Chapter 1: Meeting Kenobi
All Jango had wanted was a drink. He had left his armor on Slave I because he was known on Tatooine, the few jobs he’d done for Jabba the Hutt had paid well, but he had no desire to deal with the Hutts today. All he wanted was a drink. When someone ran into him just as he reached the corner he almost just kept pushing past, the people of Mos Espa were hardly worth the effort necessary to feel annoyed by them. He would have too, if it weren’t for that brief moment when the man had met his eyes and there had been a flash of something. He scanned the man. A little shorter than Jango himself, thin and worn. He carried a blaster, but it certainly wasn’t well used, he carried it as though he thought it expected of him, not so much as though he was used to using it. His clothing was clean and well kept, if not also well worn. At first glance there was nothing about him worth stopping for, but still Jango didn’t move on, because there was something. Maybe it was the sharpness of his eyes, that whispered of knowing things he couldn’t, that had seen things they shouldn’t have. That whispered of pain and suffering and more.
The silent moment was broken by the man, “Teach me to be a bounty hunter?” For the first time a real expression crossed the man’s face, although not the one that Jango would have expected, the man looked as though he was surprised to find the words coming out of his mouth.
It hardly mattered to Jango, in his opinion there was only one answer to such a brazen ridiculous request. “No.”
The man nodded, as though that was what he had expected. “Alright then. Have a good day.” Jango didn’t move and let the man move past him, turning slightly to continue watching the man as he walked away from him. Jango noted that there was a second weapon hidden along his back, noted the confidence of his walk. Maybe it was the brazenness of the request, maybe it was the fact that there was something other about the man. But Jango found that he suddenly wasn’t quite as willing to just let him walk away. It was with only half a thought that he pulled his blaster and shot at the man, nothing fatal, it would be at most a scratch. He was only a little surprised when the man moved out of the way, already turned to face him, his blaster in his hand, pointed at Jango. It had been a good draw, smooth and confident. Jango could see that while the blaster itself wasn’t well used, the man did know how to use it. But he hadn’t, and he’d have been dead if Jango had really wanted him dead.
“You should have shot back.” He told him.
“I figured you were making a point. If you really wanted me dead you’d have done a lot more than shoot at my shoulder.” The man responded wryly, Jango rewarded him with a second shot at his shoulder. The man threw himself out of the way of the shot, this time returning fire. Jango had half expected that he would and had stepped and shifted out of the way. The man was either an awful shot, or was returning the favor of not actually trying to kill him.
“You’d make an awful bounty hunter.” He told the man. The man who wouldn’t shoot first, the man who put fair play before survival.
That man wouldn’t survive as a bounty hunter. A strangely wry smile crossed the man’s face at his words.
“Yes, well, I hardly see how that matters now.” The words, ‘you already said no.’ went unsaid.
The two men stood there in silence, blasters aimed at each other. “No, I don’t suppose it does.” Jango re-holstered his blaster and watched as the other man did the same, he had no intention of helping this man figure out how to be a bounty hunter. But at the same time he could recognize that this man could one day be dangerous. It was always better to know the players; he could see that the man was about to continue on his way. Jango wasn’t quite done with him yet. “If you keep walking I’ll be tempted to shoot you again.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Shoot at me. You haven’t actually shot me yet.”
“Don’t tempt me.”
“I would never.” The sarcasm was only strengthened by the obvious core-world accent. Coruscanti if Jango didn't miss his guess.
“How’d you recognize me?” He asked the man. Jango was good. But not to the degree where he should be easily recognized by just anyone walking along. Especially not when he was out of his armor.
The redhead just laughed, shaking his head, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Jango considered the benefits of shooting the man, before deciding that it would probably yield him nothing, “That’s not an answer.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that you wouldn’t believe me. I almost don’t believe me and I’m insane enough for it.”
Jango considered that and nodded. It wasn’t an answer, and Jango wasn’t quite done with his question, but he’d let it go for now. There was just something about the man though, that made him unwilling to just end their encounter.
“Why would you want to be a bounty hunter?”
The man tilted his head in a way to show he was thinking, his face remained still, but Jango had already realized that the man was unable to guard his eyes. That the key to reading him lay there. He was far enough away however, that the knowledge did him little good. Finally, after a long minute of silence the man answered.
“In the split second that the idea came to me before I voiced the thought it seemed like a good idea.”
Jango rolled his eyes, and noted that the man’s lip quirked at that, apparently he took great delight in being frustrating. The idea that someone would ask to be taught to be a bounty hunter as a spur of the moment decision. The man was right when he had said he was slightly insane.
“And now? Still seem like a good idea.” He asked.
“You just tried to shoot me twice.”
Jango resisted the temptation to roll his eyes again, he wasn’t going to give the man the satisfaction. “Neither were lethal, and you avoided it both times. Answer the question.”
“I have continued to consider the benefits, yes.”
“Still not an answer.”
“It seems like an absolutely awful idea, nevertheless it’s one I’m likely to find a way to pursue.” It was an honest answer, Jango decided. If they parted ways now then Jango would likely cross paths with the man again, bounty hunters tended to flow through the same circles. There was no real reason to continue this conversation. Jango had no intention of teaching this man anything.
“How about this, then. I’ll give you ten minutes, you get to disappear, while staying here on Tatooine. If I don’t find you in four days, I’ll consider teaching you how to survive being a bounty hunter.” It was a lie. Or mostly a lie. He’d consider it. It would be good though, to have some idea of the man’s talents in a non-obtrusive way.
“And if you do find me? Will you be shooting at me again?” He asked dryly.
Jango considered this, “Possibly.” Probably.
“Couldn’t I get twenty minutes?”
“You get ten.”
The man looked to consider it, “Alright then. I suppose I’ll be seeing you here in four days then.”
Jango laughed, wasn’t that self-assured, “We’ll see.” He’d almost certainly shoot at him if he found him.
The man nodded his head in farewell before turning and leaving. Jango watched him slip out of the alley and towards the more crowded area of Mos Espa. He gave him exactly ten minutes before following after him.
No one remembered having seen him recently, although one young boy told him that he’d seen someone like that earlier this morning at a shop owned by a Toydarian named Watto. Jango made his way to the shop. The toydarian looked somewhat annoyed when he realized who he was looking for. “Just waltzed in yesterday and bought my slaves, he brought them in this morning and got their chips removed. He didn’t say it, but I’m pretty sure that he bought them just to set them free. Don’t know why though, Shmi’s too old for him.” Jango raised his eyebrow at that, but merely got the place of residence for the two slaves before leaving the toydarian to continue his rant.
It didn’t take him long to find the residence for the Skywalker’s. The woman, Shmi, let him in, although she was hesitant to answer his questions about the man that had bought her.
“So is it true that he freed you?”
She hesitated, “Yes. He did.”
“How long have you known him?”
She laughed, somewhat bemusedly at that, “I met him yesterday after he’d purchased us from Watto.”
“And when did you last see him.”
She shrugged, “Perhaps half an hour before you arrived, he said he’d be out of contact for the next four days, had some things to do.”
“And when he gets back.”
She eyed him, and Jango got the feeling she was deciding whether he was a threat. She had been a slave long enough that he was certain she would be rather good at figuring such things out. “He’ll help me move wherever I decide to go.”
He nodded. “I don’t suppose you know his name?”
For a brief moment she looked embarrassed, “He hasn’t told us, I didn’t think it my place to ask.” Watto hadn’t known either. The man had just walked in and bought the two Skywalkers. No introduction. And while buying slaves was still a process, it was one that the man had managed to do without ever revealing his name. It wasn’t exactly out of the norm for slavers, but this man wasn’t a slaver, that was obvious.
He left the Skywalkers and considered what he knew. The man was still quite young. A core-worlder. He was either paranoid or very bad at social niceties, or both. He acted with little forethought, was possibly slightly insane. He was certainly not worth the time and effort of actually dealing with.
But Jango enjoyed a challenge.
On the second day he decided that the man wasn’t in Mos Espa, he was also fairly certain that he had left Mos Espa on foot. It was highly doubtful that he’d make it to any of the settlements if he didn’t already know where they were, and it was unlikely that he’d make it to any of the other cities. Not on foot. Jango wondered if he would die of dehydration in the desert. That would be disappointing.
The final morning, he actually caught the man’s trail. He was rather certain that the man had been in the cantina mere moments before he himself entered. The man at the bar waved him towards the back entrance. The rest of the morning felt as though he were playing an elongated game. Several people would agree that they had just seen the man, now in a hooded robe, not long before. He never quite caught up. In the end he returned to the alley. As a game of hide and seek the man had done well. At the very least the man knew how to disappear.
Just after the four days had passed the man entered the alley, hood still drawn up, something about the cloak sent warning bells off in his mind, Jango let the thought simmer in the back of his mind. He waited until the man drew up to where he stood in the shadows before he stepped out. The man turned almost simultaneously and Jango found them a few inches from each other, face to face. It was a mirror of the first time they’d met four days ago.
For the longest moment they just stood there, in each other’s personal space, both of them watching the other. This close, Jango realized that his earlier idea that the man was young was truer than he’d realized. He took the man’s, or was it a boy’s, chin into his hand and tilted his head. He really was young. Not that age really meant anything. Jango’s own life could attest to that.
“You’re practically a child, aren’t you?”
The boy shrugged, “Nineteen. Hardly a child.”
Jango scoffed, “Age and experience make a man. You barely have age and I doubt a great deal of experience. What is a core-worlder like you doing here anyways?” Except he was looking into eyes that had seen more than his age would indicate.
The boy, man, raised an eyebrow at that, “You don’t already know?”
Jango would concede to that, he did know, at least to some degree. “Fine, why’d you come here just to free two slaves?”
“That would be another of my spur of the moment decisions. I’ll be finding transport and helping them move to wherever they please, so soon as Shmi decides where she wants to go.”
Jango nodded slowly, his hand was still holding the boy’s chin. Noting, observing, the paleness of his skin, the shadows under his eyes, the almost hollow cheeks. It wasn’t that Jango cared, he didn’t, but he still couldn’t shake that feeling that there was something important here.
“When was the last time you ate?”
The boy shrugged, “I had a drink this morning, ate some scrag at some point.” Jango couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at that, scrag? Really. Desert weed was hardly edible, and certainly not nutritious unless you were a bantha.
\“And when was the last time you slept?” The boy hesitated, and this close Jango could practically see the thoughts chasing each other across the boy’s eyes. What had happened Jango didn’t know, but something haunted the boy in front of him.
“About a week ago.”
Jango finally dropped the boy’s chin, eying him, cautiously, that little sleep was hardly healthy, definitely not conducive towards health nor sanity. “That’s a long time to go without sleep.”
He shrugged, “I supplement myself with meditation.”
The memory of a weapon hidden underneath a tunic flashed through Jango’s mind, the warning bells from earlier when he’d seen the man in his robe. He felt something like anger begin to build in him. He reached behind the man, hand going unerringly to where the weapon was. He pulled it out. The man caught his hand while it was still between the two of them. Jango allowed it, for the moment. It only took a single glance before his suspicions were met. The core world accent suddenly made a great deal more sense.
“Hmm, meditation, a lightsaber, that’d make you a Jedi, wouldn’t it?” Jango didn’t spare much energy for hate. It was pointless, but the Jedi and Death Watch. He could spare the energy to hate them. If the Jedi realized that he was suddenly on tumultuous ground, he showed no indication of it.
“It made me one, once. I left the order two months ago.”
“Why’d you leave?”
“My path lay elsewhere.”
“As a bounty hunter?”
The Jedi shrugged, “Perhaps.”
“What do you know about Galidraan?” He asked, his voice still calm, even as the memory of that fight echoed through his mind. Jetii.
The boy was quiet, “It was a slaughter. A mistake. A disaster. It was everything done wrong.” The calmness of the answer, the evasiveness of it. The inability to face his guilt… it grated on Jango.
“It was you Jedi, killing my people on the word of a politician.” Jango spit out, he didn’t move, even as his hand tightened around the weapon in his hand, even as his other hand ached to reach for his blaster and put a shot through this Jedi’s heart.
“You were Mand'alor.”
“Yes.” Jango had been. He’d been the leader; he’d been in charge. They had been his men that had fallen that day.
“Who do you hate more, the Jedi or yourself for falling into Death Watch’s trap?”
The words, brazen as they were, echoed and twisted through Jango, and he twisted the two of them until the Jedi was pushed against the wall, the two hands holding the lightsaber above their heads, Jango’s arm across the Jedi’s throat, he didn’t press, not to kill, not yet. “I killed six of you Jedi with my bare hands. It would be nothing to kill you.” He didn’t let his voice raise, didn’t let his anger show. He wanted the Jedi to know the entirety of his contempt for him.
The eyes that met his blazed for a brief moment. “For what crime? For my parents choosing to give me to the Jedi? For loving the Jedi, when they are the only family I have ever had? Because all I wanted was to help people? What, then, Jango Fett, is the crime for which you’ll kill me?”
“The Jedi killed my family. My people.” You call the Jedi your family, he thought, well, then you are culpable in the death of mine.
“I was thirteen when the battle of Galidraan happened.”
And should that pardon you? Jango thought, bitter. Perhaps you aren’t guilty for Galidraan, but you were taught to be just like those that were. “And you were sitting in your precious temple being told that as a Jedi you have the right to thoughtlessly kill men when they don’t do what you think is right. Learning to be self-righteous and proud.”
The Jedi’s eyes bored into his, “You don’t know me Jango Fett. Don’t presume that you do. I was fighting my own battles. I was a temple reject with a collar set to explode around my neck. A boy left behind by my Master in a warzone watching as children were mowed down in a pointless civil war. I fought for my friend as she was chained to the bottom of a pool and ended the life of a fellow child who was just as hurt, lost and confused as I was in an attempt to save her life. I learned that life is cruel and ugly and the people are worse. I learned that sometimes you can’t save everyone. I learned that sometimes surviving is the better part of valor. I followed my heart and paid the consequences of doing so. So I am sorry for what you suffered, for what the Jedi cost you. But I was hardly in a position to do anything about that.” There were messages hidden in the words, beyond the idea that Jango couldn’t hold this boy responsible for the deaths of the True Mandalorians. His anger slid away, back to a simmer that never seemed to leave him.
Jango let his arm move a fraction of an inch away from the boy’s neck. The anger wasn’t gone. But for now he would hold it back. “What’s your name, boy?”
“Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The name sent a tingle of that something down Jango’s back.
He let his arm drop away from his neck, but didn’t move away, keeping the boy, man, former Jedi pressed against the wall. “I’ll teach you to be a bounty hunter. Or at least how to survive.” And why, he wasn’t sure, except his instincts whispered that he should, and Jango’s instincts were what kept him alive. “But understand, Kenobi, that that means nothing. For the right price, maybe someday I’ll kill you.”
Kenobi snorted, as though the idea that someone he knew would turn around and kill him was something he was used to. “Yes, of that much I am aware.”
Chapter 2: Stay the Night
They finally named the Nephew! He is no longer nameless!
Unfortunately both the Nephew and the Sister are still stuck in the hospital due to some minor concerns that hopefully turn out to be nothing.
But here is Jango's Point of View... Unlike Obi-Wan he has something of an idea of what's going on... but let's be honest, that's not difficult. And he's pretty much mostly not thinking about it, so still kind of in denial, but only for a little longer. The only person who really knows what's going on is Shmi, not that that's all that surprising.
The things that woman puts up with. She's a saint.
It had surprised Jango a little bit how much he missed Kenobi and the Skywalkers. He wasn’t by nature a solitary man, and he had enjoyed having people around him again. But he had learned a long time ago not to depend on anyone other than himself, not to let himself get close to anyone, and so he resolutely decided to ignore the feeling until it faded.
He was surprised when a few months in there was a message on his comlink. It was a simple update, Anakin had almost blown him and Kenobi up while tinkering, Kenobi wasn’t sleeping, and Shmi was wondering if she could convince Kenobi to teach her how to defend herself. It was short, to the point and signed by Shmi.
Jango didn’t respond. He didn’t want to encourage this strange phenomenon. But neither did he tell her to stop.
The next time it was mostly a small rant that Kenobi was being obstinate and stubborn and ridiculous. Jango had smiled slightly, because that was Kenobi in a nutshell, but he was wearing his helmet so no one noticed. He still didn’t respond.
He heard from her again when Anakin flew their ship for the first time, (with, Jango suspected, very heavy co-piloting from Kenobi), and again when Obi-Wan gave himself a concussion falling out of his bunk. He heard about her worries about Obi-Wan’s lack of sleep, about how sometimes he would forget to eat and Shmi would have to conspire with Anakin to have him sit on Obi-Wan’s lap and pester him into eating while he did his research.
He never responded, but Shmi didn’t seem to need him to.
Nearly a year and a half since the last time he had seen the three of them he ran into them again.
It was only partially chance, Shmi had mentioned in her last message that they’d be there, and Jango had been in the middle of a bounty hunt for Jabba, if he delayed a day or two so that he came back to Jabba’s with proof of his kill the same time that Obi-Wan came with his proposal it was because he wanted to see someone try to convince Jabba to let go of his slaves, and not because a part of him still somewhat missed them.
He watched Obi-Wan. It was almost startling to see Obi-Wan acting like a proper politician, all flattering words and clever phrasing. He was good, Jango could see, good with words, good with people. Why someone like Obi-Wan had decided that he wanted to be a part time bounty hunter was a mystery, not when negotiation seemed to come so easily to him.
He watched for a short time before he left Jabba’s palace and headed to where he guessed Obi-Wan had left his ship. Sure enough he got there just as Shmi and Anakin were locking up the ship. Shmi caught sight of him and smiled. “Hello, Jango. How are you doing?”
“Well enough. The two of you?”
Anakin bounced towards him, wrapping two arms around his legs. “Obi-Wan let me fly the ship, and I’m working on a droid, and Mom hit a sleemo, and Obi-Wan is teaching us both to punch, he says I’m really good, and I found a litter of cats, but Obi-Wan said they were actually baby nexus and we couldn’t keep them even though they really liked him and climbed all over him, and then…”
“Anakin, if you don’t let go of Jango we can’t go visit any of our friends.”
Anakin stopped chattering and let go of him, “Are you coming with us, Mr. Jango, sir?”
Jango hesitated for a second, considering it. Shmi gave him a small smile, “If you’d like to join us, you’d be more than welcome, however if you were thinking of waiting for Obi-Wan then we’d be more than happy to let you into the ship.”
He nodded, “I think I’ll do that.” She moved to open the ship again and Jango waved her off, “I’ll let myself in.” Shmi raised an eyebrow at that, but just laughed and let it go.
“Don’t destroy the ship, if you please. And if you could somehow manage to get Obi-Wan to take a nap or get some sleep I’d be very appreciative of that.”
Jango snorted, “I’ll try.”
He waited for Shmi and Anakin to leave before he set to work on dismantling the security system in a way that allowed him to set it back up. It took him several minutes longer than his normal, so the security wasn’t completely pathetic, just mostly pathetic.
He took a quick tour of the ship, before pulling out a few of his weapons so that he could do some basic cleaning and maintenance while he waited for Obi-Wan to return.
The ship hatch opened and Jango put his blasters away, leaning back to watch as Obi-Wan entered, the man gave him a single glance, not even a hint of surprise at seeing him.
“So you’re actually doing it, trying to free the slaves of Tatooine?”
The man grunted, and fell onto a bench, “Shmi and Anakin here?”
“Right, Shmi mentioned that.” The man yawned, and Jango watched him stretch his arms and back, “But yes, I’m trying.”
It looked a lot more than just trying from where Jango was sitting, “I’ll be honest, when I heard you say you’d do it, what, two and a half years ago now? I didn’t think you’d actually do it.” He’d thought Obi-Wan naive and foolish and hopelessly deluded.
Obi-Wan grinned at him, “I’m an incredibly stubborn man.”
“Yes, that you are.” How many messages had he gotten from Shmi that told him that Obi-Wan had some idea or another that he refused to let go until he saw it through? “You should be more careful though, there was almost no security on your ship.”
Obi-Wan laughed, “What you call no security isn’t the actual equivalent of no security, but I’ll get on that after I convince the Hutts that they want to free their slaves and make the rest of Hutt-Space follow suit.” Obi-Wan shook his head, chuckling, “I do hope that’s not your way of telling me you’ve been hired to kill me.”
Jango gave him a shark grin, “No, not yet.”
“I didn’t think so, I haven’t ticked anyone off yet.” Obi-Wan’s face scrunched thoughtfully, and Jango wondered how many people Obi-Wan had actually ticked off, he found it hard to believe that the man hadn’t angered anyone in the time since he’d seen him, he was too sarcastic by far, and not careful enough by half to have not.
“You never did tell me what you were going to do that makes you so sure that someone is going to want to put a bounty on your head.” Although Jango would wager that if this treaty went through then a few disgruntled slavers might consider it.
Obi-Wan laughed at him again, but this one didn’t reach his eyes, “It falls under the whole ‘you wouldn’t believe me if I told you’ part of my life.”
Jango raised an eyebrow, there was a part of him that knew instinctively that he didn’t want to know, but there was also a part of him that knew that someday he’d regret not knowing. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He leaned back and considered the man still sprawled on the workbench. He really did look tired, in that deep, bone tired way that Jango had felt a few times in his life. He pushed himself to his feet and made his way over to where Obi-Wan was frowning at the ceiling of the ship. The circles under his eyes were more obvious from this distance. “When’s the last time you slept, kid?”
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes at him, “I’m 21, not a kid.”
“Shmi tells me that if she weren’t around you’d forget to eat and sleep. Once you learn to take care of yourself I’ll consider considering you an actual adult.”
Obi-Wan blinked in surprise, “You and Shmi talk?”
Jango kept his own surprise off his face, he hadn’t realized that Obi-Wan wasn’t aware of Shmi’s messages. “She keeps me up to date.” A series of slightly confused emotions crossed Obi-Wan’s face before he seemed to shrug it off. “You ignored the question,” Jango reminded him, “When was the last time you slept?”
Obi-Wan shrugged, “I’ve been busy. Meditation keeps me going.”
“That sounds like, ‘I’ll take an hour nap every few days.’”
Obi-Wan scoffed but didn’t deny it. Jango rolled his eyes, the man in front of him was a disaster waiting to happen. He reached down and grasped his shoulder, pulling him up. “Come on, I promised Shmi I’d make you sleep.”
Obi-Wan let himself get pulled up but immediately started protesting, “I don’t know why you think I need a minder.”
“In the year I was training you, you only really slept after I beat you into submission and exhaustion. Hour long naps every few days don’t count.” He considered the benefits of sparring with Obi-Wan to help wear him out, but discarded the idea. It probably wouldn’t look very good if Obi-Wan showed up at his next meeting with bruises.
“I’m a fully functioning adult!” Jango didn’t bother retorting to that claim, steering Obi-Wan towards his cabin. “Really, Fett, I have to make sure that Anakin and Shmi make it back alright, and I need to go over my arguments for Gardulla, and I’m not that tired.”
The way Obi-Wan had addressed him made him pause, when had he stopped thinking of Obi-Wan as Kenobi? It seemed like Shmi’s constant updates had effected him in a way he hadn’t noticed. “I’m getting you in bed, pretty sure you can call me Jango.” It wasn’t an offer he made often, he pushed the thought aside for future pondering. “And I’ll make sure that Shmi and Anakin get back alright, and I have a feeling that things will be fine with Gardulla, you managed Jabba fine, and Gardulla’s far easier to deal with.”
Obi-Wan grabbed his hand, his grip tight, “Promise?” He really did look young, it made Jango feel almost uncomfortable.
“About Gardulla? Yeah, she’s easier.”
“No, promise that you’ll make sure that Anakin and Shmi are safe?”
“Yes, Kenobi,” the name that came so easily in his mind refused to slip out, “I promise. Now sleep.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and Jango watched as Obi-Wan seemed to slip asleep almost immediately. Jango took a moment to just stand there, almost in awe at the vulnerability that displayed, to let himself fall asleep despite the fact that Jango was there. For a brief moment he considered the fact that he possibly slept so easily because Jango was there. He pushed the thought aside, it was wishful thinking. Although why he would wish for that he felt best not to dwell on.
He opened the ship and took a seat on the ramp, waiting quietly for Shmi and Anakin to return, it would be best if they kept quiet, he imagined that Obi-Wan would probably wake easily if there was too much noise.
The two arrived just as the first sun set, and he gestured for them to be quiet. Shmi quickly put Anakin to bed, a small smile on her face when she peered into Obi-Wan’s cabin. “You got him to sleep.” She sounded inordinately proud of that fact.
Jango raised an eyebrow at that, “He was exhausted, it didn’t take much.”
Shmi just smiled at him, and Jango wondered at the knowing gleam in her eyes, but put it on the list of things he would consider later.
“Would you like something to eat?” She asked quietly, changing the subject.
“I should probably be off, now that you and Anakin are back.”
Shmi shook her head, “Nonsense. Let me make you something to eat.”
Jango hesitated but then nodded, “Thank you.”
He leaned back in his chair and waited as Shmi disappeared, lost in thought. “If we’re lucky he won’t wake up for a few more hours.” Jango glanced up at her surprised and then blinked as she gestured with a bowl to where he’d been staring at Obi-Wan’s cabin door.
“Ah, yes, hopefully. Needs to be rested if he’s going to free all of the slaves.”
Shmi hummed in agreement, sipping at her soup. They fell quiet before Shmi put her bowl of soup down. “I don’t suppose you’d mind staying until he woke up? Just to tell him that everything went alright with Anakin and I?”
Jango nodded absent-mindedly. “I can do that.”
Shmi smiled at him before disappearing towards her own cabin. It wasn’t until she had disappeared that Jango remembered that he’d been planning on leaving.
Jango frowned down at his nearly empty bowl, he tossed it back, and then took his and Shmi’s bowls to the small kitchen space, washing them quickly before replacing the bowls. The next few hours passed slowly, finishing some more weapon maintenance and then looking through the ships engine to see how the ship’s interior was doing.
He turned at a noise behind him to see Obi-Wan holding two cups of tea. He still looked tired, but there was something almost relaxed about the way he stood there, leaning against the wall.
“You’ve been taking good care of her.” He took a sip of tea, pleasantly surprised to find that it was one of the few types he liked. He was surprised that Obi-Wan still had it in stock since it wasn’t one of his preferred flavors.
“Yeah, Anakin loves working on her, I spend a fair amount of time playing around in the engines with him.”
“He’s a bright kid.”
Obi-Wan smiled at him, “He really is.”
“What is he now? Six?”
Obi-Wan nodded, “Almost seven.”
“You going to train him?”
Obi-Wan looked slightly surprised, a small frown on his face, “In what way?”
“To be a bounty hunter, hells, even to negotiate the way you do,” Obi-Wan’s face relaxed slightly, “if you ever did choose a home planet you could be an incredible politician.”
Obi-Wan grinned at that, “Anakin thinks talking is boring. Or so he tells me, although the way he chatters on tells me a slightly different story. Anyways, politicians are a nightmare I have no intention of dealing with.” Jango scoffed at that, because Obi-Wan was spending quite a bit of time with politicians these days, Obi-Wan ignored him, “The rest of what he learns is up to Shmi, he’s her son, I’ll teach him what she decides she wants him to learn.”
Jango looked at Obi-Wan, he wondered if the man realized how much Shmi and Anakin cared for him. The way Shmi talked about him in the messages that he didn’t respond to. The way she obviously treasured his opinion. “You know she considers you just as fundamental a part of his parenting unit, right?”
Obi-Wan shook his head, “I promised when I freed her that I wouldn’t interfere in that. And I won’t.”
Jango hummed but decided not to pursue it, there was something in the way Obi-Wan spoke that told Jango that this was something Obi-Wan would be stubborn about. “Shmi says you’ve been running ragged doing your whole politicking thing. You three good for money?”
Obi-Wan looked at him in surprise, “Yes, I made sure to save up from the few bounties I took that year in advance. I didn’t think I’d have the time to actually do any work.”
Jango nodded, and sipped his tea, he’d figure things out with Shmi, he could count on her to give him an honest appraisal of that situation, he didn’t think Obi-Wan needed the added stress of taking bounties while trying to figure things out with the Hutts and who knew who else. He glanced back at Obi-Wan to see him smiling softly into his tea. Jango felt his stomach tighten at the sight, and didn’t say anything more, although his eyes didn’t seem capable of moving from the other man’s face as they continued to sip in companionable silence. The rest of the night passed that way, both of them sitting in silence, Jango watching as Obi-Wan got lost in thought, occasionally grabbing a data pad to jot something down. It was strangely peaceful, and Jango found himself feeling almost relaxed.
Their silence was broken when Shmi and Anakin woke up, Anakin enthusiastically telling both him and Obi-Wan about his adventures the day before while Shmi made a quick breakfast. Jango didn’t bother protesting this time, merely ate his flatcakes when Shmi put them in front of him.
He held back a yawn, tired after a night with no sleep right after a hunt.
He stood up, “Well, I need to be off.” He nodded to the two Skywalkers, “You two take care of yourselves.” Anakin gave him a large hug, and Shmi stood up to give him one of her own, he hadn't had a chance to talk to her, but he slid a chip full of credits into her hand as he pulled away, just in case. He grasped Obi-Wan’s shoulder, “Don’t die, Kenobi.”
Obi-Wan laughed, “I’ll certainly try not to." He smiled at Jango then, a real genuine smile, "Take care.”
Jango nodded, his eyes fixed on that smile, “I always do.” And then he left.
Chapter 3: Fever Truths
Haha, so funny story. I thought I'd put this chapter up MONTHS ago. It's literally been sitting there for months. It would probably still be sitting in my files if I hadn't gotten sick and been forced to stay in bed for three days. (Those were some very long three days. Very unpleasant, let me tell you.) I realized I have several stories that need updating, but this was the easiest one to actually update, but hopefully I'll be able to get to the rest of them soonish. We shall see.
Anyways, here's the next chapter, hopefully it's somewhat enjoyable!
His relationship with Shmi was incredibly strange. Out of Shmi, Anakin, and Obi-Wan, she was the one with whom his relationship was weakest. He enjoyed Anakin and his innocent, childish excitement for life. It made him regret that he’d never have a son of his own. And despite his misgivings Jango did like Obi-Wan Kenobi. The man was a strange paradox. He was, Jango would admit, an excellent fighter, an intelligent, cunning strategist, a strong, confident personality. Obi-Wan was a protector, a nurturer. He could see it in the way that he treated Shmi and Anakin. But there was something about Obi-Wan that seemed almost fragile. Something that made Jango feel as though he needed protection. Even though he knew that wasn’t the case.
So when Shmi messaged him and she told him about the kidnapping attempt on Anakin, he’d been concerned, he liked the kid. But Obi-Wan had taken care of it, and he’d considered it moot.
There were a few more attempts, but again, Obi-Wan was a capable man, he stopped any and all of the men, kept Anakin safe. It shouldn’t have been important. Except that Shmi was worried, and Shmi was a practical woman, disinclined towards drama and overreactions. There was something wrong, she’d said. Something Obi-Wan wouldn’t talk about. He’d poked around in the world of the bounty hunters and found the bounty out on Anakin’s capture, right along side the bounty for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s capture, and the bounties were both pretty generous. There were whispers that there had been several attempts on both but none had been successful.
And so when she mentioned that they’d be in Leritor he’d reasoned that he was close enough, and it would be good to check up on Anakin, make sure he was really fine. After all, he liked the kid. While he was there he could check up on Obi-Wan as well. Two birds, one blaster shot.
Finding and entering Kenobi’s ship had been easy enough, Shmi had kindly given him the lock code-although it would be too easy to break in without it. He’d have to do something about that. He waited there patiently for Obi-Wan to show up.
He wasn’t sure if he was annoyed or pleased when Obi-Wan pulled his blaster on him the moment he saw him. He settled for amused.
“You know, it’s a good thing that Shmi told me you were a bit high strung or I might actually be offended.”
“Give me your word, Jango Fett, that you aren’t here about the bounty on Anakin.” There wasn’t mention of the bounty out on Obi-Wan himself, Jango wondered if Obi-Wan even realized that some of the attacks had been directed at him and not his charge.
He ignored that for now and focused on Obi-Wan’s accusation, it was rather offensive he decided, he wouldn’t hurt the kid. He moved forward slowly, eyes locked with the other man’s. He stopped when the blaster grazed his chest. “I’m not, Obi-Wan, I swear.” Whatever Obi-Wan saw in his eyes seemed to prove his honesty because he dropped the blaster. Jango gave him a moment before grabbing the other man’s wrist and twisting, pushing the man backwards and into the wall of the ship, his left arm against his throat. “Don’t go pointing that at me unless you plan on shooting me.” He kept his voice low, he let it go this time, because he understood the man’s caution. But Jango didn’t appreciate people threatening him, especially if they weren’t going to follow through.
Obi-Wan grunted. “Don’t let yourself into my ship when there’s a bounty out for Anakin’s capture.” Jango conceded that and let his arm drop, but didn’t move away. “And for the record,” Obi-Wan added. “I let you do that.”
“I’m sure you did.” And he was sure, there had been no resistance. Despite that he made sure his voice sounded at least a little derisive, no need to let the man’s head get too big.
Jango observed the man he had pressed against the wall. He seemed, as Jango had grown to realize was normal, tired.
“Do I need to ask when you last slept?”
Obi-Wan shook his head. “I’m sure Shmi’s kept you up to date.”
“She has,” Jango admitted. “She’s worried about you.” For some strange reason, Jango added silently, I worry about you. Despite the fact that you’re a former Jedi and I shouldn’t care about you at all.
“It’s not for lack of trying, you know.”
Jango hummed thoughtfully, but said nothing. Obi-Wan swayed a little bit, and for a minute Jango thought the man might fall onto him. For a brief moment he thought his prediction might prove correct as Obi-Wan swayed forward towards him before swaying backward. Yes, Obi-Wan was obviously tired. For a split second Jango found himself thinking that it was almost endearing, but that, he decided, was nonsense.
“He’s not safe,” Obi-Wan muttered. “And I can’t keep him safe forever. I’m going to fail.” Obi-Wan finally slid past him, hands gripping his hair in a rare outward display of his inner stress. Jango watched as he started shuffling around, almost absent-mindedly.
“What are you doing?”
Obi-Wan glanced over at him, the look he sent making it patently obvious that he thought the question idiotic. “I’m going to go join Shmi and Anakin in the city.”
“You’re going to fall over, you’re exhausted.” He gave his own, ‘you’re an idiot’ look, but it didn’t phase the man.
Obi-Wan snorted. “You severely underestimate how exhausted I have to be before keeling over.” That Obi-Wan knew what point that was, wasn’t nearly as worrying as the fact that he seemed intent on pushing himself to that point again.
“I’d rather you not get to that point.” They were, if Jango dared say it, almost friends. Which was far closer than he allowed himself to get to most people.
“I know you’re looking out for Shmi and Anakin, Jango. But, I’m not going to let myself get to the point where I can’t keep them safe.”
The idea that he was actively looking out for someone was disturbing, the fact that it wasn’t the boy or the woman even more so. Obi-Wan didn’t need someone to look after him, he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself and Anakin and Shmi. “I don’t doubt that.”
Obi-Wan wandered away, pulling his shirt off. Jango eyed the revealed chest and back. The man was thin, but he was still fit. He swore quietly when he realized he’d been looking in more than professional interest, he had noticed at the very beginning that Obi-Wan wasn’t hard to look at, but he’d been young. He wasn’t quite as young anymore. He moved his gaze up to the roof and cursed himself out. Almost friends he could handle. He would not allow himself to actually care in a way that invited Obi-Wan to be more than that. No more worrying about him, no more appreciating his apparently desirable physique.
He turned his attention back when Obi-Wan returned, once again fully dressed.
“I take it you’re ignoring my advice and going out anyways?”
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow, clearly telling Jango that he found the question ridiculous. “Yes, that does appear to be what I’m doing.” He gestured to the landing ramp. “Are you staying in my ship?”
Jango snorted at him before striding down the landing ramp. Obi-Wan followed, closing the ship behind him. Jango watched as the ship locked itself up. “So what have you been up to these days, Jango?” Obi-Wan asked as they headed out, Jango slightly behind Obi-Wan.
“Oh this and that.” Bounty kills, bounty hunts, traveling the galaxy.
“How incredibly informative. It sounds quite enjoyable.”
It was enjoyable. Jango didn’t like having nothing to do, and his hunts had been fairly challenging the past few months. “I’d be more inclined to tell you if I thought you’d listen to me.”
“I always listen to you; I just don’t always do what you tell me to.” No surprise there. Obi-Wan had been a good student, but the moment Jango had ended their time Obi-Wan had proven that he was very good at doing things his own way. Both admirable and annoying.
“Yes, because that’s so much better.”
A small smile crossed his face and Obi-Wan slowed to an almost stop before continuing. Jango observed that Obi-Wan had shifted into his ‘I’m not quite in tune with my current reality.’ A look that Jango had noted early on. Obi-Wan still reacted to threats well enough when he was in that mind-set, but almost anything else was ignored. There was almost a tangible something that would settle around Obi-Wan as though pulling him apart and away. Shmi had mentioned it once to him, worried about PTSD. And there was, Jango thought, a level of PTSD involved. But also something more.
Obi-Wan glanced at him, a glance that looked at him but saw something, or maybe someone else. There was a concerned furrow to his brow. Before his face turned again, the furrow deepening. Jango never asked what Obi-Wan was thinking about during these times. Something told Jango that Obi-Wan wouldn’t lie, but he wouldn’t answer either. And if he did answer, it would be the truth and Jango’s instincts told him that things would change between them if he understood.
Jango could practically feel Obi-Wan shifting from his ponderings into a brood. But before that could happen there was a happy yell of “Obi-Wan!” A small blonde bullet came racing from down the street, throwing himself at Obi-Wan with the alacrity of the young. Jango found an almost smile at the corner of his lip as he observed the excited boy bouncing around, arms flailing in grand gestures as he sped through a detailed recounting of his day.
At some point Obi-Wan laughingly turned the boy slightly towards him. “Shouldn’t you be polite and say hello to our guest?” Yes, that was right, Obi-Wan was rather fond of his civilities.
Anakin turned. “Hello, Mr. Jango, sir!” He turned back, “Now, can we get food?”
Obi-Wan laughed. “Lead the way to your mother, you imp, and we’ll go get food.”
“Whoopee!” Anakin turned and ran back towards his mother, leaving the two men to follow behind him.
“Your boy has a lot of energy,” Jango commented, if he were a weaker man there would have been a hint of wistfulness in the comment, but Jango wasn’t and so that tiny desire to have a son, a legacy, didn’t show through in his voice. “I swear every time I show up he has more.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “It’s true. It’s getting to the point where I can’t keep him as occupied as he’d like. I’ve started holding mini training sessions just to get rid of his extra energy.”
“He any good?”
Obi-Wan seemed to consider that before giving an incredibly vague answer. “Well, he has the elbows for it.” He glanced at Jango, “Do you want a child?”
Jango gave a small shrug. “I’d like a son.” But he couldn’t see how that would happen. Jango wasn’t interested in letting a woman get close enough to him for her to give him a kid. Such entanglements would only end messily.
Obi-Wan smiled gently before his eyes lost focus again and Jango waited a moment before realizing that Obi-Wan was swaying slightly again, his face pale, there was something deep and haunting in his eyes.
Jango reached out and grabbed the man’s shoulder, he could feel heat pushing through the cloth of his tunic, and he felt as though he was trying to anchor the other man with touch and pure force of will. “You really don’t look well, Obi-Wan.”
Jango frowned, moved his hand from the cloth clad shoulder to the man’s bare neck. It was like a furnace. Obi-Wan’s eyes fell closed and Jango could feel him lean into Jango’s hand, as though seeking contact, it was incredibly out of character. Jango hesitated before moving closer into Obi-Wan’s space. “You’re feverish.”
That seemed to be a signal for Obi-Wan. Jango could practically feel him pulling himself back together as though he could evict the fever by pure force of will. Jango honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he honestly thought he could. So when Obi-Wan tried to reassure him again that he was fine he ignored it. He guided Obi-Wan along to where Shmi and Anakin were, keeping the hand on his neck light, easy to slip away from. But Obi-Wan didn’t. For a man who seemed to believe that he could take on the Galaxy single handedly it spoke volumes. “Jango, I’m fine.”
What a liar. “Shut up, Kenobi.” He gave Obi-Wan his patented, ‘you aren’t fooling me’ look and put an ounce of pressure on his neck. A silent, trust me. And Obi-Wan did, letting him take control of the situation, rearranging plans with Shmi and Anakin. Anakin had looked disappointed before Shmi had explained what was readily apparent to her. “He’s sick, Anakin, it’s our turn to take care of him.” This had led to Anakin taking Obi-Wan’s hand and leading the way back to the ship. Chattering about flatcakes and sleep and listening to Mom, because Mom knew best. Obi-Wan didn’t really look as though he was paying full attention though, and the wisdom of always listening to Shmi missed its mark.
“This is why you should just do what I tell you to," he told Obi-Wan. There was no need to be smug. It was matter of fact. He wasn’t above saying I told you so.
“I don’t do what anyone tells me to.”
Jango allowed himself to roll his eyes. “I know.”
Jango let himself into the ship, sending Shmi and Anakin to go prepare food while he made Obi-Wan go to bed. Almost as soon as Obi-Wan realized his intention he started protesting, but Jango wouldn’t have any of it. He put himself directly into Obi-Wan’s space, crowding him, not in a need to dominate, but a need to make sure that Obi-Wan felt him, realized he was there, realized that he didn’t need to keep everything together for Anakin and Shmi, that he’d take care of them for now. The words that came out weren’t the ones he’d planned, “I’ve got watch, Kenobi. You can sleep.” And as though those were the magic words Obi-Wan let Jango force him to the bed. He fell asleep instantly.
Unfortunately it seemed as though it wasn’t a restful sleep. It was obvious to all three of them that whatever Obi-Wan saw when he slept was disturbing. He never cried out, but his whole body would tense as though about to fight, when he woke up things would slip out, whispers of “The younglings. How could they kill younglings?” Or a desperate, “Anakin! No!”. Eventually his eyes would clear enough for him to recognize Shmi or Anakin and he’d fall back asleep. It wasn’t so clear cut with Jango, sometimes he recognized Jango, but not always. The first time he woke while Jango was with him he’d looked at him, eyes slowly focusing. “Cody? Are you alright? Is everyone alright?” Jango had hesitated only a moment before he told him yes, and Obi-Wan had relaxed, muttered quietly “I’m glad you’re here, Cody” and fallen back asleep. Other times he called him Rex and again, a single reassurance was enough for him to relax. It wasn’t always, in fact the majority of the time when he looked at Jango he saw Jango, but it disturbed Jango more than he was willing to admit that sometimes he looked at Jango and saw someone else. But he pushed it aside, for now he made sure that Obi-Wan drank water every time he woke. Made sure that Shmi and Anakin were happy and healthy and safe. And he waited.
He was leaning against the door watching Anakin and Obi-Wan when Obi-Wan woke up. His eyes were clear and for the first time since he’d fallen asleep Jango could see that he was completely lucid. He gave Obi-Wan a moment to check on Anakin and get his bearings before drawing attention to himself.
“I understand why you don’t sleep if that’s what greets you.” And he did. Jango had his own share of night-horrors. He’d seen too much to not. But not with the consistency that he suspected they plagued Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan jerked his head up as though caught off guard, a rare occurrence given the man’s tendency to feel you coming before he saw you. Obi-Wan shrugged. “It’s not an agreeable experience.”
Jango nodded, considering the man on the bed. “Are they memories or just nightmares?”
Obi-Wan just laughed and shrugged. So a mixture of both then. Things that had happened, colored by the pain of memory and twisted until it was everything painful.
“Who are Cody and Rex?” The question came out before he’d decided to ask it. He could tell it caught Obi-Wan off guard, a vulnerable surprise slipping across his face.
“Why do you ask?”
What was he supposed to say to that? Should he say that it was because Obi-Wan had looked at him and saw someone else. Because whoever they were, the fact that Obi-Wan thought they were there was enough to let him sleep when he don’t let yourself sleep for Shmi or Anakin or Jango. Because when Obi-Wan thought that Jango was them Obi-Wan had looked at him as though he would put his life in Jango’s hands with no hesitation and Jango needed to know why. But he didn’t voice any of that. “You called me both.”
Obi-Wan was quiet for a long moment before shrugging. “They were men that I trusted with my life. They look a bit like you, Cody more so than Rex. Rex had blonde hair. But a similar face.”
“You’ve never mentioned them.” And since when had that been a problem. Their pasts were just that, the past.
Obi-Wan seemed to agree. “Since when have either of us ever talked about our pasts? Why should Cody and Rex have been any different?”
“Then tell me about them. What happened to them?” Jango wasn’t sure why he wanted to know. Why he almost felt as though he needed to know. Just that same niggling instinct that had led him to teaching Obi-Wan to hunt. That never stopped taking the messages from Shmi. That had guided his ship to Leritor when Shmi had said Obi-Wan’s name and sounded worried. That had seen a bounty out on Obi-Wan and hadn’t even considered accepting it, hadn’t even seriously looked at the reward. The same instinct that he was starting to think was going to be the death of him. How ironic.
Obi-Wan looked as though he was fighting some sort of inner battle.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
For some reason that answer ticked Jango off. He was tired of that answer. Because, he realized with some frustration, there was no point lying to himself, he cared. And while he didn’t want to care about anyone, because that led to hurt and betrayal he certainly couldn’t just stop. “You could try me.”
Obi-Wan laughed at that, it was a sharp laugh that seemed to cut through the room. “They don’t exist, not now, maybe not ever. But they did, and they might, but for now they’re phantoms in my mind. Specters that are a haunting of a past that’s gone.” He choked on another laugh. “I’m a crazy man, Jango.” His eyes were desperate and broken and lost.
Jango took that in, tried to understand what it meant. What it would mean. Finally, he pushed it back to think about later, filing it away as important. He straightened from where he’d been leaning, he moved toward the man on the bed with the haunted eyes and let it go for the moment. “You’re dehydrated. Drink.”
Obi-Wan accepted the switch in conversation gladly. “How long was I sleeping?”
“On and off for approximately three days.” Three very long days now that Jango thought about it.
Obi-Wan nodded. “Thank you, for staying with them.”
“Of course.” As though it was possible for Jango to leave when Obi-Wan had needed him.
Chapter 4: Anger and Resignation
Well, the semester has started... and as always college is trying to kill me. Or maybe it's unfair to blame college since I'm the one who registered for 18 credits while still trying to get all of my hours at work. I still kind of want to blame college though, so I'm going to...
So here's a chapter in which Jango spends most of his time angry and mentally cursing pretty much everybody.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Watching Obi-Wan from where he was lounging against the wall was enlightening. The man hid weakness with impeccable skill, if Jango didn’t know that Obi-Wan had been sick he’d never be able to tell. If Obi-Wan were his mark he’d be completely unaware of the fact that he was weakened. Which wouldn’t stop someone like Jango, but might make lesser hunters hesitate.
Finally Obi-Wan bowed to Jabba. Jango watched as he left, giving it a few moments before he made his own way out of Jabba’s main room. The two of them had managed to keep their working relationship under the radar, and now that it had become a friendship of sorts, Jango felt it prudent to not make it too obvious that there was any sort of connection between them.
He caught up to Obi-Wan as he neared the exit. “Still don’t know why you couldn’t just have someone else visit Tatooine.”
The man rolled his eyes in a way that Jango chose to interpret as annoyed fondness. “It’s my responsibility.”
“So? It’s called delegating.”
Obi-Wan snorted, the corner of his lip twitching up in a part smile. “What would you know about delegating? Weren’t you the one to tell me that the only person you could trust to do a good job was yourself?”
Jango laughed at that. He had told Obi-Wan that, in the middle of a sparring session that Jango had won, barely. “Something like that.”
The other man sighed, heavy and deep. “It’s part of the treaty, someone has to make sure that they’re keeping to their half of the bargain.”
Jango glanced at the man out of the corner of his eye. There was something about the way he said it. Jango figured it was probably time that they at least talked about some of the extents that Obi-Wan had gone to in order to ensure that the Hutts kept their half of the bargain. “So is that why you let Shmi and Anakin run around Tatooine without your protection?”
Obi-Wan turned and glared at him, and Jango felt the corner of his lip twitch into a smile. “I don’t let Shmi and Anakin do anything, they are free to do whatever they please.”
Jango laughed, raising a hand in surrender. “I wasn’t suggesting that they weren’t. All I was saying is that you worry about them.” The laughter faded as he considered the current situation. The bounties on Anakin and Obi-Wan’s head. The fever. The stress. “But despite the fact that Tatooine is… what was it you called this place again? ‘A hive of scum and villainy’, you don’t worry about them as much as I would imagine.” In some ways it actually helped that this was Tatooine. Sure, their was a large populace of Tatooine that Obi-Wan should be very very worried about. But Shmi and Anakin weren’t there. No, they were with people that considered Shmi, Anakin, and Obi-Wan to be their heroes, with people who would die to protect them, who would kill to protect them. People that knew the dark secrets of Tatooine and had found that Shmi could be the voice that they needed. No, for all of Tatooine’s dangers, Shmi and Anakin had a special layer of protection. “But I suppose they would be better able to see whether all of the terms are being kept.”
“I’m not using them as spies.”
“It was Shmi’s idea wasn’t it?”
The energy that Obi-Wan had displayed while talking to Jabba faded away, and Jango was reminded of how unwell Obi-Wan still was. “She had a good point. They would see things I wouldn’t. They found things I didn’t. And the slaves they found, that we were able to free, they knew things we didn’t. Shmi and Anakin… without them, Tatooine wouldn’t really be free.”
Jango nodded as he boarded their speeder. “That does explain how Cliegg so easily made his way into Shmi’s heart.” Or at least Jango’s cursory research suggested that Cliegg’s attempts to find information would have been an effective method of winning a woman like Shmi’s heart.
Obi-Wan paused, and Jango waited as the other man stared at him, brows furrowed. “The day you decide to kill me is going to be a very ugly day.”
The statement, spoken so flatly, dismissively, as though it was just a general observation cut Jango to the core. The fact that Obi-Wan honestly expected it to come… It was annoying and painful. Jango wanted to retort. To tell Obi-Wan that Jango wouldn’t. But Jango didn’t think Obi-Wan would believe him… And Jango didn’t want to have to face Obi-Wan’s disbelief right now, not when Jango was still trying to face the fact that he’d gotten to this point with Obi-Wan without realizing it. No, some things could wait.
A sandstorm was coming by the time they made it back to Obi-Wan’s ship. Slave I was close by, but Jango’s instincts were tingling. Plus Obi-Wan had started pacing in his ‘I’m not worried, why would you think I’m worried’ way as he commed Shmi and Anakin to get their locations.
He spotted Anakin just as the boy called out. “Obi-Wan!” There were three people and a droid trailing after him and Jango eyed them critically. He didn’t recognize what sort of alien the tallest one was, probably from a planet with a fair share of swamp lands though, given his amphibian characteristics, based off his clothing and stride he probably had experience with some of the more basic weapons, but clumsily so, minimal danger. The girl looked fairly innocent, but had keen, guarded eyes, Jango would guess she had at least basic self-defense, possibly a little more, probably decent with a blaster, not to be underestimated, but not overly dangerous. Pretty much everything about the older man set off Jango’s internal alerts. Definitely dangerous. His eyes shifted to Obi-Wan who had gone momentarily still, something in his face going blank in a way that Jango didn’t like. Jango observed him carefully, shifting so that he was better prepared, letting the somewhat relaxed state he’d adopted while with Obi-Wan fade away.
Obi-Wan’s face relaxed as he hugged Anakin, but when he pulled back, turning away from the group to open the ship ramp, Jango could see his eyes. They were wary and exhausted in a way that they hadn’t been only a few minutes before. Anakin gestured for the group to follow them into the ship, and Jango felt his wariness increase. Yes, the sandstorm was making it increasingly harder to communicate, but Jango didn’t like the idea of just anyone getting let into the ship. He leaned against the wall, in what could be mistaken for a casual pose, he kept his eyes on the strangers, shifting slightly so that he could be between the strangers and Obi-Wan and Anakin in a second if the need arose.
“This is Obi-Wan! He’s the one I was telling you about, he’ll be able to help you for sure!” Jango scowled at that. Of everything that Obi-Wan and Shmi had taught Anakin, this was the one that annoyed him most. This constant desire to help people, help strangers. Strangers couldn’t be trusted. People would lie and cheat and take advantage.
“I’m sure I’ll do my best. What is it your promising I’ll be able to help with, Anakin?” That right there, that was the issue. Promising to help without knowing what? Stupid. It made Jango want to knock some sense into him. He would too, if he didn’t already know that it wouldn’t work.
“This is Mister Qui-Gon and Padme! They were at Watto’s looking for a hyperdrive, except they don’t have the money to buy it and they need to fix their ship. But I just knew that this was really important and that they needed help, and you help everybody!”
The man gave Obi-Wan a dark look and Jango felt his spine stiffen. “Is that so?”
Obi-Wan’s smile wasn’t completely real as he looked at the other man. “Well, I certainly try.” Obi-Wan nodded his head in greeting, “It saddens me that we could not meet again in a better situation, Master Jinn.” Jango inhaled sharply. No.
Anakin grew excited. “You know him? Is he a Jedi like you were? I knew it! I knew I saw his lightsaber!” Jango didn’t clench his fists. He didn’t grind his teeth. He didn’t react outwardly at all. He took a deep breath, pushing down the rage that came at the thought of the Jetii. Obi-Wan shifted closer slightly, Anakin shifting with him unconsciously, putting themselves closer to Jango. Jango wondered if it was meant as an act of comfort, or if Obi-Wan was putting himself between Jango and the Jetii for the Jetii’s protection.
“Yes, he was my master before I left the Jedi.”
Anakin grew even more excited but Jango found his eyes watching the Jetii and Obi-Wan. “You know Obi-Wan?” Anakin asked.
The Jetii’s eyes were closed off, almost unreadable. “I did yes. Before he left.” The Jetii sent a dark look at Obi-Wan that the man completely ignored. Obi-Wan turned to the others on the ship. Greeting them. Jango listened with half an ear, keeping his eyes on the Jetii who was carefully observing Obi-Wan, before turning his attention to the rest of the ship. The Jetii glanced at Jango, and Jango could see he was trying to get a read on him. Jango smirked inwardly. Even before he had met Obi-Wan, Jango had had an inherent skill with closing himself off, making himself hard to read, even in the Jetii’s precious force. But Obi-Wan had helped him improve his mental shields even further, this Jetii wasn’t going to get anything from him. Or at least nothing that Jango didn’t want him to feel.
Jango broke his attention from the Jetii when he heard the girl’s request for transport. He wasn’t surprised by Obi-Wan’s quick response in the affirmative, even though he wasn’t happy about it.
He watched as the Jetii and the girl had a quick disagreement, observing their stilted behaviors. She didn’t trust him, or rather, she had limited trust in him. Jango approved.
Obi-Wan shifted again. “Well, we will have to wait until tomorrow in either case, the sandstorm will last until at least tomorrow morning.”
The girl nodded. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
“Of course, if you will pardon me, I can make us all something to eat.” He turned to Anakin. “Would you help our guests feel at home?”
Anakin nodded at him. “I can show them around!”
Obi-Wan turned from the group and Jango had a second’s hesitation. He did not want to leave Anakin alone with these strangers, but he also knew that Obi-Wan was incredibly protective of Anakin, and he had to have his reasons for believing that they were trustworthy, that Anakin was safe with them within the walls of the ship at least. With that in mind he fell into step with Obi-Wan as the man made his way past him.
He waited until they were likely out of earshot of the group. “I don’t like this.” And that was an incredible understatement if there was one.
“Which particular part don’t you like?”
“The Jedi.” Definitely the Jetii. “The politics. Your unease.”
Obi-Wan didn’t respond to the first half. “I am not uneasy.”
Jango didn’t snort, but it was a close call. “Don’t lie to me.”
Obi-Wan sighed, but didn’t refute the statement again, meaning that Jango was right, which Jango already knew. “Do you have any preferences on the meal?”
Jango reached out and grabbed Obi-Wan’s arm. A part of him was angry. Why wouldn’t Obi-Wan just tell him what was wrong? A part of him was also wary. Obi-Wan worried, Obi-Wan stressed. But he wasn’t often uneasy. The fact that he was uneasy now meant that Jango had missed something. And that bothered him. “Obi-Wan.”
Obi-Wan turned to him. “Jango.” His name came out calmly, softly. Trustingly. Obi-Wan’s earlier assertion that someday Jango would kill him hit Jango like a blaster shot. The fact that Obi-Wan honestly believed that, but still trusted him so completely. Jango didn’t like it. The same way he didn’t like that Obi-Wan could look at him and see someone else. He felt his ire deflate for the moment. He sighed quietly, sometimes he wanted to curse himself for having given Obi-Wan a chance that first day on the streets of Tatooine. Most of the time he couldn’t quite bring himself to regret it.
“I saw some Correllian Tubers in your cooling unit. Not even you can ruin those.”
Obi-Wan blinked at him, and Jango could see he’d expected Jango to push the matter. Obi-Wan laughed, and relaxed slightly. “That’s true. Even I can handle tubers. I think we might have some nerf patties as well.” Jango watched him turn and head towards the small kitchen. No, Jango didn’t feel like he could push yet, but someday he hoped he wouldn’t actually have to push at all.
Obi-Wan wasn’t actually too horrible of a cook. When it came to simple meals he was actually quite proficient. Jango had once heard him talking to Shmi about all the different ways a person could make Snake Stew and how to get the best flavor from Desert Scrag (why Obi-Wan was so proficient at desert meals was still a mystery to all of them, since Obi-Wan hadn’t ever actually lived in a desert, having grown up with the Jetii, but of all of Obi-Wan’s mysteries it wasn’t on the top of Jango’s list to understand). Once Obi-Wan had the tubers cooked to a crispy perfection, Jango removed his helmet, snagging a few while Obi-Wan was busy with the nerf patties. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes at him, but didn’t stop him.
It was sickeningly domestic in a weird way. He didn’t hate it.
Obi-Wan was nearly finished making dinner before Jango felt the need to speak again. “Do you miss the Jedi?”
Obi-Wan’s motions slowed. “I lost the Jedi a long time ago.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
Obi-Wan looked at him, and there was a sad smile and bleak eyes. “Yes. I do.”
“Would you go back?”
Obi-Wan gestured to his helmet as he gathered the food into dishes. “Dinner’s ready.” Jango eyed him for a second, but put on his helmet, taking a few of the dishes from Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan turned to leave but paused. “That’s not my life anymore, Jango.” He was out the door before Jango could respond.
Which was fine. He wasn’t quite sure what it was he wanted to say.
He followed the man to the eating area, placing the dishes down, watching as Obi-Wan herded everyone to the table for dinner. Jango took his own position against the wall of the ship, leaning in a faux casual pose. His anger and frustration, that had slipped away for a short time while he’d been alone with Obi-Wan, had returned with a vengeance. At one point the girl, Padme, actually tried to engage him in conversation. But Jango wasn’t in the mood to make friends with Obi-Wan’s guests. Especially when something about the girl itched at him. She was hiding something. He didn’t trust people that hid things.
He glanced at Obi-Wan. Well. For the most part, there were exceptions, or rather, one exception.
The girl figured out pretty quickly that he wouldn’t respond, and turned back to Obi-Wan, with the occasional glance towards him. Obviously uncertain about his presence. Good.
He wished the one named Jar Jar would be more intimidated though. Jar Jar was the one of the types of individual that Jango had no patience for. Loud. Clumsy. Annoying. And with absolutely no manners. Although Jango would far prefer him to the Jetii. The longer he stood there, watching, listening, the angrier the Jetii made him.
He was talking to Anakin, telling stories about his time as a Jetii. Talking about all the good a Jetii could do. Thrown in there were subtle digs against Obi-Wan, about true Jetii, and loyal order members. About people who kept their commitments.
Jango wanted to interrupt, talk about baby stealers, about murderers. Wanted to ask him how often he’d left people to suffer because the senate told him to. He said nothing though. Just seethed quietly. And listened to the Jetii spew poison and lies.
It only got worse when the Jetii started talking about how powerful Anakin was, about how he could have been a great Jetii, if it weren’t for Obi-Wan. About how he had so much potential. About how much good he could do.
Jango would be the first to admit that as a bounty hunter he didn’t exactly engage in what most people would consider ‘good’, but Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan constantly did. Shmi did too. The two of them were raising a boy who would be capable of so much good. He didn’t need to be a Jetii for that.
Obi-Wan glanced at him, and Jango took a few moments to focus on him, letting what the poison was saying now become secondary. There was something heavy in Obi-Wan’s eyes, something tired, even as he turned to speak with the girl again. Jango felt something inside him go cold even as his anger upped another degree.
He recognized that look in Obi-Wan’s eyes. Obi-Wan was resigned. And that made Jango furious.
Finally Obi-Wan stood, gathering the dishes. “Make yourself at home for the night. Anakin, you can bunk with me tonight, if you’re alright with letting one of our guests take your room.”
Anakin nodded, beginning to gather the rest of the dishes. “Of course. And I bet Mom would be okay if Padme used her room.”
“I do believe you’re right. Why don’t you show them where they can make their rooms for the night.” Obi-Wan gave Anakin a soft smile, but Jango was having a hard time seeing past the resignation in his eyes. He followed Obi-Wan as he began to leave, pausing only for the smallest second to give Anakin a gentle shoulder squeeze as he finished gathering the rest of the dishes. He took pleasure in the Jetii’s annoyed look at the gesture as Anakin sent him a bright smile, even as he sent a worried look at Obi-Wan’s retreating back.
He was a sharp nine year old. He didn’t seem to realize what was wrong, but he did realize that something was. Obi-Wan glanced at him as he caught up with a few quick strides. “I normally leave the spare room for you.”
Jango barely withheld a snort at that. “I’m not sleeping with a Jedi on the ship.” He didn’t trust that man.
Obi-Wan sighed quietly. “No, I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight either.”
Jango took some of the dishes from him, using the sonic to begin cleaning them. Obi-Wan wasn’t fully well yet, no matter what the man said, he needed his sleep. “I can keep watch.”
Obi-Wan turned slightly, a strange look on his face as he looked at him. Jango raised an eyebrow, despite knowing that Obi-Wan couldn’t see it through his visor. “I know you can.” It was quiet for a second. “I… I am glad you’re here.”
Jango focused on the dish he was on, trying to quell the surprised pleasure the words brought him. He was angry with Obi-Wan right now. The man had no right to disarm him with his quiet sincerity and the fact that he was grateful for Jango’s presence.
Before either of them could say anything, Anakin entered with the rest of the dishes. Jango found he was grateful for the interruption.
Obi-Wan turned away from him and towards Anakin and Jango stayed with the dishes, and when had he gotten to the point that he helped with the dishes? “Padme’s afraid. And I think that Mister Jinn is angry.” Anakin said quietly.
“Padme’s people are in danger, and yet for now there is nothing she can do. It’s a painful and frightening situation.” Jango closed his eyes, feeling true sympathy for the girl for the first time. It was no easy thing, being unable to help ones people.
“But you said you’ll help her.”
“And I will.”
“Then everything will be fine.”
Obi-Wan laughed at that. The strangled laugh of someone who knew how cruel life could be. “It’s not quite that simple, Anakin.” Jango remembered traps being set, warriors dying. He remembered trying to help. Trying to save his people. No. It was never simple. He remembered resigned eyes.
No, things were definitely not simple.
“You’ll help save her people. Just like you saved me and Mom and everybody else.”
Obi-Wan turned back for a second using the pretense of placing the last few dishes into Jango’s waiting hands and Jango saw the grief in his eyes. Jango wondered if the two of them would ever talk about the past. About the people they’d lost, the people they’d failed to save. Obi-Wan turned back to Anakin and Jango shoved the thought away.
Obi-Wan spoke quietly, grief underlaying his words. “Did you know, Anakin, that between the time that I freed you and your mother and the time when the last slave on Tatooine was freed, hundreds of slaves died?”
“Some of them were old, some of them were sick. Some of them were killed because their masters were cruel people who did cruel things. Some of them were killed so that they couldn’t be freed.” Obi-Wan sighed and Jango echoed it quietly. “I did what I could, but it wasn’t quite enough. It’s one of the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn in my life. That sometimes, we can give everything we have, we can do everything in our power. And we’ll still lose. That’s true for me. That’s true for you. That’s true for Jango.” Jango scoffed at the understatement. It haunted him, the things he hadn’t been able to do, the people he hadn’t been able to save. He was starting to think it haunted Obi-Wan too. “It’s true for the Jedi and the Senate and for everyone.”
“But you’re going to save them. I can feel it.”
“I hope you are right. And I swear I will do everything in my power. But I’m only human Anakin.” It was quiet for a long moment as Anakin seemed to process what Obi-Wan had told him.
“But why is Mister Jinn angry?” Anakin asked quietly, “Is it because of the Naboo too? Cause it feels like he’s angry at you.” Jango tried not to stiffen at the mention of the Jetii.
Obi-Wan sighed. “That’s complicated.”
“Obi-Wan.” Anakin’s voice was serious, and Jango couldn’t help but think that Obi-Wan and Shmi had raised him well. Especially if he wasn’t letting Obi-Wan get away with evading questions.
“You know I was a Jedi, right?” Jango mostly didn’t think about it, and when he did he focused on the fact that it was in the past. That Obi-Wan had left. He wasn’t a Jetii, not to Jango.
“Yes. You’ve told me about it loads of times.”
Obi-Wan laughed. “Yes. Well. He was my Master and it was very difficult for him when I left the Jedi. While I can’t claim to know exactly how he felt, I imagine he felt as though I was betraying him and the order.”
Anakin gasped. “But you wouldn’t betray anyone! You’re… you’re… You’re the best! You left to save us! How could that be bad!”
Obi-Wan laughed again, and there was actual mirth in it this time. “That’s just how he feels. I left, yes. But I have never betrayed the Jedi Order.”
Anakin was quiet for a long moment. “He keeps saying that I could be a Jedi.” Jango froze. And the room went completely silent, both Jango and Anakin waiting for Obi-Wan’s response.
“You are very powerful in the Force. You know that, your mother and I have always been honest about your abilities, and I’ve always tried to teach you how to best use the Force, while your mother has always made sure you understand how important it is not to misuse your talents.”
“But could I be a Jedi?”
Obi-Wan’s answer was quiet. “That’s something that you and your mother will have to decide.” Obi-Wan’s resigned eyes were at the forefront of Jango’s mind and he tried not to seethe. Obi-Wan had left the Jetii. How… How could he even think of letting Anakin join them? They were wrong. They were poison. They… He took a deep breath. Then let it go. He would not get angry, not right now.
“What do you think?” Anakin asked and Jango wished he hadn’t, he wasn’t sure his anger could handle whatever Obi-Wan had to say.
“There are two things I want for you in your life Anakin. One, that you always remain the good and kind hearted person that you are, and two, that you are happy. Your path is yours to choose, Anakin. I will support whatever decision you and your mother make. And no matter what I will always love you.” Some of the anger dissipated. For once he was grateful for Obi-Wan’s evasion. And his honesty. For all that Obi-Wan protested it, he was the closest thing Anakin had to a father, and wasn’t that what a father should want for his child? That the be happy? That he make his own path in life?
“I love you too, Obi-Wan.”
“Now, go get ready for bed.”
Anakin sighed as though burdened. “Oh fine. Good night, Obi-Wan. Good night, Jango.”
They both bid him a good night and he scampered off. Jango turned, leaning against the counter as Obi-Wan stood up from where he’d been kneeling. Obi-Wan glanced at him once before angling his body away as he quickly put the dishes Jango had cleaned away. Jango watched him, not saying anything. He wanted answers, he wanted an explanation.
He wanted Obi-Wan to turn back to him and tell him again that he was grateful that Jango was there. To tell him that he wanted, maybe even needed Jango’s help. He wanted Obi-Wan to stop trying to hide the confusion and the pain and the resignation.
Obi-Wan finished in the kitchen in silence and they left together. Jango still trying to decide how to confront Obi-Wan about everything that was going on.
The Jetii was waiting for them in the hall and Jango felt his hackles rise. The man had a lot of gall. The Jetii strode forward, getting right into Obi-Wan’s space, towering over him in what was an obvious attempt at intimidation. “How high is his Midichlorian count?”
Jango didn’t understand what the Jetii meant by that, but it was easy enough to understand that he was talking about Anakin. The presumption tipped Jango over and he growled. He let some of his walls down, letting the Jetii feel his full anger towards him, his absolute disgust and hatred. The man had no right to Anakin, he had no right to Obi-Wan. And if he thought he could just waltz onto this ship and intimidate and demand things than he was wrong. And Jango was just itching for the man to give him a reason to show him just how wrong he was. This warning? This was a courtesy to Obi-Wan. The Jetii was lucky Jango hadn’t already done something. But if the man continued to act as though he could make demands of Obi-Wan as though the man were still Obi-Wan’s master, well, then Jango would do something.
The Jetii hesitated, glancing past Obi-Wan to him. There was a venomous look on his face, but he took a step back from Obi-Wan and Jango took a small step forward, not quite intruding in Obi-Wan’s space, but making it clear to the Jetii that he needed to keep his distance. Obi-Wan didn’t respond at all to the little interlude. “I have never felt the need to test it. And you are certainly not permitted to do so. Not without permission from Shmi.”
“You’ve been deliberately keeping Anakin from the Jedi order.” Jango doubted it, although he would have approved full-heartedly if Obi-Wan had.
Obi-Wan shook his head at the accusation. “I have informed Shmi of Anakin’s potential and let her make the decisions. He is her son.”
“And I assume you’ve been poisoning her against the Jedi the entire time.” Poison? This man wanted to talk about poison? Find a mirror. Do some introspection, supposedly Jetii were good at that, though Jango had never seen any proof.
Obi-Wan actually sounded confused at that. “I have done no such thing.”
“Because you’ve been a paragon of virtue, haven’t you. With your precious treaty.” The Jetii practically spit the word, and for a second Jango thought he was going to invade Obi-Wan’s space again. “Don’t forget I’ve seen how this works, You may have done it on a larger scale, but Xanatos already tried this route. I’m sure you remember Bandomeer.” The Jetii paused, “I stopped him then, and I will stop you.”
Obi-Wan sighed, the same sort of sigh he used when Anakin was being disobedient and unruly, a sad sort of disappointment. “Well, you and I remember Bandomeer very differently I’m sure. I distinctly recall him selling me into slavery. Not freeing me from it.” He paused, and Jango suddenly remembered their first meeting, when Jango had had his arm to Obi-Wan’s neck, fully prepared to kill him.
‘You don’t know me Jango Fett. Don’t presume that you do. I was fighting my own battles. I was a temple reject with a collar set to explode around my neck. A boy left behind by my Master in a warzone watching as children were mowed down in a pointless civil war. I fought for my friend as she was chained to the bottom of a pool and ended the life of a fellow child who was just as hurt, lost, and confused as I was in an attempt to save her life. I learned that life is cruel and ugly and the people are worse. I learned that sometimes you can’t save everyone. I learned that sometimes surviving is the better part of valor. I followed my heart and paid the consequences of doing so. So I am sorry for what you suffered, for what the Jedi cost you. But I was hardly in a position to do anything about that.’
Jango had never asked for further explanation, and part of him regretted that, because he’d really like to know the entirety of the subtext behind this conversation. The other part of him found that he was fully capable of disliking the Jetii in front of him even more than he had before, which was impressive because he'd already hated the man.
Obi-Wan continued talking and Jango refocused. “Or perhaps you were referring to how he was pretending to help the miners when in reality he was planning on destroying the planet?” He shrugged. “I have no such aspirations.” The Jetii’s glare intensified and Jango smirked beneath his helmet. No, Obi-Wan was far too good to have such aspirations. But Jango was honest enough to admit that if he ever did have such aspirations, Jango probably wouldn’t even charge him a basic fee to help him, he was that far gone. But the bonus of further infuriating the Jetii would be nice. Obi-Wan cleared his throat, and shifted as though to move. “Now if you’ll excuse me, the sandstorm will be raging for several hours still, and I need to make sure that Anakin gets the sleep he needs. His mother would be very disappointed in me otherwise.”
The Jetii didn’t move. Eyes angry as he tried to stare Obi-Wan down. With a sigh, Obi-Wan made to push past him and Jango stepped forward, this time invading Obi-Wan’s space as he placed a hand protectively on the other man’s back. It was a statement of protection and intent. For a second Obi-Wan paused before he relaxed into Jango’s hand. Jango met the Jetii’s eyes through his visor, moving even closer to Obi-Wan. Let the Jetii know that Obi-Wan would never return to his precious order. That Obi-Wan was wanted and cared for and protected and that the Jetii had lost him.
The frustration, the anger, the disgust in the Jetii’s eyes made Jango smirk as he followed Obi-Wan down the hall. Leaving the Jetii behind.
Obi-Wan quickly checked with the rest of the guests on the ship and Jango followed him. He wasn’t going to give the Jetii another chance to try and corner Obi-Wan tonight. Obi-Wan paused in the main part of the ship and Jango watched as he bent down to bid the droid good night. Jango frowned at that, puzzled. It wasn’t that Obi-Wan disliked droids, but for the most part he was rather ambivalent to them. But this was the second time that Obi-Wan had gone out of his way to greet this particular droid. It was odd, and Jango filed the thought away with everything else that didn’t quite add up. It was a very long list.
They finally made it back to Obi-Wan’s room on the ship to find that Anakin was asleep on Obi-Wan’s bed. Jango took a seat in the only chair in the room. He’d been in this room more in the past few days than the entire first year of their acquaintance, what with Obi-Wan’s illness and now this. He removed his helmet and set it to the side, watching as Obi-Wan carefully covered Anakin with the blanket. The absolute love for the boy was on every line of Obi-Wan’s face and it was almost painful to see.
“Would you really let him join the Jedi?”
Obi-Wan turned away from Anakin to look at him. “You know I’ve always let Shmi and Anakin make their own choices. This will be no different.”
Jango frowned at that. Obi-Wan may let them make their own decisions, but he was always honest about the dangers and pitfalls he saw. And there was a rather large danger sitting on their ship. “You would let him go with that poison?” He gestured to the hallway where the Jetii had tried to corner Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan’s face twisted through several emotions, guilt, sorrow, loss. “Qui-Gon Jinn hasn’t always been like that. My leaving the Jedi was perhaps harder on him than I had thought it would be. You saw that he was kind to Anakin.” There was so much wrong with that sentence, Jango didn’t even know where to start.
“I saw him trying to poison Anakin against you.” Yes, the words might have come out sounding kind, but their intention was not. He wanted Anakin to see Obi-Wan as someone who had held him back, someone who had limited him. He wanted to twist Anakin so that he would want what the Jetii wanted. Using kind words did not make a person kind.
Obi-Wan bowed his head and Jango watched as his entire body curled inwards as though hurting. “Yes.”
Jango didn’t understand how Obi-Wan could admit to the man’s poison, yet still consider the Jetii a viable option for Anakin. Jango could not understand why Obi-Wan had looked so kriffin resigned! “I know you let Shmi choose her path, but she has asked for your counsel in the past, and I’m certain she would do so now.” Especially since Obi-Wan had the most knowledge, the most understanding of the Jetii.
Obi-Wan nodded. “And I will be honest with her.”
Jango snarled at that, honest? What did that even mean when Obi-Wan didn’t even understand his own feelings on the matter. When Obi-Wan was already resigned, when Obi-Wan could admit a man was poison but still consider him safe. What did honest even mean in this situation. Obi-Wan sent him a reprimanding look as Anakin stirred. Jango watched as he slowly knelt, extending his hand, resting it near Anakin. Jango took a deep breath, getting his anger under control. He didn’t want to wake Anakin up, and that meant keeping his anger under control so that the emotion didn’t reach the sleeping boy.
“You can’t hide from me, Obi-Wan. I can read you far too easily. You’re practically resigned to his leaving.”
Obi-Wan blinked at him in surprise, his hand falling away from Anakin as he stared at Jango. “I…” The other man shook his head. “No.” The look of confusion on Obi-Wan’s face actually startled Jango. “Am I?”
The confusion surprised him, and for a second Jango wondered if he’d misinterpreted the resigned look he’d seen in Obi-Wan’s eyes. But no, he remembered the conversation in the kitchenette. “Why are you considering this? And none of that nonsense about it being the will of the Force.” He couldn’t quite stop the last few words from coming out derisively and he saw the moment Obi-Wan registered his disdain in the way that his spine straightened and his face went smooth and composed, the way it did when he was acting the part of politician. It was enough to make Jango regret the tone.
“I hardly think that this involves…” Jango jerked from his seat, startling Obi-Wan mid-sentence. Good, Jango didn’t particularly want Obi-Wan to finish that sentence. It was the work of half a second to invade Obi-Wan’s space. Jango couldn’t help but compare Obi-Wan’s body language now to when the Jetii had invaded the man’s space. There was no tension, no stiffness. Obi-Wan was startled yes, but he was perfectly fine with Jango in his personal space, even now when Jango was angry and frustrated. In light of that trust, Jango forced his anger to pause. “Obi-Wan.” He kept his movements gentle as he gripped the other man’s neck, tilting gently so that their eyes met. Obi-Wan went still under his hand and his face lost the polite mask he’d donned. He met his gaze without flinching and Jango wasn’t sure whether he wanted to scream at Obi-Wan for putting them in this situation, or whether he wanted to kiss the man. “Curse you Kenobi.” This was his fault. “You let me in.” Did Obi-Wan realize how rare that was? For someone to genuinely see him, or see any other Bounty Hunter, to recognize them for who and what they were, and to still let them into their lives? Did he realize what that meant? “You trusted me with your life. You trusted me with theirs.” And Jango knew what that meant, to be trusted with Shmi’s and Anakin’s lives. “You haven’t done that with anyone else in this galaxy. You let me in. So yes, I am involved.”
It was silent for along moment as they continued to stare at each other. Obi-Wan took a deep breath and Jango felt something in his chest tighten. “Jango.” Jango’s hand clenched reflexively at the way his name was spoken so softly. As though Obi-Wan cared. “You… you have your own life. You leave.” It was said honestly, and without recrimination, and Jango couldn’t deny it, because it was true. “And I… One day I’m going to fail, and Anakin’s going to suffer for it. Someday the price on his head is going to be too high and they know where to find me. They won’t look for him with the Jedi. And the Jedi will keep him in the temple for several years, long enough for the bounty to disappear. He’ll… He’ll be safe.”
And wasn’t that the worse thing Obi-Wan could say? If his reasons had been about the Jedi, or about Obi-Wan’s regrets, or about nearly anything, Jango could argue with them, could condemn them. But it was about Anakin, about his safety. And while Jango didn’t like it, wasn’t sure he even agreed with the assessment, he couldn’t condemn it either. Obi-Wan wanted to protect Anakin, and he’d let him go, if that was what it took.
He sighed. “I don’t like it.” But a part of him understood, at least to a certain degree. He was still angry, because how could trusting the Jetii ever be the right option? How could splitting this small family be the right option?
Obi-Wan’s eyes closed, and Jango was grateful that he could no longer see the resignation in the other man’s eyes. “Neither do I.” And wasn’t that almost worse? Jango took a deep breath, letting go of the other man and moving back to the chair.
Jango didn’t say anything more, and after a few minutes Obi-Wan rearranged himself on the ground, and Jango could see that he was preparing to meditate.
Jango closed his own eyes, trying to calm himself. The situation made him feel powerless. And being powerless had always made him feel angry.
Obi-Wan had a point. The Jetii, as much as Jango hated them, could offer protection to Anakin. And while Jango knew that Shmi trusted Obi-Wan to take care of Anakin. He also knew she felt strongly that Anakin should follow his dreams. If he dreamed of being a Jetii, then she would support that, and Obi-Wan would support her.
He opened his eyes again and observed the former Jetii. His eyes were closed, and his face was almost serene. At that moment he looked unaffected and Jango found he both hated and admired that. He wondered what it would take to really break the man’s facade of calm. There had been hints of it during his sickness, but even then the man had possessed astonishing amounts of self-possession for a sick man. What would it take for Obi-Wan to truly break apart? For everything to show on his face and not just in hints through his eyes.
The thought was both fascinating and terrible. In part because Jango knew that Obi-Wan had broken, at some point, for some reason. But he had gone through the meticulous work of piecing himself back together. Jango knew from experience that piecing oneself back together was painful and difficult, and that it was impossible to get all the pieces to fit back together the way they once had. Galidraan had shattered him, his time as a slave had only ground the pieces further. He’d pulled himself together, piece by piece. Meeting Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Shmi, had helped more than he had ever expected it would. More than he had ever thought anything would. But he was more complete now than he had been five years ago. Not whole in the way he had once been, but not broken either.
Anakin and Shmi had done something similar for Obi-Wan. Jango liked to think that maybe he had played a role in Obi-Wan’s attempts to reconstruct himself as well.
He wondered what would happen to them when Anakin left, the way Obi-Wan was so sure he would. Would his absence tear Obi-Wan open again? And what about Jango? Anakin had come to mean something to him as well.
He had told Obi-Wan the truth. He was involved. Bounty Hunters weren’t supposed to get involved. Jango wasn’t supposed to get involved. It was one of his cardinal rules.
He had to leave. He had to stop this. He had let this go too far. He’d been with Obi-Wan and the Skywalkers for over a week now. For no reason other than Obi-Wan had been sick. Jango wasn’t a nursemaid. He didn’t do concern. He didn’t do friendships. He didn’t do caring. He didn’t.
Perhaps this whole situation was a blessing in disguise. If the Jetii had not shown up. Had not caused him such frustration. Had not sparked his anger. Perhaps he wouldn’t have realized how far he was falling.
He was a fool.
A sharp movement caught his eye and jerked him out of his thoughts. Obi-Wan fell backward, his face screwed in pain, there was a choked sound, as though he had tried to cry out but had choked on the sound. Jango reacted instantly. He launched himself to his feet, blasters out, his eyes tracked the room, searching for anything even slightly out of place. He kept his blaster aimed towards the door in case the Jetii was behind this. There was a scrambling sound as Anakin jerked awake, scrambling immediately to where Obi-Wan was still on the ground gasping. “Obi-Wan! What happened? Are you okay?”
There was a moment’s silence, and Jango could see that Obi-Wan was trying to orient himself. “Yes, of course. Just fine.” Obi-Wan took a few deep breaths and the pain eased away from his face.
Anakin was very obviously unconvinced. “You’re lying.”
“And poorly at that,” Jango added wryly.
Obi-Wan sent him an annoyed look that softened into something almost fond. Jango shifted away from the door and the protective stance he’d put himself into. Reminding himself that he had decided that he needed to stop this. Telling himself that his chest did not feel tight and warm at the gratitude in Obi-Wan’s eyes. Obi-Wan didn’t need protection. Jango didn’t need to protect him.
Obi-Wan met his eyes. “We’re being hunted, or rather our guests are. There is nothing we can do for now but wait for the storm to pass.” Jango wondered if that was meant merely as an explanation, or if it was supposed to be reassurance. Obi-Wan turned to Anakin. “Then we will go and pick up your mother and the rest of our guests. The sooner we are off Tatooine the better.” Obi-Wan turned back to him and met his eyes. “Your ship is near here isn’t it?”
It was the set up Jango needed. Hadn’t Obi-Wan said it best? Jango left. That was what he did. Obi-Wan could handle whatever was hunting them. Jango knew that. Obi-Wan didn’t need him, Obi-Wan would ask him to stay if he did. But that was the thing, Obi-Wan never did.
Somehow he had become involved. That had to end. This had to end.
But if Obi-Wan asked him to stay…
But Obi-Wan didn’t.
Jango watched as Obi-Wan made his way out the door to wake his guests and make breakfast. He sighed quietly and grabbed his helmet. He hesitated before making his way out the door and turned back to Anakin who was busy trying to make Obi-Wan’s bed.
“You be good now.”
Anakin paused from his work and looked up, a serious look on his face. “I will be.” He paused, frowning. “Are you going to be looking after Obi-Wan and Mom?”
Jango hesitated, but dropped to one knee in front of the boy. “You know that Obi-Wan can take care of himself and your mother. He’s been doing it for the past five years.”
Anakin nodded but bit his lip. “I have to do this. I have to join the Jedi. I just feel it. I… I want it.”
Jango took a second to respond, trying to find something to say that wasn’t bitter. “I think you can do a great deal of good, Anakin.” He smirked a little. “Maybe one day you’ll have to round me up.”
Anakin grinned at that. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be that good.”
Jango laughed and ruffled the boy’s hair softly. “You’ll be even better.”
Anakin beamed at that. “You think so?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Anakin’s smile faded. “What if I’m wrong?”
Jango sighed quietly. The boy was only nine, “Then you learn. We’re all wrong sometimes, Anakin. It’s just the way of things. And we learn from our experiences.” He hesitated. “Trust your instincts. Trust yourself.”
Anakin nodded. “I will.” The boy reached out tentatively a question on his face. Jango smiled softly and gave the boy a tight hug. “I’m glad Obi-Wan met you.”
Jango felt his throat close at that, and he wanted to choke a little. “I’m glad too, kid. I’m glad too.” They had all helped heal part of him, but that meant they had the ability to more easily break him. He couldn’t have that sort of weakness.
“Do you think I’ll see you again?”
“It’s a smaller galaxy than you think.”
Anakin nodded. “Do you really have to go?”
Jango looked at the boy and then glanced towards the door that Obi-Wan had left through. He nodded. “Yeah, kid. I have to go.”
Anakin sighed and gave him another long hug. Jango returned it before slowly disentangling himself. “Take care of yourself, Anakin.”
Jango put his helmet on and left the room, leaving Anakin to finish making the bed. He could hear Obi-Wan in the kitchen talking to the Padme girl. He moved towards the ship hatch, pausing only for a second when he passed the droid that Obi-Wan had bid goodnight to the night before. He bent down. “You better take care of him, you bucket of bolts.”
The droid beeped at him and Jango wasn’t sure if the beeps were a return insult or confusion at the order. Jango wasn’t sure he cared which, it was foolish to have said anything to the droid in the first place.
He moved to the hatch, opening the ramp. The Jetii entered the area, a frown on his face. For a second Jango reconsidered leaving. He really didn’t like the poisonous man, and he certainly didn’t trust him.
But Obi-Wan could take care of himself. He hadn’t asked Jango to stay.
Jango needed to let this go. He was involved and he couldn’t be. He cared and he shouldn’t.
He made it to his ship quickly. Letting himself aboard Slave I. He sighed as he sat himself down in the cockpit.
It would have been nice to actually say goodbye.
He shook his head and got the ship ready for take off. His hands hesitated over the console to put in the coordinates. His mind flashed through the past few days. He clenched his fist in frustration.
He remembered Obi-Wan’s resignation. He cursed quietly before he put in the coordinates. Curse Kenobi.
Okay. So, Moment of honesty... I don't really understand how things of a social nature work, and that goes for real life as well as on the internet. So I don't know if this is weird... Like, I really apologize, and if it is weird, please ignore this. But if anyone ever wants to come say hi to me on Tumblr (which I only sort of kind of know how to use, I'm trying to figure it out) uh, well, feel free.
I'm here... https://feybarn.tumblr.com
If that was weird to say please ignore me.
(I know this whole things probably sounded kind of silly and ridiculous... but, well, I have major social anxiety, and I'm going to settle on being proud of my tiny baby steps of progress...)
I'll see you all next chapter!
Chapter 5: Invasions of Hearts and Planets
Jango makes up his mind and then actually does something about it (this something is appropriately dramatic for a Mandalorian who has made up his mind). Obi-Wan should probably be the tiniest bits wary, but he's too busy worrying about the fate of the entire galaxy to spend much time thinking about himself.
Sorry for the unexpected delay in updates. I'd say I have a good reason, but that's highly debatable. Mostly I just had a mental health crises and then school became a little much, and then I'd lost all motivation for pretty much everything. HOWEVER, I have survived the semester and it's no longer freezing outside, and I have frozen berries to make into smoothies and that always makes me much happier. So this is my 'I survived the semester' present to myself.
I'll try to be better about updating an a regular basis, although I make no promises. The next chapter for Pebble in a River is getting close to done... so hopefully both that chapter and the next chapter for this story will be easier for me to get out.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He blamed the idiots of the galaxy who couldn’t even offer him a real challenge. He’d left Tatooine with coordinates set for one of the transit stations in Hutt space. He was determined to find a difficult bounty, something that would really challenge him, something that would force him to focus his thoughts. He’d used his holopad to start his search, but looking through the bounties was frankly disappointing. A few political leaders, a couple of religious leaders, a few rebel leaders, some kidnappings, retrievals. Boring, boring, boring. By the time he’d been ready to make the jump into hyperspace Jango had already erased the coordinates.
His eyes flicked to a bounty that could, in theory, be extremely difficult. A double retrieval. It was the one that Jango couldn’t take, because it was Obi-Wan and Anakin.
He skimmed through the posting again. Obi-Wan had once told him that people would want to kill him. That he’d make people angry. But there hadn’t been a bounty out for his death. What had Obi-Wan done, that had made someone not want to kill him, but to keep him? He had already tried a cursory search to see who had placed the bounty, but that hadn’t gotten him anywhere. From what he could see, whoever had put it out was taking care not to show their hand.
He turned the posting off, sitting back in his seat, staring at his console. He sighed, running his hands through his hair.
What would Jaster say if he were to see Jango now. Jango tried not to think about it very often. There was a part of him that ached at the thought of his old mentor, the man who had taken him in after his parent’s death and raised him, just as much a father to him as his birth father.
Jaster would laugh at him. He’d find the whole situation hilarious. Jaster hadn’t liked the Jetii, as a rule most Mandalorians didn’t, but he hadn’t hated them the way Jango did. But then, Jaster hadn’t watched the Jetii destroy his people, that was Jango’s burden.
But Jango thought that Jaster would have liked Obi-Wan, or maybe Jango just wanted Jaster too.
He cursed quietly, and left the console. He could float in space for the next little bit, wasn’t like he was needed anywhere.
He stripped himself of his armor and began to stretch. Exercise would do him good. He closed his eyes and started his routine. It was easier to think when he was moving. And Jango needed to think. He needed to make everything make sense.
He went back five years, to the day on Tatooine when he’d run into Obi-Wan. Sometimes when he closed his eyes he could still see it, Obi-Wan standing in the middle of the alley, blaster in hand, tired and worn as though he was carrying the weight of worlds on his shoulders. The defiant way Obi-Wan had spoken, his words sharp like knives while Jango had an arm to his throat.
That was the first time, when Jango had said he’d teach him. He’d taken Obi-Wan and the Skywalkers off planet, helped them find a ship, he met up with them on different planets, they trained, fought, argued. And then they would return to their own ships and move on to the next planet. And Jango, well, he’d been alone for a long time, and there had been something nice about it. He’d been… almost fond. But when the year was up Jango hadn’t had a problem saying goodbye.
He’d missed them, yes. But, it wasn’t like it was now. He’d gone a whole year and a half without seeing them, without seeing Obi-Wan. But perhaps distance really had made his heart grow fonder. And Shmi, the messages she would send. The stories she would tell. They made it harder to turn the thoughts off, turn the thoughts away.
And so when the opportunity came to see them. Jango had taken it.
It was one night. He stayed one night. Obi-Wan had been asleep for almost half of the time. But then they had sat there together drinking their tea. And Jango should have realized then that something was going on, because he didn’t even like tea.
And if that wasn’t enough of a sign, he’d gone out of his way to ensure that they had enough credits. Jango wasn’t a charity. That was his very hard earned money.
Maybe it was Obi-Wan’s dedication. Maybe it was Obi-Wan’s passion. Maybe it was the way he’d stood in front of a Hutt as though he didn’t have a care in the world as he negotiated for freedom. Maybe it was the way Obi-Wan looked at him and wasn’t afraid. Maybe it was the way he fought. Maybe it was the way he smiled. Jango didn’t know.
There was something rare about Obi-Wan. Something special. Jango honestly doubted there was anyone like him in the entire galaxy.
But he’d said goodbye.
And he’d missed him. Oh, he’d missed Shmi and Anakin, too. But not in the same way. He missed him enough to create random excuses to drop into his life for a day or two before slipping out again. And yet despite that somehow Jango still hadn’t caught on. Not really.
But this time he understood. When Obi-Wan had stood there with feverish eyes and let Jango take control. When Obi-Wan had hallucinated other men in his place and Jango had felt angry, had felt hurt. When Obi-Wan had looked at him with such open honesty and said he was grateful Jango was there. When the Jetii had stood there and acted as though he had any claim to Obi-Wan. When Obi-Wan had looked lost and confused and tired, much the same way he had back that first day on Tatooine, and Jango had wanted Obi-Wan to turn to him. Had wanted Obi-Wan to trust him, to ask him for help.
At some point in the last five years, despite the distance and the timing and everything else, he’d started falling in love with a former Jetii. He’d started falling in love with Obi-Wan.
It was horribly inconvenient.
Jaster’s ghost was probably laughing at him.
He stopped his exercise and fell back onto the floor.
The way he saw it he had two options. He could do what his mind insisted was the smart thing and leave now, cut his ties. Live his life the way he was already living it. He would be fine.
Or he could do what he actually wanted to do. He could go about the difficult task of courting Obi-Wan, of getting the man to hopefully fall in love with him in return.
Mandalorians tended to marry young. Jango hadn’t, had assumed he never would. Like most Mandalorians, he would only marry someone he could see himself spending the rest of his life with. Someone who would be willing to make the marriage vows he had grown up with.
He pictured standing there with Obi-Wan, the man whispering the vows, in that sincere, quiet way he sometimes spoke.
He snorted to himself. Osik, he was getting dramatic.
But there was probably no one like Obi-Wan in the entire galaxy.
And Jango always did enjoy a challenge.
It was shoddy. The whole invasion was shoddily done. Yes, it had been effective. Jango didn’t doubt that it would work on most planets, at least initially. But any planet with more effective planetary defenses would be much more difficult to subdue, particularly long term. Although, Jango wasn’t sure that the Naboo would last long term. It had been a little longer than a week, and yet already the people were dying. It wasn’t that the battledroids were doing a great deal of killing, though Jango had seen a few of the Naboo get shot down. It was that they obviously hadn’t been programmed to consider human health.
The people were starving, some of the camps weren’t even decently equipped with water. The Trade Federation were going to kill the Naboo out of pure incompetence.
Jango couldn’t say he was surprised, but he certainly wasn’t impressed. Anyone with half a brain for strategy would know not to let an entire planet’s population starve to death. It was bad business, and that wasn’t even considering the political ramifications.
But then the entirety of this operation screamed inexperience and incompetency. Jango was hardly trying to hide his movements and he’d yet to be found by any of the droids ‘patrolling’. Although, his version of hardly trying was probably far better than the average Naboo citizen was capable of.
He waited until dusk, when the lighting was getting poor but it wasn’t dark enough for the droids programming to have switched them to night vision before he acted. He was starting in Camp 6, where he had noted some of the worst conditions.
It would have been nice to use his jet pack, but that was unfortunately too noticeable. So instead Jango scaled the wall, dropping down onto the other side. A group of women stared at him in shock and Jango put his hand up in a universal gesture for silence.
“Begin collecting the youngest children and their mothers. Not enough that the droids will instantly notice a decline in the population.”
“Who are you?” One of the woman asked quietly.
“I’m the man who’s been hired to start getting as many of you out of here as I can.”
“The queen? Has the queen sent you?” Another woman asked.
Jango rolled his eyes. “No. A friend of the Queen.” He put steel in his voice. “Now do as I said.”
The women scattered.
Jango watched them with interest. Four of the women went immediately to start gathering the children who were in the most obvious need of help. The fifth woman however was moving straight to where a group of men were sitting.
So that was who had risen to leadership in this particular camp.
Jango left where he was standing in the shadows, striding over to the men as the woman who had approached them skittered away.
The men watched him warily.
“Have any resistance groups formed?”
Several of them eyed each other, obviously nervous. “What’s it to you?”
Jango focused on the way the man looked him up and down, he was probably police or militia. “It’s called communication. I can’t help a resistance I don’t know about.”
“How do we know we can trust you.”
Jango snorted. “You don’t. But you’re going to trust me anyways, because none of you have any experience and I’ve got plenty.”
“Clara said you’d been hired.”
“Clara said right.”
“You expect us to trust some random mercenary?”
“Haven’t been a mercenary for years. I’m a bounty hunter.”
One of the other men snorted. “That’s even worse.”
Jango shrugged. “I frankly don’t care what you think. You can help me help you, or I’ll fulfill my contract without your help.”
“Who hired you?” The first man asked again.
Most of the men didn’t react, but the first man, the one Jango was coming to decide was probably part of the volunteer militia, and an older man both blinked in surprise. “The Slave Freer.”
Jango just nodded. “He does enjoy liberating people. Looks like you all got lucky he ran into your Queen.”
“The Queen? Is she okay.”
“Never saw her.” He rolled his shoulders. “Now are you going to answer my questions, or should I find someone more competent?”
One of the children clung to his neck, crying quietly as he climbed over the wall again. “Stay here.” He whispered, putting the two children in a shadowy corner. He climbed back over the wall, only two of the other men had felt confident in their ability to get anyone over the wall, and they were slowly using the ropes Jango had provided. At this pace it was going to take forever.
But it was necessary. As much as Jango would like to just shoot his way through that would only alert all of the other camps. Sneaking a few people that the droids wouldn’t notice were missing meant he could hit several camps before the droids even realized there was a problem.
It also meant that when he did start causing actual mayhem there would be fewer people that needed actual protecting.
That, and people tended to be more concerned about and have more sympathy for women and children, politically speaking keeping the women and children safe would look best to the politicians. Normally, Jango couldn’t be bothered with what they thought, but if he was throwing Obi-Wan’s name out there then that meant Jango had to think about those sort of particulars.
It took almost two hours to get everyone he was sneaking out over the wall. The rest of the night was an incredibly slow process. While Jango had been able to slip through the streets of Theed without being seen, leading a procession of tired, frightened civilians was another matter entirely. But Jango had made sure to memorize the droid’s patrol schedule and he was very good at utilizing the gaps in their patrols.
It was like he’d said. Shoddy.
If he had a group of Mandalorians he could… well, he didn’t, so it was no use thinking about it.
Finally they made it to the edge of the city where Jango had hidden a speeder that he’d liberated from where it had been under guard.
“Where are we going?” One of the women asked.
“We’ll be hiding in the swamps for a few days.”
“What are we going to do?”
Jango rolled his eyes under his helmet. “You’re going to stay there and not die. I’m going to continue freeing your people.”
“But what about the droids?”
“The droids haven’t even realized your gone yet.”
“But when they do!”
“Then I’ll take care of it.”
He could tell that didn’t reassure them and he tried to care, he really did. But Jango didn’t really have the energy to care about the people who weren’t important to him.
He hit Camps 1, 3, and 5 the next three nights. Those camps were the worst in terms of water and food supplies, and were the ones most likely to have a high mortality rate. Conveniently, the Naboo did seem to have managed to pass on word of his presence, because there had been fewer arguments by the time he got to camp 5 then he’d had the first few nights.
He frowned as he observed the map he’d made. Technically speaking, most of the other camps would have enough food and water to keep themselves alive for a while longer. He would probably have greater impact if he left those camps for later and completely cleared out camps 1, 3, 5, and 6. Which would have the added bonus of getting him more fighters.
Several of the women had offered to help, and Jango was inclined to let them, so long as they were capable of shooting a blaster. But there also had to be people left behind to take care of the children, and there were a lot of children.
Jango felt real anger at that. At the way the children were scared and quiet, with eyes that were wide and haunted. Children were meant to be protected.
He shook his head, breathing out the worst of his anger.
No, the other camps would last a while longer. Camp 6 was losing people too quickly.
There was something incredibly fulfilling in watching the turret guns explode. Jango always appreciated a good explosion, but it was always better when he was the one who caused the explosion. Several of the droids came marching into view and Jango took them out from above. Four, six, nine, they fell easily. He scaled down from his perch, taking out the three droids that came turning the corner as he hit the ground.
He made his way into the camp, blasters out, taking out droids as they came. Hiding behind buildings and letting the droids come directly into his fire. The camp was in chaos. Several of the Naboo were attacking the droids with a fervor Jango could appreciate as they tried to dismantle the droids with their bare hands.
Between his blasters and the Naboo’s desperation the droids guarding Camp 6 fell quickly.
“Alright, let’s get a move on, we’ve got limited time before the reinforcements that have likely already been deployed get here, and we want to be out of this place before they get close.”
Three speeders sped past the broken turret guns. Clara, Mina, and Serena at the wheels.
“Load the speeders with those who will be unable to move fast, but have at least three blaster wielders per speeder. Shoot anything that’s shooting at you.”
“We don’t have any blasters?”
Jango gestured to the fallen droids. “Then find some. Anyone not in the speeders, come with me. We’re going to go through on foot, and we’re not going quietly.”
“We’re the distraction.” Several people looked terrified, but Jango ignored them. “Move!”
The speeders took off again, definitely overloaded. Jango started after them, a group of men and women anxiously clutching stolen blasters following after him.
They made it several blocks before the first wave of droids found them, which, again, sloppy. “Halt. You are being taken into custody.”
Jango blasted the droid. “Take cover!”
The group behind him did so immediately. Jango took out another three droids before getting behind cover himself.
His comm buzzed and he cursed whoever had such poor timing, he transferred the com call to his helmet. “What.”
Whoever had called didn’t answer immediately and Jango was tempted to end the call. “I apologize, is this a bad time?”
Of course it was Obi-Wan. Of course he’d be the one whose timing was this abysmal. One of the men was leaning too far forward trying to blast at the droids and Jango cursed, pulling the man back by his shirt just as a several bolts sped past where the man had been. “No, it’s fine.”
Obi-Wan hesitated again. “Are you in the middle of a fight?”
The group on the other side of the street were struggling. Too many of them were clutching their blasters and staring at the droids in fear. “I said it was fine, Obi-Wan. What did you need?”
Obi-Wan was quiet for a moment and Jango couldn’t help his desire to hear Obi-Wan actually ask him for help.
He crouched low to the ground and darted into the open, keeping a steady fire on the few droids still left. “No, I apologize, I shouldn’t have commed. It’s not important.”
Jango rolled his eyes. “You wouldn’t have commed if it wasn’t important.” He skid into the space behind the wall near the petrified group. “If you aren’t going to use that blaster than get out of the way!” A couple of people in the group fled to the back, while a few others nodded grimly and started shooting. Most shots missed by a large margin, but at least they were shooting.
“Yes, well, this really doesn’t seem to be a good time, and I really do need to make the jump to hyperspeed. I’m sorry for bothering you.”
Jango rolled his eyes. Someday Obi-Wan wouldn’t have a ready made excuse. “Where you headed?”
“Naboo.” Jango thought, for just a split second, of telling Obi-Wan that he was there. But then discarded the thought. Obi-Wan would figure it out when he got here.
“I’ll comm you when I’m done with this bunch.”
He could hear the droids calling for reinforcements, so he darted out again. Two, four, five all fell.
“That’s not necessary. You seem to have…” Obi-Wan trailed off for a long moment, when he spoke again his voice was strained and Jango could tell that something was wrong. “Good luck with your hunt, Jango.”
Obi-Wan cut the call before Jango could say anything else. He cursed quietly, but the last of the droids went down and there was no time to wonder what was going on with Obi-Wan. “Alright, people, let’s get moving.”
It took more time than Jango had planned to get out of Theed. Partially because he had underestimated how poorly off some of the Naboo were, and in part because near the end the droids actually showed some signs of organization. Some being the operative word.
But he got most of the group out of Theed to where Clara, Serena, and Mina had returned with the speeders.
“We were starting to get worried you wouldn’t make it,” Clara noted quietly.
Jango shrugged. “Had to stop and kill some droids. Now let’s get out of here.”
“Do you think they’ll follow us into the Swamps?” One of the men asked, clutching his blaster tightly in his hands.
Jango shook his head. “No, not yet. For now they’ll make it harder to get at the rest of the camps. They won’t send anyone after us until they think we’re getting reinforcements.”
Jango just shrugged. “Your Queen is on her way back as we speak.”
The speeders took off to the sound of the Naboo cheering raggedly.
He had considered attacking Camp 3 the next night, but in the end decided not to. Instead he infiltrated Theed with a few others and quietly gathered more weaponry and food. The next day he spent his time teaching the Naboo how to actually use blasters. The times they’d exchanged blaster fire with the droids had made it obvious what people meant when they called Naboo a peaceful planet. With the exception of those who were a part of the volunteer militia the majority of Naboo were clearly unused to blasters. He couldn’t quite conceptualize a life like that, but he supposed not everyone could be Mandalorian.
He tried to comm Obi-Wan once, but the other man didn’t pick up. Instead Jango just left him with the coordinates of the makeshift camp and waited.
Obi-Wan’s ship touched down the next day while the Naboo were in the middle of a training exercise Jango had created for them. Jango watched quietly as the group that had been with Obi-Wan disembarked. The queen and her handmaidens were first, with the rest of the group following behind. Obi-Wan was the last off the ship, closing the ramp behind him. Jango couldn’t help but feel smug as Obi-Wan’s eyes widened in surprised confusion as he looked around the camp. His eyes stopped when they landed on him, a thousand questions in his eyes, Jango gave him a small nod, leaning back against the tree patiently. Shmi gave him a small wave and a bright smile. The new group gathered together quickly before the Gungan started off, the Jetii and one of the guards following after him. The rest of the group dispersed, and Jango watched as they spread among the people he’d rescued from the camps. Obi-Wan was approaching him, the little droid from earlier trailing a small distance behind.
“You’ve been breaking into the camps.”
Jango smirked a little at the surprise in the other man’s voice. “Figured the senate would be as useless as they always are. Thought I’d get the process started.”
Obi-Wan glanced around again, before shaking his head, something between amusement and confusion on his face. “Well, you’ve certainly done that.”
One of the girls was approaching them. Jango was fairly certain it was the same girl who he’d met on Tatooine, although most of the girls were eerily similar, and wasn’t that interesting… He brushed the thought aside as the girl neared them, she was smiling at him brightly. “I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done for us.”
He hadn’t done it for her. “Don’t thank me. I’m just doing what I’m paid to do.”
The girl looked surprised at that and Obi-Wan glanced at him, his face deliberately neutral. Jango could see his thoughts racing, probably trying to figure out who would have hired him for something like this.
The girl, Padme, if he remembered right, shook away her surprise. “I still thank you, would you be willing to give me the name of your employer so I can thank them as well?”
Jango paused, his eyes slipped to where Obi-Wan was watching him. Jango tilted his head to point towards Obi-Wan. “Would have thought that was fairly obvious, I’m reporting to him.”
The girl turned to Obi-Wan, her mouth parted in surprise. “You hired him? Why didn’t you tell the Queen?”
Jango grinned as despite his surprise and confusion Obi-Wan managed to keep a straight face, as he went along with Jango’s story. “We were unsure how well guarded the camps were, it was mostly for reconnaissance, with the understanding that if there were any openings they would be taken. I did not want to raise the Queen’s or your hopes should nothing have transpired.”
Padme nodded slowly, as though unsure. “We would have liked to know. They are our people.”
Jango stepped in then. “Part of the conditions of my service was Obi-Wan’s secrecy and discretion.”
The girl nodded again, taking a step back. “Well, the Queen and I both thank you.”
Jango shrugged dismissively as the girl walked away.
“I didn’t hire you,” Obi-Wan said quietly, once the girl was out of earshot.
“Trust me, I’m aware.” It wasn’t that he wanted Obi-Wan to hire him. In a way that defeated the purpose, but it would have been nice for Obi-Wan to consider hiring him to show he had thought about asking for Jango’s help. Jango was allowed to take the occasional job for a discount. But Obi-Wan hadn’t even thought of it. “You just happened to have a perfectly viable way to get help and you didn’t even think of using it.”
“I won’t use you.” It was almost sweet, the way Obi-Wan seemed affronted at the idea.
“It’s not using someone to ask for their help.” Osik. It wasn’t that difficult.
Obi-Wan scoffed at him. “Don’t give me that, you’ve never asked for help in your life.”
Jango stared at the man, frustrated in part, because, yes. Jango didn’t ask for help often. He’d done everything he could to make himself self-sufficient. But then, Jango also made sure that he picked his battles, he wasn’t the one who decided to take on slavery and Hutts and Trade Federations. “I have before.” Back when he fought battles that couldn’t be won by one man. “With the Mandalorians. I trusted them.” To have his back. To help him keep moving. To take on more than he could handle by himself. Obi-Wan needed a group like that. He couldn’t keep trying to take on the entire galaxy by himself. And curse him, but Jango was pretty much volunteering.
Obi-Wan was quiet for a long moment. “It wasn’t because I don’t trust you. That wasn’t why I didn’t ask for help.”
“Then why didn’t you?”
Obi-Wan shrugged, but didn’t answer. “How much do I owe you?”
Jango considered hitting his head against the tree behind him but refrained. “You didn’t hire me.”
“You’re telling people I did.”
Because it was the easiest and clearest way to make it clear that Jango was doing this for Obi-Wan. “It’s good for your reputation.”
Obi-Wan blinked a few times and then laughed. “My hiring bounty hunters is good for my reputation?”
Jango nodded, he’d thought about this before he’d taken action. Made sure that the action he did take was all within certain bounds. He’d followed his self-imposed rules to make sure that this ended as well as he could make it. “It shows that you are willing to pursue multiple avenues; it shows that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep people safe, no matter who they are or where they’re from; it shows that you’ll hire one of the most ruthless bounty hunters in the galaxy without flinching, and not for some political assassination that would have caused more problems than it would solve, but to get the innocents out of inhumane camps.”
Obi-Wan paused and then turned to look at him fully. His face had gone still, in that way it did when Obi-Wan was evaluating a situation. “Why?”
Obi-Wan closed his eyes for a short moment. “You know what. Why would you come to Naboo, make people think that you’re only saving them because of me, endanger your life?”
Best to nip that in the bud, before Obi-Wan turned it into something he needed to feel guilty for. “I endanger my life for most of my jobs.” He was a bounty hunter, that’s what he did. “And I am only saving them because of you.”
“So this is just a job? You’re saying you don’t care.”
“I don’t.” Obi-Wan opened his mouth, probably to argue some more, but Jango straightened, this he knew, was where he and Obi-Wan differed most, Obi-Wan cared about everything. And Jango, Jango didn’t. And Jango had to get it out now. Had to make sure that Obi-Wan understood, was willing to accept Jango as he was. “It’s not that I want them to die, or suffer. But I don’t particularly care if they do. They aren’t my people. It isn’t my cause. People die all the time, Obi-Wan. If I’m not being paid to care, then I can’t find it in me to be bothered.”
“Because it’s your cause.” Jango shook his head. “It’s your cause, and you care, and I knew you were going to end up here.”
Obi-Wan didn’t respond for a long moment, and Jango watched his eyes, trying to decide what each flicker of emotion and thought meant. He leaned back against the tree, trying to decide how to react if Obi-Wan discarded his confession. “Thank you, Jango.” That was enough for now, he could see the other man’s acceptance, the other man’s gratitude. It was all he needed, for now. And then Obi-Wan surprised him. “Vor entye.”
He stiffened for a split second at the unexpected sound of Mando’a coming from Obi-Wan’s lips. He couldn’t help the pleasure that hit him after that as his mind jumped to further implications. If Obi-Wan was willing to learn Mando’a… He shut away thoughts of the Resol’nare and Mando’a vows. That was for later.
“I’m not saying I’ll help you with every idiotic plan you have.” He had to earn money for them to survive after all, and for all that Obi-Wan had developed the skills of a bounty hunter, he was far too involved with social reforms to actually use those skills as anything other than a way to supply his basic needs. Jango shut down that train of thought too. It was the Mandalorian in him, the part of him that couldn’t help but be fully invested, once had had a plan. Once he decided he wanted something. It was only practical, it was the practical result of getting what he wanted.
“I wouldn’t expect you to.”
They stood there together for a long moment and Jango found his eyes landing on where Shmi was speaking with several of the girls Obi-Wan had brought here. Anakin nowhere in sight. “You let him go.” He didn’t specify who he meant.
Obi-Wan didn’t ask for clarification. “It was what he decided he wanted.”
“We don’t always want what’s best for us.” Jango said quietly.
“I know.” Obi-Wan’s voice sounded wrecked, even as the words came out quietly. “Trust me, Jango, I know.”
“I suppose the poison is pleased.”
Obi-Wan tried to stifle his laugh but failed. “Yes, I believe Master Jinn was pleased. Although he was less pleased when the council didn’t support him in his claims that I had fallen.”
Jango snorted. “That doesn’t surprise me.”
“I could tell you he was planning on taking over the galaxy and you wouldn’t be surprised. You don’t like him.”
That was an understatement if Jango had ever heard one. Jango more than didn’t like that man. “I hope he does.”
Obi-Wan looked at him in surprise. “Does what? Try to take over the galaxy? You want him, Qui-Gon Jinn, to take over the galaxy?”
“It would give me an excuse to kill him without you getting annoyed at me.” Jango would actually quite enjoy it if the poison thought he could take over the galaxy.
Obi-Wan gaped at him. “I have no response to that. Absolutely no response to that.” Obi-Wan was shaking his head, but Jango could tell he was somewhat amused by the idea. And then he paused and his eyes turned serious. “But if I do by chance discover someone attempting to take over the galaxy, does this mean you’d help me destroy them? Or is that a Qui-Gon Jinn special?”
Jango swore mentally, because that question paired with that particular look in Obi-Wan’s eyes meant that this was not quite as hypothetical as Jango would like.
But still, he’d give it an honest answer. “I’d help you kill just about anybody.”
“I’m not sure if that makes me feel comforted or terrified. But then, I suppose for the right amount of money anybody could get a similar promise to kill just about anyone.” Jango closed his eyes, because what did he have to say or do to get Obi-Wan to understand?
“Not if it were you.”
Obi-Wan froze next to him and Jango could see his eyes widen, could see that the other man was staring at him, as though trying to understand.
“Obi-Wan!” Jango sighed as Shmi called out and Obi-Wan turned, whatever understanding he’d almost reached being put aside for now. Well, it was progress, hopefully.
Obi-Wan was heading towards where the group he had transported was gathering. Jango sighed again and stepped forward to follow him.
The gungan was explaining that the rest of his people were no longer in their underwater cities and Jango could see that this was making the whole group anxious. Well, other than Obi-Wan who didn’t look particularly surprised. “Do you think they’ve been taken to camps?” One of the guards asked quietly.
Jango shook his head. “There haven’t been any Gungans in any of the camps we’ve infiltrated. It’s possible that they were wiped out.”
The gungan shook his head exuberantly. “When in trouble, Gungans go to sacred places. Mesa thinks we find them there.”
“Do you know where to find them?” The girl dressed as queen asked.
The gungan nodded. “Wesa pretty close, mesa thinks.”
Jango frowned at that as they organized into groups. Most of the people were staying behind, to clean up the tiny camp, while the rest of them followed the Gungans.
Obi-Wan was escorting Shmi and Jango joined them. The droid he noted again, was once again following along behind Obi-Wan, although Obi-Wan wasn’t paying it much attention.
When he had told the droid to watch out for Obi-Wan he hadn’t… well, he hadn’t expected that perhaps the droid would actually do so. But it certainly looked as though the droid had taken the order to heart… or rather to it’s programming system.
Obi-Wan and Shmi were laughing, and Obi-Wan turned to him, the smile still on his face. “I don’t suppose Shmi told you about the time when Anakin fell into one of the swamps on Rodia and pulled Shmi down with him?”
Jango laughed, because he could picture it happening only too easily. Anakin getting overly excited about something he saw, leaning a little too close, falling in and pulling Shmi with him when she tried to catch him. “Somehow that’s never been mentioned.”
Shmi rolled her eyes and Jango watched her pinch Obi-Wan on the side. “Do you think the Gungans will help us?”
Obi-Wan glanced back towards their front and Jango followed his eyes to where the queen and Padme were walking together. “I imagine the Queen will be quite convincing.”
“I hope so. It will be difficult without their help.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Perhaps, but we can find a way.” Jango remembered Anakin’s declaration, back on Tatooine, that Obi-Wan would save the Naboo. It was terribly optimistic, but Jango found that he believed them both. They would find a way.
They reached the Gungans’ Sacred Place quickly and Jango watched as several Gungans slipped out of the mist, spears in their hands. So he’d been right when he’d first seen the Gungan on Tatooine, there was something warrior about him, it was far more obvious with these Gungans, not hidden by a clumsy walk.
The queen stepped forward. “I am Queen Amidala of the Naboo. I come before you in peace.”
The largest gungan, seated on the largest tree, glared at them. “Naboo bigger. Sousa bringer de Mackineeks. Day busted uss-en omm. Yousa all bom-bad. Sousa all die’n, mesa think.”
Jango watched as several of the gungans lowered their spears threateningly. He eyed the situation, it could get very ugly very fast. He shifted slightly so that Shmi was between him and Obi-Wan.
“We wish to form an alliance.”
Suddenly, Padme stepped forward. “Your Honor.”
The Gungan in charge leaned forward. “Whosa dis?”
“I am Queen Amidala, this is my decoy, my protection, my loyal bodyguard.” Jango couldn’t say he’d known, but he also found that he wasn’t surprised. It fit. “I am sorry for my deception, but under the circumstances it has become necessary to protect myself. Although we do not always agree, Your Honor, our two great societies have always lived in peace, until now.” The girl’s voice was level, but Jango could hear desperation underneath her words. “The Trade Federation has destroyed all that we have worked so hard to build. You are in hiding, my people are in camps. If we do not act quickly, all will be lost forever. I ask you to help us. No, I beg you to help us.”
The girl dropped to her knees, and Jango could hear her people gasp in surprise. He was not surprised when Obi-Wan was quick to join her on his knees. “We are your humble servants, our fate is in your hands.”
Slowly the rest of the group joined the two on their knees. Jango clenched his fists for just one moment before he joined Obi-Wan and Shmi, lowering himself onto on one knee. He saw Obi-Wan turn towards him, his eyes flitting over him for a long moment.
The Gungan in charge laughed and Obi-Wan’s attention was diverted away from him. Jango was no one’s servant, but he could exercise humility when he had to. And the look Obi-Wan gave him… Well, it looked as though it may have been worth it.
“They already know we are assembling an army, there is no need to parade it out into the open.” Obi-Wan pointed out quietly.
They were in the middle of planning their next steps and Jango was mostly standing back to watch, he was grateful that Obi-Wan had said something, or he may have felt forced to do so.
“What do you mean?” The queen asked. “Do you not believe that it will work?”
Obi-Wan shrugged. “Oh, it would work, but the loss of life would be astronomical. We purposefully came down to Naboo in a way that would alert the Trade Federation to our presence. The droids are already coming for us, just because the battle is a distraction does not mean we should not give it the largest chance of success that we are able to.”
Jango nodded. “The Gungans know these swamps better than anyone, meet them on the edge of the swamps and then force the droids to follow you into them. Let the droids be dragged down by the mud, don’t give them a flat surface to fight on.”
The Gungan Boss nodded. “Swamps are Gungas, dissa dooesn’t liksa mechaneeks. The Swamps fight wissa us.”
The queen nodded. “Several of those that have been freed from the camps have offered to fight with you, if you will accept them.”
Boss Nass laughed, spit flying everywhere. “Wesa proud to fight with the Naboo.”
“The children and their guardians who are not fighting will stay deeper in the swamps, the droids should not be able to reach them.”
Obi-Wan and Shmi exchanged a round of pointed looks at this. And it was easy to see that they’d probably already had several discussions about whether Shmi should be participating in the battle. Jango wasn’t surprised to see that Shmi was winning the argument.
“The rest of us will be using the secret passageways to get into the palace. From there we will send pilots to take out the droid control ship.”
Obi-Wan flinched the smallest amount, his eyes landed on Jango, a strange frantic plea in them.
“I’ll join the pilots,” Jango said quietly. The queen nodded at that, but Jango only paid her half a mind. Obi-Wan had relaxed, and his eyes had done that thing where they were practically spilling gratitude.
“The rest of us will continue on into the palace to capture the Viceroy. Without him we cannot end this invasion.”
“He will be heavily guarded,” the poison warned quietly.
The Queen raised an eyebrow, a challenge in every syllable. “And I suppose that’s too much like fighting a war, and not enough like protecting me?” And Jango decided that he almost liked her.
The poison tilted his head in acknowledgment. “I will be as proactive in your protection as I can.”
Jango snorted in derision, because wasn’t that just a reassuring piece of nonsense. Several of the group looked at him askance, but Jango ignored them. They could trust in the vague promises of the Jetii if they wanted to. He, at least, knew better.
“Does everyone agree with the plan?” the queen asked. The group nodded, their faces grim. “Then everyone prepare to leave, the droids will be here soon, and those who are not fighting in this battle need to make it to Theed.”
The group scattered but Jango didn’t move from where he was standing. The Jetii was staring at him, a hard look on his face and Jango stared back, unwilling to back away from the challenge in the other man’s eyes. Finally the Jetii turned away and Jango moved to join Obi-Wan, Shmi, and the droid.
Obi-Wan was looking at Shmi imploringly, “I don’t suppose I can convince you to stay with those that are hiding in the swamps?”
“I’m going with you to Theed. I’ll be part of Padme’s--” Shmi frowned, “--I mean, the Queen’s group. I’ve already spoken with her about it.”
Shmi’s face was determined, and Obi-Wan’s face was pinched and worried.
“Shmi’s a good shot, probably better than most of the Naboo. She has a good head on her shoulders, won’t panic when there’s blaster fire everywhere,” Jango said, as reassuringly as he could.
Shmi smiled at him gratefully. “Why thank you, Jango.” She turned back to Obi-Wan, an eyebrow raised pointedly, “See, Jango doesn’t have a problem with it.”
Obi-Wan glared at both of them.
“To be fair, I’d prefer it if you were wearing armor.” He’d prefer it if both of them were wearing armor for that matter.
Shmi shrugged. “Too late for that, but that’s a good plan for next time.”
Obi-Wan looked aghast at that. “You’re going to give me gray hairs, Shmi. When exactly are you expecting there to be a next time?”
“With you? I’ve got a feeling it’s bound to happen.” Jango felt a shiver run down his back at that. He had the horrible feeling that she was right.
“What is that supposed to mean? This is the first time I’ve gotten us involved in a planetary dispute.”
Shmi snorted. “What do you call what happened on Rodia? Or that time on Falleen?”
Jango didn’t know that he’d heard either of these stories and based off the way that Obi-Wan’s face pinked a little they were obviously stories he ought to hear.
“Those weren’t planetary disputes.”
Shmi just shook her head with a smile.
Obi-Wan obviously realized that whatever arguments he had would not help his case because he turned to Jango. “Will you be leaving from here?” Jango tilted his head in question. He’d thought he’d made it clear that he would be seeing this whole situation through to the end. “You said you’d join the pilots trying to take out the droid control ship. Your ship is here, will you be leaving from here.”
Jango shook his head. “No, I’ll be traveling with you to Theed. I’ll be using one of the Naboo’s ships.” He wasn’t particularly fond of that idea, but he also didn’t like the idea of Shmi and Obi-Wan infiltrating the palace without adequate backup. He’d get them as far as he could before he needed to get going.
There was a loud beep and whistle and the little droid knocked against Obi-Wan repeatedly. The man looked down at the droid questioningly. The droid whistled at him again. “Really?” Obi-Wan asked. The droid beeped and whistled some more, and Obi-Wan turned back to look at him. “R2 says that he’ll be your astromech.”
Jango stared at the droid and the droid looked at him, Jango wasn’t overly familiar with droids, but he could swear that the droid was challenging him. He wasn’t quite sure what the challenge was about, but he’d be damned if he let a droid beat him.
Finally he turned away. “Good.” Having an astromech could only help.
From where the speeders were waiting there was a whistle and Jango turned to see that everyone headed to Theed had gathered into groups near the speeders, while many of the people he had freed were lined up with the Gungans. He wasn’t surprised to see Clara, Mina, or Serena among them, blasters and boomas in their hands.
Obi-Wan pulled Shmi into a hug. “Be careful.” The man met his eyes. “Both of you.”
“We will be.”
Jango nodded. “You watch yourself.”
Jango didn’t feel reassured.
They infiltrated Theed with much the same success that Jango himself had had. He had to admit that this time there was a large chance that it wasn’t due to sloppy planning, but was instead part of a trap. Well, sometimes all you could do was spring the trap.
They entered the hangar to a group of droids waiting for them. Most of the pilots ran for their ships, but Jango waited. Helping to clear out the rest of the droids. Once it was cleared, Jango headed to the remaining ship, R2 beeping at him impatiently from where he was waiting in the droid hold.
The rest of the group was headed further forward and Obi-Wan and Shmi both nodded to him. Jango had just closed the cockpit when the doors opened. A figure stood there, and Jango could see in one glance that this was a dangerous warrior.
The main part of the group split off towards a different path. Obi-Wan stayed behind, the Jetii next to him. A part of Jango wanted to get out of his ship, because that man was dangerous, and the poison couldn’t be trusted to watch Obi-Wan’s back.
R2 beeped at him, the translator indicating the droid’s desire to leave. Jango breathed out. Obi-Wan was trusting him to take care of the droid control ship. And Jango trusted Obi-Wan’s capabilities.
He turned the ship on, pulling it out towards the hangar doors. The rest of the group was pinned down by a couple of droidekas, he took them out with a few well aimed shots, and then took off out the door.
“The two of you better not die.” He muttered to himself.
The translator showed R2s agreement.
“Alright, you piece of junk, let’s go blow up a ship.”
R2s agreement was full of expletives. Jango grinned in approval. Obi-Wan had good taste in droids, Jango liked this one.
They made it to the fight quickly. The Naboo ships were split into two groups, one group attempting to take down the transmitter while the other group was engaged with the fighters. Jango flipped his communications on as one of the fighters tried to engage him. Jango grinned, sure he preferred a fight on the ground, but he was just as capable in the air. He let the fighter get close to him, weaving the ship back and forth to avoid getting hit, ignoring R2s angry beeps. Another fighter was coming towards him, at the last second he pulled the ship up in an arc, coming down right on the first fighter’s tail. He shot twice, and the fighter burst into flame, spinning into the other fighter.
He grinned and veered his ship to meet another incoming fighter. It made a very lovely explosion when Jango blew it up.
He could hear the other pilots over the comms as he took out another two fighters. “Their deflector shield is too strong. We’ll never get through it.”
Jango frowned, pulling away from the space battle. R2 whistled at him, Jango glanced at the translation. “I’m looking for their weak point.”
R2 whistled again and Jango glanced at the translation. “That’s crazy.” He looked at the trade federation’s ship again. “But I like the way you think.”
He took the ship back into the fray, dodging enemy fighters, he flicked his own comm on. “I’m going in, Bravo.”
Whoever Bravo leader was demanded an explanation, but Jango let R2 beep angrily at the comms as he moved towards the space hangar. “This was your idea.”
The translation was uncomplimentary. “I’ll have you know that I resent the implication that I’m incapable of pulling it off.”
The droid assured him that it hadn’t implied anything, that Jango was definitely going to get them both killed. Jango ignored the pessimistic review of his abilities.
He hit the reverse thrusters just before they made it to the hangar. The ship veered dangerously, almost skidding onto the ship’s floor. Jango cursed, reaccelerating just enough to bring them level.
“I told you I wouldn’t crash us.” He twisted his ship, shooting the different transportation ships in his way. He grinned ferociously as he made it past them to a clear view of the reactor room. “You said we had torpedoes?”
R2 beeped smugly.
“This is going to be beautiful.” A couple of droids were moving towards the ship, Jango ignored them, aiming carefully.
The torpedoes launched and Jango whipped the ship around, accelerating. He could see the explosion from the corner of his eye. He flipped his comms back on as he raced his ship out of the droid control ship’s hanger. “We got a hit, Bravo leader.”
He made it clear of the blast and turned his ship so he could finish watching it explode. He whistled in appreciation, yeah, that was fantastic.
“Did you just hit that from the inside?” Bravo leader asked.
“You weren’t having any luck from the outside.” He reminded the other man.
“You’re crazy.” The pilot said, and Jango could hear reluctant admiration in the words. “Come on, Bravo team, let’s bring her home.”
There was cheering from the comms and Jango actually grinned a little before turning the comms off and directing the ship back to Naboo.
They were halfway there when the ship stalled. “What the…” he flicked a few switches. “R2, did you just steal control?”
The droid beeped at him. “What do you mean, we need to talk?”
The droid beeped and whistled for a few seconds and Jango stared at the translation in shock. “Excuse you.” The droid whistled some more. “I take back every nice thing I ever thought about you.” More whistling. “There is not a chance in all Correllian Hells that I’m staying away from Obi-Wan.” The next few sentences had even more swearing than normal. “You’re threatening me?” The droid whistled sharply. “You don’t need to protect him from me.” Angry beeping followed that. “What do you mean, you know I’ll hurt him? I’ve never hurt him.” He glared at the translation. “You’ve seen it? Yeah, well, you need to get your wires checked.”
It was quiet for a long moment and Jango flipped a few more switches, but nothing happened. R2 whistled again. He glared at the translation. “Go ahead, the crash would probably destroy you too.”
The droid whistled and Jango swore. “You’ve been following him around for a few days, I’ve been here for five years, you stupid droid.” R2 swore. “What is that even supposed to mean?”
R2 didn’t answer, but the next time he tried to move the ship it followed his commands. He swore quietly again, as he directed the ship back down to Naboo. He couldn’t believe a droid had just threatened him. What in the world had Obi-Wan done to make the droid threaten him?
He mentally reviewed everything the droid had said. Tried to figure out what had happened in the short week they’d been separated. Nothing made sense, not really. For a split second he wondered if perhaps Obi-Wan had said something, had somehow indicated that he did not trust Jango.
He pulled into the Palace hangar where the rest of the pilots were gathered. He exited the fighter, ignoring the cheers from the pilots. His eye caught on a figure laying near the doors. It took only a second to recognize it as the warrior that Obi-Wan had fought. He felt something like relief fill him. If the warrior was dead then Obi-Wan was likely fine.
R2 whistled at him, and for a second he considered ignoring the droid, but he pushed the thought away and instead followed the droid as it made its way through the palace. It took only a few minutes for them to make it to the throne room. The Queen and the Viceroy were both there, Obi-Wan stood to the right of the Queen discussing the new treaty. He glanced up when Jango and R2 entered, several of the pilots behind him. A soft smile crossed Obi-Wan's face for the smallest of moments, before his face went serious again and he nodded at Jango. Jango could see a deep scratch below his eye, crossing along his cheek, but otherwise he looked unharmed.
Something in Jango relaxed at the sight of the relatively unharmed man. The part of him that had worried about what Obi-Wan may or may not have said to have R2 considering him a threat soothed. No, the way Obi-Wan looked at him, the trust that Obi-Wan gave him. That was genuine.
He moved over to where Shmi was resting against a wall, leaving Obi-Wan to his politicking. He had time. Time to figure out what was up with the droid. Time to convince Obi-Wan to give the two of them a chance. He had time.
Again, sorry about the delay in updating. I hope you enjoyed the chapter.
Thank you for those who commented on both this story and Pebble in a River, it was the motivation to write that I needed, but wasn't able to provide myself. PiaR will be updated next, hopefully before the next semester starts in a couple of weeks.
Chapter 6: Things Worth Celebrating
Someone has the gall to go and die (momentarily), other people have the audacity to be thankful (which, yeah, uncomfortable), and then there are some people that have the temerity to invite Jango to dinner (inconceivable)...
So, funny story. This chapter has been mostly done for a little bit already... But that last little bit and the quick editing... I just couldn't find time for them between school and work and life being life. However, on this glorious Thursday morning I made it to work only to discover that the server had decided that it didn't feel like working today... and so we all got sent home for the day while they get it working again. Which gave me several hours before my class that were now no longer occupied, and since for once in my life I'm caught up in class that meant I spent all afternoon on this story.
I probably won't be able to update in the next few weeks though because it is once again end of term craziness. I don't know why I decided to take classes the first half of summer... but I'm sure it was probably a well thought out decision. But once class is over and I get caught up on my sleep... Well, I'm hoping for some productive weeks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jango clenched his fists. He didn’t like the idea of removing his armor here in the Palace. It wasn’t that he thought he would be attacked, (or at least it wasn’t any more likely than he normally considered it) he just didn’t like the idea of being visible. So far none of the Naboo had seen him as anything other than an armored figure. And he quite preferred it that way.
He sighed and removed his helmet, placing it on the desk in the room he’d been given. He needed to sleep, and while he could sleep in his armor, it was incredibly uncomfortable. He slowly began divesting himself of the rest of his armor, placing it down gently on the desk. It also needed to be cleaned, but his weapons were already clean, and his armor was still functional so Jango could do that after he’d gotten a little bit of rest.
He quickly checked the door again, it was locked. He sighed, rolling his shoulders. He checked the windows again, split between being glad for a second escape route and annoyed at a second point of entry. He pulled the curtains closed and moved to the bed. He sprawled back onto it. Hmm, comfortable, soft. A little too soft, honestly. But it would be fine for one night. He settled back and frowned. No, it would probably be more than one night. Jango groaned and rolled over. It was fine. He could handle a few more nights here.
He closed his eyes, letting his body relax just enough so that he could slip into a light sleep.
His internal clock said it hadn’t even been an hour before there was a commotion in the set of rooms over. He rolled off the bed, grabbing the blaster from the bedside dresser and the knife he’d put under the pillow as he landed on one knee on the ground. Something banged against his door and he moved to the edge of the door, opening it only when he was to the side and not within range of whoever was on the other side.
Several loud beeps drew his eye to where R2 had been running into the door. The droid spun twice in what Jango could only consider anxiety before rolling back towards the open door where Obi-Wan and Shmi were sharing a set of rooms, beeping and whistling urgently the entire time.
It took half a second for everything to connect and he darted out of the room, tucking the knife out of sight, but keeping the blaster at the ready.
He burst into the room, eyes darting around, looking for the threat, but he wasn’t completely sure what it was he was looking for. Obi-Wan was on the ground next to his bed, as though he’d fallen off. Shmi was beside him, trying to pull his hands away from where he was scratching and clawing at his neck.
“What happened?” It was less a question and more a demand for answers. Shmi looked up, her face pale, eyes wide. “I woke up when he fell off the bed. I can’t get him to respond, he’s just shaking and scratching at his neck.”
Obi-Wan made a choking sound before going limp. Jango jerked into action, crossing the room to where Shmi and Obi-Wan were on the ground in quick strides. He fell to his knees next to Obi-Wan, eyes darting over him looking for some sign of foul play. Obi-Wan’s breathing was coming in short erratic gasps, he started talking, keeping his voice as calm as possible as he tried to remind Obi-Wan to breathe. Tried to convince him to open his eyes. He felt a terrible sort of helplessness. There was nothing to fight, nothing to heal, there was nothing that he could do.
There was another choking sound and then Obi-Wan wasn’t gasping, wasn’t breathing at all.
Jango’s entire world froze.
The ice and the panic seemed to fight for control of him as his fingers went desperately to Obi-Wan’s neck searching for a pulse. There was nothing there. No steady thrum. Nothing.
The ice disappeared as his body was overcome by a wave of fury. No. No. Obi-Wan wasn’t going to just die on him. Not from some stupid attack from the force. Not from something that Jango couldn’t fight. Something Jango couldn’t beat.
Shmi was shaking Obi-Wan, her voice higher than normal as she demanded that he come back.
Jango pushed her hands aside as gently as he could. “Let me.” He moved over Obi-Wan, focusing on lessons that Jaster had taught him. Lessons he’d only used one or two times, and never in a situation quite like this. He moved his hands to the middle of Obi-Wan’s chest, pushing down hard, over and over and over. “Come on, come on.”
He tilted Obi-Wan’s head back, pinching the man’s nose as he blew twice into the man’s mouth. He moved back to the man’s chest, once again, pressing hard. “Come on, breathe, come on.”
Shmi was whispering quietly in Huttese, a quiet prayer to the Sun Goddesses.
“Breathe, haar’chak! Breathe!” He kept pushing. Please, Obi-Wan. Please. If the man died on him now, Jango was going to kill him.
Obi-Wan gasped. Pulling air in with a choking sound.
Jango swore. Falling backwards as the relief filled him. Shmi gasped quietly, her hands running over Obi-Wan’s chest. She bent down, her head touching his chest, ear above his heart. Jango understood her relief, one hand going automatically to Obi-Wan’s neck, looking for a pulse even as the man gasped and sputtered. His other hand went to Obi-Wan’s cheek, as color slowly slid back into his face. His fingers danced along the edges of the cuts that Obi-Wan wasn’t letting either Jango or Shmi treat. The man’s eyes fluttered open, looking at him for the tiniest second before they closed quickly, Obi-Wan moaned quietly.
Shmi was whispering a prayer of gratitude.
“Obi-Wan, breathe, slowly. It’s okay. Breathe.” He kept his voice quiet as he repeated himself over and over as Obi-Wan slowly calmed. Obi-Wan’s hand came up to where Jango’s hand was still resting against the man’s neck. He intertwined their fingers and squeezed gently. Jango squeezed back.
The last of the ice slid away, he hadn’t lost him.
Obi-Wan took in a few more deep breaths. “I’m okay.”
Shmi made a sound somewhere between choked laughter and a cut off sob. Jango tore his eyes away from Obi-Wan’s face to see that her eyes were wide with panic. “That… That was not okay.”
The R2 unit had rolled closer, now right next to them, and it whistled shrilly.
Obi-Wan let out something that in a better situation might have been a scoff, “Don’t be ridiculous, R2. It’s not like I died.”
Jango felt as though he was choking on the silence that followed that statement. Because he had. The truth of the situation hit him in a way it hadn’t when he was desperately trying to fix it. He swore, the words coming from his mouth as violently and viciously as he could make them. Obi-Wan had died. He rocked backwards, reeling from just how angry he was. And then Obi-Wan’s hand was curling into his shirt, clutching at him desperately.
Jango took a deep breath. Pushing back the anger for another time. “I’m not leaving. I… I won’t.” Not right now when Obi-Wan was vulnerable. Obi-Wan sighed quietly, before letting go of his shirt. Jango could feel Obi-Wan’s other hand twitching where it was still entangled with his and he tightened his hold.
“What happened?” Shmi asked quietly, eyes flickering around Obi-Wan’s face.
Obi-Wan’s face twitched, the area around his closed eyes scrunching as though pained. “Someone just became a Sith Master.” He grimaced, “A very powerful Sith Master.”
Jango sent Shmi a questioning look and she shrugged. “And why did that cause…”
Obi-Wan shrugged, “I don’t know.” The look Shmi gave Jango at that was worried, but Jango had no more answers than Shmi did. Obi-Wan sighed, and his head fell to the side. “It’s over though. I’ll… I’ll be fine.” Jango watched as Obi-Wan reached blindly for Shmi’s hand. “I’m fine.” It came out as a quiet sigh, and moments later Obi-Wan was asleep.
Neither Shmi nor Jango moved for a long moment, watching him breathe, but then Shmi shuddered. “I…” She shook her head, “I thought… I thought we were going to lose him.”
Jango moved the hand not holding Obi-Wan’s hand towards her. “He’s okay.”
“No, he’s not.” Shmi said quietly. “I love Obi-Wan, he’s my family. But I don’t think he’s ever been okay. Not as long as I’ve known him.”
Jango didn’t answer, because she was right. Neither of them had ever known an Obi-Wan that was truly fine. “But he’s here.”
Shmi nodded, and Jango could see how tired she was. “He’s here.” She gave him a crooked smile, “What do you think, should we move him to the bed?”
Jango glanced towards the bed. “We could do that.”
The droid trundled over to the bed, and Jango watched as it pulled down a pillow and then pulled it back towards them. Shmi laughed, “Or we could just stay here.” She gave him a smile, “You don’t need to stay.” Shmi took the pillow from the droid and the R2 unit moved to the side of the room where his sensors could reach the whole room and Jango watched the droid go into guard mode. It was strangely sweet.
Jango shrugged, looking at where Obi-Wan’s fingers were entwined with his. “I know.”
He didn’t move and from the look on Shmi’s face she hadn’t expected him to.
Shmi moved Obi-Wan carefully, slipping the pillow underneath his head. She ran a hand across the scratches on his cheek. “I wish he’d see sense and put some bacta on these.”
Jango hummed, “He thinks he deserves them.”
Shmi looked up at him surprised. “Why would he deserve them? Why would he think that?”
Jango shrugged, “I’m not entirely sure. It’s just the feeling I get.” Jango had actually handed the man bacta for the cuts, Obi-Wan had just looked pained and guilty before trying to deflect.
Shmi frowned, rubbing a hand across her face. “I worry about him. About what he’ll do once I’m gone.” She paused quietly, “I almost said no, to Cliegg, when he asked me to marry him.”
Jango looked up at that, “Why? You seem to love him.”
“I do. But I wouldn’t take Anakin away from Obi-Wan. Anakin loves him, Obi-Wan is the closest thing he’s ever had to a father. And Cliegg would never be able to replace him. It would have just made Anakin bitter.” She sighed quietly.
Jango hesitated, “Why did you let him go, then?” If she didn't want to separate Anakin and Obi-Wan.
“To the Jedi?”
Jango didn’t try to hide his grimace at that, but nodded. “I didn’t think you’d want that for Anakin.”
Shmi tilted her head, as though thinking. “It’s complicated, I think.” She paused, “I remember when Anakin was born. He was so small, a little premature. I think every mother thinks that their child is special. But Anakin was more than just special, he was different. He always understood things, saw things, experienced things, that no one else seemed to. He knew Obi-Wan was coming before Obi-Wan ever arrived. Crawled off my lap and onto Obi-Wan’s and decided to sleep there.” She smiled a little, “The two of them, Anakin loved Obi-Wan before he ever arrived, and I have a feeling that it was the same for Obi-Wan.”
“They have always been very close.”
Shmi nodded, “It’s not the same with the Jedi.”
Jango cocked a head in question, “What do you mean?”
“Obi-Wan and Anakin, there’s something about them that’s always just seemed right. The Jedi.” She frowned, “It’s not that they feel wrong, if they did I wouldn’t have let Anakin go. Sometimes I feel like they are more of a stepping stone, less a destination.”
“Being a Jedi isn’t something people normally just leave.”
Shmi raised an eyebrow and then lifted Obi-Wan’s hand up, “Maybe not normally, but it’s certainly done.”
“You think he’ll come back.”
Shmi sighed, “Not soon. No, I think the rest of Anakin’s childhood is lost to me. But, I will see him again.” There was a certainty in her voice that Jango didn’t doubt.
Jango nodded and the two of them fell silent again. Jango found his fingers tracing symbols onto the back of Obi-Wan’s hand and up his arm. It was after he’d traced the symbol of the true Mandalorians for the fourth time that Shmi spoke again.
“Do you love him?”
Jango wasn’t entirely surprised by the question, he’d always felt like Shmi saw more of what was happening between him and Obi-Wan than either he or Obi-Wan did. “Yes.” He looked up in time to see Shmi blink in surprise. “I was under the impression that you already knew that.”
Shmi laughed quietly. “I did. Or I was fairly certain at least. I just wasn’t sure if you knew it yet.”
Jango raised an eyebrow, “I helped repel an invasion for him.”
“You like to be challenged.”
“I like being paid.”
Shmi laughed again. “That’s true.” She sighed, the laughter dying away from her face and voice. “He’s hiding things.”
Jango looked up in surprise, “What?”
“He’s hiding things. He has secrets. I don’t know what they are, but something tells me that they’re life-shattering.” She looked up, “You’re going to want to walk away. Sometimes I think I’ll want to walk away.” Her eyes hardened, “And that’s our right. It’s our right to walk away. But you can’t go forward with this, can’t pursue him, if you’re not willing to accept that someday you’re going to learn something that will have the power to destroy you and him and everything, you can’t go forward with this if you aren’t going to be willing to at least try to move past it.”
Jango didn’t answer for a long moment, it wasn’t that he didn’t know that Obi-Wan had secrets, and it wasn’t like he was surprised that Shmi was just as aware. He supposed it just wasn’t where he saw the conversation going. “Is that why you’re leaving? Do you not think you’ll be able to move past it, whatever the secret is?”
Shmi shook her head. “No. I’m leaving because I love Cliegg. There will always be a place for Obi-Wan with me. I’ve made my decision and I’ll stand by it until the suns expire.”
Jango wasn’t completely sure how to respond. “I can’t promise that there’s no secret that will make me leave.” He shrugged, “I just can’t.” He thought about things that were unforgivable. There weren’t many if he was honest. Although if Obi-Wan had anything to do with Death Watch… he forced the thought away. “But I’ll listen.”
Shmi nodded, “I suppose that’s all I can ask.”
Jango nodded and went back to observing Obi-Wan sleep, carefully tracing symbols and promises along the man’s hand and arm.
“Will you come to the wedding?”
Jango blinked and looked up in surprise. Shmi had rearranged herself so that her head was resting on Obi-Wan’s shoulder, her eyes following the shapes Jango’s finger was making. “What wedding?”
Shmi rolled her eyes, “My wedding. To Cliegg.”
“When will it be?”
“We’re headed back to Tatooine at the end of the week, after the celebrations here.”
He tilted his head, “He just asked, isn’t their normally a longer waiting period?”
“Were both from Tatooine.” She said it as if that was an answer and Jango nodded because in a way it was. The desert had a way of stealing things away if you didn’t hold onto them.
Jango nodded. “If you want me to come.”
“I would like that.”
“Then I’ll be there.”
They spent the rest of the night that way. Talking in fits and bursts. Occasionally Shmi’s hand would shift to cover Obi-Wan’s heart, or Jango’s fingers would find their way to Obi-Wan’s pulse point. Neither tried to hide the comfort that the steady beat brought them.
Shmi sighed, “I shouldn’t have let him leave the temple the way we did.”
Jango blinked, surprised by the sudden shift. “What do you mean?”
“He collapsed.” Shmi said quietly. “Master Jinn had informed the council that he suspected that Obi-Wan had fallen, they requested that they be allowed to perform a scan to ensure that he had not.”
Jango frowned, “Do they have a right to do that?”
Shmi shook her head, then shrugged, “I suppose they have the right to ask, but no right to demand. Obi-Wan allowed several of the councilors to perform the scan though. He wanted to ensure that no one would take their suspicions of him out on Anakin.”
Jango snorted, it felt like even further evidence that allowing Anakin to stay with the Jetii was bound to end poorly. Osik, he would always hate the Jetii, but sometimes he really despised them. “And they ended up hurting him?”
Shmi made a face at that. “Obi-Wan says they didn’t. He told me that he chose those particular individuals because he trusted them to be considerate about the matter.”
Which only meant that he considered that the rest of them would be inconsiderate. Kriffin Jetii. “But he still collapsed.”
Shmi nodded, “A healer came, she warned Obi-Wan that he needed to get to a mind healer.” She sighed, “Obi-Wan declined, normally I’d try and convince him to stay, to make sure everything was okay. I just…” She sighed, “They were all very kind to Anakin. I believe they’ll stay kind to Anakin because in their eyes he’s innocent. But they all seem to feel that Obi-Wan’s decision to leave the Jedi means that he is on the brink of tyranny and evil, or some such thing.” She hesitated, “Well, not all of them. I just didn’t think they’d actually be able to help Obi-Wan.”
Jango just snorted, “If he had fallen on hard times, or shown any sign of struggling without the Jedi they would have been kinder. But for him to be successful on his own, to show no signs of wanting to go back, it hurts their pride.”
Shmi hummed thoughtfully. “Perhaps. Mostly they just seem to think that he is incapable of being good without them there to guide him.”
“To be fair, if he were still with the Jedi he wouldn’t be making friends with bounty hunters. Haven’t you heard? Bounty hunters are the scum of the galaxy.”
Shmi actually laughed somewhat at that. “They’d be appalled.” She frowned, “Maybe that’s why Master Jinn is so upset.”
Jango shrugged, he didn’t think that that particular Jetii needed any sort of reason, but he was willing to admit he was still ticked off about the encounter in Obi-Wan’s ship. “If you feel that way. I still don’t understand why you’d let Anakin stay.”
Shmi sighed, “Honestly, it just felt like something that I needed to let him do.” Her eyes met his, tired and worried. “I have to trust that. Trust my instincts, Anakin’s instincts. Obi-Wan’s instincts. Each of us had our own reasons for feeling like this was something that had to happen. I just have to trust in that.”
Jango sighed, but left it. He switched the subject, keeping the conversation going. It was better to talk, to have something to distract him from what had happened. If he didn’t think about it, then this was just a conversation between two friends, not a quiet vigil to make sure that Obi-Wan didn’t stop breathing on them again.
Dawn had just passed when Obi-Wan stirred. Shmi shifted up, her eyes landing on Obi-Wan’s face. “Obi-Wan?”
It took a few moments for Obi-Wan’s eyes to open, and Jango could see that they were still unclear and tired. “Shmi?”
Shmi sat up straight, running one hand through Obi-Wan’s hair gently. “How are you feeling?”
Obi-Wan tilted his head towards Shmi, although his eyes didn’t seem to focus on her correctly. “I’m feeling fine.”
Shmi exchanged a glance with Jango and Jango just shook his head in disbelief. “The same way you felt fine after your collapse in the council chambers?”
Obi-Wan paused and Jango could see him trying to figure out how to respond to that. “There have been several extenuating circumstances as of late, but rest assured, I really am just fine.”
“Extenuating circumstances?” Shmi sounded exasperated, “You died.” The words were blunt and hard and Jango held back a flinch.
“I did not.” Obi-Wan protested.
“You did.” The words came out hoarser than Jango had intended. Obi-Wan turned to look at him and Jango kept talking. “We watched you stop breathing.” How long had it been between Obi-Wan’s last breath and his first? It was a blur of infinite moments in Jango’s mind, “We felt your heart stop beating.” He could still remember his fingers searching for a pulse that wasn’t there. “You kriffin’ died.” Jango had killed his fair share of people, had watched as people he loved died without being able to save them. Death wasn’t new to him. But that didn’t mean that the idea of losing Obi-Wan didn’t make him cold inside.
Obi-Wan flinched back and then his face softened and his hand found Jango’s again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry either of you.”
Jango wanted to sigh, because worry didn’t even begin to encompass how Jango had felt during those moments.
“It’s not your fault.” Shmi said quietly, “It was whatever happened last night.”
Obi-Wan’s face went through a number of emotions. Regret, sorrow, confusion, longing. Jango tried not to think about what that longing might be for. “Regardless, I’m sorry.” He paused for a moment. “Have you slept?”
Shmi shook her head. “No, I was too worried.”
Obi-Wan turned to look back at him, “And you?”
Jango didn’t answer immediately, his eyes landed on the scratch on Obi-Wan’s cheek. Regret, he’d thought. Something Obi-Wan thought he deserved. He thought about the longing that had slipped through Obi-Wan’s eyes for just a few seconds. He thought about the resignation he’d seen, what felt like a lifetime ago, back on Tatooine. He thought about the trust that was laced within every interaction. He looked back into tired eyes full of too many emotions. He shook his head, “No.”
Obi-Wan shifted onto his elbow, lifting himself up. “The two of you should try to get some sleep now.”
Jango exchanged a look with Shmi and she nodded. Jango gently tugged Obi-Wan back down. “Stay.” It wasn’t an order, more a quiet plea. Obi-Wan’s eyes met his again, and then Obi-Wan nodded. The three of them shifted into a comfortable position, nestled together, Obi-Wan’s head came to rest against Jango’s shoulder, and between that, and Obi-Wan’s hand still entwined with his Jango felt some measure of comfort. Jango waited until Obi-Wan’s breathing slipped back into sleep before turning to see that R2 was still standing guard. He nodded to the droid before slowly allowing himself to follow Obi-Wan into sleep.
Jango knew better than to get involved in Shmi and Obi-Wan’s argument about whether Obi-Wan could go out and help in the city. It wasn’t that he didn’t have an opinion, he definitely did, and he was very much on Shmi’s side, but he also knew that if Obi-Wan thought that the two of them were ganging up on him he would only dig his heels in further and tire himself out more. He’d let Shmi take this fight and he’d take the next one. He was fairly certain that they all knew that R2 was going to be trailing behind Obi-Wan all day no matter what anyone said.
Shmi finally let Obi-Wan leave after wrangling a dozen promises about taking it easy and not overworking himself. The two of theme exchanged exasperated looks as the man left. It wasn’t that either of them thought that Obi-Wan would break his promises. They just both knew that Obi-Wan and Shmi had different ideas of what it meant to overwork oneself.
Jango had actually managed to get his own job for the first half of the day. He was providing transport back to the city for all of the Naboo still in the swamps. The first group clambered into the speeder he brought while he ushered a group of children and women into Obi-Wan’s ship, he’d come back with the speeder after and let the third group take the speeder back while he brought the last group back to Theed in his ship. The first group was just finishing getting situated when Clara approached him with a tired smile. “Glad to see you’re still alive.”
He snorted, “It’d take a lot more than a couple of badly programmed droids to take me down.”
Clara’s smiled turned hesitant, “You know, I thought I was going to go mad that day you showed up in our camp.”
Clara nodded, her eyes going distant. “Naboo is a peaceful planet. Something like this?” She shook her head, “We were never going to be prepared for it. My brother, Rupa, died in the immediate invasion, he and his new wife had just had a child.” Her smile turned bitter, “He was a new father, protective. Refused to let the droids take him and his family. His wife Sira ended up a widow and their daughter is never going to know her father.” Clara straightened, looking him straight in the eye. “I thought for sure both Sira and her daughter were going to be dead by the end of the week. Not enough food, not enough water, those are bad conditions for a newborn and her mother. They were all I had left of my brother and there was nothing I could do to help them, to protect them. And then you showed up and you pulled all three of us out of that camp. You saved them.” She reached out and touched the armor on his elbow. “We’ll never be able to thank you enough.”
Jango felt something approaching uncomfortable. People didn’t exactly thank him for his services very often, at least not in a way that didn’t entail paying him exorbitant amounts of money. “You shouldn’t thank me.”
Clara shook her head, “You saved us!”
“I didn’t do it for you.” He took a step back, forcing her hand to drop away from him. “I didn’t do it for any of you. I did it for the money.” He kept his voice bland, contemptuous.
She narrowed her eyes at him, “You’re lying.”
“I’m a bounty hunter.” He shook his head, “I probably would have heard about the invasion of Naboo.” He shrugged, “That sort of information travels fast in my type of circles. But I wouldn’t have done anything about it. Maybe I’d have pitied the lot of you, but not enough to put my own neck on the line.”
Clara took a step back as though hurt. “But you didn’t. You came. You saved us.”
“For the money.”
“You’re lying.” She repeated, her voice firm, as she repeated her earlier accusation.
Jango tilted his head, she wasn’t saying it because she believed it, but more because she wanted to believe it. He hesitated, for a split second and then made a decision. “I can’t give you an altruistic reason for doing it.” He told her quietly. “I was honest, if I’d been anywhere other than where I was when I heard about Naboo, I would have done nothing.” He looked out at the children, settled against the wall of Obi-Wan’s ship. “I see people suffer every day.” He’d been seeing it since he was fourteen and his parents had died and their farm had burned. “And a single person? They can’t do anything about that, and I don’t much see the point in trying. But Obi-Wan Kenobi? He’s the type of person who’s decided that he’ll die trying to protect and help as many people as he can.” He met Clara’s eyes, grateful that his were hidden behind his helmet. “So, you’re right. I may not have done it for the money.” He left unsaid that he hadn’t done it for her. Or the kids. It wasn’t that he regretted it. He didn’t. He was glad he’d saved them, didn’t even mind that he hadn’t been paid. But when it came down to it, there were two reasons that he would do something like this. One was if the True Mandalorians out there needed him, and the other was Obi-Wan.
Clara nodded, her eyes tired. “I’ll always be grateful to you.” She told him quietly. “You saved us. I suppose I’ll just have to also be grateful that Obi-Wan Kenobi was the type of man who could inspire a man like you.” Clara took a step back. “I should warn you. I’m not the only person who’ll want to thank you.” She gave him a crooked smile, “You should probably just say you’re welcome next time.”
Jango shrugged. “We’ll be taking off soon. Make sure everyone who’s supposed to be on the ship is here.”
Clara nodded and turned away. Jango watched her leave for one second before he turned, his stride was quick as he headed towards the cock pit. He was halfway there when he hesitated and took a detour.
The door shut behind him and he leaned against it. Maybe it was his imagination but he sometimes felt like a little bit of Obi-Wan could be felt in the man’s ship, and the feeling was strongest here in Obi-Wan’s room. Jango was still split on whether it was psychological or if it was some weird force thing.
He took a deep breath, bringing his thoughts into focus.
He tried to decide why he’d told Clara what he had. It wasn’t part of the plan. He wanted people to think he’d done this for the money. It was the safest way to go about the situation. Bounty Hunters did things for money. Crazy things. Sure, someone might blink at going up against an invading army as a single individual, but he was Jango Fett. He knew for a fact that he was considered terrifying and crazy and competent. He knew that he was considered one of the very best. And he’d earned that. He was one of the best.
He couldn’t even blame this on Obi-Wan this time. Well, not completely on Obi-Wan at least. When it came down to it, Jango knew exactly why he’d told her what he had. He’d probably always intended to let it slip to someone. Jango was a bounty hunter, but he’d never been just a bounty hunter. He was Mand’alor. Not just because he was Jaster’s adopted kid. Not just because he was one of the best fighters. But because he’d been a good leader, someone that people had trusted because they knew that he cared about them.
He’d distanced himself.
After Death Watch. After his time as a slave.
After failing his people.
He knew that as far as the True Mandalorians were concerned he was still their Mand’alor. He knew that one of the main reasons that so many True Mandalorians had become bounty hunters was because of him. Just like they’d become mercenaries because of Jaster.
He wondered if they knew he still cared, that he still considered them his people to protect.
He wondered how many of them would answer him, if he called.
And that was where Obi-Wan came in. Jaster had taught him that Mandalorians were fighters, but that meant that they needed something to fight for. He couldn’t give them that. He couldn’t give them a cause. Not a good one, not the sort of righteous cause that Jaster talked about. The only cause Jango had had for the longest time was whatever cause would give him money, and a more long term goal of destroying the Jetii and Death Watch. But they’d both been out of his reach since Galidraan, and he refused to lead his people to slaughter again.
Obi-Wan had a cause though. Jango wasn’t sure what it was entirely, he wasn’t even sure that Obi-Wan fully realized what it was. But he was fairly certain that it would be a cause that was worth fighting for.
So maybe that’s why he’d told Clara what he had. Everyone would assume that he had done it for the money, but maybe people would also start hearing rumors. Rumors that Jango was fighting for more than money these days. That Jango had found a cause worth fighting for.
It was more dangerous. For him, for Obi-Wan. It implied things. Made Obi-Wan even more of a target for certain groups of people than he was already making himself.
And Jango didn’t particularly want to do that. Didn’t want to put Obi-Wan in danger.
But the people Obi-Wan had been gathering, whether consciously or not, were for the most part peaceful people. And if Jango was reading the currents correctly, than at some point Obi-Wan would need something more than pretty words and peaceful people who agreed with him.
He’d need people who would fight for him, fight with him.
Jango would. Curse him to the depths of the Correllian Hells, but Jango would do it.
He’d never try to demand that anyone join him. But he’d ask.
He closed his eyes. He wondered if Obi-Wan would ever add Death Watch to his list alongside slavery and whatever looming evil only Obi-Wan saw.
He wondered what Obi-Wan would do if Jango asked it of him.
Mandalorians on one side, Obi-Wan on the other.
If Jango ever wanted answers he’d have to ask.
Jango really hated asking.
He straightened, took one last breath. Let himself soak in the peace that Obi-Wan had somehow imbued his room with.
Then he opened the door and headed to the cockpit. This ship wasn’t going to fly itself after all.
He slipped out of the rooms that the Queen had provided him. Neither Obi-Wan or Shmi had returned yet, and R2 was gone, probably still following Obi-Wan around. He found his way to the med center that the Palace had set up. It was still decently busy, although it looked like the most serious cases had already been addressed. There were a couple of medics, several handmaidens, and Shmi. He moved to where Shmi was talking to several children.
Shmi whispered something to them before moving towards him. She raised her eyebrow at him, “Didn’t think we’d be seeing you out of your armor for a while.”
Jango shrugged, “Anyone looking for me right now will be looking for my armor.” Clara had been right, people had wanted to stop him and thank him. Jango frankly wasn’t in the mood for that right now. “Obi-Wan around?”
Shmi shook her head, “No, he’s still out helping.” She raised her voice just slightly, “Would you mind, sir, going to find Obi-Wan for me? Just to make sure he’s not overdoing it?”
One of the handmaidens who had been headed towards the door stopped and turned towards Shmi. “I can bring him, if you’d like. I just received information that I need to bring to the Queen, but she disappeared some time ago. I know she was planning on speaking with Obi-Wan. If we’re lucky the two of them will still be together.”
Shmi smiled at her, “Would you?”
The girl nodded and gestured for Jango to follow her. Jango raised an eyebrow at Shmi who looked pleased. Sometimes he forgot just how sneaky the woman could be. Shmi just smiled back at him, waving her hand at him imperiously in a gesture for him to follow the girl. Jango rolled his eyes but did.
“She worries quite a lot about Obi-Wan.” The girl remarked conversationally. “I don’t think I would have expected that.”
“What do you mean?”
The girl shrugged, “Obi-Wan just seems very competent.” The girl blushed a little as she said that, “All of the handmaidens agree.”
Jango felt his lips twitch at that. He had no doubt that the handmaidens had all had very interesting conversations about Obi-Wan and his… competence. “From what I understand the two of them are good friends.”
The girl nodded, “More than friends from what I understand, Shmi told me that he saved her and her son from slavery. She made it sound as though they’re practically family.” She smiled approvingly, “Family is of course very important, but even then she seems to worry more than I would have expected, she’s obviously aware that Obi-Wan is quite competent.”
Jango nodded, “I’m sure she is.” She was also aware of Obi-Wan utter lack of self preservation. But he supposed that the queen and her handmaidens hadn’t really had cause to see that yet. No, so far all they’d seen was the person who was willing to sacrifice himself for their sake. And who had managed to help them when the people they’d trusted to help them had failed them.
He didn’t blame them for their admiration.
They made their way out of the castle, the girl would stop every now and then to question whether anyone had seen either Obi-Wan or the queen. After a moment the girl stopped. “I think I know where they are.”
The girl nodded, “She has a place she likes to visit when she’s feeling stressed.”
Jango nodded at that and continued to follow her. They came to the entrance of a park and Jango actually did smile then at the sight of R2 waiting outside of it.
He knelt down beside the droid. “If you want to head up back to the castle I’ll make sure Obi-Wan gets back.” The droid gave him an angry whistle, “Yeah, yeah. You don’t like me, you don’t trust me, you’re going to electrocute me.” Jango rolled his eyes, “But, Obi-Wan doesn’t know you followed him, but he will if you’re out here waiting for him.”
R2 whistled again, before wheeling off. Jango would bet his ship that the little droid was threatening all sorts of pain on Jango as it kept wheeling away.
He straightened again and took a few quick strides to catch back up with the handmaiden.
They turned a corner in the path and the girl hurried her steps, calling out. “Padmé!”
The young queen was dressed in a matching handmaiden dress. She and Obi-Wan were both sitting on the ground, the queen resting her head against Obi-wan’s shoulder. “Padmé, did you…” The girl trailed off and she gave the tree next to her a baffled look. Jango sighed as he took it in. The tree was healthy and in blossom, an extreme contrast to the broken trees and plants surrounding it. “Padmé, Our new Chancellor has just sent word. He and several Jedi are nearing Naboo, they’ll be here tomorrow in preparation for the celebrations.”
The queen blinked, before pushing herself to her feet. “Well, then we must prepare for them.”
The handmaiden nodded and then gestured to Jango, “Oh, and this gentleman was looking for you.” Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at Jango at that and Jango could see that Obi-Wan found the idea of Jango being referred to as a gentleman humorous. The other man turned back to the queen. “It was a pleasure, my lady. Good luck in your preparations.”
The queen smiled, “Thank you.” She touched the tree that Obi-Wan had helped heal. “Thank you.”
Obi-Wan turned back to Jango as the two girls hurried off. “Gentleman?”
Jango snorted and slid to the ground next to Obi-Wan. “She’s never seen me outside of my armor, none of them have, I don’t think she made the connection.”
Obi-Wan tilted his head a small smile on his face. “That’s convenient.”
“Most people don’t recognize me outside of my armor.” It was one of Obi-Wan’s mysteries, Jango still had no idea how the man had recognized him that first day, but he was definitely among the exceptions to that rule.
“That would make sense.” The other man nudged him with his shoulder, “Why were you looking for me?”
“Shmi’s still busy helping in the Med Center, I had just finished up helping with the last of the transports, she sent me to go find you, make sure you weren’t overexerting yourself.” He gestured to the tree, rolling his eyes as he did so, “Which I see you were.” It hadn’t escaped Jango’s notice that Obi-Wan was a shade or two paler than he had been when he’d left that morning. The man had no sense.
“Shmi worries too much.”
Given that Obi-Wan had gone from being so sick he hadn’t been allowed to leave his bed, to collapsing in the Jedi temple, to momentarily dying… Jango closed his eyes, pushing the thought away. The woman definitely had reason to worry. “You don’t worry enough.”
He could feel Obi-Wan shrug at that, but the other man didn’t respond. He let the silence stand, focusing on the other man’s breathing, using it to reassure himself.
He waited until the sun started to set before breaking the comfortable silence between them. “Shmi said you’ll be leaving soon.”
“We’re staying for the celebrations the day after tomorrow, then we’ll leave for Tatooine, Shmi has a wedding to get to after all.”
Jango nodded at that, “She asked me if I’d come.”
There wasn’t a hint of Obi-Wan’s thoughts in his voice, and Jango wondered at the stark neutrality of the question. “Yes. I’ll probably leave after that.”
For a long moment Obi-Wan didn’t respond. “Always another bounty.”
Jango tilted his head in consideration of that. There were whispers of a well-paying bounty against a former Jetii. A Jetii that had connections to Galidraan. It wasn’t anything solid though. No, unless he heard more information about that then he was going to start spreading out feelers, it was time for him to start looking at what was happening with the True Mandalorians, the few that were on Mandalore and those that were not. “Something like that. What will you be doing?”
“There’s someone I need to go see.” Jango figured that there was more to it than that, but then, the same was true for what he’d said.
They fell quiet again and Jango allowed himself to relax slightly just sitting there next to Obi-Wan. There was something comforting about being with someone who had paranoid issues equal to his. The two of them at half attention were probably still more aware than most people. And there was comfort in knowing that if something did happen, Jango wouldn’t be the only one reacting. Plus, he trusted that Obi-Wan would do as much to keep Jango safe as Jango would do to keep Obi-Wan safe. It wasn’t exactly a novel feeling. Jango had had people he trusted before, but that had been a long time ago. It was nice to feel it again.
“I never thanked you.”
Jango’s mind immediately flashed back to their talk in the swamps. To Obi-Wan thanking him in Mando’a. “You did.”
“I thanked you for coming to Naboo, for raiding the camps, for saving them.” Jango frowned, unsure what else Obi-Wan would be thanking him for. “That was easy. It was easy to thank you for protecting other people.”
“I didn’t do it for them.” Jango reminded the other man.
“I never expected to see you again, after we parted four years ago.” It was a strange segue, “But then you were there, and that was…” Obi-Wan hesitated, as though he wasn’t sure exactly what he was trying to express. Given that Obi-Wan always seemed to know what words to use it was enough to spike Jango’s attention. “Good. It was good.”
Jango remembered leaving. “I hadn’t completely planned to see you again, either.” He had thought that they might cross paths, it could be an astonishingly small galaxy at times. But, he figured at most it’d be a nod of a head as they passed each other by. He wondered if he would have taken the bounty to kidnap Obi-Wan and Anakin if he hadn’t kept coming back.
“And then you just kept coming back. It was comforting, in a way. The sun would rise and fall, people would complain and argue, negotiations would be tiring, and at some point, I’d come back to my ship and you’d be there, complaining about how my security was too lax.”
Jango smiled at that. “It is. It’s entirely too lax.” It actually wasn’t bad, if it were as lax as Jango acted then Jango would have taken steps to fix it. But for all that Jango teased, Obi-Wan took Shmi and Anakin’s safety very seriously.
“I don’t know what we are.” The change in topic was sudden and the words were abrupt, Jango kept himself from tensing. He didn’t look over at the other man, too afraid that any reaction he gave would make Obi-Wan stop talking. He needed Obi-Wan to keep talking. Needed Obi-Wan to say what Jango thought he was saying. “But I think that maybe we’re something.” Jango took a carefully controlled breath, Obi-Wan wasn’t on the same page as him. Not yet, but this was a sign that maybe he would be willing to see if they could get there. “I would trust you with my life. I would trust you with Anakin and Shmi’s lives.” Obi-Wan took a deep breath, and Jango could tell that that had been difficult for him to say, to admit. “Am I wrong to do that?”
Jango closed his eyes, unwilling to answer dishonestly. “No. In another life, maybe you would be. If you were another person, you would most definitely be. But no, you’re not wrong to trust me.”
He could feel Obi-Wan relax beside him. As though Obi-Wan had needed Jango to reassure him. It was a little backwards, because if Jango wasn’t trustworthy he would still say he was. Obi-Wan knew that, but Jango could understand wanting to hear the answer, even if he had to chance hearing a lie.
Fortunately for both of them, it wasn’t a lie.
“Will you come back? When your bounties get boring?”
It was harder this time, to not react. Everything inside of him felt like it was ablaze. He closed his eyes, counted to five. “Are you asking me too?” He needed this. If Obi-Wan said he wasn’t sure, Jango would still return, would return until Obi-Wan told him not to return. But he desperately wanted to hear Obi-Wan say that he wanted Jango to come back. He wanted it to be a real request, not an implied request.
Obi-Wan was quiet for a long minute, and while the silence made Jango feel tense, Jango was also grateful, he didn’t want a half-thought out answer. He wanted it to be a real answer. “Yes. I am.”
“Then, I’ll keep coming back.” He would keep coming back, and keeping coming back, maybe some day he wouldn’t need to leave. He shut that thought down. He didn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, at least not right here where Obi-Wan might feel pressured if he were to sense the depth of his feelings.
“I don’t know what we are.” Obi-Wan repeated, as though trying to put a little bit of distance between himself and the confessions that had been made. Jango wasn’t exactly surprised. This was the most emotionally vulnerable Obi-Wan had ever willingly gotten with him before. And Obi-Wan wasn’t exactly the type to remain emotionally vulnerable. No, he’d shore up his defenses for a while. But Jango knew what he needed to know for now. He knew that Obi-Wan realized that Jango wanted some sort of relationship from him, and that Obi-Wan wasn’t going to be actively stopping anything from developing. He just wasn’t ready to promise that anything would, either.
“That’s fine.” And it really was. Jango had already realized that it would likely be a long and slow process, but Jango was a patient man, he could do long and slow, so long as it was worth the wait. And Obi-Wan was. “You were right, when you said that I leave.” The statement had bothered Jango, long after he had made his leave. It was the way Obi-Wan had said it, not angry, Jango knew how to deal with anger, not even resigned. It had been statement, fact. As though the only world that made sense to Obi-Wan was a world in which people left. “There are bounties to take, money to make.” A person couldn’t live on good intentions and martyrdom, no matter what Obi-Wan seemed to think. “But for now, I’ll keep coming back.” Again and again and again. Until whatever fight Obi-Wan was fighting found an end.
He glanced at Obi-Wan and the other man met his eyes, before nodding slowly in acknowledgement. Neither said anything more as they turned back to watching the sun set. Jango kept his thoughts soft and quiet, nothing that would bother Obi-Wan. Naboo, he found himself loathe to admit, was actually a very nice planet when it wasn’t being overrun by droid armies. It just seemed a little… tame. It was fine for a few days rest, but Jango could never imagine settling down on a place like Naboo, although to be fair, up until recently he had never really imagined settling down at all. Still, Naboo was far too peaceful for Jango’s peace of mind. In his experience things that seemed beautiful and peaceful hid the darkest secrets. He’d prefer the honest chaos of other worlds.
The sun finally finished its descent as the stars started appearing in the sky and Jango pushed himself to his feet, he extended his hand and Obi-Wan took it, pulling himself up. Jango tangled their fingers together, squeezing gently before untangling his fingers and letting his hand drop back to his side. “Come on, Shmi was probably expecting us back a while ago.” And she probably wouldn’t appreciate it if Obi-Wan went missing tonight of all nights, not after what the man had done last night.
Jango stood in the shadows, dressed in his armor. His eyes flitted over the group that had disembarked from the ship. His lips drew into a snarl as he noted the two individuals dressed in the standard beige and brown of the Jedi, they stood out easily amongst the ostentatious finery of the Chancellor and his aides.
Jango watched them all move. Noting their positions in relation to Obi-Wan and the Queen. Obi-Wan was standing near the guards, off to the side. Yet Jango found himself unsurprised when the Chancellor himself moved off course to greet him. The two of them spoke for several moments and Jango watched the interaction with interest. Obi-Wan was carefully telegraphing respect with all of his movements, almost too carefully actually. The way he was standing actually reminded Jango of how Obi-Wan would stand when dealing with Jabba. Well, the other man was a politician, and one that was politician enough to become Chancellor. In Jango’s book that really did make one as bad as a Hutt, worse possibly because at least the Hutts didn’t pretend to be anything other than their duplicitous selves.
The Chancellor and Obi-Wan separated and Obi-Wan was approached by the two Jedi. After a short moment Obi-Wan followed the Jedi away. Jango scowled at that, but didn’t move to follow. Obi-Wan could take care of himself. Jango didn’t think it was likely, but if by chance the Trade Federation had any backup plans, then right now would be a good time to launch them. Particularly if those plans included assassination, getting a queen and the Chancellor in one attack would be quite the success.
But despite his musings, Jango wasn’t surprised when the rest of the proceedings went without a hitch. He hadn’t actually expected anything to happen, but he also didn’t believe in getting caught unaware. Better paranoid and alive than unsuspecting and dead. The Queen and the Chancellor and their respective groups made their way into the palace and Jango moved away from where he’d been lurking and back towards the rooms he’d been given.
He hadn’t been there long when there was a knock on the door. He double checked his blasters before opening the door. Obi-Wan stood there looking far more tired than he had looked even an hour earlier. “May I come in?” Jango nodded shifting to the side so that Obi-Wan could slip in. He closed the door behind the other man before turning to him expectantly. “The Chancellor has invited you to dinner.”
Jango blinked several times, replaying the sentence in his head to make sure the other man had said what Jango thought he’d heard. He pulled his helmet off, just in case there had been some sort of malfunction. “Excuse you?”
Obi-Wan actually smiled at that, some of the exhaustion disappearing from his face. “You, Mr. Fett, have been cordially invited to dine with His Excellency, the Chancellor himself.”
He wasn’t sure whether he was annoyed or confused, he didn’t want to cater to a politician’s pointless desires, nor did he understand what the Chancellor expected to gain from the situation, and Jango had no doubt that the Chancellor intended to gain something from it. Finally he settled on being amused, because really, the situation was ridiculous. “Not every day that happens.”
Obi-Wan snorted, “Given your choice of occupation, I should think not. Normally, the law isn’t your biggest fan.”
Jango shrugged, because, yeah, that was true. “It’s not my fault I’m better at my job than the law is at theirs.” He ignored Obi-Wan’s eye roll, they both knew that it was true. “I’m assuming you are also invited.”
The exhaustion was back, and underneath it something close to worry. “Yes, Shmi and I are both invited as well.”
He didn’t sound pleased. Which Jango registered as odd, Obi-Wan should sound pleased. He had the opportunity to bend the ear of the Chancellor of the Republic, to further his plans to improve the galaxy. This should be something that Obi-Wan should be pleased by, not worried, or frustrated, or confused, or any of the other emotions hidden under the exhaustion that was clear on his face.
Jango took a step back, sprawling onto the bed, broadcasting calm relaxation as clearly as he could, he kept his body loose and open, or as much as he could given he was still in his armor. “Well, I suppose I’ll join you and Shmi then. Wouldn’t want to offend the new Chancellor over something as simple as dinner.”
Obi-Wan grimaced slightly, but seemed to recognize the invitation inherent in the way Jango had settled onto the bed, moving slowly to sit on the edge near him. “No.” Obi-Wan sighed, “Wouldn’t want to do that.” The words were quiet, but Jango couldn’t help but hear a warning in them. Jango shifted his leg so that it was resting against Obi-Wan’s back, felt the other man relax slightly at the touch. Jango frowned slightly, making a mental note to look into what policies the Chancellor had voted on, what political views he espoused. What it was about the Chancellor that Obi-Wan thought was dangerous, if that was the case. For all Jango knew this was just a delayed reaction to the events from two nights before making Obi-Wan tired. Maybe Obi-Wan just didn’t trust people with as much power as the position Chancellor gave them. Maybe Obi-Wan just hated political dinners.
Whatever it was Jango figured he should figure it out. “Dinner tonight, celebration tomorrow, then off to Shmi’s wedding?” Jango asked quietly.
Obi-Wan nodded, but made no attempt to move. Jango allowed himself to relax, this was as good a way as any to pass the time.
Obi-Wan eventually left, muttering something under his breath about letting Shmi know and Jango watched him go. He sighed as he pulled the armor off, he didn’t exactly have a lot of clothing that was fit for events like this, but he found the closest thing to nice clothing he had in his ship.
He returned to their temporary quarters to find that both Shmi and Obi-Wan were also wearing their best. If Obi-Wan’s face still showed his disgruntlement than neither Shmi nor Jango mentioned it. Although, by the time that they’d made it to dinner Obi-Wan’s face had smoothed into a diplomatic smile.
They were the last to arrive and Jango hid his own annoyance at seeing not only the Chancellor, but three Jetii as well, the poison and the two that had come with the Chancellor. Obi-Wan took quick stock of the room before leading Shmi to the seat across from Jinn. Obi-Wan nodded him toward the middle seat and Jango took it. The man across the table gave him an appraising look and Jango had the feeling that he was found wanting. If so, the feeling was entirely mutual.
The dinner was actually quite delicious, which Jango felt was necessary, because the conversation was definitely not would Jango would call enjoyable. Between the Queen, Obi-Wan, and the Chancellor the conversation was kept as safe as it could be considering the variety of individuals present. He wouldn’t have thought there were many conversations that you could have with two politicians, three Jetii, one Mandalorian bounty hunter, one former slave, and well, Obi-Wan, who was a former Jetii, almost politician, who had been taught how to be a bounty hunter, and was trying to free the slaves.
Other than Padmé the rest of them were quite well traveled, even the Chancellor had been around quite a bit, and for a while that was where they kept the conversation. Jango could still hate the Jetii but recognize that they had their own share of interesting experiences to share. They did, after all, travel quite a bit while they were out throwing their weight around and forcing people to do as they thought was right, killing those that got in their way. He pushed the anger down hidden behind the shields in his mind. This was a dinner, a polite dinner where he wasn’t going to tell the Jetii exactly what it was he thought of them.
The Chancellor caught his eye, “You and young Kenobi seem rather familiar with each other, you must have met before this particular job?” Jango could see how everyone’s attention was caught at that.
The Queen nodded, “Yes, you were together on Tatooine. I assume that was when Obi-Wan hired you.” She said it as a statement, but it was obvious that it was also part question.
Jango didn’t answer immediately, eying the Jetii across from him who was watching Obi-Wan very carefully. He thought his answers through, making sure that everything was as true as he could make it without actually telling much of the truth. Force users. He hated them. “Obi-Wan and I met on Tatooine several years ago,” He glanced at Obi-Wan, thinking of that exasperating afternoon in the alley. “I gave him advice on how to handle the Hutts, I have a particular dislike of slavery, and had a vested interest in helping him succeed.” Why it was he had that interest he could leave for them to assume. “He had another meeting with the Hutts just before he ran into you.” He nodded at the Queen, “I was there and provided feedback on how the Treaty was being implemented.” He shrugged, letting himself look casually annoyed, “At which point the sandstorm had me as trapped there as everyone else.” Ha, that just went to show that Jango could be just as skilled with his words as anyone else.
The Chancellor was giving him and Obi-Wan a thoughtful look, Jango kept his face bored. “How fortunate for Naboo that the two of you met.”
Jango shrugged, “Fortunate for my pocketbook, certainly.” He relished the discomfort that appeared on nearly everyone’s face. Just because he could twist his words didn’t mean he had to do, he saw no reason to keep everyone comfortable. It was still true though, there had been an interesting shift in jobs since Obi-Wan had started making waves, and Jango had made a fair amount of money. Even if he wasn’t making any money this particular trip.
Shmi gave him a pointed look and switched the conversation towards the reparation work that was being done. Jango just grinned at her.
“That’s bold.” The man across from him, Mace Windu if Jango remembered the introductions correctly, said, his eyes were sharp. “Rubbing in everyone’s face that you’ve made money off their suffering.”
Jango tilted forward in his seat to give the other man an insolent smirk. “And where would the Jedi be, if they weren’t keeping themselves relevant on the Galaxy’s suffering?”
“There will always be suffering, the Jedi seek to help lessen it wherever we can. We certainly don’t do it for money.”
Jango shrugged, “Just because you don’t get paid, doesn’t mean you aren’t profiting from other people’s suffering. At least I’m honest about it.”
“The Jedi do not profit from people’s suffering.” Windu’s voice was testy at that.
“No?” Jango asked, “You certainly seem to collect quite a bit of power.”
Windu looked throughly offended. “The Jedi do not seek power.”
“Could have fooled me.”
Windu’s glare turned glacial, a lesser man might have been intimidated. Jango relished the fact that he was getting under the other man’s skin. “I had such high hopes for Kenobi, but to see him associating with the likes of you.” The other man shrugged, “Well, it has me concerned. We’ll have to keep a closer eye on him.”
That was both a threat and a low blow, although Jango wasn’t sure if the man realized just how low a blow. “I would have thought that the Jedi would be pleased with everything Kenobi has done, given that he’s actually trying to make the galaxy a better place. But then, the senate probably has to give you permission to be pleased, doesn’t it.”
“Quick progress means nothing if it can’t be maintained.” The man gave him a contemptuous look, “But then what would you know about maintaining progress and freedom, there are some problems you can’t solve with a blaster.”
“Oh, so a lightsaber would fix all the problems then.”
“The Jedi have many capabilities, but I imagine diplomacy might be a foreign concept to you.”
“Diplomacy, is that what you call the Jedi’s ability to trample over anything that gets in their way.”
The green troll interrupted before the other man could retort. “Time to retire it is. Continue your conversation later, you may.” As though Jango would seek out the opportunity to continue conversing with a Jetii.
Obi-Wan gave him a questioning look and Jango shrugged. It hadn’t come to blows, Jango figured that was about as good as anyone could expect of him.
Jango was glad that he was in his armor again, it meant he didn’t have to bother hiding the exasperation he felt at how incredibly ostentatious the celebration was. He believed in celebrating victories just as much as the next person, but he didn’t see why that involved this much extravagance. Everyone was waving streamers, and there were flower petals everywhere, and there was a parade. He wasn’t sure why that threw him so much, but he’d never celebrated a victory with a parade before. Partying, yes, dancing, sure, but a parade? No.
The Queen had asked him to stand with her entourage and Jango had very politely declined, and then Obi-Wan had found him and made the same request, which really wasn’t fair. Obi-Wan should have had no problem telling the Queen no, but Jango had noted that Obi-Wan had a soft spot a parsec wide when it came to the young Queen. And unfortunately Jango had his own little soft spot where Obi-Wan was concerned. And wasn’t that just a little bit alarming.
So there he was, at the top of the steps, flower petals falling around him from where they were being thrown and caught in the wind. It was definitely a first for him, if he was lucky it would also be the last. He preferred his celebrations to be a little more, well, hands on and involved, parades just seemed, well, pointless.
The Gungans were climbing the stairs, Boss Nass and Binks and one of the Generals. The Queen stepped forward taking the Globe of Peace and passing it to Boss Nass, the Gungan lifted the sphere above his head and with his loud voice yelled out, “Peace! Peace!” Obi-Wan shifted, moving closer towards him. Jango hesitated for a split second, before gently bringing his hand up to rest on the small of the other man’s back, some of the tension seemed to leak out of the man, and Jango felt a smile slip onto his face. Yes, it was a good thing he was wearing his armor. It would rather ruin his reputation if anyone saw the fondness on his face.
Jango narrowed his eyes behind the helmet of his armor. “Your Excellency.” He ignored the presence of Windu and Jinn behind the Chancellor.
The Chancellor smiled at him benignly. “Mr. Fett, I heard that you and Mr. Kenobi were headed off, I wished to wish you both farewell.” The older man frowned, “Where is Obi-Wan?” Jango noticed the two Jetii shifting and Jango took perverse pleasure in being able to deny all of them the opportunity to make Obi-Wan’s life difficult again.
Jango tilted his head, “Our ships were stored in different hangars. I’m afraid if you wanted to wish him farewell you chose the wrong hanger.”
The Chancellor shook his head sighing quietly. “By the time we’d make it to that hanger I’ll have likely missed him.” He smiled at Jango, “I suppose I shall have to find solace in wishing at least one of Naboo’s heroes farewell.”
Jango shrugged, “Not a hero.” Jinn rolled his eyes, while Windu eyed him speculatively.
The Chancellor nodded, “Of course.” He hesitated, “But still, whatever your reasons, Naboo is thankful.”
Jango grunted. “Right. Well, it’s time for me to be off.” He nodded, because he was probably supposed to show the Chancellor some level of respect. “Thank you for taking time to bid me farewell.”
He opened the ramp to his ship, but stopped when the Chancellor took a step forward. “You’re quite the remarkable man. You and young Kenobi make quite an impressive team.” The Chancellor smiled, “I am curious to see where the next years will take your separate paths. The two of you made… quite an impression.” Jango felt a chill run down his spine, “If we are all lucky perhaps your paths will cross again.”
“Perhaps.” Jango was reminded vividly of the fact that he hated politicians. Not quite as much as he hated the Jetii, though.
Jinn stepped forward, “If you do see Obi-Wan again, it would be appreciated if you could pass on our sincere well wishes.”
Sincere. Right. Like Jango believed that. “Of course. Should our paths cross again.”
The Chancellor stepped back to stand next to the two Jetii, still smiling. Jango gave him a last nod and then strode quickly up the landing ramp, closing it behind him.
He landed beside Obi-Wan’s ship near a small farmstead, a few moments later Shmi appeared making her way towards the ship. Jango stepped out into the Tatooine air. He took a deep breath and for a moment missed Naboo, or anywhere else really, where breathing didn’t feel like inhaling dry heat. “You took your time.”
Jango just shrugged, “Wanted to give you a moment to enjoy your time with your soon-to-be husband.” He grinned, “Make sure Obi-Wan had an opportunity to feel like a third wheel.”
Shmi laughed, “How considerate of you. I’m sure Obi-Wan will appreciate hearing that.” She led him into the house. Cliegg was standing at the kitchen counter, preparing food. “We’ll be having dinner soon.” She smiled at him, “Owen is at the Whitesun’s tonight. But you’ll find Obi-Wan that way.” Shmi moved closer to Cliegg, and the man slipped an arm around Shmi’s waist. Shmi smiled up at him and went on tip toes for a kiss.
Jango took that as his cue to make his way down the hallway Shmi had gestured to. He heard the sound of Obi-Wan talking and stopped for a second to listen. “No, no! Don’t knock that over!” A few loud beeps followed Obi-Wan’s voice and Jango frowned. He opened the door and slid through in time to see Obi-Wan catch a small jar of paint as the little R2 unit purposefully knocked it over.
“What’s the astromech doing here?”
The droid turned towards him and beeped something Jango would guess was highly uncomplimentary. Obi-Wan sighed, “R2 decided that he wanted to join me and Padmé caved to his melodramatic beeping.”
Jango raised an eyebrow. “The Queen gave you her droid, because the droid asked her to.”
“He’s not my droid.” Jango didn’t need to speak binary to understand what the beeps and whistles the astromech made meant. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes but didn’t respond to whatever the droid said. “You’re later than I thought you’d be.”
Jango shrugged, “Thought you should have some time with the family Shmi is joining.”
Obi-Wan hesitated, looking as though he was about to say something. “Right.” He cleared his throat. “What do you know about Tatooine marriage customs?”
Jango shrugged, “Nothing really. People get married.”
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “Yes, congratulations, their marriage customs involve people getting married.” He shook his head and Jango saw him mouth ‘people get married’. “They’re rather simple. Tatooine isn’t really a place for complexity. There are two parts, the water and the stones. We don’t really have much to do with the water, that’s for Shmi and Cliegg, but I was… well, hoping you would join me on working on the stones.”
Jango nodded, “Of course. What about stones?”
Obi-Wan smiled at him brightly, as though Jango had done something amazing. “Owen is with the Whitesuns tonight, between them and the Darklighters they’ll inscribe three stones. I’m responsible for the other three stones. Generally, Anakin would be, as Shmi’s closest family, but…” He trailed off, before clearing his throat. “The family and close friends inscribe the stones with well wishes. Attributes or characteristics that we want the Goddesses to help them develop or strengthen to help them build a life and a relationship together. Then we’ll take turns giving them to Cliegg and Shmi during the ceremony tomorrow.” Obi-Wan smiled, but it was a little distant. “They’ll carry the stones with them until all three moons go through a full cycle, giving the stones time to receive a full blessing from the goddesses.”
Jango tilted his head, “What do they do with the stones then?”
Obi-Wan shrugged, “That’s for them to decide. Some families bury them around their property, some place them strategically around their homes. Some couples continue to carry them around.” Obi-Wan shrugged. “I don’t know what Shmi and Cliegg will choose to do with them.”
Jango nodded, “Alright, so how do we do this?”
Obi-Wan smiled at him again, and gestured for Jango to join him. Jango took a seat and listened as Obi-Wan explained how they would carve a symbol into the stone and then fill the symbol with paint, until the stone was once again smooth but the symbol would still be seen.
The two of them and the droid spent the next little while working on the stones and Jango smiled as Obi-Wan valiantly attempted to keep R2 from making a mess with the paint, while R2 made sure to be incredibly careful with the paint except for whenever Obi-Wan started paying too much attention to Jango at which point all bets were off. Jango remembered the droids threats to him when they’d been on Naboo, he wondered, again, what he’d done to earn the droid’s ire.
The droid was definitely starting to earn Jango’s own ire, only Obi-Wan’s annoyed but honest affection for the droid kept Jango from planning too many different ways in which to dispose of the astromech.
Although if the droid did actively attempt to kill him then all bets were off, it didn’t matter how much Obi-Wan liked the droid.
Jango nodded to the smiling couple, the Whitesuns, before shifting past them towards where Cliegg was standing. “You seem nervous.”
The man jumped slightly. “A little, apparently getting married isn’t any less nerve racking the second time around.”
Jango nodded, “I wouldn’t know.” He looked at Shmi who was talking with the Whitesun girls. She looked composed except for where she was twisting her hands together. “She loves you, though. I don’t imagine you have much to worry about.”
Cliegg nodded, “No, I know.” He smiled softly, “Sometimes it still doesn’t feel real.” He shook his head, “I don’t know what I’d be doing without her, if the Goddess hadn’t led me to her.”
Jango nodded, “Well, I suppose you’ll never have to find out.”
Cliegg nodded, “Goddesses willing.” Shmi looked up at them and smiled moving towards them. Jango gave her his own smile before moving to the side as Shmi took Cliegg’s hand, her smile blinding.
A few moments later Owen came running into the house, Obi-Wan entered a touch more sedately behind him. “We’re ready, dad!”
Cliegg turned to Shmi, “Last chance to back out. You sure you want to marry a crazy old man like me?”
“Yes. Not a doubt in my mind.”
Cliegg turned to Owen and asked him to bring the water and the group moved to start out, Owen first and then Cliegg and Mr. Darklighter. The rest of the Cliegg’s group followed after. Obi-Wan offered Shmi his arm and after a few whispered words they headed out as well, Jango and the astromech following behind.
Obi-Wan passed Shmi to Cliegg and the two of them stepped onto the blanket laying across the sand. The two groups stood on opposite sides of the blanket, and Jango watched as Owen passed the water to Cliegg. Jango remembered what Obi-Wan had said about it being a simple ceremony as the two silently filled the small bowls in front of each other.
Cliegg cleared his throat, “Shmi, I knew from the moment I saw you that you were someone that I would come to love. I saw your dedication, your love, your ferocity, and I was in awe. You’ve brought me a peace and a happiness that I thought I’d never have again. You’ve reminded me what it means to wake up smiling. The times when you were gone left me feeling empty, there is nothing I want more than to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Shmi smiled softly before she spoke, “Cliegg, the day I left Tatooine was one of the best in my life, I told myself then, that there was nothing in this Galaxy that would convince me to come back here to stay. But then I met you and you created a place for you in my heart, and I realized that Tatooine could be more than my place of sorrow, that it could also become a place of joy. You’ve brought a steadiness to my life that I didn’t know I was missing. I’m so happy to have this opportunity to spend the rest of my days by your side.” It was startling, to realize that Jango had been there that day that Shmi had left Tatooine, and that against the odds he was here today. The Jango of five years ago wouldn’t have believed it. Jango almost didn’t believe it himself.
It was strange, but also somewhat nice.
He listened intently as they swore themselves to each other. Water, life. He glanced at Obi-Wan out of the corner of his eye, the other man was watching the proceedings intently, a mixture of sorrow and happiness on his face.
Shmi and Cliegg both stood and one of the little girls stepped forward with the first stone. Kindness. Owen stepped forward. Compassion. The older girl stepped forward. Love. All traits that Shmi had in spades, but they would definitely serve them both well.
The couple crossed the blanket until they were on the side closest to Jango, Obi-Wan, and the droid. The droid moved forward first. Respect. Something that everyone deserved, something a relationship couldn’t survive without. Jango was next and he felt something suspiciously similar to a lump in his throat as he stepped forward, Shmi smiled at him bright and happy, as though his presence here was a gift. Patience. He knew Shmi had this, the way she handled Anakin and Obi-Wan, but life on Tatooine would be hard, and having the patience to make it through the endless days could only help. Obi-Wan was the last to step forward. Trust. No relationship could exist without it. Not without being destroyed from the inside out.
Shmi and Cliegg turned back to each other and then Cliegg held out his arm, “Shall we, Mrs. Shmi Lars?”
“We shall.” The two of them stepped off the blanket and back onto the sand. The children cheered while the adults all clapped before gathering around the newly weds.
Jango gave Cliegg a nod and a firm handshake before moving to Shmi.
The woman gave him a bright smile and then pulled him into a hug. For a moment Jango felt surprised and uncertain, but he quickly hugged her back. “I’m happy for you.” He whispered. He pulled back and handed her off to the next individual. Stepping back from the couple. He saw Obi-Wan standing to the side. That almost happy smile still on his face. “How do you feel?”
Obi-Wan glanced at him with an amused quirk of his eyebrow, “I think your asking the wrong person, I’m not the one who just got married.”
Jango shrugged, “Shmi’s your family.” He didn’t say that Shmi was staying and Obi-Wan was leaving. That a few weeks ago Obi-Wan had been surrounded by family, but when Obi-Wan left he would be alone.
“I’ll miss her. But I’m happy for her. I think Cliegg will be good for her, and she deserves to have someone like that in her life.”
“She does.” Shmi deserved happiness. He looked at Obi-Wan again, Obi-Wan deserved happiness too. Deserved a great deal, more maybe, than what Jango could offer him. Obi-Wan turned towards him and smiled softly.
The group made it’s way back into the homestead to celebrate. It was a far quieter celebration than the one they had experienced on Naboo, but it was a far better one as far as Jango was concerned.
Thank you, you glorious people, for reading this chapter! There are a couple of things that are being put somewhat on pause as I try to figure out how to incorporate some of the changes that Solo brought... Or whether to just ignore the aspects of Solo that don't work with my current plans. Decisions, decisions...
Also... I do try to respond to comments, because they are all awesome and make me happy... Last chapter I sort of failed and failed bad. So, sorry! I'll work on being better at that.
Have an absolutely fabulous day.
Chapter 7: Undesirable People 1, 2, and 3
Okay... So it's been a while since this story got updated... Uh... Apologies? Life is crazy? But here a chapter is! Yay!
As it is, this is the end of the semester and who knows how crazy Finals are going to be, plus it's the Holidays which has its own share of Craziness. (And yes the Capital C necessary.)
Here is your new chapter with a little bit of Anakin, a moment of Quinlan, and then of course those who are slightly less desirable. (And of course, Jango being Jango.)
(As a quick note-I am aware I took a few liberties with how the Clawdite transformation works... Please enjoy it anyways...)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He was aware of someone following him immediately. It was a mixture of his finely tuned sixth sense and the slightest bit of paranoia. But mostly it was the fact that the person following him was not what Jango would call stealthy, rather the opposite actually.
His first assumption was that the Twi'lek Senator, having finally regained his wits after being hung off his balcony by his feet, had sent someone after him. He discarded that idea quickly. The Senator was a coward and had far too much to hide to draw attention to the events of last night. His second guess was that it was another Bounty Hunter, probably new to the game, trying to get in on the hunt. He turned the corner into an alley and slid into the shadows to wait, blaster at the ready.
Less than a minute later, a small figure hidden in robes far too large for them turned the corner after him, their head moved back and forth, checking the alleyway. Jango was already running through alien races whose average size was equal to that of a human child, his first thought was a Jawa, but that was highly improbable. The figure looked towards where Jango was standing, and Jango could see their body shift in a way that indicated they were about to move towards where Jango was standing. Too hesitant to be another Bounty Hunter. Jango didn't give the figure a chance to move, instead darting forward, pushing them against the wall. He pushed his blaster into the figure’s stomach, other arm prepared to deflect any weapons they might pull in defense. The stranger yelped, clearly startled, the sound loud and high.
It was a very familiar sounding yelp.
Jango blinked, the events realigning in his mind. It wouldn't have to be a species the size of a human child if it was indeed a human child.
He drew back. "Anakin?"
The hood of the oversized robe fell back, finally showing the boy's face. The blonde boy smiled up at him sheepishly. "Hello, Mr. Jango, Sir.”
Jango closed his eyes, grateful that the exasperation and worry on his face couldn't be seen past his helmet. "Aren't you supposed to be safe in the Jedi Temple?”
Anakin nodded. Still sheepish. "I could feel you here on Coruscant." He hesitated, "I kind of hoped you were with Obi-Wan again.” The boy’s disappointment at Obi-Wan’s absence was clearly visible.
"Wouldn't you have felt him if he were here?" Jango asked. He didn’t always understand the Force, and most of the time he didn’t want to, but he was fairly certain he had understood that much the few times Obi-Wan had explained it to him.
Anakin shrugged, "Obi-Wan can hide himself in the Force, he's shown me how, except I can’t do it very well yet. I thought maybe he was here with you, but he didn't want to distract me."
That would be a useful skill. He wondered if it was possible for a non-Force user to hide their presence, he’d have to ask Obi-Wan. And Jango supposed that Anakin's logic wasn't totally bogus, Obi-Wan probably wouldn't want to distract Anakin, which was why Jango suspected Obi-Wan would probably try to avoid Coruscant unless absolutely necessary over the next few years.
"So you thought you'd sneak out of the Jedi Temple into the lower-levels and hope you found me before someone with more sinister ideas found you?”
Anakin shrugged, looking somewhat morose. "Yeah."
Jango closed his eyes, trying to decide what to do. "Come on, kid. Let’s get you back to the Temple."
The kid looked up at Jango, his blue eyes wide and pleading. "Right now?"
Jango knew when someone was manipulating him, but kark, Anakin’s pleading eyes were effective. Well, it wasn't like Jango was in any sort of hurry to turn Anakin back over to the Jetii, and Anakin should get something for all the effort he’d put into finding Jango. Coruscant wasn’t exactly easy to maneuver one’s way through, Jango was tentatively impressed. "I suppose I can take you to breakfast first." He frowned, trying to remember where the good food could be found on Coruscant, he didn’t exactly come here often. "I think I remember a Besalisk I used to buy weapons from say he was going to set up shop here."
"A weapons dealer?" Anakin didn’t even try to hide his excitement at the idea of eating breakfast with a weapons dealer.
Jango wondered, for a short moment, whether Obi-Wan would approve of Jango taking Anakin out on this particular little outing. But then figured that as long as Jango didn't let anything happen to Anakin, Obi-Wan would be fine with it. After all, Obi-Wan was the one who'd gotten mixed up in the gang war on Rodia, and that was far more dangerous than stopping by a diner in CoCo town. "Not anymore. Now he just runs a diner. Heard he actually serves pretty decent food." Hopefully that was actually true, now that Jango was thinking about it, he was rather hungry. Diner food would be far preferable to whatever he had in his ship right now.
Anakin smiled brightly, “I’m kind of hungry."
That, at least, wasn't a surprise. From what Jango had seen, Anakin was always hungry.
A part of his mind reminded him that he was on a hunt, and that there were other Bounty Hunters chasing the same prey. Breakfast was a distraction; one he wasn’t sure he really had the time for.
But Anakin was now smiling happily, and Jango figured arguing with himself about it was a lost cause. He’d already told Anakin he’d take him to breakfast, and Jango wasn’t the type to go back on his word.
Jango moved the two of them back into the street, this time headed towards CoCo town, Anakin practically skipping beside him. It wasn’t long before the part of his mind always on alert for possible threats nudged at him and the feeling of being followed returned. He tilted his head to the side, and sighed when he caught sight of a Jetii just down the street, following them from a distance. He wasn’t trying particularly hard to go unnoticed and Jango could only assume that the Jetii wanted Jango to know he was there. Jango glanced down at Anakin to see if he realized that he’d been followed from the Temple, but Anakin gave no sign of having noticed.
That was definitely something Anakin should work on. In Jango’s opinion it wasn’t enough to trust in the Force to warn of danger, having a constant awareness of your surroundings would help him recognize danger just as well as any Force sense.
As it was, Jango was split on how he felt about the Jetii following them. If the Jetii had made it this far, then he had probably been following Anakin long enough to recognize that he was in a dangerous part of Coruscant, and the Mandalorian armor Jango was wearing should have had the Jetii removing Anakin from his presence, not causing the Jetii to continue plodding along sedately behind them.
It took less than a half hour to make it to CoCo town and Jango ushered Anakin into the small diner.
He saw the moment Dex caught sight of him, because the Besalisk gave a little nod, enough for Jango to see, but not enough to attract attention.
He nudged Anakin towards a seat near the back, giving Jango a clear view of the door, but also close enough to the kitchen that he could make a quick exit, that didn’t involve breaking through a window, if it became necessary.
He kept an eye on the Jetii through the window and watched him lean against the wall of the building just within Jango’s sight line; the Jetii was speaking calmly into his comm and Jango groaned mentally. Breakfast had obviously been a bad idea; he would have been better off taking Anakin straight back to the Temple. He better not end up getting accused of kidnapping. He debated for a moment before removing his helmet. He wasn’t particularly happy with letting the Jetii see his face, but figured, the situation being what it was, that Jango might as well get it over with.
Dex came up to get their order, a pleasant, neutral smile on his face. “What can I get ya?”
Jango waited for Anakin to look through the menu, a small furrow in his brow. “Can I get the special?” he asked Jango.
Jango nodded, “Two specials, please.”
Dex nodded and his neutral face broke, giving Jango a wink. “I can get that for you.”
Jango tilted his head, “You have much trouble with Jedi?”
Dex took in the robe Anakin was wearing and the very obvious Jedi Initiate clothes underneath. “I serve just about anyone,” he gave Jango a shrewd look, “as long as no one’s being an idiot.”
“I’ll leave the idiocy for others.” He glanced at Anakin, “At least for today, anyways.”
It said something about Dex that he instantly understood that to mean that Jango’s presence on Coruscant was part of a job, but Anakin’s presence was not a part of said job nor was it some scheme. It probably didn’t hurt that Jango’s reputation was clean enough that Dex believed him. Jango didn’t take jobs that involved kids.
“Then we shouldn’t have any trouble with Jedi.” He glanced out the window towards where the Jetii was still leaning against the wall. “That one in particular is a good enough sort.” Jango doubted there was such a thing as a good enough sort of Jetii, because Obi-Wan wasn’t a Jetii anymore and so didn’t count, but accepted Dex’s estimation. “I’ll be back out with your Specials.”
Jango turned back to Anakin who had watched the exchange with wide eyes. “Did you just do that thing that Obi-Wan sometimes does, where you say a lot of different things without actually saying them?”
Jango snorted, “Obi-Wan does do that a lot, doesn’t he?”
Anakin nodded, his face serious. “He says it’s an art. He also says that all the best con artists do it. But Mom says that Obi-Wan isn’t a con artist, so I’m not quite sure why he does it so often.”
Jango shrugged, “Con artists, politicians, people who work with con artists and politicians.” He gave Anakin a grin. “Obi-Wan mostly falls into the latter category.”
Anakin made a face. “The Hutts and the Coalition.”
Jango nodded, “those would definitely count.”
Anakin frowned, looking a little confused. “Are you a con artist?”
Well, he certainly wasn’t a politician. “When I need to be.” He preferred to be honest and straightforward, and he rarely put himself in situations where he’d need to talk his way out, it wasn’t exactly his style. But sometimes being able to con someone was the better route, and the Bounty Hunter who looked down on the ability to talk their way out of their problems was probably a bit of a thug.
Jango glanced up as a two women entered the diner, before dismissing them as not a threat. Anakin was watching him, his eyes serious. “You’re happier now.”
Anakin nodded, “When we were on Tatooine you were unhappy.”
Jango shrugged, “That’s life, kid, sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re not.”
“I guess.” He looked down at the table, and Jango saw his hands playing with the sleeves of the robe. Jango tilted his head a little, the sleeves had been folded in on themselves half a dozen times. He had thought earlier that the robe was big on Anakin, but part of him had just sort of assumed that he’d grabbed it from somewhere in the Temple. There were probably plenty enough robes there for Anakin to take.
“Is that Obi-Wan’s robe?”
Anakin looked up in surprise and then nodded. “Yeah. Uh. I kind of took it before I left.” He looked down again. “It feels like him.” It sounded like a confession, as though it was something Anakin thought he was supposed to feel ashamed of.
Jango could understand wanting a reminder of loved ones, holding on to mementos was hardly something to be embarrassed of. “I assume you have something of your Mom’s too?”
Anakin nodded, “Yeah, I took one of her pendants. I have it hidden in the room they gave me in the Creche.”
Jango gave Anakin a scrutinizing look, trying to figure out what was going on in the kid’s head. “You okay up in that Temple, kid?”
Anakin nodded. “Yeah. I like it.” The words didn’t come out with Anakin’s usual excitement, instead it seemed more like Anakin was trying to summon up the expected emotion.
Jango raised an eyebrow, making sure it showed his disbelief. “I don’t know, that answer seemed a little lackluster to me.” He nudged Anakin’s foot, “I thought you were excited about this.” Anakin’s desire to be at the Temple was one of the main reasons he was there.
The boy nodded, “I was. I mean, I am.” He shrugged, “I just really miss my Mom and Obi-Wan.”
Missed them enough that he’d followed Jango into the lower parts of Coruscant on the off chance that Jango and Obi-Wan were traveling together, despite the fact that the last time Anakin had seen Jango, he and Obi-Wan had been parting ways. “That’s okay. It’s okay to miss the people you love.”
“People keep telling me to let them go, though.”
Jango didn’t have a good answer for that. At least not one that would help Anakin in the situation he was in. Any answer he gave Anakin would go directly against anything the Jetii would tell him, and that wouldn’t help Anakin get more comfortable in his situation. And while Jango thought joining the Jetii had been a stupid decision, he recognized that it was Anakin’s decision, and that it wouldn’t do Anakin any good for Jango to make things more difficult. “I get that that must be hard.” Platitudes and sympathy, it was the best Jango could do when he had no advice. He wasn’t going to make the situation more difficult than it had to be.
Thankfully, Dex chose that moment to bring out their food. Jango pulled out a few credits and Dex tilted his head, “I could half the price of your meal if you happened to have a more valuable currency.”
Jango found himself smiling, because while Dex may have gone clean, so to speak, when he started his Diner, certain habits seemed slow to die. He’d have to see what Dex had heard about Vosa. “Depends on what’s valuable these days.”
“Clarification on some rumors I’ve been hearing, apparently the blockade on Naboo had some unexpected resistance in the form of a Bounty Hunter.” Someday Jango was going to stop being surprised at how quickly rumor made its way through the more shady parts of the Galaxy.
Anakin perked up. “You were on Naboo? Were you with Obi-Wan?”
Dex’s eyes widened the smallest amount and Jango valiantly kept himself from rolling his eyes, at just how much information Anakin had given away with those two questions, instead he turned to Dex and pulled back half of his credits.
Dex was observing Anakin with narrowed eyes, “Would that be Obi-Wan Kenobi you’re talking about? Did you know him before he left the order?”
Jango cut Anakin off before he could say anything. “I don’t want a free meal, and that sort of information costs.” Even saying that much drew enough lines in the sand for someone like Dex to make any number of connections. Whether Dex would assume that Jango was trying to protect Anakin or Obi-Wan didn’t particularly matter when Jango was protecting both of them.
Anakin looked down, looking contrite, Dex just nodded. “Fair enough.” He took the remaining credits and trundled off.
“Did I say something I wasn’t supposed to?” Anakin asked, his voice small.
“You were fine, Anakin.”
Anakin sighed. “Which means I did.”
Jango tilted his head. “It means that what you said was fine.”
“But you didn’t want me saying it.”
“No. I would have preferred you didn’t.”
Anakin’s brow furrowed even as he took a bite of his food. “I said that there was a connection between you and Obi-Wan.”
“And that there was a connection between me and Obi-Wan.”
“And I made it sound like I knew Obi-Wan’s movements.”
Jango nodded, smiling a little, “Or at least that you heard Obi-Wan was on Naboo, remember, Obi-Wan was on Coruscant right before he went to Naboo, so for all Dex knows, you may have only learned it then.”
“Oh, okay.” Anakin furrowed his brow again, “And when you took back half of the credits you were acknowledging the connection between you and Obi-Wan, and admitting to having been on Naboo.”
“Generally speaking.” He gave Anakin a smile, “You did well. Next time just think about what everything you say might tell another person.”
Anakin sighed, “Obi-Wan always tells me that, but then I get so excited and I say things on accident.”
Jango laughed, that did sound like Anakin, and he wasn’t surprised that Obi-Wan, wordsmith that he was, had already had a similar conversation with Anakin.
The door opened again and a young man in fancy clothing entered, a look on his face that clearly indicated an overestimation of his own importance.
Dex apparently agreed because he only gave the man a halfhearted welcome. If the young man noticed the slight he didn’t react to it. “The Chancellor of the Republic himself sent me to bring him a meal from your diner.” The words were spoken louder than necessary, obviously intended to draw attention to himself and his oh-so-glorious position. The young man, probably a Senate Aide if what he said was true, gave the diner an unimpressed look over.
“Chancellor, huh?” Dex looked unimpressed, “Didn’t think the Chancellor was aware of humble diners like mine.”
“The Chancellor is a man in touch with the average citizen.”
Dex snorted, “Right. Then I’ll get him a meal fit for the average citizen.” The aide’s face went panicked, as though realizing he’d be the one who had to deliver the meal, and while being in touch with the average citizen sounded all well and good, it probably didn’t align with the overtly fancy food that the Chancellor probably normally ate. Jango figured the aide had nothing to worry about, Dex wouldn’t do anything that would put his Diner on the radar in a bad way. The meal for the Chancellor would be just good enough to be enjoyable, but not good enough to stand out.
Dex went to prepare the meal and the Senate Aide looked around the Diner. Jango saw the moment the aide’s eyes caught sight of Anakin’s robe and Initiate clothing, as the aide took a step closer to their table, obviously assuming that a Jedi Initiate was the best sort of clientele he would find in the Diner. Jango made sure to give him a smile that showed just enough teeth for the aide to rethink that decision.
Anakin was watching the aide with an interested look on his face as he slurped at his shake. “I met the Chancellor once.” He told Jango seriously. “Well, before he was Chancellor, back when he was just a Senator.”
“Oh?” Jango asked, “Did you like him?”
Anakin tilted his head as though thinking. “I thought he was nice, he offered me some of his dessert when I finished all of mine.” Then he shook his head. “But Obi-Wan didn’t like him.”
“I’m surprised Obi-Wan said that.”
Anakin shook his head, “He didn’t. He just did that thing where his eyes go kind of empty and he smiles a lot.”
Jango nodded, because that did seem to describe exactly how Obi-Wan’s conversations with the Chancellor had gone. To anyone who didn’t know Obi-Wan, it wasn’t obvious, his body language and his tone and his words all stayed normal. He would just be painfully polite and his eyes would lose all of the brightness they normally had.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of him when I met him, either.”
“You met the Chancellor?”
Jango nodded. “On Naboo, actually. With Obi-Wan.”
“So he’s probably not one of the good politicians, even if he says he is.”
“Why do you say that?”
Anakin shrugged, “Neither you nor Obi-Wan like him.” As though that was the most obvious explanation in the world.
“I don’t like most politicians.” The majority of them were self-centered liars who would screw over their own people to get the smallest bit ahead. Jango didn’t think he’d ever met a politician he genuinely liked.
Anakin shrugged acceptingly. “Or Jedi. You don’t like them either.”
Jango didn’t think there was any point in pretending that wasn’t true. “I like you, little Jedi in training that you are.”
“Because of Obi-Wan?”
Jango raised an eyebrow at that, a little surprised. “I like you because I like you.”
Anakin beamed at that, but didn’t drop the issue. “But also because of Obi-Wan.”
Jango sighed, not everything in Jango’s life revolved around Obi-Wan. “What makes you think that?”
“That’s what Mom said. She said you like us fine, and that you’d probably hurt anyone who hurt us, but you like Obi-Wan the most.” Anakin nodded seriously. “She said you’d probably kill anyone who hurt him.”
Why Shmi had felt the need to tell Anakin this in those particular terms was beyond Jango, it didn’t matter that she was mostly right and that she had obviously gotten her point across. “You know, your Mom and Obi-Wan aren’t always going to be right.”
Anakin looked as though he doubted that, Jango figured that Anakin’s unshakeable faith in the two of them would last a few more years, at least until the teenage rebellion hit. “Are you going to marry Obi-Wan, like Cliegg married Mom?” Anakin asked, staring at Jango from around a bite of food.
Jango just stared at Anakin, completely unprepared for that question. “What has your Mom been telling you that made you think that?”
“Nothing. It’s just you’re the only person that has ever been there for Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan has been there for lots of people. People were always calling him, asking him to solve problems for them, and Obi-Wan was really good at it, so I get why they always asked him for help. But none of them ever really helped Obi-Wan. Except for you. You helped him.” Anakin looked serious for a moment. “But it’s not just that you tried to help, it’s the fact that Obi-Wan let you. I know he loves me and Mom, but he was always so busy trying to protect us that sometimes he forgot to let us protect him. But he lets you.”
Jango ignored the tiny thrill the thought gave him. He did not need validation from a nine year old on Jango’s importance in Obi-Wan’s life.
Though that made it both Shmi and Anakin who had acknowledged it. Even Obi-Wan had acknowledged that there was something to acknowledge, even if he was at least half a dozen steps behind the Skywalkers when it came to understanding which position in Obi-Wan’s life Jango was aiming for.
And didn’t that say something about Obi-Wan that a nine year old had better comprehension of the situation than he did.
Still, he deflected Anakin’s point. “Didn’t that Nield fellow help relocate slaves?”
Anakin shook his head, then stopped, paused for a moment, and nodded. “Obi-Wan says it was to help repopulate the planet after too many wars.”
Once again, the opening of the diner door gave Jango an out. It was the Jetii who’d been following them and a second Jetii, this one a Kel Dor. Both of them headed towards where Jango and Anakin were sitting. Jango had to mentally stop himself from reaching for his blaster. The Kel Dor had the sort of powerful stride that spoke of confidence and restrained strength. Not a Jetii that should be treated as anything less than a very viable threat.
Anakin was looking down at the table again, pointedly not looking at the Jetii making their way towards there table. “You’re quite far from the Temple, Anakin.” The Kel Dor said, his voice not unkind.
“Hello Master Koon.”
The Jetii, Koon, stepped back, an arm coming out in a clear gesture. “Come, my young friend, it’s time for us to return to the Temple, if we hurry you’ll only be a little late for your astronavigation class.”
Anakin nodded, standing and moving from the table. He looked embarrassed and a little nervous, but not frightened or overtly stressed. Anakin darted around the table quickly towards Jango and then hesitated, suddenly unsure. Jango lifted one arm and Anakin darted in for a hug. “Thanks for breakfast.” He looked down and his voice went low, “Are you going to be looking after Obi-Wan and Mom?”
Jango recognized it as the same question Anakin had asked the last time they’d seen each other back on Tatooine, before Naboo and before Anakin had joined the Temple. He also remembered what he had answered then. “If they let me.” It was as equally honest as his last answer, though this was far closer to the answer that Anakin had wanted then.
Anakin’s eyes brightened. “Thank you.” He snuck another hug. “Bye, Mr. Jango.”
The Kel Dor was watching them, eyes placid from above his breather. “It was a pleasure, Mr. Jango.” It was impressive how the simple pleasantry managed to convey a very explicit warning. Jango had a feeling he’d avoided the tone slipping into threatening territory by the skin of his teeth. The Kel Dor placed a hand on Anakin’s shoulder and guided him out of the diner.
The other Jetii, however, slid into Anakin’s seat, sprawling out across it, snagging the last bit of Anakin’s breakfast and popping it into his mouth with an exaggerated motion, an absolutely infuriating smirk on his face.
“I would take great joy in gutting you.” Jango informed him, his voice casual.
“And I’d love to slice off your limbs, one by one.” The Jetii smirked. “But then Obi-Wan would be mad at me.” He pointed a finger at Jango. “And don’t think he wouldn’t be mad at you if you gutted me.”
The way the Jetii had immediately brought up Obi-Wan only made Jango’s defenses go higher. “And I care, why?”
The Jetii snorted, “Yeah, you could probably pull that off with most people. But the thing is, Obi-Wan is one of my best friends. I know from personal experience how much it sucks to be on the receiving end of those angry-disappointed eyes.”
Jango didn’t think he’d managed to be on the end of that particular emotion yet, but he could imagine that it was an unpleasant experience. “I’m still not seeing why I should care.”
The Jetii just rolled his eyes, “Look, I’m going to be about as honest with you as I ever get. I dislike you. Immensely. I don’t even know you and I dislike you. But I’m pretty sure Obi-Wan actually likes you, and I know you care for him, can’t say I know for sure how much, but I know you do. You don’t think I’d have just let Anakin wander around with just anyone, not without either a personal seal of approval or an Obi-Wan seal of approval.”
“You say a lot, but you’ve spent, what, a few hours with Kenobi in the past five years? And you expect me to think you have a clue what you’re talking about?”
The Jetii just smirked, “Ah, don’t be jealous I know Obi-Wan better than you do.”
Jango just raised an eyebrow, refusing to let the Jetii irritate him. “Didn’t realize that was something a person would have a reason to be jealous of.”
The Jetii gave him a sharp, vicious smirk, a complete contrast to Obi-Wan’s quieter smirks and dryer humor. It was hard to imagine two individuals more different and less likely to be friends.
Other than perhaps Jango himself and Obi-Wan.
“I admit, I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on the crazy things Obi-Wan got up to. But,” the Jetii whistled, “I got to say, making friends with Jango Fett of all people. That caught me by surprise.”
It was thrown out, an obvious piece of bait. “Oh, so Kenobi’s been telling you all about me, then?” It was a calculated statement, because Jango had serious doubts that Obi-Wan would bandy about their friendship, not even with someone he considered a friend. The Jetii agreeing would pretty clearly mark him as a liar.
“Nah.” The Jetii smirked. “He’s not really one for sharing. I’m just really good at putting the pieces together.”
Jango tilted his head to the side. “It’s like you want me to stab you.”
The Jetii spread his arms, as though opening up his chest for easier access, “Quinlan Vos, I’d say I’m at your service, but I’m not.”
“Then what are you here for?”
“Oh, any number of things. Obi-Wan asked me to keep an eye on his wayward son.” The Jetii, Vos, shrugged, “Didn’t expect him to sneak out within a month of coming, but not completely surprised either. And then there’s the part where I’ve always enjoyed finding dangerous people and annoying them.”
“Well, I’ll give you credit for being at least being partially successful today. Can’t say I was all that impressed with your ability to keep an eye on a nine year old if he’s making his way to the lower levels of Coruscant. But you’re doing real well on being annoying.”
“You ever tried to stop Obi-Wan from doing something he was determined to do?”
Jango just raised an eyebrow, because whatever Vos thought he knew, Jango hadn’t admitted to anything yet, and he wasn’t going to start now.
Vos snorted. “I’ll take that as a no. Because if you had, you’d know it’s a useless endeavor to try and out stubborn him. And I’m pretty sure that’s a trait Obi-Wan passed on to his kid.”
Idly, Jango considered that his and Obi-Wan’s first fight could potentially get very nasty, because Vos, for all his apparent idiocy, was right. Obi-Wan was stubborn, incredibly so. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, so was Jango.
But then Jango realized what Vos had just admitted to. “Are you saying you allowed Anakin to follow me into the lower levels?” He knew his voice had dropped into the danger levels, but if the Jetii noticed, he did nothing to acknowledge it.
“Had to figure out what his motive was.” Vos raised an eyebrow, “If the only time he sneaks out is when you’re on planet, then that makes the situation simpler, if harder to predict. If he was doing it for the thrill of sneaking out, then that would make the situation a bit more complicated, but at least his attempts would likely become more habitual and easier to predict.”
At least the reasoning wasn’t completely idiotic. But Jango still remembered putting his blaster to Anakin’s stomach. It didn’t matter what the reasoning was, the Jetii had let Anakin walk right into danger.
“And what were you going to do if I had proven to be untrustworthy?”
Vos’s eyes hardened and for the first time the man actually looked as dangerous as Jango had already known he was. “I highly suggest you don’t do anything to find out.”
Jango raised a single eyebrow, letting his skepticism show on his face, “You aren’t exactly what I would call a newsworthy threat.”
Vos had a shark smile, one that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the darker scoundrels of the galaxy, a smile that would have been at home on Jango’s own face, “Never said I was the one you had to be afraid of.” Vos leaned backwards, his movements calculatedly relaxed. “Though you should be.”
Jango didn’t scoff, but he slouched back and tilted his head away in clear dismissal. “You here for a reason?”
Vos watched him for a long moment. “Mostly just curious.”
“I wanted to meet the person who had managed to make Obi-wan feel safe.” Vos leaned forward. “And I wanted to make sure they knew better than to take advantage of him.” The words came out more threatening than when Vos had suggested slicing Jango’s limbs off.
Jango met Vos’s eyes, knowing that they would convey his understanding. “If that’s all, I have a job to get back to.”
He frowned as he scanned through the information that had come through to his datapad while he’d been in hyperspace. Vosa and her gang covered their tracks well, but it was near impossible for groups of that nature to be able to remain completely off the grid. No, groups like that maintained power by being difficult to track, and being terrifying enough that most people weren’t willing to try.
He stifled a grin when he went through the message Roz had sent him, she didn’t have much information, but what she did have was accompanied by a warning to stay away from bounties he couldn’t beat and that maybe he should be looking for a nice girl, or guy if that’s what he was currently interested in, to settle down with. Which Jango took to mean that Roz had heard about Naboo the same as everybody else.
It was impressive, it’d been almost a month, but the rumors about what had happened on Naboo had spread admirably. And while most people still seemed to be under the impression that it must have been good money, enough people were making the connection that it hadn’t been money that had brought him there.
His comlink went off and Jango answered it absentmindedly, comparing two contradicting reports. “Fett.”
Jango stopped going through the reports immediately, surprised at hearing Obi-Wan’s voice.
“Obi-Wan. Is anything wrong?”
“No.” Obi-Wan laughed, and Jango felt his alarm fade at the sincerity behind the laugh, even if it sounded a touch on the nervous side. “Things are fine.”
“I wish that was more reassuring, but given that it’s you saying it, you’ll have to forgive me my hesitancy to take that at face value.” It was true, but for the moment it was simply a teasing comment.
“I don’t suppose there’s a way for me to reassure you?” Obi-Wan’s voice teased back.
If Obi-Wan were here, or if Jango were there. “Probably not, no. You know I prefer seeing things with my own eyes.”
“That may be difficult at the moment. I’m headed back to Coruscant at present.” Obi-Wan’s voice was carefully neutral, indicating that Obi-Wan had, at the least, mixed feelings about his current trip and, at the most, was actually upset by the trip.
Jango was just surprised Obi-Wan was headed there in the first place, it definitely went against what Jango had expected.
“Your timing is awful. I just left there.”
“Is it an interesting bounty you’re chasing?” Obi-Wan sounded genuinely curious and Jango hesitated. He knew Obi-Wan still cared about the Jetii, and Jango didn’t think tacking on ‘former’ would change the way Obi-Wan felt about this particular bounty.
“I don’t know if you’d approve.” He wasn’t going to lie about it, but he felt it best to at least warn Obi-Wan that he might not want to know.
Jango glanced at the ceiling of his ship. He wondered if he would take a bounty on a Jedi, given his relationship with Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan hesitated for a moment and Jango waited patiently for his reaction. “Not me, I hope.”
Jango clenched his fist and took a deep breath, only when he was sure his voice wouldn’t betray the effect Obi-Wan’s doubt had on him did he let himself speak again, making sure that Obi-Wan could hear his reproach. “Not you, never you, you should know that.” Osik, there had been a bounty on Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan hadn’t even been in the best of conditions and Jango had stayed with him to protect him.
“Not many Jedi leave the order.” It was a deflection and an apology at the same time.
“Well, she did,” he emphasized her gender. “And she’s got a pretty hefty bounty on her.” He paused there, but then decided this was a situation where complete honesty would help. “I’d probably go after her even if it weren’t such a large bounty though.”
“Because she is a Former Jedi?” Jango was grateful that at least that question sounded confused, rather than like an accusation or a suspicion.
“She was on Galidraan.”
He heard Obi-Wan take a sharp breath. “I understand.” The sound of Obi-Wan clearing his throat came across the comm and Jango could practically hear Obi-Wan’s thoughts racing as he tried to figure out how to respond to Jango’s confession. They hadn’t spoken about Galidraan, not beyond that first day. It was a conversation they would need to have, eventually. But this was the first time their pasts had clashed like this and Jango couldn’t be sure how Obi-Wan would react. “After.” Obi-Wan’s voice cut through the silence. “We should meet up after your bounty.”
Jango felt relieved at the suggestion. “I look forward to it.” He didn’t think Obi-Wan was saying he approved of Jango’s hunt, but he was saying that Jango wouldn’t lose Obi-Wan over it. “Why are you headed to Coruscant? Not stealing Anakin back, are you?”
“Don’t tempt me.” The laugh that accompanied the statement sounded relieved, Anakin was an easier conversation to have than a conversation about Galidraan and former Jetii.
“No, no. I should definitely tempt you.” He wondered if he should bring up the conversation he’d had with Anakin, the worry Jango had that Anakin wasn’t happy.
“I am not going to steal Anakin back.” Obi-Wan’s voice was firm, and Jango grinned because Jango recognized that particular voice, Obi-Wan was obviously having second thoughts about this situation. “I picked up a Jedi Master and his padawan, they’d been stranded, I’m bringing them back to Coruscant.”
Jango felt a twinge of annoyance at that, he’d seen the way the Jetii had treated Obi-Wan. But of course they would have no compunctions asking Obi-Wan to be their taxi. “The Jedi asked you to pick up their stranded members?”
Jango paused, taking that in. If the Jetii hadn’t asked Obi-Wan to… “The Jedi don’t even know. Don’t even remember.”
“I’m sure Master Narec would be touched by your offense on his behalf.”
Jango couldn’t help but snort at the dry tone. “I’m sure.” He let go of his annoyance and dislike, if it didn’t bother Obi-Wan, then Jango had no reason to let it bother him, at least when there was nothing he could do about it. It was just his instinctive dislike of the Jetii coming out. “How did that happen, anyways? The odds of stumbling across a stranded Jedi are small, even for you.”
“It’s somewhat complicated.” Jango raised an eyebrow at that, because when wasn’t it complicated. “I’ve also sort of adopted two boys.”
Jango took a second to process what Obi-Wan had just said and then started laughing, shaking in his seat. He shook his head before he finally got the laughter under control again. “I can’t say I’m surprised, because it’s you, Obi-Wan. But you realize it hasn’t even been a month.”
Obi-Wan’s voice sounded disgruntled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jango laughed and he felt some of the stress disappear from his shoulders. He couldn’t quite let himself relax, but it was the closest he’d ever gotten to relaxing while on a hunt. He let the laugh fade away. “Was there a reason why you called?” Obi-Wan had said that nothing was wrong, but Jango couldn’t think of another reason why Obi-Wan would have called.
“No. Not really.”
Jango took that in. It hadn’t occurred to him that Obi-Wan might have called for the simple reason that he wanted to talk.
“Well, I can’t switch to hyperspace for another few parsecs.” It had the benefit of being true without Jango having to admit that he would have held off going into hyperspace for however long Obi-Wan wanted to talk.
Osik, he was getting ridiculous.
He told Obi-Wan about his hunt so far. Obi-Wan sounded as though he was trying not to laugh as he reprimanded Jango for hanging the senator from his own balcony. At least Jango could tell Obi-Wan that he hadn’t killed the man, though it was always tempting when dealing with scum like that.
When he finished that particular story, Obi-Wan asked about some of his other hunts. Jango frowned and stared at the comlink for a long moment before starting another story. He slowed his voice down just a tad, softening his tone as he started on the story of his first solo hunt.
He made it through another few stories when the sound of angry beeps and whistles made their way across the comm. Obi-Wan’s voice sounded apologetic when he spoke again. “I need to go.” Obi-Wan hesitated, “But comm me after your hunt is over.”
He would do so happily. “Of course.” Jango rolled his eyes when R2’s whistling and beeping seemed to increase in annoyance, though that might just be Jango’s imagination. “Go handle whatever R2 is screeching about.”
Obi-Wan ended the call and Jango put his comlink away, eyebrows scrunched in thought. Something was up with Obi-Wan. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, there was nothing he could do about it at the moment.
He turned back to his datapad, pulled out a map of the galaxy, and started marking down where the assassinations attributed to the Bando Gora were happening, and then compared them to the distribution patterns of the death sticks that the Bando Gora specialized in.
He’d been told by both Roz and Dex that the Bando Gora were based somewhere along the Hydian Way, and those patterns matched their intel.
It didn’t take much longer to narrow down the search to somewhere in the inner rim. Arkania, Bogden, Corsin, and Ploo were the best bets.
Arkania and Ploo were both big trade planets, though possibly too big. While Corsin was a major stop on the Corsin Run, which was useful for smuggling death sticks. Bogden was perhaps the least likely, neither big in trade or a convenient stop on the Corsin Run, but it was conveniently located between the other three, and both Bogden and its moons were mostly graveyards, which was a surefire way to attract trouble.
He went through the information again, hoping that he’d find something he’d dismissed earlier to help narrow down the search. When a second review left no further leads he looked at the information he had and then went with his gut. Jango would put his bet on Bogden, which meant his best option would be to stop on Corsin first. Anyone with any sense in the Bogden system would either be a part of Bando Gora or too afraid to speak against them. Corsin was far enough away for the rumors to have spread, but not far enough away that the rumors would have gotten too far off base yet.
Plus Corsin would have smugglers, which meant smuggling pass codes, and that would mean access.
He leaned back in the chair, glass of alcohol in his hand. He could feel a few eyes on him, but most people, upon seeing his armor, were smart enough to keep their eyes averted. His own eyes drifted over the bar, cataloging the current clientele, looking for someone who would probably have the information he wanted and would be easily parted from it.
His eyes landed on a group of smugglers, one of the men was clearly holding court, sprawled back in his seat, feet on the table, there was a glass of alcohol in his hand, right at the almost empty point, where he was using it to make grand gestures. It would be a good guess he was drunk if the glass hadn’t maintained that level of drink since Jango had first spotted him while his companions had all emptied their cups several times over.
Most interestingly, though, was the fact that two of the clearly inebriated men were sporting a tattoo eerily similar to the masks that many of the Bando Gora reportedly used.
Bounty Hunter, one who had clearly also narrowed down the position of Komari Vosa to this particular region. Jango wasn’t surprised that other Bounty Hunters had made it this far. He was more surprised that there weren’t more Bounty Hunters here if he was honest, 5 million Republic credits would be enough to make even a coward try his hand at Komari Vosa.
Jango sat back, curious to see how this unknown Bounty Hunter would handle extracting his information.
No one said he had to do all the work himself.
Movement to his left caught his eye and Jango turned his head slightly.
Obi-Wan Kenobi ordering a drink certainly wasn’t what he’d expected to see. The man turned and caught his eye and a familiar dry smirk crossed his face before he moved towards where Jango was sitting, the way he walked was one Jango had seen any number of times, the confident stroll of a man unafraid of going head to head with a Hutt. He was dressed casually, though Jango could see he was still armed.
Jango sent the man a sharp, predatory smile. “Thought you were headed back to Naboo to help with the reconstruction efforts.”
Obi-Wan tilted his head, a small, deferential nod. “I was, but then I thought that you might let me tag along.”
“And I suppose you were hoping we could split the reward, too.”
The man sat, Jango didn’t miss the way his body was positioned in clear invitation and Jango beat back a swell of anger. “Naboo could use the resources.”
“Oh, I bet they could. But I’m not a charity, you know that.”
“Consider it my last lesson. You never taught me how to take down something this big.”
Jango reached out with his foot, catching the leg of the other man’s seat and pulling him closer. “A lesson, huh?”
A small smile, and this one was right, that small, confused, complicated smile that Obi-Wan had given him so many times. “One last lesson.”
Jango nodded, “I suppose a teacher’s work is never done.”
He leaned forward and Obi-Wan did the same to meet him.
Jango used the foot still hooked around the leg of the chair to yank the man’s seat up and back, grabbing the man’s arm as he flailed trying to catch himself. Jango twisted the other man up and forward, smashing his face against the table an inch away from where Jango’s helmet was resting, the man’s arm twisted painfully behind his back.
There was the sound of people yelping at the disturbance, Jango ignored them. As long as there wasn’t any bloodshed no one was likely to interfere. Even if there was bloodshed most of them wouldn’t interfere.
“First lesson. Don’t ever use his face again.”
The man grunted as Jango pushed his arm up further. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Fett.”
“Second lesson. Don’t lie to someone who’s looking for an excuse to kill you.” He pushed the arm up further, there would definitely be a dislocation. Jango almost hoped the man gave Jango a reason to push that little bit further.
“Fine, fine.” The man shifted beneath him, body thinning and changing until a human woman was glaring at him from where she was still stuck against the table. “Where did I mess up?”
Jango didn’t answer the question immediately. “Tell me that doesn’t work on most people.”
The woman shrugged, and then winced as it pulled at her arm. “It does most of the time. People disregard any oddities they notice in favor of trusting their eyes. So, again, where did I mess up? I know I looked like him and I even based my behavior off of personal observation.”
The woman blinked at him, clearly surprised. “He had a public meeting with Jabba. You were there, I noticed you leaving right after him. I figured the reward wasn’t high enough to risk getting in your way if you were taking that particular bounty.”
Jango hummed, she was lucky she hadn’t gone after Obi-Wan then, because Jango didn’t think he would have shown any mercy if she had. As it was, she was now at two offenses, she better pray she didn’t commit a third. “What was that nonsense about lessons?”
“That was a guess. There had been rumors that you’d taken on a mentoring role for some new Bounty Hunter, though none of them had any real substance as to who you were teaching. Then Naboo happened and people talk. I made the reasonable assumption.”
Had she been grasping at straws? A little bit. But given that she’d come to an at least somewhat correct assumption he didn’t feel the need to point it out.
“Why his face?”
She gave him a disbelieving look. “There was a bounty on him and you didn’t take it, and then Naboo happened. Figured you’d started sleeping with him during one of your lessons and he was a particularly good lay.”
Jango considered breaking her arm. “You made the wrong assumptions.”
Jango let her go, taking a step back. She straightened, clothes hanging loose on her body, and he saw her reach for her blaster. Jango smirked as he twirled it.
“I’m serious, where did I mess up?”
“I’ve no clue where exactly Kenobi is, much less whether he’s hanging around Naboo.” He lied easily. He’d known before that conversational gambit. A part of him thought he would have known even if he hadn’t known that Obi-Wan was headed to Coruscant. Most everything she’d done had a facet of Obi-Wan behind it, but in all the wrong ways. Mostly, she hadn’t felt like Obi-Wan.
The woman cursed quietly at such an obvious slip, but then she straightened her shoulders. “The offer still stands though. Vosa and Bando Gora aren’t exactly the type of people someone should try and take on by themselves. Not even you, Fett.”
Jango eyed her but sat back down. She took a moment to right her chair before sitting across from him. Jango pushed her seat further away from him, not particularly in the mood for her to be in his space.
She glared at him and Jango ignored her in order to take a look around the room, the Bounty Hunter he’d picked out earlier was still here, though his group had been whittled down, only three of them were left, and two of them were the ones Jango had marked as the smugglers who worked for the Bando Gora.
The Bounty Hunter was sending them covert glances, and Jango let his eyes drift past him. He finished looking around the room and focused back on the woman in front of him. She was glaring at him with an expectant look on her face.
“What’s your name?”
“Zam Wesell.” She winked at him, “and there’s no need for you to introduce yourself, Jango Fett.”
Jango just raised an eyebrow at her. “You want to partner?”
“Don’t pretend you’ve never done it before.” Jango wondered if she was referring to his time as a Mercenary with the True Mandalorians or if she was referencing Obi-Wan. Neither was a particularly smart idea to bring up at the moment. He mentally shook his head. Osik, the shifter had actually managed to rattle him. Bane hadn’t been quiet about the few jobs they’d done together, and his and Aurra’s complicated partnership hadn’t exactly been a secret.
“I have standards.”
If Wesell took offense she didn’t show it. “You know I’d be useful.”
Jango scoffed openly even as he considered the idea. “You haven’t exactly proved it.” He leaned forward before she could protest. “Test run. You want to join forces, you convince our bounty hunter friend over there to share what information he’s been able to gather on where Vosa is hiding out.”
Wesell followed the tilt of his head to where the hunter in question was standing up, his inebriated friends sprawled out on the table, half of them snoring and the other half close to joining them. Jango watched her take in the scene before she let out a short whistle. “Nice eye.” She turned back to him. “You going to be any help?”
Jango just raised an eyebrow at her. “I’m not the one who has to prove that they’re competent.” He stood, grabbing his helmet and donning it. “You said it yourself, I’m Jango Fett.”
He strode towards the door, moving to catch up with the other Bounty Hunter. Wesell caught up with him within the first few strides. “Fine. I’ll do it.”
“I look forward to seeing you be something other than a disappointment.”
“Give me my blaster back.”
Jango tossed it to her and she caught it easily, sliding it back into its holster. He thought he heard her mutter something highly uncomplimentary about him, but he ignored her.
They exited the bar and Jango could see the Bounty Hunter had made his way to the end of the street. “I’ll be watching,” he told Wesell, he started his jet pack, hovering above her. “You have 15 minutes before I decide to take care of this myself.”
She sent him a rude gesture and Jango watched as she shifted forms again, this time into an unassuming male.
He kept his distance as she quickly moved to catch up with the other Bounty Hunter.
Wesell followed along behind the man, Jango noted when the first Bounty Hunter realized he was being followed and decided to take the altercation into a nearby alley.
Wesell was a decent fighter. She dodged the first blaster shot and knocked the blaster out of the other man’s hand. The ensuing tussle was hard to follow, as they tried to beat the other into submission. He was a little disappointed that neither of them pulled out any other weapons.
Wesell got the other man against the wall, and Jango was somewhat pacified to see that she had a knife at the other’s throat.
He landed behind them and Wesell gave him a questioning look. He just gestured for her to continue. The other Bounty Hunter looked unnerved to see him there.
“Where is Vosa?” Wesell’s voice was deep and rough.
“I don’t know!”
Wesell’s knife flashed and the man yelled. “I don’t like it when people lie to me.”
Jango shifted to the side to better see the cut. Deep enough to hurt, not deep enough to permanently injure. It was on his dominant arm, could possibly slow his drawing speed, but shouldn’t impact his mobility. For a first strike, it was a decent warning. He approved. Though it would have been interesting to see Wesell try to talk the information out of the other man. Violence was easy.
“I’m not lying. I don’t know where she is.”
There was a second flash of the blade and Jango wasn’t surprised when the Bounty Hunter yelled again. He was definitely new to the game, and after this little stunt probably wouldn’t go for any big fish for a very long time.
“You’re a pretty big man, that means a lot of skin for me to decorate. Don’t play with me.”
Jango was disappointed when the man broke, definitely new to the game, he wouldn’t have lasted thirty seconds against Vosa. “One of the moons of Bogden!”
“I don’t know!” Wesell went to cut again and the man quailed. “Either Kohlma or Kavta! Probably. According to the smugglers, both moons are used as supply pick ups!”
Wesell frowned but withdrew. “You believe him?”
Jango stared at the man for a long moment and he visibly shrunk into himself. “I do.”
“You’ve got thirty seconds to get out of my sight. And if I were you I’d stay far away from Vosa. She’ll make me look as harmless as an Ewok.”
Wesell had obviously never met any Ewoks, though the warning was apparently understood anyways, because the man darted away.
Wesell shifted forms again into what Jango presumed was her favored form. “Well?”
“I got the information in less than ten minutes.”
“Like I said, not bad.” He shrugged. “If you’d gotten it in less than five minutes I might have actually considered being impressed.”
“I would have liked to see you try.”
Jango ignored her, pulling out his datapad to start searching for information on both Kohlma and Kavta.
Wesell looked over his shoulder and scanned the information. “My bet’s on Kavta, it’s closer to the planet, better protected. Plus Kohlma’s a graveyard.”
“That settles it.” He put the datapad away and started heading for his ship. “Kohlma it is.”
Wesell made an outraged noise. “Excuse you.” Jango kept walking and after a moment Wesell caught up with him. “So are we doing this together or what?”
Jango gave her a sidelong look. “We’ll both scout out Kohlma, give it a few days to figure out the patterns and then we can take Vosa.”
“You know, you don’t get to just tell me what to do.”
“You are more than free to try and take Vosa on your own. But I don’t go into a situation without intel if I can avoid it.” He was never making that mistake again.
Wesell grumbled something under her breath. “Give me your comm information.”
Jango snorted but relayed his work comm designation to her.
They split ways and Jango took a moment to watch her go. She had potential, but there were obvious signs that she was also fairly new to the game. He wasn’t teaching anyone else, Obi-Wan had been an exception Jango still wasn’t sure why he’d gone along with. And while he was willing to do a single job with just about anyone, especially when back up wouldn’t go amiss, he didn’t need to give her pointers, he didn’t trust that she wouldn’t try to use it against him in the future. A good Bounty Hunter needed to be ruthless and dangerous. And Wesell had that potential But if she wanted to reach a higher caliber, then she needed to recognize that her blaster was only as good as her mind. And so far she only seemed to have two weapons in her arsenal, violence and her shapeshifting. He didn’t get to where he was by shooting everything in his path, though in the right situation he was more than willing to do so.
He returned to the tavern, and went straight for the men still drunk at their table. One of them grumbled when Jango quickly went through his pockets, but didn’t manage anything more than a few slurred insults and what Jango thought might have been a leer. He stole the ignition chip for his ship from the man’s belt pouch before moving on to the next man and stealing his chip as well.
And this was why Jango didn’t let himself get black out drunk.
That and the last time he’d gotten black out drunk was after Galidraan and he’d shot first and asked questions never, it hadn’t ended well.
He made his way to the shipping dock and quickly found both ships. He let himself into the first ship, and started sifting through the computer banks, some of the content was password protected and it took him longer than he would have liked to hack his way past it. He downloaded the information, grinning viciously when it looked like his intuition had paid off, Vosa was most definitely on Kohlma. And once he got her, he had no doubt that there would be people who would pay good money for the rest of this information.
He made sure he’d gotten everything he wanted and then stood back and blasted the computer frame. He left the smoking computer behind as he exited the ship and moved to the next one to repeat the process.
By the time he made it back to his ship he had two different access codes for landing on Kohlma, as well as all the information the two smugglers had stored about their many different clients. The two smugglers, unfortunately for them, had ships that would need their computer systems replaced before they ever flew again.
“So what’s the great Jango Fett’s plan to get close? Land in one of the deserted areas outside of the range of their cannons and then jetpack closer?”
Jango rolled his eyes. “I thought I was going to use one of their access codes to avoid getting shot out of the sky.”
“Where did you get a landing code?” Wesell sounded outraged, as though Jango had been holding out on her.
Jango smirked and sent her the extra access code. “That would be telling. But there you go, an access code just for you.”
Wesell sounded reluctantly impressed. “This will make things easier.”
Hopefully, Jango was banking on the landing process being mostly computer automated. The codes should be enough to get
them past the cannons, but once they landed they were probably going to start running into real complications.
He watched as Wesell’s ship got permission to land and then followed her in his own ship. After a few moments his codes got him equal access.
The area he landed in was fairly clear and Jango felt immediately suspicious. He moved quietly away from his ship, on high alert.
He slid around the outskirts of the base, noting weak points as he went.
Everything remained eerily quiet. He could see members of the Bando Gora moving throughout the base, and between landing pads. But they moved quietly, and everything about them screamed of death and decay. From the skull helmets they wore to the way their skin looked as though it was dead and mottled.
The years spent on Kohlma had not been kind to them.
Personally, if he had his way he was never coming back to Kohlma. All of his information had told him that the entire moon had been turned into a mass graveyard, but that knowledge had failed to prepare him for the fact that the moon felt like death. Jango wasn’t afraid of ghosts. The dead couldn’t hurt the living, but the air was charged with anticipation, as though thousands of dead eyes were focused on him, whispering promises that any sane person would see as a threat and a warning of imminent death.
It wasn’t real, he knew. But the feeling was still unsettling.
“I think I’ve got a way in.” Wesell’s voice was quiet through the comm in his helmet.
“Don’t take it.” He told her quietly. “This is recon only.”
It was quiet for a long moment and he could tell she was trying to decide whether to ignore him.
They continued their separate recons in silence.
“Once you’re done meet me between our two ships, we’ll compare notes.”
“Fine.” Jango ignored the petulance in the other Bounty Hunter’s voice. She was the one who wanted to team up, she could put up with Jango’s way of doing things.
He had just made it to the rendezvous spot when things started going wrong. He’d been wondering when they would.
Jango saw the ship come careening in from the atmosphere, avoiding being shot out of the sky through a number of incredibly risky maneuvers.
The ship missed Slave I narrowly as it came to a crashing halt on the landing pad.
The stillness that had surrounded the base lasted a second longer before a figure jumped out of the burning ship just as dozens of Bando Gora came out of the base.
The first few fell easily to the figure’s blaster, but the figure seemed to realize they wouldn’t be able to just shoot them all because they took off running towards where Jango was hiding in the shadows.
Jango cursed as the Bando Gora noticed his presence and started shooting at him as well. Jango directed his own blaster fire towards the Bando Gora, preparing to take off and find somewhere else to stake out, or at least to communicate with Wesell.
All of that fell away when the figure got close enough for Jango to recognize.
The vicious grin on other man’s face said that he had already recognized Jango.
“If it isn’t Jaster’s favorite little whelp.”
It wasn’t the time for a fight, not when the Bando Gora were trying to kill them. Jango knew that.
It didn’t stop him from opening fire on Montross as he took off, teeth clenched in frustration. He had never gone after Montross for his betrayal, though the idea had tempted him any number of times. But there was very little chance that, Vosa aside, both of them were leaving this moon alive.
It took him longer than he would have liked to get out of range of the Bando Gora. “New plan.” He told Wesell. “We’ve been found out, I’m going to take the South Entrance and make a run for Vosa.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
He kept to the shadows as he moved to the entrance. Montross was having a rare moment of actually being good for something as most of the Bando Gora were focused on catching him.
“Fett!” Wesell’s voice cut off and Jango was treated to a number of creative swears. “We’ve got company.” A grunt. “And he’s got me cornered.”
Jango snarled. Of course, that was just Montross’s style. It wasn’t enough to get the bounty, he had to kill as many of his competitors as he could as well.
“Where are you.”
“West Entrance.” There was another grunt.
He gave the South Entrance one final glance before heading towards where Montross and Wesell were. He may not owe Wesell anything, but Montross was another matter altogether.
The West Entrance was absolute chaos. Wesell, Montross, and a number of the Bando Gora were in the middle of fighting, and Wesell was obviously out of her depth trying to take on both Montross and the Bando Gora.
He kept his distance initially, picking off the members of the Bando Gora who were on the outskirts of the group. It didn’t take long for some of them to start firing at him and he had to start engaging in evasive maneuvers to keep his jetpack from getting hit and dropping him out of the sky.
He dropped to the ground in the middle of a group, he took out half of them before the other half managed to turn towards him and he took off again before doing the same in another group.
There was a small lull in the number of Bando Gora flocking out and he wasn’t surprised when Montross jumped at him when he tried to take off again.
He whirled, grabbing the man’s arm and throwing him off balance. Montross pulled free and sent an ugly smile at him.
“Jango, Jango. Looking a little rusty there.”
Jango didn’t respond and instead nearly took the other man’s head off.
Montross laughed, a little maniacally, obviously delighted. “Oh, this will be good. I’ve wanted to kill you for a long time.” He sneered, “Jaster’s favorite.”
“The fact that you felt threatened by a thirteen year old seems like a personal failing to me.”
Montross snarled and Jango avoided the next hail of blaster fire.
“You didn’t deserve to be the Mand’alor.” He waved his blaster in an arc and narrowly avoided Jango’s returning fire.
“The rest of the Mandalorians would have never followed you.”
There were more Bando Gora coming out and Jango positioned Montross between him and the cult.
“And look how well that turned out for them. If they had chosen me then maybe Galidraan would never have happened.” Montross snarled.
As though the thought hadn’t haunted Jango for years. Montross hadn’t deserved to become Mand’alor. Not after betraying Jaster.
But maybe he would have saved the rest of them.
“Or maybe your tendency to be a violent psychopath that kills everything in your way would have gotten all of them killed.”
“Better that than a fool.”
Jango shrugged before charging at Montross. He caught him by the arm and took off, jetpack pulling them both off the ground.
The Bando Gora were close enough to start firing and Jango avoided their shots. Montross was yelling, trying to get a good shot, but Jango ignored him.
He hovered in the air above the largest group of Bando Gora and then with a somewhat malicious grin dropped Montross.
Montross probably killed a few of the Bando Gora with his landing, but he was off balance for a second too long and that was all the time that the rest of the cult needed.
“Jango!” Montross’ voice was nearly a howl and Jango imagined the other man’s shock and betrayal. As though Jango would have ever given that man a warrior’s death.
He let his jetpack take him higher into the air, out of range of the Bando Gora. He looked around and was unsurprised to see that Wesell had disappeared.
He had a feeling she had used the distraction to make her way into the compound to try and take on Vosa herself.
Jango absently wondered if she’d be dead by the time he got in. Still, he kept moving away from the compound. Staying just close enough that the Bando Gora kept chasing after him, he would let them get within shooting distance every few minutes, both so that they didn’t get bored and so that he could pick off a few of them.
It didn’t take long to eliminate them.
He had been under the impression that the Bando Gora were somewhat brighter than this. But it was possible that so far they’d gotten by through intimidation, violence, and having a clever leader.
He circled the base, the west entrance was out. Too many Bando Gora had been there and that would be the first place they would expect him to enter through. Instead he headed back to the south entrance.
The guard that had been there earlier was gone when Jango entered, which meant this was either a trap or the chaos at the west entrance had pulled most of the cult members in that direction. He almost hoped it was a trap, because otherwise the Bando Gora were very sloppy.
It was always something of a criticism when sloppy organizations managed to make themselves into something feared. It always seemed to be a sign that people refused to fight for themselves, allowing themselves to be cowed into submission when they had enough power, that if they banded together, they would be able to protect themselves.
But then there seemed to be a substantial portion of the galaxy that consisted of self-serving cowards.
He moved through the hallways carefully. But he only ever ran into two or three cult members at a time, and it was easy to either stay out of sight when he could or dispatch them before they managed to call for help when staying out of sight was impossible, hiding the bodies as well as he could without deviating too far from his route towards the center of the compound.
He paused outside a larger, poorly lit room. There was an almost imperceptible shift in the air around him.
He threw himself forward, turning in the same motion. The sound of a lightsaber igniting echoed through the room and it wasn’t hard to see that if he’d moved even a second later he’d have ended up impaled on it.
Komari Vosa’s smile was vicious and somewhat gleeful. “Ooh, I do love it when my prey have a bit of fight in them.” She pulled a second blade and ignited it as well, before settling into a comfortable stance.
In the first year Jango had known Obi-Wan, he had never once seen him practice with a lightsaber.
But in the time since he’d seen Obi-Wan do drill after drill for form after form. Had watched Obi-Wan teach Anakin the basics. Had even listened as Obi-Wan had earnestly explained all of the different forms.
Which was why he was surprised to see Vosa choose not one of the many aggressive saber forms, which he would have assumed someone who seemed as volatile as her would have favored, but Soresu instead.
Jango had told Obi-Wan that it seemed ridiculously defensive. Obi-Wan had looked at him as though he was being ridiculous, and had told him that even Jango got tired, and if Obi-Wan held him off long enough then it wasn’t Obi-Wan who would come out on the losing side of that encounter. So of course Vosa would prefer this form, it was the form best suited to fight against blasters. He could practically hear Obi-Wan laughing at him.
But he didn’t think Vosa was like Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan was patient, calm.
Vosa looked like she was minutes away from devolving into madness, her eyes wide and manic, and her smile just the slightest bit deranged.
This wasn’t someone whose patience would last long enough to tire Jango out.
“And here I thought you were the prey.”
Vosa sprung forward and Jango threw himself to the side to avoid her double bladed thrust, bringing his blaster up he immediately started firing.
She immediately drew into the defensive, deflecting his shots, occasionally deflecting them back at him.
He avoided most of them, though a few made it past his guard to his armor.
She made a run at him but he kept firing steadily, waiting until the last moment to jetpack up and behind her. He had been right; she didn’t have the patience to keep to Soresu. Which could be good for him, though it made her more erratic and less predictable.
He noted with a frown that a few of his shots had made their way past her defenses in her mad charge, but she was shrugging them off as though they were nothing.
Kriffin’ Force users.
There was movement out of the corner of his eyes and Jango tensed in preparation for evasion. But the movement was only Wesell, and how was it she’d made it into the compound first but Jango had been the one to actually find Vosa?
Vosa practically cackled as Wesell started shooting at her.
“More prey. This bounty is the gift that keeps on giving.” She deflected a shot back at Wesell and Jango watched her dodge out of the way. “You aren’t the first Bounty Hunters to find Kohlma. And my little cult have brought me a few to play with.”
Her hand came up and Wesell went flying backwards and hit the wall hard just as Vosa charged him again. He was slightly distracted by Vosa, but he was fairly certain that Wesell wouldn’t be getting up anytime soon.
Instead of using the jetpack he dived out of her way, and she snarled at him, clearly having expected him to use the same maneuver as before.
She stalked around him, deflecting his constant barrage of shots as he took in their surroundings to see what else he could use against her.
“You might be my favorite.” She gave him a look that he would have almost considered flirtatious if it weren’t for the madness in her eyes. “Maybe I’ll keep you. The Bando Gora are so boring, so easy to control. I could use a new pet.”
The thought made Jango sick. “I’d make for a very poor pet.”
“Maybe at first,” she purred. “But I can be very, very convincing.” She smiled. “It might hurt a little, the first time I break your mind, but you’ll get used to it, you may even learn to like it.”
He kriffin’ hated Force users.
“I think I’ll keep to the current plan. The one that involves you losing and me getting paid.”
She charged again and he paid close attention, noting when she let some of the less dangerous bolts through, using her precious Force to sustain her from the glancing hits.
He dodged her again.
“You know, I’ve always thought Jedi were difficult to fight,” he taunted. “So when I heard there was a bounty out on a former Jedi I was excited for a challenge.” He paused. “I admit you’re somewhat of a disappointment.”
She snarled at him and he wasn’t surprised when she once again charged at him, both lightsabers whirling. He kept his body tilted slightly away from her so she wouldn’t instantly notice him drop his second blaster and pull out the dagger.
He waited until the point where she always started letting shots through and threw it.
She screamed and pulled her charge short.
It wasn’t a killing throw. But a dagger in the shoulder hurt, crazy Force user or not.
“You’re going to regret that.” She hissed as she pulled the dagger out, dropping it to the floor. “I’m going to tear you apart from the inside. You’ll beg before I’m through with you.”
This time Jango charged at her. His armor could take a few glancing blows from a lightsaber and he used that to his advantage, his vambraces catching her swinging lightsaber and deflecting it away.
He used the butt of his blaster to hit her hard on the head and she stumbled, from what he’d been told it was harder to use the force with a concussion.
She ducked away from him but he kept close. He used his empty hand to catch one of her wrists, applying pressure until she was forced to drop the lightsaber in that hand, he kicked it hard, sending it flying.
He ducked away as her second lightsaber came towards his neck.
The two of them circled each other again. Vosa was panting slightly and Jango kept his own breathing as even as possible. “You’ve gotten better.” Vosa laughed. “If you were this good back on Galidraan maybe your people wouldn’t all be dead.” She gave him a sharp smile, “I killed them you know.” Oh, he knew. “Over twenty of them, if I remember right. It was easy.”
There was a part of Jango that was almost always angry. It was a dark, vicious, dangerous thing; most of the time that anger lay almost placidly beneath everything, there, but easy enough to ignore. He could feel that anger leaking through him now, an ice cold fury that seemed to crystalize everything around him.
A thousand taunts were on the tip of his tongue, but he held them all back. She smirked, and he knew she could feel his fury.
She charged again but this time he didn’t dodge away, instead he ducked beneath her first swipe and came up underneath her guard. He twisted. Elbow coming up and hitting her hard in the face, knocking her back. He caught the arm holding the lightsaber and pulled her forward, and then kicked her hard in the chest sending her backward. He didn’t let go. Making her body weight pull at her already injured shoulder.
He brought his blaster up and shot twice. The shots hit exactly where his dagger had. Between the cut and the blaster burns, it would be a painful, cauterized mess, and with another scream she dropped her remaining lightsaber.
Her hand came up in desperation and he felt the Force lift him and push him back. He still didn’t let go of her arm, and her Force push dragged her with him, keeping him from flying backward. He twisted them both, wrenching her arm behind her back and slamming her into the wall. He pulled back and slammed her again.
He let go and stepped backward as she crumpled onto the floor. She went to push herself up and he aimed his blaster at her head. “Don’t move.”
She stilled. “Are you going to kill me?”
Jango considered it. He wanted to. She deserved to die, and the bounty was for either dead or alive.
But more than wanting her dead he wanted her to suffer the way he had suffered for years. She had been one of the Jetii who had killed his people. Who had stolen everything from him.
And the longer she was alive, forced to live with the knowledge that he had beaten her, that he had come and destroyed her cult, ruined everything she’d built, the better.
She started laughing, blood leaking out of her mouth. “You should have. He’s here.”
Jango stiffened as she started choking, one hand coming up to her throat as though trying to push away an invisible hand. Jango moved away from her, blaster coming up as a cloaked figure entered the room, one arm raised.
Vosa slumped, dead; the figure let his arm drop slowly. “Jango Fett.” The voice was deep, sonorous. “I must admit I’m impressed.”
Jango eyed the man. “That makes one of us.”
The man chuckled. “Of course. Let me introduce myself. My name is Tyranus.”
“You were the man behind the bounty.” He looked at the woman, dead at the other man’s hand. “Hard to imagine you needed a Bounty Hunter to do this particular job. You seemed to have it well in hand.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry, you’ll still get paid, you earned it. It was you, after all who subdued her.”
At the moment that wasn’t his biggest concern, more pressing was the subtle threat emitting from this Tyranus. “Good.” He kept his voice terse, but not impolite.
Jango couldn’t see the man’s face from beneath the hood of his cloak, but he could feel the weight of the man’s eyes on him.
“I had hoped it would be you.”
The man gestured towards the dead woman on the floor. “To pass the test. I put the bounty on her with a high enough reward that I would get the very best to go after her. Komari Vosa may have gone mad, but her insanity did nothing to lessen the threat she presented. Anyone capable of killing her, why, they’d be quite a formidable foe.”
“Anyone can get lucky.”
The man laughed again, “I agree, but that wasn’t luck. That was skill… and fury.” The man hummed. “Fury, of course, can’t be taught. But skill can. I’d like to hire you, Jango. For another job.”
“The pay of course, will be substantial. It will make the five million credits look like a pittance.”
“I always find that when a client has to emphasize the money, it means the job isn’t worth it,” Jango noted. He was slightly unnerved though. The five million credits was enough that if he wanted to he wouldn’t have to work another job for the rest of his life, and now the man wanted to hire him for a job with an even higher pay? It sounded like a trap to Jango.
“Worth it? Oh, I can assure you that it will be well worth it. I’ll be offering you immortality, Jango Fett. A legacy.”
“No one job is enough to leave a legacy.” Not unless it was a legacy of grief, and Jango wasn’t foolish enough to think he hadn’t already left plenty of grief behind him. While he rarely killed anyone who was truly innocent, that didn’t mean he hadn’t taken out people who were loved. Even some of the cruelest and most despicable people were loved.
“This one is. There is a world, outside the borders of the Republic, where they create armies based off a single individual.”
“Yes. But this army will be nothing like the ones they’ve made before. Not with you as their progenitor.”
“You want to clone me into an army?”
“Not just clone you. I want you to train them. Teach them. Imagine, Jango Fett. Passing down your skills, your knowledge. Creating a legacy. They’ll be the fiercest army the Republic has ever seen.”
Jango wasn’t sure if becoming the progenitor of an army was the type of legacy he wanted to create. But he also wasn’t entirely sure if he had a true choice. Not right now at least. Tyranus was obviously a powerful man, and Jango didn’t think he’d take Jango’s word for it if he swore not to speak of the army being built outside the edge of the Republic should he reject the job.
He was fairly certain that rejecting the job would lead to him dead and some other Bounty Hunter taking the job.
Jango wasn’t sure who Tyranus was hoping to defeat or subjugate, but he did know the man wasn’t building an army just to defend himself. Men like Tyranus were never happy with the power they had, they always wanted more.
“There aren’t many wars going on right now that need an army.”
“Not right now, perhaps.” The man waved his hand as though to say that it wasn’t a true concern.
“Twenty years is a long time to wait to get your army.”
“They’ll have accelerated growth. These cloners are far from amateurs. And one can never be too prepared.” The man’s voice turned amused. “However, that is the last bit of information you’ll get for free, if you want more details you’ll have to wait until you’re hired. I need a decision, Jango.”
If he were a better man he would probably die before allowing himself to be cloned, subjecting those clones to a life lived to serve the whims of others.
But the clones would be created no matter what Jango did. Maybe he was deluding himself into thinking that it was better him than someone else. He would do what he could to spare the clones from the worst. Would treat them as well as he was able.
There were a few things that Jango would willingly die for. This wasn’t one of them. Particularly not when it could potentially afford Jango one of the few things he truly wanted. “I’ll take the job on one condition.”
“Your pay will be considerable, what more could you want?”
“I want the first clone for myself, without the accelerated growth.” Because Tyranus was right, he did want a legacy. But not the sort of legacy that would come from an army that shared his face. He wanted a son. Someone to raise and love and teach.
He could tell that he’d surprised the man. “Might I inquire as to why?”
“You might.” The other man recognized the dismissiveness in his voice and didn’t inquire.
“I can meet that condition.” Tyranus held out his hand and after a second’s hesitation Jango shook it. There was suddenly a heavy pressure in his head and Jango grit his teeth to keep himself from crying out.
The man dropped his hand and Jango took a step back, only barely restraining himself from reaching for his blaster. “I apologize. But you’ll now find it difficult to discuss this matter with others. Once it comes time for you to find others to help you train the clones the restraint will be removed from your mind.”
Jango hated Force users.
Jango clenched his teeth. “I’m a man of my word, all you had to do was make my silence a part of our deal, you didn’t need to go to such lengths.”
Tyranus shrugged, a casual, elegant movement. “I’m not in the habit of trusting people to keep their word, and certainly not a Bounty Hunter such as yourself.”
If Jango clenched his jaw much harder he’d be in danger of breaking a tooth. He took a moment to force his body to release the angry tension. “I expect a compensation fee.”
Tyranus seemed to find that amusing. “I’ll add it to the contract.” He held out a chip and Jango took it. “You’re expected on Kamino, I’ll contact them about the two addendums to the contract.” The man turned and started walking away, and then paused. “Do be sure to arrive in a timely manner, Jango. While it would be an interesting experiment to see just how high I would have to raise the reward on your bounty to get results, I’m a busy man and I’d really rather not need to go to such lengths. I’m sure you understand, being a busy man yourself.”
“I understand you perfectly.”
Jango watched the man leave the room and gave him a few minutes to have gotten a distance away before releasing a heavy breath. He removed his helmet and rubbed at his temple. His head ached from whatever Tyranus had done to him, and he was fairly certain that he was developing a completely normal, non-Force related headache on top of it because of this karkin’ situation.
Obi-Wan would probably teach him how to keep people out of his mind if he asked, or at least Jango hoped; he despised the helpless way he felt right now. Knowing that Tyranus had invaded his mind so easily. Knowing that if she’d had her way Vosa would have been able to do so as well. He took a deep breath and made a note to ask Obi-Wan.
He turned to see Wesell still unconscious at the base of the wall. When she had been knocked unconscious she had reverted back to her natural form and he was finally able to place her as a Clawdite, better a Clawdite than a Shi’ido.
He considered her for a few moments. He didn’t trust her. She was dangerous. He clenched his fists as he remembered her impersonating Obi-Wan. Kriff her.
She’d taken Obi-Wan’s shape. Strike one. Had admitted that she’d almost gone after Obi-Wan on Tatooine. Perhaps it wasn’t fair to judge her for a job she didn’t even take, but Jango wasn’t feeling very fair. Strike two. She’d used Jango’s fight with Montross and the members of the Bando Gora to try and get to Vosa by herself. Not the worst crime, but it spoke very poorly of how she would apparently treat someone she was working with, and that was more than enough for Jango given the mood he was currently in. Strike three.
He stepped closer to her as he pulled his blaster. Three seconds later she was a corpse with three blaster bolts through the face.
He turned away from her and moved to leave the room.
If possible the feel of death had grown heavier than it had felt before, and he wasn’t surprised when the next Bando Gora member he came across was sprawled dead in the middle of the hallway, what was obviously a lightsaber wound through his heart.
He didn’t come across any other living beings as he made his way out of the building. It looked as though Kohlma had become a graveyard yet again. If Jango were superstitious he would think the moon was cursed.
He made it to the landing pad to see that both his and Wesell’s ships were still intact, he considered her ship for a moment and then figured there was no reason to waste resources.
It was the work of moments to force his way into the Clawdite’s ship, he moved to the computer banks first, hacking his way into the database and starting a download. He made a quick run through the rest of the ship, grabbing the things that were useful like weapons, bacta patches, and other first aid supplies.
It didn’t take long and he went through the same process with Montross’s ship. He’d go through the information later, for now he was tired and desperately wanted to sleep, but there was no way he was sleeping on this blasted moon.
Breaking past the atmosphere of the moon eased the pressure in his chest and he felt as though he could breathe again.
A clone army.
Osik, this wasn’t good.
He hadn’t thought much about it when the offer had been made, not beyond the fact that he could either accept the offer or hope he could overpower Tyranus long enough to get out of there.
Not beyond the fact that it would allow him to have a son.
But someone, probably multiple someones, were planning something big. A part of him hoped this was something simple, an attempt to dominate a planet the way the Trade Federation had tried, and failed to do, to Naboo.
Hadn’t he thought that it had been sloppily done? An army of men he’d trained, though? He didn’t think it was only pride that led him to believe that such an army would be able to hold a planet.
Maybe Tyranus was the cousin to a king on some distant planet and was trying to take over.
Or maybe he was trying to take over his neighboring planets.
But Jango had the feeling it was bigger than that.
He took the coordinates Tyranus had given him and put them into his nav computer. He stared at the results for a long few minutes before exhaling heavily and leaning back in his chair.
He was expected on Kamino soon, and he had no doubt Tyranus would keep his promise about doing his best to have Jango killed should he fail to show up, but he could take a few minutes.
He had his comm in his hand and was searching for a specific contact before he even fully realized what he was doing.
For a single second he considered ignoring the impulse, but there was something heavy hanging in the air and Jango hated it. Hated the way he’d been manipulated into this position. Hated the fact that he was going to allow it to happen because it seemed better than the alternative.
Still, it was harder to make the comm call than he had expected it to be.
Jango wasn’t sure when the last time he’d asked for help that wasn’t specifically a request for information when it came to a job was.
“Kenobi.” Obi-Wan’s voice was smooth and reassuring.
“Jango.” Obi-Wan sounded pleased to hear him. “Did you finish your hunt?”
“Can you teach me how to keep kriffin’ force users out of my head?”
Obi-Wan didn’t answer immediately, but when he did his voice had taken on a steely tone, that somehow still conveyed his concern, Jango hadn’t expected that to feel so heartwarming. “What did she do?”
Jango let out a small breath. “She didn’t manage anything. There were just a few threats.” He opened his mouth to mention Tyranus but nothing came out and his headache immediately sharpened. It felt like someone was coming at his mind with a knife. He hissed quietly. “She did nothing.”
“Are you all right, Jango?” The steel was gone, and now Obi-Wan’s voice was just concerned.
“I told you, she didn’t manage anything.”
“That wasn’t what I asked.”
Jango hesitated, “I’m all right.” And he was. He was frustrated, angry, and honestly a little terrified at the ease at which Tyranus had used him and invaded his mind. But right now, away from Tyranus, floating in space, with Obi-Wan so obviously defensive of him, concerned for him, right now he was all right. “But can you teach me?”
“I’ll certainly try.”
Jango felt some of his tension ease. It may not work, and it would certainly not be foolproof, but it was a start at shoring up his defenses and making it harder for anyone to ever do what Tyranus had done to him again.
“Are you done on Coruscant?”
“I am, I’m actually headed to Tatooine right now. I want to introduce Feral and Savage to Shmi.”
Kamino was relatively close to Tatooine, hopefully after he met with the Kaminoans he’d be able to make the trip over. “How long will you be there? There’s something I need to take care of, but I’d be able to drop by after.”
“Probably a little while. There’s a project I want to work on, and I can do it as easily on Tatooine as anywhere else.”
“Oh? What project.”
Obi-Wan just hummed, “I’m not sure it will work yet, ask me again once I’ve figured out a few more details.”
Jango considered pushing, but then decided against it. “Talk to me.”
Obi-Wan hesitated, “about what?”
“Anything. Right now I just need…” He trailed off. “Anything will do, even the growth patterns of Alderaanian moss would work at the moment.”
“Why would I know the growth patterns of Alderaanian moss?” Obi-Wan sounded amused.
“No. However, I could regale you with the very interesting history behind the traditional Jedi robes, the Krayt dragons’ hunting and mating patterns, or the current theory on how the Crystal Canyons of Chandrila were created.”
Kriff, Jango loved this man.
“Tell me about Krayt dragons.”
“Of course.” Jango could hear Obi-Wan take a deep breath, and Jango imagined he was straightening in his chair to better get into lecture mode. “You see, while there is no substantial evidence to support the theory, many people believe that the Krayt dragons are descended from the Duinuogwuin, or as they are more commonly known, the Star Dragons. I myself believe this theory to be fairly sound, there’s an incredible power to be felt in a Krayt dragon’s presence that seems reminiscent of the ancient power held with the Star Dragons.”
Jango didn’t ask when or how or why Obi-Wan had spent an extended amount of time in a Krayt dragon’s presence, that story could wait for later. Instead he leaned back in his seat and listened as Obi-Wan kept talking, the tension from the hunt slowly slipping away.
“Now, this theory is important when considering the Krayt dragon’s hunting patterns…”
Jango closed his eyes and let Obi-Wan’s voice wash over him. A small smile tugged at his lips as Obi-Wan’s voice grew passionate as he started talking about the strange phenomenon that was a part of the Krayt dragon’s digestive system that resulted in dragon pearls.
What a strange, crazy, absolutely ridiculous man.
Jango wasn’t even the slightest bit ashamed of how much he adored him right now.
Again, sorry for how long it's been since this update... but THANK you so much for reading it!
Other updates will be coming! When? Who knows! But they will come.
An absolute boatload of thanks to Lys who helped make this chapter better! Seriously, she is a MIRACLE worker!
(As a side note, for anyone who read my Averting Galactic Destruction story and took the survey... YOU ARE FANTASTIC and literally made me cry with how many of you were willing to help! Whenever I get around to updating that particular story I will give more details on how everything worked out. But for those to whom this applies, if any... You really helped SO much! I am SO grateful!)
Anyways, thank you so much for reading! Have a marvelous rest of November!
Chapter 8: Convoluted Plans and Complicated Pasts
Last Chapter: After Anakin tracked down Jango on Coruscant, Jango took Anakin out to get some breakfast. After getting some verbal sparring in with Quinlan, Jango continued on his hunt where he ran into a new-to-the-game bounty hunter, Zam Wessell, when she tried to impersonate Obi-Wan. Together, the two of them went after Vosa. Jango defeated Vosa. A man by the name of Tyranus showed up and hired Jango to be the template for an army of clones. With the choice of accepting or dying, Jango said yes.
It... has almost been a year. (Like seriously, if this had waited another five days it would have been a year exactly. So... Yeah, that was a thing, sorry about that! But it's back! (On the bright side? The corresponding chapter of Pebble in a River will not take a year to finish.) Hopefully I will be better at pulling these chapters together.
Many thanks to Lys and Cuzosu! Their help and support meant the world and are definitely the reason this chapter got finished!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jango hadn't been looking forward to his new job. Looking down at the planet from the viewport of his ship only solidified the feeling.
Kamino was wet.
He snorted a little at the understatement. Kamino reminded him of Mon Cala, except the whole planet seemed darker. Maybe it was the storm clouds, maybe it was the fact that he was here to be cloned, maybe Tyranus' looming presence had already spread here.
Or maybe, Jango considered, he was just in a sour mood.
He sent in a request for landing space and almost instantly received instructions to dock at platform C2.
He didn't move his ship immediately. This was it, his last real chance to back out. He shook his head at the foolishness of the thought. His last chance to back out had been before he'd known what he was supposed to be backing out of. But Vosa had been a target he hadn't been able to resist, and now Jango was here.
He set his ship down carefully. From the viewport he could see two tall figures, pale and long-necked, waiting for him just within the doorway.
He frowned as he stared at them, and then started on his after-flight routine. They could wait a little longer, Jango wasn't going to get lazy with ship routines just to make their lives easier.
Unfortunately, his post-flight checks went quickly and there were no good excuses, other than rudeness, to delay him.
The rain was heavy, the water streaming down his visor in a way that would be a nuisance in a fight. He made a mental note to practice fighting in the rain, it had been quite some time since he'd fought in the element, and now that he was going to be spending time on this blasted planet, he might as well get some use of it.
The door slid open as he approached and Jango stepped in, eyes darting around the area to take it in.
Everything was a bright white. The walls, the floor, the ceiling. Even the Kaminoans were white, their clothes soft shades of white, light blue and gray.
He disliked it instantly. It was sterile, lifeless.
"Jango Fett." One of the figures stepped toward him, their voice as slow and smooth as their graceful glide forward. "It's a pleasure to have you here with us. Master Sifo-Dyas told us we should be expecting you. I am Taun We, and will be your regular point of contact." She waved gently at the figure next to her. "This is our Prime Minister Lama Su."
Jango felt his eyebrows raise. Who was Sifo-Dyas? "I'm afraid I never met with Sifo-Dyas,” he stated carefully. A warning pain in his head was enough to convince him not to speak of who he had met with.
Taun We reacted with a slow blink. "Another of the Masters, then,” she concluded. "Come, let us begin." She turned and began walking, Lama Su perfectly in step with her.
Jango followed after them. Masters, she'd said. Slave masters? Though most of them wouldn't use the title Master in a situation like this. Guild masters? That was possible, but still unlikely. He thought of Obi-Wan, Jedi Masters? Jango snorted lightly. As much as he hated the Jetii, he couldn't imagine they would be part in cloning an army.
Though the man who'd hired him had had the Force.
But as much as he hated the Jedi, surely they wouldn't sink to the depths that that man had? Except... he thought of Galidraan and dismissed the ridiculous thought. He would never doubt the depths the Jedi might sink to if they thought it necessary.
But still, a clone army? It felt nearly impossible.
What did that leave? There were some planets, he was sure, that used Master as a designation of their role within society, and Jango was sure that one of them would want to start a war. Someone always did.
The problem was that everything seemed too far-fetched once cloning came into play. Who would go to the lengths to clone an army?
Lama Su spoke. "We were initially unsure of the request. It's a grand endeavor, to create any army. We've had a few successes in the past, but nothing so large as a Grand Army for the Republic."
Jango almost stumbled. What? An army for the Republic? "What does the Republic need an army for?"
The Republic hadn't had a standing army in centuries. There hadn't been need of one. There still wasn't need of one. What did Tyranus expect to happen in the next decade that would require one?
A shiver ran down his spine. What did Tyranus plan to do to force the need for one?
"Kamino does not distract itself with the politics and wars of the Republic, though we have set our researchers to gathering information in preparation for teaching the clones, matters of Republic Policy and the Jedi Order are a top priority for the moment."
Jango felt his breath catch. "The Jedi Order?"
"Indeed." Lama Su sounded calm. "It's important that our clones be prepared to adapt to their Generals. We had expected that Sifo-Dyas would ask us to clone one of them, it would have made for a terrifying army, but he chose you instead."
"I see." Jango answered, tone neutral while his mind raced. "I'm honored."
Who was Sifo-Dyas? Why had he chosen Jango?
Had he chosen Jango?
What exactly was this Sifo-Dyas' relation to the Tyranus he'd met on Kohlma?
There were too many questions. While Jango didn't need to know everything about the jobs he took, he certainly wouldn't engage himself to something of this nature without far more information.
Not that he really had a choice at this point, or that he'd had much of a choice to start with.
It was eerily silent as they moved through the hallways. Lifeless except for their own movements. "Is this not one of your main cities?" He asked carefully.
"Our more populated cities are on the other side of Kamino." Lama Su said as they headed down yet another plain white hallway. "This city has always been used for cloning projects, though the size of this project has encouraged some of those who lived here to move to other cities to make space. The contract is for several million units, far more than we've ever contracted for before."
"Units?" Several million men was certainly a large amount, but spread throughout the entire Republic? That was hardly enough to make a dent. Unless of course they weren't needed in the Republic. Perhaps Tyranus was simply planning on finishing Republic Expansion. Taking Hutt Space was no easy feat, or Mandalorian space, for that matter.
Well, given how Mandalorian Space had changed under the current Duchess they might fall easily. Especially if he'd understood Tyranus correctly and Jango was going to be in charge of the training of the army.
"One unit, I believe the military equivalent is a squad?" Taun We clarified.
Jango felt his eyebrows raise. Several million squads, well, that certainly wasn't something to scoff at.
Subjugating Hutt Space, Mandalorian Space, and the other sectors currently independent of the Republic may not be easy—subjugation never was—but it would happen.
If that was what Tyranus' plot was about in the first place, Jango reminded himself.
Too many questions. Not enough information.
Jango hated situations like this, especially when his hands were tied and he had to act despite knowing he was going into a situation he genuinely didn't know nearly enough about.
He let them lead him on.
Jango had expected that it wouldn't be as simple as showing up, giving some DNA and then being free to go. He'd assumed it would be a little more complicated than that. But he hadn't fully expected just how many tests they were determined to put him through.
Given it was a cloning project, he hadn't been surprised by the very thorough medical exam they put him through. They'd drawn enough blood that Jango had started to get dizzy when he tried to stand. Not a pleasant experience, but not wholly unexpected. Their questionnaire about his medical history had also been incredibly thorough.
And how was he supposed to know if he'd ever come in 'passing contact' with someone who was in late-stage Mirialin Wasting Sickness? Did they not realize just how many people Jango crossed paths with as he ventured around the galaxy?
But then there had been the physical tests: endurance, flexibility, strength, combat, the like. Jango considered himself to be a fit individual. But after a week of rigorous and constant testing he was starting to get twitchy with annoyance.
That, of course, was followed up by extreme psychological testing. Part of him was genuinely curious what would happen if he happened to fail whatever criteria they were looking for. They'd already hired him. Would they try to get rid of him if he failed? Replace him with someone else? While in theory, he wouldn't particularly mind someone else being hired to do this job, in practice he found he was more concerned about what would happen if they decided he wasn't an acceptable progenitor.
Not that he didn't think he could get himself out of any trouble they might try to start, but he had genuine concerns that he'd end up having to spend the rest of his life trying to stay one step ahead of Tyranus and whoever Tyranus sent after him.
Needless to say, he got very little rest, waiting on edge for the testing to be done and for the Kaminoans to decide whether he was a viable cloning subject. His nerves were not helped by the way the Kaminoans insisted he sleep in a room they provided for him, when what he really wanted to do was escape to his ship. There, at least, he trusted that his locks would do what they were designed to do.
Testing took over a month before the Kaminoans seemed satisfied.
Taun We, who seemed to have been chosen to act as the intermediary between Jango and the rest of the scientists, was the one to inform him. "We believe we have what we need to begin cloning. The first batch or two always has its share of issues, but by the third batch we'll have worked out the kinks inherent to your particular strand of genome."
"Is that when my son will be born?" Jango asked, he was already more than ready to get off of this planet. He was fairly certain that it had been raining non-stop since he'd arrived here a month ago. There had been maybe an hour with no rain, but he wouldn't place any bets on that.
He liked rain as much as the next person. This was just excessive.
Taun We nodded. "Yes, it'll take about eight weeks. In the meantime, we've prepared more extensive rooms for you during your stay with us over the next decade or so. We will—”
"Excuse me?" Jango interrupted. "If I'm not needed here, I have no intention of just staying here." The very idea of staying here and doing nothing left him with hives.
Taun We frowned at him. "We will need a regular supply of your DNA."
"How regular?" Jango demanded.
"At least three times a Galactic year."
Jango raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. "And when will you begin training the soldiers?"
"Current plans have us starting the clones in training as soon as they reach the two year mark."
Jango felt something sick stir in his stomach. Yes, Tyranus had said the clones would have accelerated aging, but even then, Jango couldn't imagine that they'd still be anything but young, they'd still be children. He had to clench his fist. "When the training starts I will reconsider staying on Kamino. But for now, I'll return when my son is born."
Taun We was clearly not pleased. "Kamino is safe and secure. If you leave Kamino you open yourself and this project to disaster. Should you die, be incarcerated, contract any disease that would contaminate your blood, or any other number of mishaps, it could completely throw off the project."
"If I remain trapped here on Kamino I'll be inclined to shoot someone." Jango responded. "I imagine that might throw off your project as well."
Taun We blinked at him, obviously trying to determine whether Jango was serious.
Jango was deadly serious.
Taun We nodded. "Of course, we'll see you back here in eight weeks."
Jango smiled at her, more a baring of teeth than anything else. "I'm glad we could come to an agreement."
Taun We looked a little stiff.
Jango walked past her, headed towards his ship. It was time to get off this karkin' planet.
How did he always forget how hot Tatooine was? Jango wondered as he closed his ship behind him. And dry?
The dry heat was worse than he remembered it, probably since he'd spent the last several weeks on a planet that was more rain than planet. He wished he was in his armor, at least that had temperature regulation.
A head poked out of the entryway of the Lars Homestead and Jango paused in his steps.
"Who are you?" The zabrak asked, looking appropriately suspicious.
"Jango Fett." Jango answered. "I take it you're either Savage or Feral?"
The boy narrowed his eyes, obviously even more suspicious. "Savage."
"Shmi or Obi-Wan around?" Jango asked easily, a little amused.
The boy's eyes went wide. "Oh. You're him. Yes." The boy turned a little. "Shmi! Obi-Wan’s friend finally showed up!"
Jango raised an eyebrow at that, but didn't move any further forward, instead he waited halfway between his ship and the homestead. It didn't take long for Shmi to make it from wherever she'd been to the entryway. "What are you doing out there?" She gave Savage a firm look. "You should have invited him in." The look she gave Jango was even more pointed. "And you should know better than to have to wait for an invitation."
Jango shrugged. "Always good to be polite."
Shmi snorted. "Politeness is for strangers."
She crossed the sand and pulled Jango in for a hug, which Jango did his best to return, though he suspected his attempt was still on the awkward side.
Shmi let him go and Jango straightened a little, smiling down at the shorter woman. "I don't suppose Obi-Wan is around?"
Shmi shook her head. "He took Feral, Owen, and R2 to Anchorage to get some parts for Cliegg." She glanced at the sun. "I'd say he'd be back within the hour, but he doesn't always have a proper respect for what hours are safe to roam the desert."
“He is an offworlder." Jango offered with a little smile.
Shmi frowned. "That's what I'd normally say, but—" she sighed, frowning. "He's an oddity, that's for sure." She shook her head. "But come in. Come in."
Jango followed Shmi in, noting that Savage hadn't moved from the entryway, watching Jango interact with Shmi protectively, only scampering down the stairs and into the house when Shmi reached him.
By the time Shmi and Jango had made it down the stairs the teenager was gone and Jango followed Shmi as she led them to the small kitchen.
"So, how's the adoption going?"
Shmi laughed a little. "Fairly well, I'd say. Obi-Wan seems fond of the boys, the boys both seem equally fond of him. More importantly, they seem to trust him to take care of them. The only time we really have a problem is when R2 and Savage are left alone together. Those two are a disaster waiting to happen."
Jango raised an eyebrow at that. So he wasn’t the only one that R2 was unreasonable about. He’d never thought a droid played favorites, but this one clearly did.
Shmi sighed. "Owen's going to miss them when they take off again. It's been good for him, I think, having other kids so close around." Her smile was a little wistful and it wasn't hard to guess that she was thinking about a scenario where Anakin was there as well. "The Whitesuns are our closest neighbors, and we don't see them nearly often enough for Owen to get as much socialization as I think he'd like."
"Anakin did okay, and he only had you and Obi-Wan for a long time." Jango pointed out, even as his own mind went to his future son. Would he be happy, always with Jango on his ship? Would he wish he had more socialization? Would he look at the rest of the clones and wonder what made him different?
A little guiltily Jango considered that it would give him even more reasons to see Obi-Wan. It was natural that he would want his son to know people other than him, and there were few people as good as Obi-Wan. And fewer people that Jango would trust with his child.
But that was a thought for another time.
Shmi nodded. "It's true. I hope he's doing okay. The temple must seem so very different."
Jango hesitated. "I did happen to see him, when I was on Coruscant a few months ago."
Shmi whirled to look at him, her eyes wide, taking two eager, almost desperate steps toward him. "You did? Obi-Wan shared his concerns, but what did you think?"
Jango hesitated. He still thought the whole thing was a mistake. But he was also aware that that wasn't even the slightest bit helpful. The choice had been made, and focusing on that would help no one. "He was struggling." Jango admitted. "The Jedi Order is—" he cleared his throat. "Well, it was a harder transition, I think, than he expected. But he also seemed determined to keep going." He smiled at Shmi. "And with the way you raised him, I suspect there are very few things Anakin can't do if he's determined. I think, with a little more time, he'll be fine."
Shmi nodded, her shoulders slumping a little in relief. "Thank you, Jango." Her lip quirked up a little. "I'm sure that was very difficult for you."
Jango laughed. "The things I do for you, Shmi Skywalker." He supposed it was a sign of consideration, of friendship, that he would ignore the opportunity to bash the Jedi Order, even when it was well deserved. Not that it wasn't always well deserved, in Jango's opinion.
Shmi hummed. "I'm very grateful, I assure you." She smiled at him as she handed him a cup of tea. "Although, that reminds me. We're running a little low on space in the homestead."
"I can sleep in my ship, no prob—"
Shmi gave him a sharp glare. "You could, of course. I promise not to be offended by your lack of desire to accept my hospitality. But the boys are bunked with Owen, and Obi-Wan's been taking the guest room, there's certainly room enough for another person in there."
Jango paused and stared at Shmi with what he hoped was the proper amount of incredulity. "You want me to share with Obi-Wan." It wasn't that he had a problem sharing. And he certainly didn't have a problem sharing with Obi-Wan. He didn't want to infringe on Obi-Wan's space. Didn't want Obi-Wan to think Jango was trying to push him.
"I'm offering." Shmi said, and she somehow managed to perfectly mimic the sort of politician’s intonation she had to have learned from listening to Obi-Wan. "A free offer."
"I don't suppose you mentioned this to Obi-Wan?" Jango asked carefully.
Shmi shrugged. “I’ve spoken with him. He’s aware that things will be a little tight until Cliegg can get some renovations done. He’s more concerned that you’d be uncomfortable.“ She raised an eyebrow at Jango. Jango raised an eyebrow right back.
“If that’s what works best for you, and if Obi-Wan doesn’t mind, then of course I’m adaptable.”
“Excellent.” She shook her head, looking aghast. "Did you know Obi-Wan thought the best answer would be to buy a little hut out in the Jundland Wastes? As though I would want him to have to make the trip through that desolate death trap constantly."
"That sounds like just the sort of thought process I'd expect from Obi-Wan." Jango admitted. "Technically viable, but also completely ridiculous."
Shmi nodded, a hint of a smile on her face. "He takes surprisingly well to the desert, even if I sometimes worry that he doesn’t take some of the threats as seriously as he should. Cliegg's been hearing the calls of a Krayt early every few mornings, and yet Obi-Wan still insists on going out and doing his meditation in the dunes."
Jango frowned, it wasn't like Obi-Wan wasn't aware that krayt dragons were dangerous. Jango had listened to Obi-Wan go on about the creatures for over an hour. Not that Jango would ever complain about that, it had been an incredibly soothing hour and Jango would gladly listen to Obi-Wan talk about krayt dragons, or anything else that happened to cross his mind, for an even longer time.
That wasn't the point, he reminded himself.
The point was that Obi-Wan wasn't an idiot. There were some people who thought they were unkillable, though Obi-Wan had never struck Jango as the sort of person who fell into that trap. Not that Obi-Wan wasn't confident; he was. But it was a deserved confidence in Jango's opinion.
"I can talk to him, if you'd like,” Jango offered. He wasn’t sure it would do much good, except to remind Obi-Wan that there were people who cared and were concerned for him.
Shmi paused, looking at him discerningly. "You know, he might actually listen to you."
"He listens to you,” Jango answered back. "He respects and trusts your opinion."
"With everything except his own self-care,” Shmi agreed. “He thinks I worry too much."
Jango shrugged a little. When it came down to it, Shmi was an incredibly practical woman and generally Jango would say that she worried a reasonable amount. But Obi-Wan thought anyone who worried about him worried too much.
Shmi pushed herself up from where she was leaning against the table. "Let me take you to the room you'll be staying in."
Jango quickly swallowed the rest of his drink and followed her.
Obi-Wan arrived just as the second son was setting, Owen, R2-D2, and another young Zabrak boy trailing after him. Owen and the zabrak boy, Feral, both had what looked like the remains of frozen blue milk around their lips.
“I put the parts in the storage shed, Cliegg and I should be able to fix the east vaporator tomorrow morning.”
Shim nodded. “Thank you again for being willing to pick up the parts. Cliegg and Rish Darklighter have been meaning to get together, they’d have needed to postpone again.”
Obi-Wan waved it away. “It was nothing. Will Cliegg be getting in tonight?”
Shmi glance at a chromo. “He should be back soon, just in time for dinner.”
“Do you need any help with that?” Obi-Wan asked.
Shmi hummed. “Perhaps the boys could help me?”
Savage and Feral both straightened, while Owen sighed a little dramatically.
Jango saw Obi-Wan and Shmi exchange amused looks.
“Well then, in that case.” Obi-Wan moved back, and sent a bright smile at Jango. “I think that means we’re not needed.”
Jango adopted a disappointed look. “I’m starting to think Shmi doesn’t trust my cooking abilities.”
Both Shmi and Obi-Wan gave him thoughtful, considering looks. “I wouldn’t,” Obi-Wan concluded.
“Maybe if we had sandwiches.” Shmi added. “That would be safe enough.”
Jango rolled his eyes. “I’ll have you know, I’m not half bad with a knife.”
“There’s a difference between stabbing people and cutting vegetables,” Obi-Wan said pointedly and Feral giggled while R2 let out a very condescending sounding beep. “But I could use your help with a few things. If you’re willing.”
Jango crossed the room to join Obi-Wan, sending R2 a dark look as he did so. “What do you need?”
Obi-Wan turned down the hallway. “Politics actually.”
Jango gave Obi-Wan’s back a skeptical look “Not sure—”
“Underground politics,” Obi-Wan clarified, turning his head to give Jango a grin over his shoulder.
“Those I can probably help with,” Jango admitted, returning Obi-Wan’s smile with one of his own.
“There seems to have been some sort of disturbance in the death stick industry.” Obi-Wan led him into the room they were going to be sharing, and quite without Jango’s permission he found his eyes darting to the single bed. He shook his head, concentrating on what Obi-Wan was saying. “Prices skyrocketed almost overnight, and shipments have been hoarded instead of following their normal distribution routes.”
Jango shrugged. “That’s fairly easy to track. The Bando Gora Gang was behind much of the death stick production, and they just took a significant hit a little over a month ago.”
Obi-Wan paused from where he was moving a stack of flimsi from a small box under the bed. Looking over the bed at Jango with narrowed eyes. “Oh? Why do I feel like you have something to do with that?”
Jango couldn’t help but smile a little. “Probably because I did.”
Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes, giving Jango an assessing look. “Impressive.”
Jango lifted a shoulder, feeling ridiculous for how pleased Obi-Wan’s assessment made him feel. “Not as impressive as it sounds.” Time to change the subject. “Why are you looking into death stick sales? Isn’t your current fight with the slave system?”
“It is.” Obi-Wan started shifting the different films sheets over the bed, though Jango noted that there were a few that Obi-Wan discreetly shifted beneath other sheets. “I’m tracking Krayn and his shipments: slaves, death sticks, containment tools, and other drugs that increase passivity and submission. Of course, there are a few shipments that are actually legal as well, of course, as a cover.”
Jango moved to join Obi-Wan as he looked over the flimsi, he had rather detailed notes of shipments over the past several years, starting a year before Obi-Wan’s Freedom Coalition had really started taking off, and Jango could practically track when the agreement went through.
“We’ve freed the slaves here on Tatooine, or at least the ones the Hutts kept here. The Hutts controlling Hutt Space weren’t a part of the treaty, but they were smart enough to realize that Tatooine wasn’t a one off and that the intent was always to go further; a fair number of them started using Krayn as a slave broker of sorts.”
“What sort of treaty were you thinking of using for this?” Jango asked, sorting through the different information. There was even a somewhat detailed, though slightly outdated, map of what looked like a compound somewhere on Nar Shaddaa.
Obi-Wan didn’t answer immediately, and his voice was carefully controlled when he did. “I doubt there’s any offer I could find that they’d want or accept, and the coalition itself is going to branch out to see what aid they can give Ryloth to help clean up the slave trade there.” Obi-Wan was nervously shuffling the flimsi sheets, and Jango frowned; Obi-Wan rarely gave such clear signs of nerves. “Ryloth seems eager, the majority of Ryloth citizens want nothing to do with the slave trade, but it also provides financial stability, so no one has moved against it either. In fact—”
Obi-Wan was pointedly not looking at him as he started putting the flimsi sheets back away. “I’m glad that Ryloth will be getting some help.” Jango interrupted. “That’s wonderful news.”
Obi-Wan nodded, shoulders losing some of their tension.
“So what, exactly, do you not want to tell me about Nar Shaddaa?”
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and turned his head away. “Nothing. It’s—I had a plan, but it needs a little bit of reworking.”
Jango tilted his head, waving a hand in a clear gesture for more.
“Look.” Obi-Wan stopped. “It was a good plan. And viable. And it’s not like I was going to—it’d be a different situation from—. It would have been for a thoroughly worthy cause.” Jango felt his frown deepening the longer Obi-Wan spoke without saying anything. “And if it weren’t for Savage and Feral, then it wouldn’t really be a problem. It’s not—” Obi-Wan sighed. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to do it.”
“That sounds like it might be for the best.” Jango said slowly, even as he tried to figure out just what sort of plan Obi-Wan had concocted. Every idea he came up was worse than the last, and without a doubt something he was glad that Obi-Wan wouldn’t be doing.
Obi-Wan snorted. “Now you sound like R2.”
“Well, if R2 and I are agreeing on anything, that’s the surest sign I can think of that we’re probably right.”
“It would have been different,” Obi-Wan said under his breath.
“Different than what?”
Obi-Wan made a face. “Nothing, it’s—” Obi-Wan sighed, shoulders sagging a little. “It’s complicated and a long story.”
“We have time,” Jango coaxed.
Obi-Wan paused, and the look he gave Jango was strangely intense. “Someday,” Obi-Wan conceded quietly. “I think someday I will tell you.”
Jango felt his heart beating unreasonably fast in his chest.
The moment ended when Obi-Wan turned, replacing all the flimsi he’d gathered into the box and putting it back under the bed. Jango’s heart was mostly back to beating at a normal pace when Obi-Wan turned back to him.
“Was that all you needed? To know why the death stick industry took a hit?” Jango asked, voice completely normal.
Obi-Wan sighed. “No, there’s—not tonight. I, I need to take tonight off, I think.”
Jango stepped closer. “Hey.” He smiled down at Obi-Wan. “You can relax every now and then, you know. The weight of the galaxy isn’t on your shoulders.”
Obi-Wan didn’t smile, just looked away, his face pensive.
Jango took the smallest step forward again, and there was almost no space between them. “Have you thought about sharing the burden, sometime?”
Obi-Wan leaned forward a little, close enough that Jango could feel Obi-Wan’s warmth, but then he was pulling back again. “Someday.” Obi-Wan stepped back. “Maybe, if you’re still around then.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Obi-Wan didn’t quite manage a smile. Obi-Wan didn’t seem to fully believe him. It was also clear that Obi-Wan desperately wanted to. It was all right, Jango would show him.
Obi-Wan took another step back. “There was something else I wanted to talk to you about.”
Jango nodded. “What is it?”
Obi-Wan was looking at him again, eyes full of concern. “You said something, last time we talked,” Obi-Wan said carefully. “About needing to protect your mind.”
Jango felt his heart lurch, the feeling unwelcome. He hated how even thinking of it brought the phantom feel of oil in his mind and words stuck in his throat as his mind ached and screamed in pain.
“Yes.” His voice was strangely hoarse. “I said something about that.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes narrowed, sharp and assessing, and somehow Obi-Wan had realized that something was wrong.
“Tomorrow morning,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “We’ll get started. If that’s okay with you.”
Jango nodded. “Yes. That’s more than okay with me.”
They waited for Cliegg to come home before sitting down for dinner, and the suns had nearly set completely before Cliegg arrived, apologizing for being late and pulling Shmi in for a kiss.
Dinner had been comfortable and easy, Obi-Wan was an excellent storyteller, and he and Feral had given a rather energetic retelling of their day.
Jango, Obi-Wan, and Cliegg, the only ones who hadn’t helped with dinner, took the responsibility of cleaning up after it and Jango found he didn’t even mind when Cliegg gave Jango a wink and left them alone.
Jango rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but smile a little.
Obi-Wan snorted. “Those two are still very much in what I’ve been told is called the honeymoon period.”
“Oh?” Jango prompted.
“Any minute they can get together.” He gestured at where Cliegg had disappeared. “They take it.”
“They make each other happy,” Jango said quietly. “When you find someone who makes you happy that way, you’ll take any minute you can.”
Obi-Wan hummed a little, handing Jango a container full of leftover food that would probably be used for tomorrow’s lunch and Jango slid it into the cooling unit, shuffling the contents of the cooling unit around a little to get it to fit better.
When Jango turned back around Obi-Wan was watching him, a thoughtful frown on his face.
“You never had someone like that?” Jango asked.
Obi-Wan turned away, moving dishes to the sink. “Most people would say that it’s not the Jedi way.” Obi-Wan’s voice was devoid of anything that would show his actual thoughts, which was a pretty clear sign that whatever he was thinking was unhappy.
Jango snorted. “Maybe not, but it’s true for most sentients I’ve met, so I’m pretty sure that includes Jedi.”
Obi-Wan shrugged. “Well then, what about you? Have you ever had someone like that?”
Jango stared at Obi-Wan’s back for a moment, trying to figure out if Obi-Wan was being serious or not. “Well, I don’t come back here for no reason,” he said finally.
Obi-Wan glanced at him, a quick, darting thing, almost like he was afraid of being caught. Jango did him the courtesy of pretending not to notice, taking some of the plates Obi-Wan had cleaned in the sonic and putting them away.
“Well, I’m sure Shmi will always keep a place open for you.” Obi-Wan glanced at him again. “And despite what R2 might tell you, there’s always space on my ship.”
Jango snorted. “I never did figure out what I did to make that droid dislike me quite as much as he does.”
Obi-Wan laughed a little. “I think he’s warming up to you.”
Not likely, Jango thought, since he was pretty sure R2 had taken to swearing at him whenever Jango so much as walked into the same room as him. Though the droid did seem to be split on who he disliked more, Jango or Savage.
Jango put the last dish away and Obi-Wan turned around. “I’m going to go check on the boys, see if they need anything.” He gave Jango an assessing look. “I’d make an early night of it, if I were you. I plan on waking you up early.”
Jango felt a strange lump in his throat and he mentally berated himself for being an absolute, ridiculously love-struck idiot. “Are you coming to bed?”
Obi-Wan nodded. “I’m planning on it.” He gave Jango another smile before heading down the hallway calling for Feral.
Jango made his own way back to the bedroom Shim had shown him earlier. He’d dropped a few things in there, and it was easy to quickly slip into a sleep tunic. He took a minute to figure out the best place to put his weapons so that they were in easy reach.
Obi-Wan’s voice came from behind. “A blaster actually fits almost perfectly behind the head board.”
“Already put one there,” Jango responded. “Saw you had one there yourself.”
“This is Tatooine.”
Jango conceded the point.
He slid a final vibroblade into a desk drawer and glanced up only to look away when he saw Obi-Wan was changing into a sleep tunic.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed now, once again feeling like an idiot. He’d forced Obi-Wan to sleep several times, and technically shared a sleeping space with Obi-Wan a few times. But one of them had either been on watch, or it had been—well, the only time they’d actually slept beside each other had been on Naboo, after Obi-Wan’s heart had stopped beating.
“I can sleep on my ship, if this is making you uncomfortable.
Jango looked up to see Obi-Wan standing a few steps away, watching him with narrowed, concerned eyes.
“No.” He looked at Obi-Wan, alive and real. “Just got lost in thought. You sure you don’t mind?”
Obi-Wan shrugged. “Of course not.”
Obi-Wan turned the light off, moving to the opposite side of the bed. Jango slid under the light covers, and he could feel the space between them.
A part of him wanted to erase that space, shift closer and hold Obi-Wan close, but he ignored the desire. He wasn’t going to push Obi-Wan past what he was ready for.
Obi-Wan fell asleep first, and Jango used the deep, sleepy heavy breathing to help himself fall asleep.
Jango groaned a little as he forced himself awake, Obi-Wan’s soft chuckle pulling him to the surface of wakefulness. He was comfortably warm, especially along his left side, the phantom of feeling of a body pressed against his.
“Is there a reason we’re getting up so early?” Jango asked. He already missed Obi-Wan’s warmth.
“We’re going to start working on creating shields in your mind.” Obi-Wan poked him a little, finger digging into his shoulder, and Jango moved, catching Obi-Wan’s wrist before he pulled away completely. Obi-Wan shifted in his grip, until he was holding Jango’s wrist as much as Jango was holding his and pulled, dragging Jango out of his very comfortable position.
Jango cracked an eye open to see that Obi-Wan was very much wide awake, and was looking down at him with a soft smile.
Jango sighed and let Obi-Wan pull him upright. If he held onto Obi-Wan’s hand after, well, he blamed it on the fact that he was tired and the fact that Obi-Wan didn’t seem to mind.
“Why, exactly, do we have to do this so early in the morning?” If there was the smallest note of whining in his voice, well, it was early enough that he wasn’t even sure that morning was an appropriate word, it was closer to very, very late night. He had nothing against getting up early, if that was even the right word for this, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He just also liked being able to sleep in when the opportunity arose.
Obi-Wan was grinning, “According to the Jedi, it builds character.” Jango narrowed his eyes at Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan’s smile grew wider. “And I want to show you something, and this is the best time for it.”
Jango sighed, pushing fully out of bed, finally letting Obi-Wan’s hand slip from his. “I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, you know.”
Obi-Wan snorted. “Lie. All Shmi would have to do would be to ask nicely, and you wouldn’t even whine at her like you do me.”
Jango shrugged. “Well, it’s Shmi.”
Obi-Wan smiled, before moving away. “A winning argument if I’ve ever heard one.”
Jango dressed quickly, arming himself quickly, blasters and vibroblade. Obi-Wan was watching him, something vaguely amused in his eyes.
“I’m not going into the desert unarmed,” Jango said pointedly.
Obi-Wan gestured to his belt where both lightsabers were resting. “I wouldn’t ask you to. I’m honestly surprised you’re willing to go out with so few weapons.”
Jango raised an eyebrow. “You saying you wouldn’t protect me?”
A hint of pink brushed across Obi-Wan’s face, it was endearing. “I don’t think you much need my protection, Jango.”
Jango hummed, widening his eyes in mock pain. “Not an answer. I’m hurt.”
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and turned towards the door. “You’re ridiculous. But if the terrifying Mandalorian Bounty Hunter needs protection, then by all means, I’ll protect you.”
Jango followed him out of the small bedroom and through the rest of the dark, quiet homestead. Everyone else was still fast asleep. Jango would be jealous—he liked his sleep—but it also meant that he was alone with Obi-Wan. One of the moons was already sliding below the horizon, but the other two moons still shone over the desert.
Obi-Wan led them to a speeder, taking them deeper into the desert, stopping a short distance from the dune.
“Why here?” Jango asked, as he followed Obi-Wan up the dune. Walking through the sand took a specific talent. Obi-Wan seemed to be capable of practically walking over the sand, where Jango felt like he was trudging, the sand pulling him down with each step.
“It’s peaceful out here,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “The desert will show a person who they are.”
Jango made a face at that. “I know myself well enough.”
Obi-Wan turned, walking up the dune backwards. “Do you?” There wasn’t any skepticism in the words, just curiosity.
Jango wasn’t sure how to answer. “I suppose it’s a necessity, then? To shield my mind.” He didn’t actually like the idea of delving too deeply into himself. Oh, he was fine knowing and understanding his weaknesses. The person unwilling to know their weaknesses wouldn’t last long.
Obi-Wan frowned, looking thoughtful. “It would definitely help. But it’s less necessary than you might think. You think all Jedi know themselves?”
Jango scoffed immediately. Not a chance.
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “Anyways, I didn’t say you were the one who needed the desert to show you who you were. I can multi-task.”
They reached the top of the dune not much later. “I would have thought you were rather self-aware,” Jango said.
Obi-Wan slipped to sit cross-legged on the sand, on the edge of the dune siding along the ravine, looking up at Jango expectantly. Jango sat next to him, grimacing a little. He expected he’d find sand everywhere after this.
“I do try to be.” There was something in the way he looked at Jango. “I’m not sure I’m always successful.” He shook his head. “But protecting your mind from Force Users.” Obi-Wan pursed his lip a little. “You have to understand, not everyone can do it. And it’s not necessarily needing a fierce enough desire, or having a strong enough will. I’ve known men of practically indomitable will and a fierce desire to protect their minds who’ve simply not been able to do so.”
Jango felt a sharp twist of anxiety. “I understand.”
“You’ve got a good chance,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “You’re already very good at concealing your emotions, and you’d be difficult to control with a mind trick.” Obi-Wan smiled a little. “You’re very stubborn.”
“I do try,” Jango said dryly.
“But keeping someone out of your mind, especially someone who’s Fallen.” Obi-Wan grimaced. “Is not easy.”
Jango didn’t need Obi-Wan to explain, he could remember clearly enough the touch of Tyranus in his mind. “Could you tell?” Jango asked. “If someone’s been in my mind?”
“There’s a good chance you’d know,” Obi-Wan said slowly. “The mind does what it can to protect itself, and even if it can’t stop the intrusion, it’ll let you know, so that you can fight it as well as you’re able.”
Jango grimaced. “But could you tell?”
“Not just by looking at you.” Obi-Wan’s voice was a little dry. “I’d have to go in myself. You can see why I wouldn’t be doing that.”
Jango trusted Obi-Wan fully, but he was honest enough to know that, even with that trust, the idea of just letting someone, even Obi-Wan, into his mind still made him uncomfortable. It was necessary though.
“The first step to building shields is being able to clear your mind,” Obi-Wan said. “Which is easier said than done.”
“I can imagine,” Jango said wryly. “I admit I’m surprised you can manage it, with the way you’re always thinking.”
Obi-Wan laughed. “Do you want to try?”
Jango sighed. “I suppose.”
“It can be hard, to jump to completely emptying your mind. Especially if you’re not used to it. To start, choose a sensation. Touch, smell, hearing. Focus all of your attention on that, and let everything else fade away.”
“What do you choose?”
Obi-Wan gave him a guilty smile. “I choose something in the Force to focus on, I’m not sure that will work for you.”
Jango ceded the point. “What do I do then?”
“Nothing,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “Not yet. This isn’t going to be a one morning process, you need to get used to clearing your mind before we can really start building defenses around it.”
It made sense, at least in the way that anything that was worthwhile never seemed to come easily. “All right.”
“Choose something to focus on.” Obi-Wan closed his eyes and Jango followed his lead.
He had never really realized just how many thoughts there were constantly slipping through his mind. Normally it was easy enough to ignore them, to push everything away for a singular purpose, a drive. Everything could be dealt with after the mission. But now his mission was to clear his mind, and the same principle didn’t seem to be working.
Tyranus and the Kaminoans, their cloning project; Mandalore and his people, what Jango’s next step was supposed to be; the sand shifting beneath him, uncomfortable and getting everywhere; the son he was about to have, a mix of terror and elation, because Jango was going to be a father, and he wasn’t sure he was ready for that; the desert was almost silent, right now, but that didn’t mean that it was safe, Jango couldn’t let himself be distracted in a place like this; and then there was—
“Breathe, Jango.” Obi-Wan’s voice was soft.”You’re overthinking it.” The sensation of fingers against the back of his hand pulled all of his focus. Jango twitched, catching the fingers in his own hand. Obi-Wan allowed it. “It’s natural, in those first moments after you try to clear your mind, for your mind to try and force everything to the surface. Don’t engage, let them drift pass you. Find something to focus on and let yourself center on that.”
Obi-Wan’s fingers were warm in his hand. They weren’t necessarily soft; he knew that if he let his own fingers trace Obi-Wan’s hand that he’d find callouses from constant saber practice. They were strong hands, powerful hands, but there was also something gentle about them. He ran his thumb up and down one of Obi-Wan’s fingers, and let himself focus only on that sensation. He let everything else slip away. Focusing entirely on Obi-Wan’s hand caught in his own.
It was almost easy to let time slip by that way. Obi-Wan’s warm hand in his, knowing that Obi-Wan would be on the watch for danger, and for this moment, he could trust in that.
“All right.” The hand in his own twitched and Jango let himself be pulled back to the moment. “You did very well.”
Jango blinked his eyes open. The final moon was starting to slip below the horizon, the first sun rising along the desert dunes. He hadn’t realized quite that much time had passed.
“I can’t believe you woke me up as early as this, just to have me think about nothing.” He stretched, hissing a little as his back popped, they’d been sitting here longer than he’d realized. “I could have thought of nothing just as easily while sleeping.”
Obi-Wan smiled a little. “I’m sure you could have.” Obi-Wan’s smile slipped away. “I’m sorry, that this isn’t something you can just do. But this basic form of meditation will help, I promise. Once you’ve gotten used to clearing your mind, we’ll be able to start building shields.”
“What if,” Jango started slowly, “there’s already something in my mind.”
Obi-Wan’s eyes flashed sharply. “That could be problematic. You seemed fairly certain that she didn’t manage anything.”
“I don’t think she did.” His voice choked a little, and nothing more came out. “But perhaps she was more talented than I thought she was.”
Obi-Wan hesitated. “Shields can’t protect you from something if it’s already inside your mind, though the discipline of it might help mitigate it.”
Jango waited, but Obi-Wan didn’t offer to check. Though Jango was unsure if he’d even be capable of giving Obi-Wan permission, if the thing in his head would let him, he could already feel his throat closing around the words.
But then Obi-Wan had probably felt how uncomfortable Jango had been with the idea of anyone in his mind, even, unfortunately, Obi-Wan. Except he couldn’t ask Obi-Wan to check. The words were stuck in his throat and his head hurt.
He rubbed at his right temple, trying to push the pain away.
“Are you all right, Jango?”
He heard Obi-Wan shift, moving closer. Obi-Wan’s hand touched Jango’s were he was pushing and rubbing at his forehead, and Jango let Obi-Wan tilt his head up. Obi-Wan was kneeling in front of him and his eyes were stormy and serious. “Jango.”
“You asked me to protect you, this morning. Do you trust me to do that, now?”
Jango felt something in him settle. Obi-Wan realized something was wrong. They may have been joking this morning, but that didn’t make it untrue. “Yes.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and Jango waited impatiently, surely, surely now. But then Obi-Wan just stood, reaching a hand out to help Jango up.
Jango wanted to scream a little. He’d thought Obi-Wan understood. They’d been so close. He let Obi-Wan pull him up to his feet, everything stuck in his throat, and he felt almost dizzy from a lack of air, despite the fact that he was breathing fine.
Obi-Wan turned away from him. “I had wanted to show you something,” Obi-Wan sighed. “But I don’t think it’ll be happening this morning.”
“What did you want to show me?” Jango asked, pushing past his frustration.
Obi-Wan turned to look at him, smile almost impish. “That’d ruin the surprise. Hopefully it will work out next time.”
Obi-Wan started heading down the dune and back to the speeder and Jango followed. Tomorrow morning, he would push it again as much as he could. Obi-Wan wasn’t an idiot, he’d figure out what Jango was pushing at eventually.
Jango actually yelped as his feet tangled in something, and he slipped, falling backwards. The sand, it was going to be everywhere. He looked around, but couldn’t figure out what had tripped him. Obi-Wan was laughing at him. Jango kicked out with a leg, catching Obi-Wan’s ankle and pulling.
He had the feeling that Obi-Wan was almost humoring him, as the man came falling down in the sand next to him.
Still, Jango laughed. Obi-Wan was making offended little noises and was pushing himself up so that he was almost hovering over Jango. “That was rude.”
“Laughing at my poor misfortune was rude,” Jango said pointedly. “I was returning the favor.”
“Returning the favor, is it?” Obi-Wan was smiling. “Then I probably shouldn’t tell you that—”
Obi-Wan froze and Jango watched as absolute fury crossed Obi-Wan’s face, his eyes darkening. “What was Dooku doing near you? What did he—” Obi-Wan pulled in a sharp breath, and the silence that followed was almost harsh.
Jango felt like he was going to get whiplash. “Dooku?” Jango only knew one Dooku, and Jango hadn’t seen him since Galidraan, and frankly, he hoped he never saw the man again unless it involved Jango killing him.
Obi-Wan was pushing away from Jango, standing and moving back up the dune. Leaving Jango laying in the sand, whirling from everything.
“Jedi Master Dooku, now Count Dooku. He left the Jedi Order. I had thought that—” Obi-Wan didn’t finish saying what Obi-Wan had thought. Pacing back and forth at the top of the dune.
Jango pushed himself to his feet, following Obi-Wan back up the dune.
Obi-Wan was pacing back and forth, movements sharp and jerky. He was angry. Absolutely furious.
Jango didn’t think he’d ever seen Obi-Wan angry. Not truly. It was odd, strange. In some ways it didn’t seem to fit Obi-Wan—peaceful, calm, settled Obi-Wan. At the same time, it felt like Jango was finally seeing some essential bit of Obi-Wan that had been long hidden. It was a little beautiful.
“What does Dooku have to do with anything?”
Obi-Wan wasn’t listening to him, or if he was, he wasn’t responding. He was pacing back and forth, hands running through his hair, muttering under his breath, sending concerned looks at Jango every few moments.
“Obi-Wan.” Jango stepped forward, blocking Obi-Wan’s path and resting his hands on Obi-Wan’s shoulders. Obi-Wan was literally trembling beneath his fingers. “What’s going on?”
“Don’t try to answer yes,” Obi-Wan said carefully. “If I’m wrong, tell me. But otherwise, stay silent.”
Jango furrowed his brows. He didn’t like the sound of this, but he nodded. “All right.”
“When you took the bounty on the former Jedi, the one who’d been on Galidraan, when you caught up to the Former Jedi, there was a man there.” Jango felt his eyes widen. “He used another name, probably—” Obi-Wan shook his head. “No, not going there. But he gave you a false name and hired you for a job, a big one. And then he used the Force on you, to ensure that you couldn’t tell anyone about it.”
“An interesting theory.” Jango forced out, a bad feeling filling him. How did Obi-Wan know all of that. Had he seen it in Jango’s mind? “What does that have to do with Dooku?”
Obi-Wan’s voice was soft, apologetic, answering the question without actually answering the question at all. “I’m sorry, Jango. I won’t ever let him touch you again.”
Dooku. Dooku was Tyranus. Tyranus was the man who had led the slaughter on Galidraan. It was Dooku who had let himself into Jango’s mind and twisted things in there like he was allowed.
He had to step away from Obi-Wan, hands clenching as the fury coursed through him.
Jango was going to kill him. Was going to put a hole in his head. Dooku was a dead man walking. Jango had let the past go, as much as he was able. And granted, that wasn’t as much as he was probably supposed to. But he’d never gone after revenge, even when he’d wanted to. Even when the Jedi had more than deserved it.
He hadn’t even gone after Vosa until she’d had a bounty on her head and her life was forfeit anyways.
And look where that had gotten him. Mandalore was in the hands of a hut’uun Auretti, with Death Watch still alive and lurking. Dooku had been allowed to walk free and had walked straight back into Jango’s life, twisting it around as he saw fit. The Jetii were still—
Obi-Wan’s hand was on his cheek, a thumb running a soothing trail over his cheekbone. “Jango, please. Calm down.”
Jango closed his eyes, pushing his anger down, or trying. “I’m going to kill him.”
“I know.” Obi-Wan’s voice was tender. “I know. But please, just…”
“How did you know?”
Obi-Wan looked uncertain. “You wanted me to check your mind, but you weren’t able to ask me.”
Jango nodded. “I thought you’d understand, and then you… well you didn’t seem to?”
“I was trying to make sure you didn’t know when I was going to act,” Obi-Wan admitted. “If you did, it might have alerted the Force trick stopping you from asking for help outright. Once you thought I’d failed to understand, well…” Obi-Wan paused. “I’m sorry. I tried to ask permission as best as I could. I would never just—”
“No.” Jango soothed him. “No, I was asking as well as I could. I needed you to. Can you get it out?”
“He’ll know, the next time he sees you, that it’s gone,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “It’s a strong compulsion, but it’ll fade on its own, faster if you fight it the way you have been. I’ll take it out, if you want me to, or try. But that might put you in danger, if he realizes you went to someone for help to get it removed.”
It had been Dooku in his mind. It had been bad enough when it had been a dangerous stranger, but now, knowing who it had really been? Jango wanted the trace destroyed as soon as possible. “I don’t care.”
Obi-Wan hesitated, and Jango saw a dozen different thoughts make there way across his face, complicated emotions that Jango couldn’t name or determine the source of.
“Will you remove it?” Jango asked, and he hated the way he felt like he was pleading.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes, looking away. Jango felt his heart drop. “Yes, I can remove it.” Obi-Wan’s voice was quiet.
Obi-Wan stepped forward, right into Jango’s space, and Jango needed him closer.
“We should sit down, for this,” Obi-Wan said quietly.
It was different than before, no amusement hidden beneath their actions, nothing easy or comfortable about it.
Jango’s mind was screaming at him, and it was as though the trap in his mind had realized what was going on, digging into his brain with a vibro-blade.
Obi-Wan’s hand was on his arm, tracing up to Jango’s shoulder and neck. “Don’t think about it, Jango.”
“What, exactly, am I supposed to think about?” Jango bit back, the pain sharpening his words, glaring up at Obi-Wan kneeling over him.
Obi-Wan’s eyes were soft. “Tell me about Jaster, Jango.”
Jango felt his heart stop, his every thought stopping in its track.
“I didn’t know you knew—”
“I know his name, I know he was considered a good Mand’alor. Tell me about the man, Jango.”
Could he? Jango wondered. Could he tell Obi-Wan about the man who’d raised him? About that part of his life he’d hidden away and protected?
“He was grumpy in the mornings.” It felt like a stupid thing to start with, but Obi-Wan just smiled a little.
“Is that where you get it from?”
“I’m not grumpy in the mornings,” Jango protested. “Jaster one time threw his helmet at Miles, because Miles was trying to hide the caf from him and it was too early for a more diplomatic solution.”
Obi-Wan laughed, and Jango frowned, the laugh almost echoing inside of him, inside his mind—
“Tell me more about Jaster.”
Right. Jango swallowed, forcing his mind back in that direction.
“He could silence a room without even saying a word,” Jango started slowly. “And it wasn’t out of fear, it was always respect. All he had to do was step between an argument and people would calm down, would step back and handle things rationally.” He swallowed hard, longing swelling within him. “As mercenaries, we were a fighting force that couldn’t be stopped. But we were more than a group of mercenaries, we were a people, a family.”
And so many of them had been killed, killed because of—
“Did Miles ever try to hide the caf again?” Obi-Wan interrupted, derailing his thoughts and Jango let it happen. “After getting a helmet thrown at him?”
Jango felt a laugh wanting to escape him. “I think he took the thrown helmet as a challenge. The caf was never safe after that. Sometimes he’d hide the caf, sometimes he’d replace it with that awful caf alternative, sometimes he’d add spices to it and you’d take a sip of caf and would end up crying from the heat of it.” Which was saying something, since most Mandalorians liked their food spicy.
Obi-Wan laughed, the sound echoing over the desert, and alongside his bones. “This is why I stick to tea.”
“He did that once, too. Took all of the caf in the camp and left that sickly sweet ruby tea in its place. I think Lorien almost murdered him that time.”
Obi-Wan snorted. “Well, of course. Ruby tea is by far an inferior tea.”
“All tea is inferior,” Jango argued back.
“Heathen,” Obi-Wan muttered. He was frowning now, a hint of strain showing up around his eyes.
“I hated him.” The words spilled out, desperate for something to say. “At first.” He swallowed hard. “He’d been injured, it was why he was hiding in our wheat field. And my parents died, protecting him. They burned our house, with my sister still in it. I wanted to go after her, wanted to save her. I could hear her screaming. But Jaster stopped me. He couldn’t even stand, was practically bleeding out, but he grabbed me and forced me to stay hidden. Almost had to knock me out.” He wanted to look away, but Obi-Wan was staring into his eyes, and Jango couldn’t look away, setting his weakness on display for Obi-Wan to see it all. “He saved my life, Death Watch would have killed me too.”
“And you hated him for it,” Obi-Wan whispered quietly, and there was a quiet understanding. “Because you were the one who survived.”
It had been the first time Jango was the only survivor.
It wasn’t the last, and that knowledge echoed between them.
“When did you stop hating him?” Obi-Wan asked, his voice careful.
“Took me nearly a year. I was a bitter, spiteful, sarcastic whelp the whole time. Lashing out at every opportunity.” He could remember how gentle Jaster had been with him. Remembered Jaster holding him when he cried, remembered Jaster helping him find a way to honor his family’s death. “He was patient. Don’t know how many times he offered to bring me somewhere else.”
“Why didn’t you take the offer?” Obi-Wan asked.
Jango frowned. “I’m not sure I really know.” He’d been such a mess of emotions, wanting to belong somewhere, but afraid to move on, to move past what he’d lost, as though it would erase where he’d come from. “I wanted to understand, I think, why my parents had thought this man and these people were worth protecting. And I guess maybe I’d always been Manda, I could feel that it was where I was supposed to be.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and there was a bead of sweat on his forehead. Jango had to distract himself from what Obi-Wan was straining against.
Obi-Wan was the most welcome distraction that had ever slipped into Jango’s life. Was more than that, now.
“I thought I’d never feel that way again, after my parents, and then again after Galidraan. Never feel like there was somewhere I was meant to be.” Jango admitted. And then he’d found Obi-Wan, or maybe Obi-Wan had found him. And Jango didn’t really believe in destiny, he believed in choices and consequences.
But sometimes, rarely, the galaxy was kind, and things felt right.
Obi-Wan breathed in sharply. A moment later there was a sharp, brief pain in the back of Jango’s mind, enough to make him feel like he was seeing stars, and then it was gone and Jango could breathe, a soothing, soft touch brushing across him, wiping the stain of every other touch with it.
Obi-Wan fell backwards, breathing a little heavily, one hand coming up to rub at his own forehead.
Obi-Wan nodded. “It should be gone.”
Jango swallowed, hard. “He called himself Tyranus.” The words came out easily, not sticking in his throat, no pain.
Obi-Wan nodded. “I know.”
“Did you see it?” Jango asked. “In my mind?”
Obi-Wan paused, but then shook his head. “No, I wasn’t rummaging around in your memories, Jango. I got a sense of your thoughts and feelings, at least a little. But nothing that concrete.”
Then how had he known? Jango wondered. If Obi-Wan said he hadn’t been in his memories, then Jango believed him.
So how did he know?
Obi-Wan jerked forward, hand coming to rest across Jango’s mouth. “I need… I need to figure some things out. And you… you can’t tell me.” Obi-Wan shook his head, eyes wide and a little frantic. “You can’t tell me this. Not yet.”
Jango stared at Obi-Wan in surprise.
“Obi-Wan?” Jango’s lips brushed against Obi-Wan’s finger, some of the sand that had been stuck to Obi-Wan’s hand slipping into his mouth.
“Please. I—” Obi-Wan sighed. “I—just give me a little more time, Jango.”
Jango didn’t understand.
Obi-Wan didn’t even know what Jango was going to tell him. What did he need more time for?
There was something heavy in Obi-Wan’s eyes though, that strange franticness, something afraid and confused and hurting.
Jango had seen that look what felt like a thousand times now.
“I wouldn’t believe you, even if you told me?” Jango asked, the muffled words an echo of the same words Obi-Wan had said so many times now. From the very first time they’d met and even now it still hung over them.
Obi-Wan looked away. “I’m sorry. Please, Jango.”
Jango reached up, pulling Obi-Wan’s hand away from where it still covered Jango’s mouth, tangling their fingers together. I love you. Maybe it was a completely inappropriate moment for the thought, but it was still true. “However much time you need, Obi-Wan.” Even if Jango didn’t understand. “Thank you. For getting him out of my head.”
Obi-Wan sighed, shoulders falling a little. “I won’t let him hurt you, Jango.” Obi-Wan paused. “Don’t go after him yet, please. There are factors, I—I need to figure things out.”
The thought of leaving Dooku wandering about, his rather-obviously-nefarious plans in the works, was not a comforting one. “For now.”
He needed time to plan how to kill the man, anyways.
Obi-Wan didn’t mention Dooku again, and if it weren’t for the fact that sometimes Obi-Wan would give him troubled, thoughtful looks, Jango might have been able to pretend that that first morning had gone like all the ones that followed it.
With Obi-Wan waking him up early and dragging him out into the darkness of the desert and directing him to clear his mind.
He still hadn’t discovered what it was that Obi-Wan wanted to show him. Obi-Wan always just shrugged and said that it hadn’t worked out yet.
Part of him wondered if Obi-Wan was pulling his leg, except Obi-Wan seemed genuine about wanting to show Jango, well, whatever it was that Obi-Wan wanted to show Jango.
He’d been on Tatooine just over a week when he received the message on his work communicator, asking to meet—or rather, demanding to meet—in a tavern in Mos Espa.
It wasn’t signed, which wasn’t completely out of the norm, but nor was it the most reassuring sign.
“What do you think?” he asked absently as they got ready for the night. They’d spent the evening with the boys, teaching them the basics of how to use a blaster.
Jango had been a little surprised when Obi-Wan had suggested it, looking at Jango in a way that had been almost shy. Jango had been quick to agree. Anyone growing up on Tatooine needed to know how to shoot, and if Feral and Savage were going to be living with Obi-Wan, well, the sooner they learned to shoot the better. Obi-Wan was decent with a blaster. Jango was better, though.
“What do I think about what?”
Jango tossed his comm to Obi-Wan, who caught it without looking, frowning down at his data pad. Jango waited a minute for Obi-Wan to finish what he’d been doing before taking a look at Jango’s comm.
“Sounds like someone wants to meet you,” Obi-Wan said slowly. “I’m surprised anyone knows you’re here.”
Jango shrugged. That bothered him less than it probably should. But then, he’d made a habit of being able to find people who were trying to stay hidden. And since he wasn’t personally trying to stay hidden at the moment, he thought it was reasonable that anyone remotely talented and serious about finding him would be able to.
“Tatooine isn’t a bad place to hang around, if you’re looking for a bounty hunter.”
Obi-Wan conceded the point with a small grin. “True.” He gave Jango a curious look. “Why are you asking me? I think you’d have a better idea of this sort of thing.”
“No bad feelings about this?” Jango asked. “And I value your opinion.”
Obi-Wan looked back down at the comm, eyebrows furrowed. “No,” He said slowly. “No bad feelings.”
Jango raised an eyebrow at that. “But?”
Obi-Wan looked up at him, eyes a little distant. “You should go, I think.” He frowned a little, and then tossed the comm back at Jango.
Jango looked down at the message demanding his presence and back at Obi-Wan who was sticking his data pad away with a frown. He typed out a quick acceptance, stowing the comm away and sliding into bed.
Obi-Wan waved his hand, and the light turned off. And really, it was at times like this that the Force actually seemed dreadfully convenient. It would be nice to never have to walk to turn off the lights.
Obi-Wan slid into the bed, and Jango could feel his heat, a scant few inches from where he was lying.
They always seemed to start like this, a few inches apart. Like always, Jango wanted to cross the distance, hold Obi-Wan close.
Obi-Wan slipped a little closer. And that was different.
“What’s bothering you?” Jango asked quietly. Sometimes he thought it was easier for Obi-Wan to be honest in the dark, when he didn’t have to worry about looking like he had everything under control.
“I think…” Obi-Wan paused. “I think a choice is coming.” Obi-Wan sighed a little. “Choices.”
“Not so unusual,” Jango said carefully.
Obi-Wan didn’t answer, silence stretching out into the dark, and Jango had to carefully control his breathing when Obi-Wan slid closer still, hands hesitant as they touched Jango’s chest. Normally Obi-Wan didn’t end up against him until after they’d both fallen asleep.
“Is this okay?” Obi-Wan’s voice was barely above a whisper.
Jango slipped an arm around Obi-Wan’s waist, pulling him closer. “Of course.”
The moment was almost perfect. Except Obi-Wan was holding him like he thought Jango was about to disappear.
Obi-Wan just held on tighter.
"I'll take what he's having."
Jango paused, glass a few inches from his lips, but then sighed and finished drinking. He set the glass down firmly and turned to look at the woman who'd sat herself beside him.
This was clearly the person who had been sending him anonymous messages to meet him. It took a moment to place her. He was far more familiar with the face of her sister.
"You better have a good reason to be here, Kyr'tsad.” It was difficult to not spit the word. “Or I will put a hole in your head, Kryze."
Bo Katan Kryze met his eyes coolly. "Fett. I'm not sure why you think I need a reason. Perhaps I'm just here for a drink."
Jango snorted, and pulled out his blaster, keeping it at his hip, but making it clear that he was more than willing to follow through with his threat. Around him a few people moved away, clearing away from possible trouble. "Find a drink somewhere else." Kryze gave the blaster a dismissive glance, and raised an eyebrow. Yes, definitely related to the other Kryze, self assured, overly assuming, and completely certain they could push their way into places they weren’t wanted.
"You know, my sister refuses to even acknowledge that Death Watch is still around, I don't think she's even willing to acknowledge my existence, too old Mandalore for her, and that's without her realizing where my loyalties lie." Kryze stared at him, and Jango gave her his best disinterested look. "How did you know I was Death Watch."
Jango raised an eyebrow. "You think I haven't kept an eye on Kyr'tsad? I know exactly who your cousin is. You didn't join your sister in her crusade to strip Mandalore of its identity. You're certainly not one of mine. Your cousin's done a remarkable job biding his time. But you're his."
"Pre is willing to do what is necessary to not fall prey to the weakness my sister is trying to spread through Mandalore. And I want Mandalore to be what it was.” Kryze spit the words. “That's more than you can say. You don't seem to want anything for Mandalore at all."
Jango clenched his jaw, and waved his fingers at the bartender for another drink. "You know nothing, Kryze, of what I want."
Bo Katan leaned forward, pressing into his space and Jango had to restrain himself from shooting her. Her lips spread in a mockery of a victorious smile. “Exactly. Whose fault is that, Fett."
The barb hit home, undoubtedly just as intended. "What are you here for, Kryze?"
It was only the smallest moment, but for a split second Jango saw something that might have been uncertainty cross Kryze's face; it occurred to him that Kryze was young, older than Jango had been when Galidraan had happened, yes, but still young. Certain of the galaxy and her place in it, still so blissfully unaware of how little the galaxy cared.
"I was young, when Galidraan happened, only just an adult by Mandalorian standards,” she started carefully. "I wasn't Death Watch, not then."
"I've already been given the lecture on not judging those who were too young to be personally involved in the Galidraan tragedy,” Jango informed her. "But you know what they've done and yet you follow Death Watch."
Kryze narrowed her eyes. "What choice do I have?"
Jango opened his mouth to retort, but Kryze spoke again.
"That, that is why I'm here, Fett." That uncertainty was back. "You disappeared from sight after Galidraan, for years the people of Mandalore thought you were dead. And then rumors that you were alive started spreading, and I thought…” She shook her head. "We lost hope in you all over again. I lost hope in you."
It hurt, but her accusations were more than fair. “Why are you here?” he repeated.
"There are rumors."
"There always are." Jango said wryly, a fact that he'd been well aware of when he'd said and done the things he'd said and done, at least of late.
"There are rumors that you're preparing to call for Mandalore again, that you're preparing to take your role as Mand'alor."
Well, that was a bit of a jump, he'd wanted his people to see that he was present still, that he was willing to fight for causes above himself and his money. He had said nothing, to anyone, of Mandalore, of his people. But then, perhaps his people had been waiting so long that they were eager for even the smallest sign.
Guilt and rage were an uncomfortable mix.
"I suppose that would add quite the crimp in whatever Kyr'stad's plans are." He eyed her. "You here to try to kill me, Kryze? Prove yourself loyal to Death Watch."
"Is it true?"
Jango stared at her for a long moment. "I don't know that my vision for Mandalore matches yours, Kryze. It certainly doesn't match the vision Death Watch has." He scoffed a little. "Neither does it match the vision your sister has." It didn't answer her question, not completely, anyway. But it was still an answer.
Kryze grimaced at that. "Yes, well Satine's most Manda trait has always been her passion. She's just always been passionate about the wrong sort of things. Reform, pacifism, Jedi padawans." Kryze snorted. "Though rumor has it, she's not alone in that." She gave him a knowing look that might have been an attempt at friendly teasing.
"Jedi Padawans aren't my thing."
Kryze snorted. "But Kenobi is, apparently. Looks like you and my sister have something in common after all." Kryze made a face. "Never really understood it, myself. But to each their own, I suppose."
Jango kept his face empty of the thoughts racing through his mind.
That was a new one. Obi-Wan had never mentioned knowing the Duchess. He wasn't, however, inclined to let Kryze realize that Jango was unaware of that facet of Obi-Wan's past. Especially since Kryze was hinting at something that Jango would have never thought to guess. What exactly was Obi-Wan's relationship with the Duchess?
Jango couldn't think about that. Not right now.
Kryze seemed to have already moved past that point, though, and was staring at Jango with searching eyes. "Pre doesn't believe the rumors. He thinks that Death Watch destroyed your spirit, destroyed you. He doesn't think you have what it takes to fight for anything other than money now."
Jango clenched his jaw. That hadn't been meant as a barb, but it had struck true all the same. Death Watch had broken his spirit, it had been so much easier to fight alone, money his only goal. The only way he could be hurt then, was physically.
Jango had still cared for his people, but from a far enough distance that his inability to lead them, his inability to help them, couldn't hurt him.
"Your cousin should know better than to assume things like that."
"So he's wrong?" There was a gleam in Kryze's eyes and Jango wondered again just why she was here.
Jango stared at her. He thought of Naboo and Obi-Wan and fights that were worth fighting. He thought of Kamino and clones that were being created and threats on the horizon.
It would be risky, to be honest to a member of Kyr'tsad. "A man can't be Mand'alor if no one follows him." Jango said quietly. "And my people have every reason to doubt me. It's been ten years since Galidraan. But I'm not beaten or broken, Kryze, and if there are any out there who still trust me, who are still waiting for me—" And he knew there were, no matter how little Jango deserved their loyalty. "Then I can assure you, and you can feel free to warn your cousin, I'll fight for them and with them. The True Mandalorians aren't dead, Kryze. Kyr'tsad hasn't won."
Kryze leaned back and then tossed her drink back in one smooth motion. "Mando'ad draar digu, Fett." She stood up. "Pre might have ignored your True Mandalorians after Galidraan, but I never did. And not all of those who follow Pre want Mandalore to be nothing more than destruction without a cause."
Jango raised an eyebrow. "And if I have a cause worth fighting for, Kryze? A fight worthy of the Mandalorian spirit?"
Kryze met his eyes. "Prove you're still Mand'alor, Fett. Prove that Naboo wasn't a fluke, that you still know how to fight for something that's not just money. Prove that you have Manda still."
Jango stared at her and then turned back to his drink. "Next time I see you, Kryze, if you're still Kyr'tsad, I will kill you."
"If you're not worth the title you've been given, you'll be dead before you can try."
Jango smirked a little into his drink.
Ah, there was the death threat he’d been waiting for. How were she and the Duchess even related?
He returned to the Lars Homestead with his mind turning over everything that Kryze had said. He wasn't sure he could trust her, she was Kyr'tsad after all. Trusting a member of Kyr'tsad was more dangerous than juggling with grenades, the only certainty with both was that eventually it would blow up on you.
Had he really pushed those who might have joined the True Mandalorians into Death Watch's hands with his silence? With his absence?
The thought was galling.
It wasn't too late. Not if he was willing to fight for the Mandalorian cause, not if he was willing to give the Mandalorians a cause.
He'd have to return to Mandalore.
He needed to gather his people, first. He needed to help the True Mandalorians become strong again.
It was tempting, in some ways, to leave Kyr'tsad and the New Mandalorians to fight amongst themselves.
They weren't his people.
Except how many of them were? How many of them would follow him, if he gave them a third option. Not mindless violence nor enforced and stringent peace.
He wouldn't ever force anyone to fight with him. There were many ways to answer the Mand'alor's call to arms, and fighting was only one of them.
He wandered through the kitchen to see Shmi cooking at the counter. She turned to look at him, smile fading a little as she looked at him. "You all right?"
Jango nodded. "I'm going to go out and practice the meditation Obi-Wan's been teaching me. I probably won't make it in for dinner."
Shmi's brow furrowed further in concern. "All right."
He left before she could ask anything more. He liked and respected Shmi. This wasn't something he was prepared to talk about though. Not with her.
He wanted to talk to Obi-Wan.
It was still a strange realization.
In the grand scheme of things he'd known Obi-Wan for five years, and so much of that time had been spent not together. So much of that time had been spent barely acknowledging they were friends.
And yet Jango wanted so much more than just friendship.
Jango wanted to fight Obi-Wan's fights with him.
And he wanted Obi-Wan to be willing to do the same.
He wanted to share a ship, to share a purpose, to share a name.
He wanted Obi-Wan to help raise his future son, was willing to step up and help Obi-Wan with his duties as guardian and protector for the two boys he’d taken in.
Sometimes, he was afraid of how much he wanted from Obi-Wan.
"You look far too bothered by something to be meditating." Obi-Wan's voice was quiet and Jango opened his eyes to see Obi-Wan settling into position in front of him.
"Wasn't trying to meditate,” Jango admitted.
"It will help,” Obi-Wan said quietly. "To protect your mind."
Jango nodded. "I believe you." He stared at Obi-Wan, and felt the impulse rise in him, almost impossible to deny. "Ni copaani mirjahaal. Gar dinu naak ori'shya mayen." (I need peace of mind. You give peace more than anything.)
Obi-Wan looked surprised at the Mando'a, looking up at Jango with a faint brush of color on his cheeks that hadn't come from the sun outside—so he did understand Mando'a. The brief moment on Naboo where Obi-Wan had thanked him in Mando'a hadn't been a fluke.
Obi-Wan's eyebrows furrowed, as if he was trying to decide on a course of action. “Me’liniba?” (What do you need?)
Jango felt a strange mix of warmth and hurt at the Mando'a coming from Obi-Wan's lips. "You never mentioned that you knew the Duchess." He tried to make the words come out completely neutral, but he suspected he hadn't managed as well as he wanted.
Obi-Wan blinked, looking thoroughly surprised at the shift. "I did know her, yes." Something complicated crossed Obi-Wan's face. "When Death Watch and the New Mandalorians were fighting after the True Mandalorians…” Obi-Wan hesitated. "Well, after what happened to the True Mandalorians. The Senate sided with the New Mandalorians."
Jango snorted. Pacifism. Of course the Senate had sided with them, the New Mandalorians were far less of a threat to the Senate, fell more in line with what the Senate and the Republic considered good and civilized. It was the same reason the Senate had been so willing to interfere in matters not their own on Gaildraan, and then look the other way when their overstep led to death, the True Mandalorians hadn't been worth caring about, too savage for the respectable members of the Senate to care about.
"The New Mandalorians asked for help and the Senate asked the Jedi to ensure that Satine wasn't killed."
Jango nodded, he'd known that much. That had been just over three years after Galidraan, and Jango had only recently freed himself from his time as a slave. He'd known what was going on, at least in a general sense.
"My Master and I were sent,” Obi-Wan said slowly. "I was sixteen, we ended up spending a year on the run, her, my Master, and I. Chased by Death Watch while her peacekeepers retook Sundari." Obi-Wan seemed a little hesitant. "We grew fond of each other, her and I."
Jango hated himself a little for the flash of jealousy that ran through him. "Fond?"
Obi-Wan shrugged, then stopped mid-motion. "I would have left the Jedi Order, had she asked."
It was a gut punch. That was more than just a little fond. That was. That was something Jango didn't really want to put into words, not when it was between Obi-Wan and the Duchess. The woman who was Jango's very antithesis. Who wanted to destroy what it meant to be Mandalorian.
"Her?" Jango couldn't help the way the word tore out of him. "And are you still fond of her?"
"Jango." Obi-Wan's voice was carefully neutral; it told Jango more than he really wanted to know.
"No." Jango interrupted. "I—" he shook his head. "You don't need to answer that. You're allowed your affections." Even if it was perhaps not Jango that had gained those affections. Hadn't even had a chance, it seemed.
"Jango." Obi-Wan looked so uncertain. "I can't—" Obi-Wan let out a heavy breath. "There's—" Obi-Wan was clenching his hands open and shut. "Jango. It's complicated."
"Complicated,” he repeated, a little incredulous. That was one word for it, he supposed.
Obi-Wan was a Jedi though, had been a Jedi, of course he would fall for a woman who sought peace above all else, who would destroy the traditions of an entire people to do it, and cast out anyone who disagreed with her in the process.
"She won't even let my people wear their armor." Jango felt a familiar rage burning. "But that's all right, isn't it. She can try to destroy the foundational tenets of my people, but so long as her cause is just, so long as her desires align so conveniently with the principles of your vaunted Jedi Order and your precious Republic. Why, if that's the case, you'll help her with a smile."
"Would you have rather we let Death Watch kill her?" Obi-Wan snapped back.
The answer seemed to ring clear through the cooling air of the desert, despite Jango not saying it aloud and Obi-Wan reared back as though he'd been struck. As though Jango had struck him.
"I hate Death Watch." Jango kept his voice quiet; some of his rage had buried itself again. "They tried to destroy my people, and someday I'll bring the fight back for them. But just because the Duchess claims her ways are peaceful, doesn't make them any less an act of destruction against my people. But unlike Death Watch she'd erase my people and our traditions from history itself if she could."
"You hate her just as much as them, then?"
Jango shrugged. "Sometimes less, sometimes more. Death Watch wants to ravage destruction with no cause. The Duchess wants to regulate us into being nothing but ghosts of ourselves. We're born with Manda in our souls, Obi-Wan, with fire and passion and life.” He needed Obi-Wan to understand this. Needed Obi-Wan to understand what the Duchess was trying to destroy. “That doesn't mean all of us want to fight, though most of us do. We're not bloodthirsty, not savage, but give us a cause, Obi-Wan, and you'll never find anyone who can match us in our passion, in our fight."
"And what's your cause?" Obi-Wan's voice was quiet.
You are, Jango thought. You and whatever impossible fight you're preparing for, you’re my cause. But that wasn’t what Obi-Wan was asking. “I don't know,” he answered instead, because Obi-Wan wasn't ready to hear that, and Jango was suddenly unsure he could say it aloud anyways, with the bitter realization of who Obi-Wan had already ceded his heart too. "I abandoned my people, after Galidraan. Galidraan broke me, and I had to put myself back together again. After that, well, I never seemed to be ready to face them again."
Obi-Wan reached out carefully, and Jango watched as his hand hovered over where Jango's own hand was resting on his knee, but Obi-Wan withdrew without touching. Was it because he was afraid that Jango wouldn't want his touch? Or was it, Jango wondered bitterly, because he couldn't bear to touch Jango. "You're a good man, Jango Fett."
Jango laughed a little. "No, I'm not, Obi-Wan. I'm a bounty hunter."
Obi-Wan shrugged. "Yes, you're that too. But you're a good man. You'd be a good leader, if you let yourself be."
"If they let me be,” Jango corrected.
Obi-Wan paused, but then nodded. "Yes, that too."
They fell quiet then, the silence not quite comfortable, the same way it'd been at the beginning, and Jango already missed the ease in which they'd use to share their silences.
"Why did you never tell me?" Jango asked, not sure if he wanted to know. "About you and the Duchess."
Obi-Wan frowned a little, looking away. "It never occurred to me. It was so long ago."
Jango wasn't sure what he thought of that. Was that a good thing? A bad thing?
"It was only two years before we met." Jango pointed out. And yes, Jango wouldn't have expected Obi-Wan to tell Jango then, surely since? Especially when Jango had, well when Jango had done everything he could to make it clear where he stood when it came to Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan laughed, a sharp sound, and Jango was transported back suddenly to the last time he'd heard that laugh escape Obi-Wan, it had been right before Naboo had happened. After Obi-Wan had been sick, when he'd looked at Jango and seen different men. The first time Jango had really asked Obi-Wan about his past and gotten answers that made no sense. They don’t exist, not now, maybe not ever. But they did, and they might, but for now they’re phantoms in my mind. Specters that are a haunting of a past that’s gone. I'm a crazy man, Jango.
"As long ago as Cody and Rex?" Jango wasn't quite sure what prompted the question, wasn't even sure what exactly he meant by it, but it froze Obi-Wan where he sat, eyes wide with confusion and shock and so much grief Jango couldn't breathe.
"How do you know about Cody and Rex?"
"You told me about them."
"I—" Obi-Wan shook his head. "No. I wouldn't have told you—No, not that." And that felt like the cold-clock of a blaster to the head. Obi-Wan trusted Jango, Jango knew that. He trusted Jango with Shmi, with Anakin, and now with Savage and Feral. But not with the secrets that hung around them, not his past with the Duchess, not with the truth about these two men that Obi-Wan clearly had trusted. "I haven't—not with anyone." The admission that Jango was not the only one being left in the dark did little to stem the hurt.
Cody and Rex. Satine. Dooku who was Tyranus. Secrets and stories and all of it left for ‘someday, if you’re still around.’
"You didn't tell me much. It was just after you first woke up after the fever broke, back before Naboo. I didn't realize you'd forgotten,” Jango said quietly. "All you said was that they looked like me, that you trusted them with your life. Only that you'd lost them. That they were nothing more than phantoms now."
"Oh." The quiet sound echoed for a moment and then Obi-Wan slumped. "In some ways, yes, Satine was as long ago as them. In some ways, no." He closed his eyes. "I—I can't, Jango. Not yet."
Not yet. That wasn't the same as never. How many times had Obi-Wan said that recently? ‘Someday,’ ‘not yet,’ ‘I need more time.’
Jango wanted to give him that time, wanted to wait. But could Jango keep waiting, when it felt like every lesson learned from Obi-Wan's past was going to hurt the way this one had? "But someday?"
Obi-Wan's eyes flickered, questions and decisions and uncertainty. "You keep coming back,” Obi-Wan said quietly. "No one has ever done that before." He sighed, the silence pressing in on them both again.
It wasn't an answer. Jango was starting to wish he hadn't asked for one.
He's hiding things. He has secrets. Shmi had said. She had warned that they might tear at the two of them. That Jango would want to walk away.
Jango had acknowledged that she might be right, but had somehow convinced himself that she wouldn't be.
"If she asked you to come to her now, the Duchess, to leave everything behind for her, would you do it?" Obi-Wan had said he'd have left the Jedi Order for her, then. But now?
Obi-Wan didn't answer immediately. "I'd never be able to sit back and watch her die." Obi-Wan shuddered at that. "I love her, Jango. I don't—I don't know how to stop loving people once I've started. But Satine." Obi-Wan shook his head. "I've lost her, Jango. In so many different ways. I, I don't trust her, perhaps, the way I once did. There are some things I just can't go back to. Some things you can never go back to. And she's one of them."
"And if I said that I wanted to lead the True Mandalorians again, to take back Mandalore?"
Obi-Wan looked shattered. "Don't kill her, Jango. Please. Please don't make me see that. Not a—" Obi-Wan cut off. Jango had the strange feeling that he knew how that sentence would have finished. Not again.
Jango shoved it aside. Later. He'd figure this all out, later.
"My people deserve to be free."
"They do,” Obi-Wan agreed, quiet, so quiet. "I—" Obi-Wan sighed. "I don't agree with what Satine has done, what she will do. I don't, well, I don't fully understand what it means to be Mandalorian. I was there on Mandalore for a year, I watched as Satine's determination strengthened and evolved into what it is now. She changed that year; she'd always wanted something different for Mandalore, something she felt was better than what Death Watch was pushing for. But..." Obi-Wan's hands fidgeted. "She had never spoken kindly of many of the traditions, but she wouldn't speak of any of them at all, by the end."
Maybe it was better than what Death Watch wanted, but that didn't make it good. That didn't make it right.
"I've failed my people for so long, Obi-Wan,” Jango said quietly. "If they take me back, I won't fail them again. I want to give them a cause worth fighting for. I want them to be free to wear their armor. To follow the resol'nare. I want them to be able to teach their children how to fight and how to live. I want Mandalore to be what it was, welcoming to everyone who feels the Manda call, not just those who were born on our planet and in our system. I want my people to be able to step onto Mand'yaim without being made outcasts." I want you to be with me. But that was something else Jango couldn't say. "I won't kill her, Obi-Wan." Obi-Wan seemed to fall in on himself with relief at the words. "But when the time comes, I will oppose her." Jango swallowed, hard. "Can you accept that?"
Obi-Wan shifted a little, looking up at Jango, eyes piercing into Jango's own. "They're your people, Jango. You're supposed to protect them." Something dark seemed to pass over Obi-Wan's face. "And your people deserve someone who is willing to do what is necessary to protect them."
Jango thought that Obi-Wan probably meant it as an affirmation of Jango, but it still felt like a condemnation. Ten years now he'd abandoned them, eight of those years he'd been free but ultimately passive. He hadn't done what was necessary to protect them. And now Death Watch still lurked in the shadows and a Duchess stripped them of their identity and Jango would have to watch his every step in reclaiming what he'd let slip through his fingers.
"Would you stand with me?" Jango asked, hating himself a little for asking. Obi-Wan loved her, but Jango didn't know that he could take all of this on his own, and he wanted Obi-Wan to be at his side. He would wait however long, would never try to push Obi-Wan past what he was ready for. Would take this however slow Obi-Wan needed. But selfishly, he wanted to know that he wouldn't lose Obi-Wan by pursuing this path.
"Are you asking me to?" It was an echo of what Jango had asked Obi-Wan, when Obi-Wan had asked if he would keep coming back.
"Yes. Obi-Wan, I—“ He cut off, the hair on the back of his neck rising, as the ground trembled beneath them, sending a faint tremor up his back. He jerked to his feet, one hand going to his blaster, and the other grabbing Obi-Wan’s arm and pulling him up and towards him.
Obi-Wan stumbled, cursing and catching himself against Jango, as Jango started pulling them down the dune.
Kriff, Jango was a fool. Not even in his armor, all he had was two blasters, a few vibroblades, and a garrote, not that the garrote or vibroblades would do much good against what Jango was pretty sure was coming for them.
Obi-Wan at least had his lightsabers.
“Jango.” Obi-Wan caught his hand, pushing the blaster down, trying to move back up the dune.
“Obi-Wan.” Jango pulled him back, keeping his voice quiet. “Do you realize—”
“It’s all right.” Obi-Wan was smiling, looking at the top of the dune and Jango felt his blood run cold as a large head appeared over the top of the dune. He shifted his grip on his blaster, slowly raising it.
Obi-Wan pushed it down again. “No. Trust me.”
Jango clenched his blaster tighter, but kept it lowered.
A low, deep vibration filled the air, and Jango felt unnerved to realize it was coming from the Krayt Dragon that was standing in the ravine.
“Hello there.” Obi-Wan’s voice was quiet. “I was starting to think you were ignoring me.”
Jango stared at Obi-Wan as the man slowly stepped closer to the Krayt—not just a Krayt, he realized as he took a better look at the huge creature, a Greater Krayt.
The Greater Krayt’s head shifted, one large yellow eye seeming to stare at Jango.
“This is Jango.” Obi-Wan continued. “I wanted you to meet him.” Obi-Wan smiled back at Jango. “This is who I’ve been wanting to show you.”
Jango thought his mouth was probably gaping a little unflatteringly.
“During our morning meditations.” Obi-Wan clarified. “She normally comes to visit every couple of mornings, but she’s been staying away.”
Obi-Wan was stepping closer to the edge of the dune, only a few feet from the Great Krayt and Jango had to fight his instincts not to pull Obi-Wan away, instead moving carefully closer himself.
The Great Krayt followed his movements as he pressed against Obi-Wan, wrapping his free arm around Obi-Wan so that he could pull him back easily if necessary. He couldn’t quite bring himself to let go of his blaster with the other hand.
He had the strangest feeling that the Great Krayt found him amusing.
Shmi had said that they’d heard a Krayt call every few days, that Obi-Wan seemed unbothered by it.
This was not what Jango had expected.
Shmi was absolutely going to murder Obi-Wan. And then she was going to murder Jango for going along with this.
“I didn’t even invite you this time,” Obi-Wan was saying quietly. “Why now?”
The Greater Krayt shifted, moving closer, and Jango stepped back, pulling Obi-Wan with him. The Greater Krayt huffed, warm air moving across them, bringing with it the scent of blood and meat. At least that probably meant the creature had already eaten and wouldn’t necessarily be in a hurry to eat the two of them.
Obi-Wan let out a small breath. “Oh.”
“What does that mean?” Jango said quietly.
“She felt us fighting,” Obi-Wan said, and he sounded amused and soft.
“She felt us fighting?” Jango repeated, absolutely lost.
Obi-Wan nodded. “Well, me more than you. Greater Krayts are sensitive to the Force. Many people believe they’re Dark Side inclined, but that’s not true.”
The Greater Krayt had drawn back a little, and Jango felt a bit of relief. Not enough. Krayts could move with impressive speed and they were still far too close to the creature for Jango to feel comfortable.
“I would really like an explanation,” Jango said quietly, trying to carefully ease Obi-Wan backwards. “As to how you met, and apparently made friends with, a Great Krayt.”
Obi-Wan turned a little, not quite pushing out of Jango’s arm—and he was showing his back to the Krayt, was Obi-Wan mad?—to look up at Jango. Jango let his eyes flicker down to meet Obi-Wan’s before returning to keep careful watch on the Krayt, who was standing there, fierce and majestic, and completely unbothered by the two small, snack-sized humans.
“Jango.” Obi-Wan’s voice was soft. “What were you asking me, before our friend showed up?”
Our friend? Jango thought and in his own mind the words sounded a little hysterical, only Obi-Wan. The presence of the Greater Krayt had almost driven everything else out of his mind, and it took effort to send his focus to something not the current moment.
“I don’t want to lose you,” Jango said carefully. “Over this. Over Mandalore. I know you—” the words were bitter on his tongue. “I know you love her. But—” The Great Krayt had moved closer again, head tilted in what Jango would have sworn was curiosity. “Stand with me,” he finished. “Please. I, I want you to stand with me.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and there were so many emotions in Obi-Wan’s eyes. “You won’t lose me.” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I’ll be here, as long as you’ll have me.”
The Great Krayt shifted back, neck elongating as the creature seemed to reach up into the air, pulling Jango out of the moment and he pulled Obi-Wan closer and back a few steps. She let out a long, low sound that echoed over the desert as it rose into a higher, bone-shaking screech.
A moment later the Great Krayt was gone and Jango reached the edge of the dune in time to see the huge creature, over 100 yards from head to tail, disappearing into the sandy bottom of the ravine.
He turned and stared at Obi-Wan, who was staring at the bottom of the ravine, smiling like he’d just said goodbye to a friend and not a terrifying, desert predator.
Gods. Jango loved this man.
Shmi was going to kill them both.
He woke abruptly, senses on alert. "What?"
Obi-Wan was at the foot of the bed, trying to hastily dress himself, the man turned to look at him and in the dim light Jango could see that his eyes were hard and determined. “Sorry to disturb you, you can go back to sleep.”
"What are you doing?" The house seemed silent, no noise to indicate that something had gone wrong.
"I need to go. Someone's in trouble and I need to get to them."
"Who?" Jango pushed himself out of bed, reaching for his blaster, settled securely on the table beside the bed. "Shmi? One of the boys?"
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, none of them. It's—" he hesitated. "It's—" Obi-Wan looked away.
"It's?" Jango repeated, trying to prompt Obi-Wan into continuing.
Obi-Wan just shook his head, going back to pulling his boots on.
Jango wanted to hit his head on something, because this felt like the start of another secret.
"Look, I need to go, I need to—" Obi-Wan paused, staring at Jango as though he'd just thought of something. "Does your ship have boarding capabilities?"
Jango raised an eyebrow, a little confused and not quite sure he liked where this was going. "Yes."
Obi-Wan stood frozen. “Jango, I know you’re upset, please, I—”
“What do you need?” He pushed himself from the bed, grabbing at clothes and weapons.
Obi-Wan seemed to sag in relief. “Thank you.”
May the Force Be With You!