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First Meeting

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He’d had to bring Boba along. It was a stupid reason, he hadn’t had time to figure out a solution and he didn’t want to leave the toddler alone with the Kaminoans at this tender age, for a variety of reasons. He left the kid with his host and employer, instead, and went to do his job. It was, however, when he returned that things had changed in an unforeseeable way.

He’d just been paid and had gone to get his son. He found Boba sitting and staring in utter fascination at a young, pale green Twi’lek, their lekku patterned with swirling blue, who was kneeling in front of him, playing with a little toy to entertain him. The toy hovered and spun and turned, as Boba laughed and clapped. The Twi’lek child beamed. The toy dropped to the ground, and Boba clapped again, then moved over to them, snuggling against them. They hugged him back, snuggling close. When they released Boba, Jango took a step forward. Boba turned to him and squealed in delight, but the other child paled and jumped back. Jango’s host approached from behind, and the green figure shrank back further. Boba toddled towards his father, but stopped when he saw the host behind. The toddler looked between the host and his father, and then over at the older child who had a moment before been so playful. Jango looked between the two children as well.

“They’ve been keeping your boy occupied while you’re away. They’re the most rebellious house slave I have at that age, but they haven’t caused trouble while they’ve been looking after him. For once.” Boba looked to the Twi again, and held out a hand to them. They shook their head slightly, and Boba sniffed and whined. The older kid’s expression was pained. They took half a step forward, and the host snapped, “no!” They jerked back sharply. Jango bristled just slightly at that tone, and Boba whined again. Jango made a split second decision.

“I’m taking the kid, too.”

“Really? You don’t want that one, Fett, they’re a pain in the arse.”

“They’re good with Boba, right? I’ll take them with me.”

The host didn’t fight much. They shrugged. Clearly Fett was stubborn, and without the toddler they’d just have a troublesome young house slave again. Jango transferred back some of the credits, and knelt down. “Go get your friend, Boba,” he told the boy quietly. Boba turned and went to them, tugging their hand. The child hesitated and flicked a glance at the other adult. The host rolled their eyes.

“You’re going with Fett, kid,” was all that was said, before the host turned and departed. The young one then let Boba pull them along. Boba led them over to his father. Jango, still kneeling, was eye-level with the child.

“Hello,” Jango murmured. He was pleased that they didn’t bow their head. “What’s your name?”

“Cain.” Now that the host was gone, they seemed to have gained some confidence, but they still seemed wary enough of Boba’s father.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Jango.”

“Buir!” Boba said helpfully. Jango smiled and ruffled his son’s hair.

“You can call me buir, too, if you like. How old are you, Cain?”

“I’m seven.”

“Seven, huh? Boba here is three.”

“Am I really coming with you and Boba?” Cain asked. “Am I going to be your house slave now?”

“No.” Jango shook his head to underscore the point. “I bought your freedom. If you would like, you can come live with me and Boba. I can raise you along with him. Or I can take you back to Ryloth, if you want.” They might prefer it. However, Cain shook their head. They had no memories of Ryloth, and Jango seemed nice. Plus, there was Boba to consider.

“I’ll come with you, please. I like Boba.”

“When we get back you can meet my other sons. They’re about your age, a little younger.”

“Are they also nice?”

“I think you’ll like them. And they’ll like you. They look like Boba, but older.” Cain nodded again. “Come on, and we’ll go to my ship. Boba, you want up?” Boba nodded, and Jango gently lifted him up to hold close. He held out his free hand to Cain, who took it after a moment. “Do you have any things to get?”

“No,” they mumbled. Slaves weren’t allowed to own things. They didn’t even own their own clothes. The ones Cain wore had been bought along with their freedom.

“All right. Let’s go to my ship, then, and I’ll take you back home.” Cain nodded and stuck close to Jango’s side as they went back to the ship.
~~~

“You did what?” The Kaminoan’s already huge eyes widened. Cain pressed closer into Jango’s side, and his arm tightened protectively around their shoulders.

“I adopted them. Cain will be living with me and I will be raising them along with Boba and the Nulls. This is not a discussion.”

“Fett–”

“Not. A. Discussion. I will need some sets of clothes in their size. Cadet uniforms will be fine. They’re smaller than the Nulls are, but I think three-year-old size will be good.” Jango brushed past the Kaminoan after that, and made his way to his room. The door slid open, and a cluster of identical six-year-old boys was revealed to be gathered around the entryway. They beamed.

“Buir!”

“Hello, boys. Can someone get the door, please? Thank you, A’den. Everyone to the living room, and you can all meet your new vod.” They all fell in line behind him, and as Jango sat on the couch, he set Boba down. The toddler was immediately hugged by several Nulls, and he giggled excitedly. Cain stood uncertainly until Jango patted the seat beside him. “Come on up,” he said gently. Cain nodded and climbed up beside him. The boys stood in a semi-circle around Jango and Cain on the couch, with Boba at his father’s feet. “Cain, these are my older sons. This is Ordo, A’den, Kom’rk, Mereel, Jaing, and Prudii. Boys, this is Cain. They’re seven.”

“Su’cuy Cain!” the Nulls chorused.

“It may take you a little while to learn to tell them apart, but-” Jango started.

“Ordo, A’den, Kom’rk, Mereel, Jaing, Prudii,” Cain repeated, gesturing to each Null in turn. “I can tell which is which.” They all felt different. It was easy.

Jango blinked. “Oh. Good then.” Ru’dinad , he thought. Gifted one. “There should be a bed for you, we can grab one.”

“Ba’vodu Kal brought one by earlier, buir,” Ordo supplied quickly. Jango would have to thank Kal later, then.

“You told him about my message?” Ordo nodded. “All right. Do you want to show Cain around the apartment?”

“Okay!” Mereel beamed and gestured for Cain to follow. Jango rose, picking up Boba, who was becoming fussy. Cain pushed themself off the couch, following Mereel. Ordo walked beside them. The other four Nulls hugged Jango’s legs briefly before heading after their brothers and new vod, while Jango went to tend the toddler.

Cain looked around as the young clones formed a cluster around them. They were smaller than the boys despite being a similar age, and their green and blue, with their simple gray outfit, stood out starkly against their brown skin and red uniforms. Jango had asked for uniforms for them, though, so soon they would at least look like they fit in.

“You’re a Twi’lek.” Cain turned to Prudii, walking on their other side, and nodded. “Are you from Ryloth?”

“Yes.”

“What part?”

Cain shrugged.

“You don’t know?”

“I was three when they took me away. I don’t remember Ryloth at all.”

“Why did they take you away? Who took you?”

“The people who bought me. They took me to Tatooine and sold me to the master, and then Buir bought my freedom.”

“Oh.” Prudii was quiet. Ordo, sensing the others’ sudden discomfort with the topic, moved over to Cain.

“You’re our vod now.” Cain looked up at him.

“What’s vod mean?”

“Vod means... family. Closer than a friend. Sibling. Brother.”

“Family is good.” Cain smiled for the first time since they’d arrived. “What’s buir mean?”

“Father. Parent.”

“I’ve never had a family before.”

“You do now,” Ordo said firmly. Mereel opened the door to the bedroom.

“This one’s your bed,” he beamed, running over to it to show them. The Nulls had bunk beds, each claimed by a pair. Cain’s bed was a single, in the middle of the back wall. It was closest to the bunk bed shared by Prudii and Mereel. Ordo and Jaing shared another, and Kom’rk and A’den the last. Cain smiled a little.

“Which ones are all yours?” Each of the boys went to their beds, Mereel, Ordo, and Kom’rk climbing up and sitting on their top bunks. Cain nodded. “Where does Boba sleep?”

“He stays in Buir’s room because he’s still little. He’ll move out of there when he’s big enough, Buir says,” Kom’rk explained.

“Oh. Okay,” Cain nodded. They sat on their bed and touched the sheets. It was soft, and had blankets, and was comfy. It was nice.

Their stomach rumbled.

“Cain’s hungry!” A’den popped up. “Have you ever had uj cake?” he asked them. Cain shook their head. “You need to try it! There’s some in the kitchen.”

“Is it time for food?” Cain frowned. They hadn’t heard a dinner bell.

“Dinner is later, but you’re hungry now. You can have more at dinner too. Come on!” When they hesitated again, he went over to them and held out a hand. “It’s okay.”

“We won’t get in trouble?” Cain had been a trouble child, and they had a rebellious streak that grew with each passing year, but they were still a little nervous.

“We won’t. It’s okay,” A’den repeated. He smiled at them, a soft, warm thing that made Cain’s own lips rise slightly. They took his hand and let him lead them towards the kitchen. The others joined, not about to miss a chance for uj cake.

Jango, in the kitchen, turned to see seven children make their way through the door, A’den holding hands with Cain at the front.

“Cain’s never had uj cake!” A’den announced. “Can they have some now?” He knew, as did his brothers, that technically they weren’t supposed to have sweets until after dinner, but a vod’s first uj cake should count as a special occasion, in his book. Special occasions were exceptions. Like birthdays. This was like a birthday, it was an... adopt-day. So it should count double. Jango looked into the young, hopeful faces, and smiled.

“All right. Uj cake. But you all still have to eat dinner too.”

“Yes, buir.”

Jango got out the cake, and the kids crowded around him against the counter. Cain had not let go of A’den’s hand. They didn’t, until everyone was seated at the table with their cake. Boba, in his high chair, had a bit too. Cain poked at the soft food, hesitantly taking a bite. Their eyes widened.

“It’s so sweet!”

“It’s good, isn’t it?” A’den, seated beside them, beamed. Cain nodded and ate quickly. It was delicious. Better than anything they had ever tasted. “Arni’soyacho,” they told him. They turned to Jango as well. “Arni tun!”

“Koahiko,” Jango replied, smiling. Ordo looked at his father.

“That is Ryl.”

“Correct. What did Cain say?” The boys had been learning Ryl.

“‘Thank you very much,’” A’den said promptly.

“‘Thank you,’” Ordo added, which is what they’d said to Jango.

“And what did I say?”

“‘No worries.’”

“Exactly. It can also be used for ‘you’re welcome.’” The Nulls all nodded as they absorbed this information. Cain smiled slightly.

“How do you say it in your language?” they asked curiously. Jango gestured for one of the boys to answer.

“Vor entye,” A’den told them. “It means literally ‘I owe you a debt.’”

“You can also say just vor’e,” Prudii, sitting on their other side, added. “It’s like ‘thanks.’”

“How do you say ‘you’re welcome?’” Cain asked, looking between the two.

“Ba’gedet’ye.”

“Ba’gedet’ye,” Cain repeated carefully. Prudii nodded.

“Well done, Cain,” Jango smiled. Cain positively beamed at the praise. “The boys and I speak it a lot. You’ll learn it too.”

“Can we learn more Ryl so we can speak it with Cain?” Jaing, who hadn’t spoken since Cain arrived, asked from the other side of the table. The question made Cain blush, though none of them could understand why.

“I don’t see why not if you all put in the effort.” Jango knew both Ryl and Huttese as well as Mando’a, and he was happy to have them learn as well. The ability would serve them well. Jaing nodded, satisfied. Cain looked over at him, and very briefly, he smiled at them too. It warmed them right to their toes, because they could tell he didn’t do it often.

“Is Cain gonna stay with us now?” Ordo asked carefully. He hated the idea that he might have made them false promises.

“Yes,” Jango said firmly. “Cain is your vod, and you will treat them as a vod, as family.”

“Vod Cain!” Mereel and A’den cheered at the same time. Cain was blushing brightly. Jango reached around Prudii and did something that would become both familiar and frequent, rubbing the top of Cain’s head like he would ruffle the boys’ hair. They smiled brightly and let out a happy trill in response. Boba perked up at the sound and babbled. Cain had made it frequently during the past week, and it always meant they were both happy and safe. Every single Null and Jango smiled at it. A’den put an arm around Cain from one side, and Prudii from the other.

“Cain’ika,” Prudii said decisively, and the others nodded.

“Cain’ika,” Ordo agreed. Little Cain. As Jango called them all little ones, Cain would be ‘little Cain’ too. “Vod’ika.” Cain would be Cain Fett from now on. Jango would make it official after dinner. He hadn’t had to with Boba or the Nulls, they were already his sons. But he would happily let the boys watch.

Later, once everyone had had the evening meal, washed, and changed into pyjamas (Cain’s new clothes had been brought by a droid a while before), Jango had them all gather around the couch. Boba was settled on the floor again, and Jango had Cain sit on his lap.

“Cain,” he explained, “to adopt you as my child, there’s a special phrase I’m going to say. If you want to adopt me as your parent, you reply with a special phrase too.” Technically that second part wasn’t necessary, but he wanted it to be Cain’s choice as well. “Do you want to become part of this family?” Jango asked them gently.

“Yes,” Cain said, immediate and certain. The Nulls exchanged excited glances, their excitement palpable even to Jango.

“Ni kar’tayli gai sa’ad, Cain Fett. I know your name as my child, Cain Fett.” Cain nodded.

“What do I say?”

“You say, ‘Ni kar’tayli gai sa’buir, Jango Fett.’”

“Ni kar’tayli gai sa’buir, Jango Fett,” Cain repeated.

“I know your name as my father, Jango Fett,” he translated.

“I know your name as my father, Jango Fett.” Cain’s smile grew with every word. Jango returned it. Suddenly, they wrapped their arms around him, hugging him tightly. Jango happily wrapped his arms around Cain, too.

“Cain Fett!” Ordo cheered. The others picked up the cheer. “Cain Fett! Cain Fett!”

“Cain Fett,” the little Twi’lek murmured against Jango’s chest.

“Welcome to the family, Cain’ika,” he murmured.

“Thank you, Buir.”

After a few moments, Jango realized that Cain was purring. He gave his sons a look to get them to quiet down, and when they did they heard it too. Mereel nudged Kom’rk, who grinned back. They all heard it, and they could all tell it was a good thing.

“Sleeping pile tonight?”

“Sleeping pile,” Mereel agreed. He looked around at his brothers, who were nodding. They would place their mattresses in the center of the room tonight, and sleep in a big pile with Cain in the middle. They could sleep in their bed tomorrow night. Tonight was a night for family cuddles.

Once Cain pulled back, Jango sent them all off to bed. The ori’vode pulled their mattresses and pillows and blankets from the bed while Cain watched, and once it was ready, they beckoned Cain to join. They took their place in the honored center spot, and all their brothers gathered around, making a pile of sleeping, cuddly bodies under all the blankets. Ordo was wrapped protectively around Cain, who curled into his arms, with Kom’rk snuggled close to their back, and the others closely packed around. Finally, all of them fell asleep, Cain settled happily in the middle of their new family.

Chapter Text

Cain woke with a scream. Every single Null bolted upright. Ordo and Mereel exchanged looks from the top bunks, trying to figure out where the sound had come from, and what it was. It didn’t sound like any of them, and they knew what Boba sounded like. Mereel was running through all the sounds he was familiar with in his head when the thunder cracked and rolled and Cain screamed again. Mereel leapt from the bed, sprinting to their side.

“Cain’ika, it’s okay.” He wasn’t expecting the force with which Cain latched onto his arm. Mereel tensed slightly, but didn’t pull away. The rest of his brothers were on or around the bed in the space of a few seconds.

“What happened?” Kom’rk asked. The thunder rolled again, and Cain managed to cut off their next scream, but their nails were digging into Mereel’s arm hard enough to leave marks.

“We’re being attacked,” Cain whispered. “Someone is shooting at us.”

“What?” Ordo frowned, then turned to Jaing. “Get buir.” Jaing nodded and ran out of the room. Kom’rk, on the bed, moved to hold Cain.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. “It’s okay, it’ll be all right.” At the next thunder crack, Kom’rk tightened his hug around Cain, and they hid their face in Kom’rk’s shoulder. They let go of Mereel’s arm to hold tight to Kom’rk, and Mereel subtly checked to see how tightly Cain had been holding him. There were little pale crescents indented into his arm.

Jaing returned with Jango in tow, the six-year-old carrying Boba. Kom’rk, seeing Jango’s arrival, nudged Cain. A’den moved from where he was also sitting on the bed to make room for his father, and Jango, gently, placed a hand on Cain’s back. They drew back from Kom’rk, trembling like a leaf, to look up at Jango.

“Come here, ad’ika,” Jango whispered. Cain nodded. Another crack of thunder meant they threw themself into Jango’s arms and held tight to him, shaking. Only now did anyone besides Kom’rk see that Cain was crying.

“Who’s attacking us? Are we going to die?”

“No, Cain,” Jango murmured, holding Cain close to his chest and rubbing their back lightly. “We aren’t under attack.”

“But the booms,” Cain whispered.

“That’s a thunderstorm, ad’ika. Sometimes when it rains, the clouds bump together and make lightning and thunder.” It was a vast oversimplification, but it would take some time before they could understand the actual explanation involving temperature and electric charge.

“It never rains on Tatooine,” Cain whispered. “I... I’ve heard of thunderstorms in stories-” They cut off, shaking, as a massive booming seemed to roll over the city. “Are they always so loud?”

“Usually,” Ordo murmured. He flicked a glance at Boba where he was held by Jaing, but the three-year-old had mastered the art of sleeping through Kaminoan storms. It had taken the Nulls a little while longer. Cain nodded slightly. They still jumped, but not so badly, at the next boom. Jango continued to rub their back.

“We used to get scared too.” Prudii had come to sit beside them. “The thunder... it sounds like live fire drills, training sessions with explosions.” Cain shuddered.

“But you’re not scared anymore?” Cain asked softly. The Nulls didn’t speak.

“We’ve all learned how to deal with it, or sleep through it,” Ordo supplied. They weren’t not scared anymore, but Cain needed to know that they would be all right. “It’s easier when we’re all together.”

Jango looked around at all of them. “Let’s go to my room,” he murmured. “We can all stay on my bed for a while.” He gently scooped up Cain, and a few of the boys grabbed blankets. Jaing led the way, putting Boba back in his crib when they got to Jango’s room. Jango sat on the bed, and the young clones clambered up onto the bed to surround their father and sibling. A’den and Mereel set out the blankets and everyone snuggled up together. Cain stayed glued to Jango the entire time. There were more rumbles.

“How... long do the storms usually last?”

“It depends. A few hours usually, but sometimes days.”

“Oh,” Cain replied in a small voice. Jango rubbed their back again. Mereel placed his hand over Cain’s, lightly, and they wrapped theirs around it. “Okay.” Mereel looked to his father with a pleading expression. The melancholy expression was mirrored in his sibling’s faces. Their own fear aside, they wanted their father to help this. They didn’t know what to do.

“Cain?”

“Yes?”

“Do you want to work on Ryl with us?”

“Now?” They looked up at Jango in surprise.

“Why not? We’re all here. It would be good for the boys to hear the pronunciation of a native speaker instead of just the program, or me, because I’m not a native speaker.” Fluent, yes, but not native. Cain nodded hesitantly.

“Okay. I can do that.”

“Wonderful.” Jango nodded to Mereel. “Will you get my pad please?” A moment later it had been retrieved from his desk, and he got out the Ryl learning program.