Luke realized as soon as he dropped the X-wing out of hyperspace.
“I didn’t tell him how to contact us!”
Grogu chirped up in alarm, sensing Luke’s sudden panic as well as hearing the increased shrillness in his voice.
“I’m so sorry,” Luke told him. “I never gave him coordinates or any way of geting in touch with us. I didn’t ask how to contact him! I guess I was too focused on your call and those dark troopers.”
Settling as Luke’s blind panic eased into a less frantic, though still guilt ridden one, Grogu sent a wave of reassurance through the Force. He’d find them. He promised he’d see Grogu again. He always kept his promises. The Mandalorian was going to find them. One way or another.
Luke’s frowned down at the child in his lap. “I know I should be assured by that, but it kind of sounds like a threat.”
Grogu burbled happily.
- - -
Luke had been training Grogu for three months and the child proved himself to be astoundingly gifted in the Force. Essentially Luke’s youngest student once differences in aging between species were considered, Grogu was undoubtedly the most talented.
He also ate more than his own weight each day and had a mischievous streak a parsec wide.
“Grogu,” Luke sighed, looking down at the pilfered fruit in Grogu’s little hand. “What did I say about stealing from the kitchens?”
Grogu met his eyes, completely guileless, and took another bite. The sticky pulp stained the entire area surrounding his mouth a bright purple, his fingers the same shade.
“We just ate,” Luke muttered to himself, levitating the discarded fruit peels away from Grogu’s feet and towards the trees to dispose of them.
Luke thought about giving Grogu another lecture, but before he could make up his mind between lecturing him or letting this one go, Grogu’s ears rose and his purple mouth opened in a delighted bleat.
“What’s that all about?” Luke laughed, enjoying the visible happiness on Grogu’s face. The Force sparkled with the emotion, light and fizzy.
“What have you been getting up to?” A modulated voice asked, amusement clear.
Luke spun around, hand at his lightsaber, and gawked.
The Mandalorian walked out from the tree line, beskar shining in the dappled sunlight that streamed in through the high, leafy branches. He walked with an easy stride, feet sure over the mossy, rocky, rich soil.
Grogu trilled his welcome, hustling as fast as his legs could carry him towards the armored man.
Luke dropped his hand, all thoughts of defending Grogu and himself made unnecessary and therefore forgotten.
The Mandalorian picked Grogu up, raising him to face level. Grogu’s hands pat at both sides of the helmet as he babbled excitedly. Both of them ignored Luke for a moment, wrapped up in their reunion. He didn’t take it personally, too enamored of the sweet moment.
“Told you I’d see you again,” the Mandalorian muttered, almost too low for Luke to hear the break in his voice.
He set the child into the cradle of his arm and looked him over carefully. Luke could feel the Mandalorian’s concern and consideration as he studied his son. His helmeted gaze seemed to focus on the pulpy mess left on Grogu’s face and hands, remnants of the child’s ill gotten gains.
“Little womp rat,” the Mandalorian chuckled, taking the corner of his cape and wiping gently at the mess.
“You found us,” Luke brought up, drawing the Mandalorian’s attention. Covered though his face was, the Mandalorian’s gaze seemed to burrow beneath Luke’s skin, looking right down into the heart of him. Luke swallowed and tried to project calm and composed. “I’m so glad. I cannot apologize enough. I meant to give you my coordinates and a way to contact me, but I…”
The Mandalorian didn’t say anything, visor still unerringly aimed at Luke.
“I really am sorry,” Luke apologized again, holding his arms out in resigned defeat. He had no excuse. He basically kidnapped the man’s child and broke his heart in the process. There was nothing for it but to hope the Mandalorian understood that wasn’t his intention.
“It’s alright,” the Mandalorian finally said, turning away from Luke and looking at his son.
Luke let out a relieved breath and hoped the Mandalorian didn’t hear it.
“I got here eventually,” the Mandalorian added, stroking one of Grogu’s ears. The child grabbed his thumb and held it tight.
“How did you find us?” Luke inquired, stepping closer when the Mandalorian didn’t show any sign of wanting to attack Luke for his terrible mistake.
A part of Luke told him he was being silly. The Mandalorian trusted Luke with Grogu despite the fact that it was one of the most difficult things he ever did. Luke could sense it all - the pain of loss, the knowledge it was the right thing to do though that did little to ease his suffering, and the overwhelming love for Grogu that made wanting to do the best thing for him the man’s only priority. The man wasn’t a cruel or mindlessly violent person, that much Luke knew. But he was still a little surprised and relieved to sense the complete lack of violent intention.
The Mandalorian played with Grogu, wiggling his gloved thumb to shake the child’s hand. “It wasn’t hard.”
Luke waited for further explanation.
The Mandalorian turned bodily to face him and Luke felt a little hot in the face watching the armored man hold his son and pay Luke attention. It was sort of an assault on the senses.
“I found out who you are…after.”
“Oh.” Luke’s face was definitely too hot now.
“My friend told me some rumors. I looked into them. It was easier locating you after that.”
Afraid of the answer, Luke still asked, “What kind of rumors?”
The Mandalorian’s head tipped down and Luke felt his amusement. It felt like the ringing of bells. “I guess legends would be the better term.”
“Ah.” Luke scrubbed the back of his head. “Well, you, uh, know how people can be.”
The Mandalorian watched him, head tilted. Curiosity encroached on the man’s edges the way metal slowly grew orange under applied heat.
“Yes,” the Mandalorian said simply, his curiosity growing. However, curiosity was hardly the dominant emotion within the man. Mostly he was relieved to hold his son again. His joy matched Grogu’s in the Force despite his more understated expression of it.
“How long can you stay for?” Luke asked, hoping for a nice, long answer.
“…I can stay?”
“Of course!” Shaking his head, Luke felt the compulsion to babble and tried to hold it back. “As long as you like. My academy is still young, early days yet, but we have plenty of room. Comfortable beds, plenty to eat and drink, and I’m sure Grogu would love to have you as long as you’re able. He misses you so much. And he doesn’t like sleeping alone. I’ve put him with a few of the other younger children since he gets lonely at night and they keep him company. I think a visit from you would be good for him.”
Forcing himself to shut up, Luke smiled in what he hoped was a welcoming manner.
The Mandalorian stared at him some more. Though Luke supposed he could be making any kind of face under the helmet, but it felt like he was staring.
“A week,” he answered softly.
“A week?” That was less than he hoped for, but more than he expected. Luke grinned brightly. “Wonderful. I can give you the tour and tell you all about Grogu’s progress.”
Luke urged him to follow as he pointed them towards the academy.
Luke smiled at the Mandalorian and his parental tone. “He is. Very quickly. Grogu is an adept student. Certainly my most advanced pupil, especially remarkable considering his age.”
“He’s older than both of us,” the Mandalorian mentioned dryly.
“His relative age,” Luke allowed with a wave of his hand.
“Talented though he is,” Luke continued, a faux stern look on his face, “Grogu is a bit of a troublemaker.”
“Is he?” Humor mixed with concern at Luke’s words, the man openly invested in the well being and behavior of his son.
Luke smile again in earnest. “Very much so. You’re looking at the result of yet another kitchen raid.” He circled the air in front of Grogu’s face with a gloved finger, indicating to the purple fruit juice around his mouth.
Grogu grumbled lowly, ears drooping.
“What did I say about stealing?” The Mandalorian asked the child, tone exasperated.
Luke stifled a chuckle. “There’s also the matter of his extracurricular diet.”
“What’s he eaten now?”
Luke didn’t bother repressing his laughter this time. “It would be easier to list the things he hasn’t eaten.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t from a lack of trying,” the Mandalorian muttered. “Grogu.”
Grogu made an interested noise, staring up at his father’s helmeted face.
A barely formed laugh sounded from the Mandalorian. “Would you at least try not to eat everything in sight?”
Grogu’s ears flattened and he narrowed his eyes, pouting and grunting once in disapproval.
“Might be a hard ask,” Luke whispered.
“Yeah,” the Mandalorian sighed, brushing the child’s head with light fingertips. Grogu cheered up, cooing back at his father. “You’re probably right.”
Enjoying the rapport between father and son, Luke started to point out landmarks of the academy to the Mandalorian, thoroughly pleased with the man’s curiosity about the planet, the school, and even Luke himself.
Maybe a little too pleased, Luke realized as he caught himself watching the Mandalorian’s back, the other man crouching down to look at something Grogu wanted to show him.
Luke swallowed, eyes caught on the fit of the Mandalorian’s flight suit and the shine of beskar. He remembered what Grogu’s father looked like under the helmet and he had to swallow again.
Well, dank farrik.
The Mandalorian stayed the week.
He kept out of the way, disappearing during daily lessons and reappearing when Grogu was released for any sort of free time.
He was very good at catching Grogu stealing food, but he was less skilled at keeping him from swallowing bugs, lizards, and other forest life. He hardly seemed to try, seemingly resigned to his son’s unique taste in between meal snacks.
Throughout the Mandalorian’s stay on planet Luke often tried for conversation, getting responses that weren’t quite terse, but certainly lacked the kind of warmth and open invitation for more Luke angled after.
At the end of the week, the Mandalorian said his farewells.
Grogu held his ears and eyelids low in sadness.
“Don’t worry,” the Mandalorian muttered, modulated voice strangled. He tapped his son under the chin. “I’ll be back soon. I promise.”
The Mandalorian set Grogu down, the child hugging his ankle in one last show of affection.
“You’re welcome back anytime and for as long as you like,” Luke assured the Mandalorian eagerly and sincerely. “We could even build you your own place. We have the space.”
The Mandalorian considered the offer for a prolonged moment. “Thank you, Master Skywalker. I’ll consider it,”
Smiling wide, Luke insisted, “Please, call me Luke.”
The Mandalorian nodded and left, disappearing into the forest towards whatever ship happened to get him there.
Grogu tugged at Luke’s trouser leg and sent out a request.
Picking up the child, Luke held him and let him look out into the forest long after his father left.
“He didn’t give me his name in return,” Luke complained. “Your father is a very mysterious man.”
“Hrum,” Grogu grumbled, holding onto Luke’s flesh hand.
“Do you know his name?”
Grogu’s affirmation immediately followed by a request to get to dinner early made Luke chuckle fondly, even if he would’ve preferred it if the child was a bit less tightlipped about the privileged information that was his father’s name.
- - -
The Mandalorian returned less than two months after his first visit.
Luke watched an unfamiliar ship land some distance away. He searched the Force for answers and recognized the presence. The Mandalorian was not Force sensitive, but the Force moved around him in curious ways. Intrigued, almost, if Luke had to give the Force a describable feeling in its relationship to the armored man.
Luke felt similarly and wondered if perhaps he was projecting said feeling onto the Force.
“Grogu,” Luke called out to his playing students. It was break time, a perfect time to arrive.
The call was unnecessary, Grogu sensing his father before Luke thought to try. Their bond was a strong one, unyielding and pure, unadulterated by possession - they didn’t belong to each other, but belonged together. Grogu held a great deal of fear within himself, understandable considering his past experiences, but his love for his father didn’t make the fear worse, only better. It was a relief to sense.
The other padawans watched their playmate toddle away, interested in the way of children.
“Master Skywalker,” the Mandalorian greeted, stepping from the shadows of the forest.
The children went quiet, staring in awe at the gleaming figure.
“Luke,” he reminded him firmly.
Grogu finally reached his father, arms held up in silent request.
“Hey, kid.” The Mandalorian lifted him. “You’re getting bigger. Having fun with your friends?”
The child made noises of assent.
The children dropped all pretense at playing their game, gathering in a small crowd to stare at Grogu’s father.
“Grogu’s a Mandalorian?” One of them asked, brow twisting.
“He’s a foundling,” the Mandalorian corrected gently. He stepped closer, telegraphing his movements and watching Luke as if to check if it was alright to cross some of the distance between Grogu and himself, Luke, and the other students.
Luke smiled encouragingly.
“Is it true that nothing can cut through your armor?” Another student asked, voice hushed in awe.
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“I bet Master Luke’s lightsaber could,” one of them disagreed thoughtfully.
“It can’t,” the Mandalorian assured them simply and matter of factly.
“Oooo,” they said as one.
“Can we see?”
“Master Luke can you prove it?”
“Please, Master Luke?”
“Please, Grogu’s father?”
The Mandalorian looked to Luke, a slightly lost quality in the slump of his shoulders and angle of his helmet.
“Maybe we should spar?” Luke suggested, anticipation building in his gut. Leia hadn’t sparred with him in some time, too busy with New Republic business to do much Jedi training. Few others could fight on a similar level with Luke and those that could seemed committed to far more nefarious purposes than the Mandalorian. Luke wanted a fun fight to test his abilities, not a life threatening experience.
The Mandalorian visibly startled. “I already know how that will end.”
“That confident, are you?” Luke teased.
“That you’ll kill me, yes.”
Luke made a face at that even as his padawans guffawed and cheered, bragging about their master’s abilities being so powerful even a Mandalorian wouldn’t challenge him.
Grogu narrowed his eyes, casting a considering look between his father and his teacher.
“I wouldn’t do that!” Luke protested.
“But you could. And I’m not partial to fighting when I know I can’t win.”
Grogu made a noise of disagreement, sending a selection of memories through the Force. Luke was both impressed at the bravery and stunned at the man’s ability to claw his way out of some truly sticky situations through an astounding combination of ability, determination, help, and luck.
“Grogu doesn’t seem to think that’s true,” Luke laughed breathily, still reeling from the memories. “And I’m inclined to believe him.”
“I said I wasn’t partial,” the Mandalorian told him flatly, although that could’ve been the helmet’s fault. “Not that I never did.”
“Just allow me to ask this - why do you think I’d win?”
The Mandalorian stared some more, making Luke feel as if his intelligence was being questioned. “You destroyed an entire ship full of dark troopers without breaking a sweat. I could barely fight one.”
Flushing from his neck all the way up to his ears, Luke tried, “That’s different. Those were droids programmed in destruction and little else. It was essentially raw power versus raw power and years of training. You’re an experienced fighter, you have a sharp tactical mind. You can improvise, learn. It’s an entirely different sort of fight.”
The Mandalorian’s incredulity was palpable.
“It would be a good lesson to the little ones,” Luke attempted once more. “Violence is a last resort in the ways of the Jedi, but understanding how to fight to protect innocents is important. And to fight well one must be adaptable and willing to read their opponent. They’ve never seen me spar with an experienced fighter.”
“Leia won’t fight in front of us,” one of the older student’s complained.
“My sister doesn’t want me to look bad in front of the kids.” Luke winked at the Mandalorian, “But I’m hoping you won’t mind the risk.”
The Mandalorian stood there quietly while Grogu pat his chest plate happily, as excited at the thought of a match between his father and teacher as his peers were. Only the Mandalorian looked unenthused by the prospect. Unfortunately, the Mandalorian’s opinion was the one Luke counted as most important here.
Still sounding unconvinced, the Mandalorian asked, “Do you have a safe place for it?”
“Yes! We can use the training grounds. It’s a wide open space, there are a series of stone steps where the children can sit and watch safely away from the fighting. You can even use your blasters there.”
The Mandalorian tilted his helmeted head before looking down at Grogu. Considering his child, he eventually said, “Alright. If you think it’ll help them learn.”
The students filled the seats, all chattering with energy and enthusiasm. The Mandalorian set Grogu among his peers, adjusting his new robes with gentle, meticulous care. Child settled, the Mandalorian slowly strode over to where Luke stood in the middle of the flat expanse of the training field.
“Don’t try to actually hurt or harm each other?” Luke suggested, breathing in and out in preparation.
“That’s it?” The Mandalorian cocked his hip and regarded Luke.
“I trust you,” Luke explained plainly. The weight of the Mandalorian’s continued attention had Luke bouncing on his feet. “Ready?”
“As I ever am,” the Mandalorian muttered more to himself.
Luke threw his robe off and drew his lightsaber at the same time, running at the Mandalorian in an immediate offensive attack - Luke wanted to strike while the Mandalorian was still willing. The man probably wouldn’t back out if he was already mid fight.
The Mandalorian swung his beskar spear from his back, blocking Luke’s strike before it could come even close to making contact.
The children screamed in delight at the crossed blade and beskar.
From there the fight required all of Luke’s concentration and awareness. He had the Force, but the Mandalorian had a life of training and experience.
Strikes were met with counter strikes, the Mandalorian keeping surprisingly close. Luke took the Mandalorian for more of a gunslinger and gunslingers tended to keep their distance. Han liked to keep at least a table’s worth of space between him and any potential enemy. It turned out the Mandalorian was more flexible than Luke first realized. Though perhaps he should’ve known from the start, the sheer amount of weapons the Mandalorian kept on his person pretty telling. And those were only the ones Luke could see.
His spear blocked Luke’s lightsaber, twisting to deflect attack after attack. Luke was a more fluid fighter in contrast to the Mandalorian’s skilled, but blunt style. The Mandalorian favored moves that were practical and efficient while Luke relied on footwork and swift lightsaber motions that flowed into each other.
The Mandalorian grunted as he blocked another of Luke’s strikes not with his spear, but his own arm, the beskar glowing under the press of Luke’s lightsaber.
“You’re insane,” Luke declared in awed fascination as he leaned his weight behind his lightsaber.
“I have armor, I’d be a fool not to use it,” the Mandalorian grit out. He slammed his helmet into Luke’s head, taking him by surprise more than hurting him. Though it did kind of hurt.
Luke increased his efforts and put more space between them. He threw his hand out to push the Mandalorian back with the Force once there was enough distance to make the move more effective.
The Mandalorian struggled against the unseen attack, looked up at Luke sharply, and drew his blaster with his free hand in a sudden movement.
Luke easily deflected the blasts safely into the ground (and one of the surrounding trees) and ran at the Mandalorian, kicking the blaster from his hand.
The Mandalorian’s spear caught Luke’s lightsaber nearer to the hilt and the other man almost managed to land a blow against Luke’s side.
Luke back flipped away, the Force aiding him as he leapt to higher ground, landing on the stone steps that lay opposite the padawans’ seating section. Fingers splayed and palm held out, Luke levitated one of the broken hunks of stone that comprised a damaged step and hurled it the Mandalorian’s way.
The Mandalorian shot himself into the air, jetpack hissing.
Making a fist, Luke broke the stone into several different chunks of rock and sent them once more at the Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian spun through the air, acrobatic and graceful until he swung his spear at the rocks. Then it was all blunt power. Several pieces shattered and two he managed to send soaring back at Luke.
Luke gave up on the rocks and instead used the Force to pull at the Mandalorian, drawing him back towards Luke’s level.
The Mandalorian looked around, movements frantic, and the next thing Luke knew a whipcord was wrapped around his legs, the Mandalorian pullling on the other end.
Luke kept his balance, if only barely, and made to slice the cable with his lightsaber only to be released before he could.
Taking advantage of Luke’s distraction, no matter how brief, the Mandalorian flew in close, delivering several brutally hard hits - with his spear as well as his hands, forearms, and elbows.
Luke blocked them, feeling the effort of holding the other man back in his arms, shoulders, and legs. Admittedly, Luke wasn’t much of a hand to hand fighter, his skills in that arena paling in comparison to his lightsaber, Force, and piloting skills. Wanting to turn his defense back to offense, Luke saw an opening and took it, knocking the spear free from the Mandalorian’s hand with a clever twist of his lightsaber.
The Mandalorian watched his weapon skitter to the edge and down the steps, the metal ringing with each hit to the stone.
Luke slashed at the Mandalorian’s helmeted head, knowing full well when to stop to avoid any actual injury.
The Mandalorian retreated hastily and threw his cape back in a quick motion, hand grabbing for something at his belt.
Luke gawked as a high pitched noise rent through the air around them, Luke’s lightsaber crackling as it met the blinding white and impossible black of a lightsaber unlike any Luke had seen or even heard about. The Mandalorian blocked Luke’s strike and pushed him away.
“You have a lightsaber,” Luke said, mouth falling open even as he minded his footing on the aged steps on which they fought.
“Looks that way,” the Mandalorian grunted.
Their blades met again, kyber energy sizzling and humming around them.
The fight continued on like that. Blade hitting blade, light flashing around them and reflecting brightly off the Mandalorian’s unpainted beskar.
Eventually the Mandalorian jettisoned himself into the air, jetpack blaring until it went completely silent. The other man dropped down from high without the aid of his jetpack, falling back to the ground far too fast with his lightsaber held poised above Luke.
Using the Force, Luke snatched the man from his descent and threw him into a tumble on the dirt of the training field. As the man caught himself, crashing expertly in the way of a man long accustomed to taking hits and rolling with them, Luke ran forward in bounding leaps. He slashed downward, stopping the motion close enough to the unarmored neck of the Mandalorian to get his point across.
“I…yield,” the Mandalorian panted, lightsaber powering down at the same time as Luke’s.
The Mandalorian clambered up, no sign of the warrior Luke just fought in the tired man making his slow, laborious, grumble filled way back to standing. But it was the same man. And Luke was amazed.
Breathing more heavily as well, Luke grinned from ear to ear. “That was a good fight.”
“You were holding back,” the Mandalorian told him - straight forward truth, no sign of accusation.
Luke’s brow furrowed. “What?”
“You could’ve done that earlier. Or worse.”
“Maybe I didn’t think to?” Luke suggested.
“There’s no shame in either of us admitting it,” the Mandalorian said easily, dusting himself off. “It’s the way of strong fighters who mentor those in training. If you use all your skills, your students will never learn - they’ll be defeated before they can understand the ebbs and flows of combat or they’ll be discouraged by overwhelming loss. You need to hold back to teach them.”
The Mandalorian’s visor faced him and Luke felt that the man was smiling. “…and to not injure me or my pride too badly.”
Luke huffed out a surprised breath and glanced at his incoherently screaming students as they jumped up and down in their seats, clapping and whooping like they were at the most important pod race of the year. Grogu’s arms waved through the air, his eyes big and shiny, his smile undeniable. “How did you figure it out?”
“It was the same in the Mandalorian fighting corps,” the Mandalorian said, words spoken deliberately and with an emphasis on certain syllables.
Luke goggled at the piece of himself the Mandalorian offered.
“Our teachers couldn’t fight us with their full abilities, we’d be easily defeated. They were experienced adults, we were in training. But it’s not about win or lose, it’s about the process and urging progress through instructive failures and successes. Holding back to help your students move forward with incremental increases in difficulty so the student grows and has a new skill to hone once one has been mastered. You’re a good teacher.”
“Thank you,” Luke said, a lump in his throat.
“And yeah, it was a good fight,” the Mandalorian mentioned offhandedly, strutting towards his son.
The Mandalorian drew Luke’s gaze like a tractor beam.
The Mandalorian only stayed two days this time.
Before he left, he shook Luke’s hand and said, “You know, technically you’ve earned possession of the Darksaber and can lay claim to the throne of Mandalore now.”
“Yeah,” the Mandalorian laughed, a soft huff of air that barely reached Luke’s ears through the voice modulator. “That’s how I felt.”
He set his child down, bumping their foreheads together before he straightened back up. “I’ll see you soon. Be good for Master Luke.”
Luke’s mouth remained open, jaw slack as he watched the man depart.
Grogu waved at the ship as it shot into the atmosphere.
“Your father has a strange sense of humor,” Luke mumbled to the child as they made their way back to the academy.
Grogu made a noise that Luke interpreted as, “Badoot.”
The agreement there was clear.
- - -
The Mandalorian’s next visit came only a month later, the man landing and exiting with a hand raise for Luke and the other children right before he scooped his child to his chest. He repositioned Grogu so the child could face everyone.
“Luke,” the man greeted.
“Mandalorian,” Luke grinned in welcome, wishing he knew the Mandalorian’s name and could feel the shape of it with his own tongue. Luke’s face felt hot at the thought and he very purposefully pushed past it. “How’re you?”
“I’ve been worse,” was the calm response.
Luke frowned, looking the man up and down. His armor was as present as ever, though Luke did notice a few new tears and singes on the fabric of his cape and flight suit. “Anything I can help with?”
“No, I’m fine.”
Luke didn’t sense any pain beyond a light soreness from the man, but still. “If you’re sure.”
They stood in silence, the sounds of the padawans running around and calling out to each other and Grogu’s own happy coos filling the space between them.
“I…have some stuff. For the kid.” The Mandalorian shifted where he stood. “He is allowed to have stuff, right?”
Smiling in the face of the man’s sudden worry, Luke nodded. “Yes, he can have stuff. I do try to teach a certain detachment from the material. But only enough to show them that material things aren’t everything, that we can have possessions, yet shouldn’t be overcome by the need to possess. We still have our own trinkets and valuables. Mostly sentimental. And I don’t discourage that.”
“Like your boots?”
Luke was full of astonishment at the teasing tone in the Mandalorian’s voice. He currently wore his looser everyday outfit made of soft fabric in brown, tan, and off whites - a practical outfit for a practical day of meditation, teaching, drills, and other academy activities. His boots and the matching black ensemble were safely cleaned, pressed, and stored in his modest room along with several similarly important outfits. He didn’t know quite what to make of the Mandalorian teasing him over the outfit he wore to Moff Gideon’s light cruiser.
“They seemed more valuable than sentimental,” the Mandalorian continued, good humor still radiating off him like sun off his beskar. Grogu laughed, picking up on the spirit of the joke, if not the actual meaning of it.
“You-you,” Luke sputtered, his delighted outrage transforming into helpless laughter. “I’ll have you know those boots are both incredibly valuable and full of sentimental meaning. And I don’t want to hear it from a man wearing armor worth an entire starship in credits.”
The Mandalorian moved in a manner that seemed relaxed and unmoved by Luke’s comeback. “Fair enough. And they’re nice boots.”
“Thank you,” Luke sniffed. He glanced at the bag swinging against the Mandalorian’s hip and upper thigh. “What did you bring him?”
Grogu made an intrigued noise, grabby hands flexing as he watched his father rifle through the satchel.
“A few things that made me think of him,” the Mandalorian murmured, handing Grogu a cookie.
The child squealed happily, taking a big bite even as he reached for the sleeve of remaining treats. “You can have more later,” the Mandalorian told him firmly, placing the cookies back where they came from. “After dinner. I don’t want you getting sick.”
“A wise decision,” Luke nodded, amused by the Mandalorian’s stern finger wag when Grogu tried to levitate the cookies out of the bag.
“I won’t make that mistake again,” the Mandalorian informed him darkly. He looked down at the munching child. “Maybe…don’t take him flying for a bit.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Luke assured him.
“I also got him some clothes, a blanket, and a bantha.” The Mandalorian shuffled again, hesitant and a little awkward in his display of affection for the child. Luke couldn’t help but find it painfully endearing. “It’s a toy…Not a real one.”
“I’m sure he’ll love them. We can take it all to his room.” Luke waved towards the newly built domicile. “He’s started sleeping on his own at night.”
“Yeah?” The Mandalorian looked proudly down on his son’s head. “Good job, Grogu. I knew you could do it.”
Luke opened the door, watching nervously as the Mandalorian paced about the small room. “It’s too big for him,” the Mandalorian pointed out, curious instead of judgmental as he took in the large bed and its simple, but neatly made sheets.
“That’s, uh, for you,” Luke smiled sheepishly. “For when you stay.”
The Mandalorian went still before breathing out a strained, “Thank you.”
“Of course. I mean it when I say you’re welcome anytime.” Luke scuffed the toe of his worn in brown boot on the neatly swept floor. He kind of wished he was wearing The Boots. He always felt more confident in them. “Grogu sleeps there.”
The Mandalorian turned bodily between the dresser and Luke. “…My child sleeps in a drawer?”
“It opens up into a bed more his size,” Luke hastily explained.
Luckily for Luke, Grogu opened the drawer with the Force, revealing the neatly made and well cushioned interior drawer that Grogu chose for his bed. Grogu climbed out of his father’s arms and into the bed with practiced ease, patting his mattress proudly as he showed it off to his father.
Luke actually had a small bed made, one that reminded him of Dagobah and Master Yoda, but Grogu hadn’t liked it, immediately clambering into the dresser drawer when it was still exclusively used for clothing and miscellaneous items.
“That looks great,” the Mandalorian complimented, earning a happy twitch of his son’s ears. “Think you might like to add these?”
He reached into his bag and pulled out a small, impossibly soft looking blanket and a miniature bantha stuffed toy. Grogu took them both eagerly, burbling out happy noises as he organized his space to his liking. The bantha was set carefully next to the pillow, the blanket tossed into a comfortable, nest like pile.
“Where does he keep his clothes?” The Mandalorian asked, holding out a small folded cloak that looked waterproof and would serve Grogu well in the wetter season.
“The drawers below the bed,” Luke pointed.
Fully understanding the conversation, Grogu used the Force to open the clothes drawer beneath him, levitating the cloak out of his father’s hand and floating it into a neat stack on top of his extra tunics and robes. The Mandalorian watched in bemused, slightly astounded silence. Grogu slumped back into his bed, reaching for his father who obliged and lifted him out immediately.
“He’s a quick learner,” Luke told him with what Leia described as his teacher voice. “And he’s really overcome his fear of using his abilities.”
“Great job,” the Mandalorian told Grogu proudly, holding him a little tighter.
Grogu settled into his father’s hold, ears up and smile toothy.
The Mandalorian stayed four nights this time, leaving early on the fifth day.
Grogu was as disappointed as ever, but seemed bolstered by his father’s continued visits and promises to return.
Luke didn’t admit to it aloud, but he knew Grogu sensed his own disappointment as well. The Mandalorian’s visits were quickly becoming one of Luke’s favorite things and he counted the days between them. Almost obsessively, which concerned him, but he meditated and searched his own heart. He didn’t want to possess the Mandalorian. He just liked him and wanted to belong.
These thoughts filled Luke’s mind, making him melancholy as he watched the Mandalorian mutter his goodbyes into Grogu’s head. The Mandalorian lifted his helmet enough to press a quick kiss to the child’s forehead and Luke practically melted on the spot. The Mandalorian set him down and Grogu took the time for one more hug to his father’s leg in what was becoming their traditional farewell ritual. The child then toddled over to Luke, resigned to the goodbye.
Rather than simply walk away, the Mandalorian lingered, looking between Luke and Grogu. “I actually have something for you too.”
Luke wasn’t sure he heard him right. “Me?”
“Yeah.” The Mandalorian reached into his bag and pulled out a holocron. Tarnished though it was, it sang and called out to Luke. “This is Jedi, right?”
Luke could only choke out, “That’s definitely Jedi. How did you find it?”
The Mandalorian held the holocron out and Luke accepted it, their gloved fingers brushing. The Mandalorian pulled away too quickly.
The holocron hummed in Luke’s hand, waves of peace rippling through the Force. The luminous crystalline facets of it pulsed soft blue and purple.
“I was looking into some…Mandalorian matters. I tracked down a high ranking member of a syndicate. A beskar trader. They were also very proud of their personal collection.”
“Jedi artifacts,” Luke muttered unhappily.
“Any artifact from any culture decimated by the Empire,” the Mandalorian told him, as angry as Luke. More so, maybe, considering the murderous ripple that surrounded him in the Force.
The Mandalorian went unnaturally stiff. “You probably shouldn’t ask me questions you don’t want the answers to.”
Luke smiled sadly, knowing the answer from that response. “I do want the answers because I want to know.”
The Mandalorian moved haltingly, head tilted. When he spoke, his voice was rough. “Why?”
The answer to that was entirely too complicated with far too many consequences, so Luke settled with saying, “Maybe I wish you’d trust me.”
“I trust you with my child,” the Mandalorian countered, making an abundantly clear and incredibly valid point.
“You do,” Luke agreed, wonder threaded through his voice. “But I wish you’d trust me with you.”
“That doesn’t matter as much.”
Luke didn’t like that and he most certainly didn’t agree with it. “It does to me.”
They looked at each other, neither willing to concede.
The Mandalorian left and Luke wondered if the other man would think about Luke’s words as surely as Luke would mull over and muse about his.
The Force pulled taut between them, quivering in anticipation.
- - -
“You got my transmission!” Luke declared happily, rushing to the Mandalorian’s side as soon as the other man stepped off his ship’s ramp. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
“What do you need?” The Mandalorian offered at once.
“Can you watch the kids?”
“What?” The Mandalorian turned between Luke in his orange flight suit and the children practicing their forms. Grogu started to break away and greet his father, but one look from Luke had him continuing the exercise with minimal grumbling. Luke understood the compulsion, but discipline was important. And if they were lucky, the kid would get to see his dad for at least two weeks anyway. He could wait a few minutes.
“That holocron you brought me, it’s got some important information and I need to seek out an ancient Jedi temple. Can you watch the school while I go?”
“Don’t you have someone more qualified for this?” The Mandalorian asked, voice strained with worry. “Your sister?”
“She’s very qualified and I probably could’ve asked her,” Luke grimaced, realizing that the Mandalorian was the first person he wanted to ask and not his own twin sister. Which was…well, it was telling about the state of Luke’s emotions. “But I thought of you first.”
“Maybe I should go to this temple instead,” the Mandalorian suggested. “Especially if it’s dangerous.”
“You’re kind for offering, but, uh, you’re not a Jedi.”
“That’s true. I’m not.”
“So can you?” Luke pled, eyes wide and imploring. “The students love you, you can help them with meditation and discipline. Grogu will get to see you and learn from you! I won’t be gone longer than a month.”
“A month?” The Mandalorian stood straight in shock.
“Please?” Luke begged.
The Mandalorian’s head dropped and his shoulders slumped as he let out a large sigh. “Yeah, sure.”
“Thank you so much!” Without thinking, Luke grabbed him by the armored shoulders and pulled him into a tight hug. “A month tops!”
Luke ran off, ordering his students to behave for the Mandalorian as he did so. They all finished their forms (a little hastily for Luke’s preference as a teacher) and waved goodbye as he hopped into his X-wing. R2 beeped impatiently, ordering him to hurry up, the droid ready to go since before the Mandalorian’s ship landed.
Shoving his helmet on, Luke shouted, “I’ll owe you one!”
As he rose into the atmosphere, Grogu waved at him along with the other children.
The Mandalorian did as well, though one hand was on his hip, a bemused set to his body language.
Luke smiled as he thought about it before entering hyperspace, the stars the only witnesses to his besotted grin.
The Mandalorian was waiting for him where he normally landed his X-wing, the man’s arms crossed and hip cocked. “Did you complete your quest?”
“I did.” Beaming, covered in mud and scratches, Luke jumped out of the cockpit and waved the book in his hands. “I found a sacred text.”
“A Jedi sacred text?” The man sounded interested, if confused.
“Yeah, a Jedi sacred text,” Luke laughed, coming to stand maybe a step too close to the other man. He couldn’t help it, giddy over his discovery and seeing the Mandalorian again.
“Thanks.” Luke looked out towards the academy. “Why are my kids hitting each other with sticks?”
The Mandalorian followed his gaze. “They aren’t.”
Sure enough every child pulled their strikes, stopping short before making contact.
“Oh, you’re teaching them control,” Luke realized, turning a pleased look onto the other man.
He shifted, booted feet pressing imprints into the damp soil and grass beneath them. “I’ve had them building up strength and working on their follow through as well. Post meditation morning lessons for power, afternoon lessons about control.”
“Very organized and well rounded,” Luke complimented, heart warming as he regarded the Mandalorian openly. “You’re good with them. I knew you’d be the best to look after them.”
“Maybe you should’ve told your sister that before she showed up unannounced.”
Eyes widening, arms falling to his sides, Luke gasped, “Oh, no.”
“She shot me. Several times.”
Luke looked at the Mandalorian from under his hair, wincing. “I’m so sorry.”
“She’s a good shot. She stopped when she saw me dive to cover Grogu and demanded to know who I was.”
He didn’t sound offended or angry, so Luke tried for a smile. “Sorry, Leia can be intense. Usually it’s a great quality, but, uh, she’s been under some stress with threats to the New Republic and the rigors of governance. It’s all been pretty tough on her even if she handles it well. What did you think of her?”
“Yeah?” Insides alight with joy at one of his favorite people liking another of his favorite people, Luke set his helmet on his hip and beamed. “I’m glad you liked her.”
“Hm,” the Mandalorian responded, noise of agreement vaguely approving.
They enjoyed a quiet moment between the two of them, Luke still grinning at the other man.
The Mandalorian breached the quiet first. “I have to go.”
Luke’s expression fell. “Already?”
“I’ve been here a month,” the Mandalorian laughed, a puff of amusement.
“Yeah, I know, I know. But I just got back and…” Luke trailed off, doing his best not to let his disappointment make him bitter. He succeeded, even if his elation at his new discovery was shot through with sadness at the Mandalorian’s sudden departure.
The Mandalorian looked at him, helmeted head pivoting in minute movements like the other man was looking around. “I wouldn’t leave so soon after your arrival, but a friend of mine needs help. I received a transmission just before you landed.”
Nodding in understanding, Luke smiled, a half formed thing. “Of course. I hope whatever it is works out.”
They stood there, Luke smiling sadly, the Mandalorian stiff limbed.
“I’ll go say goodbye to Grogu,” he eventually muttered. He faced Luke. “I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
Luke grinned, mouth pulling up crookedly. “You will?”
He nodded and turned only to pause and turn again. “Luke.”
“Yeah?” Luke breathed as the Force pulsed between them, full of a positive tension that told him to expect something big.
“My name…it’s Din. Din Djarin.”
Luke could hardly contain his joy at this second big discovery.
- - -
Din stepped from his ramp and threw something at Luke.
Luke caught it easily, staring down at the small object.
“What’s this?” Luke questioned.
“Bounty puck,” Din told him at once. Grogu ran over and Din scooped him up with a murmured greeting before continuing, “Isn’t that your sister’s husband, the smuggler?”
“Oh, kriff,” Luke swore as he found the button that activated the bounty puck. A holo of Han projected above it. “Who wants him?”
“Who doesn’t?” Din countered, coming up to Luke. He reached into one of his pouches and removed a datacard. “Here’s what I’ve got on the people who put out the bounty. Figured you and your sister might need it.”
“Yes, thank you. Can you watch the kids?” Luke asked, already rushing off to change, pack, contact Leia and Han if he could, and ready his X-wing.
The padawans all waved and shouted to Din happily, excited to see their frequent visitor and sometimes teacher.
“I’ll owe you.” Luke promised outside of his X-wing.
“What? No, I owe you two now.”
Din shrugged. “That’s not how I see it.”
“I don’t get it,” Luke admitted, smashing his helmet onto his head.
“That a first for you Jedi sorts?”
Luke smirked. “Shut up, Din.”
Din just saluted him lazily, dry humor clear in the motion.
- - -
“Oh, Force, you’re hurt.” Chewing on the inside of his cheek, Luke helped Din off his ship.
The ship itself looked beat up, blaster fire blackening most of one side and one of the thrusters severely damaged.
“You’re not fine,” Luke grit out.
Grogu appeared, crying lowly as he sensed his father’s pain and saw the blood staining a few areas uncovered by armor.
“Who did this to you?” Luke asked, lowering Din down onto the lone medical bed.
“A challenger for what?”
“For the Darksaber.”
Mouth dropping open as he started to dig up bacta patches and clean cloths, Luke sputtered, “I-I thought you were kidding about that.”
Din turned in a wide motion to face Luke, visor full of judgmental disbelief. “Do you think I would be here if I lost?”
“Well, I wouldn’t think any less of you and I know Grogu would…” Realizing what he meant, Luke gasped out, “Oh.”
“Yeah. But I’m alive,” Din sighed. Grogu reached out, the urge to heal his father filling him with purpose, but Din pushed him back gently. “Don’t. I’m fine.”
Grogu gave a disgruntled hum, unconvinced. Din made it very obvious to the child that he was grabbing some of Luke’s medical supplies.
“Will they stop now?”
“I don’t know,” Din shrugged, making a pained noise as he wiped at a deep slash in his leg. “Maybe. This one was worse than the others. He actually wanted to fight to the death. Usually they just want to defeat me. Or don’t have the skills to back up their challenge to the death.”
Luke rasped out, “‘Others?’”
“Yeah.” Din poked at his son, keeping his reaching healing hands back. “I said no, Grogu. I don’t want you getting tired.”
Grogu’s ears flattened and his eyes narrowed unhappily. “Pah doo.”
“No,” Din repeated sternly.
Luke was pretty hung up on the fact that Din had been having fights to the death when he wasn’t visiting them. “How many others?”
“A few. They’ve been coming less frequently.”
Luke sat back and stared, hands fidgeting with a scrap of cloth.
Din leaned back as well, pulling Grogu into his lap to keep him close and undoubtedly halt his continued attempts to heal. Din let out a long exhale.
“I think these challenges are just making them support me more,” Din grumbled lowly.
“As the Mandalore. The Armorer suspects one more challenge like this will cement the various clans’ support to my claim.”
“She’s the leader of my sect. She provides guidance and counsel and forges our armor and weapons.”
“But she’s not the Mandalore?”
Covering his face with his hands, Luke pressed into his eyes with the heels of his palms. “I don’t understand Mandalorians.”
“Now you know how I feel with all this Jedi stuff.”
- - -
Luke used the Force to split logs while Din tackled his own pile with a hatchet. He wielded the tool with grace and power, a combination that gave Luke some trouble as he attempted to keep his gawking as subtle as possible.
“You’re falling behind,” Luke noted peacefully, a teasing slant to his mouth.
“I don’t have magic powers.”
Grogu sat atop a pile of already chopped wood, little feet swinging and eyes wide and interested as he watched Luke and his father work. He nibbled on some kind of cake Din gifted him just that morning. Off to the side some of the other students worked on their own smaller piles of wood, cheerfully doing their best to use the Force for the chore.
“The Force, not ‘magic powers.’”
“Whatever it is, it’s overkill for firewood. You don’t see me using my Amban rifle to split a log.”
Luke laughed at the comparison, clenching his hand into a fist and splintering the largest chunk of wood into several smaller pieces.
Din’s arm paused mid lift, hatchet in hand. He stared a moment, shook his head, and went back to chopping wood the old fashioned way.
- - -
“You’re handling this incredibly well,” Luke complimented warily, eyes on Din as he assessed the other man’s reaction.
“Should I not be?”
“I just told you my father Anakin Skywalker was also Darth Vader, Sith lord and right hand to the Emperor. That is fairly serious and alarming knowledge. Han turned white as a sheet and got very, very drunk when Leia and I told him.”
“I get that. But I also didn’t know who that was or what a Sith was until you told me.”
“So it doesn’t bother you?”
The weight of Din’s gaze pressed down on Luke, a level of attention that had Luke’s senses working on overdrive.
“Nobody cares who your father was, only the father you’ll be.”
Din tipped his head towards Luke’s padawans, the children taking turns in a game. Grogu sat on the leg of one of the older students, clapping his hands together whenever someone scored a point.
“I’d say you make a pretty good one,” Din told him, sure and certain and absolutely final.
- - -
“Are you alright?” Din’s voice was stretched thin in concern, the Mandalorian hurrying to Luke’s side.
Scrubbing his face, Luke tried for reassuring, but his smile was undoubtedly too watery and his eyes too red. “I’m ok.”
Din’s silence was full of obvious doubt.
“I was speaking to my father,” Luke confessed.
“Your father? Who’s dead?” Din choked out.
“I have a way of contacting him and my old masters through the Force,” Luke informed him, smiling more genuinely at Din’s startled and confused reaction. “We were talking about my mother. He doesn’t usually like to, it makes him too sad and he loses the focus he needs to contact me. But he was willing to today. It was their anniversary.”
Still working through the knowledge his father provided him, Luke found himself telling Din everything. “He loved her since he was a kid, but he didn’t see her for years. When they met again, my father older and charged with her protection, they married in secret.”
“Why in secret?”
“He couldn’t be with my mother and remain a Jedi at the same time. He wanted both, but the Jedi forbade attachments like marriage.”
Sadness rippled around them, the Force heavy with it the way clouds sagged with rain ready to fall.
“Leia told me about her, what she had been told. Her father, Bail Organa, knew her well. They worked together and were good friends. But it’s different hearing my father speak about her. I have a lot to think about.”
Din cleared his throat. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Can we?” Luke sniffled. “You don’t mind?”
“No,” Din shook his head, voice barely audible. “No, I don’t mind.”
- - -
Tackling a particularly tenacious patch of weeds in his garden, Luke swiped at his forehead, smearing soil against his sweaty skin and accidentally knocking his hat crooked.
“Great,” he grumbled. Gardening was usually relaxing but these particular weeds felt Sith sent.
Leia’s voice pierced through the quiet. “Luke, your Mandalorian’s here!”
Luke leapt to his feet and dropped everything in his hands - gloves, tools, uprooted weeds, and all - as he debated between changing into his dark brown robes and light tan tunic and trouser combo or his casual black and grey.
“Nice poncho,” came Din’s amused voice, the modulator doing nothing to hide it.
Luke grimaced, realizing too late that Din was closer than expected. “Hi.”
“I’m partial to the hat myself,” Leia chipped in helpfully as she strolled from behind Din, her grin entirely too knowing for Luke’s taste.
“It’s a good look,” Din complimented.
Luke made a face. “You’re not funny,”
From the middle of the garden Grogu popped up and trilled happily at the sight of his father.
He wore his own matching hat and poncho.
Leia raised her eyebrows at Luke, clearly holding back laughter. “Wow.”
“I had extra fabric,” Luke informed her defensively. “And Grogu’s the only one who likes spending time in the garden with me outside of the padawans’ usual duty roster. What was I supposed to do, let him burn under the sun?”
“Can Grogu burn?” Leia asked, genuinely curious.
Din watched his son clamber over plants and piles of mulch to get to them, his voice surprisingly gentle as he said, “I was wrong. It’s a great look.”
“Have you got any more leftover fabric?” Leia leaned on the gate post and watched them with dancing eyes. “You could make Din one too. Don’t want him getting sunburn either, right, Luke?”
“Is my full armor and helmet not enough?” Din asked flatly, picking up his son.
“I think it’d be cute,” she grinned unrepentantly.
“You’re just trying to make up for the fact Han wouldn’t wear that white cape you and Lando picked out for him to the diplomatic dinner,” Luke muttered.
Scowling, Leia declared, “The sapphire embroidery matched my gown and it would’ve looked amazing.”
Din watched the two siblings debate the merit of bejeweled embroidery, matching formalwear, and Han’s ability to pull off any of it as he adjusted the hat on Grogu’s head and straightened the poncho.
- - -
One hand balancing a bundle of training staffs with the Force, Luke hit the button to receive the transmission.
Din’s helmet and armored shoulders filled the holo. “I’ve got your assassin.”
Luke blinked. “We sent you the details yesterday.”
“Where is he?”
The training staffs wobbled as he thought that over. “Well, Han will probably have some feelings about that.”
- - -
“Extend your senses. Feel the wind, the air, the ground beneath you. Reach out.”
“Drop your hand. Not literally ‘reach out,’ reach out like with the Force.”
“It’s alright. I already figured you were about as Force sensitive as that frog over there.”
Grogu grabbed said frog, popping it into his mouth and swallowing it in one big gulp.
Din watched his son burp a satisfied burp before turning back to Luke and asking, “Do you think Mandalorians became ancestral enemies of the Jedi because they stopped to talk to the Jedi and that’s the kind of thing they said to them?”
- - -
Din arrived on Life Day while Luke and his students were decorating the academy buildings and surrounding trees.
“Din!” Luke’s fingers orchestrated the hanging of tinsel high enough on the roof not to get in anyone’s way. “You made it!”
“I did,” Din told him at once, modulated voice calm. “Happy Life Day.”
Grogu brought a round, shiny bobble over to his father rather than hanging it on the tree he was trimming with some of the other padawans. He held it up high, making excited noises.
“Very shiny,” Din complimented, picking his son up. “Where do you want to put it?”
Grogu pointed towards the tree he so recently abandoned and Din carried him there, holding him aloft so Grogu could physically place it on the tree. Ornament set, Din reached into a pouch and produced a small plush wampa with a bow around its neck. The bow was simple and a little sloppy, but tied with care. Grogu accepted it with a smile and babble of appreciation, immediately stuffing half of its head into his mouth.
Served the wampa right, Luke was sure.
“I’ve got other gifts. For the kids,” Din explained unprompted, coming to stand at Luke’s side as he levitated a banner the children painted.
“That’s very kind of you,” Luke told him, eyes on the banner even as his stomach fluttered pleasantly.
“It’s not much. Just some sweets from this market in the Outer Rim.” Din considered the banner seriously. He took the spear off his back and used it to nudge the banner into better alignment. “The foundlings…they like them. So I thought your students might too.”
“I’m sure they’ll love them.” Smiling slightly, Luke stepped back to watch his students put the finishing touches on the academy decorations and Din followed suit, setting Grogu back down when the child motioned to be returned to his friends and the preparations for the festivities. Grogu immediately showed the stuffed wampa off, allowing the other small children to play with it alongside him.
Din and Luke supervised the rest of the decorating, the children’s joy ringing through the Force, a wave of positive energy and warmth.
After some some time, long enough for the decorating party to devolve into stacking tinsel on heads and around shoulders, Leia and Han called them to the modest feast, Chewbacca and his family carrying the heaviest items as well as extra chairs for the large table they had already set up outside.
The tip-yip looked a little overcooked, but Luke wasn’t going to complain. Especially not when Han sent Luke a warning look, eyes darting between Leia and the slightly blackened tip-yip. Leia noticed the exchange and raised her eyebrows in challenge. Luke didn’t need any other warning to keep his mouth shut.
His close friends and family surrounding him as he looked over his fledgling academy, Luke felt a wonderful combination of excitement and contentment, the feelings coming both from himself and those around him.
Grogu was the first to dig into the meal, hands grasping for every edible bit on the table.
As his son tore into the meal, Din watched with his helmet on, plate empty.
The food was going to be cold if he didn’t hurry, Luke realized with some consternation.
Equally concerned, Grogu grabbed a roll of green bread, took a bite, and offered the rest of it to his father, waving it insistently under the man’s helmet. Steam from the still hot roll fogged his visor.
“Thanks, kid,” Din muttered, accepting the roll. He paused, clearly aware of the others around him.
Leia and Han weren’t subtle, staring as they waited to see if the enigmatic man would remove his helmet or not.
He grabbed the bottom of the helmet, pushed it up enough to expose the very bottom of his chin, and shoved the bread practically under the helmet.
Din dropped his helmet back down immediately.
Father fed for now, Grogu went back to consuming more food than such a small body should be capable of holding.
Leia deflated, but she shook it off at once. Unlike Han who actually snapped his fingers, scowling at the missed opportunity.
The rest of the feast went in much the same way. Everyone ate and chattered on - everyone except Din, who would only occasionally share a bit of conversation with Luke, Leia, Han, and the Chewbacca clan. More frequently he spoke with his son, too low for anyone else to hear. And every so often Grogu would hold up a slice of tip-yip or a half eaten cookie and Din would accept it and eat in the same way he had the green bread.
Luke knew the first time he saw Din’s face, the very first day they met, was an exception. Grogu told him enough about his father and the life he led, the way he walked, for Luke to know Din rarely, if ever, took the helmet from his head in the presence of others. So Luke wasn’t surprised when Din’s helmet remained more or less in place throughout the celebratory dinner.
He would be lying to himself if he said he wasn’t disappointed though. And Jedi shouldn’t lie to themselves, especially about their feelings and what lay behind them.
As the children grew full and sleepy, Din excused himself from the table and carried an unconscious Grogu off to bed. The little guy snored loudly, one arm hanging limp with a half eaten egg clutched in his hand. Luke watched them go, chin in his hand and heart full of longing.
“You should tell him how you feel,” Leia said under her breath, mindful of the others at the table.
“Absolutely not,” Luke mumbled back, eyes cutting away as the last flash of beskar disappeared from sight.
“He likes you too. I can feel it.”
Luke made a face and shook his head. “I don’t think he does. Not the way I like him.”
“You won’t know until you ask.” Leia gave him a pointed look, eyebrows up and jaw squared. “You’ll regret inaction far more than action. With action, at least you tried and were honest with yourself and others. With inaction, it will be an all consuming what if.”
“You’re so wise, Master Organa.”
She smirked, catching sight of something over Luke’s shoulder. “Just think about it.”
Din sat back down, casually throwing his cape back to keep from sitting on it. “He’s exhausted. He barely even fought me over his leftover food.”
“He’s been up since dawn,” Luke informed him. “He’s very sensitive. I think the other children’s anticipation kept him from falling too deeply asleep.”
“He’s happy. That’s what matters.”
Luke would’ve sighed dreamily if he thought nobody would notice.
“You two should go for a walk,” Leia suggested, voice giving nothing away though her eyes glittered with mischief. “Luke was just saying that he should show you the meditation spot he just made.”
Din turned his head, visor slowly switching between facing Luke and Leia.
“Actually, I was just saying that Din’s not interested in the meditation spot,” Luke tried, baring his teeth at his sister.
“Why don’t you ask Din rather than making assumptions?” Leia told him, blinking innocently.
Both Skywalkers faced the Mandalorian at the same time.
Shoulders rising and falling in a quick shrug, Din answered, “Sure.”
Shooting a look at his twin, Luke mustered an awkward smile for Din and waved him towards the new meditation area. At least Leia hadn’t made that up.
The meditation area was mostly just a hill, but Luke had managed to clear out the larger rocks, making for a fairly comfortable seat. He also grew some fragrant plants nearby. They always filled the air with a lovely scent and sometimes the breeze would catch them and make them rustle and sway in a way Luke found endlessly relaxing.
And yet when he took a seat and pat the ground next to him, he felt anything but relaxed.
“It’s nice,” Din complimented, grunting as he sat, arranging his beskar covered limbs as comfortably as he could.
“Thanks. I think Grogu likes it too. Maybe because the flowers attract bugs.”
“He does like a mid meditation snack,” Din muttered.
Chuckling, Luke looked up. The trees around them were thick, but the academy was built on something like a clearing. It gave them cover while allowing for plenty of space to live and move. It also granted them a beautiful view of the sky. They admired the stars above as well as the academy down below. Back where everyone remained gathered, a bonfire was built up, the distant flames glowing soft orange and yellow with the occasional flash of sparks in the air. Luke suspected Han might be breaking out the spotchka now that most of the kids were in bed.
“He’s a good kid. You’ve done right by him,” Luke complimented honestly, fully aware that was something Din felt great worry over.
Din chest hitched. “This is the way.”
Luke admired the scant light that scattered over Din’s armor and visor.
“That’s why you don’t remove your helmet either, right? The way?”
The silence that fell between them was filled with so much despite the fact Din said nothing at all.
“I’m sorry,” Luke apologized at once, shaking his head. “That was rude. I didn’t mean to upset you with such an invasive question.”
Modulated voice certain, Din told him, “You didn’t upset me.”
Luke studied the Mandalorian and sighed, reading the truth of his statement and feeling a great sense of relief over it.
“Why are you asking now?” Din inquired evenly. “You never asked before.”
“I don’t know,” Luke confessed. “I suppose it’s not a new question I’ve had, but something about tonight has made it more difficult to keep silent about it. While we sat there, eating and talking and celebrating together, I started to think about how I haven’t seen your face, not since that first time. And I want to.”
Din moved haltingly, head tipped down as he looked at Luke. “Why?”
Luke hadn’t known Din when he first saw his face, eyes teary and lips trembling, heart full of sorrow and hope for his child. Din’s emotions were deep and affecting. Back then Luke felt for the other man, but he didn’t known him.
He knew him now.
He knew Din and his deadly skills and his good heart and strange sense of humor. And Luke wanted to see his face to not just see his face, but to have earned the right to it - that was a level of trust and affection Luke wanted badly, a want that was buoyed by love, pure and true. Sometimes Luke thought he would be better off if his feelings were possessive and lustful. At least then he could purge them from his heart and mind, using the methods long valued by the Jedi to maintain balance within one’s self.
He also knew that wasn’t how it worked, but a boy could dream.
Unable to lie, or perhaps unwilling to, Luke took a deep breath and finally answered, “Because I love you.”
“Oh.” Din’s surprised, soft response blended into the rush of wind through the forest’s leaves. “I…didn’t know that.”
“Yeah,” Luke hummed, scratching the back of his head. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Din now that he’d spoken the words aloud.
“Didn’t you say Jedi couldn’t get married?” Din asked, voice careful and low.
“In the old days, yes,” Luke confirmed, heart thudding in his chest at the thought of marriage, Din, and the way they fused together into an persistent hope. “But that was then. The Jedi let their concerns over attachments lead them astray. They grew too strict in their rules, in their adherence to a lifestyle that forbade attachments. That’s not the sort of Jedi I want to be or the type of new Jedi Order I want to build. My attachments have never been a detriment. My love and affection for my family, my friends…they’ve contributed to my fear and anger. I’m a person, of course they have. But ultimately that same love helped me push past my worst tendencies and embrace a way towards balance and contentment. The Jedi understood the power of friendship, loyalty, compassion, and love. They just grew too fearful of what the wrong kinds of attachments could do to a Jedi. I won’t let that fear control me or my students if I can help it.”
Luke breathed out steadily, feeling for some equanimity. So far Din hadn’t seemed uncomfortable or angry at Luke’s confession. And he listened intently to Luke’s opinion on attachments and his disagreement with the Jedi’s old way of viewing them. It wasn’t exactly the grand declaration of reciprocated feelings he sometimes dreamed about receiving, but it was a good deal better than the worst case scenario involving blasters and beskar spears Luke sometimes irrationally feared.
Picking at a tuft of grass, Luke sighed, eyes cast downward.
Being with Din was a joyful experience, comfortable and safe and exciting in turns, but Luke hadn’t felt this young and uncertain in years.
Something was set on the ground, startling Luke from his reverie as he glanced at whatever it was.
Din’s helmet sat innocuously on the grass between them.
Head snapping up, Luke felt his eyes widen at the sight before him.
Din watched Luke carefully, his face bared. His deep brown eyes were dark and soulful in the dim light of the stars and the distant bonfire. Though they expressed hesitance in place of sorrow, they were as emotive as Luke remembered. His hair was mussed, dark curls flattened in places. His mustache was fuller, but more neatly trimmed than before. And he was smiling, lips quirked in a nervous expression that felt like a punch to the gut.
“Hi,” he offered. His voice sounded different without the helmet. Somehow richer. And more gentle.
“Hi,” Luke offered back, still too stunned to really form a proper response. And when he could, he said, “Aren’t you going to get in trouble with the Armorer?”
Anxious smile turning into an amused smirk, Din shook his head. “What do you think the Armorer does? And no, we’ve already discussed the removal of my helmet and what it means for me and my adherence to the creed at length.”
“What’s at length for you?” Luke asked slowly, considering the man’s tendency towards brevity. From what little he heard about the Armorer, she seemed similarly inclined to being straight to the point.
“Long enough,” he shrugged.
Luke stared in amazement at the expression of Din’s face when he shrugged. It was such a common movement for Din, but now that Luke could see his face he could see the way Din’s mouth pulled down briefly in time with the shrug, the way his eyebrows pushed up for that same brief moment. The way his eyes blinked, lashes fluttering.
“You have very pretty eyes,” Luke breathed, words coming out before he could properly ascertain whether or not he should say them.
Din’s shoulders hunched and his eyes darted around, lids lowering as he avoided eye contact. He laughed and it was a tight, breathy sort of laugh that hit Luke just as hard as that first nervous, tremulous smile.
He was bashful and Luke kind of wanted to stroke his hair and compliment him some more.
“You’re showing me your face,” Luke whispered, chest glowing with warmth as the full meaning dawned on him.
“Yes.” Din nodded once, a slight downward tilt of his head. He still wasn’t making eye contact, instead watching Luke in hasty flashes, gaze bouncing off after meeting Luke’s for the bare minimum of time.
“Why?” Luke felt with every particle of his being that this was the right thing to ask.
“Because I love you too,” Din murmured Luke’s words back to him, meeting Luke’s gaze and lingering steadily for the first time. The undercurrent of nerves remained, Din resonating with his own insecurity and vulnerability, but Luke didn’t see any doubt. Din meant what he said. Meant it in the way Luke meant it. And Luke could read the same longing and affection he felt in his own heart on Din’s face.
Beaming wide enough to make his cheeks ache, Luke leaned forward and pressed his lips to Din’s in a hurried, clumsy first kiss that was more grin than kiss. He didn’t pull back all the way when he was done, keeping his forehead pressed to Din’s. Luke’s hands found purchase on Din’s beskar chest plate, his fingers tapping a happy song against the impossibly strong metal that covered an impossibly perfect man.
Amazed that he was now allowed, Luke pressed a series of quick, chaste kisses against Din’s lips, giddy at their reciprocation. Din didn’t initiate any of the kisses, but he always returned them eagerly, chasing after Luke whenever he pulled away. They sat there a moment, noses brushing as they drank in each other’s features, memorizing everything now that they saw each other face to face and through their own eyes.
“We should probably get back to the party,” Din eventually said, reluctantly turning his head towards the raging bonfire and the singing, cheering, slightly drunk people dancing around it.
“Should we?” Luke asked a little desperately.
Din laughed wide enough that there was a flash of his teeth. “It’s your school and your party, Luke.”
Din’s mouth formed his name in a way that had Luke’s skin flushing hot, his deliberate voice stretching out the single syllable in a lovely, melodic way.
“I suppose you’re right,” Luke admitted with a slight pout.
Slowly putting space between them, Din reached for his helmet and Luke’s flesh hand shot out to stop him, bare fingers stilling Din’s gloved hands.
One eyebrow going up in question, Din silently looked between their overlapped hands and Luke’s slightly panicked expression.
Luke made a helpless noise and Din’s features softened in understanding.
“You’ll see my face again,” he promised.
“I will?” Din always kept his word, but Luke didn’t move his hand.
Lips pursing in thought, Din nodded sharply. “Anytime we’re alone or if it’s just you, me, and Grogu, I’ll take off my helmet.”
Luke grew less frantic. “That often?”
“Yeah,” Din laughed again, voice threaded through with disbelief, like he couldn’t quite understand why Luke was this eager to see him without his helmet. “If you want.”
“I want,” Luke confirmed with unconcealed enthusiasm. “As long as you’re comfortable with it.”
“Then I look forward to it.” Smiling down at their still touching hands, Luke asked, “Do you mind if I put this back on you myself?”
Meeting Luke’s beseeching gaze with a heavy lidded one of his own, Din dipped his head and slowly slid his hand out from under Luke’s. “Please.”
Grasping the helmet with both hands, Luke slowly placed it back on Din’s head. It was a snugger fit than Luke realized, the helmet resisting a little, but ultimately relenting under Luke’s careful application of pressure.
“Good?” Luke asked tentatively, searching the visor.
“Yes,” Din confirmed, voice filtered through the modulator once more.
“And you’re sure you won’t be in trouble for letting me see your face?” Happy though he was, Luke still felt a twinge of guilt and concern.
“I’m sure.” Din rose up to his feet and offered a hand. Luke accepted, allowing the Mandalorian to pull him to a stand. “It’s acceptable for clan members to see my face. You and Grogu aren’t sworn to the creed, but you are both clan.”
Lips parting and eyes drawn inexorably to the mudhorn signet on Din’s pauldron, Luke breathed, “You count me as part of your clan?”
Din turned his entire body towards Luke, all of his attention focused on the Jedi as he spoke in a clear and solemn voice. “You took Grogu under your guardianship and swore to protect my child with your own life. I know you and I hold you in my heart. You are part of my clan.”
Beaming and speechless, Luke planted a quick kiss against the beskar of Din’s helmet and then rubbed at the spot with the edge of his sleeve, whispering an apology for smudging it.
Din ducked his head and Luke knew exactly what his face looked like beneath the armor.