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Etain’s Dilemma

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“I miss Ordo.” The words, so quiet they were almost inaudible, seemed almost unconscious, and he looked over at them, unsure he’d actually heard them.

“Hm?”

“I miss Ordo,” Cain repeated, still quiet, but definitely speaking to be heard this time. They weren’t looking at him, though, hands on their black and white gauntlets. Mereel sighed softly and pushed himself over to Cain.

“Me too, ad’ika.”

“We’ve seen Kal more than our own brother. We barely saw him on Coruscant, and that was a month long. The only person I’ve seen less is Walon kriffing Vau.” It was true, they’d actually seen Skirata since that. Vau had finished the terrorist job and kriffed off, but Skirata had stuck around before taking Boba back to Kamino.

“It sucks,” Mereel agreed quietly. “But we’ll see him after this.”

“Will we?” Cain muttered. “What if he’s been shipped out to the boonies again or something?”

“Then we’ll go visit.” Mereel shrugged. He didn’t know who Cain would be with after this; they got moved around, generally between their brothers depending on who was going where and on what. But this was important, and they didn’t know how long it would take. They didn’t know if it would be rushed, or if they’d be around for months, or if they just had to do a drop and move on. He wasn’t sure if Cain would end up staying and he’d go, either. “But we’ll see him again soon. It’s a big army, but we’re a family, and he’s a Captain. He gets his orders from Buir and Jusik, and they both know the situation.”

“That’s fair,” Cain admitted, but their shoulders still slumped.

“Cain,” came a quiet voice from behind them, and both they and Mereel turned, seeing Etain in the doorway.

“I thought you were asleep,” Mereel frowned. She shook her head.

“I was, I just woke up.” She gestured to where they sat on the couch, to the empty space Mereel had left when he moved over. He nodded, and she came to join them. Cain was watching her, and there was something in his sibling’s face he couldn’t quite place. It wasn’t anxiety. Apprehension, maybe.

“What is it, Etain?” Cain asked. Mereel wasn’t used to hearing them so quiet around others. They were so used to having to prove themself to non-clones, but he supposed after their last mission Etain wasn’t really a stranger anymore. Even so, it had taken Cain most of the last month to be properly relaxed around her. He wasn’t sure why; they had Padawan friends. Maybe that was it, though. Padawans were their age, and took them at face value, and the two Cain was friends with were unusual in their own right, strangely Mando for Jedi. Etain wasn’t quite so far removed from the Jedi and the Temple, at least symbolically. And she was a general. Cain seemed to have adjusted, though, fairly well. And they’d volunteered for this, so they must think well enough of her, after the 000 incident.

“Ordo will see you again soon, I know it.”

“Were you listening at the door?”

Etain shook her head as she said, “it isn’t hard to pick up on sibling bonds. You miss your brother because he’s the one you’ve seen least, yes?”

Cain waved a hand. “Jaing and Kom’rk are out in the middle of nowhere, but they call when they can, which is more often than Ordo can. He’s so busy all the time, being a Captain is hard work and I know that. His job is important, he’s important.”

“And you miss him anyway.”

“Of course I do, he's my brother.” Cain’s tone was just a hair shy of defensive.

“I understand.” Etain’s gaze dropped slightly. “Fi is one of my closest friends, and I miss him terribly when he’s gone. I miss his laugh, I miss his jokes, I miss the way he can help me relax even in the tensest situations.” She bit her lip briefly. “It’s his presence, too, just being able to feel-”

“Feel him there,” Cain nodded. Mereel had the inkling that this was about more than just the sensation and knowledge of another person in a room.

“Exactly.” Etain flicked a glance at Mereel, and he leaned back, so she wasn’t leaning around him to look at Cain. “I miss that too.”

“Fair, I guess,” they mumbled. “But no offense meant, knowing you know how it feels doesn’t help me with missing him.” Mereel snorted.

“She’s saying you’re not alone, Cain,” he pointed out. “And you will see him soon.”

“Know something I don’t about our orders, Lieutenant?” Cain raised an eyebrow, a hint of a smile pulling at their lips.

“Well if I did, Sarge, you wouldn’t have clearance for it, would you?” He grinned, and they grinned back, before headbutting him in the arm. Mereel gave a very theatrical yelp of pain.

“Oh, I’m injured! I’m mortally wounded!”

“Hush up,” Cain laughed, headbutting him again.

“The fatal blow, oh no!”

“Oh, kriff you, Mereel.”

“You know, language like that would get you kitchen duty for a week on my ship,” Etain teased.

“Good thing we’re not on your ship then,” Cain replied easily, still smiling. “I’m sure Gett would be most displeased.”

“Oh, indeed,” Etain snorted. Cain gave a spurt of surprised laughter at the unexpected sound.

“Decorum, general, decorum.” Mereel’s sarcastic monotone was tinged with amusement. Etain raised an eyebrow at him, and he only returned the gesture. Cain rolled their eyes, relaxing against the couch. Etain smiled too. Cain’s mood seemed brighter, at least, so Mereel was satisfied. Cain pulled off their gauntlets, leaving the fingerless black gloves underneath. It was still slightly jarring for Etain, so used to seeing those gauntlets and gloves accompanied by rich brown, to instead see pale green fingers coming through the black, Mereel noted. Etain seemed to consider Cain’s hands, not much different in size from her own. She opened her mouth, and Mereel was prepared for her to ask an inconsiderate question, but that wasn’t what she said.

“Why a Sergeant?”

Cain shrugged. “I’m only CE seven and a half, so–”

“CE?”

“Clone equivalent,” Mereel supplied. “It’s a... family joke. They're nearly 16.”

“So Buir wasn’t comfortable with me being promoted above Sergeant. Plus, he’s a Sergeant too, so it works well enough.”

“They did complete the full command track, though,” Mereel pointed out proudly. Cain smirked.

“Kicked all your butts, too.”

Etain gave a considering hum. “Indeed. Do you think as you get older you’ll get promoted?”

“Don’t need to.”

“Oh?”

“Everyone knows me.” Cain looked up at Mereel briefly. “I don’t need, or want, really, to be a higher rank. All the clones know me, they know who I am. They’re the ones that matter. I don’t need higher rank.”

“Why go for a rank at all? Why not just... be a Mando?”

“My brothers are soldiers. Warriors.” They pursed their lips. “Can we discuss this part later, Etain? Please.”

“Of course.” There was a moment Mereel didn’t quite understand, but Cain pressed against him slightly, and he brushed his hand against their back. Etain changed her line of conversation.

“Your Force abilities, how have you learned to use them?”

“Stubborn practice, mainly.” Mereel felt them relax, which intrigued him: Cain was not very open when it came to their ru’dinad status, and Etain’s question had made them more relaxed instead of less. “There weren’t any Jedi on Kamino to teach me, and I wouldn’t have asked even if there had been. Buir had no intention of contacting the Jedi about it either.” They paused, waiting to hear chastisement, but the Jedi only nodded.

“What did you practice?”

“Moving things, grabbing stuff, with and without moving my hands.” They smirked slightly. “I can open any lock.”

“That’s not the only thing you use that for,” Mereel muttered in Mando’a. His head jerked suddenly forward. “Ow!”

“You deserved that.”

“Did not, just telling the truth.” Etain’s eyes were wide, and Mereel explained in Basic, “I made a snide comment so they smacked me upside the head.”

“Ah. So you’ve learned things like that as well, then.”

“Anything that is... useful, really. One of the first things I tried to learn was dealing with pain. I can do some healing, but it’s easier to just slap a bacta patch on and call it a day. Combat stuff is really helpful. I can throw people, or shove them, which is nice. And it helps with jumping and climbing, but that’s not really... something I have to put conscious effort into.”

“What about non-combat abilities?”

“Like what?” Cain frowned. “You’ll have to describe, I won’t know any formal technique names.”

“Influencing, manipulation, things to do with your environment. Sensing, reading people, that kind of thing.” Etain made hand gestures as she spoke, presumably the ones that went with each technique.

“I mean... I can disappear.” Mereel had the pleasure of watching utter confusion appear on Etain’s collected features. She looked between them for some kind of explanation.

“You can... what? Like hiding in plain sight?”

“Like they don’t exist, until they do,” Mereel said quietly. She looked at him and raised her eyebrows, and he glanced at Cain, who shrugged, before he gave in to her appeal for more information. “You know how, even if someone is completely camouflaged, you can’t see them at all, you still get that hair-raising, back of your neck tingle that says someone is there, someone is watching you?” She nodded. “Cain can turn even that off. They just... cease to exist. Your eyes pass over them. If they make a sound, you might swipe at your ear, thinking you’d heard a fly. If they touched you, you might brush off your shoulder, maybe scratch an itch without thinking about it. They just aren’t there. Until they turn it off, and then you’d swear they’d been there the whole time, of course, they nodded at you when you came in, you waved at them. They were there all along.” Mereel shrugged. “They don’t really disappear. They just... vanish.”

“Does it work if someone knows the trick?”

“You mean can I do it if you’re watching?”

Etain shrugged. “Something like that. Can you show me?”

“If I know you’re watching, it’s harder, because you’re already aware of my... ‘I’m here’ signal. If I leave the room and come back, it’ll be easier.” They looked over at Mereel and raised an eyebrow, lekku curling.

“Hmm?” Their hands flicked. “Oh. Yeah, sure.”

“What just happened?” Etain frowned.

“You’ll see,” Mereel grinned. “Go on, Cain.”

“Okay.” They rose and left the room through the open doorway. Etain watched them go and then turned back to Mereel when she was sure Cain had gone.

“What was that? With their hands and the headtails?”

“The lekku are used in nonverbal communication, and the hand signals were ARC Sign,” Mereel explained. “They were asking me a question.”

“And I take it I don’t get to know the question until after.”

“Nope.” Mereel smiled broadly. “Quiz me, then.”

Etain smiled too, and began. “You’ve known them since they were how old?”

“Seven.”

“What is their favorite weapon?”

“Dual wielding, pistol and beskad.” He didn’t lift his gaze as Cain came in again and leaned against the wall. Etain didn’t either.

“How tall are they?”

“Five feet four inches. Four inches shorter than Buir, ten inches shorter than me, still taller than you.”

Etain laughed. “Everyone’s taller than me.”

“Except Jusik,” Cain pointed out. Etain reached up and brushed her hair back.

“Except Jusik,” Mereel agreed with Cain.

“Except Jusik,” Etain nodded. “That’s fair. Okay, curiosity now, did Jango Fett know Cain was helping with the investigation on Coruscant?”

Cain snorted. “Who do you think sent me?” They moved away from the wall, going sit on the edge of the couch next to Etain. Mereel laughed.

“Jango knew Cain couldn’t stay much longer on Kamino, they were getting cabin fever. He was the one who sent them, with Boba in tow.”

“It was also to keep an eye on Kal,” Cain muttered. “Kriffer.” Mereel carefully kept his face inscrutable. Etain frowned and flicked a glance up at the ceiling, probably wondering if there was something in pipes.

“So he sent them with Boba?”

“He’d got something he needed to handle, and it was safer to send Boba with.”

“On an anti-terror op?”

“Yes. He was surprisingly helpful,” Mereel pointed out. She paused, then sighed.

“Fair. And Besany seemed to like him.”

“Never underestimate a Mando kid,” Cain smirked, patting Etain on the shoulder. She absently shrugged that shoulder. “Especially not a Fett.” Cain moved over to take their spot on the end of the couch again. Mereel resisted the urge to reach over and rub their head; it might give it away. Etain was still watching him, and she raised an eyebrow.

“What?” Mereel asked.

“What did you think of Besany?”

“I think she likes Ordo.”

“Oh?”

“And I think he likes her.”

Cain laughed, and Mereel felt himself no longer having to focus slightly to notice them. “I think my brother has an eye for the woman who could kick his shebs,” they smirked, and Etain laughed too.

“I think you’re right.” She grinned down at Cain. “But I don’t think it’s a bad pair.”

“Doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous, either.”

“That’s f-” Etain stopped and stared. Cain’s grin broadened. “No, you left the room. I watched you leave the room.”

“Yep.” 

“When- when did you sit back down then? You’re- that spot’s right in front of me, I would’ve seen you!”

“When do you think I sat back down?” They leaned back against the arm of the couch, watching Etain’s brow furrow tighter.

“I... I don’t know.”

“When do you think I came back in?” Cain glanced at Mereel, who was carefully not smiling. Etain looked down at her lap, trying to think.

“I... the only reason I know you did something was because I watched you leave the room, but I could swear... you’ve been sitting there for... the last ten minutes or so.” Etain licked her lips, her confusion tinged with distress. Cain took pity on her.

“Think back over the conversation,” they said gently. “Based on what Mereel told you about how it makes your brain filter out my presence, where do you think I first actively tried to make my presence known?” Her face relaxed slightly, now that she had some idea of where to start and what to focus on.

“I brushed my hair back,” Etain said suddenly. “After Mereel said something about height.”

“Exactly,” Cain grinned.

“And I felt something on my shoulder, like that weird moment where you suddenly become aware of the clothes you’re wearing. Was that you too?”

“I patted you on the shoulder,” Cain nodded.

“You made some sarcastic comments, too,” Mereel added. Etain gasped.

“Could you see them the whole time?”

“I had to focus,” Mereel explained. “But if they choose, some people pick up on their presence while others don’t, or they can hide from everyone. But I still have to concentrate. They came in just before you asked about height.”

“Did they sit at the end of the couch then? No, wait, if you patted my shoulder you must have been over here at some point.”

“I sat on the arm behind you,” Cain nodded. She let out a slow breath and shook her head.

“Right behind me. And I had no idea.” Etain prided herself in her ability to sense lifeforms, pick up on people. “I’ve never heard of a Jedi being able to do something like that. Mind tricking some crony to get past, sure, but this... filtering out, that works on strong minds, with defenses, even if they know you’re gonna do it.”

“Exactly.”

“That’s incredible,” Etain murmured. “I... am very impressed.”

“Thank you,” Cain beamed. They sighed happily, but the expression faded. “That much, at least, I know how to do.”

“Be proud of yourself,” Mereel said fiercely. “You’re self-taught and you came up with that all on your own. That’s amazing!”

“Yeah, that’s true. But other than that, most of the stuff I know is just variations on the same things, different scales of moving, pushing, pulling. It’s not that impressive. I have this one trick. I don’t even have a lightsaber. I don’t even know how to build one, if I wanted one.” They folded their arms. “I ain’t a Jedi, and I don’t want to be. But I wanna be better than I am at this whole Force thing. I want to–” They cut off and looked away, and he wondered how they were going to finish it.

“I’ll teach you, if you want.” Etain held out a hand to Cain, a quiet offer. “Not as a Jedi. Just as a Force user. I don’t make any promises that I’m any good, I’ve never had a Padawan or tried teaching before. But I’ll teach you what you want to learn, if I know it.”

Cain did not take her hand immediately. They looked at her, instead, then back down at the hand, stretched across Mereel’s lap, open and palm up. Their lekku twitched, and for a moment, Mereel tensed.

“You’re not much of a Jedi, are you?” the little Mando murmured. Etain swallowed and pulled her hand away, looking down. Seeing that, Cain said quickly, “I don’t mean that in a bad way,” and Mereel relaxed. “You are a good person, Etain, accomplished and skilled and I am sure I will learn a lot from you. But you’re not long for the Order, are you? Even before this,” they gestured to her belly, “you’d already decided you weren’t going to stay. Hadn’t you?” They watched her, and sitting between them suddenly felt too close for comfort, but Mereel couldn’t move without breaking the moment.

“Yes,” Etain murmured.

“So why stay? What will you do?”

“I intend to see the war through. After that... I have a son. I- I hope I will have a... partner.”

“A husband,” Cain murmured. She nodded. “But it’s more than that. You don’t fit into the Order anymore, do you? You don’t agree with them.”

“I have so much respect for the Order, and for the members of it. But my path... the Force tells me it lies elsewhere. When the war is over, I won’t be a Jedi anymore. I’ll be something else, my own something, however the Force wills it.”

“The Force says you have a different path, but you’re going to make it? Your offer, is that the Force’s will?”

“No,” Etain said simply. “It’s mine.”

Cain smiled softly. “Then I’m happy to learn anything you’re willing to teach me, nu’jetii Etain Tur-Mukan.” Mereel laughed at the ‘title,’ and Etain smiled.

“And I am happy to learn from you, Sergeant Cain Fett.” She held out her hand again, and this time Cain clasped her forearm, the traditional Mandalorian way or shaking hands or sealing a bargain. Mereel grinned at both.

“A decent result all around, I think,” he nodded. “Now, if you two will let me out, please.”

“Sorry, vod.” Cain moved their arm, and Mereel pushed himself off the couch.

“I’m going to go check the comms. We should be arriving at the meeting place shortly. Don’t spook Buir, okay?”

“Me? Never,” Cain replied, with a pout to prove it. Mereel rolled his eyes and headed for the cockpit. He settled into the chair and checked to see if they had anything from Jango and pursed his lips before shooting off a brief message. Jango replied quickly, and Mereel confirmed.

Chapter Text

They came out of hyperspace shortly, pulling into the small cargo station at a crawl. Etain and Cain were waiting by the door when they came to a stop. Cain’s gauntlets were back on, and their helmet was under their arm. Mereel held up a hand, and they raised an eyebrow.

“Pare’sol, vod’ika.”

“Me’bana?’ Cain frowned. What is it?  Mereel was in civilian clothing with a wide-brimmed hat, as he had been since they left Coruscant, but Cain was still in their armor. He fetched a cloak and held it out to them.

“Olar.” Here.

“Tion’jor?” Cain protested. “Meg dush ti beskar’gam?” Why? What's wrong with armor?

“It’s too noticeable. Etain looks simple enough, and I’m in civvies, but your armor is not exactly subtle.”

“Is Buir in disguise?”

“Yes.” Cain deflated somewhat at that.

“Oh. Fine,” they muttered. “Gimme.” They pulled the cloak on, fastening it carefully and pulling the hood up. It was just the right size, and Cain frowned. “You took one of mine with you?”

“Just a precaution.” They stared, and he buckled. “Bal... bic ru’klesi sa gar.” And... it smelled like you. Cain’s expression softened, and they reached out to squeeze his hand. Etain raised an eyebrow at the Mando’a, not understanding the words but sensing the sentiment was kind.

“Should I leave the helmet here, then?”

“Probably. It’s a bit bulky,” he nodded. They set it next to the door, out of the way. “Follow me,” Mereel said when they were satisfied, and headed out. Cain pulled the cloak around them, then fell in behind him, with Etain beside them.

“What’s he wearing?” Etain murmured.

“Long brick jacket with brown hood pulled up over top, black boots, beige pants, holsters at sides.” Mereel’s eyes moved easily over the crowd. He knew his sibling would probably notice Jango before he did, and sure enough, he felt a nudge on his left shoulder, pushing him slightly to the right. He spotted his father a moment later, and went in that direction, resisting the urge to pick up speed. Jango was sitting in a booth, in a central area of the station, which allowed all of them to slide in. Mereel went on one side of Jango, Cain on the other, Etain beside them. Jango smiled softly and slid an arm around both of them, hugging them close.

“Found me all right then, adike?” he whispered. Cain nuzzled against him, purring happily at an almost infrasound pitch, it was such a quiet rumble. Mereel hugged his father back, smiling broadly.

“Good to see you too, Buir.”  

“How are you?”

“Well enough. Better for seeing you,” he whispered. Jango gave a happy little sigh.

“And you, Cain?”

“I’m good, Buir,” they murmured, and he hugged them a little tighter. Mereel could actually feel Cain’s purr through his father’s body. It was a wonderfully familiar sensation, and he relaxed against Jango for a few moments, enjoying this now-rare moment.

Eventually they drew back, and Jango turned to Etain. His manner and stance shifted, straightening his back, squaring his shoulders. “So. You’re the Jedi then? Darman’s partner?”

“I am,” Etain said quietly.

“I appreciate you allowing Cain to contact me. You’ve discussed this further with Darman?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know what you want to do?”

“About the baby?”

“During the pregnancy. Do you intend to take it easy? Do you intend to rush? I will personally ensure you have access to proper medical care, but I want to know what plans you have, if any.”

Etain stopped for a long moment to think. “I need to spend the pregnancy away, safe,” she admitted. “I could rush it, but...”

“That sounds very risky.” Mereel frowned.

“It would be strenuous, yes.”

“Let’s not, then,” Cain said flatly. “The point of this is to keep you safe, so I see no reason to put undue stress on the pregnant lady, yeah?”

“Cain’s right,” Mereel said more gently. “Your health is important, and I think it prudent to not risk that any more than we have to.”

“I’m pregnant, not helpless,” Etain pointed out.

“You’re a pregnant Jedi, and high risk,” was Jango’s response. “You need to take care of yourself, and that includes letting us take care of you.” Etain looked like she wanted to argue, before sighing and nodding.

“That is fair enough,” she admitted. “What would you recommend, sir?”

“I’ve drafted the transfer forms already. Bardan Jusik has volunteered to sign them. That takes care of your absence. After that, there are a few places we can look at as options, and I have a contact who can assist with moving. Your location would be need-to-know.”

“Kal Skirata should not be on that list,” Mereel murmured. Cain nodded.

“Why not?”

“His reaction.” Cain’s eyes narrowed. “There’s a reason Ordo called Buir. Because Kal Skirata is a di’kut.” Jango put a hand on their arm lightly. Steady. “At least when it comes to family matters, anyway,” they muttered.

“Will Darman be able to visit?” Etain asked, hesitance coloring the question. Jango sighed.

“It’s too early to tell. We won’t know what missions they’ll be on, or whether he’s told the rest of his squad. But you’ll be able to call him, and he you.”

“Thank you sir.” The words came out in a rush of relief.

“You love him a lot,” Mereel murmured.

“I wouldn’t be having this baby if I didn’t.”

Cain smiled a little. “Would I be staying with Etain some of the time, Buir?”

“Do you want to?”

“She has offered to teach me about using the Force. Not any of the Jedi stuff, just the techniques and such, how to practice what I already know. That kind of thing.” Jango blinked.

“That... is good, I suppose. I think that could be arranged. You have more manoeuvrability than any of the rest of the lads.”

“And Cain is more inconspicuous,” Mereel added, speaking up on his sibling’s behalf. “Clones are noticeable. A lone Twi’lek teenager is much less so.” He exchanged a look with his father, and Jango’s eyes showed his discomfort with the truth of the statement, but he had to admit it was correct.

“There will be clones too. I may not be able to visit personally very often, but you won’t be alone, either.”

“Will I be staying with someone?”

“Yes. I have a number of contacts I’ve reached out to, all willing to house you. We may move you depending on the situation, though hopefully it won’t come to that. And all have access to proper medical treatment for a pregnant human.”

“That’s Kashyyyk off the list then,” Mereel joked.

“Thank gods,” Etain said with melodramatic relief, and Cain laughed. Jango huffed, but there was a hint of a smile on his face.

“Not Kashyyyk, no.” He turned to Mereel. “Why don’t you swap with Etain so she can see these properly?”

“Sure.” He nodded to Etain and they switched seats. She seemed comfortable enough with Jango, even if she was calling him ‘sir.’ Mereel put an arm around Cain, and they leaned into him. “You still missin’ Ordo?” he murmured.

“Yeah,” they replied, matching his volume so as not to disturb the other two. “But I’m going to be busy enough that I won’t have a lot of time to miss him. I expect you and the others to come visit, you know.”

“I’ll see if I can’t get him to bust his ass and come see you soon. You won’t be with her the whole time, either, so you might be able to go visiting too.”

“Good. Prudii needs to bust their ass and call too.”

“Agreed.”

“And someone better keep tabs on Darman.”

“I think A’den is closest to their next mission. I’ll tell him to keep an eye on him. We’ll trade off on it.”

“Works for me,” Cain nodded. “Buir’s probably gonna tell you the same thing, you know.”

“I know.” Mereel smiled softly and rubbed their arm. “You excited? This is an adventure.”

“It is. It’ll be fun. It’ll be hard work, but hopefully I’ll enjoy some of it.”

“Don’t let Etain work too hard.”

“I’ll make sure she’s okay, Mereel.”

“Good. And make sure you call your friends.” Even if he didn’t particularly get along with the Padawans in question, Cain did. “They’ll worry if they don’t hear from you.”

“Okay, okay.” Cain yawned and closed their eyes, leaning into him.

“Sleepy?”

“Mhm.”

“Take a nap, they could be at this for a while.”

“You sure?”

“I’ll wake you if need be.”

“Mkay.” They yawned silently, and he pulled their hood up and over their head. Cain hummed and settled, and it didn’t take long for them to fall asleep, a silent shift in their breathing the only indication of their change in state, but he knew precisely what to listen for. He’d been listening to Cain fall asleep for a very long time.

Chapter Text

“Mereel?”

“‘Lek?” He nudged Cain just slightly, and they woke instantly, though they didn’t move away from the spot.

“What do you think?” Etain slid the pad across the table to him. It had been a somewhat lengthy discussion with Jango, but they seemed to have settled on something, which she wanted his opinion on.

“Any reason you’re asking me?”

“You’re our resident undercover expert.”  

Mereel snorted quietly, but picked up the pad. The posting Etain had selected, though remote, was luckily fairly close to a medical station. It was, technically, in Republic space, but it was a remarkably small moon, populated by colonists of a mix of species, revolving around a pretty tactically useless planet. No one had bothered with it so far. No one would. “The location looks decent enough. You’re making out as a new colonist then?”

“Essentially.”

“Mixed species will be good.” It would help ease suspicion around Cain, or any non-humans who went to check on her. “Is anyone going to be living with you full time?” Of course the others would come and stay or visit over the next nine months, but it would be optimal to have someone who could stay with her the whole time. “I don’t mean to imply you can’t take care of yourself,” Mereel added, but Etain wasn’t offended.

“It isn’t safe for me to be alone if anything goes wrong, especially as the pregnancy progresses and it becomes more difficult to do things due to my physical condition. I don’t want to be on my own for this anyway, especially as I won’t be with any clones, either.” She trusted the clones, even those she didn’t know, but even those who worked undercover like Mereel would be suspicious living on a random colony moon. “And Cain is a wonderful person, but...”

“I’m a teenager?” they finished, turning to actually face the table. Etain flushed. “Don’t worry, I’m not upset. All due respect, but I don’t wanna do it by myself either. We need an adultier adult to do that.”

“So who are we asking?” Mereel pressed, looking at his father. “One of the Cuy’val Dar? Not Gilamar. Mij is great, but he’s a battlefield medic, not a pregnancy specialist.”

“No. A Twi’lek, a ru’dinad doctor and midwife.”

“Why not a human?”

“Because of me,” Cain supplied, noting Etain’s lack of reaction to the phrase ‘ru’dinad’ and deciding not to comment. “Having both a human and a Twi under the same roof reduces any suspicion cast on me, even if a lone Twi’lek teen is less conspicuous, and allows for both of them to maintain some distance from the community at large.” Mereel hummed in consideration.

“Plus she’s got experience with multiple species’ needs in terms of prenatal care,” Jango provided, and Mereel saw Etain’s shoulders relax just slightly. He assumed it was because of the species thing, but a soft huff from Cain indicated something else. He glanced down at Cain, raising an eyebrow. With their hands below the table where only he could see, they signed, ‘not a man good.’ If it had been a clone or a Jedi Etain had been staying with, she wouldn’t have worried. She knew the clones, she knew she could trust them, and another woman would be safe. But a strange man would have been rather different. Mereel winced, but nodded. Cain looked over at Etain, who pursed her lips.

“Good,” was all Etain said. “Thank you, Mr. Fett, for all your help.”

“Kid, if you’re gonna be my niece-in-law, and you’re already first naming Skirata, do me the favor of at least calling me Jango.” The stern lines of Jango’s face were somewhat softer than usual, and Etain smiled even if he didn’t quite make it that far. When Jango did smile, it was almost exclusively at either a job well done, or his children.

“I can do that,” she agreed. “Is that everything we need to get sorted?”

“Jusik needs to sign the papers, and someone will have to get your usual things.”

“That’ll be fun,” Cain muttered. “Jusik might have to do that himself if they’re in the Temple.”

“I got them off the Fearless when I left, it was mainly spare clothes. I’ll need those most. And I got what I needed from my room in the Temple before we left,” Etain explained.

“Solves that neatly,” Mereel replied, pleasantly surprised at the Jedi’s practicality. “We can say hi to Gett for you though if we see him.”

“Thank you, Mereel.” Etain seemed genuinely grateful. “I’ll miss him, especially since my departure is so... abrupt.” She worried her lip a moment. “I feel like I should-”

“Don’t. As soon as you get into ‘should’ you get unsteady,” Jango said firmly. “Keep your head down. If need be you might be consulted, but that’s about all the orders say.” She deflated slightly, but nodded. Jango was right. If she started focusing on ‘should,’ she’d be miserable and conflicted. She needed to deal with the reality and be practical and pragmatic about this.

“Do we leave together?” she asked.

“I will leave first, then comm you. That way I can make sure everything is ready before you get there.”

“This feels somehow more secretive than the last month of anti-terror on Coruscant, osik,” Cain muttered.

“Language.”

“Sorry, Buir.”

“Do we just sit here on the station until you tell us we’re good to go?”

“Yes.” Cain groaned. “Don’t be like that. This is a trading station. Go shopping. You’ll need more than you’ve got with you if you’re staying with Etain for a while.” Now it was a different flavor of groan.

“How does one just ‘shop’?” Cain complained. “Etain, you’re not a soldier. How does one shop?”

“Jedi don’t exactly get trained in the art of the marketplace,” Etain replied, trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile. “You’re asking the wrong person.”

Jango snorted. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” He nodded to Etain, and she moved to let him out. The Mando slid out of the semicircular booth, then turned to his children. “Be on your ship in about three hours. I should be sorted by then.”

“Let us know if you’re ready or if you’re delayed, Buir,” Mereel told him, giving his father a stern look. “All right?”

“Understood, Lieutenant,” Jango replied, giving half a salute. Cain snorted. As if Mereel would ever think of pulling rank on his own father. One of them had tried it once (and only once) and had received such a look he’d felt like a child being threatened with grounding and an early bedtime. Jango looked over the two of them and sighed softly. “I’ll see you in less than a day.”

“Understood,” Cain nodded. “We’ll see you soon, Dad. Are you going back to Kamino after this?”

“Probably. Kal is watching Boba while I’m gone.”

“Yeah, you’d best get back.” Jango ducked his head, smiling just very slightly. He had asked Cain to keep an eye on Kal, and he knew his youngest was somewhat critical of his uncle, but Boba was also eleven, and Kal was a bad influence.

“Enjoy the station,” he told them, before heading off towards his ship. Etain looked over to Cain.

“So. Shopping?”

“Yes, Cain, let’s go shopping,” Mereel agreed, broadly grinning. “Come on.” He withdrew his arm from Cain’s shoulder and got out of the booth. Cain pouted up at him.

“Seriously?”

“It could be helpful. Come on.”

“What am I even looking for?”

“Clothes? Any random things that might be helpful? You can’t wear your armor everywhere.” He nodded to their cloak pointedly. Cain huffed, but pushed themself up and out.

“Fine,” they mumbled. “But you’re doing the talking.”

“Fair.” Mereel offered an arm to Etain. She raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m trying to be polite. Isn’t this what gentlemen do?”

“Wouldn’t know, never met one.” She looped her arm around his anyway, and Cain followed behind them. Mereel tracked them out of the corner of his eye, and quietly, desperately, hoped no one made unfortunate assumptions about his younger sibling. That would not go well. He might not be able to keep them back. Etain looked up at him, possibly sensing his concern. Cain laughed, and Mereel turned.

“What?”

“You’re a foot taller. You are an entire foot taller than Etain, and it’s hilarious.”

“I’m glad it amuses you,” Etain replied, rolling her eyes.

“It does, thank you.” Mereel and Etain exchanged looks, and Etain’s fondly exasperated expression warmed his heart. Yes, she and Cain would get along fine while she taught them.

They did end up getting clothes for Cain, some comfy and sturdy jackets and trousers, and a solid pair of boots. They wouldn’t look out of place on a colony world, but they’d fit fairly well on Coruscant if necessary, too. They avoided any confrontation, and headed back to the ship shortly before Jango was due to call. Mereel didn’t pull away from the docking port at first, checking his chrono.

“All right,” he murmured. “Based on when he left, he should call in the next ten minutes or so.” Making sure they would be away from the station would help keep the signal from getting mixed up. The ship slowly pulled away, and he set them in a wide orbit around the station. The wait wasn’t a long one.

“Su cuy’gar, Buir.”

“Su’cuy, Mer’ika.” Jango nodded to him. “What did you end up getting?”

“Civvies for Cain, mostly. Also a knife. Because knife.”

“Because knife,” Jango agreed. “I’ve made contact with the doctor, and they’ll be meeting you there. The owner of the property where Etain will be staying is happy to have them staying there and says there should be plenty of space.”

“Good to know,” Mereel nodded. “I’ll let them know. Any recommendation on next steps?”

“Not really. I’m heading to the cover location now. You should set off.”

“All right. Cain has decided they want to stay with Etain for probably about a month, before they head off to do something else.”

“Good. Are you still planning on swapping with Ordo?”

“I’ll high-five him as we pass in space.” Jango gave an amused huff.

“I’ll take you to Coruscant.”

“You don’t have to do that, Dad, I can handle myself.”

“It ain’t all about you, kid. I want to see Ordo too.” Jango smiled slightly. “He’ll probably be glad to get off that bloody awful planet.”

“Not a fan of the big city, are you Dad?”

“Not particularly,” Jango said dryly. “Bars are half-decent, jobs are shit, and there are too many politicians for my taste.”

“What a glowing review.” Mereel smiled a little. “Ordo and I will kind of swap, and he’ll get come and visit Etain, and Cain, for a while.”

“How long you planning to spend with him?”

“I was thinking seventy-two hours. He won’t have a mission, and gods does he need to relax. You joining us?”

“For the first day or so, before I go back to Kamino and get Boba.” Jango’s hologram shrugged. “But I want to give you two time to hang out as well.”

“You got a job you’ll be taking?”

“We’ll see.” Mereel snorted at his father’s evasiveness.

“You better be careful.”

“I always am.” Jango gave him a nod. “I’ll see you soon, Mereel.”

“See you soon, Buir.” The hologram flickered and disappeared, and Mereel plugged in the coordinates and made the calculations before shooting them off into hyperspace.

Chapter Text

The ship lowered slowly towards the ground. Etain, recently awoken with a gentle squeeze of the shoulder by Mereel, waited by the door. Cain stood beside her, holding the rail. They had changed on the way over, and their armor was now neatly tucked away in their bag. In its place, a brown vest with green accents, dark blue shirt with lighter gloves, and brown trousers to match the vest. A holster rested on their hip, neatly attached to their belt. In place of a helmet, they’d chosen a green headpiece with goggles tucked on top, and earflaps. Etain frowned. “You think it’s likely to be very sunny or dusty, or are you intending to fly much?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Your goggles.” She nodded to the headgear. Cain snorted and un-clipped them from where they attached to the headpiece, holding them out to Etain. 

“Take a look.” 

Etain frowned, but held the goggles up to her eyes. “Oh!” 

“Yep. It’s a HUD in disguise. Very helpful for when I can’t wear my full armor.” 

“You make these?” Etain asked, taking them off and passing them back. Cain reattached them, sliding them back up to their resting location. 

“It was a joint project of Jaing and Prudii’s.” 

“Why a clip on a headpiece instead of a strap, out of curiosity? Most goggles the clones use you just pull over your head.” 

Cain stared at her. “Take a second to think about why that might be less optimal for me.” Etain blinked, and then flushed. 

“Lekku. Right.” 

“Exactly. The headpiece attaches in back, and the goggles attach to the headpiece.” 

“Smart,” Etain admitted. 

“It’s also got comms hooked up in the earflaps.” 

“Wow.” She blinked. “You’re... very prepared.” 

“Better safe than sorry.” They yawned. “Hold on.” Etain waited for Cain to continue, then realised they meant it as an instruction. She grabbed onto a pole and braced herself just before the ship touched down. It was a fairly smooth landing, but she was still glad for the stabilising agent. 

“Thank you.” 

“No worries. Nice landing, Mereel!” they called towards the cockpit. 

“What, you surprised?” came the response. Cain rolled their eyes. 

“Shebuc’ye.” 

“What’s that?” 

“Nothing, brother dearest!” 

Etain smiled to herself. The door opened slowly as Mereel came over to join them. As it opened it revealed Jango Fett standing in front. Familiar grins spread across the faces of the Fett siblings beside her, and Cain was out the door and jumping to the ground before the ramp was fully down. 

“Dad!” They flung themself at him. Mereel gestured for Etain to follow, and she stepped down. 

“You just saw me hours ago,” Jango was protesting as they approached. 

“I couldn’t do this then,” Cain laughed. Any further protest was cut off as Mereel virtually crushed his father. 

“Geddoff me,” Jango muttered, but he was hugging back. Only his children were ever indulged this way. “All right, that’s enough, come on. We have a job to do.” Mereel stepped back, and Cain followed suit, though somewhat reluctantly, Etain noted. She nodded a greeting to Jango, which he returned. 

“Etain.” 

“Jango.” 

“If you have your things, follow me.” Cain hurried back to grab their bag, and they obliged Jango. As per his request, Mereel had landed some distance from their actual destination, on the other side of a small orchard. Etain reached up to brush her fingers against some of the silvery teardrop leaves that filtered the sunlight down to them, their branches looking almost... Fuzzy. 

“What kind of fruit do these trees bear?” 

“Xinthi olives,” Jango supplied. “Planted here for their hardiness, rapid growth, and utility. The fruits can be used for themselves, the pits to make oils, the sap can be dried, ground, and mixed with the oil to make a waterproof adhesive, the bark is used in incense, and the wood for construction.” He rattled this all off quickly, as though reciting from a textbook, and his children nodded. Etain blinked. 

“I did not realise you were so versed in agricultural matters.” 

“Didn’t you know?” Though she couldn’t see Jango’s face, Etain thought she sensed a hint of amusement in his voice. “‘Fett’ means ‘farmer.’” 

They arrived at the settlement shortly, about a klick from their landing site. Again, Etain was surprised. It was not the bare-bones structure she had expected on hearing she would be coming to a farming colony. The main farmhouse was of decent size, with a second a short distance away, slightly smaller, but no less solid. Both were painted a light grey, with white accents around the door. The larger farmhouse had an enclosed porch, the smaller more of an extended awning. Both looked comfortable and, as they made their way up the short steps and headed inside the main house, Etain felt comfortable, too. 

“You will be staying in the smaller house over that way,” Jango informed her. “But your host wants to meet you, give you the tour and all that.” 

“That’s very kind of them.” Etain paused a moment in the doorway to take in the building. It was mainly wood, it seemed, though the lights and appliances seemed quite Core in their advancement. They would not be lacking for the comforts of home, in that respect. The room Jango guided them into appeared to be a parlor of some sort. In it, a darker human with long, plaited hair and a Twi’lek of a more subdued green than Cain sat in chairs. Their conversation paused as the four newcomers entered, and the pair rose to greet them. 

“Mereel and Cain, I presume?” the human began. He gave a nod to both. “Cordan Dorn, a pleasure. And you must be Miss Tur-Mukan.” He smiled broadly at her and gave a small bow, which she returned. “A pleasure and an honor to have you here. Jango has informed me of your situation, and I assure you you will be quite safe and comfortable here.” 

“I thank you most kindly for your hospitality, especially on such short notice, Mr. Dorn,” she replied politely, resisting the urge to glance at Jango. This man seemed... Well, warm and friendly and cordial. Not qualities usually associated with friends of infamous bounty hunters. But then, Etain had found herself surprised a lot lately by usurped expectations. She was going to have to get used to it. 

The Twi’lek stepped forward to introduce herself as well. She was remarkably tall, her head almost startlingly close to the ceilings. She had to have been at least two meters tall, Etain guessed, and the height difference between them, and indeed between the two Twi’leks, made her smile. When she spoke, her voice was a smooth, deep roll with the accent of Ryloth in its peaks and valleys. 

“I am Sil Arujyaevo, your doctor and, for the next several months, companion. I am very pleased to meet you.” She offered a hand, which Etain shook. 

“Pleased to meet you, Doctor... How do you pronounce your name?” 

“Call me Sil,” she smiled. “Everyone does.” 

“Jate urcye’gar, Sil,” Cain nodded, and Mereel echoed the phrase. They too held out their arms, but instead of shaking, Sil clasped their forearms as they clasped hers. It was something Etain had seen the clones do, but hadn’t realised it was Mandalorian in origin. 

“Jate urcye’gar t’ad. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Cain gave her a smile, eyes glittering. Mereel raised an eyebrow at his father. 

“Were you bragging again, Buir?” asked the ARC.  

“Let your father be. He wanted me to know who was coming and we got to talking.” 

“You and Dad? ‘Got to talking?’” Mereel gave his father an incredulous look. 

“She’s very good at getting people to chat,” Jango muttered. Cordan laughed. 

“She’s a lovely conversation partner! She puts people at ease, it is an asset to her medical work.” Etain found some comfort in that. A comforting hand and voice were a valuable skill in a field like Sil’s, and she was glad to have her. 

Cordan clapped his hands. “If you both will follow me,” he nodded to Cain and Etain, “I’ll show you to the guest house? Sil has already got settled.”

“Mereel? Are you...?” Etain trailed off. He shook his head. 

“I’m only staying the night, Buir and I both have to set off in the morning.”  

“Oh. Of course,” she nodded. He was a soldier, he would have things to do, but she had grown accustomed to his presence. 

“Don’t worry, you’ll get the chance to hug him before he leaves,” Cain grinned. “Let’s go see the house, come on.” Their jaunty smile was enough to brighten Etain’s spirits again, and she nodded to the Mandos before following Cordan out to the guest house. 

“How long have you owned this property?” Etain asked him. Cain was looking around, but she felt their awareness shift to this new line of enquiry. 

“A few years. Enough for a harvest from the orchard this year. Olives grow quickly, so it takes less time to establish an orchard than with other fruiting trees, and they don’t have to be fully grown to bear fruit.” 

“Are you Mandalorian as well?” 

Cordan laughed. “A fair enough question, but no, I’m not. Wife was, though. That’s how I met Jango. She died a few years back,” he added, knowing she would have noticed the past tense, “but Jango and I kept in touch. Before I settled here, my job made me a fairly valuable resource for him.” 

“I’m sorry for your loss. I take it you were not a farmer before.” 

“No.” Etain waited, but Cordan did not elaborate. She gestured for him to continue, but Cain put in, 

“He worked radio. He still does, in a manner of speaking.” 

Etain turned to them. “I thought you didn’t know Mr. Dorn.” 

“I’ve never met him before today. Knew about him though.” She turned her questioning look on them, and Cain shrugged. “Towers.” 

“Towers?” That was not what Etain had been expecting. 

“Radio towers. They’re well hidden, I’ll grant you, but they are there. One on the guest house, two on the main, and if I’m not mistaken, another on the water tower and the observation platform in the orchard.” They pointed at each place in turn. “If I had to guess I would say they monitor different groups who use different frequencies. An ear to various grounds, so to speak. He’s running a listening post.” They looked at Cordan, waiting to see if they would deny the assessment. He was quiet for a few moments, long enough that Etain didn’t think he would respond. He opened the door to the guest house and let them in, shaking his head as he closed it. 

“Your father said you were quick.” 

“You hide them really well, I knew what to look for is all.” Cain smiled. “Your demeanor would be very important as a radio host, too.” Warm and friendly and cordial were not the qualities of someone who habitually ran with bounty hunters, but they were crucial for a job like that. 

“I was quite a popular host, too,” he grinned. He nodded to Etain. “The little one is correct. I was essentially an informant, as well as a rather popular host on the channel I was on. Jango found my ability to relay information very helpful. I let him know when I settled here, and the listening post keeps me occupied when I'm not working on the farm. I let him know if anything interesting comes up.” 

“Remarkably candid of you to explain this to me, Mr. Dorn,” Etain said after a long pause to digest. 

“You’re a jetii. And you’re going to be here awhile.” Cordan raised his hands to either side in a gesture of placating informality. “I would have explained anyway, probably tomorrow. It would be much more awkward if you had worked it out on your own and come to see me. I am not the biggest fan of confrontations.” 

“Can’t say I blame you,” Cain muttered, and Etain shot them a curious look. She did not have time to ask further; Cordan moved forward to show them the rooms, and she resolved to mention it later. She still had unanswered questions from the ship, as well. 

Their bedrooms were on the second floor, across from each other. Sil was next door to Etain. Cain checked the bed’s springiness by dropping on it, and grinned. 

“Very comfy.” 

“I am glad you agree,” Cordan smiled. “All facilities of the building are available to you, kitchen, refresher, etcetera. Let me know at any point if you need anything, there is a direct comm line to the main house from the kitchen.” 

“Thank you again for your kindness and hospitality,” Etain nodded. “If there is anything I can do around the farm to assist I am happy to do so.” 

“I like being able to climb things,” Cain shrugged, “so I’ll take any climbing jobs.” The trees would be too young to have the sturdy branches necessary, but the observation platform would serve, and they could do any repair work on the radio equipment up on the house. 

“Your offers are much appreciated. I’ll leave you both to get settled, and dinner will be in about two hours in the main house.” 

“See you then,” Cain nodded. Etain gave a nod of her own, and Cordan headed out. Cain lay back on the bed and sighed happily. “This will be a nice break.” 

“A break?” 

“You were on Coruscant for that whole terrorist mess.” 

“Well... yes.” 

“I was on Kamino before that.” 

“Your brother-” 

“Which one?” 

“Ordo,” Etain clarified. 

“Ah, okay. Continue.” 

“He said you had been going ‘stir-crazy’. That was why you and Boba ended up on Coruscant for the terrorist operation,” she finished. “So I figured the op would be something exciting for you, and you would get bored with a break.” 

Cain was quiet for a while, not getting off the bed. They shifted to prop themself up against the headboard. “Ordo tell you what I was doing on Kamino?” 

Etain wasn’t sure what the question meant, but... 

“...living there with your younger brother and your father?” 

Cain nodded. “Did he tell you what kind of training?” 

“I figured it was usual, why?” 

“ARC training.” 

Etain frowned. “That’s specialist.” 

“Exactly.” 

“...and you’re fifteen and five foot four, that training course is designed for clones, why were you-” 

“An agreement. Between my father and myself.” Cain closed their eyes and let out a long, slow breath. “Before you suspect anything, it is something he and I discussed a long time ago, and my own determination was why I went for ARC training.” 

“What you mentioned on the ship, you taking the command track,” Etain murmured, sitting on the end of the bed. 

“All of my older siblings are ARCs,” they said quietly. Despite the fact they were the only two in the building, it seemed to Etain that Cain was worried about being overheard. It was most likely just habit from living with so many siblings. “They’re all soldiers, the best soldiers they can be. The best soldiers there are. But they’re still soldiers.” They took a deep breath. “When I was ten I went to my dad and asked why. I didn’t understand, I hated what the Kaminoans told the clones about being destined to die, it made no sense to me. He told me...” They took a deep breath. “They were soldiers because there would be wars to fight. I said I chose to fight alongside them, and he told me that I would have to take the command track and train hard.” 

“So you became a sergeant. You don’t have to be an ARC for that.” 

“I wanted to be. They worry about me, all the time. I’m a sergeant, I passed the same regimen they did, but they, and my father, still make sure one of them accompanies me at virtually all times when I’m not on Kamino.” They curled their fist in the cover on the bed, lips pursed. Cain glared at their hand, pulling at the cover. Etain frowned, but didn’t move just yet. Their emotions were important, and they clearly weren’t done, so she waited.

Cain huffed. “I can do this. I don’t want them to worry about me like that, so I took on ARC training too. I want them to understand that I can handle myself. I love them, and I don’t want my existence to make theirs more difficult or distract them. I may not be the same size or age but I have had the same training, I am as much Mando as they are.” Etain put a hand on their arm, their fierceness palpable enough to worry her a bit. She let her calmness in the Force flow over their own presence. Cain gave a soft sigh, relaxing under her touch. 

“This desire to prove you can protect yourself, is this part of why you asked me to help train you?” They swallowed and, reluctantly, they nodded. “I am less skilled in battle Force use, but I can ask Bardan for advice as well. Anything I can teach you, I am more than happy to. I have heard you are a quick learner,” she added, and a small smile crept over Cain’s face. Etain’s expression mirrored it. “I think you’ll pick it up well. You’re very good at what you can already do, from what I have seen.” 

“I am. I have knocked Ordo on his ass before,” they added, and the smile broadened. Etain laughed. 

“Now that is a match I would like to see.” 

“I mean, I did have the advantage of the Force. But I did do it.” Cain pushed themself up to a sitting position. “You should go set your stuff up in your room, I think I’m gonna explore the house before we go for dinner.” 

“All right,” Etain nodded. “Don’t break anything.” Cain laughed and rolled their eyes.

“You sound like my Padawan friends. I will be careful.” They swung their legs over the edge of the bed and left the room, with footsteps going downstairs following shortly. Etain went to her own room, getting her things out and sorting them. 

As a Jedi, she did not have much. The few personal belongings she had she set out along the top of the chest of drawers. Mostly, they were mementoes from places she had been, with one or two special items from her time in the temple. One, which she put in the center as a sort of place of honor, was a gift from Darman. As a clone soldier, especially as a Commando, he did not have much free time, nor did he have money, but he had given her a small holo of himself. It was his official GAR portrait, rather than a photo taken of or by him, but it was recognisably him. Looking at it now, Etain’s hand drifted to her abdomen. Sitting on the bed, she closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. The Force around her moved, ebbing and flowing as she inhaled, exhaled, relaxed into the meditative rhythm. She held her hands out in front of her, palms up, and let the Force guide her mind. She reached, until she sensed the familiar and beautiful presence. Darman’s warmth touched the Force, and she sent him hers in return. Her hands felt warm, and she closed them slowly. It was not quite the same as squeezing his hands properly, but sensing his comfort through the Force lifted her heart. One hand moved again to her belly, and she gave the gentle sense an amplification as best she could. Darman’s presence seemed almost to glow in her mind, and she smiled. She kept the connection a few moments longer, before finally letting it relax. The Force came back to her and settled again, and she opened her eyes slowly, lowering her half-closed hand to her lap again. Darman now knew she was safe, and knowing that would comfort him and keep him from being distracted with worry, and Etain would carry his comfort with her until she saw him again; she did not want to risk distracting him anyway by reaching out like that often. It would hurt, being apart, but she would be safe, and not alone. She would be all right.