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His Beacon, His Harbor

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You've got a journey to make
There's a horizon to chase
So go far beyond where we stand
No matter the distance, I'm holding your hand

The Mandalorian stared at the lift door for a long time after it had closed. He heard the others begin to talk amongst themselves in hushed tones, the beeping of the console as someone took up the ship’s controls. Bo-Katan barked out orders and the Mandalorian could hear Cara and Shand grumbling in response. He wasn’t sure what their plan was; they hadn’t gotten that far when plotting the takeover. His only priority had been the Kid.

Who was gone.

With a deep sigh that seemed to come from the marrow of his bones, The Mandalorian put his helmet back on before turning around. The others had not seen his face, just the back of his head. Only Grogu and the Jedi had seen. A small consolation.

That makes three, he thought.

Before now, The Mandalorian's saving grace was that removing the helmet under duress in the act of protecting a child was seen as noble, forgivable. Several of his tribe had done so and were welcomed back as heroes. His actions at the refinery would have been deemed necessary and thus not a violation of the Creed.

Willingly removing one’s helmet, however, in front of others for a selfish reason—such as The Mandalorian's desire for the Kid to remember him and not a beskar reflection of his own face—was not excusable. His actions had been wholly intentional and for personal gain. He was not supposed to wear the helmet ever again, but fuck it. The Covert was gone, his Tribe dead and scattered. There was no one left to condemn him. All bets were off, now.

As he started to walk toward the others, he felt a weight at his side and for an insane moment he expected to look down into big, dark eyes. Instead, he saw the hilt of the Darksaber poking out of the pouch on his belt. He’d tucked it away when the Jedi showed up and now it reminded him of another, bigger problem.

He groaned inwardly and wished he could chuck the damn thing out of an airlock.

“Let me give this to you,” he said to Bo-Katan as he approached, pulling the Darksaber out of his satchel and holding it out to her.

"That's not how it works," she hissed. "You heard Gideon. He's not wrong."

The Mandalorian cursed under his breath. “If you can remove your helmet, you can take the saber," he said. "I don't know why you'll ignore one tradition but not another."

Bo-Katan glared at him. “You abide by your cult, I honor my people."

He chose to ignore the cult barb. “Then we battle,” said the Mandalorian. “And you win.”

“I don’t want your pity,” snapped Bo-Katan. “It’s not a challenge if you let me win. It’s no different than just handing it to me. There is no transfer of power.”

The Mandalorian huffed in frustration. He didn't understand how a stupid glowing sword made anyone powerful enough to rule a planet, and he didn't care. He just wanted to get rid of the thing and go somewhere he could privately break down the way he wanted to. He was dangerously close to snapping as it was. The saber might actually end up floating in space.

“I revealed my face to others,” he hissed. “I betrayed my tribe's doctrine, for the good of another. Why can't you do the same, for Mandalore?"

“It’s—” sputtered Bo-Katan. The Mandalorian snorted.

“Not the Way?” He knew he was poking the rancor. He didn’t care. He was fed up with Bo-Katan of Clan Whatever and her selective beliefs.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’ll make you a deal,” she said. “I’m not going to challenge you now.” She glared at him when he inhaled to argue. “You are not trained with the Darksaber. You may be able to handle a blade, but there’s no blade like that one.”

“Isn’t that to your advantage?”

Bo-Katan looked so put out that the Mandalorian almost laughed.

“Just learn to use the saber, zealot,” she hissed. “Send word when you are ready. I will find you.” She glowered at him. “I can wait a little longer.”

“Can you?” asked the Mandalorian. “Or should I be looking over my shoulder?”

With a glare, Bo-Katan holstered her blasters. “As much as I want what’s rightfully mine, I am no coward. On my honor, I will not come for the Darksaber until you are ready to have it taken from you.”

The Mandalorian studied her for a long moment. Bo-Katan lifted her chin and met his gaze defiantly.

He could see the conviction in her eyes; she was telling the truth. It was odd, but he felt like he could trust her—to a degree.

Finally, he nodded. “If you’d told me anything about this damn thing before we boarded the ship,” he said grumpily, “I’d have done things a lot differently.”

To her credit, Bo-Katan looked at least a little ashamed. She looked away and her mouth formed a thin line.

“I…should have made it clear,” she muttered reluctantly. “I know you didn’t know.” She looked at him, that brief flash of regret already shaken off. “I’m sorry,” she said with sincerity. “About the child.”

“He’ll be okay,” said the Mandalorian softly. “He’s with a Jedi. That’s where he’s supposed to be.” He knew that was the truth, but it still put a catch in his throat as he spoke. He might be better off, but what about me?

He pocketed the Darksaber. “I will learn, and I’ll find you.”

“You do that,” snapped Bo-Katan. “We’re taking the ship. If you want to get off here, I’d suggest you find something suitable in the hangar to take. We’re not making any pit stops.”

“Where are you going?”

Bo-Katan snorted. “You’re not Mand'alor yet, Helmet-Head,” she said sweetly. “I don’t have to tell you shit.”

For a second the Mandalorian considered taking off his helmet so Bo-Katan could see him roll his eyes.  “Fair enough,” he said. He looked at Cara and Shand. “Where’s Fett?”

Shand was bent over a console. “On his way.” She flipped a switch and straightened, turning to The Mandalorian. “We have some business to take care of. What’s your plan?”

The Mandalorian hesitated. What was his plan? His ship was destroyed, along with everything he possessed. The Tribe was wiped out. The Kid was off learning to float rocks with a stranger the Mandalorian inexplicably trusted.

He was unmoored. Lost.

“There’s another shuttle in the hangar,” he said after a moment. “Unless anyone has objections, I’m taking it.”

“Fett’s on his way,” said Shand. “You’re welcome to hitch a ride.”

“I can easily sell an Imperial ship,” said the Mandalorian. He wanted desperately to be alone but couldn’t bring himself to admit it. He’d already shown so much of himself to these people, he didn’t owe them any more. “I have to buy a new one, and I need something that won’t piss off the Republic.”

“Alright, then.” Shand saluted him with the barrel of her gun, tapping it against her brow. “It was an honor to fight with you instead of against you, Mando.”

“Same to you.” He looked over at Bo-Katan and Reeves. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “For your help.”

Bo-Katan looked conflicted. “You’re welcome,” she muttered. She pointed at him. “Do not forget our deal.”

“I won’t,” said the Mandalorian with sincerity. He was a man of his word, even if he didn't really understand how it was going to go down when the day came. He'd figure that out later.

Without thinking, he automatically looked around for the Kid before he remembered: no Kid. He couldn’t help the slight slump to his shoulders and pretended not to notice the winces around the room. He went to Cara, who had at least schooled her face into something other than awkward pity, and they clasped forearms.

“Until our paths cross again,” he said.

“You could come back to Nevarro,” she said, her eyes warm. “We could use the muscle.”

He shook his head silently. She smiled.

“Okay,” she said softly, letting him go. “Until our paths cross.”

As he left the Bridge, the Mandalorian did not look back.

He took the shuttle, along with supplies and weaponry, and anything close at hand that looked expensive. He was starting over from scratch; he felt that the Empire owed him that much. It wasn’t until he was in the cockpit of the Lambda and puzzling out the needlessly complicated Imperial tech that he realized he had no destination in mind. He let his hands go slack on the controls and sat still for a moment, staring at the console and failing to ignore the deafening absence in the cockpit.

The Mandalorian sighed and tapped a finger against the dash. Nevarro was an option; he could take Cara up on her invitation and be the local one-man army, except Cara's muscles had muscles, and she certainly didn't need him. Nevarro was familiar, though. He thought he might need a little familiar.

Or he could return to Sorgen. Creed broken, the Mandalorian could indeed settle down with that beautiful young widow and farm shrimp and drink spotchka for the rest of his life. He would likely never fight again, if he went there. It sounded kind of nice.

He knew Tatooine like the back of his gloved hand. He could easily make a home there, the settlements were interesting enough, and he could always find work somewhere. He could even live out his days with the Sand People, they wouldn't mind. It worked for Fett.

Do I want to settle down at all?

He didn’t have an answer to that. Maybe? Maybe not.

The Mandalorian could also continue his search for the remnants of his tribe, or find a new one. He wasn’t sure he’d be welcomed by either, but none of them had to know what he’d done. He couldn’t exactly lie to his people but lying by omission was a gray area he’d used a lot throughout his life. Then again, there were living witnesses, and unlike the refinery where nearly everyone who’d seen the Mandalorian's face was dead, he couldn’t kill his allies. Not even for the Creed.

That, he thought, was the beginning of the end for the Creed.

He slammed his hands against the controls.

“Just—fuck it.” He wrenched off his helmet and chucked it across the cockpit, where it hit the floor with a satisfying crack, and he curled into himself as much as his armor allowed. He scrubbed both hands through his hair and over his face, and it made a sound bubble out of his chest he’d never heard himself make before.

The fleeting touch of three small claws, too dull to hurt but excruciating all the same.

The Mandalorian shuddered once, a violent little quake through his whole body. It came from deep, deep inside, a part of him he reserved for the things he'd lost. The Kid was now one of those things, and he felt it acutely. His eyes burned and he squeezed them shut, and thought that dying would be a blessing.

Then the moment passed, and the Mandalorian sat up straight and cleared his throat.

Stop it, he thought. The Kid’s gonna be fine. The Jedi knows what he's doing. He slaughtered a platoon of Darktroopers with a laser sword, for fuck's sake. Who else could you trust with the Kid?

The Mandalorian had one of those now. He tried to imagine using it the way the Jedi had wielded his own. His had glowed a brilliant green, the kind of green the Mandalorian had always associated with life. The Darksaber burned a furious black that he’d never seen before.

He didn’t like it.

He decided to ignore it for now. He set a course for his favorite spaceport, a little town on a small, dying planet on the edge of Hutt Space. Its resources had been stripped over millennia so almost no one cared about it—which meant it had a bustling black market fueled by a lot of very wealthy criminals. Criminals who loved Imperial tech. No one would bat an eye if he brought in a mint Lambda.

He needed a ship, a good one. It would have a lot to live up to.

The Mandalorian walked through the shipyard, looking up at the different crafts in their bays. They were either too big or too small. He needed something fast and agile, yet spacious enough to live in for long periods of time. Preferably with guns.

Nothing fit the bill, and he realized after the eighth ship he’d turned down that he was comparing them all to the Crest. He couldn’t help it. She’d been home for a decade. There was nothing like her.

The Mandalorian’s feet felt heavier with every step as he trudged through the port. He was about to give up and find lodging for the night to sleep and regroup and try again in the morning, when he rounded a corner and stopped in his tracks. In front of him was a bullet-shaped gunship that looked like it had a shell similar to the Crest's and also a lot of enhancements that the Mandalorian really, really wanted to examine up close. As he walked up to it he could see the unmistakable scorch marks of a dogfight on the hull, and he knew. He knew.

The Mandalorian flagged down the seller and was glad the helmet hid the giddy grin on his face as he handed over his credits and the Verdant Sun became his new home.

He loaded the ship with food and water and secured in a lockbox the less conspicuous (and better) weaponry he’d traded the Imperial shit for. The bunk was bigger than it’d been on the Crest. His old bunk had been a tight fit in the armor, especially once he took on the Kid. The new one had enough room for him to move around and even stand up.

There would be plenty of room for both of us in here, now, he thought.

The Mandalorian frowned and shook his head; a sharp, minute movement.

Don’t do that, he thought fiercely. Don’t do that to yourself. He’s fine where he is.

The night before he left the planet, the Mandalorian spent the night on the ship. He’d paid for the extra night of docking, citing some last-minute adjustments he wanted to make, but the truth was that there was something he needed to do, before the maiden flight. The Mandalorian needed to feel completely at home on the ship, and there were a few ways to do that. He didn’t have to do it, there was nothing in the Creed about it. It was his own little ritual, a secret he’d guarded since he’d gotten his first ship as a young man—a shitty old freighter with no guns and a privy that only worked on certain planets.

He'd loved that ship. It was his first home away from the Covert.

The Mandalorian spent most of the evening arranging his bunk to be comfortable yet efficient. He locked the rest of his weapons away and installed a mount for the spear. The Darksaber was stowed in one of the little storage lockers that wasn't on the blueprints. He familiarized himself with how the guns worked and pre-calculated some hyperspace routes to his usual haunts. With a shaking hand, he hung the Kid's favorite toy—the little silver ball, now on a chain—from the ceiling of the cockpit. He'd forgotten to give it to him.

The Mandalorian looked at it for a long, long time.

Finally, he'd inspected everything he could think of to inspect. He only had two things left to do: take off his armor, and go to sleep.

That was the ritual. The Mandalorian had to feel secure enough on the ship to fall asleep while completely vulnerable. The Crest had been easy. He had a feeling the Sun would be, too.

The Mandalorian sat down hard on his bunk with a heavy sigh and took off his helmet, setting it beside him on the cot. He stared at it for a long time and wondered what it meant that it was more familiar to him than the weary face reflected in the beskar. He did not look often in mirrors; the Crest had had a broken one that he only used for shaving. He knew what he looked like. He had no opinions on his appearance beneath the helmet. He was just a man.

"Well, then," he said aloud. "Guess this is home, for now."

He half-expected a soft burble from behind him and his chest ached more than it had after several direct hits with a mudhorn. It was a familiar feeling; he already knew what it was like to be pulled apart from everything important to him. Soon, he would be nothing but a set of very valuable armor, left hollow inside.

Who knows, maybe he already was.

Once he was free and everything stashed on shelves by the door, The Mandalorian sat back down and looked over at his helmet again. Out of it, The Mandalorian felt like a stranger in his own life. He'd forgotten his own name until Gideon weaponized it in Nevarro.

“Din Djarin,” he said, testing it out now. He hadn’t spoken his own name aloud in decades. His voice was rough and tired and the syllables felt clumsy on his tongue.

“My name is Din Djarin," he repeated. "I am Mandalorian.”

The words left his mouth like ashes. He swallowed hard and rested a hand on top of the helmet. Its surface was cold and smooth, completly unscathed despite everything it'd been through, from krayt dragon ichor to direct blaster fire to lightsaber strikes. The armor was stronger than most things in the galaxy, which made him feel even more exposed out of it. He felt like the soft underbelly of a shelled creature, easily consumed by the nearest predator.

He frowned at the helmet. He much preferred being the predator. But was that his role anymore?

“I am not Mandalorian,” he said softly.

That didn’t feel right either, which was something of a relief.

“My name is Din Djarin,” he repeated. “I don’t know what I am.”

It would do for now.

Din spent the bulk of the next two months on Tatooine, taking up an invitation from Cobb Vanth to recuperate in Mos Pelgo. The town had perked up a bit since he was last there—a little more color, a lot more cheerful chatter as he dismounted his speeder and clapped Vanth’s forearm firmly.

“Good to see you, Mando,” said Vanth. “Where’s the Kid?”

“He’s with his own people,” said Din dully. Cobb at least had the good sense to just nod and say nothing. “Mind if I stay a while?”

“Wouldn’t have extended the invitation if I didn’t mean it,” said Vanth. “We got a room for you at the boarding house all set up. Make yourself at home.”

Din stayed in Mos Pelgo for several weeks, shooting the shit with Vanth and doing blaster tricks for the kids. Every few days he would take a speeder to Mos Eisley and hit up the cantina for work. It felt good to get back into the swing of things, and it was nice to have a home base for a while.

He settled in as much as he could, knowing it wasn’t permanent. He planned to leave in a few weeks, find another place to hunker down for a while. Figure things out. There were a lot of planets out there. Maybe one would stick.

One night, three weeks into his stay, a partially armored Din lay on his back in his borrowed bed and turned the hilt of the Darksaber over in his hands. He held it up and it erupted with the light that wasn’t. The air around the blade hummed with energy. He could feel the heat on his face.

Din retracted the saber and set it on the nightstand. He stared at it.

I have to learn to use it in order to get rid of it.

He grimaced and ran a hand over his face. He didn’t know how that would work; Din didn’t want to fight to keep it or kill anyone for it. What he really wanted was nothing to do with it.

He knew he would throw any fight from a decent person that came for him. Mandalorian honor or not, he had no interest in leadership and would rather lose a battle than take up a throne.

He also knew that if he thought someone wanted the saber for malicious reasons, he would fight for it. No one deserved to be enslaved, and it sounded like the planet might not be as desolate as he’d been led to believe. If there were Mandalorians still on Mandalore, he owed it to them to protect them from those who would harm them.

Bo-Katan wanted to free her people. Maybe instead of fighting her for the saber, he could help her instead. He didn’t think she’d go for it, but it was an idea.

Either way, he had to learn to use it. But how? The only people he’d seen with anything like it were Ahsoka and the Jedi from Gideon’s ship.  

They could teach me. Din awkwardly rolled onto his back again and focused on the cracks in the ceiling. They can show me how to use the damn thing. Din thought about looking for Ahsoka first, but chances were that she was long gone from Corvus and she seemed like someone who knew how to travel under the radar. She would probably be just as hard if not harder to find than the Jedi.

It didn't matter. Din admitted to himself that he didn’t want to find Ahsoka.

She didn’t have the Kid.

Din needed to learn the Darksaber, but he wanted to see the kid.

So, he had to find the Jedi—again—and make him teach Din to use the Darksaber.

When Din eventually fell asleep a little while later he actually felt better, reassured by a new mission—a purpose, something to work toward—and the possibility of seeing the Kid again. Both things made that hollow sensation in his chest that had opened up on the bridge of Gideon's ship feel a little less like a void.

It almost felt like hope.

After weeks of planet-hopping, asking in every port about a Jedi dressed in black who flew an X-wing, he’d uncovered nothing but a hive of Imps on a small desert moon of little importance, and he spent a couple of hours rooting out and eliminating them to make some extra credits. Didn’t hurt to have a nest egg, because as it turned out not having a little green Jedi beacon meant that finding one was a lot harder than it was the first time. He was going to be searching for a while.

He took jobs to pay for supplies and flew for days at a time. He slept on the ship and only took lodging when he needed a good scrub—with fucking soap and water—instead of just the sonic aboard the Sun.

The further out from the Rim he got more scarce were the jobs he could scrounge up. At one point, Din wondered if he’d simply run out of planets before he found the Jedi.

After a week in Wild Space with nothing to go on, Din backtracked and stopped to fuel up at the Batuu spaceport. As he stood by the Sun waiting for the maintenance droids to finish up, Din felt eyes on him from behind. It was an odd, buzzy feeling that made the back of his neck tingle,

He never liked that. It always meant something was about to happen, and that usually meant a fight.

Hand on his blaster, Din whirled around and saw nothing but a pair of X-wings a few bays down, undergoing maintenance. He watched the pilots tend to them and thought of the Jedi’s X-wing. It had looked much older and battle-scarred than these. These were clean, repainted and updated to be used by the New Republic.

Something occurred to Din.

He knew his next stop.

Nevarro was as he’d left it, thriving in the absence of the Empire. He avoided the school and instead sought out Cara’s office. He found her with the scouts who were reporting the movements of a band of pirates that had been circling the town for a few days. Din stood in the doorway and listened politely but nevertheless the scouts noticed the fully armored Mandalorian in the doorway. Cara’s frown turned to surprise when she followed their awed gazes.

“Hey!” Cara held up a hand and the reporting scout fell silent. “When did you get here? Thought you’d be out doing your thing.”

“Need a favor,” he said brusquely. He wanted the scouts to go away. He didn’t want to mention the Jedi in front of them. It was beginning to feel like something almost sacred. “Uh, can we talk?”

“Yeah, sure.” Cara nodded at the scouts. “Take the info to the Guard and have them double up. We might send a party after those assholes later. Better safe than sorry.” She dismissed them and turned to Din. “What’s up?”

“The Jedi had an X-wing,” said Din. “Where did he get it?”

Cara hummed. “Well, looked kind of shitty, so not New Republic, they’d never let something out that looked like that. Probably an old Rebel fighter.” She tapped her chin with a finger. “He had a blue R2 unit, an old one, definitely pre-Empire. I knew two that looked like that one when I was based out of Yavin 4 for a few weeks during the Rebellion.”

“Who were their masters?” he asked. It was a long shot, he knew, but worth a try.

“One of them belonged to a mechanic I knew. She inherited it from her wife and kept it around for company." She thought for a moment. "The other was one of the pilots' astromechs."

Din stared at her through the visor, glad she couldn’t see his eagerness. “A pilot,” he said, voice even.

Cara nodded, then her eyes widened. "I can't remember his name," she said. "I never spoke to him."

“Anything specific about the X-wing that stood out to you?” asked Din. “Markings, insignia?”

“Red stripes,” said Cara. “Red Squadron. They were big damn heroes in the war.”

Din bit his lip. “Red Squadron, Rebel pilot, blue R2 unit,” he ticked each thing off on his fingers. “Any way to find out if anyone’s missing an X-wing?”

Cara was already at the console on her desk. She tapped at it for a moment and pulled up what looked to Din like catalog of ships and paged through the results until she seemed to find what she was looking for.

“The roster for Red Squadron. Most were decommissioned or destroyed in battle. The salvaged ones were repainted and given new call signs,” she said, tapping the monitor. She traced the list with one finger until she stopped, hovering over one particular entry.

“Red Five,” she said. “It’s listed as ‘active’. And there’s an R2-unit assigned to it.” She pulled up an image of the starfighter and its droid. “Look familiar?” she asked, tapping the droid’s image.

Din nodded. Same droid. “Who’s the pilot?” he asked, already nudging her out of the way to see the terminal better. Ignoring her grumbling, he peered at the screen and found what he was looking for.

L. Skywalker.

“Skywalker,” he said. Something tickled the back of his mind, like the feel of his hair against his neck when it was too long. “Think that’s him?”

“Best guess says maybe,” said Cara. “Skywalker was a big deal in the war. Blew up the Death Stars and then fucked off to who knows where." She scowled at the screen. "His last known coordinates were in the Dagobah system, years ago.”

“I’ll find him,” said Din. “I can find anyone.” The alone was implied. He needed to do this on his own.

Cara was no fool. She nodded. “Good luck,” she said with a smile. “Be safe.”

“Thanks for the help.” Din turned to go but Cara cleared her throat behind him. He paused at the door. “Yeah?”

Cara fidgeted. “May the Force be with you,” she said quietly. When he didn't respond, she shrugged sheepishly. “Couldn’t hurt," she added.

Din, at a loss, nodded his head and quickly ducked out. The phrase always left him feeling awkward. He didn’t know how to answer, and when he tried it sounded forced and unnatural.

He didn’t believe in it. He didn’t even know what it was.

Yes, you do, he thought. You saw what the Kid can do. What Ahsoka can do. What the Jedi—Skywalker—can do.

Hell, apparently Jedi could actually talk to the Kid when he couldn’t. He seethed with jealousy over that more than any other ability he’d seen from their kind. The kid seemed to understand him fine—selectively—but he had no idea what the kid was thinking half the time. At least at first. By the end, they could read each other a lot better than in the beginning.

Din's chest ached as he trudged back to his ship. Fuck, he missed that kid.

Weeks later, he found himself on his favorite little desert planet, looking for another long shot.

“Mandalorian,” said Fett, as Din entered Jabba's—Fett's—throne room. Din wasn't surprised that he’d taken over for Jabba and now ran the largest crime syndicate in the sector. It suited him

Shand hovered nearby, holding her rifle with a relaxed hand, but her finger stayed steady on the trigger. “A pleasure to see you.”

“Likewise,” said Din. He thought about correcting Fett, introducing himself by name, but he wasn’t there yet. He may have broken the Creed, but his reputation was always one of his best weapons, so he still let people call him Mandalorian, and he kept his helmet on. “Nice place you’ve got here.”

“I’m thinking of remodeling,” said Fett. “It needs more natural light.”

“It can really open up a room,” said Din. “I hear you did some work for Jabba, during the war?”

Fett blinked. “Right down to it, I see.” He smirked and stroked his chin. “I did, yes. I was hired to find quite a few people, on both sides.”

“Word is that you might know some names, then,” said Din.

“Likely.” He tapped his temple. “You know as well as I do, Bounty Hunter, that knowing everyone is knowing how to find anyone.”

“I’m looking for someone called Skywalker,” said Din.

Fett sat up straighter. “Why?”

“He was the Jedi who took the Kid,” said Din. “I heard he was involved in Jabba’s death.”

“He was.”

“And so were you.”

Fett grunted. “In a way.” He stood, and Din appreciated how menacing the throne made him seem. Fett had a flair for the dramatic. “You cannot take back the child,” said Fett. “Once the Jedi take, they do not return.”

“I know,” said Din. “I know the Kid’s better off with him. It’s because of this.” He drew the Darksaber and it ignited with a metallic hum. He held it up where Fett could see it clearly, and for maximum dramatic effect.

“I still don’t know how to use it,” said Din. “I need to learn if I am to get rid of it. I guess.” He was still confused on that point, but literally everything that had happened to him over the last year was bewildering still, so without any other options he rolled with it.

Fett studied him for a long time. “I could best you in combat,” he said. “Right now. And take it from you.” He hummed. “Then Bo-Katan would be my problem, and you could go on your way.”

Din considered it. “There is no way to know that I would not allow you to win,” he said. “And from my understanding it has to be honestly won and not given away or forfeited.”

“Ah,” said Fett. “Then you must take your place as ruler of Mandalore.”

Din growled in frustration and extinguished the saber. He pocketed the hilt once again and glared at Fett.

“I don’t want it," he said. "It's not mine to take. I've never been there. I know only that it is a desolate, cursed place. I don't want to be king of nothing."

Fett laughed. “Then find a dishonorable Mandalorian who would take it from you.”

Din hesitated. “Someone like that…should not be ruling Mandalore,” he said softly. “I may not know much about it beyond what I’ve been told, but the galaxy has had enough tyrants.”

“And you think Bo-Katan won’t be one?” asked Shand. She nodded at Fett. “Do you think he would be a fair ruler?”

Din said nothing. Fett laughed.

“Good answer,” he said. “My friend, right now you might be the best hope Mandalore has.”

“But as I have said many time, I don’t want it,” said Din, frustrated. “Look, will you help me? If not, I’ll be on my way.”

Fett sighed. “Alright, alright,” he said. “I suggest you visit Chandrila. You will find there a man called Han Solo.” He grunted. “Where there is Solo, there is likely Skywalker. Or someone who knows how to find him.”

“Thank you,” said Din, relieved. “Good luck with your empire.”

“Before you go,” said Fett, “take a message to Solo.”

“Yes?”

Fett whacked Din in the face with the slightly less-lethal end of his gaffi stick.

Din staggered backwards. “What was that for?” he gasped, head ringing inside the helmet. I love beskar, he thought woozily.

“He knows what he did,” said Fett darkly. “Good luck on your search, Mandalorian.”

“Thanks, I think.” Din shook his head and blinked a few times. Shand saluted him with the barrel of her rifle. Din nodded and stumbled out of Jabba’s palace to echoing laughter.

Din hadn’t been to a city larger than Mos Eisley in years. He preferred small towns and settlements, ports and villages, and Sand People camps. He liked remote places and big sky. Cities were intimidating, overwhelming, and cramped. Chandrila’s cities were better than some—Coruscant looked like flashy trauma—but they were still cities. He already felt itchy at the thought.

He landed in a fancy spaceport, already wincing at the amount of credits it was going to cost to park there, even for just a day. He shut down the engines and sat still for a moment, taking deep breaths—in, and out, in, and out.

I can do this, he thought to himself, feeling as vulnerable as he had whenever the Kid was in danger. I will find the person who can help me find the Jedi Skywalker. If they’re out there, I will find them.

His jaw clenched until it hurt.

I will make this worth it.

Din got up and went to his bunk. He stripped out of the armor and donned the clothes he’d bought before leaving Tatooine. A tunic, loose trousers, plain shoes—not boots—and a cloak that at the very least covered his head. He kept a scarf wrapped around his mouth and it was as close to a helmet as he could get.

He couldn’t move around the city in his armor. He would be conspicuous and likely invite trouble. He needed to be discreet if he was looking for a Jedi, or someone who could find one.

Din Djarin, you must do this, he told himself. If you want to see the Kid again, if you want to get rid of the Darksaber, you will do this.

He left the ship and his armor behind.

Finding Han Solo in a place as big as Chandrila proved to be a lot harder than Din had assumed it would be. He asked around as discreetly as he could, but people just looked at him like he was out of his mind, or had no information to give him. A few looked suspicious and he quickly retreated from them; he didn’t know who this Solo person was to these people, but he not interested in being picked up as a potential assassin.

Finally, he found a Mon Cala and asked them if they knew anyone at all called Han Solo.

“Ha!” They laughed. “You’d have better luck finding Senator Organa.”

Din perked up at the word senator. That title, he knew, came with a certain degree of power. Now he was getting somewhere.

“Who are they?” he asked.

Din assumed the long stare he got from the Mon Cala meant confusion. He was a little rusty on their facial expressions. “I would say she’s the most important person on the planet.” They eyed Din. “You’ve never heard of her?”

“We don't hear much about senators where I come from,” said Din. “Where would I find her?”

The Mon Cala gurgled and pointed to a large, ornate building that looked like a palace. Who lives in there who would be willing to help me? he wondered. I'm just a man.

“With all the other senators, I’d reckon,” said the Mon Cala. “Good luck.”

Din nodded his thanks and trudged toward the palace, his pace slowing with every step. He was certain he couldn’t just walk in, but he could at least get a feel for the place and judge if it could possibly be broken into. He counted guards and gauged the height of the walls as he approached the gates. He paused at the sight of a young woman standing at the entrance. She was clad in an elaborate dress of muted shades of bronze and silver, and her hair was arranged in dozens of braids draped artfully around her head. She stood with a straight back and a kind smile.

Din stood a few feet away, eyeing her warily. He didn’t understand why, but the woman intimidated the hell out of him despite being no taller than his shoulder.

She looked at Din a long moment, dark eyes calculating. Din more exposed by her gaze than he'd ever felt outside the armor.

Then she smiled. "It's you," she said. She sounded delighted, as though she were greeting a long lost friend. Din was immediately confused, which did not bode well for him.

“Ma’am,” he said, nodding his head respectfully. Should I bow? "I was hoping to find a—senator?"

“You've found one, Din Djarin,” she said. Din went completely still with shock. How does she...?

The woman gestured for him to come closer. Din stayed where he was. “It's wonderful to meet you," she said anyway. "I am Leia Organa. I can help you find your Skywalker.”

"You're a senator?" He had expected her to say a duchess or a queen, or something like that. She could have easily been an empress. Din stared at her. She didn't seem like a bureaucrat. “How—?”

Senator Organa tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “You told me,” she said. She spoke with mischief now. “You’re looking for someone who can help you find a Skywalker.”

“I don’t understand,” said Din, thoroughly rattled. Who is this woman?

“Let's take this inside,” said Senator Organa. The gates swept open and she held out her arm. “Walk with me, Din Djarin, and tell me about yourself.”

After a moment, he let her take his arm and lead him through the gates. They swung shut behind them.

He explained his self-assigned mission as they walked through the gardens and up the steps to the palace doors.

“You’ve really gotten yourself into some shit, haven’t you?” said Senator Organa, startling Din with her laughter. She even snorted, which was not the kind of thing he expected from an elegant lady. “Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh at you. It’s just that your story sounds like something my husband would get himself into. You’d probably like him. He’s a wanderer, too.” She snorted. “And an idiot, but what else is new?” She eyed Din. "I don't think you're an idiot, though."

"Plenty of people would disagree with you," said Din.

Leia laughed and led him to a lift that took them up, up, up. When the lift finally stopped and the doors open, Din disembarked and stopped cold with a soft gasp. Huge windows making up an entire wall revealed the cluttered expanse of the city. He could see passenger ships and freighters tangled in the distant hum of traffic. Beyond the city limits were rolling hills and swaths of trees.

“This is a beautiful place,” he said. He went to the window-wall and touched it with one hand as he looked down. It was a long, long way. He stepped back a little. “You don’t see this where I come from.”

“Where do you come from?” asked Organa. She took a seat behind a carved wooden desk and gestured to a squashy chair on the other side. “Sit, Din Djarin.”

“Just—uh, you can call me Din. That’s fine.” It was still odd to introduce himself as someone he hadn’t been since he was a child.

“Din.” She flapped a hand at the chair. “Please, sit.”

He sat. The chair was way more comfortable than it had any right to be. “I come from Nevarro. Most recently I was on Tatooine.”

Organa sat up a little straighter. “My brother is from Tatooine,” she said.

“Oh,” said Din. “Okay.”

“You’re looking for him,” she added. Din frowned.

“I’m looking for L. Skywalker,” he said. “Be nice if it was him.”

Organa smiled. “My brother, Luke.” Her piercing gaze was steeped in kindness. “Your child is safe with him,” she said.

“It’s not that,” he said. It’s a little bit that, he didn't say. “It’s this.” He took out the Darksaber but didn’t activate it. She held out her hand and he readily passed it over. “I don’t know how to use it, but I need to learn how so I can get rid of it.”

“Interesting,” said Organa. She rose and stepped away from her desk and ignited the saber. She looked at the blade with an unreadable expression, then retracted it. She handed it back to Din before sitting down.

“That’s an important weapon,” she said. “It has a long and terrible history.” Organa leaned back in her chair. “I'd say it’s in the best hands it could be in right now.”

“It’s not,” said Din. “Why do people keep saying this? I’m no leader. I’m a bounty hunter. I'm just a man. That’s all I want to be.”

“Hmm.” Organa nodded. She didn’t sound convinced.

“You need a teacher,” she said after a moment. “And you’ve chosen Luke.”

“He is my only hope,” said Din miserably.

Organa smiled like he’d said something amusing. “And he has your child.”

Din thought about protesting, but instead he just sighed and nodded.

Organa was silent for a long time. “Would you lead Mandalore?” she asked finally, quietly. “If called upon to do so?”

“I…” Din trailed off. He didn’t know how to answer that question, but her voice commanded one. “I would—if there were no other way.” He sat up a little. “I would. Yes. It's a burden I do not wish for, but I would take if it spared other Mandalorians any suffering.”

“I thought so,” said Organa with a crooked grin. “I could see it in you. An awkward, bullheaded sense of nobility that’ll probably get you killed someday.” She sighed and pulled a data stick from a drawer and stuck it into the console on her desk. A moment later it beeped, and she pulled it out and handed it to him.

“These are Luke’s coordinates,” she said. “I’m giving this to you because I trust you. I know you won’t understand why, considering we’ve only known each other for about twenty minutes, but I can see in you that you won’t betray him. You have no ulterior motives beyond learning the saber and reuniting with the Child.” She grinned. "I see other things, but I'll let you experience those as they happen."

Din bristled. She wasn't wrong, but he didn't like being read like a book. And what did she mean by as they happen?

“How do you know all that?” he asked, unnerved.

Leia smiled. “I’m not telling you, because I think you need to hear it from someone else.” She winked. “Please tell Luke I said hello and to get his ass back here for a family dinner.” She rolled her eyes. “My son never stops asking for him.”

“I will,” said Din. “Thank you, Senator Organa.”

“Leia,” she said. “You’ve given me the gift of your name, Din. I know what that means to you. I owe you the same courtesy.”

Din fidgeted. “The ancient ways may not apply to me any longer,” he said. “My people are dead or scattered, and I have broken the Creed.”

“Creeds can be rewritten, and you’ll find your people before long, my friend.” She got up from her desk and walked around it to him. He stood quickly as she approached him and stood on her tiptoes to peck his cheek. He barely felt the kiss through his scarf, but the tension in his shoulders loosened significantly and a wave of reassurance that wasn't his shivered through him.

“You have—” he swallowed. “You have what he has. Your brother. My—the Kid.”

“I do,” she said. “It tells me things, and it told me that you’re a good egg. So I'm sending you to Luke to learn how to use the saber and take what’s rightfully yours.”

“I don’t want Mandalore.”

Leia sniffed. “Who said anything about Mandalore?” she asked. She waved a hand at him in dismissal. “Scoot. I have important senator business to do.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Din bowed slightly, feeling stupid but not taking any chances. “Thank you. For everything. I appreciate the information.”

“Would you just go, already,” growled Leia, not unkindly. “Geez, men and their long goodbyes.”

Din fled.

He plugged the data stick into the dash of The Verdant Sun and almost giggled when a star map popped up, showing a path from Chandrila to a tiny planet in the middle of goddamn nowhere called Kokore. He’d never heard of it, which was no surprise—it was deep in the Unknown Regions. Din was more than a little apprehensive about that; he had never been anywhere so isolated before. Kokore was on the other side of too far from everything and Din didn’t know what was waiting for him when he got there. He would be shit out of luck if things went south. He wasn't even sure his comm range would extend that far. It was a really stupid idea to go there.

Most of Din's ideas were stupid, but they always seemed to work out somehow. He seemed luckier—and smarter—than most.

So he would risk it. For the mission.

(For the Kid.)

As soon as he was in hyperspace, Din put his armor back on. He breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the helmet settled around his skull. Leia’s eyes had been kind but he felt her laser focus like the heat of Ahsoka's lightsabers pressed against his armor. He felt transparent after their conversation.

It didn’t help that she had the thing. The magic hand thing.

The Force.

Ahsoka had called it the energy in all living things. Din wondered how energy could let Leia read his thoughts from across a city. He wondered how far someone could communicate with someone else.

He knew what he would use it for. The very first thing.

He settled back for the long trip and closed his eyes.

Kid, he thought, just in case Skywalker was a really good teacher and the Kid was already a fucking Jedi. He might even have a tiny laser sword of his own. Din was overcome. If you’re listening, I’ll see you soon, okay?

He chuckled without mirth at his own foolishness and dozed off to the echo of an excited little voice babbling away in his ear.

Two days later, Din came out of hyperspace and gasped. The planet in front of him was a vibrant blue and green, with three small moons that he could see. The oceans were vast and the land brief and sparse, but thickly forested and, as far as Din could tell from scans, uninhabited beyond the local wildlife. There were dramatic cliffs, waterfalls—it would have been paradise in anyone else’s mind.

In Din’s, it felt like a trap.

He circled the planet once, mapping it out since there was no information on it at all in his database. He couldn’t even look up the name, only the data stick knew its name, which meant that it was a truly uncharted planet that only a scant few knew how to find. And also him.

He wondered if Skywalker knew he was there.

His comm beeped. That'd be a yes.

Din Djarin,” said a familiar voice. “You’re a little late. I’m sending you coordinates where you can land.”

Din scowled at the comm. How many of these magical banthafuckers know my name?

“Copy that,” said Din. “I’m talking to Skywalker, I assume?”

You are.” The voice sounded amused.

"You’re pretty easy to find, after all.”

Only for some.” Skywalker laughed. “It still took you a while. See you soon.”

The comm ended. The coordinates appeared a moment later and Din followed them to the other side of the planet, where the temperature was cooler and the trees less lush and more rugged and spread out. The coordinates directed him to a tall hill overlooking the largest of the seas. It curled around a harbor, empty save for what from the air looked like a boat. There was a landing pad on the beach.

An X-wing—with red stripes—was already there, so Din landed beside it and powered down the Sun’s engines. He adjusted his armor but decided only to bing the beskar spear. He knew he stood no chance against Skywalker if challenged, but he did have a little honor left. Mandalorians rarely if ever went anywhere fully unarmed unless they absolutely had to.

There was no one waiting for him when he disembarked the Sun. He stood outside the ship for a moment and looked around. Nothing to indicate where to go. Just golden sand and the sea. He looked up at the cliff and primed his jetpack.

Wait. No, that wasn’t what he wanted to do.

He powered down the jetpack and looked behind him. There was a path along the grass that began where the sand ended and went toward the cliffs. He'd known it was there, despite having never been here before.

Din knew that was the path to take. He didn’t know how he knew. He knew.

Skywalker, he thought with a grunt. He’s showing me the way with the Force, I guess. Din’s skin crawled. I really don’t like it when they do that.

He followed the path around the cliff and found a set of stone steps stretching up the side of the hill. Automatically he began to climb the steps, until he emerged at the top. It was not terribly high up, but Din was pretty winded from all the climbing.

The building in front of him was constructed of expertly engineered, stacked stones. The house itself was boxy in shape, with a turret capped by a tower of some sort. He’d seen something like it in a few of the Outer Rim settlements. Towns used them for weddings and funerals.

There was a kitchen garden circling the house. Din spotted herbs and vegetables, and toward the rear of the garden, several fruit trees that had no business being on a random planet in the Unknown Regions. He huffed at the sight of what looked like a hastily built frog pond in the middle.

At least he knows what to feed the Kid, Din thought, a little relieved. He hadn't realized he'd been worried about that.

Din hesitated at the large wooden door set deep in the stone doorway.

“Please come in,” said a voice inside, startling him. Din caught his breath and opened the door.

The first thing Din noticed was the fire in the hearth. Near the hearth was a small, handmade crib, and from the crib came an excited cry. It spread through Din's chest like a bloodstain, perhaps it had in fact pierced his heart. He knew that little voice.

“Hey, you,” said Din softly. He dropped to his knees as the Kid scrambled out of the crib and scampered to him, crawling into his lap and burbling happily.

“That’s the most excited I’ve seen him in months,” said Skywalker. Din hadn’t even noticed him sitting across the room at a rough-hewn wooden table, nursing a cup of something. He wore the same carefully neutral expression he'd had on Gideon's ship, but his clothes were now desert-colored and hung loose around Skywalker's wiry frame. His hair was in disarray and it made him look much younger than he'd seemed on the ship; there, he'd seemed world-weary and ancient. Now, Din felt an insane need to protect.

Skywalker raised his cup at Din in greeting, a lopsided smile on his face. “He’s missed you," he said.

“Feeling’s mutual,” said Din gruffly. The Kid scratched at the bottom of the helmet, his demands very clear. Din shook his head. “Not now, buddy,” he said. “Later.”

“You are safe here,” said Skywalker softly. “To remove your helmet.”

Din inhaled sharply. “It’s—It is not the way.” It sounded weak even to him. The words were like rocks in his mouth.

“Does he know that?” asked Skywalker nodding at the Kid. “I can leave.” He stood, picking up his cup.

“No,” said Din. “No, it’s—okay.” He gulped. “You’ve already seen my face. It…doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?”

Skywalker smiled gently. “It does to you,” he said. “Please, tell me what would be best for you, right now.”

Din was silent for a long time, staring at the Kid's eager little face. He then quietly slid the helmet up and off, and set it on the floor beside him.

The Kid squealed with delight and pawed at his face. Din lifted him a little higher so the Kid could grab his nose and twist it. He winced and tears came to his eyes, but not from pain.

Instead, Din laughed.

The Kid had him chuckle often enough, and the Sand People had some pretty good jokes, but Din had never laughed like this, tears at the corners of his eyes and an ache in his chest. The Kid looked startled for a moment, then joined in with his melodic little giggles. Din clutched him close and felt a part of himself that had been torn away slide right back into place.

Skywalker sat back down and sighed. “What is it like,” he said lightly, “to know such pure affection?”

“I don't have the words to describe it,” said Din. He set the Kid on the floor, where he curled up against Din’s knee with a happy little sigh. Din rested one hand on his tiny head and contemplated taking off his glove to skritch at that feathery hair. “I mean, I just took a job. I never expected…him.”

“He told me about that,” said Skywalker. “He said that you saved him.”

“I turned him over to them at first,” Din snapped. “Hardly saving him.”

“You came back for him, he said.” Skywalker went to the kitchenette and took a cup off a shelf above a small sink basin. “There’s only one other being that has ever done that.” 

He looked over at the droid by the door, who beeped. The R2 unit from Gideon's ship. Din stared at it in confusion for a moment until he realized what Skywalker meant, and his mouth dropped open slightly.

You saved him,” he said to it. “You’re the one who took him from the temple." Din gulped. "Before he could be purged with the other Jedi.”

The droid beeped again. Din didn’t speak Droid but it sounded an awful lot like “yup!”

Skywalker cleared his throat. “R2 was there the night Order 66 was given,” he said. Skywalker visibly tensed and his jaw twitched. “Grogu was too young to be with the other children, so he was in the nursery when they were—slaughtered.”

Din winced. He didn’t know that children had been murdered in the Jedi purge. The idea made his blood burn and and his grip around the Kid tightened.

Skywalker went on. “R2 knew this and retrieved Grogu before he could be found and brought him to an ally of the Jedi, who took him away from Coruscant and away from the Empire.”

R2 chirped. Din nodded at it.

“Thank you,” he said, hoping droids could parse gratitude.

“Boop.” The R2 unit seemed pleased. Din gave it a weak smile. It was becoming increasingly obvious he would really have to rethink his stance on droids.

Skywalker looked away. “Grogu’s memory is very clouded after that. He’s locked away things that even I cannot access. Things he was too young to understand.” Skywalker growled. “Frightening things. I don’t know what’s been done to him over the years.”

“Ahsoka said the same,” said Din. The Kid had crawled into his lap again and Din stood, cradling him the way he’d always done. The Kid nestled in and yawned. “She said his mind was dark.”

“It is,” said Skywalker. “And I will not pry into his memories. He’s too young and it would be too traumatic. He’s bright and eager, and a good student.”

“Good,” said Din. “Glad to hear he’s doing well.”

Skywalker was quiet, so long that Din looked away from the Kid and found himself being studied. “What?” he asked.

“I wonder, would his guardian be as good a student?”

Din frowned, then remembered. The whole reason you’re here, idiot, he scolded himself. He glanced at the little bundle in his arms. Okay, half the reason.

“Yes. I need training with the Darksaber,” he said. “I don't want the cursed thing, but no one will accept it until I can fight them with it.”

Skywalker nodded. “And Mandalorian custom dictates that outside blood ties, the Darksaber cannot be given. Only won.”

Din nodded. “I need you to teach me,” he said, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice. “Bo-Katan won’t challenge me until I give her a fair fight. I cannot fight to win, but I cannot let myself lose. I don’t know how to do that.”

Skywalker nodded and pursed his lips. “A difficult situation,” he said. “And you’ve said nothing of the Force.”

“The Force?” Din blinked. “What does that have to do with it?”

Skywalker stared at Din for a long, unsettling moment, then threw back his head and laughed. “Oh, that’s fantastic,” he said. “She knew, and she sent you to me.”

“Who?” asked Din. “Leia?”

“Yes.” Skywalker nodded, his cheeks red. He gave Din a searching look. “Din Djarin, what do you know of the Force?”

Not the question Din was expecting. “Nothing,” he said. “I know the Kid can use it. He lifted a fucking mudhorn, I don’t suppose he told you that.”

Skywalker nodded. “He did.”

“Yeah, well.” Din grunted. “He healed the wounds of an ally of mine. He choked a friend when he thought she was hurting me.” He looked pointedly at Skywalker. “He called you.”

“He is very, very strong with the Force,” said Skywalker. “So much so that he senses it in others where someone his age shouldn’t be able to.”

“He sensed you,” said Din. “On Gideon’s ship. He knew who you were before you reached the bridge.”

Skywalker nodded. “And he knew who you were the moment you shot the droid meant to kill him.” He offered Din a mug of something sweet-smelling and warm. “Sit. Drink.”

“I—” Confused, Din looked down. The Kid was fast asleep in his arms. Din sighed and carefully sat at the little table, feeling clunky in his armor, and tried to drink from the mug while balancing the dead weight of a sleeping toddler in one arm. Fortunately, he’d had some practice.

The drink was sweet and spicy. Din drained the mug, surprised at how thirsty he was.

Skywalker grinned at him. “Have you ever made anything happen?” he asked. “With no explanation?”

“No,” said Din. “Never.” He’d have noticed. Right?

“Hmm,” said Skywalker. “Well, do you seem inordinately lucky?” He took a sip from his cup and hummed. “Do things tend to save the day at the last minute? Do you have exceptionally good timing?” He leaned forward on his elbows eagerly. “Are you a little too handy with a blaster?” He nodded at the spear on Din's back. "How quickly did you learn to wield that?"

Din swallowed hard. He knew he had plenty of skill, he’d been trained in combat for decades, but sometimes he felt like he could do more than he should have been able to. He could anticipate where a ship would be before it got there and bullseye it without hesitation. He often hit his targets without even looking. The spear had taken maybe a week to learn; he'd sparred with Fett a few times to get a feel for it and it seemed like no time at all before it felt like a part of him, and he felt confident he could take on Gideon. It was as though he'd always carried a beskar spear.

No, there's no mysticism to that. Just training.

Din shook his head. “I am Mandalorian. We are warriors. That's what we do.” He frowned. "It—is the Way."

“I know,” said Skywalker. “But there are other ways.” Skywalker reached out and rested a hand on Din’s gauntlet. “Let me show you. I will teach you the saber, but you will also learn the ways of the Force.”

“But why?” said Din. “I can’t do what you do, what he does.” He gestured with his chin at the Kid, snoring lightly against his chest. “I’m just a man.”

“No one is just anything,” said Skywalker. “Just trust me. You can rest easy here, this planet is uncharted and only three—now four—people besides myself know how to find it. No one will come for Grogu, or you. You'll have time to learn, and to rest."

“I don’t—”

“You need a teacher,” said Skywalker. His hand was like a brand on Din’s skin and he couldn’t even feel it through the armor. "Trust me."

“I only need to learn the Darksaber,” said Din stubbornly. I don’t need your sorcery.

“You will,” said Skywalker, and Din wondered which he meant.

“I don’t—”

“Please,” said Skywalker quietly. His tone was gentle but the request firm. Din sighed. He wasn't going to win this argument.

“Alright,” he said. “You have a deal, Skywalker."

Skywalker beamed, eyes dancing with delight. “It’s Luke,” he said. “You don’t have to call me Master Skywalker or anything silly like that, that’s pretty formal and you’re going to be living here for a while. Grogu doesn’t even call me that.” Luke grinned and tilted his head. “What should I call you?”

“Din.” The Kid let out a little sigh. Din adjusted his hold on him. “You already know my name, so you might as well use it.”

“I’m honored,” said Luke sincerely. “I’ve already set up a room for you. The last thing to do is move Grogu’s crib in there.”

“You knew I’d stay?” asked Din. “How did you know?”

“A hunch,” said Luke. His grin was a lot like his sister’s, crooked but sincere. “I’m pretty good at those.”

Din rolled his eyes. “I bet,” he muttered. Luke picked up the crib and carried it into the next room. Din followed, holding the Kid close. The room was small but comfortable, a simple bed and a shelf for the possessions he didn’t have. There was another hearth with a fire going, and Luke set the crib a couple of feet away—close enough to be warm, but not too close. He nodded at Din, who gave him a wan little smile of thanks.

Din carefully laid the Kid in the crib, where he curled into an even tinier ball and began to snore in earnest. Din chuckled.

“For someone whose nose is so small, he makes a lot of noise,” he said, almost proudly.

“My sister’s the only one I think who snores louder,” said Luke.

“I bet she’d be thrilled that you told me,” said Din dryly. Luke laughed.

“I’m lucky she ended lightsaber training. She’d hand me my own ass.” Luke looked thoughtful. “She still can.”

Din thought of Senator Organa. “Yep." He glanced at Luke. He looked nothing like his sister. His eyes were the blue of the Tatooine sky and his sandy hair was plain, cut neatly. Where Leia carried herself with a quiet grace and a shrewd look, Luke had a world-weary innocence, shrouded in serenity. He was not the formidable warrior he'd been on Gideon's ship. Gone were the black clothes and the green blade, replaced by a cup of sweet tea and bare feet.

He's just a man, thought Din. It made him feel a little better.

“Rest,” said Luke. “Sleep for a while. I’ll bring you something to eat. It’s not very good, but it’s filling.”

“I’ve had worse,” said Din. “Ever eaten rancor? Not recommended. The aftermath is pretty terrible.”

Luke made a face. “Have never eaten one but was almost eaten by one. But that’s a story for another night.” Luke held up a hand and Din felt a gentle pressure at the center of his chest, pushing him toward the bed. “Please, rest.”

“Alright,” said Din, holding up his hands. The sensation of pressure with no source was unnerving. He didn't want Luke to do that again. “You win. I’ll rest.”

Luke beamed. “Good. I’ll see you in a couple of hours. The two of you need time to be together.”

Din nodded and looked over at the crib. The Kid slept on, oblivious to everything, and all of a sudden Din wanted nothing more than to do the same. “Yes,” he said wearily. “We do.”

Luke nodded and left him, shutting the door quietly behind him, leaving Din standing in the middle of a room that felt both alien and familiar at the same time. The Kid’s soft breathing made him think of those long nights on the Razor Crest and Din felt a wave of horrible, gut-wrenching homesickness—for the ship, the Tribe, his life before. He sank down to the bed and sat on the edge of it, head bowed, his eyes closed. His breathing came too quickly. His eyes burned.

He didn’t know how long he sat like that until he felt something scratching at his foot. He opened his damp eyes and found the Kid staring back at him, perched on his boot and making sleepy, quizzical noises. Din smiled and scooped him up, cradling him and pressing his nose to the top of the Kid’s head. He smelled of soap and whatever he’d eaten for dinner.

“I missed you,” he murmured. The kid purred like a Loth-cat and Din laughed softly. “Sounds like you missed me too.”

The kid squirmed when Din tried to put him down. “Just for a second,” said Din, prying his little green hands off his cloak. “I need to get this shit off.” He dropped the kid on the bed and shed the rest of his beskar, stowing it on the shelf for easy access. In tunic and trousers, he picked up the Kid, who began to struggle when Din tried to return him to the crib.

“You gotta sleep too, Kid,” said Din. “You’ve got Jedi-training tomorrow. That’s probably pretty intense.”

The Kid squeaked in protest until finally Din gave up and carried him to the bed. It took some arranging but eventually Din ended up on his back with the Kid on his chest. The Kid fell asleep again almost immediately, one of his massive ears pressed to Din’s heart. Din lay awake for a long time, hand on the Kid’s back, reacquainting himself with the rhythm of their breathing.

I don’t know what Luke’s plan is, he thought. He thinks I’m like him and the Kid. I’m not. I’m a Mandalorian, maybe, and the sooner I get rid of the Darksaber the sooner I can go back to being just that.

Another voice drifted into his thoughts. No one is just anything.

Din snorted. "Fuck off, Skywalker," he mumbled grumpily, though he felt a strange sense of amusement as he fell asleep.

The first few days were quiet and awkward. Through uncomfortable small talk Din learned that the planet had been inhabited once, by a primitive culture without space travel. They voyaged by sea, and Luke’s dwelling was a beacon to guide their boats into the little harbor where Luke and Din's ships were docked. Luke showed him the top of the tower, which was singed from countless mighty fires. All but one side was made of mirrors.

“It could be seen for miles,” Luke had told him while they watched Grogu practice with little stones. “The beacon. In any weather, in any storm. It never went out. They kept it burning through the night, so that the ships would know where to go.”

Din and Luke learned to move around each other in the house, with Din feeling large and clumsy in the small space compared to Luke's wiry grace. Every day Din tried to leave a component of his armor behind in his room, tried to get used to the vulnerability of the missing pieces. It was slow going, and more often than not he’d end up putting it all back on again, including the helmet, and running through Luke's basic saber exercises over and over until he could breathe again.

The armor was becoming annoying, but it was better than being seen.

It also had other benefits, such as keeping him in one piece during Luke’s training sessions.

“I know you’re better than this!” shouted Luke one afternoon, in the courtyard. He stepped back and twirled his lightsaber. “You’re not focusing!”

“Hard to focus when you’re actively trying to kill me!” Din struggled to stay on his feet. He was exhausted, dizzy, his arms ached from the weight of the Darksaber as he swung it at Luke’s head, over and over.

“That’s the whole point, Din.” Luke sighed. “Your opponent will actively try to kill you.”

Din leaned over with one hand on his knee, the empty hilt of the Darksaber clutched in the other. “I know, I know,” he said wearily. “You can’t expect me to understand this in just a few weeks.”

“I do expect you to understand it.” Luke took his place. “Again.”

Din groaned but mimicked Luke’s stance. He adjusted his grip on the Darksaber and it lit up in his hands. Luke grinned a little maniacally, which was always a dangerous sign. It meant Luke was getting crafty, and Din hated that.

“Just, try not to be an asshole this time,” muttered Din. Luke laughed and lunged, and Din did his best to fight him off.

It wasn’t working. He was still getting thrown all over the little clearing where they fought.

“Damn it!” Din picked himself up after being Force-thrown into the trees. “Would you stop that.” His head in the helmet rung like a bell. “Bo-Katan can’t do what you do!”

“You should be prepared for anything,” said Luke. “Bo-Katan won’t be the only one coming after your throne.”

“It’s not my throne,” snapped Din.

Luke sniffed. “Again,” he said, falling into stance once more. Din grunted and followed suit. “This time, please try and feel the blade as you move. You fight with brutality. The saber demands grace.”

You try being graceful in beskar,” said Din darkly.

“You could take it off,” said Luke with a shrug.

“You could fuck right off,” said Din. He had visions of broken bones and lacerations no Force-user could heal.

Luke held up his hands. “Fair enough,” he said. “Let’s go again.”

Din growled and clutched the saber. “I think you’re doing this for fun.”

“No, I’m not,” said Luke. He cocked his head playfully. “Not just for fun, anyway.”

Din roared and launched himself at Luke, who neatly stepped out of the way and left Din staggering in his wake. He quickly swept up behind Din and Din felt the sickening pressure of the Force as it shoved him several feet away and almost knocked him over. He managed to stay upright, but only just.

“Come on,” said Luke, and Din could hear his agitation. So even the Jedi has limits, he thought. “You know how to do this. It’s there. You just have to tune into it.”

Din growled. “You want the impossible.”

“Not impossible,” said Luke, and Din could have sworn there was regret in his voice. “Difficult is not impossible. Close your eyes. Hold the saber not as a weapon but as an extension of your whole self. The thing that makes you you.”

Din grunted as Luke stepped up behind him. He took Din’s hands in his—they were warm, even though Din's gloves—and rearranged his grip on the Darksaber. “Stance,” he said. Din planted his feet, gripped the saber, and leaned into form.

“Now, focus,” said Luke, and he sounded close, as though he were speaking into Din's ear. Din shivered. “Close your eyes and listen.”

“To what?” muttered Din as he shut his eyes.

Everything,” said Luke softly.

Din breathed in deeply, held it for a moment, and exhaled slowly, until every scrap of air had left his lungs. One of the first things Luke had taught him was how to breathe, and while it had seemed silly at the time Din had to admit that changing his breathing during battle had significantly extended his endurance. He had to give Luke credit for that, at least.

So, he closed his eyes and breathed, and he focused on the hum and vibration of the Darksaber in his hands. It sang a song Din didn’t know that made him nervous. The blade itself smelled of smoke and broken bones, carnage. The warmth of the hilt felt as though his hands were bathed in fresh blood.

He told Luke that and he’d nodded sadly.

“Sabers remember,” he’d said. “They remember their actions, good and bad. When a saber finds a master, its history becomes theirs.” He looked at Din sadly. “You’re taking on the misery of a conquered world full of ghosts.”

“Great.” Din kept his eyes closed. “Just what I need.”

“C’mon.” Luke’s voice sent another chill through Din’s body. “Focus.

The weight of the Darksaber in Din’s hands continued to build, until finally he felt like he couldn’t hold it up anymore. He decided to stop fighting the darkness, in the hopes that was what the saber wanted. Instead, he opened up to it. He let it flood in and with it came waves of suffering, loathing, and an unspeakable sense of power: tempting, demanding, seductive—he could do anything with it, anything he wanted—

Din shouted and flung the Darksaber into the trees. It sliced through several before it went out, leaving a swath of stumps in its wake. Din breathed hard as Luke looked at him intently.

“That was the Dark Side,” said Luke. “There’s plenty of it in that saber.” He looked at Din thoughtfully. “Your first instinct was to reject it. That’s good.”

Din, however, was not. “Why did that happen?” he demanded. “Why did I see that?”

“The Dark Side wants everyone to see it,” said Luke. “It found you and introduced itself.” He grinned. “And was promptly shown the door.”

“I’m not touching that thing again if that’s what comes with it,” said Din, gesturing in the direction he'd thrown the Darksaber. As he did, he could hear the sound of crackling branches, and a moment later the hilt came rocketing from the underbrush and straight into Din’s outstretched hand.

The woods surrounding them fell silent. A few feet away, the Kid’s eyes were fixed on Din, full of awe and interest.

So were Luke’s.

Din looked at him and then at the saber. “You didn’t do that, did you,” he asked softly.

“I did not,” said Luke.

Din gestured at the Kid. "Did he—"

Luke shook his head.

“Huh.” Din stared down at the weapon in his hand. “Well. Shit.”

Luke laughed. “That’s not the reaction I was expecting."

“Did you know this would happen?” asked Din. “That I could do that?”

“Yes,” said Luke. “Just as your protection and devotion awakened Grogu’s suppressed abilities, your bond with him has awakened the unknown in you.”

“The unknown in m—what?” Din frowned at the saber. “I’m a Jedi?”

Luke snickered. “Don’t sound so miserable about it. Also, no, and I don’t think you will be one,” he said. “It doesn’t suit you.”

Din was oddly wounded. “I thought anyone could be a Jedi,” he said.

“Do you want to be one?”

“No,” said Din quickly. “Stop doing that.”

“Doing what?” Luke asked innocently. “I’m just explaining how your Force powers have shown themselves. Grogu sensed it and knew you could be trusted. Leia sensed it and sent you to me. I sensed it the moment you entered the atmosphere. You have talent, Din. Maybe not Jedi material, but you could do great things." He looked thoughtful. "You actually remind me a little of my sister. She left Jedi training and now uses her abilities to shape the galaxy around her for the better."

Something dawned on Din. “She said she knew I was looking for her.” He frowned. “I'd—I'd been thinking. Before I left my ship. I swore I'd find someone to help me find a Skywalker."

“She heard you,” said Luke gently. “You were subconsciously projecting strongly enough that Leia picked up on it from across an entire city. And when you reached out to Grogu, even though you thought he couldn't hear you, we did. Very faint, but clear. Which is very, very good for a novice."

Luke gave him an assessing look. “You could be very strong with real training." He grinned. "A Force-using Mandalorian with the Darksaber is a formidable opponent. You could easily rule Mandalore unchallenged for decades.” He smirked. "Even Bo-Katan might balk at taking on such a foe."

Din made an exasperated noise. "I keep telling you, I don’t want Mandalore. I don’t want to even go there, let alone rule it.”

“You’ve never been to your own homeworld?” asked Luke, sounding a little surprised. “Though," he mused, "I suppose it’s true that I’ve never been to mine.”

“You’re from Tatooine,” said Din. “Your sister told me.”

“Yes, but I wasn’t born there. I could visit my birthplace, I suppose, but there’s nothing for me there. My mother and father no longer live.”

“I’m sorry,” said Din. He thought he should do something with his hands—put one on Luke’s shoulder, maybe. He wasn’t sure how to navigate this particular friendship.

They were friends by now, Din thought. Weren't they?

“It’s the same for you,” said Luke. “Isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Din hesitated. “I am not from Mandalore. I am a foundling. You know this. You’ve read my mind.”

“I don’t know it, and I haven’t,” said Luke. “I don’t go where I’m not wanted.”

“I never want you in there.”

Luke raised his eyebrows. “You do sometimes,” he said. “You’re not aware of it, but you open up in a way that invites investigation, and I'm a curious guy."

"Curiosity killed the Loth-cat," muttered Din.

"Good thing I'm a farmboy from the desert, then." He patted Din's shoulder. "Sometimes it's—it's like you want me to see something, but you don't know what it is you want to show me. But I never feel like I'm not welcome."

Din frowned. “So, you are reading my mind, but only when I want you to?”

“I can’t read minds,” said Luke in exasperation. “I can feel your thoughts, and I can sense heightened emotions and your presence. I extrapolate the rest from there. I don’t know your history, Din—but not for lack of trying. You have a rap sheet with the Republic and the Empire, and the Quarren don’t seem to like you very much, but other than that you could be any other bounty hunter from any other planet.”

“I was born on Aq Vetina,” Din blurted. “You’ve never heard of it.”

“You’re right.”

Din pressed on. “We were attacked. I was small, maybe ten at the most. I don’t remember the circumstances, but what I do remember are droid soldiers destroying my village. My parents put me in a bunker to protect me and were immediately killed as soon as my father closed the hatch. I was discovered by the droids and nearly followed my parents in death when the Mandalorians arrived. I was rescued and raised as one of their own.”

Luke nodded and said nothing. It was the exact right thing for him to say.

Din glanced at the Kid. “Mandalore was a mythical place," he said. "A horror story. We were told that to go there meant certain death, and there were a few who did try. They never returned.”

He looked away. “We do not go to Mandalore,” he said dully, repeating what the Armorer had said, many times.

“It’s not great,” said Luke. “But it’s not a murder planet, either.” He shrugged. “It needs work. It’s a fixer-upper.”

Din sighed and wished he weren’t wearing his helmet. He felt like pinching the bridge of his nose. “Sometimes I think you speak gibberish just to hear the sound of your own voice. I don't understand most of what you say.”

“Trust me, my friend. When I have something important to say, you’ll understand every word.” Luke smirked. “Shall we try again? And this time, try and use your abilities. Do the thing you just did, but on purpose. Got it?”

Luke winked and Din’s ears heated up. He was suddenly grateful for the helmet.

“Got it,” he said. His voice came out a bit strangled. “I mean. Uh. Yeah.”

Luke's eyes widened slightly and his mouth slowly grew a lopsided smile that Din couldn't translate.

“That’s the spirit,” said Luke. He backed away from Din and raised his lightsaber. “Again.”

They moved into position, and this time Din focused on Luke and Luke alone, tuning out the sounds of the forest and Grogu's happy chatter as he watched from his perch by the frog pond. Everything died away, and Din became aware only of himself and of Luke.

When Luke lunged, Din dodged and threw out a hand the way he’d seen Luke do it, thinking only of getting Skywalker and his fucking lightsaber as far away from him as possible. Din was really tired of getting whacked with that thing.

He was stunned when he sent Luke flying into the trees from across the clearing with a yelp and a crash.

A second later Din could only see the wave of a triumphant fist as Luke cheered from the bushes. When he emerged with twigs in his hair he strode up to Din, grinning breathlessly, and held up his hand.

Din stared at it, then at Luke.

“Okay, Mandalorians don’t high-five.” Luke looked a little embarrassed, but he recovered quickly and clapped Din on the shoulder. “You’re going to be amazing.”

Din wasn’t sure about that, but it was nice to hear.

One month in, Luke informed Din that the Kid had been trying to establish a basic Force bond with him, but Din wasn’t sensitive enough yet to pick up on it. Without a seeing stone amplifier, Grogu wasn’t exactly broadcasting on a strong frequency, and Din was untrained and not tuned in.

“He wants to communicate with you,” said Luke over dinner that night. “It’s frustrating to him that he understands you, but you can’t understand him.”

“What do I need to do?” asked Din, picking at the remnants of meat on his plate. Dinner was some kind of bird Din didn’t know the name of that he’d brought down with the spear that afternoon, in a desperate bid for something other than Luke’s dismal cooking. Din didn’t know what to do with recipes and ingredients, but he could roast things and make them taste pretty good.

Luke paused and swallowed a mouthful of qaffa juice. “I’ve got some ideas,” he said. “But only if you kill something else and set it on fire, because this is fucking delicious.” Luke's tone was so fraught with dramatic urgency that Din had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. “Why the hell are we living off my cooking when you can do this? From now on, that’s your job. You kill it, cook it, and then let me eat it.”

Din snorted. “How do I connect with the Kid?” he asked.

“Grogu,” said Luke, licking his fingers. Din looked away, unnerved by that for some reason. “You’ve got to use his name more than you do. He likes it. He wants you to know who he is.”

Din nodded. “It’s difficult to get used to,” he said. “He’s been the Kid for so long. I didn't know what else to call him."

“He doesn’t mind that, he knows it's an affectionate nickname, but maybe throw him a bone now and then?”

Din nodded. “I will.”

“Good.” Luke tapped his own chin in thought. “I think you need to spend an hour together every night without interference from me and try to communicate without words.”

“So…we just look at each other in silence?” He thought of the Kid and Ahsoka and their staring contest on Corvus. “And think real hard until somebody feels something?”

Luke nodded. “Yes,” he said simply. “That’s exactly what you’re going to do.”

Din grunted. “Well, you're the Jedi Master around here,” he said, resigning himself to the assignment. He remained unconvinced that he could communicate with the Kid—Grogu—through the Force, but he wasn’t exactly going to complain about quality time with him. It would be like their days on the Crest.

He suddenly burned with homesickness again and pushed it down before it could consume him. Ever-watchful, Luke patted Din’s hand before going back to his dinner, babbling about he planned to teach Grogu levitation soon.

Din spent the rest of the night flexing that same hand, the brand of Luke’s empathy burned into his knuckles.

So began Din and Grogu’s nightly sessions of sitting on Din’s bedroom floor and silently contemplating one another. It was a lot like the Crest days, though Din couldn’t do all the talking he’d normally done back then. He’d never had anyone to talk to between jobs before, and he took advantage of the captive audience. Din was actually kind of chatty on his own. He'd talked to himself all the time, before he'd accidentally acquired a baby. You could only fly in silence for so long before you needed some kind of chatter. Subsequently the Kid learned a lot about Mandalorian culture and heard a few poems and songs. Din had even taught him a game with little round stones that he himself had played as a child. They’d had a good time.

Now, every evening before dinner, he and the kid spent an hour staring at each other in total silence. Not such a good time.

Three months into their sessions and four since Din’s arrival, Din became so frustrated by the lack of any progress that one night, when the Kid was particularly whiney and it just wasn't working, he ducked his head and shut his eyes tightly against that bottomless stare. Din thought hard about how he wanted nothing more than to be back in his ship—the one Gideon had taken from him—with the Kid, all of this behind them and nothing but wide open space and adventure ahead. He missed his Tribe like a limb.

Din wanted that life, his old one. Not this mystical banthashit and laser swords.

He let the sadness and loathing sink into him, slide into his bones, freeze the blood in his arteries. It chilled his heart and he let himself shiver so violently his teeth rattled. He was lost in a maelstrom of pain. It swallowed him from within like a black hole and he thought he would never breathe again.

A soft cry at his side jolted him from his misery. He looked down into the Kid's infinite gaze, those eyes more pained than Din had ever seen them. The Kid looked scared to death, shivering violently and clinging to Din's leg and whimpering. He began to wail with a heartbreak Din couldn’t bear and he quickly scooped him up and gently ran his thumbs under the Kid's eyes, swiping the tears away.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he murmured. “Of all the things that finally got through, it had to be that.” He cradled the Kid against his chest for a long, long time. The darkness ebbed from his blood and disappeared into the shadowy recesses of his mind, as though pulled directly from his body and scattered to space, and he realized that it wasn’t entirely him doing it.

“That you, pal?” whispered Din. A soft bleat. “Thanks, Kid. Uh, Grogu.”

“Hup?” The Kid—Grogu—looked up at him eagerly.

“Okay, I get it.” Din smiled and patted his fuzzy head. “Grogu. That’s your name. I’ll use it. Okay?”

A distinct feeling of gratitude washed over him, and Din laughed in triumph and relief.

“Wish we’d figured this out months ago,” he said, tapping Grogu on the nose. “I’d have been a lot less confused all the time.”

Amusement. Relief. Lovelovelovelovelove.

Oh. That was—

Tears stung Din’s eyes and he blinked them back quickly. There was no point, they slipped down his cheeks and dotted the top of Grogu’s head. Din sputtered and swiped them away.

“Sorry, sorry—” Din lifted him so that they were eye to eye. “Kid—I…”

How did he express this? The words seemed so weak compared to what Grogu was sharing with him. He’d never felt so loved.

He’d never loved anything more.

Without thinking, Din tipped their foreheads together.

I know your name as my child,” he murmured, in a language he hadn’t used in a long time. Din leaned back and looked the Kid in the eye. “Grogu.”

He expected something to happen. Some kind of fanfare, maybe a sensation of being complete and whole at last. Instead, the room was quiet save for the roar of Din’s own heartbeat in his ears and Grogu’s soft breathing.

Din stared at the little bundle in his hands in wonder. “You are Grogu Djarin,” he whispered. “Don’t let anyone take that from you. Remember your name. It’s yours forever, if you want it.”

The kid was drowning him. Din couldn’t breathe.

“Me too, buddy.” Din clumsily pecked the top of his head, unused to such affection, given or received. His child would not grow up that way.

He did it again. “Me too.”

Later, after Grogu had gone to sleep, Luke caught Din on his way to bed.

“Congratulations,” he said. At Din’s raised eyebrow he had the good sense to look sheepish. “Grogu is an open book. He spent most of the evening letting me know he was Grogu Djarin.”

Din nodded. “Neither of us had names for a long time. Names are—important." He'd only just come to realize that, after Luke speaking his name for months. He felt less rattled by it every time Luke called for him from outside or somewhere in the house. Eventually he began to look forward to those moments. He liked his name in Luke's voice. Serene or amused, or even angry, Din liked the sound of his own name.

That's how the Kid feels, he thought. When I use his.

"He will carry the Djarin name long after I’m gone," Din added. "Our clan will not be forgotten.”

Luke nodded. “I will never forget your name,” he said.

Immediately Luke seemed to realize what he’d said and quickly added, “I mean, I won't forget either of you.”

Din blinked. An odd thing to say, even for Luke, who would say at least five odd things before breakfast. "What’s so important about me that you’ll remember my name?” he asked. Grogu, he understood. That kid stayed with you long after he was gone. Din was just a man.

Luke seemed a little rattled. “A Mandalorian Jedi?” he said. His voice seemed a little too loud. “Hard to forget.”

“I thought you said I wasn’t going to be a Jedi.”

Luke shrugged. “I have been known to be wrong on occasion.” He clapped Din on the shoulder, his hand heavy and solid. “Congratulations again,” he said. “He’s thrilled to have a father. He does not remember his biological parents at all.”

Din wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Ahsoka had told him Grogu thought of him that way. Now he was. There was a difference, and it slammed into Din like a blaster bolt.

I have a kid now, he thought.

What the fuck.

Luke laughed. “Yeah, Leia told me that it's kind of like a seismic charge going off in your chest,” he said. “I should put you in touch with my friend Han. He still can’t believe he’s a father either and his kid’s five years old.”

“It’s a lot to take in,” said Din weakly. “It means—it means I can’t leave.”

Luke frowned. “You can’t?”

“No,” said Din. “If he remains here to train, I must as well. He’s too young.”

“I told you, I would give my life to protect him.”

“It’s not that,” said Din. “It’s—different. For us.”

“For Mandalorians,” said Luke.

“Family is everything,” said Din. “I can’t leave him here knowing that he is mine. It would be abandonment.” He frowned. “You do not abandon your children.”

“You’re right,” said Luke gravely. “You don’t.” He seemed to be thinking. “Well, it’s not an issue right now. You are far from prepared to take on any challenges at this point.”

Din was surprised at the relief he felt upon being told he was inadequate at something. “Really? Oh.” Din coughed. “So, we keep working together, I guess?" To his own ears he sounded too eager, which was baffling. Training consisted of getting his ass handed to him on a daily basis. Why would he look forward to that?

“Yes,” said Luke, swallowing audibly, and Din felt a wave of extremely confusing relief. There was a look in Luke's eyes that Din couldn’t read.

“We’ll continue training," said Luke hoarsely. "You and Grogu.”

“Okay.” Din nodded. “Good.”

“Good.” Luke cleared his throat. “I’m—going to go to bed and read now.”

“Sure. Good luck.” He winced internally. “I’m turning in.”

“Okay.” Luke seemed unsure of what to do, which to Din was a first. “Goodnight,” he said, almost a question.

“Yep,” said Din, fleeing to his room.

Din kept the light off so he wouldn't wait the Kid and undressed mechanically before getting into bed. It took a long time for him to settle in, and he stared up at the ceiling for even longer. He was not tired.

What the fuck was that?

At some point during their interaction, Din had done something to disable Luke's usual level-headed serenity. He didn't know what; even when Din retreated into himself and spent the day back in armor, not speaking to anyone, Luke was patient and left tea and bread outside Din's door. He gently offered to help Din out of his armor when Din was too sore to even lift his arms and was never offended if Din rebuffed him. And when Grogu would tantrum he would sit quietly beside him until the Kid cried himself out and came looking for comfort. Nothing seemed to faze Luke at all; he maintained a persistent calm that reminded Din of hunkering down on a clifftop with his rifle in hand and taking aim at a target. Not a breath, not a blink. Becoming the ground beneath his body to move with the planet.

He rarely missed.

Din thought of the look on Luke's face, almost unreadable, except there'd been something there, something that threatened to disrupt Luke's stillness and turn it into something Din might be able to understand a bit better. He wondered what it was, what was going on in Luke’s mind that had him so on edge, and not for the first time Din wished he could feel Luke the way he could Grogu. He could really use a little insight into the man who kicked his ass every day.

He wondered what would happen if he reached out beyond the confines of his room. Not just to Grogu, but to another person.

It would be good practice, he reasoned. Luke can tell me to fuck off if he wants.

He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing until he felt his body sink into the mattress, the blankets enveloping him like hands cupped around his entire body. He thought about Grogu and then skipped his mind away from him, afraid he’d wake him somehow.

He thought about Luke, and immediate his thoughts struck something immobile, as hard as beskar if not harder. A wall.

So, I can reach him, thought Din. But he’s not letting anyone in.

Fair enough. Din began to pull back when something snagged at the corner of his consciousness. A curious little tendril of something, easing its way into his head through the cracks. An offering. Din tentatively focused on it. He grasped it like a string, and something told him to pull.

Light spilled into his head, so bright it burned, and he was shocked out of his trance. He sat up gasping, then smothered his breathing with both hands when he heard Grogu whimper. He struggled to keep himself still until he felt Grogu settle again.

Din exhaled in a rush and clutched his head. His mind spun.

How can one person possess so much light?

He didn’t dare reach out again, but he didn’t have to. A sense of worry washed over him, then a gentle request. Din was up and out of bed before he realized what he was doing, padding barefoot from his room to Luke’s door, where he hesitated.

“Din,” came Luke’s soft voice. “Please come in.”

Din opened the door. Luke’s lamp was on and he was sitting up in bed. He looked bleary eyed, and Din realized Luke had been sleeping when Din had mentally barged in on him.

“My apologies,” he said stiffly. “It wasn’t my place to pry. I was—trying things out, and I thought you’d answered, and—”

“I should be one apologizing,” Luke gently interrupted. “I offered you too much too quickly.”

Din bit his lip. “So, you were trying to connect.” He fidgeted where he stood. “You are—very bright.”

“Leia said the same thing,” said Luke. “The Light and Dark are a tempest, and I am their host.”

“Uh.” Din wasn’t sure how to respond to that. “That’s unfortunate.”

Luke laughed. “Very. Please, come sit. You’re making me nervous, hovering in the door like that.”

Din shut the door behind him and sat on the end of Luke’s bed. It felt very intimate, a violation of the walls they’d set up for themselves when Din moved in. Din had not been inside Luke’s room before, and now that he was, he took the opportunity to look around. More of Luke’s books—he had so many—filled the shelves on one side of the room, and a small bureau and a plain, wooden desk took up the opposite wall. His bed was modest, the blankets thick but misshapen; clearly made by an inexpert hand. There were long forgotten cups of qaffa on the nightstand.

It was spartan, but still lived in. The kind of sanctuary you’d expect of a Jedi.

“What made you reach out?” asked Luke. Din looked at him. “What made you look for me?”

“I was…experimenting,” Din said, deciding not to let Luke know he was worried about him. “Since I can with Grogu now, I wanted to know if I could do it with someone else.”

“Well, I’m pretty convenient,” said Luke with a smile. “Want to try again?”

Absolutely. Din nodded. “Alright.”

“Okay.” Luke sat up a little straighter. “Look at me, Din.”

Din raised his eyes to meet Luke’s. They were very, very blue. “I’m looking,” he said, his voice rough. He cleared his throat. “What now?”

“Do what you did before. Reach out to me.”

Din swallowed hard. “I had my eyes closed when I did it before.”

Luke chuckled. “Alright, close your eyes.” Din did, and Luke’s voice took on a different timbre that traveled through Din’s consciousness like a roll of thunder. “Breathe. Just breathe.”

The feeling came quicker this time, washing over him like bathwater. He allowed himself to float, then slowly fall up, up, up.

There was the string. He grasped it and pulled, and the door flew open again. This time he was prepared for the light, and even though it burned and burned, he gritted his teeth and fought against the urge to open his eyes and bolt from the house.

“There,” said Luke, from somewhere underwater. A wave of pride washed over Din, then amusement at Din’s relief to have done something right.

“You’re doing well,” murmured Luke. Something about his voice made Din’s ears heat up again. Praise from Luke was few and far between. Din valued it highly. He always wanted more, though he couldn’t parse why. He just wanted to hear it again and feel the warmth it sparked low in his belly.

Luke made a strangled noise and the connection cut off abruptly. The wall was back and Din blinked in surprise.

He shook his head. “What happened?”

“Nothing.” Luke was flushed, his normally pale skin a patchy crimson. His freckles stood out. Din stared at them as Luke clutched his head with his false hand—almost impossible to tell from the organic one. He wore a wild-eyed expression.

“Just—you’re a little better at that than I thought,” he said.

“Oh.” Din frowned at Luke's agitation. “We could try—”

“Sleep,” said Luke. “We can sleep and then resume in the morning, when we’re fresh and ready to work.”

Din quietly panicked. What was wrong? “If I’ve done something—” he began, but Luke waved away his words.

“Do not worry,” said Luke. He waved Din’s question away. “I’m just tired. Force connections are exhausting. I don’t know how you’re still standing.”

Din shrugged. “I don’t get tired easily,” he said. “It’s trained out of us very early on.”

“I’m a bit jealous. I’m always tired.” Luke reached over to snap off his lamp. “Goodnight, Din.”

“Ah, goodnight.” Din slipped from the room and closed the door. He crept back to his room and found Grogu still sleeping and snoring to wake the dead. Din checked him over, adjusted his blanket, and quietly left the room. He didn’t think he was going to be able to sleep for a while, and he didn’t want his tossing and turning to wake the Kid. Grogu was a little asshole if he didn’t get his beauty sleep, and Din was in no mood to deal with that tomorrow.

He sat in Luke’s favorite chair with one of the Jedi texts, hoping to understand a little more about the history of Grogu’s people. He tried to puzzle through the stories, but they were even more incomprehensible than the Mandalorian legends and there were too many names to remember. It was like reading the instructions for a pre-Empire hyperdrive. He perservered, but it was slow going.

He was reading about kyber crystals when he something, something, crept into his mind. He paused and listened beyond his own thoughts, the way Luke had taught him. It was similar to what the Sand People had taught him about stalking prey. 

Din heard nothing but the distant song of midnight seabirds. Luke’s console hummed from the table. Shrugging, he went back to reading.

Instantly he felt it again, dancing on the sharp edge of his consciousness. He knew that feeling, he knew it from somewhere in the deeper corners of his brain. It rolled over him like a strong current and threatened to pull him under, except Din didn’t think he would have minded drowning.

Oh.

OH.

Din’s face burned. He tried desperately to wall off his mind the way Luke had taught him a few weeks ago, but he couldn’t remember how. Desperation and embarrassment were throwing him off, and now that he knew what he was feeling he couldn’t ignore it. He stared hard at Luke’s door and willed him to stop.

It stopped.

Then a burst of intense humiliation hit Din like a freighter and punched the air from his lungs. He clutched the arms of the chair, his gut telling him to retreat to his room so they could both recover and in the morning pretend nothing happened. It seemed to Din like a good plan.

Except Luke’s embarrassment threatened to smother him, and Din hated the thought of Luke feeling that way over something even Din knew was pretty fucking normal for a significant number of beings.

It was interesting, however, that this was happening on the night they’d connected for the first time. When he'd sought Luke's praise and was met with an awkward dismissal.

Din stilled, breath caught in his lungs. Oh.

There were lovers in the Tribe, of course there were. Mandalorians weren't all Foundlings. Some attachments were advantageous matches between clans, others for true affection. Marriages were frequent and celebrated for days. Din had often heard certain sounds in the halls of the Covert while on his assigned nightly patrols. The Mandalorians were no strangers to sex.

Din, however, didn't really care much about it. Occasionally, while on a layover in some backwater town, Din would take someone up on an offer of a tight fist or a mouth in the darkest alley available, when the excess wear and tear of his profession would build up and cause him to get sloppy in his work. By the time it got to the point where he was willing to find some company, more often than not it was little more than a means to an end.

He rarely returned the favor, though he knew he was pretty good with his hands.

The majority of the time, however, he went without. Sometimes for months at a time; occasionally years. It rarely crossed his mind and wasn’t important to his life or his work.

Until now, apparently.

Din swallowed against the tightness in his throat. He hadn’t expected to enjoy Luke’s company as much as he did when he'd arrived on the planet. He looked forward to lessons of course, but also to the minutiae of the day. Din liked routine and he liked rituals, things he’d lost when the Covert was destroyed, Living with Luke gave him both, from their meals together to meditation training every evening before Grogu went to sleep. Din enjoyed Luke’s stories of the Rebellion and the animated way that he told them, with funny voices and waving his hands around—more than once Din had been struck by the insane desire to grab one of them and hold it still in his own.

He couldn’t see himself undergoing Mandalorian courtship with a non-Mandalorian. But he didn’t know how Luke’s people did it, either. He’d seen enough holos and overheard enough conversations to know the usual ways—a touch, whispered words, the caress of skin against skin.

He’d never wanted any of those things before, but now, for the first time in his forty years in the Galaxy, Din Djarin allowed himself to want.

And what he wanted was Luke.

He had no idea what to do next, which was rare for him. Should he go to Luke? Knock on his door, invite himself into Luke's bed? Should he wait until morning and approach him then?

How do I do this? Din wondered, running a hand through his frantic hair. He really would have rather faced another mudhorn right about then.

Luke’s embarrassment merged with self-loathing. It made Din feel sick so he tried reaching out, hoping he could somehow help. Luke’s mental walls were weakened by embarassment just enough that Din was able to find Luke's aching discomfort and attempt to soothe it with awkward reassurance. He was relieved when he felt tentative acceptance, as well as a little gratitude.

It was all so surreal, a silent conversation, that Din decided to try something, while their connection was so strong and he was feeling brave.

I want you.

Din wasn’t sure the message had gotten through until a flood of lust rushed over him like a broken dam and almost knocked him out of his chair. He sat up awkwardly and tried to catch his breath. He felt a barrage of confusion, shock, and a lot of hope. Din focused on the hope and drew it in.

They drifted together, mingling their consciousnesses and soaking each other in, when Din picked up on that same feeling from before. He hesitated, let it hang in the space between them. Luke was quiet for a long moment, then a ripple of sensation danced along Din's skin and caused him to gasp. He swore he could hear Luke laughing through his bedroom door.

Din thought about going to him, seeing how this worked outside their minds, but there was something about sharing themselves this way that made him feel more comfortable than if they were in the same room. He needed a little more time to work up to that. He settled back in the chair and closed his eyes. He didn't know how to arouse another person, so he decided to go with what he knew he liked.

He thought about how it felt to ride a speeder full throttle across the sand. Din loved the vibration of the engine beneath him and he sent that feeling to Luke as vividly as he could paint it and was rewarded with a soft sound from behind Luke’s door. Din’s breathing picked up and he scratched his chest, wishing he had the nerve to reach lower. But he was in the sitting room, and Grogu was in his bedroom, so he couldn’t retreat there either. He felt too exposed as it was; putting his hand down his shorts was pushing it.

He could just get up and go to Luke.

An invitation rose in his mind, a question. Din considered it.

He must have taken too long, because he was suddenly drowning in pleasure. He’d never felt anything like it. A noise came out of him he’d never made before and he heard a bark of laughter from the bedroom.

Fuck this.

Staggering out of his chair, Din went to Luke’s door and opened it without knocking. Luke lay in bed, damp hair stuck to his forehead and the sheets rumpled around his bare belly. He had a sheepish look on his face as he gave Din an awkward wave.

“You could come here,” he said. “As interesting as it could be to do that through the Force, I’d much rather touch you for real.”

Din stood in the doorway, frozen in place. He hadn't thought his plan through and was now paralyzed with indecision.

“Din.” Luke sat up and the sheets drifted lower. Din forgot how to swallow. “Nothing will happen that you don’t want.”

“This is...uncharted territory for me.” Din stepped fully into the room and shut the door. “Only three living things have seen my face. One of them is my son. Another is you."

“And the third?”

“Of no concern,” said Din sharply. “But not privy to anything else of me.”

“Got it.” Luke held out a hand. “At least come sit with me. You’ve come this far.”

Din nodded and slowly crossed the room. He sat at the end of Luke’s bed again, his hands fidgeting in his lap. He felt Luke’s eyes on him.

“You told me you wanted me,” he said. Din nodded. “Have you ever told anyone that before?”

“No,” said Din softly. “I’ve never wanted anyone enough for it to need to be said.”

“I’m honored,” said Luke. “It’s not every day a handsome Mandalorian shows up on my doorstep with a Darksaber and the Force and tells me he wants me. I’m pretty lucky.”

“Are you?” Din could never depend on hope, it was a capricious thing, but he felt a tiny scrap of his own take root somewhere deep.

“Very much so,” said Luke. “I care for you, you know. Din, you have to know that by now.”

The words he never expected he would want to hear from anyone, let alone this insane, beautiful man, rocked Din to the core.

“I,” was all he could manage.

“I understand.” Luke smiled and reached a hand for him. “Please come here.”

Din nodded and slid down the bed until he and Luke were within arms’ length. Luke grasped his forearm and Din resisted the urge to pull away.

“I know,” said Luke. He twitched a hand and Din felt himself being pushed closer by unseen pressure at his back, halfway between thrilling and unsettling, until Luke could reach for Din’s face and rest his palm against his cheek. Din’s body shook and his mouth parted with a soft sigh. Tiny claws were one thing, but an entire hand pressed against his skin was almost too much.

“Wait.” Din yanked his arm free and moved away. “I—you—.”

“It's alright.” Luke let his hands fall. “You make the next move.”

Din nodded, and they sat there in silence for a long, long time. Luke held one of Din's hands loosely in his flesh hand, and Din stared down at them in abject wonder. Luke’s was slightly smaller but warm and practically humming with tempered power. Din could not believe the patience he had for a Mandalorian having a crisis of faith and identity, who could barely handle simple touch and was more out of his depth than he’d ever been.

Baring himself to Luke was by far one of the most frightening experiences of his life.

“This is a lot to process,” is all he said. Luke nodded.

“It is,” he said. He looked at Din. “How do you feel?”

“Like a ship without controls,” said Din. “A planet with no moons.”

Luke squeezed his hand. 

“It's a dogfight in an asteroid field,” he said. "And I can't tell if I'm winning or losing."

"Neither," said Luke.

Din sighed. "Of course that's what you'd say," he said. "Your cryptic Jedi crap." Luke chuckled softly. Din shifted a little closer to him.

“Try again,” said Din. “Your hand, on—my face.”

Luke obliged and slowly touched Din’s cheek once more. Din let his eyes slip shut and he focused on the warmth and pressure, the unbearable heat of skin-to-skin contact. It was so acute he could almost feel the blood running through the miniscule veins in Luke's palm.

“Is that how you feel right now?” Luke sounded awed. Din nodded. “No wonder you’re so overwhelmed.”

Din reached up and took Luke’s hand in his and moved it to the side of his neck. He shuddered and let Luke feel it.

“Shit—” Luke gasped. “Din, I—”

“This is how you make me feel,” said Din, opening his eyes and looking at Luke; brown and blue, tidally locked. “Your hands carve your name into my body, every time.”

"That's—wow.” Luke slid closer. “Please, show me more.”

Din reached up and pressed one palm against Luke’s bare shoulder. The feel of Luke’s feverish skin made him drunk with sensation and he threw every ounce of it at Luke as hard as he could.

“I—,” said Luke, but he never finished the sentence. Instead, he pulled Din close and found Din’s mouth with his own.

Din inhaled sharply and went still. Despite the Creed, Din wasn't a stranger to kissing; he’d seen many interesting things in his travels, and some of his contacts were very blunt when drunk on jet juice. He met plenty of shady characters at establishments that featured a specific kind of entertainment that Din had found extremely educational at first, before it became just background noise. Din had seen plenty.

But now, everything he knew, including how to respond with enthusiasm, vanished from memory and left him frozen at the first press of lips to his.

After a couple of awkward seconds of Luke moving his mouth against Din's tightly pressed lips, Luke pulled away and gave him an apologetic little smile.

Clearly didn’t think that through,” he said. “Sorry.”

Din grunted, his face hot. “Stop looking at me like that,” he said. He was caught in Luke’s fucking searchlight gaze and it didn’t feel great. “I’m a bounty hunter, I have been for longer than you’ve been a Jedi. I’ve seen enough to know how this works.”

He rolled his shoulders uneasily and looked away. “You caught me by surprise. I don’t much like that.”

“A Mandalorian caught by surprise?” Luke huffed. “That's a load of krayt spit.”

“You have to remember,” said Din sharply. “Beyond a few alley blowjobs when I was younger, no one’s touched me like this in thirty years. I was a child when I swore the Creed.”

“I get it,” said Luke. “I’m being condescending, aren’t I.”

“Just cut me some slack,” said Din.

“Got it.” Luke looked thoroughly chastised. “Try again?”

“You make me repeat every move with the Darksaber at least twice,” said Din. “Why stop now?” He rested his hands at Luke’s waist because wasn’t sure what else to do with them. “No surprise attacks, this time?”

Luke snorted and leaned in. This time it was less overeager and messy, and Din felt more like a willing participant. Luke moved his lips softly against Din’s until Din let his part. Despite his earlier protests, he really was out of his depth, but he'd never admit it.

He sighed into Luke’s mouth and was rewarded with a shiver. He thought that was a good thing, so he did it again and received an even better noise. They kissed that way, just sharing breath, until Luke—bold, brave, and as Din had learned, a little stupid—licked at Din’s bottom lip.

Din, feeling bold, licked back.

Luke laughed in delight and leaned in for a deeper kiss. It took a moment and a little jockeying for position, but Din caught on quickly and they began to kiss in earnest. Din found himself guiding Luke back into the pillows and straddling him. It seemed the most efficient way to be able to touch all of him.

Luke sighed happily. “Please, let me see you.”

Din swallowed. He looked at Luke for a long moment, and Luke held his gaze and didn’t waver.

Wordlessly, Din took Luke’s hands and placed them at the hem of his shirt and lifted his own arms, expectantly.

Luke hissed and sat up to tug Din’s shirt off and toss it away. Din resisted the urge to wrap his arms around himself and allowed Luke to look his fill.

“Fuck.” Luke shook his head, laughing. “I can’t believe this.”

Din frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Absolutely nothing,” said Luke, skating his fingers across Din’s chest and belly and making happy noises. "We're all fine here, thank you." He looked up at Din with mischief in his eyes. "How are you?"

Luke didn't let him answer before he slid his hands up Din's chest and lay one palm over Din’s heart. Din quaked with it; the tremors passed through Luke as well, making him shudder.

Din pulled back to look at Luke. “There’s—there’s a lot happening,” he mumbled, embarrassed to be wound up so tightly. "Doing my best, here."

A warm, warm hand came up to rest on Din’s cheek again. He let it.

“Thank you for letting me be the first to see you,” said Luke. “All of you.”

Din couldn’t stop the thought: I’d let you be the last as well.

He knew Luke had felt that when his eyes widened and he tugged Din down for another series of long, slow kisses. Din touched Luke’s hair, his chest, he slid the blanket down and found more and more skin before realizing that the asshole slept naked.

“Did you plan this?” asked Din.

“I had high hopes,” said Luke. “After our first connection, there was something—”

“Yes.” Din nodded, thinking of the way Luke’s praise always made his ears burn. “There was something.”

Luke beamed. “Show me what it was.”

Din wasn’t going to use the Force for this. He took Luke’s face in his hands and kissed him deeply, taking the lead for the first time. He felt like he could do that, now. He’d found the right direction and could now set his course, which led to Luke and his warm mouth.

Luke squeaked but rolled with it, meeting him kiss for kiss. Eventually Luke’s mouth began to travel, reaching his neck before Luke pushed Din onto his back and began to kiss a path from his throat to his navel.

“Luke,” said Din. “What is your plan, here?”

“My plan?” Luke pretended to think, and Din kind of wanted to punch him. “No real plan. Seeing where things are going.”

“Pretty clear where things are going,” said Din.

Luke sat up a little. “If there’s anything you do not want me to do—”

“No,” said Din. “I’d just—” He struggled to come up with the words. “Remember last time you got the drop on me.”

“Right.” Luke nodded. “Okay. I’ll be blunt: do you want my mouth?”

Din sputtered.

Luke looked confused. “Do Mandalorians not—oh.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “Skywalker, you shithead.”

“Skywalker, you shithead,” agreed Din. “We don’t—bonded companions, they can show their faces to their lovers—but that doesn’t stop us from finding those that do.”

He felt Luke’s question before he asked it. “Yes,” he said. “A few times. Not great, but it did the job.” He looked at Luke. “I was alone for years. I’m human.”

“You owe me no apologies,” said Luke.

“Good, because isn’t one,” said Din. “But I want you to understand that this”—he gestured between them—"is different.”

“Right, of course.” Luke looked like he hadn’t expected Din’s answer. “So, we aren’t getting Mandalorian-married right now?”

Din shot him a withering look. “No,” he said pointedly. “What I’m saying that this means something to me, and if that’s a problem for you—”

“It means something to me, too,” said Luke, with a deadly seriousness that made Din’s breath catch in his throat. “Din, I don’t do this lightly. Jedi are supposed to be solitary, apart. For me to be here, with you, in this bed, goes against everything in our teachings. This is exactly the thing Ahsoka warned you about—attachments lead to anger, and anger leads to the Dark Side. Jedi can’t have any weaknesses.”

“That’s banthashit,” said Din, surprising himself as well as Luke. He was suddenly angry, though he wasn't sure why.

“What?”

“You heard me.” Din poked him in the chest. “I’ve now removed my helmet repeatedly in front of others. I’ve allowed you to see me without my armor. I left my Tribe to save one being I knew nothing about. Yet you still call me Mandalorian. Am I still Mandalorian even though I’ve broken my Creed and abandoned my culture?”

“You didn’t abandon it.” Luke frowned. “But yes, I do think you are Mandalorian, because—"

“And yet, if you choose this with me, you’re no longer a Jedi?”

“It’s different, Din—”

“It’s really not,” said Din. “Your hand on my face was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.” Luke inhaled sharply. “And I carry no regret.” Every word he said singed his mouth with its truth. He’d spent long nights staring at the helmet on his bureau, trying to imagine what other people saw when they looked at it and not him.

“Do you understand me?” asked Din.

“Yes,” said Luke. “I do.” He swallowed, and after a long moment he looked up at Din.

“My father was Darth Vader,” said Luke evenly.

He seemed to be waiting for a reaction. Din frowned.

“Who?”

Luke looked bewildered, then began to laugh.

Din watched him, confused but pleased that a very serious moment had been broken by an apparently hilarious joke he didn’t understand. Luke scrubbed at his eyes, a few giggles escaping before he heaved a mighty sigh and took Din’s face in both hands.

He ran his thumbs over the soft skin beneath Din’s eyes, drew his index finger down the bridge of his nose. He traced patterns in the lines on Din’s forehead and gave an amused huff at the scruff of hair above Din’s lip.

“I like it,” he murmured. “Suits you.”

“Reminds me of my father,” whispered Din. “He wore it this way, too. I like knowing that it's there.”

Luke’s thumbs parted Din’s lips briefly before he drew his hands along Din’s throat, following them with his mouth. Din tensed and Luke whispered an apology into his skin before pulling away to look at him.

“You’re right,” said Luke quietly. “You’ve spent your life in a prison within a prison. I get it. I grew up on Tatooine and was lied to my entire life, and my father was a war criminal and terrorist. I was tasked with killing him.”

Din nodded. He didn’t know what to say to that.

“We are very alike,” said Luke. “We both landed in situations that asked—demanded—everything from us. Everything. And in exchange for what? A fleeting sense of unity, at least until the next battle began?” Luke rolled his eyes. “Where’s the unity in a galaxy built around perpetual war? How many planets must end up like Alderaan and Mandalore before the fighting ceases? When will the end of the war actually be the end of the war?”

Din studied him, a little surprised by Luke's disillusion. “Pretty cynical for a Jedi," he said.

“No, realistic. There comes a point when we have to admit that the ancient ways do less to preserve our culture and more to erase it from the galaxy entirely. We can’t survive as a culture if there’s no one left to carry it on.”

“Meaning…”

“Meaning I'm extremely fond of you, Din Djarin,” said Luke. “But I wasn’t kidding when I said I am the host of the Light and Dark. If you were to be threatened in any way, if I had to choose between saving you and honoring the Jedi path, I...”

Luke looked away. “I really don’t know what would happen," he finished in a small voice.

Din nods. “I’ve laid myself bare to you,” he murmured, tucking a lock of hair behind Luke's ear. “I'd kill anyone you asked me to.”

“That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me,” said Luke with reverence as he leaned in to nudge their mouths together. They kissed until Luke made a determined noise and shifted them to the center of the bed.

Please take my mouth?” said Luke. “Seriously, I’ve never had to ask this much.”

“You do this a lot?” Din snickered. It was an attempt to tease, something he was dismal at, but Luke laughed.

“I mean, if you don't want me to...”

Din rolled his eyes. “Shut up and tell me where you want my hands.”

Luke took Din’s hands and guided his fingers to tangle in Luke's hair.

“Don’t take advantage of your position,” he said, before he ducked his head and Din stopped thinking for a long time after that.

Grogu picked up on the change in their dynamic almost immediately. The next afternoon, Din noticed the Kid peering at him every few minutes, then look pointedly at Luke. Luke reported the same thing at dinner that night.

After catching the kid staring for the nth time, Din finally threw his hands up in defeat. They were all winding down for bed, and as Luke tinkered with his mechanical hand at the kitchen table, Din crouched down next the Kid where he sat on the floor happily pressing buttons on a datapad.

“Grogu.”

“Hup?” The Kid looked up at Din, a stylus in his mouth. Din cursed under his breath and leaned over to retrieve it.

“Stop eating shit that’s not food,” he said sternly. “You had six frogs for lunch, you're not hungry."

Grogu meeped and scowled at him. Din tried not to laugh. "Listen, Kid, I think I’m going to be sticking around for a while. Keep up my training, help Luke keep an eye on you. Is that alright?”

The Kid looked at Din and Luke for a moment with those bottomless eyes and Din could feel him peeking into their minds. He dropped the datapad and erupted in the most delighted squeals Din had ever heard from him. Grogu reached up and smacked Din's cheek with happy claws before he got up and toddled over to Luke. Luke picked him up with one arm and sat him on his lap for a silent conversation.

Din watched them with warmth spreading in his chest, when Luke glanced up and caught his eye. He smiled, and Din didn’t need the Force to understand what his smile meant. He let himself feel it as well and was rewarded with a soft gasp. Din laughed softly, and closed his eyes.

My name is Din Djarin, he thought. I am whatever I want to be.

Whatever happened with the Darksaber and Bo-Katan would happen, but for now Din was here, in a little house on the cliff by the sea, and everything he cared about was in it.

His beacon. His harbor. 

Din reached out to the both of them. I want to be here.

Grogu and Luke sighed happily, and the last piece of Din Djarin’s armor fell away.

 

 

Life Day, a few weeks later...

 

“Din Djarin, this is my friend, Han Solo.”

“Hello. Boba Fett had a message for you.”

“Wait, he’s alive? I’ll be damned. What’s that Sarlacc turd got to say to me?”

 

END