Obi-Wan fought the urge to tug at the edge of his shirt yet again, feeling as if the fabric was out of alignment somehow. He hadn’t realised how much he would miss the comforting weight of his Jedi robes — the fabric well-worn and soft as it passed through hundreds of hands before his — until it was gone. He still wrapped his fingers around the woven leather bands around his wrists, the action clear now he lacked the security of his heavy sleeves.
The entire outfit was new to him: a tight dark undershirt similar enough to the blacks he wore when armour was needed that it wasn’t a discomfort, but the loose shirt over the top was a garish neon green lace with beads twisted through the threads and hiding his lightsaber in plain sight between his shoulder blades. That, coupled with the thin shorts — a harsh breeze blowing past his bared skin making him shiver — allowed him to blend into the teeming crowd that spilled out of the smoky bars and clubs that surrounded them.
Obi-Wan knew he wasn’t meant to be here, and he could sense the lingering distaste from Qui-Gon in their Force bond — shut tight by the other man the moment Obi-Wan stepped foot outside of their rooms. He just couldn’t stand by and wait, not when the Force pulled at him so insistently, the Code running through his head like a heartbeat.
The rumors had been circling like vultures throughout their investigation, whispers of a trading ring operating beyond the artifact they were sent to retrieve. That thread had led him here, hands trembling from the cold and goosebumps erupting down the length of his spine, to a small bar, light and music spilling from it’s open door.
Stepping in, Obi-Wan was hit with the scent of smoke that seemed to cling to every surface, the floor sticking to the ridiculous boots he had picked up at a market stall, and eyes passing over him like trailing hands. Drawing in a deep breath, he moved forward carefully, eyes darting side to side as he searched for— There.
Tucked into a corner, sprawled into the simple leather chair as if it was a throne, was a man who felt familiar to Obi-Wan. His presence in the Force sang out to him — a careful sunset in the midst of darkness, buried yet beautiful — drawing him closer, and Obi-Wan was helpless to try and resist.
“I’m not interested,” the man said the moment Obi-Wan drew nearer, barely glancing at him as he continued to stare down at his datapad. His voice only added to the gnawing sense of familiarity that was growing in Obi-Wan’s chest, a memory that kept slipping away from him like ice water through his fingers.
“You don’t even know what I’m going to say,” Obi-Wan protested, slipping into the opposite seat with a brazen confidence he only partially felt. The man tensed, his eyes — dark and beautiful, like looking at a black hole in the void of space — darted towards Obi-Wan’s face, a frown creasing his brow and highlighting the curved scars the man possessed.
The bounty hunter sat back in his seat, raising an eyebrow at Obi-Wan, looking every inch like a predator. Good. That was exactly what he needed.
“I heard rumors of an underground smuggling ring in the area, operating not only in stolen artifacts but in people.” The man’s eyes went cold, lips curling into a barely restrained snarl, and Obi-Wan rushed to finish speaking. “I want to put a stop to it.”
Obi-Wan wrapped his fingers tightly around the leather bands once more, keeping his hands tucked beneath the table so the man couldn’t see them shake. It was a fine line he was walking, trying to keep his identity secret — offering just enough context clues for the man to pick up on as his eyes raked over Obi-Wan’s face — while needing this deal to go through. Everything he had heard was that this man hated slavers, almost as much as he hated Jedi, and yet they never said his name.
“Because it is the right thing to do.”
Out of everything, Obi-Wan would have expected the man to do: dismiss him; insult him; bargain with him to even consider this hare-brained scheme, laughter was not one of them. Heads turned towards them, a low whisper flowing round the room and Obi-Wan felt himself flush, the colour travelling down his neck to his bared shoulders.
“You’re a strange man,” the man said finally, shaking his head once his laughter subsided, shoulders still shaking slightly, “but I don’t think you’re lying.”
“If this is legitimate, and I don’t trust you,” the man began, his previous relaxed stance shifting into strict professionalism, “I expect half payment up front as insurance and half after the job is complete.”
Obi-Wan nodded carefully, ducking to pluck the credit chip from his belt, noting out of the corner of his eye that the man tensed and leaned slightly forwards to track his movements. “Will this be enough?”
He barely had time to register the brush of blaster calloused fingers over his own — the touch sending a shiver down his spine as he realised just how long it had been since anyone had touched him — and the man plugged the credit chip into his datapad. Obi-Wan had to trust the money he had managed to scrounge from his own personal savings and the small stipend the Temple gave them would be enough. It was a risk trying to hire anyone, but he knew well enough that trying to take on an unknown number of slavers with their prisoners thrown into the mix, was too many unknowns.
The man’s eyes darted between the datapad and Obi-Wan’s face, some unknown knowledge settling over his shoulders like a shroud. Obi-Wan couldn’t begin to guess at what he thought about him now. He shifted on the seat, fighting the urge to let his shoulders curl to shield himself further, and saw the man track the movement.
“This will do fine.” His voice was gentle in sharp contrast to the battered green-painted beskar he wore. “Are you able to go now?”
The man stood, holding out a hand to Obi-Wan to help him out of his seat, his touch gentle and careful, as if he feared breaking Obi-Wan at any harsh gestures. “We’re going to my ship first.”
“Because you need some armour. It won’t be beskar.” He grinned to himself, the gesture all teeth. “But it’ll keep you more protected than that.”
Obi-Wan shivered as another cold wind whipped past him, feeling like ice shards cut into his bare skin, his teeth clenching in an attempt to keep them from rattling. The man paused, and Obi-Wan could almost see the wheels turning behind his eyes. In one quick motion, he took off his own cloak and threw it around Obi-Wan’s shoulders. He was immediately enveloped in warmth and a clinging scent of sandalwood and smoke and he burrowed his numb fingers into the folds of the fabric. The man nodded once, and began to walk down the street once more, a hand placed carefully on the small of Obi-Wan’s back, the gesture professional even as it set Obi-Wan’s now-covered skin on fire.
“What’s your name?” Obi-Wan asked as they drew closer to the docks. “All the rumors I heard to find you didn’t say.”
The man let out a bark of laughter. “At least some people still hold some sense. The name is Jango Fett. And yours?”
Obi-Wan grinned through the fear that froze in his veins. He knew that name. He knew that face, although the last time he had seen Jango Fett, the man had been half-feral and pinning him to the ground, a blade embedded in Obi-Wan’s shoulder and yet, he hadn’t killed him. Obi-Wan’s heart had broken for the man as he lay there, the scent of pine and blood filling his lungs with every careful breath. Jango Fett was a Jedi killer, but he was still Obi-Wan’s best shot at getting people out alive.
“My name is Ben,” Obi-Wan said. He’d just have to stay undercover for a while longer, and hope that Jango didn’t uncover his lie.
“Ben,” Jango repeated, pausing his stride to carefully take Obi-Wan’s hand from within the folds of the cloak and raise it to his lips, carefully kissing his knuckle like something out of an old holo film, tucking it back with a wink.
Obi-Wan felt his cheeks flush once more, heat shooting down his back and chest — hidden now beneath Jango’s cloak — and followed the man’s gentle steering without a word. He was in more trouble than he could have ever imagined.