1. For the love of all that is holy, don’t trust your Child alone in a spaceship
“I have no idea how you even managed to do this,” Din muttered as he strained up as far as he could to reach the detached wires under the control console. “How could you possibly even get up here?”
The Child giggled from his spot atop the Mandalorian’s stomach. He still had a wire twirled around his little green fingers and was amusing himself by twisting it around and around.
The Mandalorian glanced down at his ward with a mixture of annoyance and amusement. “I was only gone for an hour. And you were fast asleep when I slipped out. How you managed to cause so much trouble is beyond me.”
Finally scooting away from the console, Din wrapped one hand around the bundle on his chest and heaved himself to his feet. He hit a button to his left and was satisfied to hear the engine’s rumble.
The Child blew a happy spit bubble and then offered his wire up proudly. Sighing, the Mandalorian unwound the sliver of wire and tossed the useless piece aside.
“I will eventually find a way to lock you outside this cabin,” he told his little passenger sternly.
The Child laughed.
2. Children will mirror your moods. Watch your temper.
“ Ad’ika ,” the Mandalorian said imploringly, crouched next to the little cradle. “I’m sorry, alright? I shouldn’t have snapped at you. Neither of us has slept much this week and I just… Please, Ad’ika , I’m sorry.”
The Child remained curled in a tiny ball on the far end of the cradle. When Din had reached for him, the Child strained back against the bars and let out a pitiful, heartbreaking whine.
Din snapped his hand back as if he’d been burned. Since the moment he’d found the Child, the infant always reached for him. He demanded to be held and cuddled at every opportunity, seemingly drawing great comfort from the cold touch of the Mandalorian. He never never drew away from the offer of affectionate touch.
The sight made the Mandalorian feel vaguely ill.
“Little one, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I know you get afraid when I’m angry but I never wanted you to be afraid of me.”
Din took in a shuddering breath. “Please, Ad’ika .”
Slowly, the little bundle turned over, and wide black eyes met his own. The swirling tears there made Din reach out towards the Child again without thinking. This time the Child didn’t flinch away, which Din took as relieved permission.
He gently lifted his charge and brought him to his chest. “I’m an idiot, Ad’ika . Please don’t think too much less of me.”
Din ripped off his helmet, needing the Child to see the sincerity in his face.
After a breathless moment, little hands reached up to grip at the Mandalorian’s chin. Fingers poked at his lips, and Din moved forward to press a little kiss to their tips.
The Child giggled and Din felt an unfathomable weight lift off his chest.
“Guess it was about time you learned about my nasty temper,” he told his ward with a trace of humor, “but I’ll watch it around you, I promise.”
Din brought the Child up further until they were eye to eye. “I never want you to be afraid of me, Ad’ika . You have so much to fear already. I swear I won’t become a part of that. I’m going to protect you.”
He reached over to wipe the last traces of tears away.
3. The needs of the child come first
Sweat ran down the side of Din’s bare face, pooling at the curve of his chin before finally dropping off onto the controls beneath his hands.
The cabin was uncomfortably warm. It had remained this way for the last several weeks. Din didn't particularly enjoy being overheated but it was far preferable than the alternative.
Several weeks ago, Din had been awoken by a soft, steady wail of pain. He’d sprung off his cot, looking from side to side desperately to find the danger. Finding nothing, he’d rushed over to the side the Child’s cradle and lifted him out into his arms.
“ Ad’ika ,” he breathed, voice seizing in panic. “What’s wrong? Why are you in pain?”
The Child’s ears were flattened against his head and his tiny hands pulled at them shakily. As gently as he could, Din prized his ward’s fingers from his ears and replace them with his own, stroking timidly.
At a shriek of pain, the Mandolarian jerked his hand away. “I’m sorry!” he gasped, holding the Child closer. It was then he felt the trembling.
The baby’s skin was cold to the touch. Much too cold.
“Oh, stars, you’re freezing, Ad’ika ,” he gasped and lurched up to the cabin, banging into the walls as the last remnants of sleep fled.
Din jerked the lever that controlled the ship’s internal temperature. Over the last few days, he had steadily been lowering the temperature to conserve power. A decision that now twisted his insides into a guilty knot.
“It’s ok,” the Mandalorian murmured, lifting a spare blanket from a shelf and sinking down to the floor. He pulled the blanket in front to wrap fully around the Child.
After a few tense moments, Din felt the air begin to warm and he tucked the blanket closer.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the little green ears twitched and lifted away from the Child’s head, moving back and forth experimentally.
“I’m sorry, Ad’ika ,” Din said soothingly. “I had no idea you were so susceptible to the cold. I promise that won’t happen again.
The Child simply let out another pitiful whine and snuggled closer.
The lesson had been learned and now Din found himself in a constant state of being just a touch too warm. They were also burning their way through fuel much faster than the Mandalorian was comfortable with.
But as Din looked down at his happy little package, green arms aloft as the Child stretchedddddd towards the ship’s controls, he found it was a sacrifice he was quite willing to make.
4. Sometimes, you really are all your child needs
Din awoke slowly. An odd little noise reverberated around the room as he turned over to blink at the clock. Smack dab in the middle of the night.
“Perfect,” groaned the Mandalorian as he heaved his tired muscles up and swung his legs over the edge. What had woke him up? Din wasn’t a deep sleeper, but he always had his most restful nights in the safety of his trusty ship.
As more awareness slowly filtered into his brain, Din identified the little sound coming from the other side of the room. Through his quarters were encased in shadowy darkness, Din could just make out the outline of the Child’s cradle.
Din frowned. The Child deeply enjoyed his sleep and it was often quite difficult to drag him back into consciousness. For him to be making noise in the middle of the night was highly unusual.
Crossing the room quickly, the Mandalorian stopped by the edge of his ward’s cradle and looked down. The sight that greeted him made his stomach do a painful flip flop.
The Child was sitting on his haunches in the middle of his enclosure, little hands curled into fists and big eyes welled up with tears. At the sight of his guardian, the Child let out a particularly devastated noise and reached his arms up.
“Come now, what’s this?” Din asked softly, stooping without hesitation to scoop the Child up into his arms. “Are you hungry? Hurt?”
The Child shuddered for a moment in his arms before calming. Perplexed, the Mandalorian carried his charge back to his bed and sat down, tucking the Child into the crook of his elbow. “ Ad’ika , what’s the matter?”
His ward seemed disinclined to share any details about his distress. Slowly, the baby's trembling quieted and his mouth stopped gasping for air.
Din allowed the infant to settle against him for several long moments. His brain was still buzzing with distress and he tried desperately to understand the reason behind the Child’s tears. “It’s ok, Ad’ika . I have you. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I swear it on my life.”
The Mandalorian waited for a response from his distressed charge but when none came, he pulled back to look into the Child’s face.
Only to find him fast asleep.
“What the…” Din muttered, voice automatically pitching low to avoid rousing the infant.
Why had the emotional outburst ceased? Din hadn’t done much of anything other than hold the Child and let him hear his guardian’s voice. Had that been enough to soothe the baby?
Had he… what? Wanted to be held? Missed the Mandalorian in the few hours that they both surrendered to sleep?
Din didn’t know. There was so much he didn’t know. Still, the little he had offered seemed to bring the Child some comfort at least. So perhaps it wasn’t a complete disaster.
Children are truly strange creatures, the Mandolarian thought with bemusement. Learning as you went wasn’t the best way to delve into parenthood, but it was all he had.
For tonight at least, it seemed to be enough.
5. Always make sure your child knows they are loved
Din knew he was being utterly, completely ridiculous. The Child didn’t speak, he likely wouldn’t even understand the sentiment. It would be meaningless to him.
So why did the thought of uttering that one sentence nearly send the Mandalorian careening into a panic attack?
It wasn’t as though he had never been on the receiving end. His birth parents told him the simple fact often, as did his Mandalorian mother. It was something he had long felt both to and from his people.
Why was it so complicated now?
Din sat against the trunk of a tree watching the Child gleefully shuffle as fast as his little legs could take him around the field. The grass here was so tall it nearly completely covered the infant. Luckily, it was also bright red so the Mandalorian could easily track the flashes of green through the brush.
This planet was devoid of any large congregations of intelligent life and Din figured the two of them deserved a day to simply sit back and enjoy the sun. The Child had taken to the idea with characteristic exuberance.
Now Din was stuck here, all alone with the Child in this beautiful, serene place and he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The Mandalorian had given up so much for the Child, surely it must be obvious anyway. Did he really need to say it aloud? Especially if the baby was unlikely to even understand?
Din was interrupted from his thoughts as the Child nearly stumbled into his side, moving too fast for his little legs to handle.
“Woah there, little one, watch yourself,” Din gently admonished even as his heart swelled at once again having the Child in his arms.
He pulled the baby closer. “What have you got there?”
The Child proudly offered his find to the Mandalorian. Din gently took it from his grasp.
The flower was rather stunningly beautiful. A bright blue stem and soft red and white petals. It smelled vaguely of honey.
“Lovely,” Din told his ward, offering the flower back to him.
“Eh, eh!” the Child exclaimed, push Din’s hand back.
It took an embarrassingly long moment for Din to get it. “It’s for me?”
The Child’s toothy grin was blinding.
“I love you.”
The words burst out of him like a punch. Din froze, mouth hanging open. Had he seriously just said the words on accident ?
The Child cocked his head. He seemed to study the man before him. Din vaguely wished he could dig a hole in the ground to crawl in and hide.
He hadn’t known he was biting his lower lip until the Child reached out carefully to whip away a drop of blood. The touch was unfailingly gentle.
“I love you.” This time the words were nearly a sob.
The Mandalorian gave a very unwarrior-like jump when a giggle burst forth from the Child in his arms.
The Child clapped his hands with glee before shooting them over to slap against Din’s cheeks. His eyes were bright with affection.
Though unable to speak, the Child’s meaning was clear.
Din had to swallow back the sob that threatened to burst past his lips. He caught one of the green hands and turned it to kiss the little palm. The action made the Child let out another pleased giggle.
“Yeah. I love you. Stars help me.”