knowing you’re facing one of the walls, you crack your heavy lids just the slightest bit and finally notice the tiny compartment is dim and shrouded—the only light source is a single one coming from somewhere in the hull beyond the partially closed doorway.  It’s dark and quiet and you can barely see anything besides the metallic fresher walls and unfocused droplets chasing each other down Din’s naked skin.  Just you and him, flowing water with a sheet metal backdrop.

You think you spend an eternity like that and yet you still find yourself wanting another when he finally shifts, reaching over you to grab a bar of his generic soap but making sure to use the arm whose shoulder you’re not currently resting against.

It glides slow and hypnotic down your back, dragging up over your sides and then back down the curve of your spine.  He’s so sturdy and he doesn’t say a word while he does it, lathering it along your body and rubbing it into your skin.  His bar of soap, not yours.  They started out almost the same since you picked them up at the same vendor, but there’s just a slightly bolder and sharper scent to his that you recognize.  How the bar is far larger than yours because of how often he’s gone away.

Your eyes droop and you feel the water trail over your lips, dripping down your chin and pooling the dip of his collarbone.  The only other time you two shared this fresher was terrifying and he’s rewriting the memories right now, whether consciously or not.  Hot water, not freezing cold.  Standing upright and supporting you.  Heart beating strong under your ear, taking care of you this time until you can care for yourself.

You… you just worry so much more now, it’s becoming an issue.  You didn’t realize how much until you nearly lost him, and you know in your heart that he’s just going to go away again.  Throw himself into more danger, tempt death as always, risk his life for mere credits while all you can provide in return is this.  Skin to skin contact.  Someone to hold.  Someone who knows him, who knows the way he struggles between reaching out for a softness that life has always denied him and clinging to what is rough and familiar.  Someone to remind him that there’s still gentle and forgiving things in this galaxy that won’t disappear when he’s gone, and that he can always come home to them, as long as he can manage to find his way back.

Something sad tugs hard at your chest.  You want to tell him not to leave.  Again, again— you want nothing more than to beg him to stay.  You don’t have anything better to offer instead; if he asked you how it would work, how you imagine your lives would go if he wasn’t hunting quarry on a constant timetable, you’d be hard-pressed.  You don’t know.  But you know what you want to say, because it’s two words you shouldn’t say but always find yourself needing to say regardless.  

Don’t go.

But, instead of two words, you give him three.

Instead of asking him not to leave you again… in the haze and comfort of his arms, you think you just tell him that you love him.

And… you also don’t think the water falling down on the two of you is loud enough to cover it up this time.

It’s not ideal, you know.  You know.   From his point of view, he just got finished releasing all sorts of pent up tension on you, overwhelming your body with the strength and power of his in a way that normal people wouldn’t take as an expression of affection.  But you know him.  You know that he finds it much easier to express the things he feels in a physical way, which is why there’s a bar of soap against your back right now instead of his voice in your ear, telling you all the things you’ve always wanted to hear from him in return.  You know that sex is how this all began and it’s likely just the closest link between roughness and sweetness that he can really put his hands on, something that can fit him equally as well as it fits you.  Love is different, it’s thrilling and scary.  Even to someone like him, who lives everyday of his life surrounded by thrilling and scary things, who’s seen more bloodshed and suffering and pain than you can ever even imagine, you know that it’s scary.

Din doesn’t say anything back to your confession, and truthfully, not a single part of you was expecting him to.  It wasn’t said so he could say it back.  It just is.  Some things don’t need explanations, they just are.  You’re okay with that.

But, you eventually come to realize that he always waits until you’re just on the very edges of sleep, holding out until your blurry vision and fading consciousness can trick you into thinking you only imagined it.  You won’t ever figure out if it’s purposeful or if he just needs that long to find what he wants to say.

Another soft, lilting sentence in a language you wouldn’t be able to translate, even if you could pick out a single word.  It sounds so beautiful though, regardless of how mysterious and far away its meaning feels.  There’s something hidden underneath.  You ache to know what it is.

But you’re so tired.  You just whine softly against his shoulder, not being able to transform the thoughts into sentences anymore but hoping he understands regardless.  He can’t just resort to bearing his soul in Mando’a all the time now, especially when you’re always on the verge of sleep when he chooses to do so.

But at some point, his arms subtly tighten around you and the pressure is one of the only things that’s keeping you awake anymore.

“I won’t ever ask you to,” he says to you, the quietness of his baritone getting lost in the gentle spray and your looming slumber.  “I’m…  not allowed to ask.  I can’t.”

Your expression twitches just the slightest bit against his shoulder in confusion, wondering distantly what word or sentence you must’ve missed from before that would make him make sense.  Was that a translation?  Or a continuation?

But then your wet hair is slowly moved away from your nape and his head tilts down, face pressing into your neck and voice lowering until it’s nothing more than a breath against your skin, nothing more than a confession that he couldn’t ever say out loud with his full chest.  It’s a secret he only ever wants you to know, a truth he’s choosing to admit to even though you could ruin him with it.  You have no idea how much, you won’t know for a long time just how much power he’s giving you by telling you this one very simple thing.

“But whenever you want to look,” Din finally whispers, the only version of I love you too that a Mandalorian knows.  “You can.”

 

Chapter Text

Everything changes and yet somehow nothing does.  

From that point on, it’s like… like you’re both just suspended in this perpetual state of wondering, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  You know he said it’s up to you, but what the fuck?  Look whenever you want?  That’s way too much fucking pressure, he’s out of his mind.  You’re not equipped to handle that, who does he think you are?  Someone that can just… decide things?

And it’s not like you’re afraid of the commitment, or that you don’t want to look.  You do , but every single time a moment comes, it just never… feels right.  You don’t know what you’re waiting for, what feeling or meaning you’re expecting to magically present itself to you, but you can’t shake the idea that there should be more to it than just randomly deciding to open your eyes at some point, shouldn’t there?  Din said there was no ceremony, nothing fancy, and he gave you permission to look because he said he’s not allowed to ask outright, whatever that means.  It’s a standing offer because you guess he isn’t allowed to prompt it for some reason, but unfortunately, that leaves you in just about the shittiest position possible.  Now everything falls to you—initiation, execution, and consequence—and Maker knows you’ve never been that great making decisions under pressure.

But you do want to look.  Sort of.

Sort of.  Because… well, this probably won’t make that much sense, but you’re afraid.  Mostly for him.  What if he’s making a mistake?  It sounds stupid, but you’re afraid of what this means for him, the sheer perpetuity of this decision he’s now expecting you to make for the both of you.  This isn’t your creed, not yet, and you feel like there’s still so much to learn.  Not only about the Mandalorians and his culture, but about him.   To know is to love, and so you’ve taken to asking any nonsensical question you can think of whenever he’s around.  Though you weren’t expecting it at first, you’ve learned that he’ll always give you some sort of an answer.  Some of the highlights include:

“How old are you?”  (“I don’t know.  Probably mid-forties, but there’s no way to tell anymore.”)

“You don’t know your birthday?”  (No, I… think it was in the winter.”)

“What’s your last name?”  (“Djarin.”)

“Do you have any freckles?  Or moles, or birthmarks?”  (“No, none that I’ve ever noticed.”)

“Do you cut your own hair?”  (“Yes, but it’s been awhile.”)

“Do you have dimples?”  (“I don’t smile in mirrors.”)

“Are your earlobes attached or detached?”  (“What kind of question is that?”)

And so forth.

He also gives you so many fucking opportunities to look.  One right after the other.  You used to think Din was incredibly trusting with how often and voluntarily he decided to take his helmet off around you—he didn’t wait a single day once he first felt your hands on his skin to take it off in your presence.  You remember being blown away by his unexpected willingness to part with it after hearing so many tales of the Mandalorians from Kuill; stunned by the ever-present ability to just open your eyes at any moment and that’s all it would ever take.  One simple movement—life-altering, and so easy.

Now you find it nearly impossible, muscle memory just won’t allow it to happen naturally.  And yet somehow, avoiding it is like stepping around land mines.  He doesn’t trick you—he doesn’t set it up, he doesn’t surprise you or anything, but he’s… less careful.  When the kid is awake, Din acts normal—he walks around fully armored, he goes on hunts and returns a few days later with a quarry, teaches you more self-defense techniques in the cleared out hull while the kid watches and giggles at your pain from the safety of his floating crib.  But when the baby goes to sleep, he’s taken to lounging with the helmet off.  He only used to remove it to eat, sleep, or… do other things with you, but he never used to take it off just… because .  Now he does.  Now he’s less careful about darkness, less strict about how much light he allows to touch him.

Now he shares every single meal he can with you, sitting just off to the side so you’ll never see him on accident but providing the free exercise thereof should you ever decide to seek it out purposefully.  Now he interrupts you in the middle of your complaining about the bruises on your knuckles just to lift the rim of his helmet the slightest bit, lean down and give you a quick kiss, and then lower it back into position again before you can even catch a glimpse of the lips you only recognize by touch.  Now he keeps the light on when he goes to take a shower, he leaves the door cracked.

It’s starting to give you heart palpitations, you swear.  At one point, he lets you to see the entire back of his head and it nearly launches you into a fucking crisis.

It’s the middle of the night and he just got up from bed to use the restroom.  He’s quiet enough not to wake you on the way over, but then across the hull and with his back to you, Din flicks the light on in the small bathroom without closing the door.  Immediately rousing you after being so accustomed to the pitch blackness, you lift your head from the warmth of your shared pillow just enough to blearily make out the sight of him leaning a hand up against the wall and dropping his head down, and it takes you a second to realize that it’s actually him.

Soft, dark brown locks ending at his collar but somehow looking longer than you ever imagined when you’ve run your fingers through them.  Cascading in shaggy, natural curls—tall, broad shouldered and trim waisted, naked as the day he was born.  Your heart starts to squeeze in your chest and it just never stops, and for the second time in your life, you feel like he woke you up in the middle of the night just to show you one of the most beautiful things the universe ever decided to hide.  There are trillions of people in this galaxy and how many of them have ever seen a sight that would compare?  He’s just a man, you don’t think a single person would bat an eye.  But to you, he’s… his own monument.  Constructed in honor of everything dazzling that happens to lie just underneath something else.  A breathtaking view, even from this angle, that could only ever mean something to you.

Would you ever be able to know him?  No, that’s not phrased right.  What you mean is that… over the course of all your time together, you remember thinking that if he ever took his helmet off, he could walk right by you and you’d never be able to tell the difference.  He could be anybody.  There are trillions of people in this galaxy and how many of them have the same features?  Brown hair, brown eyes, sunkissed skin that only one person is allowed to kiss, not even the sun.  Would you ever be able to know him?

Staring at his back in the blissful silence of hyperspace and feeling like the Maker himself is letting you in on one of his proudest secrets, some wild thought suddenly occurs to you that… you think you would.  Somehow.

You can’t explain it and you’d never be able to prove it, but you feel like if you lined up every single person in this galaxy shoulder to shoulder, all however many trillions of them there are, then you could walk the entire length of it and somehow come to a stop right where he’s standing.  Every single time.  You feel like you could do it in the pitch black.  You could do it with your eyes closed.

And, he must just be so gorgeous.  Maybe not in a traditional sense (or maybe in one, you’d have no way of knowing), but mostly in just… the rawest sense imaginable.  Not like how symmetry and straight lines are gorgeous, but how a mountain is gorgeous.  Rocky, dangerous, steep, the product of constant conflict between two immovable sides.  He’s got scars littering his body, one of which you remember giving him yourself with a cauterizer on his lower back.  He holds himself like his shoulders could tell their own story if anyone ever asked them; built to endure, weighed down and made strong with a collection of burdens he chooses to strap to them, steel or otherwise.

You don’t want to close your eyes once Din slowly turns around to look at you, but it happens anyways and you’ve never been so disappointed in your own cowardice.

But then, in a way, it could just be your own self-preservation instincts taking over.  No matter how stunning and life changing the spectacle would be, why would anyone ever stare directly at a supernova?  For so long, you’ve told yourself that his face is something you shouldn’t ever see on principle, but in a way, you suppose it’s fair he put this decision on you because he always has, even from the very beginning.  He trusted you to keep your eyes closed for months on end and you never had a problem with it, so why is it so hard to open them now that he’s given you permission?

A couple weeks of that, and you start to worry that you’re unintentionally rejecting him.

It’s the last fucking thing you want, but how can you avoid it?  Din is… different, he notices.  He’s made a living off of finding things that inherently don’t want to be found—he knows all too well what secrecy looks and sounds like, he’s quick and observant and you don’t stand a single fucking chance against him in all the years of his practice.

But strangely, for as often as you feel like you can figure out what he’s thinking without ever seeing his face—realizing what his intentions are ahead of time and not feeling slighted when he phrases things a certain way or just chooses not to speak at all—you never truly realized how much that extended back to you.

He knows you, too.  He told you so.

For some reason, you didn’t even consider the possibility of it working just as well the other way around.  That you could choose to stay silent, and he’d know why.  You feel like the mystery of him just eclipses you in every single way that you don’t consider even yourself much of anything, much less something else to be contemplated and understood.  While you wouldn’t necessarily qualify the conflict as not being ready to commit, he seems more than willing to respect it regardless and nothing about the way he treats you or interacts with you changes.  Normally you’d say it’s like he forgot the whole thing ever happened, but it’s almost the exact opposite.  Like he was just naturally expecting it from you.

Are you truly so predictable, you wonder?  He said you’d say no.  Was he right?  You’re not saying no , you just… can’t remember the word for yes right now.  It’s right there on the tip of your tongue and the harder you work for it, the more frustrated you become with your own inability to find it.

But, instead of waiting, you think Din just decides to continue the conversation with the promise to come back to you when you finally figure it out.

Sometimes, especially when he’s gone, you find yourself thinking about what moment you’d choose, if you could.  Since you can never seem to find the right one naturally, how would it all go if you could construct everything yourself?  Where would it be?  Naboo?  No, that’s too cheesy.  One thing you and Din both have in common is your practicality, your respective propensities for wanting to tackle one thing at a time and not needing frills attached to something in order to find a deep connection to it, a personal value to it.  You weren’t even bothered when he didn’t claim you as a girlfriend to Peli, that’s how reasonable you used to be about labels.  Now you’re your own antithesis, trying to conjure meaning where there isn’t any just so you don’t feel like you’re the one who’s ripping it away.  You want this decision to feel as permanent as it is.  You want it to be a happy thing, something that happens when you’re both so in love that you can’t bear to have metal separating you any longer.

You think… you’ll just know it when the time comes.

 


 

“I have to leave,” comes Din’s hushed voice through the darkness, and even though it’s the first thing either of you have said in hours, it sounds frustrated.  Like it’s been bothering him for awhile and he’s just now finally telling you.  “I… fuck, I can’t stay here, I should’ve left a long time ago.”

You whine softly into the pitch black, turning your head into the pillow and curling your fingers into his hair.  “But it’s still so early…”

“It’s mid-afternoon,” he groans back, dropping his forehead down against your skin and breathing hot air along it.  “We’ve been parked here for hours, I don’t know how you can sleep so long.”

“I’m not sleeping,” you pout, before gently dragging your nails down his scalp and feeling his whole body shudder with it.  “Earlier I was.”

“Mhm,” he murmurs, leaning down to give you one last long, slow kiss.  You sigh when his tongue comes out and glides soft and hot against your lips, tightening your grip on his hair.

But soon he pulls away, lifting the covers from over his head and pushing up from between your spread legs.  “This one shouldn’t take long,” he gruffs, planting both palms next to your head and kissing you once more in the darkness, dipping his tongue into your mouth this time.  You moan softly and taste yourself on him, moving to wrap your arms around his broad shoulders, but he breaks the kiss and leans back before you can, preemptively avoiding the possibility of getting lost in it.  “I’ll be back around dawn.”

You’ve known it was coming for hours now, so you’re able to play it off way better this time around.  “Okay,” you breathe softly, dragging your palms up his bare chest as he lifts himself tall over your body.  The slight disappointment underneath is so masterfully hidden, you’re almost positive you’re going to get away with it.  “Be safe.  Please.”

But then… well.  Bounty hunter.

Din pauses for a moment like that in between your open legs, letting you slowly slide your hands down his ribs and over the lines of his stomach.  You wait for him to move, find his clothes so you can get around and make some food, wake the kid up from his nap in an hour or so.  Can’t stay in bed all day, no matter how much you wish you could.

Only, he still hasn’t moved and you start to become concerned.  “Din?”

But then he suddenly groans like he just can’t help it, grabbing both of your spread legs and easily lifting them up.  You make a sound of confusion as he maneuvers them until they’re pressed together and draped over one of his shoulders, and then his hips drop and push forward to slide himself thick and perfect into your blazing hot cunt.

Still drenched and swollen from cumming in his mouth so many times earlier, you gasp and he just groans louder, a ragged thing scraping out of his throat while you struggle through blind and unexpected euphoria to reach him.  But you can’t—Din hugs your legs tight to his chest and settles in just like this, turning his head to drag soft lips and a hot tongue over your ankle before he starts fucking you.  Right up against your g-spot, with your whole lower body in the way and preventing you from slowing him down.

You just have to clap both hands over your mouth just to keep quiet since you can’t reach him.  You feel his teeth sink into the meat of your calf, hips pistoning far beyond your reach and it feels so fucking good that you almost don’t hear his gritted words against your skin.

“I have to go,” he groans, repeating it over and over until his voice begins to pull tight and it just sounds like a plea.  “I have to go, I have to go, I h—have to… h-have to go , I have to, I have to, I have…”

 


 

When Din finally steps foot out of the ship, fumbling with his rifle and cursing quietly through the modulator, it’s the middle of the night some twelve hours later.

 


 

Steady…

Steady ………

Fire.

—and… you blink as bark splinters.

Did you…?  You look down at the blaster in your hand and then back to the ginormous charred tree trunk for a few seconds, wondering if you’re just seeing shit.

No, it’s real.  You actually fucking did it.  You…

… hit the target.

All of a sudden, your ecstatic giggle echoes loudly throughout the foresty autumn wonderland around you, reds and oranges and yellows crunching under your feet while you start to dance.

“Hey!  See that, bug!?”  You call out, shoving the blaster into your waistband and shimmying up to your enthralled audience of one, who just so happens to be smiling as wide as you are as he’s scooped up into your arms.  “I hit the target, I hit the target,” you sing, beginning to sway the baby back and forth as he squeals, laughing while you bounce him.  “No demon powers necessary, little man!  I figured it out, I just have to use one hand instead of two.  You can retire now, you’re the right age for—”

A twig snaps in the distance somewhere to your left, and you quickly spin around while reaching for the blaster behind your back.

Except all you see is a blue Twi’lek standing out amongst all the fall foliage, his hands cuffed behind his back and stumbling a few steps at a time while a considerably taller suit of beskar shoves him forward.  You relax and immediately turn to look down at the ground, trying to bite your lip so you don’t smile too hard while they both approach.  You did it— finally, you did it, you’re on top of the fucking universe right now.

You wait for them to pass by and move up the open metal ramp to the carbonite chamber, but then Din apparently decides to pause when he’s directly behind you, yanking the quarry to a sudden halt.  

You know you should probably turn around to address them, but you can’t hide the happiness from your expression, it’s way too obvious.  Though, after a moment, you decide to shyly turn to face the two men while continuing to bounce the baby in your arms, hoping that his and your matching expressions of excitement aren’t too terribly inappropriate right now.

Din looks from you to the splintered bark on the tree, and then back to you again, before slowly tilting the helmet up in a way that feels… proud of you.

“Congratulations,” he finally says, and you can hear the genuine smile hidden in the modulated drawl.

“Thank you,” you beam up at him, feeling the blood rush to your cheeks.  “Was pretty awesome.”

“I’m sorry I missed it,” he tells you, and you don’t know why, but the tone of his voice makes you go so warm.  It’s not like he’s openly flirting with you, but coupled with your giddiness and sounding like that in front of a bounty he caught in record time, it just makes your heart fucking throb for him.

“It’s alright,” you murmur, shuffling your feet through the crunchy leaves below and trying to play it as cool as possible.  You have company.  “I’ll be able to do it again.”

“Let’s see it, then.”  He tips the helmet over at the tree, and you look between him and the unfamiliar quarry for a second, not used to Din just… ignoring their existence entirely for you.  It’s not like the Twi’lek has said anything or inserted himself into the situation at all, but still.  Din has one hand latched onto the cuffs behind his back to prevent him from booking it, but other than that, it’s like he’s pretending he’s not even there.

“Uh…”  You immediately feel yourself get nervous.  “I can… try.”

He nods one single time in silent encouragement, and you slowly turn to face the tree once more.  The kid stays cradled in your arm while you reach for the blaster in your waistband, removing it and using your longest finger to flick the safety off with a practiced fluidity.  Then, extending it out in front of you and taking advantage of your newfound strategy of only firing with one hand, you line up the sight and pull the trigger.

You wish you could say it hits.  It would be so fucking cool and impressive if you hit the target like that, wouldn’t it?  But it doesn’t hit.  It misses, like usual.  Miserably.  And then an amused snort comes from behind you.

“Right stormtrooper, you are—” you hear an unfamiliar accent begin to snark, but the rest of it turns into a garbled howl the second Din jerks his elbow back to slam it in his face.

You whip around just in time to see a cascade of blood pouring down blue lips and sharp teeth—holy fuck.  You gasp and take a step backwards with the kid, not horrified by the sudden display of violence (not after Din spent an hour teaching you how to do that, too) but not quite expecting it at that moment, either.  But then, well… that’s the second time he broke a quarry’s nose for addressing you with disrespect.  There was that other one he choked, you’re pretty sure—though you can’t remember exactly what initiated that.

Din yanks the bounty up the ramp without another word, leaving both you and the kid there to process while he shoves him through the hull and towards the carbonite chamber none too kindly.  However, by the time he seals the quarry to his fate and eventually makes his way back to you, you just… 

Fuck, you feel so stupid .

You shouldn’t even bother, what’s the point?  All that practice and nothing to show for it.  If you can’t even hit a stationary target with the pressure of others watching, what makes you think you’ll have any hope at all in a situation where you actually need to shoot?  Are they gonna stand still for you?  Are they gonna be as wide as a fucking treetrunk?  You’re horribly embarrassed, so downtrodden in the face of a cruel taunt that you don’t even want to look at Din when he steps in front of you.

“Hey, just try it again,” he says without delay, but the damage has already been done.  It’s not his fault, you’re just… not the kind of person who is meant to shoot a blaster, maybe.  

“Ah… it’s alright,” you look out and smile sadly at the line of trees surrounding you, wondering how it’s possible that you only managed to hit one of them this whole time.  You don’t see it, but Din quickly touches the tips of his fingers to the side of his helmet twice before you look back at him.  “I hit it earlier.  I did, I promise.  You can see the mark if you look.”

His glove reaches out to brush your hair back, so unbelievably gentle after using the same arm to shatter bone just a few minutes ago.  “I know you did.  It was a perfect shot, you hit dead center.  I see it.”

“I did it with one hand, that’s why I tried the thing,” you mumble stupidly, looking down at your feet.  Dumb.  Dumb .

A strand of your hair is tucked behind your ear.  “Wish I was here.”

You glance over at him, feeling your expression suddenly go soft with a wave of affection.  It stops all the harsh criticisms, halting your negativity in its tracks and replacing it with just… soft, abstract things.  Mostly just warm, nonsensical fluff, but one clear and resounding thought breaking through.  You wish he was here, too.

“Maybe I’ll get good at it eventually,” you sigh, slowly handing him the blaster with the barrel pointed down and away from both of you.  Din carefully takes it from you, tucking it away somewhere on his utility belt while you gaze out at the designated target and victorious char mark decorating it.  “Or hopefully just okay at it at some point.  I guess I just need to practice more, right?”

“That’s right,” he tells you warmly, catching your free wrist.  “Try using this one when you do.”  And then a lightweight piece of metal is gently pushed into your empty hand.

Your expression furrows while you quickly look down at it, and—

You go utterly still at the gift, not even knowing what to think.

The first thing that you notice is the craftsmanship.  Brilliant, structurally flawless, the perfect size to fit your hand.  You don’t recognize the specific kind of metal that was used—definitely not beskar—but you think it might be constructed from the same material as Din’s old armor.  Dull silver, but with reflective chrome filigree accents around the handle, trigger, and safety.  It’s uniquely constructed and unlike any weapon you’ve ever seen before—no hard lines or edges, just a soft fluidity to the design that’s so aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t really even resemble a blaster at all.

You can feel the visor silently studying your reaction while you continue marveling, noticing something new every time you look.  The safety is towards the back of the chamber, just like he said it’d be.  The sight is electronic, and you examine the way it’s built directly into the barrel.

Are those extra magnets on the inside?  Is this able to micro-adjust the plasma release for the best shot?  Holy stars, it must have cost a fortune.

“Din, this is…” you can’t decide where you want to look—the gorgeous crafting, the custom design, or him.  Standing so close to you, not saying a word while you search for the right ones.  “It’s so beautiful, I…”

“Was made for you,” he murmurs.  “Had to be.”

You look back down at the blaster to stop your eyes from tearing up.  He didn’t have to do this.  This is so… sweet , such a lovely thing to do.  Don’t cry, don’t cry—

“What is this?” You ask breathlessly instead, rotating the gun until he can see the symbol branded on the handle.  You recognize that it’s his signet, but you never bothered to ask him what it’s called, you never saw it as your place.  It’s an animal of some sort, one with a giant spike attached to its skull, and you’re glad you’ve never come face to face with one.

“It’s a mudhorn,” he answers quietly.  “They’re… dangerous animals.  Fiercely protective, preferring solitude.  The kid saved me from one a few days after I met him.  It’s… the mark of my clan.”

How fitting, you think, and an honor.  Perfect for him, and a bone-deep reminder of your two favorite people in the galaxy on your hip wherever you go.

“Thank you,” you tell him, hoping the sincerity in your voice sounds anywhere close to how you feel.  You haven’t even had it in your hand for longer than a minute and it’s already your prized position, the most important thing you’ve ever called yours.

Din nods and takes a small step back.  “Now hit the target.”

Feeling invigorated and renewed in every single way, you keep the kid tucked firmly in one arm while raising your blaster with the other.  The safety clicks off and your back straightens, chin lifting until something about the angle feels… right.  The trigger moves easily under your fingertip, and there’s almost no kickback considering how light the weapon is.  What you’re not expecting is the pure white beam of plasma shooting out of the barrel—unlike any blaster you’ve ever seen before—but then the immediate sight of it hitting the tree dead center sends a roar of triumph through your ears.  Fuck yes.

“Look at that!”  Din calls out over the kid’s happy squeal, and there’s nothing you can do to stop your loud whoop of victory.  Even though you know it only hit with the addition of those extra magnets to correct your terrible aim, that still feels so good— you feel so fucking powerful and dangerous.  You glance over to Din with a wide smile, but then his arm extends out towards the trunk directly next to the one with charred bark.  “Hit that one.”

You automatically swing the blaster in that direction and shoot.  A few pieces of wood split on impact and send sharp bits flying as soon as the bright white beam collides with it.

“That one,” Din tells you, and then bark splinters a half second later.  “That one.”  Bark splinters.  “That one, that one, that one—” hit, hit, hit, white plasma flying through the air and bark splintering in rapid succession.

He stops and spins around, pointing to a tree at the very edge of the clearing.  “That one?”

It’s furthest away but the trunk’s diameter is enormous.  As you lift the blaster, you know you’re likely to get it easily with this sophisticated weapon, even across the considerable distance.  So instead, feeling like nothing at all can touch you right now and wanting to see how smart the aim mechanism is, you raise up a few degrees higher before pulling the trigger.  Pale plasma launches from the barrel, and then one of the tree’s most prominent branches comes creaking and crashing to the ground right where you split it.

You’re beaming by the time Din turns back to you, the most excited you’ve ever been with your own progress.  He holds there for a moment while you lower your blaster and wait for him to speak, both of you looking at each other and not moving, until suddenly you hear his voice coming back to you.

Hit the target and I’ll marry you.

One of Din’s hands slowly comes up to the edge of his helmet, but before you can even process the implication behind the gesture, you’re immediately looking down at the crunchy leaves under your feet and clearing your throat.

There’s a beat of silence where you stare down at the dead foliage and wonder why the fuck you just did that.  Right in front of him, right to his face, too startled at how quickly you were being confronted with the possibility that you responded in an equally startled way.  It was instinctual, automatic and entirely out of your control, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to take it back.

But… you can’t take it back.  That’s the way things are, and after a few moments, you hear his boots begin to cross the distance to you.

“Come on,” Din murmurs gently through the modulator, carefully taking the blaster from your hand and clicking the safety back on again.  “We have to get going.  The fifth quarry is far.  Three day trip through hyperspace.”

He doesn’t sound upset or disappointed by your unintentional rejection, thank the Maker.  You want to explain yourself somehow, but it appears it isn’t necessary in the slightest.  His arm wraps around your lower back and he leads both you and the baby back up the open ramp of the Crest, squeezing you close enough to his side that you have to learn how to walk in a different way to stop yourself from tripping over his boots.

The helmet turns and presses to the top of your head while you focus on moving straight.  “Proud of you,” Din murmurs quietly, and your chest fills with enough air that you’d be worried about floating away if he wasn’t latched onto you so tightly.

He eventually releases you and walks over to the armory, pressing a button to unlock the doors while you hold the kid and watch him start to remove the multitude of weapons strapped to his body.

Maybe… maybe this isn’t the right time, but something brave surges up inside you.  After receiving the most precious gift imaginable from him, hitting all those targets and hearing him say that he’s proud of you, you’re buzzing with just enough energy that for better or worse, it makes you open your mouth and ask.

“Could I… come with you this time?”

Din nearly jerks upright and looks over at you immediately, but he takes a while in responding.  You hope he sees it in your eyes.  You hope he sees just how much you don’t want to be stuck here again when this is possibly the one time you’d be able to tag along.  It’s a bullshit quarry, one he could do in his sleep, and you’ve been getting increasingly restless while stuck on this ship.

When Din eventually does respond… well, judging from his shift in tone, you’re assuming he was just shocked at the question and didn’t take any of that time to actually consider his answer.

“No.”  Short.  Unfeeling, and not sorry about it in the slightest, before turning back to return the blasters you were using previously to the armory as if you said nothing at all.

Okay…  Um.  Not great, not what you wanted to hear, but maybe if you explain yourself better, he’ll listen.

“I just… I’m the only reason you have to get this quarry in the first place.”  Your voice is quiet, trying to let go of some of the concerns you’ve kept to yourself over the past two weeks.  Your fingers fiddle idly with the kid’s little woolen sack as he hangs out in your arms, wanting to plead your case but feeling slightly nervous now.  “You were out having a crazy expensive blaster made for me while I shook hands with Karga and agreed that you’d take more work for less pay.  I hate that I did that.”

“You had no choice,” Din mutters, turning around and striding past you while pressing a button on his vambrace to close the Crest’s ramp.  “My fault for being late.”  And… for as warm and comforting as his voice sounded earlier, it now just sounds… dismissive.  Aloof.  Half-listening, not really wanting to talk but forcing himself to.

“Well this time, I thought maybe… I might be able to help?  Maybe?”  Maker, you feel yourself going quieter the more he walks around the hull and ignores you.  “Karga said it was just a missing person, not even a criminal…”

“Karga says a lot of things,” he grunts with his back to you, voice completely monotone through the modulator.

Come on, speak up.  You’ve lacked a backbone for so long, you’ll never get what you want unless you say it out loud and let it be known.  You take a deep breath and straighten your shoulders, trying to put a little bit of spine into it.  “I can be useful.  I can fight now, I’ve been working on my—” 

“You think I’m telling you no because I don’t think you’re capable?”  He suddenly whips around, voice ringing sharp and challenging throughout the hull while you freeze.  You don’t move but everything about you suddenly feels like it shrinks.

“I-I didn’t—” But he cuts you off, taking a step forward.

“I know you can fight, a Mandalorian taught you how.  I know you’re useful, I know it’s just a missing person, and I know you hate it when I leave.”  He pins you with his eyes through the visor, his tone harder than you think you’ve ever heard it before.  “No .   Your job is to stay here, on this ship, with my son, where it is safe , and my job is to go get the quarry.  Quit asking.  I’m not telling you again.”

The baby makes a tiny little distressed sound in your arms and you blink a few times up at the cold metal, feeling all the good feelings from before just… drain out of you.

Okay, that’s fine.  Uh.  You… the cockpit is behind you, you’ll go up there and fly then.  No reason, just… he should get going.

“Okay, yeah,” you nod and tell the wall over his shoulder brace in immediate agreement, before abruptly spinning around and grabbing the ladder.  Din doesn’t move a single fucking muscle while you try to find your way up to the cockpit with the baby held to your chest and a dead stone sitting heavy inside of it, hoping your face doesn’t show the vulnerability you feel wanting to take over as you retreat.  Get to the cockpit first, get to the cockpit first, get to the—

“Sweet girl, I…” you barely hear murmured through the helmet from the floor, soft enough to sound slightly shocked, but you scramble into the cockpit and shut the door behind you before he can say anything else.

 


 

Silence didn't used to feel like this.

At first it was eerie, unnatural and stifling when you spent years in a wide open desert, wind swirling and dust pelting.  It suffocated you the first few times you jumped into hyperspace, a phenomena you read all about and considered mathematically fascinating before ever experiencing for yourself.  It was… foreign and strange, but you began to value it more and more as time passed.

Then, you started to get to know him and silence just became comforting.  Something you could bask in, knowing it was a comfort to him.  A choice he made because it just fit him best.  You felt safe in it, you felt like you didn’t have to be anything else but you.  You never had to break it just to avoid awkwardness, you became… closer to it, until you learned to fall in love with it.

But only when he was with you and it was his silence.  Not… everything else’s.  Now it’s haunting again.  Now the sheer lack of sound through hyperspace is a stranger to you, and the distortion of light surrounding the cockpit feels less about the sheer magnificence of manipulating space time and more about the fundamental disconnect it causes.  Gorgeous, but at its core, a severance.  Ripping the fabric of the universe apart, tearing a wound in it.

It’s been a few hours and nothing exceptional has happened since your conversation in the hull.  

You’ll admit that you’re a sensitive person, and because of that, you’ve always had a problem knowing if you were right or wrong when someone comes at you with a hard enough will.  You second-guess yourself, it’s one of your worst traits, and you feel like trying to squash that tendency without knowing the limit is partially to blame for why you’re holed up in this cockpit with the kid.  You’re quiet but in a different way from Din.  When he doesn’t speak, it’s because most of the time, he’s sure of himself and doesn’t need to.  When you don’t speak, it’s because most of the time, you’re insecure and don’t want to.

After being left alone with your thoughts for this long, you’re starting to realize that… he was right.  What were you thinking, wanting to tag along?  Wanting to hang out while he risks his life for this occupation, you probably sounded so fucking ignorant.  Maybe… maybe he didn’t have to say it like that, but his point is still very valid and you’re not sure if you’re really justified in hiding like this anymore.

The way he said… your job, though.  That still stings a bit.  This hasn’t felt like an actual job in a very long time.  Was that just an expression, or did he mean it literally?  You’re stuck on it, you’ve just been going over this for hours in your head, trying to figure out if you should be the one to apologize or not—or if this is just you overreacting from the start and no apologies will be necessary at all.

“Sorry you got stuck with me, kid,” you mutter sadly to the baby, watching him fiddle with his favorite metal ball in your lap.  He makes a little gurgle, purring in that weirdly adorable little way of his and it somehow feels like a reassurance directed to you that he’s just fine the way he is.

Maker, you haven’t heard anything from the hull in a fucking eternity; it’s like Din turned into a ghost, hasn’t even made a single footstep that you could hear since you last left him standing there.  You remember performing a quick flight check as soon as you got up here, lifting off as fast as you could and hoping the thrusters would rumble loud enough to cover your series of pitifully shallow sniffles at being yelled at unexpectedly by a very large and intimidating man, not really crying but not really able to breathe normal either.  The little monster was able to wiggle himself around in your lap as you were trying to punch in the correct coordinates for the fifth quarry with rapidly blinking, watery eyes, and then proceeded to give your belly the smallest hug you think you’ve ever been given and pretty much break your heart with it.

Lovely little boy, so sweet when he wants to be.  He’s sat with you this whole time, he even tried giving you his metal ball to play with but ultimately decided to keep it to himself when he realized you aren’t nearly as fascinated by it as he is.  You know it’s probably getting late for him, and you’ve been weighing the idea of handing him over to his father so he can at least get a good night’s sleep somewhere that isn’t your arms.  There’s no blankets in here, just your lap.

“I think I gotta go take you to your dad soon, tiny.  He’s probably missing you,” you tell him, trying to keep quiet enough that you won’t disturb Din in the hull.  There’s a good chance he’s already asleep.  “I think… he might still be mad at me.  Maybe you can give him the big eyes, soften him up a little?”

Right on cue, his enormous eyes start to droop closed, and you let out a tired sigh of exasperation.  That’s not gonna work, come on.  They gotta be open, booger.

You watch him slowly drift to sleep, his ears relaxing until they too start to droop, but when you try to take the ball from him and set it down on the console, his eyes immediately pop back open and the toy slips from your fingertips.  It levitates right back into his tiny hands as you watch, and then he closes his eyes once more while tightly cuddling the thing he loves most to his body.

Unbelievable.

He’s a child , and yet he’s…

“How are you so strong?”  You ask him, unable to even fathom.  “You’re the smallest, most helpless little thing I’ve ever seen and you’ve got such… strength.  You defy the universe for a piece of metal.”

He doesn’t hear you, you think he’s asleep again.  It’s just as well, you figure.  He needs to go sleep in his crib, it’s time.  You scoop him up and make sure the little ball stays tucked snugly in his arms, before finally standing up and stumbling over to the door on numb legs.

Only, when it slides open, you quickly stop short.

Because there, sitting on the floor and resting his helmet against the corner of this small little platform leading to the ladder, is the Mandalorian.

So much closer than you expected him to be.  So big , crammed into such a tiny place.  You didn’t hear his footsteps climbing the ladder, and you would’ve noticed it during the hours you’ve spent in the suffocatingly muted quiet of hyperspace.  He can be silent but not when absolutely nothing else exists and he’s got a thousand fucking pounds of steel weighing him down at any moment in time.  You took off almost immediately once you barricaded yourself inside the cockpit, so has he… did he follow you up in those last few seconds, right after you shut the door?  The ones when you were sniffling like a child and trying desperately to turn the thrusters on before you let the tears come?

His head lifts and his back straightens as you’re looking down at him with his sleeping son cradled in your arms, your eyes slightly redder than they should be.  You’re a mess and… he’s been here this whole time?

“Could you hear me in there?”  You whisper in sudden mortification, but Din just keeps gazing up at you through the impenetrable metal visor.  A complete mystery again.  Unreadable—he could be anyone.

When he doesn’t answer you, your heart twists with the possibility that he’s still upset with you, and you quickly turn to the ladder to figure out the best way to get down without jostling the baby.

“I’m sorry.”  His voice stops you dead in your tracks.  It’s so soft, nearly flipping in and out of the modulator from the lack of volume, the most cautious sounding thing you’ve ever heard coming through the filter.  “I… hurt your feelings.  I’m sorry.”

And…  Maker, if anybody else had said it.  If literally anybody else had said it, you know it would’ve sounded like the most sarcastic, dickish remark in such a delicate moment.  But, you also remember him telling you once that you were tenderhearted.  That the galaxy would never be as kind to you as you are to it.  This… comes out sounding like he’s trying to change that.

It comes out sounding like he’s trying to use his voice to hold you because he doesn’t think you want to be touched right now.  Like… like he’s doing everything he can to be as careful as possible here because you think he might be attempting to do something he’s never done before.  Apologize for saying something he didn’t mean.

“You don’t have to,” you quickly tell him.  He’s not good with words and apologies are difficult enough to phrase for normal people, you don’t want him to fret over it if that’s what this is.  “It’s okay, I know you’re not… you don’t have to.  It was stupid of me to ask.”

“It wasn’t,” he instantly counters, his voice finally seeming to find the floor when it was just hovering before.  Not loud—still gentle, still making sure the kid doesn’t wake up and you’re not frightened away, but a bit more grounded this time.  “It wasn’t… what I wanted to hear, and I didn’t take it well.  Not stupid.”

“It was stupid,” you return amicably, looking down at your feet.  “That’s not my… job, like you said.”

Din suddenly hangs his helmet down to his chest, pressing his gloves to the part that curves over his forehead and rubbing it.  “ Shit .  I didn’t mean—”

“You were right,” you acknowledge, having spent the past few hours coming to the understanding that it’s the hard truth and he just phrased it poorly.  “I’m not… built for it, I’d only get in your way.  I barely just managed to shoot stationary targets with a blaster today, and that’s only with that aim corrector built into the barrel.  I’m here to be helpful, not—”

“What are you saying?”  He suddenly lifts the beskar to study you, sounding genuinely confused.  “What aim corrector?”

That… makes you pause.

“The, uh…”  Now you’re confused.  “The one that adjusts the plasma release on the gun you gave me.”

He doesn’t move an inch or say a single thing to you in response and you awkwardly shuffle your feet for a second, everything so quiet that you can hear every little snore that goes in and out of the kid’s tiny button nose.

You blink at him after way too long of that, not knowing why he still hasn’t said anything.  “There’s an electronic sight and like a bazillion extra magnets packed into the barrel, Din, what else could—”

“Sweet girl, that’s… that’s for the Philithiorium,” Din breathes out, like he’s absolutely blown away by you right now.  “That gas is less stable than normal canisters, it takes more magnets to focus the white beam without overheating the metal.”

You stare at him, not truly processing.  He’s saying that… you made all those shots today without any help at all?  By yourself?

Your eyebrows furrow and you blink a few times, but then his slow, heavy sigh echoes throughout the metal walls with disappointment… and you don’t think it’s directed towards you.

“You’re just… always so unsure of yourself.”  He sounds genuinely distraught as his helmet tips down to look at the ground.  “I made that worse today.”

“It doesn’t matter,” you quickly shake your head, your chest already beginning to loosen slightly by just being around him, hearing his voice, seeing the metal glint under the fluorescent light overhead when he’s in such a vulnerable position on the floor.  “It’s okay, let’s just… pretend neither of us said anything at all, okay?”

“Is that what you really want?”  He asks you after a moment of quiet, and for some reason, you hear something in your mind tell you that his arms look so nice right now, don’t they?  You could fit right there, perfect and safe again.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” you smile at him, feeling a bit of the ache trapped inside you continue to work itself out little by little.  You’ll be back to normal soon, it’s fine.

“No, I mean… do you really want to come with me?”  Din asks you, the words sounding cautious.  Confused, like he truly never expected the proposition from you at all.  “Or… do you just not want me to go?”

Oof, what a fucking question.

Why would he ask this?  It’s not pointed; it’s the softest, gentlest inquiry you’ve ever been posed.  Maybe in other circumstances, you’d say that him leaving doesn’t have anything to do with it, but… you’re certain that internally, it absolutely does have at least something to do with it and he was just able to know it before you did.  Which is probably why his sharp words seemed all the more cutting earlier.  It hurt because he said the truth first, verbalized a very deep insecurity you’ve been trying to hide from him and threw it right in your face when shutting you down.

Though, if it worked differently and you were the one who had to be away while he stayed here, you’d like to think you’d handle it way better than how it is now.  At least you’d have a real mission to focus on, new things to see and experiences to have.  You just feel… confined sometimes.

You take a deep breath and figure you’ll use sitting down as an excuse to think for a second.  There’s practically no room but you find it in the back of the cockpit near the doorframe anyways, doing your best to keep the kid level while you slowly lower yourself to the ground near him.  Not touching him, but close.

“I just… I lived my whole life stuck in one spot, wanting to see the galaxy,” you finally admit to him, staring at his chestplate but seeing the helmet tilt slightly in your peripheral.  “Sometimes it’s just… hard to see the galaxy and still be stuck in one spot, I guess.”

“…You want an adventure,” Din proposes quietly, and though there’s not a single hint of mockery in his voice, you suddenly feel like it’s really fucking dumb when he phrases it like that.  What are you, an eight year old?  Wanting to go on an adventure, see things you’ve never seen without any concept for real life?  Credits?  Time?  Resources?

You shrug a shoulder to make it seem like it’s no big deal.  Why is he even entertaining this right now?  “It’s stupid, I kn—”

“Like on Naboo,” he goes on, ignoring your harsh self-criticism, not allowing you the ability to even get it out once he heard the first couple words.  “Going through the forest, seeing that waterfall.  Someplace to find for yourself.  Explore.  Experience.”

You… you want it so badly that you think your eyes might tear up just hearing the words coming out of his mouth when he says them like that.  Like he… just inherently understands.  He knows.

He knows you.  He’s not good with words and yet he found the single most succinct way to put what you thought was a complex yearning without even trying.  You can’t even answer him, he hit the target dead on and you’re left with nothing to say that wouldn’t just be a miserable lie.

“Okay,” Din says after a moment, giving you a small nod.

You’re lost now.  “…Okay?”

“You’re never going on a hunt with me,” he tells you very seriously, no room for arguing.  “Ever.  And not because you can’t handle it, understand?”  He inhales, quickly adding on to his response before you’re able to analyze it the way you want to.  “But if you want an adventure, then… I can try and find a way to give you one.”

Stars.  He’s… too kind.  You somehow feel like it’s more than you deserve.  You were honestly hoping to just shadow him on a hunt, watch him work and stay well out of the way when he needs you to.  Helping if you think you’d be of any help; an extra set of eyes and hands.  You would’ve been fine even if he didn’t apologize for raising his voice at you, he doesn’t have to do this for you.

“Thank you,” you say for the third time today, feeling like each one has somehow multiplied in sincerity.

“It can’t be right now,” he quickly tells you, apologetic but earnest about it.  “I have to find the quarry, and I’m supposed to meet with Karga again in a week.”

You never did let him know about the other part of the deal you made with Karga, you admit.  Four pucks, no hassling, no hard time constraints.  That’s what you shook on, but you just never found a way to bring it up to Din.  Especially since you’ve been so preoccupied with hiding your growing disappointment from him whenever he has to go.

“If…” you pause, wondering the best way to phrase this.  Yikes, this is a toughie.  “Um.  If Karga… I don’t know, hypothetically, if Karga decided to loosen the time constraints back to the way they were before the Corellian bounty, would you… still need to meet with him again in a week?”

You don’t think he even bothers shuffling through all those words.  “Say what you mean.  Please.”

“That was part of the deal I struck with him,” you quickly explain.  “You can hunt on your own timetable again and he’ll keep giving you four pucks like before, no more or less after this one extra quarry.  It’s like a… replacement of sorts, for the one I kept you from getting the time before.  If credits aren’t an issue, you can take more than a week.  But only if you want to, you don’t have to.  It’s just there and you should know, that’s all.”

He takes his time responding, lifting his helmet just the slightest bit in… surprise?  Maybe?

“You never told me you did that,” Din finally murmurs.

“Ah.  Well.”  You look down at the sleeping kid in your arms.  “I didn’t want you to think I was trying to… keep you here.”

It genuinely is a struggle for you, and you think he’s just now realizing that.  As much as you know he gets frustrated with you for always wanting him to be here when he physically can’t be, you think it’s only now that he’s truly realizing the lengths you go to in order to stomp that part of you down whenever you feel it threatening to come up.  You allowed him to leave every single time without telling him he could stay, knowing that all that was left for you was babysitting and target practice for days on end.

“Will you come over here?”  Din finally asks, and the tone of his voice just punches you in the chest.  So soft, so distressed from having you so close yet so far from him and just… full of a quiet hope, like he’s fully expecting you to say no.

“Will we fit?”  You whisper after a moment, even quieter.

He doesn’t answer, he just reaches for you.  You do your best to scoot over to him without waking the kid, and then Din pulls you the rest of the way once he has a grip.  You go right into his arms, laying sideways across his lap and supported by his steel embrace.

Oh, it’s not comfortable but you’ve also never been more fucking comfortable.  One of his knees lifts and allows you to rest your back against it without worrying about falling over sideways and down the ladder to the hull, thank the Maker.  The beskar pauldron over his shoulder digs into your cheek, but Din immediately pushes an arm up to nudge his helmet off and make it better for both of you.  Your face automatically fits into the crook of his neck while he sets the beskar on the bend of his knee, and then he silently cradles you while you do the same to his little boy… who does the same to his favorite metal ball.

“Ni tar’tayl su,” he murmurs into your hair, the one phrase in Mando’a you do recognize, especially with how beautiful and elegant it sounds rolling off his tongue.  “Forgive me.  Ni ceta.”

You sigh your contentment and melt into him, well aware that you’d still be more comfortable in bed.  But when you’re pressed hard against his chest like this and the baby is fast asleep in your arms, you get to feel both of them breathing.  Din’s right lung is probably bigger than the kid’s whole entire body, but you like the radically different cycles they go through.  You think you count six full breaths coming from the brown sack in your palms for every one of Din’s and two of yours.  It creates the most beautiful little symphony that sometimes gets a little off track, but always finds its way back around again.

“How do you say…”  You ask, feeling his hand slowly move down the curve of your spine, mindless and hypnotic.  It catches the edge of your shirt and goes underneath, and even though it’s not his bare hand and there’s no skin to skin, it still feels so good.  Not sexual or sensual even, just… a comfort to you.  “In Mando’a, how do you say… out of a trillion?”

Din’s breaths pause for just a second, his portion of the synchronized rhythm faltering.  Soon it starts back up, and his head turns to press his lips against your hair.

“I don’t think there’s a word for it,” he admits, gently brushing a thumb across the baby’s forehead while he snoozes.  “There could be, but I don’t know it.  I’d use… out of a million million millions.  Dayn alanyc bal alanyc bal alanyci.

Your eyes begin to drift closed, exhausted from keeping them open after shedding a few tears earlier.  Your first fight and you’re already completely in love with him again after a handful of hours of sulking and one conversation.  How is that possible?  You’re normally a very forgiving person and it wouldn’t have taken much to make you feel better, you just never expected him to… actually want it from you that badly, care enough about it to get on the floor and ask.

Din doesn’t move the entire night through.  You assumed he’d make everyone get up at some point and move to the hull, but he doesn’t.  You fall asleep against his chest, comforted by the silence once again.

 


 

The next morning, Din quietly climbs into the cockpit while you’re humming in the shower.  You’re too busy basking in the indoor rainfall to feel the ship pull out of hyperspace, and then jump back into it a few moments after.

 


 

“How long do you think you’ll be this time?”  You ask two days later, sitting on the extended flattop of Din’s old cot and swinging your legs back and forth.  The baby is currently sitting on your lap and trying to roll the metal ball down your knee so you’ll kick it in the air, you think, because he keeps dropping it at different moments and forcing you to stop moving your legs to prevent accidentally denting a wall.  Every time the ball clatters to the floor, he makes a sad sound and it immediately lifts back up into his tiny hands for another try.

Heavy boots clang against the metal floor as Din drops down from the ladder, having just landed the Crest on the surface of whatever planet you’re on.  “I’m not leaving yet.”

“Oh…”  You blink, surprised.  “Okay.”

“I wanted to do some more training with you first, if that’s okay.  You can say no if you want, but maybe not,” Din drawls, striding over to the armory and opening it.  He carefully removes your blaster from the front shelf, speaking with his back to you.  “You’re going to run.”

“Um.”  You take a moment to glance around the enclosed hull, before turning to look back at him with your eyebrows raised.  “What, like… in place?”

Din sighs and closes the armory before leaning back against the doors, rubbing the face of the helmet in exasperation.  “From me, sweet girl.”

Your legs stop swinging, and the baby grumbles and slaps three fingers against your knee.  “What?”

“We’re on Sanctuary II,” he explains, turning to grab his black bag from one of the storage shelves.  He unzips it and reaches back into one of the larger pockets on his utility belt, before grabbing a handful of credits and stuffing them inside.  “It’s a moon, the New Republic occupied it years ago and made it a safe world for refugees and orphans of the Empire.  You’ll have your blaster, some credits, a communicator, and a day head start.  You’re going to run from me.  Show me how much you’ve learned.”

Is… he for real?

Right now?  You don’t even know how to respond, you’re too surprised.  Even when Din approaches and carefully trades the kid for your blaster, setting the bag down next to you on the metal bed, you still haven’t answered him.

“If you want?”  He asks after a moment, and you quickly jerk your head into a nod and jump off the raised platform, almost knocking into him with your sudden excitement.

“Okay!  Fuck yeah ,” you grin, but Din shakes his head.

“Rules,” he says seriously, and you quickly do your best to frown, trying to compose your thrilled expression to match his tone.  “One.  This is a safe world, but things can always happen.  You have a blaster now, but it’s for emergencies only .   Do not shoot me with it.   Do you understand?”  You nod, but Din reaches forward to grab your elbow.  “Out loud, please.  For me.”

“I will not shoot you with this blaster,” you vow obediently, carefully cradling the precious firearm in your hands.

“Do not shoot me,” he repeats while pointing a leather finger at you.  “Do not… shoot at me.  Near me.  Around me.  No, just—don’t shoot.  Unless I am… very far away.  Okay?”

Well, he didn’t have to phrase it like that.  You frown, but acquiesce regardless.  “I will only resort to blastering if it’s an emergency and you are not around.”

He nods a thank you for putting it into better words.  “Second rule.  Since you don’t have a ship, I won’t either.  We’re on foot.  I don’t doubt you can hotwire a piece of junk to do what you need it to do, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t.  Good?”

Entirely accurate and entirely fair.  “Good.”

“Three,” he says.  “I’ll have the kid with me, which is both good and bad news for you.  Good news is he’ll slow me down, bad news is I can’t promise he won’t also try to intervene at some point if you’re serious about putting up a decent fight.  What I can promise is that I won’t encourage it.”

“Reassuring,” you nod.  “Also not really a rule.  Please continue.”

“Four.”  He pauses for a second.  “I think I’m wanted by the New Republic.”

You nearly jerk back.  “What?”

“I can’t confirm it and I’m not proud of it,” Din quickly tells you, probably the vaguest possible explanation he could provide.  “I’m only telling you so that you’ll know your advantage and find a way to exploit it.  I can’t be seen by any officers, or they might arrest me.”

Is he fucking serious?   “I don’t want you to be arrested, Din, I—”

“I won’t be,” he assures you.  “They owe me one, I just don’t want to cash in yet.  Trust me.”

You… do.  Insanely, and against every logical thought flittering through your head, you do.  If you were ever going to bet money that someone would be able to navigate a safe world on foot without being caught by the numerous officers scattered across the surface, then you’d put all your credits on Din Djarin.  It… also shouldn’t really surprise you at all that the people seeking his incarceration also owe him a favor, should it?  It actually sounds right on par for him.  “Okay.”

“Fifth, and this one is important, so listen up,” he continues gruffly.  “You check in with me tonight over the e-comm, alright?  I don’t care where you are or how safe this planet is, if you don’t check in, I’ll come find you before the sun rises.  Say you understand me.”

“I understand you,” you tell him, your heart beginning to pound in your chest at the reality of this actually happening.  “I’ll check in tonight.”

“And if,” he goes on, “by some miracle , you manage to make it more than a full day, you check in with me tomorrow night, too.  Say it.”

“I will check in with you every single night for the full five days it’ll take you to find me,” you assert, the adrenaline starting to make you brash and giddy.  

Din tilts his helmet at you sternly.  It is a very, very stern tilt.  “Okay.  New plan, forget everything I just said.”

Your expression furrows.  “What’s the new plan?”

“That is the new plan,” he says, dead serious.  “Us.  Not doing this.”

“Oh, come on,” you grin cheekily up at him, poking his chestplate.  “I’m just giving you some motivation to find me quicker, that’s all.”

Din stares down at you, and… yeesh.  Tough crowd.

“Tell you what,” he finally grunts, sounding incredibly unamused with your jesting.  “If you can last that long with only a day head start, I’ll let you come with me to collect the fifth quarry.  You can even cuff the bastard yourself.”

You know it’s just because he’s rightly confident in his own deadly skill, but hearing him propose the possibility still shoots a thrill down your spine.  “Oh ho, you are gonna regret saying that, shiny,” you beam up at him, starting to hop back and forth on each foot with excitement.

“But if I’m able to find you, you can’t ask me ever again,” he finishes shortly, and you immediately go still in front of him.

“What?”

“If I’m able to find you in five days, I don’t want to hear about you coming with me on a hunt and you can’t ever ask me not to go on one,” Din tells you, his voice rough and gravelly through the modulator.  Not mean or harsh, but firm.  “From now on, it’ll be off-limits.”

You… take a moment, not knowing if you should feel scolded or not.  When you don’t immediately say anything in response, he sighs and turns the helmet away from you.

“Leaving is hard enough as it is,” he mutters, looking at the ground.  “Hearing you ask… makes it impossible.”

You slowly lower your gaze to the floor as well, feeling your heart constrict tight in your chest.  There’s a real pull under his voice, telling you that information even though it sounds like he doesn’t really want to admit it out loud.  It… really is a struggle for him too, then.  You understand.

“Okay,” you nod.  There’s not a single part of you that actually thinks you’ll be able to stay hidden from him for five days while stuck on foot, so this is essentially a given.  You’re not thrilled about the idea, but you’re going to do your best to respect it nonetheless, especially if he cares enough to put off hunting and allow you this experience for yourself.  It’s a better compromise than you ever imagined, and you’ll do everything you can to hold up your side of the bargain.

Din clears his throat and straightens his spine, turning the visor until it faces you head on once more.  “Final rule.  I reserve the right to break any rule we just agreed to, or any fucking rule in this galaxy to keep you safe.  Good?”

Your cheeks flush with heat, your stomach suddenly filling with butterflies.  He doesn’t do that.  Din says what he says or he doesn’t say anything at all, there’s no… taking things back, he’s already breaking his own code.

“What happened to The Way says no take-backs?”  You ask quietly.

“This is my way,” he answers you.  Quick, not even taking a moment to think about it, before pulling out a fancy looking wristwatch thing and clipping it on you himself.  “This is your communicator.  It takes more power than the one you have now but it’ll reach a further distance.  I have one just like it, they’re locked into the same frequency and timesynced together, and the batteries need to be charged every three days.  If you make it that long, I’ll remind you.”  Din grabs the bag while you slide your arm into it, helping you hook it around your shoulder with one hand while he cradles the kid in his other.  Your heart is pounding now, pumping with adrenaline as he pulls you towards the middle of the hull and then wraps an arm around you.

“Hey,” he murmurs, pulling you tight to him and pressing the helmet to the crown of your head.  His voice is barely a whisper through the modulator.  “Gar darasuum.”   For an eternity.

You find some way to wrap your arms around him, even with your blaster in your hand and the kid hanging out in his dad’s other arm.

“Dayn alanyc, bal alanyc, bal alanyci,” you murmur dutifully against the beskar chestplate, knowing your accent is probably butchering the words but hoping they still carry the same sentiment.

And then you’re squeeeeeezed hard enough to get a little air out of you, before you’re let go and he turns around, pressing a button on his vambrace so the ramp begins to lower.

It’s bright outside but not too bright, and everything is warm and gentle and breezy, right in the middle of a lush plain.  You inhale the fresh air into your lungs, looking out across the wide open field, having no fucking clue this is where your day would be leading when you woke up this morning.  Oh Maker, it’s gorgeous here.  Not like Naboo, where every single thing is picturesque and fit for an e-card, but in a soft, understated kind of way.  The sky is a canvas of swirling pastel clouds, pale pinks and yellows and blues, and the communicator on your wrist lets you know that it’s just after noon here.

You take one single step down the ramp, before immediately stopping and turning around to bite your lip at him.

“How am I… how am I supposed to outrun you?”  You ask, already clueless.  “You’re too good, better than me at everything.”

“That’s not true,” Din reminds you sternly, grabbing your hand at your side.  “You already know who’s after you, that’s an advantage nobody else has ever had against me.  You know how I think.  I don’t know how, but sometimes it’s like you can…”  He slowly shakes his head.  “See me.  Through the metal.”

“But… but that works both ways,” you point out, breathless at hearing him say that but needing to focus right now.  “You know me, too—you’ll know exactly where I—”

He shakes his head again, but quickly this time.  “Remember what I told you a long time ago?  What your best weapon is?”

You… do not.  He told you so many things, and you’re assuming every single one of them is going to come into play during this endeavor if you want to outlast.  You’re going to have to think back and remember all of them individually, find the time to figure out your best plan of action based on the remarkably little you know about how he hunts.

“You’re smart , remember?”  Din murmurs, squeezing your fingers.  “Your mind works differently, it sees things in ways I’ll never be able to, not even with this helmet.  So…”  He shrugs a shoulder like it’s the simplest thing in the galaxy.  “Don’t try to outrun, okay?  Just try to outsmart.”

You give him a nod after a moment, still not really sure about it, before giving his hand one last squeeze in return and eventually letting go.  

Outsmart.  Outsmart him, use what you know about him to be the most elusive quarry he’s ever hunted down.

As you make your way down the ramp, you’re already thinking.  His helmet tracks footprints, that’s a thing you know.  You’ll have to find someone to trade shoes with, then—yours aren’t too beat up, maybe you can find a local who’d appreciate a better pair.  Are you going to a city?  Would there be one in walking distance?  The wilderness won’t work, you’ll be too exposed and it would make you an easy target for either him or wild animals.  The weather seems clear here though, and you don’t think you’ll need to worry about rain or snow, but if—

“Oh—but when you do see me,” Din decides to add when your feet finally touch the grass, and you pause once more to turn around and look at him.  He stays quiet for a second, studying you through the helmet for too long.  Like the anticipation is getting to him already.

You bite your lip back at him and adjust the bag on your shoulder, tummy swirling with nerves and excitement.  He tilts the visor up, gazing down at you from the hull with the kid tucked in his arms.

“Try to outrun,” he says gruffly, before turning back into the ship and letting the ramp slowly close behind him.

Chapter Text

Headstart—12:17pm:

The sky is so pretty.  There isn’t much to look at on the surface—rolling hills and plains, grassy but with dry bare spots breaking up the green stretches, but the sky.   It’s an oil painting above you, pastel swishes of yellows and pinks and purples with an enormous ringed planet taking up half the horizon and another sizable moon hanging high.

You should probably be running.  Like, for real sprinting, but you can’t push yourself to go faster than a brisk walk.  It’s so… free out here, more hills springing up every time you get to the top of the next, warm air filling your lungs.  Even though you know realistically that the beginning will likely be the hardest—where you need to focus most on running and putting distance between you instead of hiding—truth be told, you’re not foreseeing making it more than a full day.  You’re going to try , obviously, but in the grand scheme, you wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he finds you tomorrow.  So, instead of wasting all your energy going as fast as you physically can right out of the gate, you just decide to stroll and think for a little bit.

You know what your goal is.  Obviously, to last as long as you can, but more specifically… well, if Din is going to chase after you, then he’s going to try to think like you.  Anticipate your movements, if he can’t already see the tracks you leave plain as day.  Very soon, he’ll be walking this same exact pathing, following the footprints you’re leaving behind, but if you’re ever able to shake him or throw him off course, he doesn’t have a tracking fob.  He doesn’t have any mechanical device that points him in your direction—if you can lose him with the footprints, then he’ll have to rely solely on predicting you. Which means you need to think… exactly the opposite of yourself if you want to outsmart him.

That’s harder than it sounds though, because… is he going to predict you predicting him?  At what point does it stop?  You somehow have trouble seeing this as an advantage the way he said it would be—you almost wish you had someone else chasing you, someone you didn’t know and someone who didn’t know you if only so this paradox could end before it begins.

You’re walking for about ten minutes before spotting a dirt road in the distance.  There’s a person following it in the direction of the sun—you don’t know this planet’s magnetic field but you do know it’s after noon and the sun would set on Arvala-7 in the west, so that’s what you’ll call it for now.  You call out to them as soon as you’re in range, and the stranger turns to you.

“Excuse me!”  It’s a woman, you see it as you get closer.  “I’m so sorry to bother you, but can you tell me where this road leads?”

She removes a sheer yellow shawl covering her dark hair and gives you a friendly smile.  “Hello,” the lady greets, before spinning around and pointing back the way she came.  “Osiruu is a few hours that way.  There’s not much there, but it will take you to G’ila, a transport hub with many opportunities for drifters, or Nariss, the capital.  I’m on my way to Shabeth,” she points in the other direction.  “It’s far—a day’s walk, but it’s a holy place and offers quite the view.  I would be glad for the company, but I understand its lack of practical appeal.”

So this place is safe enough to be inviting strangers along on your travels, noted.  You’re going to have to make the decision right now, then.  Which path should you take?

Something deep inside you tells you that you want to see this holy place, and just from a few sentences, you already like this woman and feel safe with her.  But then all of a sudden, you remember something.

Last known locations tell you a lot about a quarry, Din’s voice drifts back to you, sounding soft and distant from the dark forests of Naboo.   Smart ones go to populated planets, planets like Coruscant, planets that make it nearly impossible to find people.  Brave ones go to dangerous planets, suicidal ones try their luck in the Unknown Regions, idiots continue to go about their business on their homeworld without caring.  But planets like this—like Naboo… those are the pacifists.  The ones that don’t ever put up a fight.

You suppose you should decide what kind of quarry you want to be.  Friendly company and a view is something you normally crave—it’s something your soul speaks to after going without it for so long during your previous life.  You never pictured yourself as the fighting type.  When Din first asked you, you told him you wouldn’t run from him if he was chasing you, and choosing to accompany this kind stranger to her destination is essentially just that.  Sacrificing a chase for a pretty view.

“Does Shabeth have a sizable population?”  You ask her, and she shakes her head.

“It’s the sight of an annual pilgrimage that happens in a few months, but it’s beautiful there and I like to go whenever I can,” she tells you with a soft smile.  “But there’s nothing for miles outside it, I’m afraid.”

Your footprints will lead directly there.  He’ll find you easily.

“It sounds very nice, but I need to find somewhere with a lot of people,” you give her an apologetic smile.  Truly, you think she would’ve made for a nice friend.  “Thank you for your help, though, and good luck with your journey!  I hope we meet again.”

“Do you need any food or supplies?”  She asks you, and you stop short of passing her by.  “I don’t have much with me, but know what it’s like to be a newcomer to Sanctuary II.  I’d be glad to help.”

Good Maker, is this how everybody is here or did you just hit the jackpot with this lady?  She seems like… you, almost.  Her voice is gentle, she looks like she’d give nice hugs.  You’re about to politely turn her down, but then you realize the brilliant opportunity that’s presented itself in her image.

“Actually, this might sound like a really strange question, but…” you tell her, before looking down at her feet.  “Wanna trade shoes with me?”

 


Headstart—6:12pm:

You don’t think it’ll work, but as you walk into a small settlement a few hours later in a unfamiliar and worn pair of sandals, you decide that you’ll need to do this as often as possible.  You can’t come up with anything else that’ll throw him off your physical trail besides constantly switching shoes—is that bad?  Are you just an idiot with no hope?  You’ve had—you check your watch—like, five hours to think of a game plan, and all you’ve come up with is shoes?   You’re screwed.

At least there’s food here.  Plenty.  There’s vendors stationed along the street, multiple people passing by and going about their business.  Osiruu, that nice woman said—not much here, but you think she was wrong.  There’s children giggling and jumping rope on the corner, a shopkeeper sweeping her storefront, a graying man with an empty cup plucking an unfamiliar melody on an unfamiliar instrument—and while your tummy growls and you know you should quickly buy supplies and be on your way, you still stop for just a few minutes to listen.

It’s a lovely tune.  You drop a few credits in his cup after he finishes and find yourself humming it as you look at the plethora of goods being offered by the vendors.  Water, food—you buy enough of everything to sustain you for at least a couple days, not wanting to go hungry but also feeling realistic over optimistic.  The cuisine is foreign and you just point to things that look appetizing since you’re not sure about the name or pronunciation, but after paying and taking a bite into a rather large piece of purple fruit, your eyes nearly cross at how sweet and tasty it is.  Holy Maker, that might just be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.  You ask for two more after you finish the first, tucking one in your backpack next to your blaster and munching on the other as you keep browsing.

Suddenly you see shoes— yes .  Fucking shoes , your salvation.  You take a good look at all your options, of which, there aren’t many.  Generic men's, women's, and children's, all in the same color and design.  It’s good in a way—you see most people walking around in the same type of clothing here and you pray there’s not a way for him to track your gait or the whole thing is a bust, but truthfully, what you’re most worried about is the fact that you’ll create a brand new set of footprints wherever your old ones disappear.  Unless you trade with someone else, you won’t ever have a back pathing, you know that Din will probably be able to easily spot it.

“Three pairs of these, please,” you point to the correct shoes and tell him your size, but then—“Oh wait, actually, can I actually have one of them that’s the next size up?  And another that’s the same but in men's?”

The man behind the counter gives you an odd look but acquiesces, measuring the size of your preferred pair to multiple men’s shoes to find one that looks roughly the same—you doubt he’s ever had a request like this, but you’re also a generous tipper.  His smile is grateful when you tell him to keep the change and then you’re stuffing the new shoes into your backpack and moving onward.

Would there be some kind of map here, you wonder?  One that shows distance so you won’t waste time trying to reach a place you won’t be able to walk to?  That lady said a transport hub and the capital are through this settlement, but she didn’t provide much information beyond that.  You don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere when he finally catches up to you, you’ll need some place to hide.

When you stop to ask an elderly gentleman as he passes by, he freely provides you a basic gist.  There’s a large forest beyond Osiruu—after it will be a road that passes through a few notable places, with a town called Sijua to the west that leads north to G’ila, and Devain to the east that leads northeast to Nariss.  Both are within walking distance, though it may take a couple days to reach your destination.

Alright then.  Through the forest, you suppose.  You probably should’ve asked which way is east, but he’s already leaving and you don’t have the nerve to ask him to stop again.  You have a finger point, that’s all you need.  Making sure to use one of the small restrooms near the square before heading out, you eventually decide to make your way towards the direction he said this forest would be.

 


Headstart—6:58pm:

A bus.

You’re not going to take it, of course, but it’s the perfect solution to the problem you’ve been mulling over.  It’s at the very edge of the small settlement, and you quickly speed up into a half-jog as soon as you hear its engine running.

“Last call for the seven o’clock!”  A large man stationed near the doors yells as you approach.  “Last bus to G’ila until tomorrow!”

The sun is setting and you have to extend your hand out in front of you to not be blinded by it.  “Hello,” you give him a smile, before grabbing one of the handles on the side and stepping up onto the metal platform.

“Ah!”  The man quickly stops you, moving to stand in front of the open doors.  He’s as wide as he is tall, big enough that he blocks the entire exit.  “That’ll be ten credits, miss.”

“Oh,” you say, patting your empty pockets and pulling your eyebrows inwards, trying not to move too much in case the sizable amount of credits you have stashed in your backpack happen to rattle.  “Oh, no.  I think I lost my wallet.”

He sighs.  “Off the bus then please, miss.  Come back tomorrow if you find it.”

You nod, leaning your forearm against the paneling and beginning to take your shoes off.  “Will it be parked in the same place exactly?”

The driver looks curiously at you, clearly confused at both the strange question and your strange actions.  “I’m sorry?  Please—off the bus.”

“One second,” you tell him, now barefoot on the platform and digging into your backpack for the slightly larger sized shoes you bought earlier.  The sound of credits clink against your blaster, but you hope he takes your lead in purposefully ignoring them.  “Does the bus to G’ila park in this spot every single day?”

“Yes,” the man tells you impatiently, eyeing the way you’re stepping into the new pair with a subtle look of distaste.  Everyone is polite here, it seems.  “It will arrive back at seven am sharp with passengers from G’ila, in the same exact place.  Please get off the bus.”

“Thank you, sir,” you tell him with a smile, watching him step to the side to allow you to drop down into the dirt again and continue on your way.

Brilliant , if you do say so your fucking self.  Eliminate the need for a back pathing.  All footprints facing this direction are going to be the first footprints, and all of them facing the opposite way are going to be the last; if Din manages to figure out you didn’t take the bus, then he won’t be able to tell which new set are yours and which belong to the other passengers.  You pray the helmet can’t track gaits, but while you’re still paying enough attention, you make sure to keep your steps just slightly longer and even try placing more weight on the edges of your feet to make it look like you have a slightly higher arch than you actually do.  You’d put a pebble inside of them or something, but you know you’re going to be walking through the night and you don’t want to commit to having your feet hurt more than you already know they’re going to.

Eventually the quaint shops and small houses disappear behind you, and the sun setting over the horizon turns the clouds above turn more dusty green and brown than yellow and pink.  You hope Din opened up the ramp after you left.  You want him to see the sky.

 


Headstart—9:34pm

The forest here is different from Naboo, too.

Maybe it was because you only saw it while you were in crisis-mode, but that forest seemed much scarier and darker than this one.  The vegetation there was thick and overgrowing, but these trees look like they’ve never had leaves on them at all.  No twigs or small branches that sprout from the trunks—the branches are all thick and gnarly, criss-crossing with each other with how close they’ve grown together.  You bet their roots are practically one at this point, stretching for miles and miles but all sharing the same system.

Because there aren’t any leaves, there's nothing to block the moonlight shining clear and crystalline through the twisting maze of branches.  Sanctuary II appears to have a sister moon—Sanctuary I, perhaps?—that’s likely a similar size, because it’s the same one you've seen all day and it’s barely moved a few degrees that you can tell.  It must orbit incredibly close and be tidal-locked with this one then.  Two massive satellites swinging around each other as they circle a ringed gas giant, but it makes a stunning view and reflects more than enough light to see.

The sky is deep blue and maroon and you’ve been walking in a straight line for hours, using the stationary moon overhead as your guide.  The only issue with this plan that you’ve been able to come up with is that there’s no widely traveled path through the trees—even you can see your footprints and the clear trail you’re leaving behind.  You’ve been trying for a while to figure out another clever evasion tactic, but it’s harder than it sounds.  Can’t just change shoes again, that’ll be a dead giveaway.  How do you lose him?

You stop for a second, reaching into your bag to grab some water and stay hydrated.  Looking up once more at the beauty of the swirling colors peeking through the branches above you, you find yourself pausing after returning the bottle to your pack.  There are… an atrocious number of branches up there, and all of them are long and tangled and thick.  Sturdy.

You’ve… never climbed a tree before.

Without thinking much beyond that, you decide to bend your knees and jump, grabbing hold of one of the strong wooden tubes over your head and then swinging your legs up.  Ouch —the bark scrapes against your palms and you have to hold on tight with your thighs while you shimmy yourself upwards, but at least the wood is solid as fuck.  It takes you a minute or two, but you’re eventually able to shuffle yourself around so you’re straddling the thick branch, and then you look out to see the large collection of them criss-crossing in every direction around you.

Oof, this is dangerous.  You know it even before you start.  The gaps leading to the ground are bigger and more numerous than your potential pathing forward, but the only thing that gives you reassurance is how thick the wood is—you’re almost certain the branches aren’t going to break as long as you’re careful.

Okay.  Shoes, these are too big for the kind of dexterity you’re going to need.  You take them off slowly, being extra careful not to drop them, and then exchange them with the better-fitting pair you bought earlier, making a mental note that the sandals and the larger shoes are the two you’ve already worn.  If your pursuer manages to catch on to the multiple footprint changes, your most recent ones should ideally just… disappear right there, shouldn’t they?

You grin, before struggling into a low crouch and looking around your wooden cage for a safe way forwards.

 


Headstart—11:37pm:

Water.

A blessing, and not because you’re thirsty.  You have clean water in your bag and decades of habits formed in the desert to ensure you’re taking breaks and drinking enough—what you need is a way to disguise your footprints once you get back on the ground again.  This was good; scuttling your way along thick and twisting branches for as long as you have was time-consuming and exhausting, but it allowed you to avoid touching the ground for at least a mile or so, which means he’ll have to comb that entire radius to look for your drop.

And it was fun.

You even found yourself giggling as you ducked and scooted, ignoring the bark scraping your skin and your panting breaths, the way your face got sweaty and hot.  You had to do some brave maneuvers at tricky spots—jumping, balancing, hugging—but it almost just felt like an exciting little obstacle course for you and you’re honestly having a fucking blast right now.

Water, though.  Water is an unexpected beauty, even more than you’ve always considered it to be.  Water is an eroder.  Not only powerful enough to smooth down the rough edges of strong elements over time, but it will hide your footprints as soon as you create them and leave no indication that you were ever there.

Eventually you see it—a babbling stream cutting a considerably wide line through the trees.  You creep forward and hang tight to a branch above you to make sure you won’t fall, wiping the sweat on your brow with your other hand as you study the terrain.  The water is… a considerable distance below you, maybe about ten or so feet, and there’s quite a few branches on either side that extend and hang out over it.  You could probably find your way to the other side somehow, but something tells you to avoid the road beyond the forest if you can.  It leads to multiple places, it would be better to follow the stream until you can eventually merge with it later.

That means you’re… fuck.  You’re going to have to jump, aren’t you?

It’s the only way—you can’t leave footprints which means you’re going to need to land in the water.  The trees clear too far from the shoreline, so you can’t shimmy down the trunk of one for a shorter fall.  You’re going to have to climb out on one of those long branches until you’re suspended over the stream, and then you’re going to have to lower yourself as far as you can and then let go.  With your height already accounting for at least half the distance plus the length of your arms as you hang, you should only have to drop two or three feet before reaching water, and then maybe another two feet to the floor under it.  It looks forgiving enough—the moonlight shines and the stream is clear and you can mainly just see sand at the bottom, no sharp rocks or other potential dangers to be found.  This… this is doable.

Okay.  If you pull this off, you’re a badass.  If you don’t break any bones or seriously injure yourself in any way, you deserve some kind of commendation.  This is probably kiddie shit to Din, who keeps literal rockets strapped to his back and jumps out of ships flying thousands of feet above the ground, but this is a challenge for you and you’re feeling just excited enough to be up to it.

You’re eventually able to climb onto the thickest, sturdiest branch you can see that happens to hang over the water, straddling it and beginning to scoot.  Your thighs are killing you at this point but you’re holding deathly tight to the wood, your movements becoming more and more cautious the further away from the trunk you get.

You’re directly above the water now, but you need to go out a little further.  Aim for right in the middle so you don’t accidentally leave any tracks or prints on the shoreline if you need to catch yourself.  The unfamiliar wood in this forest is admittedly sturdy, but the branch begins to subtly sag with your weight as you keep slowly scooting forward, and you’re just about to the correct spot when—

Day 1–12:00am:

“Sweet girl.”

—You nearly fucking fall.

“Maker,” you gasp, suddenly scrambling to catch yourself on the branch before you can plummet.  It creaks and groans under your weight but supports you nonetheless, and when you’re one hundred percent certain it isn’t going to break, you jerk your head down to the communicator and see that it’s midnight, on the dot.

Shit .

Your heart slams against your ribs and your arms shake with adrenaline while you study it for just a moment longer, trying to calm the fuck down.

“Hey,” Din’s voice comes sharply from your wrist, crackling and tinny through the comm, nearly scaring you again.  “Answer me.”

You don’t want to sacrifice your grip right now, but you have no doubt he’ll fly the Crest out to you if you don’t respond.  So you quickly let go to press a button on the front face and then latch onto the branch tight once more, raising your voice because you can’t risk bringing your wrist up to your mouth to speak.  You hope he’ll be able to hear without the microphone picking up the sound of the stream below.  “Uh.  Ahem.  Hello.  Yes?”

“You’re too quiet,” Din’s disembodied voice immediately informs you.  “Or something on your side is too loud.  There’s an earpiece built into the side of the communicator, take it out and use it instead.”

You study the wrist brace without moving, until you finally see what he’s talking about.  It’s a small, wireless piece of machinery hidden on the left side of the electronic display, and you quickly pop it out and stuff it into your ear just in time to hear the sound of hydraulics clanging through the speaker as you clutch the branch again.  You’d know that sound anywhere, it’s the ramp of the hull closing.

“Are you already on the move?”  You ask him incredulously, your thighs starting to go numb with how deathly tight you’ve been squeezing this tree.

“Can’t sleep,” Din murmurs, sounding so much closer and deeper than before.  Does he have his earpiece on under the helmet or something?  Stars, is that why his voice sounds that good?  It’s like it’s coming from inside your own head, bassy and rough.  “Ready or not.”

You huff, your tummy going warm.  Of course he can’t sleep, of course he’s going to look for you as soon as he’s allowed to.  If he waited until morning, you’d probably be slightly offended.  You try to slow your heart rate into something acceptable, but being this far above water and hearing his baritone murmur directly in your ear make it difficult.  “But I’m… sleepy.”

“You’re always sleepy,” he tells you, and though you can’t actually hear him walking, the sound of his footsteps shake through his voice just slightly as he speaks.

“Hang on,” you huff, ducking your head to drag it against your shoulder, keeping the sweat from your eyes without using your hands, “you’re gonna make me stay up all night just because you do?  This isn’t fair—”

“Fair wasn’t part of the rules.”

Well.  Fair.

Stars, you can’t stay here.  You don’t know how long he wants to check-in for, but you’re also not confident with this branch’s ability to hold you for an extended time when you’re this far out from the trunk.  You need to get in that stream one way or another, but now that he’s here, you have an extra problem.  Din is going to hear you no matter what.

“Um.  Can you give me a second?”  You ask him, glancing around to make sure there’s no better way of doing this.  Nope, you realize very quickly—this is the best idea you’ve got, and you don’t really know what that says about the quality of all your other ideas.

“What?”   Din grunts shortly, but you just clear your throat.

“I need to… mute myself.  Give me like… five minutes.”

“What are you talking abou—”

“You of all people cannot be upset about asking for five minutes of quiet,” you return testily, looking down at the distance to the stream once more.  That’s a long way.  You… you can’t swim obviously, but again, the water doesn’t look too deep.  Just a couple feet likely, shouldn’t go past your knees.

It’s fitting that he doesn’t say anything, which you eventually take as disgruntled acceptance, so you quickly press the proper button on your wrist to silence the mic and then take a few deep breaths.  You have a time limit now, you have to do this.

With incredible patience and precision, you eventually slide until you’re clutching the branch upside down like an only slightly quicker and less coordinated sloth, before slowly dropping your legs and hanging over the water.

It’s… admittedly a bit further down than you anticipated, or maybe that’s just you making things worse than they actually are, but you’re committed at this point and there’s no going back.

You close your eyes, count to three, and then you let go.

The sandy floor meets your feet with considerable force and you make a hell of a splash doing it, nearly falling but just barely managing to keep yourself balanced and upright at the last second.  The water is cool and comes up just over your knees, your backpack miraculously didn’t get wet and all your limbs remain shaky but unbroken.

Okay.  Okay, fucking success.   It feels… thrilling, accomplishing a dangerous feat, and you quickly let out a loud whoop before clearing your throat, trying to sound normal as you press a button on the communicator’s face once more.

“Mando?”  You ask, slightly out of breath.  “Sorry about that, I’m back.”

Okay, now which way do you go?  Downstream seems like the easier path after getting in so much unexpected exercise, so that’s the one you go with.  As soon as you lift your foot from the sand bed, you watch your footprint almost immediately disappear through the moonlit water, and you bite your lip at just how well everything turned out for you.

After a moment though, you realize he hasn’t answered you.  You look down at the communicator again to make sure you pressed the right thing.  “Hello?  Shiny?”

“Did you trade shoes with someone?”  Din’s voice suddenly comes through the earpiece, sounding absolutely incredulous.

“Shit,” you tell him, trying not to smile.  “Hoped that was gonna buy me more time.”

“It… might’ve, if you kept walking in the same direction as they were,” he informs you after a moment.  “Your shoes went south, but this other pair got all the way out here just to turn back around again?  Good idea, but the execution needs work.”

Maker, he’s smart.  It was the first attempt at a footprint change so you weren’t thinking much beyond tricking the tracking mechanism in his helmet, you ignored his logic completely.  Essentially, the exact opposite of what he told you to do.  You like to think you’re getting better at it by this point, thinking beyond just the original exchange, and you’re hoping you’ll be able to trick him with at least one of the other fifty times you changed shoes today.  You’ll have to see tomorrow night, if you can make it that long.

Also, the road you were on apparently goes north-south, that’s important information you make sure to take note of.  The man in Osiruu said Devain and Nariss are to the east, and that Sijua and G’ila are westward, right?  Remembering that you thought south was west earlier, you do some quick calculating and immediately come to a stop in the moving water as soon as you figure out your positioning, turning around and walking upstream instead.

You want to go to Nariss.  The capital, and the biggest city in walking distance.  Smart quarry go to populated places, places that make it nearly impossible to find people.

“Alright.  Mando: one, Me: zero,” you finally acknowledge, swinging your backpack around and unzipping it to dig inside for another piece of fruit.  You’ve been hungry for hours but had to use both hands to stay safe and far above the ground, it’s the perfect time to eat.  “How’s the baby?  Behaving himself?”

“He kept trying to follow you after you left,” comes Din’s response, and you stop with just your teeth piercing the flesh, wondering if you heard him right.  You actually open your jaw and pull the fruit away with just a bite mark in it.

“You’re joking.”  No fucking way, not that little demon.

“Wish I was,” he tells you solemnly.  “Made a fuss, tried to open the ramp a few times.  Didn’t cause any trouble after, just… pouted.”

That’s… that’s exactly how he responded the very first time Din left the kid on the ship with you instead of bringing him along.  He threw a fit, tried to ditch you for his dad multiple times, and then ultimately just looked cute and mopey with his limp ears until Din came back.  Do you think it’s just him rebelling against change?  That has to be it, right?

“He better not be giving you any hints about where I am,” you warn his father.  “I’d tell you to put him on but I don’t want the earpiece getting lost forever.”

You hear it.  The softest laugh—barely a breath, coming after years of learning to make it just quiet enough not to be registered by the helmet.  It gets picked up by the communicator in all its understated beauty when normally it’d be silent, and it’s just jarring enough to make you careless.

On your next step, you accidentally lift your foot too high and make a splash, and you already know you fucked up before he can say a single word.

“What’s that sound?”

You immediately stop moving, allowing the cool water to move as silently as possible past your stationary knees.  Shit.  “Uh.  What sound?”

You think he purposefully doesn’t say anything.  Probably because it feels a little like cheating, doesn’t it?  It’s to your disadvantage, having him be able to catch hints from your environment when he’s the one who made check-ins mandatory, but then again… how smart do you think he is?  Something tells you that he might not need to track you at all—what are the chances he stumbles upon this little stream and just naturally assumes you were clever enough to use it to hide your trail?  Did you waste time trying to engineer a vanishing act when it’s not going to matter regardless?

Oh well, too late now.  You quickly decide to change the subject.

“You should try the big purple fruit that one vendor sells when you get into Osiruu, by the way,” you tell him pleasantly, taking a big chomp out of it and then letting out an extended hum of delight that only really fucking good food or sex causes a person to make.  “I’m eating one right now, it’s so good.  Be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.”

“Mm.  Doubt it,”   immediately comes his low response.  Fucking immediately.

“Mando,” you gasp, scandalized and giddy enough that juice dribbles down your chin a bit.

“Are you having fun?”   Din asks, instead of pushing the conversation any further in that direction.  You don’t know if you’re thankful or disappointed with how quickly he decided to abort, but you take a moment to consider his question while swallowing and wiping your mouth.  Not the answer, you know the answer—but why he bothered to ask.  Did he know you were going to enjoy yourself as much as you have?  Your only possible lament is how you’re talking to him through a communicator instead of having him next to you.

“I am,” you say warmly.  “Be… be better if you were here, though.”

“Give me your coordinates,” Din proposes, and his voice is just low and rumbly enough to make you pause.

You’re really, really proud of yourself for only considering it for a few seconds before scoffing.  “Psh.  Nice try.”

“Was worth a shot,” he sighs through the earpiece, and you smile, taking another bite of fruit.

“Ask me again tomorrow,” you offer, grinning at the implication.

“We’ll see,” you hear him return, and though his tone doesn’t really change, you know he’s probably rolling his eyes.  He won’t have to ask for your coordinates because he’ll already be there, but it’s nice to pretend for a while longer.

And then you both walk all through the night, sharing casual banter with each other for hours.  He never once implies he wants to disconnect, even when you hit him with more nonsensical questions—

“What’s your favorite food?”  ( “I don’t have one.” )

“Okay, well what about just a food that you like?”  ( “I don’t like food that much.” )

“What do you mean?   Everyone loves food.”  ( “Not me.” )

“Alright, well um.  What’s your favorite color, then?”  ( “I don’t have one, either.” )

“Come on, you must have some kind of color you like.”  ( “What’s your favorite color?” )

“…Brown.”  ( “Then that’s my favorite, too.” )

—until the sun rises and you both say your goodbyes.

 


Day 1–6:15am:

You resolve to waiting until you see another person to allow your feet to touch dry land, figuring the longer you stay untraceable, the better off you’ll be.  Your toes are wrinkly and your pantlegs and shoes have been drenched for hours, but then you finally spot a few fishermen standing upstream with their backs to you, speaking to each other in the dawning light.  Two look to be full-grown, but there’s a smaller one in the middle, maybe a teenage boy, and you pause for a second, looking at the riverbank next to them.  All their valuables—water, food, bait, extra rods, but also… their shoes.

Quietly, you reach into your backpack and remove the pair of men’s shoes you bought earlier.  The ones closest to you on the shore seem to be the smallest, so you sneak over as silent as possible and rapidly make an exchange, fitting the new ones on your wet feet before allowing yourself to touch dry land and then speed walking away.

The ones you left him are newer and roughly the same size anyways—yikes, maybe slightly smaller now that you’re thinking about it—but at least you have a back pathing.  If that kid decides to take your offering and the shoes fit, Din will follow him, and if he decides to go barefoot instead, he should still follow him, right?  You’re not really aiming to trick him outright, mostly you just want him to waste more and more time.  This likely wouldn’t work if there wasn’t a time limit attached to this hunt, but you’re going to do everything you can to disappear while he’s still far enough behind you.

 


Day 1–7:06am:

You get to Devain remarkably quickly after finding the correct road.  The pit stop is much bigger than Osiruu, big enough to call an actual town instead of just a settlement, but still not large enough to feel concealed.  You want a city.  This place at least has cars and ships moving about and overhead respectively, but you’re looking for somewhere with lines.  Somewhere that feels as cramped and busy as possible.

Still, you find a restroom to use and then decide to grab some more food for your trip, happily spotting your new favorite purple fruit in one of the shop windows.  As you’re reaching out to hand the storekeeper the appropriate amount of credits, Din’s gruff voice comes through the earpiece so suddenly that you jump, nearly dropping them all on the counter.  “Hey.”

“Holy shit, what?”  You gasp, earning a confused look from the lady in front of you.  You quickly shake your head at her and mouth an apology while Din grumbles in vexation.

“You were supposed to stay on foot.”

Ah.  So he got to the bus, then.  Okay.

“Oh,” you answer ambiguously, exchanging the money for your bag of food and giving her a polite smile.  Din stays completely mute while you grab your snack, stuffing the rest of the goods in your backpack and then turning to leave—mute for so long that you have to double check you didn’t accidentally do it yourself.

“…Smart girl,” you finally hear him say.  Quietly muttered under his breath, half proud of you and half frustrated for making his job more difficult.  “Which one of these is yours then?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” you announce, before taking a large bite as you leave the establishment and talking with your mouth full.  “You really gotta try the purple fruit, it’s great.”

The communicator abruptly clicks to silence on his end without anything else and you laugh so unexpectedly that a few pieces of it fly out of your mouth.

 


Day 1–1:32pm:

Somewhere miles away from you, Din jerks to a halt in the middle of a forest.

He looks around the dirt floor, walks a few paces and hears the kid coo gently from his cradle.  Behind the visor, the red footprints he’s circling are the last ones around for hundreds of meters, as far as his display can read.

His helmet slowly tilts upwards, and follows the endless maze of thick branches overhead.

With the beskar hiding his face, no one can see the way he slowly breaks into a beautiful grin.

 


Day 1–9:51pm:

Oh.  Oh stars , you’re tired.

You’ve been walking all day without really seeing anything, not having any place to disguise your tracks in the wide open plains.  You could’ve stuck to the road, but you started to feel the exhaustion creep in during the early afternoon and you wanted to be far away from other travelers and potential danger if you needed to rest.  You knew this would be a long journey when you left Devain earlier—over a day’s walk, a group of children told you—you even tried skipping or jogging a bit to see if that would inspire more energy in you, but it didn’t help much.

The large cup of caf you bought while in town was drained hours ago and it didn’t help much either, probably because your exhaustion is more physical and not necessarily mental.  It just felt like a sweet warm drink to sip before you go to sleep, that’s how much the caf helped.  Still, you kept walking, kept moving forward even as you squinted in the setting sun, your feet aching from traveling for this long wearing unfamiliar shoes.  The last time you changed them was hours ago, pulling another bus maneuver but with an air shuttle instead.  Still, you don’t think it’ll be enough.  You don’t even know where Din is but you already feel like you’re losing ground just knowing that he’s the one in pursuit.

You feel it—the hair standing up on your neck, the tingles in your hands, the stirring of your tummy—whatever the incessant gogogo that your instincts happen to scream when you’re in first place but you know the person behind you is quickly closing in.  It’s day fucking one, it’s day one and you feel him in the wind as it brushes through your hair, you can’t even pause to rest because nobody knows better than you that he’s an absolute fucking machine when he wants to be.  The kid may have powers beyond that which can be explained by the laws of nature, but Din is a force all his own.  He drives you forward when everything inside you is telling you to stop.  He keeps you awake and determined when you just desperately need to rest.

But that only goes so far.  You’re bordering on two full days without sleep, and though you’d normally be able to suffer through, the constant movement is just brutal after being confined to a stationary ship for so long.

There’s a lone tree in the distance, you think.  It’s hard to see.  Not because it’s dark—well it is, just a bit darker tonight compared to last, but mostly because your eyelids have grown heavier and more burdensome than the bag around your shoulders.  That looks like a good place to just sit for a second, right?  Maybe eat some more food, try and wake yourself up?  Yeah, that’s a good idea, you’ll head towards the tree and just… sit…

 


Day 2–12:00am:

Completely dead to the galaxy and sitting on your ass with your back against rough bark, the comm clicks and Din’s voice comes through the earpiece.

“Wake up.”

It startles you enough to make you lurch forward and jerk your head around in a panic, looking for any flash of beskar so you can instantly break opposite to it.  You scramble on all fours to look around but you don’t see anything, not even behind the trunk when you crawl, and then you take a deep breath and use the bone of your wrists to rub your eyes vigorously after a moment, knowing your hands are filthy.  “Fuck, how’d you—”

“You’re always sleepy,” Din repeats, and you collapse back into the tree with an exhausted groan, not entertained but not even having the energy to get mad about it.

“I… I gotta sleep,” you tell him, already feeling your body let go of its tension and search for the darkness of unconsciousness once more.  “Shit.  How d’you… mm.  Stay awake all the time…”

“Sleep,” Din encourages, you can still hear him walking.   “You need rest.  I’ll see you soon.”

No—

“No,” you whine like a child, moaning and shoving yourself upright.  Maker, you’re trying to focus, but asking that of yourself is almost impossible right now.  Everything swims—you were dreaming, you think, but you can’t remember and it’s not important other than to emphasize how woozy you are.  Things still feel like a dream, somehow.

You think he can hear your struggling through the comm, because the sound of his footsteps pause.  “Go to sleep.”

You go to sleep,” you tell him bluntly, giving your head a violent shake to try and wake you up.  You want to slap your own cheek but you don’t want him to hear it.  “I can’t sleep if you don’t.”

“I’ve have at least a couple more days in me before that happens,” Din murmurs, and you bet he knows exactly what the fuck he’s doing to you.  You start to slouch, hearing the voice he uses when he’s curled around your body in the darkness of the hull.  So warm, so gentle.  If you use your imagination, you can feel his fingers drawing slow circles on your back, the vibration of his low voice rumbling against your ear as you lay your head on his chest.  “If I hunt you the way I’d hunt a quarry, I’m going to find you before you wake up.”

“Then I’ll jus’ have to… not let tha’ happen,” you slur.  Even this close to unconsciousness, you try your best to throw in a misdirect.  “Already… paid for the bed an’ everything.”

“Sure you did.  You in another tree?”

You immediately frown even as your eyes drop closed, too tired to fight but still managing to sound upset.  “You makin’ fun of me?”  You ask him with a harumph.  Genuinely, you’re not smart enough to figure it out right now.

“Not hardly,” Din sighs, sounding… you don’t know.  Is that displeasure or not?  It’s not immediately clear.  Does it sound that way because you’re just dumb stupid right now?  Or because Din can’t actually decide how he feels about it?  “Lucky I heard water over the comm last night, I would’ve wasted hours in that forest.”

“Noooo,” you whine in response, trying to push yourself off the tree but tipping sideways in the process, “that’s not fair—”

“Fair wasn’t part of the rules,” he repeats himself again and… nope, you don’t even have the energy to snark something back.  You just grumble your best imitation of him while you do everything you can to heave yourself upright.  It’s pitiful, you lose your balance not even halfway through and just plop on the grass for a second and groan.

“Stop,” Din eventually orders through the earpiece, tired of it.  “What’s sixteen times itself?”

You’re loopy to the point where you don’t even question why he decided to ask you that.  You just furrow your brows for a second and try to think about it, before suddenly realizing you… don’t know, you can’t remember.  Multiplication tables and squares up to twenty are elementary to you, you know them by heart.  Sixteen times sixteen.  One forty-four.  No… no that doesn’t sound right, is that twelv—

You take way too long answering what would’ve been an immediate response two days ago.

“I’ll stop here for tonight,” Din tells you with a resolved sigh.  “I won’t move until you wake up.  Go to sleep.  You’re putting yourself in danger, you can’t even do the basics.”

Later, this moment will come back to you.  That problem isn’t basic, not many adults would be able to tell you very quickly that the answer is two fifty-six.  You don’t even think Din would.  You would, though.  On Naboo, you used rapidly applied trigonometry in your head to find his location, and that was barely two minutes after waking up.  You should know this.  And he knows you.

But for right now, you don’t pay it a single lick of attention.

“You promise?”  You ask quietly, voice incredibly small as your head tilts back towards the sky, already feeling yourself beginning to fall back into the darkness again.

“I promise,” he vows in return, gentle but a promise nonetheless.  He doesn’t have to do this.  You wouldn’t be able to keep going even if he didn’t offer up this temporary truce, but knowing he isn’t currently gaining ground on you makes the idea of sleep so much more welcoming, something you want to seek out instead of fight.

“Will you, um…” your expression furrows.  How do you say this?  You sigh, giving up before even trying to figure it out.  “I’m… not in a bed.  I’m outside.”

Din doesn’t say anything when you pause, and even through the haze wanting to take over, you know it’s going to sound needy.  You want him to stay.  Even in the midst of an adventure, you want him to stay, you want to hear him breathe as you rest, but there’s not really an integrous way to ask.

You don’t need to ask.

“I’ll keep the comm open and wake you when the sun rises,” comes his lulling baritone before you can elaborate anymore, enveloping you in comfort in this dreadfully uncomfortable bed of grass and dirt.  “Sleep, sweet girl.  I’m right here.”

 


Day 2–5:34am:

The sun shines over the hills and you lift your head up to squint your eyes at it, confused as fuck.  Looking down at your wrist to check the time in the warm rays, hands and clothes dirty from laying on the ground that long—you stay groggy and clueless for just a moment longer, before your heart lurches when you remember Din’s promise to you.

You open your mouth to address him but then catch yourself just in time.  Wait.  Don’t panic.  Listen.

Breathing.  Slow and relaxed through the earpiece, a rhythm now branded into your memory from months of nights spent in pitch black.  He’s… asleep.

Din is asleep?  Seriously?

You can count like… twice that this has happened, and one of those was because he got you to touch him just right after closing up a wound on his back, and his body couldn’t handle the strain and passed out.  You’re never awake when he’s asleep—you’re just not, it doesn’t happen.  Din… sleeps like it’s just a choice for him, he doesn’t ever really need it.  Almost like how he used to eat before he started sharing meals with you, he said he doesn’t even like food that much.  You think he just severed all of those things long ago, things that are basic fundamentals of survival and operated like a bounty droid that lost its voice box.  It’s… nice, feeling like you’re somehow giving back some of the things he lost.  Unintentionally encouraging him to find sleep again.  Making sure he eats more, listening to him speak.

You struggle to your feet as quietly as possible, hearing him continue to breathe slow and relaxed through the communicator.  This isn’t purposeful, you don’t think he actually allowed it.  He promised you, and Din doesn’t take shit back.  If he tells you he’ll do something and he doesn’t follow through, it’s either out of his control or a mistake, it’s never been purposeful.  He didn’t mean to fall asleep.

And, in other circumstances, you most definitely would not find some way to take advantage of this.  You’d let him sleep and do other things in the meantime—make some food for you and the kid, find something on the Crest that isn’t spotless and clean until it is, or just… lay there next to him until he woke up.  But… these circumstances are their own.  You have to capitalize now, this is your chance.  You passed out last night around… ten pm, you think it was, and then he promised to stop at midnight.  That means you have to walk at least two hours before he wakes up if you want to prevent any loss of ground—you don’t know where he stopped, he could be a few miles back even.

You have to find Nariss—you have to.  It’s your only option, if you keep trying to run, it’s just going to make it so much easier for him.  Now is the time to hide.  You know it hasn’t been long, it’s barely been two days since you first left the Crest but it feels like you’re already in endgame, already making moves in self-defense instead of actually planning your maneuvers ahead of time.

The capital should be half a day’s walk from here, then.  As long as you get there, you think you’ll be okay.

 


Day 2–8:28am:

Din’s groan suddenly comes through your ear.

You immediately stop, seeing a busy road in the distance and glad you haven’t quite made it there yet, before trying to disguise your voice as drowsy.  “Mm?”

“Shit,” he breathes, and you hear him get up, the sound of beskar moving as he grunts.

“Mpph,” you groan back, squinting your eyes to see if that’ll help sell the act.  “I thought you… Mando, fuck, y’said you’d wake me when the sun came up.”

“I… fell asleep,” he admits, voice rough with it, sounding just as confused as you felt earlier.

“You said you had days in you before that happened,” you murmur, taking a deep breath and stretching your arms up above your head.  Stars, your back hurts, how does he possibly manage to carry a fucking jet pack around all the time?

“Yeah, I…”   He pauses for a moment and you bite your lip, not liking the quiet as soon as you hear it.  “How long have you been up?”

Op.  Not good.  “Wha?”

He’s not falling for it.  “How long?”

How in Maker’s name?  This is impossible.  How can you hope to hide from him when you can’t even manage to hide the smallest fucking truth from him?  Can you salvage this somehow?  “…Like ten minutes.”

“Least a few hours, then,” he sighs, and you get ready to hit him with the same line he used when you complained about his leg-up, opening your mouth as soon as you hear him speak.  “That was smar—”

“Fair wasn’t part of—”

Oh.  Well.  Apparently you didn’t have a reason to feel shitty about deciding to haul ass while he was passed out even though you kind of ended up doing so anyways.  There was no agreement besides that he wouldn’t move until you woke up.  Reason is on your side, but it still feels a bit like you fucked him over.  Is that valid or are you just so used to being nice that putting yourself first feels like a wrong you’ve committed?

“Don’t feel bad,” Din tells you, and you hear a soft coo in the background.  It makes you smile the smallest bit, your shoulders relaxing even as they ache from carrying your pack around.  “You should feel bad about stealing that poor kid’s shoes, though.  He walked home barefoot.”

You smack your forehead.  “It was just….”

“Yeah,” he scoffs when you don’t finish your sentence, and you can’t keep back a giggle.  “Alright, I’m up now.  See you when you get here.”

And then the communicator clicks, and you’re…

Uh.  What the fuck was that?

No.  Nope, you’re not going to get played.  That was a brilliant attempt at fucking with you, but you’re not falling for it this time.  You’ve grown since that night on Canto Bight, you know him, he can’t just say shit to fuck with your head and then smile at your flailing response from under the helmet anymore.  You normally would stew in that last comment until it got to you, made you make a mistake most likely, but the more you think about it, the more certain you are that he has nothing.  He was just trying to see if you’ll abandon your entire plan just by implying he already knows it.  That’s beginner shit, you’re not falling for it.  Din wanted to leave the conversation with the upper-hand since you gained at least an hour of extra ground while he slept.  You’re certain of it.

 


Day 2–12:35pm:

Nariss is big.  Nowhere near the size of Coruscanti sectors of course, where billions of people are packed from surface to exosphere and require oxygen recirculation towers to breathe at the very top, but just slightly bigger than you expected.  It’s bustling and you haven’t even made it through the city gates yet—you’re approaching them and the large number of people waiting in line, seeing buildings stretch out for miles in front of you and grinning.  Yes, this will work nicely.

As you peek over shoulders in the sizable crowd, you see only two or three people allowing people to enter one at a time… is that a biometric scanner?

Oh.  That looks good and it also doesn’t look good at the same time.  If Din’s safety meant nothing to you, you’d have no trouble whatsoever getting in line and waiting to do a retinal scan, but you immediately pause and consider the potential consequences.

Your dumb ass almost weighs the option of clicking the communicator on and asking his opinion.  You’d give away your location in a heartbeat (if he doesn’t know it already) just because you’re worried he’d… what, exactly?  Stand in line for an hour, take his helmet off in front of a crowd of people, have the system ping his scan, and then hang out and wait for New Republic reinforcements to show?  You have to stop worrying about him.  He’s not a baby, he can handle himself and you need to stop considering the possibility of taking a loss just so he doesn’t have to, even if the self-destructive sentiment feels ingrained in your nature to do so.

So you wait in line, moving at a slow pace but at least moving.  While you’re standing there quietly, a man in front of you decides to strike up a conversation.  You don’t come from a place with an excess of people, but the ones in your sector were friendly and did this kind of thing often, so perhaps for that reason, you decide to chat.

“Do you have some place to stay?”  He asks at one point.  So far the conversation has revolved around him—every time he asks about you, you deflect.  He doesn’t need to know.  “Nariss isn’t kind to drifters.”

This catches your attention, though.  This is relevant.  “What does that mean?”

“It’s expensive?”  He scratches his blonde hair, giving you a soft smile.  “Food, housing, all of it is way out of my price-range.  I stay with my uncle and work overnights at the eastern docks.  It’s not much, but it’s enough to keep a roof over our heads.  We used to live in Gibrath, but then we moved to the city because he’s a good architect and they’re always expanding.  It’s nice, of course, but really expensive.”

He’s handsome, you think… in kind of a boyish, charming way.  Blonde hair, sparkly blue eyes.  He doesn’t look much older than you, and maybe in another lifetime you would’ve found him appealing, but… you like darker features, you think.  Someone a little less expressive.  This guy… talks a lot.

“I thought this moon was a safe world for people displaced by the Empire,” you offer, taking a step forward as the entire crowd shifts.

“Sanctuary II is,” he comments.  “The capital is safe, too—what, with all the orangies walking around,” he tilts his head to two jumpsuited guards trying to organize the glob of people so the line can move faster, rolling his eyes as if they’re some kind of joke.  “But not… welcoming, not if you’re looking for a place to settle.  You would’ve been better off in G’ila.”

“Is there anywhere you know that would take me for free?”  You ask.  You have quite a few credits left, but you don’t think it’s a good idea to stay in an inn.  It’ll be the first place Din checks.

“Are you a virgin?”  He returns, and you immediately pull back at the unexpected question, your heart thudding at the possibility of danger.  The man’s sandy eyebrows shoot up at your response and he quickly apologizes—“Heavens, I’m so sorry to ask like that!  It’s just… the only place I know is the Holy Keja Orphanage on the northern outskirts.  Their signs say they only house children and teenagers, but I’ve heard from other girls your age that they’ll accept any woman as long as they’ve stayed pure in the eyes of the Maker.”

“Oh,” you say after a moment, leaning sideways to see just a few people standing in front of him.  Good, this is almost over.  “Um.  Yep.  That’s me.”

He smiles at you once more, giving you a nod.  “When you get to the city, just go straight through.  It’s about a mile outside of the gates, no more than a day’s walk from this side of town.”

Okay, that’s… interesting.  You think about it while you thank him and begin to exchange polite goodbyes, moving up another step until he’s next in line.  That might actually be a good move.  Din could spend a long time in the city without ever finding you.  Smart quarry go to populated places, but… smarter quarry defy the expectations placed upon them, right?  He knows you’re smart, and even though you’re confident his “See you when you get here” was purely psychological fuckery, that also implies… at the very least, that he’s assuming there is a here to get to.  Meaning, he knows you’re not going into the wilderness to evade him.  He’s not going to comb the outskirts when there are so many places to hide within the city gates, with an entire perimeter of New Republic guards stationed around it.  Even if he does, the signs will say only children and teenagers—categories you do not fall into.

The unnamed man is soon ushered forward but you stop him quickly.  “Oh, by the way.  I doubt this will happen, but if a man in a big metal suit with a tiny green baby happen to ask you the same thing, please don’t tell him what you just told me.”

He furrows his eyebrows at you and cocks his head, but smiles and agrees nonetheless.

 


Day 2–5:43pm:

You have an idea.

You’ve been working on it all afternoon, but you were hit with it the second you were looking for another pair of shoes to buy and find a clever way of putting on.

The cheapest ones were ridiculously overpriced, blonde dude was right.  You blinked down at the tag and asked the salesman where the cheapest shoes in this part of town were, and then he just wrinkled his nose at you and shooed you out of the store.  Granted, you slept in dirt and spent two days walking—you bet you reek, but he didn’t have to be like that.

Though, the man’s displeasure with you had an upside.  You were holding a possible pair of pants and a shirt to buy when he threw you out, not yet having checked the atrocious pricetag on them, but it appeared as if he’d rather let you have them for free than rip them from your… admittedly, pretty filthy arms.  Oh well, you weren’t complaining.  Fancy clothes for free, score.

But now you’re here, and you have the best idea.  You don’t need to change shoes, not yet.  Why?  Because you’ve figured out how to turn your incessant detriment into an advantage.

You’re in the middle of downtown, you think, maybe just some random crowded square, and there’s an inn in front of you.  It’s fucking enormous, and you already know it’s gotta be incredibly expensive just looking at the sheer number of stories.  It’s an eyesore, it sticks out.  But that’s okay, because you’re only planning on staying for a night.

It’s also… right next to New Republic headquarters.  Or fuck, at least a station of some sort, because they’re swarming in and out of the constant crowd, passing by the valet doors.

At first you naturally wanted to steer away from the jumpsuits, since you know they’re bad news for Din, but then you remember what he said before you left.  I’m only telling you so that you’ll know your advantage and find a way to exploit it.  I can’t be seen by any officers, or they might arrest me.

It’s to your advantage, he said so himself.  Everything lines up perfectly—the street is bustling, the inn is well protected, it’s nice —it’s everything you’re looking for.

And there’s another upside, see.  An omnipresent, omniscient ghost in the form of a communicator clipped to your wrist right now.  If Din is always going to be able to predict you, he’s always going to know when you’re lying, always be able to read you… then you’ll just have to let him.

Let him know.  Let him know exactly where you are.  Right in the middle of the most populated street you’ve seen thus far, a constant barrage of people walking by and New Republic officers patrolling.  If you were planning on staying in the city, this would probably be your best option to hide.  He could waste days here if you’re smart about it.

The concierge doesn’t appear too pleased with your lack of cleanliness and neither do you, honestly, but at least he allows you to book a suite for the night.  It’s… not as bad as you were originally assuming, credits-wise, but it’s worth more than half your stash and you’re going to have to conserve from this point on.  It shouldn’t be too bad—your destination is a holy orphanage, you’re sure they’ll have some extra food and a bed for you even if it won’t be ideal.  Still, you think you’re going to enjoy some lavish experiences for once in your life before you go.

 


Day 2–11:54pm:

Alright, so this was the best idea ever.  This is the shit .

You’re leaning back against a fluffy stack of pillows, squeaky clean from an absolutely glorious bath and watching the flickering drama on the large holonet display in front of you.  You don’t have any idea what’s going on, as it’s being broadcast in Rodian, but you haven’t been able to change the frequency because it’s so fucking intense—somebody’s sister is their mother, you think?  No, that must be a mistranslation, right?

You’re also in a robe.  Yes, there is a motherfucking robe in here.  And… and slippers , it’s like a dream.  Do people normally wear slippers in bed?  You do.  Hell, maybe you should stay here, screw the credits and the chase.  This mattress is even better than the one on Naboo and you’re basking in the luxury after being outdoors for so long.

The lights are off other than that and you’ve opened the drapes wide, knowing you’re on something like the fifteenth floor and nobody would be able to see you anyways.  You just like being able to turn your head and look out at the sky.  Violent and periwinkle tonight.  You wonder if he’s looking, too.

Luckily, you snap yourself back out of it and glance down at the time on your communicator, quickly pressing a button on the remote to mute the Rodian show and then opening the line the moment the hour changes.

Day 3–12:00am:

“Hiya, Shiny,” you say before anything else, laying back and running a few fingers through your damp hair.  Your eyes close against the flickering light, taking a slow, relaxed breath.  Maker, this feels nice.

“You sound happy,” Din comments.  Astute, you feel happy.  Well… you’d obviously feel happier if he was here.  Your eyes flick over to the open bathroom door, still steamy from your bubble bath earlier, imagining him walking through it completely naked and then climbing over you on the covers.  You can only really picture it from the neck down—no, hang on… you can see his shaggy brown curls, that one spot on his forehead you know, how his facial hair would be dark and frame his mouth.  No face, though.  Missing just one fraction of him from your imagination, feeling incomplete but also somehow… complete in a way.

“I feel better after sleeping last night,” you tell him, purposefully leaving out the softness of the sheets underneath you, the sheer comfort of all this extravagance.  You don’t need it, you’ll never need it, but it feels nice to have for once.

“I do, too,” he replies quietly, and your eyes flutter closed.  You… miss him.  This mattress would feel softer with him next to you.  He’d probably be able to translate this show for you, even though you already know he’d fucking hate it.  You can imagine it—you with your eyes closed, him propped up on an elbow next to you and grumbling vague descriptions of the nonsense happening on screen just to hear your chuckles.  Adventures are great, but maybe they aren’t as great by yourself, you think.

“You should sleep tonight, too,” you encourage, but he scoffs.

“Not a chance,” Din mutters.  “Oh, before I forget, we need to charge the communicators today.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”  You ask him, glancing at all the multiple wireless charging outlets stationed around you.  “I’m in the middle of nowhere.”

He doesn’t even take a fucking second before responding.  “Good one.”

You grin up at the ceiling, warmth flooding you.  You love him.  Literally every single time, he just knows.  Your curiosity is too overwhelming after this happening so often.  Your plan to distract him relies on him being able to read you, but that doesn’t prevent you from wondering how he does it so accurately, time and time again.  “How do you know?”

“You slept outside last night,” he immediately tells you, like that should mean anything to you.

Does he… does he truly know you well enough to know how much your back and shoulders hurt today?  How much you were aching for a shower and clean clothes?  A bed to sleep on that isn’t dirt or metal?  You give into the accurate prediction with shameless honesty, not caring if he knows it’s the truth.

“This bed is soft,” you murmur gently, dragging your hand across the mattress next to you.  “You should be here.  I’d make you feel good.”

Admittedly, your comfort is making you a bit drowsy and you said it in the easiest way possible, but you didn’t necessarily mean it sexually.  Well… you sort of did—you’d make him feel so good in this bed—but what you meant was more… comforting.  He could take a bath, or a shower, and get all the grime off him.  He could feel clean and unburdened, take a break instead of constantly moving around.  The baby could have a whole bed to himself if he wanted, though you know he’d probably want to be on this one instead.  You could all look at the sky together.

Din is quiet for a little bit, before his voice comes back through the earpiece.  “Are you in an inn?”

“No,” you say, a little too quickly.  Perfect, that sounded just right for a lie.  You are lying, you absolutely are in an inn, the only difference is that you want him to catch on that it’s a lie, so… why does he take way too long before responding?

“Hm.”

What the fuck— why… how is it even physically possible?  He read you that deeply from one single word?  You’re not sure if he’s somehow psychic and figured the whole fucking thing out or if he just knows there’s something off, but it’s still enough to blow you away.

“Are you doing this on purpose?”  You blurt without thinking.

“Doing what?”   He grunts, sounding like he’s stepping over something, his breath changing intensity as he walks.

“If I look out this window right now, am I gonna see you standing out there just messing with me?”  You don’t even know what to believe anymore.  How do you beat this?  If you don’t want him to know the truth, he’ll figure it out, and if you do want him to know the truth, he’ll still figure it out.  His perception is unbelievable.

After a moment of silence, he murmurs gently through the comm.  “I thought you said you were in the middle of nowhere . ”  It sounds like he’s smiling.

“I…”  your eyes shift around awkwardly, “am…”

Din lets out a deep sigh.  He’s right, that was bad, even for you.  “I found your bed a few hours ago,” he admits.  You close your eyes as you listen to him make his way closer to you, step by step.  “I’m nowhere near the city yet.  You have time to sleep.”

Your expression furrows and you frown.  “Why are you helping me?”

“Why do you want me to think you’re in an inn?”  He tosses back, and you huff.

“Because I’m trying to outsmart you but you make it really fucking difficult,” you grumble, not happy about him catching on so quick.

“You’ve also gained about four hours on me since we started.”   His voice is gruff.  You don’t know if he thinks it’s a good thing or a bad thing.  “You should give yourself more credit.  I thought I would’ve found you by now, never expected you to get all the way to Nariss.  It’s… not good for me.”

The honesty creeping in makes you go soft.  It makes you want to reciprocate, even if it’s dumb and you haven’t thought it all the way through.  “Wanna know a secret?”

“Tell me.”   His voice is a bed all its own, deep and gentle and safe.

You say it before you lose the nerve.  “I might just turn around and walk back.”

His footsteps stop and you hear a small sound in the background, a quiet little baby noise that suddenly makes your heart ache.  You’re comfortable but incredibly aware of how alone you are.  People pass by on the streets below, cars and hoverbikes honk in the distance and you’re by yourself.  For the first time in over a year, like you have been for years, you’re by yourself.

“Sweet girl,” Din sighs, and all of a sudden… you can feel his arms around you with it.  You feel so… known , somehow.  Every sentiment you could’ve possibly given in your last sentence, he relays his understanding back with his.  He makes you feel loved with it.  “Never wants to run.”

You don’t say anything, because you suddenly realize you’re totally fucking whipped, up down and sideways for his metal ass and the little floating grimlin that follows him around, and you would throw away the fifth quarry, adventure, the sky—literally everything if you could be with the both of them right now.

But again.  You don’t have to say anything, he already knows.  “Give me your coordinates.”

Your eyes pop open and you bite your lip.  Oh, stars.  You hate that you do genuinely consider it.  He could be here, and very soon.  With the jet pack, both of them could be here in less than an hour, probably.  He could take a shower.  Watch these stupid shows with you all night without needing to be on the move, help you build a bed of pillows for the kid on top of this one.  You could be with both of them again, even if it’s only for a little while.

“Ask me again tomorrow,” you finally whisper, looking down at the soft white fabric of your robe, the way one of your slippers is falling off your foot as the holonet program continues to play on mute.

Din’s footsteps eventually start up again, and you both relax in silence together.  You, squinting at the screen because your eyes are getting heavy; him, continuing to travel step by step and gain ground on you.  Let him come.  You’ll be long gone by the time he even makes it to the gates.

It’s been about ten minutes of shared, quiet existence before you hear him bite into something and chew, and your face suddenly lights up.

“Are you eating the purple fruit?”  You ask, your slipper falling off with excitement.  You don’t know why, but it’s like… you’re stoked for him.  Just as proud of him for doing normal things as he does when you step out of your own comfort zone.  You like to think you’re both better that way.  Balanced.

“Mm,” Din replies with his mouth full, and you grin down at your bare legs peeking through the robe while he swallows.

“Is it not the best thing you’ve ever tasted?”  Your voice goes a little breathless with it, and you hear his footsteps stop once more.

“Close,” Din murmurs lowly, sending a small shudder through you.  It suddenly feels a bit warm in here, doesn’t it?  This morning was one of the rare times you were awake while he was asleep… it’s almost always the other way around, and just from the implication in his tone, you’re reminded of the thing he likes doing most when you’re resting.  Maybe he’ll let you do it to him, next time around.  The thought gets you hot enough to warrant the other slipper falling to the floor.

“You’re alone, right?”  You whisper, knowing he must’ve pulled the helmet up to take a bite of the fruit.  He must still be following your path through the hillside, then, not yet reaching the road.

“The kid is awake,” Din tells you, sounding like he’s trying to stop everything before anything starts.  His words are short and clear in their meaning, but…

This has a very small chance of success, you already know.  “…Do you want to—”

“No,” he responds quickly, already way ahead of you.  “We can’t.”

Something in his voice… you don’t know, there’s just something there that makes you feel just a little reckless.  Should you push it?  You’re by yourself in this suite, what can go wrong?

You can’t,” you correct him quietly, shifting around on the bed just a bit and biting your lip.  It’s a thrill—being able to tease him without having him in front of you, drive him crazy knowing you’re just out of his reach.  “But I can do whatever I want, can’t I?”

There’s a pause, a tense and knowing silence suspended between you before he eventually speaks.

“I’d be real careful,” Din mutters low in warning, but what is he gonna do?

“What are you gonna do?”  You whisper to him devilishly.  Quiet and breathy, beginning to snake your hand down.  Stars, your heart is already pounding.  You’d only likely mouth off like this in person just to see how hard he’d fuck you, but this feels extra dangerous for some reason.  He’s stuck, he can’t do anything about it right now, and you know it’s playing with fire.  “You could hang up if you don’t want to hear me.  Or you could find me before I’m finished.  Come make me stop.”

Din doesn’t say anything but he very much does not hang up, nor does he come busting into your room like you imagine he’d like to.  The sheer fact that your door is still closed and locked tells you for sure that he isn’t just hanging out in the hallway, just letting you have your fun.

You start pressing your fingers against your robe at the apex of your thighs, humming at how nice the pressure feels.  You don’t even spread your legs or push the fabric away, you just sigh into it and wiggle your hips a bit, pressing hard against your clit and listening to him breathe.

“Do you want to listen?”  You ask quietly after a moment, and Din still doesn’t respond.  Likely because there’s not a real answer, both yes and no would imply the wrong thing.  “I’ll talk.”

Still, nothing from him.  Dead silence through the comm.  You’re starting to understand.  For two days, you’ve felt like he could read your every thought just by the cadence of your voice.  He’s staying quiet so you can’t even attempt to do the same to him—if he doesn’t talk, you can’t find a weakness and pounce on it, you can’t feel any more confident or reassured about your own ability to read him.

You’ll just have to push a little harder, then.

“Hm.  If only this fancy communicator could…” you pause to look down at your wrist for a second, studying the menu.  You don’t think you’ve ever really looked at it, you never had the time.

Din’s growl is sudden and sharp through the earpiece.  “No, don’t even think—”

“Ah,” you smile, tapping the face and immediately finding the correct screen.  “Take pictures.”

He’s deadly quiet for a moment, and you bite your lip with excitement.  When he does speak, his voice is a pure threat, chilling you to the bone as much as it burns deep in your tummy.  “…You wouldn’t.”

Ignoring him, you suddenly locate a menu option that sounds phenomenal right now.  “Oh shit, does this holocall?  Or is it a video option?”

“Holo,” he says very seriously while you study the lack of complexity of the built-in camera in skepticism, “and the kid is awake, so you can’t—”

“Oh, it’s definitely a video,” you unclip it from your wrist and he curses as you sit up, and then you press a button and wait impatiently for him.  “Pick up.”

Din takes forever before responding, and you hear the continuous beeps as it attempts to connect, before his quiet baritone rumbles in your ear.  “What if I don’t?”

You feel your mouth pull down at the corners, not so much frowning as you are dubious.  He’s going to turn down the opportunity to see you and your surroundings when his whole goal is locating you?  Really?

“You sure?”  You ask softly, raising an eyebrow.  “You’d get to see me, where I am.  What I’m…” your eyes dip down to the loose robe riding your curves, your skin glowing against the white fabric, “…wearing.”

The beeps continue on for a few more seconds, until they finally stop.  You frown down at the black screen of the communicator, not seeing anything at all.  Did he decline the transmission request?  No… there’s a little red light next to the small lens that wasn’t there before.  Why can’t you see him?

“Why can’t I see you?”  You ask.  You want to look at him looking at you, you don’t want to always be stuck on the other side of a one-way mirror.

“I… have it linked to my helmet, but it only has a front-facing camera,” Din tells you after a moment, and he sounds… slightly out of breath.  “Easier to see, the watch is useless now besides the controls.”

Wait, does that mean you’re… being shown on the inner-display of his helmet instead of his wrist?  Right in front of his eyes, as if he were actually here with you?

“Nobody can see me but you?”  You clarify, and when he doesn’t respond, you bite your lip and lean back into the pillows.  You lift the watch up slightly, extending your arm out until you can get the angle as wide as possible.  “Can you see… this?”  You ask softly, before hooking your fingers in the collar of your white robe and slowly pulling it open for him.

“Where are you?”   Din asks instead, and you hear his footsteps through the earpiece, as if he’s walking away from something very quickly.

You don’t answer him, parting the soft fabric until your breasts are completely exposed and you sigh, closing your eyes and snuggling back into the pillows once more.  “I’ll tell you where I am if you keep watching me.”

“Why?”   Din grits in frustration, coming back around to the same dangerous question he had earlier.  “Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know.”  You slowly tilt the camera down until you can spread your legs and the robe falls open with the movement, letting him see your pussy peeking through in the flickering light of the muted screen in front of your bed.  “Can you see that?”

“Yeah,” he says shakily on the end of a breath, and you feel yourself get wet.   Fuck, he sounds so fucking tempted, the sight making his voice come without any of the self-assuredness as it usually has, but… he could also just be saying that.  How do you know he’s telling you the truth?

“What am I doing?”  You test him, lifting your knee just the slightest bit so you really give him something to look at.

“Spreading your legs for a camera,” Din responds without hesitation, voice scraping against your ear, making you shiver and your nipples harden.  Fuck, the way he says it, like it’s wrong and bad even though he’s the only one who can see or hear you do it… it makes you feel even more naughty and emboldened.

You bite your lip and reach your hand down to spread your lips for him, too, hearing his breath immediately catch on the other end.  Already your pussy makes your fingers slick against your soft skin, the sash of your robe still holding the fabric together on your body but also loose enough to allow it to part in the right places and reveal everything you want him to see.

“I am in an inn,” you whisper teasingly, letting your finger drop to brush against your clit and then sighing in soft delight.  Oh stars, that feels nice , it feels so good to treat yourself after being completely nomadic for two days, getting to be clean and soft and comfortable while you feel this pleasure, and Din’s voice growls through your communicator like you’re doing something painful to him.

“Fuck,” his breathing picks up while you begin circling your clit.  “Where?”

“Nariss,” comes your quiet moan, turning your head on the pillow to blink slowly at the camera.  Wanting him to see your eyes as well as your finger slowly dip into where you’re the hottest, caressing the sensitive skin there knowing he’s watching.

“Where in Nariss?”   Din’s voice is as pleading as it is sharp, desperately trying to keep either you or himself on track.

“I don’t know,” you say again.  Truthfully, you don’t—you don’t know the cross streets, you don’t know the part of town, you don’t know much of anything at all besides physical descriptors.  You quickly move the camera to the side as far as you can hold it and let him see you from a different angle with the window as a backdrop.  “But the window is open.  And there are lots of people outside.”

“Can they see you?”   Din immediately challenges.  Of course they can’t, you’re fifteen stories up and the room is darker than it is outside with all the city lights and swirling colors of the sky, but you suppose he doesn’t know that.  You think he just needs to relax—if this is what he’s always like during hunts, you now know exactly why he comes back to you all riled up and tense.

“I don’t know,” you murmur back, starting to rub your clit a little faster, trying to make it feel like him.  It doesn’t—your fingers aren’t large or strong enough to give you those perfect circles; you just feel like you’re meandering yourself towards ecstasy instead of picking you up and hauling your ass there like he does, but it’s okay.  Hearing Din’s rough breathing come through the earpiece, knowing his hands are probably clenched tight into fists, wondering if he’s hard yet… all of it culminates into a power trip unlike any you’ve experienced recently.  It makes you bold, tells you to open your mouth.  “Does it matter?  I’d still let you fuck me against it if you were here.”

“Stop it,” comes his growl, but what is he gonna do?

Your leg lifts a little wider so you can slowly slide your fingers down and push two of them inside yourself, and Din swears as you moan, “Come find me.”

“Give me your coordinates—”

“Are you giving up?”  You offer breathlessly, lifting your eyebrows and your hips up slightly at the question, but you’re… not expecting the extended silence following.  You assumed a growled no would immediately come next, or just another empty threat said with enough force to make you tremble with excitement, but not… nothing.

The response makes you pause just for a second, easing your fingers out and dragging them across your thigh to clean some of the wetness off before extending your arm out towards the communicator.  Din stays quiet while you navigate through the menu with trembling fingers, eventually finding your coordinates and hovering over the unchecked share location box.

You wait with your lip bit, confident he knows what you’re doing and you don’t have to narrate or repeat yourself.  Fuck, you knew you were considering abandoning this entire adventure just to be next to him again, but you had no idea.  No fucking idea that it could ever be a thought in his own mind as well.  You… assumed he likes this, hunting is what he does for a living and he’s the one who conceived of the idea in the first place.  Is he just that aroused by you?  Or is there something more?

“No,” Din eventually murmurs, and you immediately navigate out of the menu so you don’t accidentally press anything catastrophic, before pulling your hand away from the communicator with a resolved hum and settling back into the pillows again.  Making sure to look directly into the lens even if your eyelids are heavy with heat and desire, you slowly lick your fingers and then reach down once more.

His deep, shaky breath is so telling.  Exhausted after all this, but still not hanging up, still doing his hardest to tough it out when he’s only miles away from you and has jets attached to his back.  You don’t want to drag it out but you also do , you want to be kind but something about Din makes you also want to be as formidable as possible.  You’ll never be able to threaten like he does, you’ll never have anyone cower just because you walked into the room, you’ll never be as powerful or strong as he is, but you can still put up a fucking fight against him in your own way.

You whimper softly, your breathing beginning to find a quicker pace as surely as your fingers do.  It begins to spark and build, a red hot flame being kindled by the knowledge that he’s as close as possible without actually being close, right here with you when he always seems so far away.

“Mando,” you whisper, though your expression pulls inwards just slightly because it… in a scenario as sensual and intimate as this, it almost doesn’t sound righ—

“Din,” he whispers back, so quiet you almost don’t hear it, like he almost doesn’t want to but has to anyways, and then you just start to fucking burn .

“D-Din,” you whisper instead, trying to keep your voice as quiet as possible through the rising swell.  He’ll be able to see it, you think.  The way your tummy and chest start to heave, how your body begins to brace for it—and yeah, Maker, he sees it, because his voice suddenly changes.

“Stop,” Din growls roughly, knowing exactly how you cum—knowing exactly what it looks like, the way it sounds in your breathing, what it tastes like, how it feels on the inside.  It’s been so long since you’ve touched bliss without him, months and months since you brought yourself to completion on the floor of the Crest by yourself, and though he’s rarely ever denied you, your own high on newfound control causes it to slip.  He barks your name and tells you to stop once more, but it’s too late.

“I’m gonna cum, Din,” you breathe out—

“Don’t—”

It tears through you, rapid and surging, and he snarls a curse, something loud snapping and thudding and… did he just punch something?  You can’t think, it’s delicious and hard as fuck and everything you needed after two days of near constant movement and thought with little rest, and you bite your lip to keep quiet but a pained whimper still shoves its way out of your tense vocal cords regardless.  It sounds like it hurts because it does hurt; the orgasm shatters your body into pieces and you’re left trembling by yourself on this soft bed, wishing he was with you on a metal one.

You sink into the mattress in the moments following, sluggish and exhausted and just conscious enough to keep the watch facing you.  You bet the camerawork was terrible, shaky at best, but you can’t find it in yourself to care right now.  You just lay there and listen to his harsh breathing while you work to slow your heart rate, reveling in the filthy little show you just gave him and wanting to finish it out properly.

“Come find me,” you breathe out once more, lazing soft and naked for him, blinking dazedly at the watch as you pan it over you.  Your thighs are still twitching and there’s a thin sheen of sweat clinging to you, but you drag a finger through your swollen lips and carefully wipe the wetness across one of your nipples.  “Clean me up.”

“Fuck,” Din suddenly spits through the earpiece, furious.  “You think—y-you think—”

“What?”  You hum, basking in the afterglow and so, so curious.  Truly, you’re dumb as fuck, you have no clue what you’re thinking, but if anybody would be able to tell you, it’s him.

There’s a moment where his breathing stops.  It’s completely silent on the line, before you hear another few heavy footsteps on his end pick up and then halt just as quickly.

“You think you can taunt me?”   He murmurs, dangerous and deadly quiet.  “Show me exactly where you are, disappear and then make me waste forever trying to get there?  You think that’s gonna work?”

Your eyebrow lifts, considering.  He… may or may not have predicted your strategy perfectly, but his insight has stopped surprising you by now.  “Maybe…”

“Maybe you shouldn’t fall asleep tonight.”

Ooh.  That one sends goosebumps down your arms, but you’ve gained four hours on top of a twelve hour headstart.  He can’t scare you with that tone, not when you’re still woozy with pleasure and he isn’t right in front of you.  Instead of wilting beneath the hard threat, you just blink gently at the communicator, finding strength in being the only one to get him this mad when he’s always so composed, this talkative when he barely says a word.  “Maybe I’ll just stay here then?”

“Maybe you wanted me to know you’re in an inn because you already found someplace to hide that isn’t one,” Din reasons very, very adeptly.  Stars, your heart subtly begins to pick up, your legs continuing to tremble as the small red light next to the lens stares you down.   “Can’t be planning to stay with someone you just met because you’d already be there, can’t be going to a hostel because you found the one city on this moon built for commerce and not aid.  Not staying in another inn, you can’t afford it—the view looks high up, that robe is expensive, and you already bought food and at least five pairs of shoes in two days.  I don’t think the place you found is even in Nariss.  You think you can outsmart me, sweet girl?”

The chill down your spine doesn’t reach your eyes, you won’t let it.  You just feel yourself smile, tilting your head at him and licking your lips while your finger brushes one of your nipples, but Din doesn’t accept your silence the way you’ve always accepted his.  He wants an answer from you, right now, and it’s clear in the dark rumble of his voice, the danger slowly brewing beyond what you originally planned for.

“Tell me,” he orders, unamused and leaving no room to disobey.  “How long do you think you can keep running?”

Your eyelashes flutter, suddenly deciding… why not?  What have you got to lose?  Nothing that you didn’t already go into this situation completely expecting to lose anyways.  What’s the worst he can do?  Find you?

You close your eyes, pinching one of your nipples and wondering if you might just go for another one since he’s still here.  “Ask me again tomorrow.”

But then, instead of immediately responding, you just hear Din’s footsteps suddenly pick up, faster than any pace you’ve been able to keep over the past few days.  You don’t think it sounds like a run necessarily, but you know that his legs and strides are far longer than yours and it’s probably pretty much equivalent to a run for you.  You hear the rhythm of your demise speeding up, coming closer and closer, and everything in you both fears it and welcomes it.

“We’ll see,” he tells you, and then the red light vanishes and your earpiece clicks to silence.

 


Day 3—2:23am:

Even though it takes you much longer to do so than it normally would on a bed so large and comfortable, after such an exciting interaction and not being used to flickering light when you try to sleep but wanting to experience the rarity anyways, you’re eventually able to pass out.

But, not even a few minutes into a restless dream, you turn over and accidentally knock your communicator off the wireless charging station on the side table.  It blinks with four percent battery life.

Chapter Text

Day 3–4:58am:

You thank your lucky stars that you wake up early and immediately feel around for the communicator to check the time.  Your hand reaches blindly for where you kept it last, patting around without opening your eyes after just a couple hours of sleep, but… you don’t feel anything on the side table.

When you finally turn and scooch yourself over to check, you find it on the floor next to the bed, blinking with two percent battery life.  The dawning light is illuminating the sky a pale gray-green through the window and it takes you a second to figure out what happened, but when you do, your tummy lurches and you suddenly feel sick, scrambling to sit upright and set the watch back on its charging station.

Wide awake now and trying not to panic, you stumble out of bed and quickly use the restroom while muttering curses to yourself.  And then you run around the room to collect your belongings and throw them into your backpack—the dirty clothes you were wearing, a purple fruit you’ve been saving for yourself, the blaster you slept next to—before changing into the new clothes from the store yesterday and yanking on your last pair of shoes, muttering more curses to yourself.

Afterwards, you just sit on the edge of the bed and stare down at the communicator as it attempts to regain battery life, bouncing your legs and playing with your hands.  Din is moving fast, he was booking it last you heard, and you know that if you click the earpiece on right this second to ask where he is, you’ll unintentionally reveal there’s a problem and make you even more susceptible to getting caught.  In the meantime, you at least try to think of one last evasion tactic before you’re full on sprinting to your best hiding spot—and you’re able to figure something out, although you’re not totally sure it’s going to work.

It takes just a few minutes to rub the nasty clothes in your backpack against the bottom of your shoes, letting about as much dried mud and dirt get into the tiny crevices as you can and consequently making your footprints considerably dirtier and all the more noticeable as they touch the expensive carpet once again.  Hopefully this won’t backfire, and you admittedly feel a bit bad doing it.

All in all, you have enough patience to let the comm sit and charge for a good half hour, about as long as you can bear not moving, but the sun is coming up through the window and you have to go, now.   There’s only seven percent battery life by the time you clip it back onto your wrist, and you know—it sounds bad, but the battery lasts three days, so that should give you a little over five hours before it drains completely, right?  You just hope there’s a way to accomplish that where you’re going or it’s game over for you tonight.  You consider swiping one of the charging pads from the room and taking it with you since you’re almost positive this place will at least have electricity, but the fucking thing is bolted to the wall.  Which was actually a pretty good idea on management’s part, you suppose.

When you finally make it down to the lobby, there are multiple people already mulling about a breakfast bar, which smells downright mouthwatering, but you don’t have time to eat.  You pass by the trays of steamy food and then a few maintenance workers hanging up decorations and flowers by the front desk—is there a wedding happening here this weekend or something?  It doesn’t matter, you’re not staying much longer, just one more quick conversation with the concierge before you go.

“Hello,” you greet the unformed man with a kind smile.  “Sorry to bother you.  Would you mind pointing me in the direction of the Keja Orphanage?  And telling me how far away it is if I’m planning to walk, please?”

He looks slightly confused for a second, but nevertheless pulls up a holomap of the moon built into the front desk.  A blue spherical projection of Sanctuary II slowly rotates between you, before he zooms in and identifies the exact location you’re seeking.  “Head directly east once you go out the front doors,” he tells you.  “If you go through the suburbs and then past the gates, it should be a few miles into the outskirts.  Three hours walking distance.”

Fuck, this is not okay.  Three hours and the comm will die in five—if you get all the way there and you don’t have a way to charge it, you’ll have just an hour or two to figure something else out and you’ll be far away from Nariss, and Din, by then.  Do you want to risk it?

“What, may I ask, are you looking for there?”  The concierge posits at one point, glancing down at the new clothes you’re wearing and the rather masculine black backpack you have slung around your shoulders, though it didn’t seem to attract any strange looks before when you were wearing clothes caked in dirt.  You’re planning on changing back into them before arriving at the orphanage—you know that if the people in charge see you in these fancy duds, they’ll assume you either bought them or you stole them, neither of which will be good for you.  Neither of which are true , but it’s not a vibe you want to give off regardless.  But, you also prefer not to attract direct attention while still in these fancy surroundings.  Or smell.

“I’m seeking temporary housing,” you tell him shortly, before opening your mouth and attempting part two of why you’re bothering to talk to him right now instead of getting the fuck out of here while you still can, but he responds before you can continue.

“It’s an orphanage and high temple, the clergy only accept younglings under their roof,” he replies, and… well, honestly, this is all you’ve got at this point, and you’re still confident it’s the right place to go for some unknown reason.  Look on the bright side.  Blonde dude told you he heard the information from women your age, that means… he has the inside scoop, right?  What would he have to gain by lying to you about something like that?

Regardless, you nod a silent thank you and initiate your half-baked plan from earlier.

“Also—I’m really sorry, but my only pair of shoes are very dirty and they’re tracking mud all over your nice floors,” you apologize, gesturing to the path behind you.  It’s actually not bad at all, maybe a few little bits of dirt scattered here or there from your earlier outdoor endeavors—nothing any normal person would notice or worry about, but you know this place is upscale and you’re going to use it to your advantage.  “I feel really bad, but I took that elevator over there and stayed in room one fifty-four.  I think it might be a good idea to vacuum before it gets too busy, just in case I left any footprints.”

The concierge smiles at you in that expensive customer service way, making you feel slightly icky for doing this but deciding it’s worth it regardless.  “Of course!  We’ll be sure to get on that right away, thank you for letting us know!”

“Yep,” you smile and tap the front desk a few times, and then rush through the doors to the lobby and into the rising sun, hoping to Maker that you’ll be able to last even just another few hours.

 

 


Day 3–9:10am:

As soon as you could, you fucking ran.

You couldn’t even think about trying to trick Din beyond what you’ve already attempted, your heart was beating way too fast and you just had to go.   The only solace you could reasonably offer yourself was that it’ll be almost impossible to track you with all the foot traffic through the city, the hundreds and hundreds of shoulders you bumped into while keeping your head down and making your way forward.  Once you passed through the crowd and beyond, you broke into a run and just kept going, keeping a fast pace for far longer than you would’ve even thought possible.

Eventually you had to just jog, trying to ignore the eight different cramps tugging in each side of your body simultaneously and only slowing to a walk for water and a purple fruit snack break.  Now you’re here, hours later and huffing for oxygen on a dirt road far beyond the Nariss, lungs burning and tongue dry in the bright morning sunlight.  You haven’t seen another person for miles, but there’s a creaky wooden sign up ahead for the Keja Temple, and you follow the fork in the road in the direction it points you.

Eventually, you come across a large pond with a big drooping tree nearby, the unfamiliar leaves looking like long strings hanging from thin branches.  You wish you knew the name for it, it’s such an odd-looking plant and counts as a perfect landmark.  Most of the trunk is tilted so much that the greenery touches the reflective surface of the pond, so you quickly scurry behind the part that’s shielded by the leaves, moving them out of the way like drapery so you’ll be hidden from the complete lack of people on the road.  There, you quickly change back into your dirty clothes and stuff the expensive fabric into your pack, wiping the sweat from your brow and trying to ease your heart rate a little bit.  If Din somehow manages to find you here, then that’s obviously not ideal, but you can’t keep running anymore.  You’re not good at it, it’s just not who you are.

You decide to walk after the big droopy tree, the sight of the crystal still waters beyond it painting too beautiful a picture to just zoom by.  The sky is teal and minty today, the moon and ringed planet in the sky seeming even more beautiful and daunting as they hover above you.  The birds sing.  The wind flows warm and gentle this morning—you thought it was a still day as you were running and huffing and creating your own breeze for yourself.  You… love this, this widespread nature.  You can’t find it in the city, not with all the people and noise.  You like to chat and experience and see, but you’d also like remote and quiet places that few people have travelled to, tucked away in the far corners of the landscape like this.

Finally the hills part and you see a relatively large collection of buildings beyond a closed iron gate.  It’s admittedly a bit strange to see in this day and age—the gates at Nariss were enormous and machine-powered, with generators and guards stationed along the perimeter.  It’s strange to see metal bars enclosing the brick buildings, flowery trees and ancient statues beyond.

As you move closer, you hear voices.  Children—yelping and squealing happily, what sounds like quite a few of them, and soon they come into view.  All of a sudden, you forget all about the chase, all about the need to find lodging and a place to lay low for two days on this foreign moon.  There are all sorts of younglings chasing each other in the front… playground?  In the grassy area behind the gates with rudimentary wooden bars hammered into the ground and a few tire swings, children of all sorts are giggling and running around—Humans, Twi’leks with cute little half-grown nubs on their heads for lekku, Wookiees with baby teeth missing when they open their mouths to do their best roar, three infant Ewoks playing with blocks underneath a tree covered in flowers that gently fall on their furry heads, and many others that you’ve never even seen before.

Suddenly your heart squeezes, reminded of a little green child with big googly eyes that you haven’t spent a day away from in over a year.  It hasn’t even been a few seconds and you already know he would fit right in with this wacky bunch, he’d love it here.  But… he’d might also levitate toys away from the others (especially if they’re spherical and metallic) and terrify everyone with his supernatural hijinks, so maybe not.

Soon, you’re able to spot a young human woman standing near the gates, supervising the chaos with a smile, and you try your best to approach her as non-threateningly as possible, though you admit you probably look really fucking sketchy right now.

“Hello,” you greet softly once you’re in hearing range, and she spins around with a gasp even though you keep your voice gentle, but then places her hand over her heart and lets out a self-deprecating laugh at her own expense.

“Goodness, you scared me!  Hello, how can I help you?”  She asks, squinting her eyes to the morning sun on your shoulders.

“I… heard from a man in Nariss that this is a safe haven for children and young women?”  You ask, glancing around at the buildings beyond, the mysterious stone figures in the distance and the grassy stretches between them.

She looks you up and down, taking in the way you’re dressed, the fact that you’re sweaty and exhausted after finally making it here.  Can she see your hunger?  You ate a piece of fruit today, you ran out of water a few miles back.

“I’m Naydedra,” she finally tells you after a moment, reaching her hand through the iron bars, “but you can call me Naydee.”

You take it, wanting to introduce yourself in kind but immediately remembering that it’s probably not a good idea to use your real name.  You can’t think of a good replacement right now, not when this nice girl is looking directly at you with such a friendly face, so you just let go of her hand and give her a soft smile.  “It’s nice to meet you, Naydee.”

“One of the Brothers can show you to Sister Drya’s office to speak with her,” she explains, gesturing to the large entrance into the grounds on your right.  “I can’t leave the children by themselves, but I hope she allows you to stay.”

“Thank you,” you tell her quietly, before finding your way towards the large gated entrance.  But then, once you’re just a few steps away from standing in front of it, two hooded figures suddenly move into view in tandem and nearly scare the fucking shit out of you.

You immediately take a step back in shock, not understanding why you didn’t see them before and taking in their startling appearance.  They’re both quite tall—towering, actually—wearing dark brown robes and neither one of them moves their head enough to expose their face, even in the bright sunshine, even as one unlocks the bars and silently opens the gate for you.

After recovering from the scare and spotting two more of them standing in formation beyond the brick stairs beyond, you pull your backpack tighter to your shoulders and carefully move forward with your head down, focusing on your feet as you ascend the steps.  As you pass, one of them breaks off with you and walks ahead, leading you through an archway and into a beautiful sunny courtyard in an eerie silence.

 

 


Day 3–9:44am:

You’re in the middle of a really echoey chamber room, a lady in pale white robes sitting behind a large wooden desk in front of a window.  It’s bright and open in here, but you’re still quite intimidated under her stare, and you can’t really figure out why.  She’s basically just like a fancy toothpick balancing on its sharp pointy edge on a chair in front of you, why is she so intimidating?  The woman eyes your dirty figure with a prim sort of distaste, her lips pursed and her hair tucked behind her tight veil.

“What is your name?”  Sister Drya, you presume, projects out to you, her voice ringing crisp and clear through the high vaulted ceilings in the office.  You automatically open your mouth to respond with the truth, but then you catch yourself at the last second.

“Nuhhh—” Maker that already doesn’t sound right, “—uherrrrrr…” your eyes shift around, trying to think of a generally feminine-sounding ending, “…ida.”

Great job.  Great.

“Nurr Ida?”  She raises a pencil-thin eyebrow at you, and you cringe at how close it sounds to no idea.

“Nerida,” you correct.  It’s not bad after everything—a beautiful name actually, but stars, did it take an effort to get there.  Luckily Sister Drya nods and doesn’t question the ridiculous blunder that just occurred, instead steepling thin fingers in front of her chin and sighing.

“I trust you are looking for lodging within the walls of this temple?”  She asks, and you quickly nod.

“Yes, ma’am.  It would only be two days at most.  Very likely less,” you tell her, looking at your feet.  “My… family is planning to meet me in Nariss soon, but I can’t afford a bed in the meantime.  I tried finding a halfway house for women or a hostel in the city, but…”

“There aren’t any,” she nods and finishes brusquely for you, already well aware it seems.  “Who are you planning to meet there?  Your father?”

“No, ma’am,” you answer, trying to come up with something truthful since you’re apparently even worse at lying to this holy woman as you are to Din.  Oof, husband won’t work even though it’s what you automatically want to say, so you stupidly blurt the next thing that comes to mind.  “My son.”

“Your son?”  Fuck —that was even worse than husband if what you’ve heard of this place is true, but you’re too deep now and you quickly elaborate.

“And his father, yes.  None of us are… blood-related.”  True.  “But this galaxy is harsh and families can be lost quickly, though sometimes we are blessed enough to find new ones.”  Very true.  “His adoptive father travels for his occupation and I promised I would help care for the child in his absence.  He has become… like a son to me, though I am not his biological mother, and I am not married to his father.”

…Yet.  Also all true.  Well done.

“You have adopted a child?”  Sister Drya asks in surprise, and you tilt your head in consideration.  Perhaps that’s a fair way of putting it, though you never thought to phrase it like that.  You love that little boy dearly, you’d do anything for him.  And Maker forbid, if anything ever happened to Din, you would also be his only guardian and it’s been that way for a little over a full year now.  For some reason, you forget all about the fact that the Sister in front of you operates an orphanage and the truth would actually be an asset to you at this moment.  You answer from your heart.

“Yes, ma’am.”

And then all of a sudden, you feel yourself wilt just the tiniest bit at the spoken reminder of Din and the kid.  Even while leaving out the details, just talking about them aloud to another person makes their absence that much more real for you.

She nods, before somehow managing to sit up even straighter in her chair, a rigid plank in robes perched perfectly parallel to the wooden seatback behind her.  “Have you given your life to following the wisdom and teachings of the Father, the Brother, and the Sister?”

Who?  Maker, are there really that many of them?  What religion do they even follow here, you wonder?  There’s so many across the galaxy, you can’t keep up with the specifics if you tried.  You probably can’t even ask at this point, it’s too late.

“Yes, ma’am.”  Lie.  Maybe, you think.  You could have followed the wisdoms and teachings of some random divine family, you have no clue.

“Will you agree to help our caretakers oversee the children during your stay in exchange for food and a bed?”  She continues, and… that sounds like a fair deal, absolutely.

You nod.  “Yes, ma’am.”

She returns your nod, and then proceeds to list the strictest set of requirements yet.  “Have you bathed in blessed waters, received a communion at a holy Keja on your homeworld, and maintained the sanctity of your maidenhood as an unmarried woman?”

Yuck.   Why does any of that matter?  “Um.  Yes, ma’am.”

…Lie, fucking bold-faced lie, but as long as you’re able to keep the deceit and shuddering cringe from showing on your face, your honesty from before about the kid seems to work in your favor.  She believes you.

It also feels kind of wrong.  Should this feel wrong?  You have quite a few credits in your bag still, you haven’t been displaced by the Empire.  Everything you told her about the situation was the truth—you can’t afford a bed in Nariss, you are planning to meet Din and the kid soon—but then why do you glance down at your feet to prevent her from looking you in the eyes too long?

A loud melody abruptly decides to ring out through the distance and the sound of the bells interrupt your conversation before it can continue.  You quickly glance down at the communicator on your wrist with the reminder—ten o’clock in the morning, two percent battery, and your heart rate kicks up.  You watch the Sister rise from behind her desk, and then the sound of children laughing and a stampede of tiny feet fills the hallway behind you.

“Naydedra will show you around the Keja grounds.”  The girl you saw earlier behind the gates stops outside the door at the sound of her name and peeks her head in, but Sister Drya is stern with you.  “We don’t do this often, Nerida.  We will not tolerate any trouble here, understand?”

You nod your agreement without hesitation, beginning to retreat away from the woman and back to the friendly girl your age you met earlier.  She takes your hand once you’re close enough and pulls you along through the hallways behind the small wave of hooligans as they travel to wherever their next destination is.

Along the way, you introduce yourself as your new alias and Naydee seems… happy that you’re here, you think.  You haven’t seen even a fraction of this place but it admittedly feels a bit stuffy without all the babies and the natural commotion that comes along with them.  She doesn’t let go of your hand, which you’re not really used to, but different customs exist around the galaxy and you’re not opposed to a show of newfound friendship.

“Can I ask you something?”  You quickly pose to her, glancing down at the draining battery of your comm once more and just needing to cut to the chase.

“Settle down!”  Naydee calls out above the whoops and hollers before turning back to you.  “Of course, what is it?”

“I… use this communicator to keep in contact with my family,” you explain quietly, lifting your tangled hands to show her the wrist brace.  “The battery is almost dead.  Is there someplace I can charge it?”

Your new confidant studies the piece of equipment as you both continue to walk together, furrowing her thick eyebrows in consideration while you eventually return outside to the same courtyard as before.  It’s gorgeous—flowery trees everywhere, three big statues that tower over a circular fountain in the middle, and lively with a swarm of little ones running around.  “I don’t think so,” she finally says.  “You could always check the machine room, there might be something there.”

You stop in surprise, jerking her to a halt by extension as squeals and pattering footsteps continue to run by your stationary figures.  “Machine room?”

 

 


Day 3–10:22am:

She wasn’t lying.  You don’t know what you were expecting, but this certainly wasn’t it.

“Holy shit,” you blurt, looking around at all the electrical equipment in awe.  You don’t even realize your mistake until Naydee giggles, clapping her hand over her mouth as the beads of her braids clack together with the movement.  “What’s this all for?”

“The New Republic sends us spare machine parts every week,” she explains, watching you slowly walk into the large room and pick a few electronic components up, rotating them in your hands.  Is this a pre-Imperial amplifier?  Stars, this tech is ancient, even more so than the ship you’ve performed maintenance on for the past year.  “The older kids come in and sort them for a few hours a day, it’s the only source of income Keja receives besides tithings and donations.  Just busywork, but it helps pay for the food.”

You spin around to look at her.  “I can search for a…” you check the comm on your wrist once more, spotting the familiar shaped input on the opposite side of where the earpiece fits, “an A161 in here?  I’ll be allowed to use it?”

Naydee shrugs.  “I think most of it is junk, but almost everything outside of this room is analog.  If we had one, this is where it would be.”

The word sounds… so strange to your ears.  Analog.  Upon first sight, you thought the electrical equipment in here looked ancient, but she’s saying you’re standing in the only place that has any technology of the sort—you saw lights earlier, but that’s it.  Electricity and mechanisms to illuminate.

You tell her thank you and begin digging around for either a wireless charger or an A161 connector amongst the scrap, but… you can’t seem to find anything.  The battery is at one percent and you don’t know how long it’s been sitting there, but that’s roughly equal to about forty-five more minutes maximum before it dies and you’ll be completely cut off from Din.  A few children call for Naydee from the hallway outside and she agrees to leave you to it, but you still don’t have any luck.    Fuck, it’s such a simple and common part, why is there nothing here?  It’s all useless, outdated junk the New Republic is likely going to melt down, you quickly realize, that’s why.  A161’s are widely compatible and everyone could always use one, they’re scavenged long before they make it here.

After about twenty minutes, the communicator screen goes dark and the battery finally dies.

You’re fucked, you’re fucked —you immediately start scrambling around, tripping over metal and knocking shit over, looking for anything that could possibly work.  More tangled wires, more broken compressors, more dead batteries—but no fucking chargers.

About five minutes into your wild panic, you suddenly spot a dusty computer in the far corner of the room with a wireless reader pad attached to it.

You’re in front of it in a fucking instant, yanking the slanted thing upright and blowing a layer of dust from the screen and keyboard, before unclipping the communicator and setting it down on the janky piece of metal sticking out from the monitor.  The power button takes forever to find, but when you press it—nothing happens.

You curse under your breath, shit.  Is it dead?  No, it just has to be old, right?  You grab the entire computer and try twisting it in search for… yes, a power cord.  Holy fuck, this thing is old, it still has a power cord.  You quickly grab it and connect it to the outlets lining the walls—testers, probably, so the unfixable junk can be tried and thrown out if it doesn’t work.  Pressing the power button again eventually causes the machine flickers to life, the communicator beeping a few times on the pad and signaling it’s beginning to charge.

You let out a heavy sigh of relief and slouch, dropping your chin to your chest and just breathing for a moment.  You’re fine, it’s charging, nothing catastrophic happened.

Until suddenly your earpiece clicks and a dark voice grumbles in your ear.  “That was irresponsible.”

Shit.  Is he fucking kidding right now?  You jerk your head up and stare unseeingly at the computer screen, sounding absolutely appalled when you address him.  “What the fuck?  You got notified?”

“I told you I synced the comms together,” Din grunts, sounding like… did he just jump down from something?  His voice punches on the last word like his whole body weight just moved through him.  “You’re lucky you turned it back on so quick, I was only halfway back to the ship.”

Maker, he’s not kidding.  It was barely off for a few minutes, you thought for sure that a combination of bad luck and bad timing would be the only conceivable reason he’d figure it out.  Can you somehow spin this and throw him off?  “It… didn’t die, I just had to turn it off for a second.”

“Sure,” he gruffs, and you’re about to snark something in return at his dry tone, but then your vision suddenly focuses on the data beginning to fill the monitor in front of you, the lines and lines of code starting to fall down the screen in pages, constantly flickering and reloading.  Your eyes scan through it as quickly as you can while it’s still being read from the wireless pad.

He… told you he synced the comms together.

“Did you actually go halfway back to the ship?”  You ask while pressing a few key commands, though the question isn’t necessary at all.  You believed him the first time; you heard the sound of his feet meeting the ground over the earpiece, you know he would absolutely take only five minutes to travel two days of walking distance with the phoenix on his back… you just want to keep him on the line for a bit longer while you look at this data.

“Of course I did,” Din huffs, but you’re half-listening, the monitor only flickering once every second or so now with new information, which you gather means this updates in real-time.  You scroll through the data displayed—the manufacturer, programming language definitions, the battery information and percent charge—anything that this machine can possibly read from this communicator, it’s all right here.  “The Crest can scan for your signal, I would’ve been wherever you are in another ten minutes.”

Scrolling, scrolling—

—sync.  There it is, you start piecing through the complex programming that locks the two communicators together, but it’s way too fucking much.  You’re a mechanic at heart, you use your hands to fix things, but Kuiil knew code, how to reprogram shit, he loved it.  You don’t think these devices were ever meant for reverse engineering, it looks like they use an old-school proprietary type of code that’s odd and difficult to read after living most of your life across the galaxy.  You don’t think you’re smart enough to figure out how to rewrite it in the limited time you have here, but…

Location?  Is there some way to at least read the stored location data?  You know the option is available from navigating through the menu screens, you just have to find it in this unnecessarily complex information dump.

“Ah, which means you don’t actually know where I am right now,” you point out when you suddenly remember it’s your turn to speak, and then you hear him scoff.

“Is that your new strategy?”   He asks you, sounding incredibly unamused.  “Make me waste time by turning off your communicator whenever I’m getting too close?”

When you finally do find it—Maker, that’s a nightmare.  It takes you twenty whole seconds to scroll through the collection of data, and you can barely decipher it.  You think it might be stored in shorthand galactic coordinates, which is of absolutely no help to you when you don’t have a map on you that displays Sanctuary II’s orbit and this system’s velocity.  You like math but that is too much fucking math, you’d take weeks to translate these raw numbers into distance and directional pathing on the surface— shit , there’s also a sister moon, the orbit is even more complex, there’s just no fucking way.  Not here at least, and not when you don’t have unlimited time to spend calculating, and that’s not even taking into account that the system is registering and updating it as he moves.  There’s more data being added every single second, you’d never be able to catch up.

“I don’t need cheap tricks,” you tell him, continuing to scroll.  Ah ha— you quickly find it.  Timecode sync, that’s what you want.  You bite your lip and stare at the communicator for a few seconds, before typing in a few commands.  “In fact, I’m outsmarting you as we speak.”

A notification pops up while Din mumbles something you can’t hear under his breath:

Entry rewrite successful.  Please restart parent device for system changes to take effect.

“Hey, real quick,” you interrupt him.  “Don’t freak out, I gotta turn off the comm again.  If I’m not back in a few minutes, feel free to bring the cavalry.”

You don’t hear anything in return besides a heavy, drawn out sigh, which you take as an exasperated fine, so you do a hard reset and let it sit dead on the charger for a good thirty seconds in silence.  Then you turn it back on again, glancing at the front face—

—no luck.  No changes.

“Okay, I’m back now,” you click the earpiece on again, frowning.  Parent device, that must be Din’s comm then.  You don’t have admin privileges to fuck with the system from here, unless you find some way to reset his device while it’s strapped to his wrist.  An impossibility, you’d never be able to get close enough without getting caught.

“What are you doing?”  Din asks, his curiosity actually sounding as legitimate as it is vaguely frustrated.  For once, it's like he truly has no idea, but it doesn’t matter anyways.

“Thought I was being smart,” you tell him with a resolved sigh.  You’re about to continue the conversation, but then distant voices suddenly sound from the hallway and you jerk your head to the door.  “Don’t worry about it—gotta go, bye.”

You click the comm to silence before any noise from your environment can reach him, spinning around just in time to see a handful of teenagers wandering into the machine room, their chatting falling to silence as their eyes eventually land on you.  Quickly moving to stand directly in front of the computer, you do your best to casually hide your activities as much as possible, shuffling your feet and giving them a friendly wave.  “Hey.  How’s it going?”

None of them respond for quite a long time, and you seem to shrink slightly under their stares.  Yikes.  They’re children, why are they so intimidating?

“Are you the new girl Naydee was talking about?”  One of them finally asks, and you nod.

“Uhhh—”  Maker, what was it again?  Oh yeah, “—ahhhh Nerida.  Hey.  What’s up.”

Stars… this is so embarrassing.  What are you doing?

“The little ones are eating lunch right now,” one near the back of the group jerks his head to gesture down the hall.  “I can show you where they are.”

Your stomach growls at the thought—fucking lunch, it sounds glorious— but you take a second to spin around as un-awkwardly as possible, finding the monitor’s power button and shutting off the screen as your communicator continues to charge.  The wrist brace only says five percent though, that’s no good.  You’ll have to stay here for a couple hours at least.

“Actually,” you twirl back around again like that was your intent the entire time.  “Do… you guys need any help in here?”

From the way they share confused looks with each other, you don’t think it’s very often they’re asked.

 

 


Day 3–6:24pm:

So those kids are actually fucking hilarious.

You didn’t expect it, but as you casually helped the seven of them sort through all the junk in the room, you started to giggle to yourself at the absurd way they phrased certain things, how much ridiculous shit they talked about Sister Drya even with you around.  The job lasted nearly three hours, and after about two had passed, you checked the comm and clipped the fully charged watch back on your wrist without attracting any suspicion at all from the group.

Afterwards, you ate a late lunch with them in the flowery courtyard next to the fountain.  Apparently there are only a few teenagers left here—most get adopted young, or they leave and get jobs in G’ila—so the commissary is closed up for cleaning after the young ones finish eating while the older kids just eat outside.  You learned a lot from listening to them banter and joke, but you only contributed when you were directly prompted.  It worked out well for you—you didn’t have to come up with any backstory or explanation for who you are because they never really bothered asking, and they just naturally treated you like one of the bunch after having you tag along for a while.

Then you headed to the dormitories with the three girls and when indicated, you set your stuff down on an empty bed in the corner, next to the one you were told belongs to Naydee.  Small, twin sized mattresses line the entire room from wall to wall, with large storage bins for belongings tucked underneath.  There’s a shared fresher attached to the sizable dorm in the back, and one of the girls ended up telling you in the nicest way possible that you should probably take a shower now.  She made it sound like she was just giving you a heads up since the rest of the kids all take theirs before bed, but you understood her well-hidden intent nonetheless.

By the time you got out and changed into a rather drab pair of clean clothes supplied by the same girl, the other two had left to attend class, but she offered to come late so that you could find Naydee and the rest of the young ones.  You both shared easy conversation on the walk over and parted ways soon after.

It was mid-afternoon by the time you quietly slipped into a cheerful classroom and sat down next to Naydee in the back, listening to an elderly man in robes teach the children basic chemistry and physics for the next hour or two.  You smiled the whole way through the lecture, watching him rant and rave about electromagnetism to a distracted and chatty group of youngsters with unmatched enthusiasm.  He reminded you of Kuiil.

The bells rang at six o’clock and everyone—you included—-followed the most boisterous kids as they led the entire group to the commissary.  Now you’re here eating dinner, sitting at a bench next to Naydee and sharing a rather enthralling conversation about mythosaurs with four little Rodian boys who have a little trouble speaking Basic without a heavy lisp but love to talk.  They tell you all about the legendary creatures like they’ve had this exact conversation amongst themselves hundreds of times before and are just cutting into each other’s sentences with more and more facts as they remember them.  It’s a bit difficult to keep up, but you’re having a lot of fun trying.

Though at one point, you glance towards the doors to see four tall men walk in, all of them clothed in the same dark brown robes and mysterious hoods over their heads.  You haven’t seen that many altogether in one place except for the gates, just the occasional few walking the halls.

“Who are they?”  You ask Naydee quietly as the boys start arguing amongst themselves about something adorably inconsequential, gesturing to the silent formation of them with a subtle head tilt.  You don’t want to offend with your curiosity, and you probably should already know judging by the prerequisites Sister Drya laid out for you earlier—who is currently sitting by herself at a table near the window and placing green beans lengthwise into her mouth one by one—but you trust the new friend you’ve made.

“Those are Keja Brother’s Guard,” Naydee tells you without thinking twice, before taking another bite of her salad.  They serve the foundlings… remarkably healthy food here—you currently have some balanced vegetables and protein on your plate, and sweet juice from your favorite purple fruit in a metal cup.  “They take rotating shifts to protect the temple.”

“Who are they protecting the temple from?”  You question, wondering if the acolytes are actually as threatening as they look.  They don’t speak and you can’t physically tell the difference between any of them, but the way they travel in synchrony tells you there’s some sort of militaristic training in their backgrounds.

“No idea, but the holy book says the Brother commands them to so anyway,” Naydee answers with a shrug, and her nonchalant approach serves to relax your nerves just slightly.  Sounds like they’re not that big of a deal for the people who’ve grown accustomed to them, but you still keep an eye on them as they move like ghosts around the orphanage and temple.

“I’m supposed to contact my family tonight at midnight to let them know I’m safe,” you murmur a moment later.  You’re a grown woman, this should be okay, right?  “I won’t wake anyone up or anything, but do you know a place here where people hardly ever go so I’m not in the way?”

“I…”  She shakes her head, and you wonder for a few seconds if this is actually too much to ask.  Would you be causing trouble?  After too long of a pause, you open your mouth to apologize for overstepping, but she speaks before you can.

“You’ll have to keep an eye out for the Brothers,” Naydee instructs quietly, tilting her head down and lowering her voice so none of the children can hear her.  “That should be your only issue—they patrol at all hours of the night, but they don’t bother going into the belltower.  It’s at the far southeastern edge of the grounds, we can walk by before lights-out so you know where to go.”

Her momentary hesitation from before still bothers you, and your eyebrows pull inwards with uncertainty.  “Are you sure?”

Naydee nods, elaborating.  “When I first got here, I had trouble sleeping.  Too many….”  You can’t tell if she trails off or purposefully cuts herself off, but then she quickly shakes her head and gives you a smile, and your heart just fucking plummets at the sight of it.  It’s beautiful and young but hiding so much unspoken trauma, and you’re lucky to have only known the horrors of the Empire through Kuiil’s tales of it firsthand.  “Anyway, I used to sneak away and go to the belltower to clear my head.  The man who rings them is old and nearly deaf from doing it all his life—he won’t hear you, and even if he does somehow, he won’t bother climbing dozens of flights of stairs just to get down to you.  He falls asleep at night and wakes up every hour to ring the bells, it’s the only place I can think of.”

That sounds like the best you’re going to get.  You relay a quiet, genuine thank you to her, knowing she didn’t have to share that information with you but chose to regardless.  And, just as she promised, after dinner Naydee takes the kids the long way back, nudging you with her elbow as the group passes by the tallest building within the iron gates, located at the very far corner of the grounds.

There’s chaos for a bit once you return to the dorms, but then Sister Drya comes in to lead a nightly prayer and gives a strict order to go to sleep soon after.  You lay on the thin mattress and stare at the time on your communicator under the blankets, hearing just the occasional whisper from random beds for the first hour before it all eventually fades to silence.

 

 


Day 3–11:50pm:

You’re sneaky about it.

You’re so sneaky, you feel like an actual criminal or something.  A real bounty, running around in the dark quiet of places you’re not supposed to be, turning corners and hiding in shadows right before the guards can spot you.  Your heart thuds with equal parts excitement and fear—if you get caught, you’ll probably get reprimanded or thrown out by the clergy in charge of the establishment, but you’ll also miss your check-in with Din and have an entirely new set of problems on your hands.

You didn’t actually think you could be this sneaky, honestly.  This is something Din never taught you—how to move silently, how to find your way around places you’re not meant to be.  He taught you to fight, gave you a blaster to shoot your way out of threats.  This is nuanced , and though you have no doubt he’d be able to easily accomplish this, you’re proud of how well you’re able to navigate the darkness, how well acquainted with it you’ve become over the months with Din.  He could probably take a casual night stroll around this place without even thinking about it, and though you’re hugging walls and tiptoeing across the courtyard and your heart is pounding, you’re basically accomplishing the same exact thing.

You eventually find it—the belltower, standing tall underneath the pale and dusty blue sky.  Soon you’re up the stairs and grabbing the handle of the door, yanking on it but—

—it’s locked.

You twist around and spot two Brothers walking silently under the flowery trees in the distance, the movement of their brown robes catching your eye from this far away.  Naydee said they don’t bother coming here and nobody should hear you inside the tower, but she didn’t say they can’t see you if you’re standing right in front of it like an idiot.  It’s hard to sneak quietly and quickly, you typically have to choose one or the other, but you’re able to swiftly move behind the building and hide from their sight, whatever their loose hoods physically allow.  Your breath wants to come hard so you have to crouch back against the wall and force yourself to breathe through your nose instead, force yourself to breathe like Din taught you when you were exhausted from sparring with him.  Slow, count it.

It’s scary when the people you’re avoiding are just as quiet as you’re trying to be.  You don’t think they caught you, but you can’t use their noise to gauge where they are or cover your own movements—there’s no distraction to take advantage of, nothing to prevent them from hiding from you.  The belltower is circular, you can’t see anything beyond the brick curve to your right or left.  They could be right there, standing silent under the crimson clouds, waiting for you to come out.

But there is an open window above you.

You don’t question it.  Why it’s open, how you’ll be able to climb through it quietly—you take the way out you see, lifting yourself up and then wiggling through it.  It’s not big enough to go through any other way besides long, so you have to reach down with both hands to feel for the ground.  Brick eventually meets your palms and you’re able to quickly ease yourself downwards once you know where the floor is.  It’s not fancy and it probably would look amateur at best to an observer, but you tuck your chin and roll to mitigate the sound instead of plopping and it works.   Even though you’ll probably have bruises from the effort, you make it into the bottom of the belltower without anyone knowing.

Dark moonlight shines through the tall building, coming in through multiple open windows stacking the considerable height of the walls.  There’s a spiral staircase that seems to have gaps and jumps at each glass pane, as if the person who built this place didn’t even bother to consider their placement before getting to work.  It feels so old, stone age architecture fit for lifetimes of lifetimes ago.  You follow the staircase up with your eyes, surprised at how high it really goes.  Up at the top is a circular platform surrounding its edges with a dangerous drop in the middle.  Stars, you can tell now that it’s built for sound and sound only, with little regard for the one who rings the bells you can see through the hollow circle at the top.  So many glass windows to reverberate, open so everyone can hear.  It’s beautiful but haunting, in the way that many things of times past are.

There’s a small space to fit yourself into under the first couple of steps.  You squeeze into the corner under the staircase even though you don’t think you really need to—as long as you sit, you can’t be seen through the windows, and you’re almost certain you’re far enough away from the courtyard that speaking quietly to Din won’t give you away.

You spend the rest of the time looking at your comm again, just waiting a few more minutes before midnight.  It seems to take longer than it should, but it also gives you time to work on your breathing and relax your heart rate in a safe zone, not needing to worry about the danger that lies beyond these walls.  When the time finally comes, you’re about to open your mouth and greet Din, but then suddenly—

—Bing Bang Bong Booooooom—

—Bong Bang Bing Booooooom—

“Sweet girl,” comes Din’s low voice in your ear, relatively quiet compared to the deafening melody marking the passage of another day reverberating all around you.  Holy fuck that’s loud—you’re glad the comm is strapped to your wrist because you would’ve fucking thrown it out of one of the open windows in terror.

—Bing Bang Bong Booooooom—

—Bong Bang Bing Booooooom—

“Hey, can you hear me?”  Din asks, and you open your mouth once more now that the melody seems to have passed, but then—

—Bong—Bong—Bong—Bong—

Fuck, come on.  You wait for a fucking eternity for each bell, counting out all twelve of them in your head before praying it’s finally over.

“Hello?”  You whisper once the traces of the last reverberating ring fades through the tall building.

His response is immediate.  “Why didn’t you answer me?”

Lie?  No, not a good plan.  When you lie, he knows.  You’ll just have to hold onto the information.

“I… can’t tell you,” you state diplomatically, trying to keep your voice down to a gentle murmur.

“Why are you so quiet?”  He asks, not taking your lead in lowering his volume whatsoever.  He speaks at a completely normal level and you wish you were in a situation to match him, and not give him indication that anything is different than it was last night.

“I… can’t tell you that, either,” you admit under your breath, knowing that everything you’re saying is just giving him more hints.  Fuck, these check-ins are a blissful torture, they allow you to hear his voice every night but they’re fucking traps , designed to work against you.

Of course, the conversation goes exactly the way you fear it would.  “Where are you?”  

“Where are you?”  You ask instead, quite possibly the worst conversational parrying you think you’ve ever performed with him.

Din waits maybe half a second before responding.  “Want me to show you?”

But then suddenly… yeah, you’re scared.  More terrified than you think you were all day—when you found the communicator on the floor, when you first ran into the Brothers at the gates, when the battery died, when the door to this tower was locked—all of it pales to the sudden pulsing of pure fear through your veins.

“Uh,” you blurt in panic, “nope.”

He’s right outside, isn’t he?  Fuck, why else would he ask that?  You’ll pick up his call and he’ll show you the orphanage gates, or better yet, the door to the belltower.  He’s waiting right outside and you’re only going to know the second you decide to entertain the idea of seeing his surroundings.

“Are you sure?”   Stars, why does his voice sound like that?  “The… kid is asleep.”

Oh.  Oh.  Is that what this is about?  Oh, no.  No, that’s not good, somebody go tell him he needs to wake up.

“We can’t right now,” you say without thinking much beyond the sentiment, but his prolonged silence suddenly makes you realize the phrasing, the absolute fucking zinger you just set yourself up for.

He doesn’t say the obvious though, even though you probably deserve it.  He just stays quiet while soft beeps start coming through the earpiece, signaling an incoming videocall.  Everything inside you says don’t answer, don’t answer—nothing good can come from it.

“Pick up,” Din murmurs after a moment, words low and dark as sin.

Your heart starts beating faster in your chest.  He sounds so… dangerous, like he could be capable of absolutely anything right now.  You don’t know where he is or how he’s positioned, but you can hear the tension in his muscles.  Admittedly, the daring tone of his voice is the only thing that makes you accept the call one-way, not allowing the lens you bravely stared into last night to even turn on right now.  Is that smart or cowardly?  You have trouble telling the difference sometimes, but he would know.

It’s hard to see on the small face of the watch, but you bring it closer and squint, taking a moment to figure out what you’re seeing.  Is that blades of a fan?  A ceiling?  Everything is in black and white, and you don’t know why there seems to be a distinct lack of color.  It’s the first time you’ve seen video through this comm, is that why it’s greyscale?  No, the technology isn’t that old, that doesn’t make any…

Except then suddenly you stop, because you know exactly where he is.

The inn.

He’s at the fucking inn?

In the exact room you were, you’re pretty sure.  He’s laying on top of the bed you woke up on, showing you the very same view you blinked your eyes open to this morning.

But…  Why?

Why is he there?  He told you flat out that he wouldn’t bother wasting the time, and it would’ve been a lot of time to waste getting there, so… why did he?  He clearly found a way into the city, past all the New Republic guards in front of the gates and the entrance to the inn, and somehow snuck his way up into your room (there’s no way in Hoth he’d ever pay for it if it’s just him and the baby, not Din) just so he’d be able to… what?  Show you that he could?  You’re confused, it makes no sense.  He didn’t expect you’d still be there, did he?  Or is he just this committed to making you increasingly antsy and worried about him catching up?  Is this a taunt?  But… it’s not , though—it’s a waste of his time when the clock ticking away is starting to turn into an asset for you.  Why is he there?  Why would he go there?

“Did you go there to track my footprints?”  You blurt before thinking, and you hear him mmm low in his throat.  You can’t tell if it’s a ‘you’re right’ mmm or a ‘that was a good guess’ mmm , but fuck, you’re not even on the bed with him and you’ve already got shivers down your spine.

“I tried,” he murmurs.  “I was too late.  You… completely disappeared as soon as you set foot in Nariss.”

You furrow your eyebrows.  How did he find his way there, then?  He could’ve probably located the specific inn just because the building is so damn tall and you gave him a prolonged view through your window last night, but how did he get to your room?  Maybe… it isn’t your room?  Maybe he just broke into a random suite and you’re so fucking paranoid that you filled in the blanks yourself?

Why doesn’t that feel right, though?

“What is this?”  You ask him uncertainly.  He’s not going to trick you—you’re clever enough to know something is wrong but not clever enough to figure out what specifically it is.  But you’re going to call him out about it, just like he always does with you.  You’re not going to let him get away with it, not when he’s made a hobby of announcing your next few moves before you can make them.

But then slowly the camera pans downwards, and you see his entire torso and legs stretching long in front of him.  Still fully armored, laying on top of the mattress without even taking his boots off.  Uncivilized, in a way that burns hot through your veins.

You’re not going to let him get away with…

“Thinking about you,” is all he says on a quiet breath, letting one of his gloves slowly come into view.

…What were you not going to let him get away with?

You feel nervous.  It has nothing to do with the Brothers patrolling the grounds outside, the hard of hearing man at the very top of this gapped staircase that’s probably already asleep again.  Having your heart thump so far up in your throat makes it hard to speak.

“Mando,” you say in a low voice, not really expecting the clear warning it decides to bring along with it.  It’s not a warning the way he would say it—like a buried threat, a dangerous growl through the modulator, no.  It’s more of a dear fucking Maker please do not than compared to his typical don’t you fucking dare.   Already resigned to the answer to the question you kept asking him last night:  What are you gonna do?  Nothing.

You watch helplessly as he ignores you, tugging off the glove on his right hand without any ceremony and tossing it next to him on the mattress.  Fuck, you can see the communicator right there on his bare wrist, and your comprehension actually takes you this long to catch up.  Din isn’t using the camera built into it like you did, the videocall on the comm isn’t in black and white.  What you’re seeing is what he’s seeing exactly, the display of his screen inside the helmet—does he always walk around without color?  You can’t ask, because his head tilts back into the pillow just slightly and you’re both looking at the ceiling again, and you think your breathing might change somehow.  It must do something strange; either speed up or puff or something, because it’s like he’s quickly reminded that he needs to be looking directly at whatever he’s doing for you.

The angle tips back down in time to see him reaching into his pants and pulling his cock out, wrapping his hand around the thickness of it and giving it a few slow pulls without getting any skin wet at all.  You… don’t think he’s going to, and for some reason that just gets you so fucking hot.   It makes your mouth water and all your lower muscles clench up at once, watching his big dry fingers drag down the length, his other hand pulling his pants down below his balls and then yanking the hem of his dark tunic to show you his stomach too.

“Watch,” he murmurs, pulling up the dark fabric even more so you can see his tightening skin, his belly button and the curls leading downwards.  You fucking ache— knowing he’s doing this just for you, he’s slowly jacking himself off in the same place you made yourself cum for him and forcing you to witness the entire thing just like you did.  Getting even.  You know his neck is pulled tight to his chest to get this perfect angle for you, you know the beskar is probably digging into his collar bones in the position he’s in.  He’s doing a lot right now to make you sweat, and you have to just sit here by yourself and watch him leak precum, the way the head of his cock slowly moves back and forth through his fist.

“You…”  You forget what you’re going to say.  Fuck, you want to reach your hand between your legs and touch yourself—your eyebrows pull up in the middle with need, you feel heat sink down at churn fire for him in your tummy.  Din’s breath comes harsher through the earpiece, and his hips begin to lift slightly as he finds a slow rhythm.  “Maker, you look… really fucking good doing that.”

“Yeah?”   He whispers, and you forget all about where you are.  An orphanage—a sacred temple and your not-husband is showing you how he gets himself off.  He’s so hard for you, fucking up into his hand when it should be you he’s doing that to.  Seeing it without being able to take part makes you realize that Din truly spoiled you before, letting you feel that without ever denying you.  Now it’s just fucking torture, and you know exactly why he punched something last night when you came hard without him inside you.

“Y-Yeah,” you breathe, watching his hand work and listening to his breathing and feeling like you’re being torn apart.  “Stars.  Why do you look so good?”

“You told me once that you… used to think about me,” Din groans, and you suddenly realize this whole thing was lost from the very moment the bells rang midnight.  He made up his mind far earlier and you never stood a single chance against him.  “Touch yourself on the floor of the Crest.”

You never should’ve told him that, fuck.   You had no clue it’d be used as ammunition against you, that a situation like this would ever occur.  Din never struck you as the type that takes it easy on you, and yet he apparently has been this entire time.  The hard, ruthless way he fucks you is nothing compared to the pain of not having it at all.  “Fuck.  I did…”

“You think you’re the only one who’d get themselves off like that?”   He asks and oh stars— what is he doing?  Is he trying to fucking kill you instead of bothering to chase after you any longer?  Just put you out of your misery now since you’re already so miserable without him?  Your face contorts with how much you need him, how wet and tight you are for him when he’s so far away.

“Stop—” you breathe, but he doesn’t listen.

“I still d-do it sometimes,” Din gasps, and you dig your teeth into your lip so hard that it might leave a permanent indent.  “On hunts.  Helps me sleep.  Can n-never sleep, even when I have to.  I’ll be alone and thinking about you, and then I —fuck…”

You’re soaking through your underwear now, tight and hot and so fucking ready to take the cock he’s been slowly touching but you know you won’t get tonight.

Unless—

“Stop,” you tell him louder, feeling your hands shake.  “Oh stars, stop, please—come find me, I’ll give you my coordinates —please—

Fuck—I-I already—”   And then his whole body hunches and his hand abruptly stops moving, just squeezing the shaft with a vice-like grip, and you think he’s going to let everything go right there.  He was about to say that he’s already cumming, because you’re certain he’s only seconds away from giving in and letting that raw heat wipe his mind blank, drain his body of tension and just rid him of it pulse by pulse.

Except he’s still holding himself there, on the very edge and breathing rough in your ear.

“Want me to cum?”   Din finally whispers to you, the skin of his stomach and hips trembling in the light of the open window near him.

Goosebumps break out all over your arms and legs and you shiver twice in a row for him.  Maker— do you?  You dig your fingernails into your palms and your eyebrows slant with the pain of being asked.  You want him to cum and yet you don’t, but you do, but you don’t, but you really fucking…

“Yeah,” you finally whimper, nearly a whine—and the word with that aching cadence snaps through his body and he’s immediately gasping, spurting hot and gorgeous across his heaving tummy just for you.  It’s the best and worst fucking thing, it’s like getting everything you want and yet absolutely nothing at all, and you’re left all alone on the floor while he finds release without you.  Din shudders your name through the earpiece and you should’ve fucking stayed this morning, you should’ve hunkered down in that room so he’d find you there and do that inside you instead.  You watch helplessly as it paints the tight, golden skin of his abdomen pearly and wet, so wasted when it could be in your mouth, your pussy, anywhere but his own body.

Your eyes fall closed as he shakes through the comedown and you just wish… fuck, you wish with your entire being that you were there.  Not only to be the one to give him that pleasure, but then to convince him to take the armor off if he’s going to lay in bed, to take a shower with him and rub his back.  You could make it better in so many ways, you could give him both relief and comfort when you know he’ll only give himself one.

Eventually Din stops cumming and he just lays there for a second, letting the camera tilt up towards the ceiling once more before it abruptly cuts off.  You can still hear him breathing hard through the earpiece though, your heart continuing to pound while you think he tries to slow his down.

Lifting your head and looking around brings the unwanted reminder of where you are, the ancient building you’re huddled inside and just how many people are hanging around.  Even if they can’t see or hear you from here, you didn’t realize how easy it would be to completely forget.  Your eyes hurt from looking at the communicator so intently, your neck and back tight from curling up so small around the screen.

Once his breathing returns to normal and yours actually comes back after spending an eternity letting your squished lungs fill just a fraction before letting it out, you blink around at the red light creeping in through the windows and open your mouth.

“Are you—?”  But you have to clear your throat, your voice sounding like it traveled through sand dunes to make any noise at all.  “Are you going to sleep there?”

Din sighs slow and relaxed in your ear.  Fuck, you don’t know why it reminds you of how big he is.  The amount of air he can hold, how long he can stretch out and how much space he can take up when he wants to.  You’re still slick and needy between your legs, just thinking about anything that has anything to do with him and making it all the worse.  How tight his grip was when he touched himself, how he made you tell him you wanted him to cum even though it was slightly cruel—you’re still stuck on it while he seems well past the whole thing, voice calm and low as he responds.  “Do you think I’m going to sleep here?”

No.  You don’t think he’s going to sleep at all, even though he sounds like he could.  You bet you could get him to sleep, if you were there.  If you could find your favorite position next to him and breathe gently against his bare neck, press your warm body against his, you bet you could ease him into unconsciousness and show him how to dream again.

“I… hoped you would,” you admit quietly.

Neither one of you pretends it’s for your benefit, you don’t think.  You… want this for him even when he’s not with you, as long as he’s safe.  You’ll make the same promise he made you to get you to take care of yourself—you won’t move until he wakes up.  You’ll wait forever in one spot as long as you know he’ll keep looking in the morning.

“Go to sleep,” Din murmurs gently, the same lulling tone he uses when he knows you need the rest.  You slept for barely three hours last night, and there’s a bed waiting for you.  Not as warm or big or soft as the one you know he’s not going to fall asleep on, but one that will be okay in the meantime if you have to fall asleep without him.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The comm clicks to silence and you eventually stand up and unlock the door of the belltower, closing it behind you and making your way down the steps without really caring at all.  You walk through the grounds the way you imagined Din would—easily, calmly, and without a single soul catching you.  If they do, what are they gonna do?  Tell you to leave?  So what?  You’ll walk home, you know exactly where it is right now.

You don’t even think you… think about it, as strange as it sounds.  You only realize how careless you were being once you’re back in the darkness of the snoozing dormitory and slipping into your bed.  At the time, you think only of him.  It doesn’t even feel like bravery.  Bravery is facing a distinct fear, knowing you’re afraid of it and choosing to do it anyway.  This was just… walking.  Knowing you’ll be okay no matter what, if only because you have him.

 

 


Day 4–4:30am:

You’re absolutely expecting to be found today, so a part of you hoped you could’ve at least slept for more than two hours before waking up.  But before the sun has even risen yet, you’re being shaken by a gentle hand on your shoulder and a voice saying a word you have no connection to.

“Nerida,” it repeats once more, and oh—there are little voices too, squealing and yelping and giggling even at this Maker forsaken hour, “Nerida, it’s time to get up.  We have to attend communion.”

No way.  No fucking way—it’s still nighttime, what kinda demon cult is this?  You thought these people were nice , but nice people don’t get up until at least six in the morning, and your naughty interaction with your sleepless bounty hunter just a couple hours ago should be good enough proof of that.  As you sit up in the creaky bed, you realize you could probably groggily address him through the earpiece right this second and he’d be just as present and focused as ever.  He could be asleep, but you know he isn’t.

You opt to just zone out for the rest of the long morning, following the herd without registering pretty much anything about what you’re doing.  Seeming to know your struggle, Naydee gives you a couple of sympathetic pats on the back throughout the songs and tithings and prayers.  You spend the entire time gazing unseeingly at people worshiping three stone statues as the sun comes up, and then watching the same people go inside an ancient temple guarded by brown robed terrors and worship the same stone statues until the sun actually went down a bit, half thinking about Din and the kid, half lamenting the fact that there’s not a drop of caf to be found in miles.

 

 


Day 4–2:04pm:

How… the fuck … do people attend a religious service for eight whole fucking hours?

It’s one of those things where you’re surprised it’s only mid-afternoon when it’s finally over and you leave the temple.  You feel like you’ve been there for years and there should only be a couple hours left in the day at this point.  By the time you’re eating a late lunch with everyone in the commissary, it’s like you’re a zombie that one of the Brothers raised from the dead or something.  You’re a bit quieter and more withdrawn than normal, just tagging along next to Naydee wherever she happens to take you.

She mentions something to you about recreational time on holy days, so you think you’re going to be headed out to the front playground to help supervise babies with endless energy to burn, but then she ends up leading you to a bright sunny room in the same building as all the classes the children attend.  Quite a few foundlings are scattered around at different tables as the light filters lavender and yellow into the large area, talking while cutting fabric and pedaling antique sewing machines.

“—if you were staying another day, we’d be able to make one for y—”

Oh shit, you haven’t been paying attention much at all.  You blink at Naydee, not knowing how long she’s been talking and blaming your stifled yawn on Din.  The… distraction he provided to you last night.  “I’m so sorry.  What’s going on?”

She doesn’t look offended.  In fact, she gives you an apologetic smile and grabs your hand, squeezing it.  “I’d tell you that you’d get used to the early mornings, but I know that you’re leaving soon.  Will you be here through tomorrow?”

Is it your imagination, or does she sound slightly dismayed at the reminder?  “I… hopefully?  Why?”

“It’s Sanctuary II’s spring equinox, there’s a large celebration planned every year in Nariss,” Naydee explains, pulling you over to a little human boy working diligently by himself with a gorgeous light turquoise fabric.  That explains the maintenance crew you saw hanging up flowers in the inn—you wonder what the rest of the city will look like knowing that pretty much everyone who lives there can afford to splurge on the same kind of elaborate decor.  “The children make their own robes to wear, it helps teach them some skills they might need in the future.  We’ve been working on them for weeks now, and everyone is more excited for the festival than they were for Life Day,” she smiles down at the young boy and ruffles his hair, before he suddenly howls and drops a needle to shove his thumb into his mouth, pouting.  “It’s… um.  It’s been a process, but we