Han insists on being there, and Leia finally lets it slide because eventually even her head starts to hurt. And she knows it’s because he’s worried about her. Not that he doesn’t think she can handle herself, just that he-- that he loves her.
So she lets it slide.
Here, now, though -- riding through the desert escorted by a woman named Fennec and Tuskens of all sentients, listening to her husband bitch -- she regrets letting it slide.
“--bet the bounty hunter send him little teeth as trophies,” Han continues to elaborate on the purely hypothetical scenario in which the bounty hunter who rescued the Mand’alor is courting the king of Tatooine.
“ I’ll send him your teeth as a trophy,” Fennec Shand, another supposedly Dead bounty hunter who is decidedly Not Dead, says casually shifting to look at them.
A strange patch on her shoulder, metallic and shiny against the dark leather of her clothes, catches the light of Tatooine’s twin sun. Leia thinks it might be a mudhorn. For some reason that feels important to her.
Han stops, twisting in the courier ship to look at Fennec.
She raises an eyebrow and smirks, leaning back in the passenger seat she’s turned to keep an eye on their passengers. “I might just do it for fun.”
The Tusken driving next to her lets out a guttural sound that Leia suspects is supposed to be a laugh. Han, already recoiling from Fennec’s threat, flinches at the sound.
Chewbacca growls, shifting his grip on his rifle and eyeballing Fennec and their driver.
Fennec winks at him.
Leia sees all three of them -- Han, Luke, and Chewie -- open their mouths to say something incredibly studpid and kriff , she should have brought Lando , but she beats them to the punch.
“What kind of work do you do for Fett?” Leia asks quickly. Not her most tactful, but parsecs better than whatever those nerf herders were going to say she’s sure.
Fennec shifts her steady gaze to Leia, not answering immediately. Leia meets it and feels like she passed a test when one corner of her mouth ticks up.
“I collect the teeth, of course.”
Maybe she didn’t pass, then.
Nobody says anything for the rest of the drive, even Han.
Han mentally goes over the weapons he’s hidden as they march down the halls of Jabba’s palace again, led by Fennec karking Shand and a band of Sand People. He figures, being that they’re meeting royalty and all, the procedure will be similar to the Senate -- all weapons left at the door.
A duo of vaguely familiar Mandalorians wait at the entrance to the throne room, both in blue armor but not quite the same. He wonders if that means something.
One of them, a man built like a bantha and nearly as tall as Chewie, steps forward first. “We were told it would just be the Jedi and the Senator.”
Big Blue shifts the massive cannon in his hands and Han thinks about which of his own blasters is easiest to reach.
Shand shrugs in front of them. “You keep saying you want to arm wrestle a Wookie, Blue.”
Big Blue turns his helmet to Chewie, looking him up and down. “After?” He asks.
Chewie chirrs, grinning. Han still doesn’t feel any better.
The other Mandalorian, a smaller woman with white markings on her helmet nods to the arch behind them. “Come.”
Leia frowns. “Not going to check us for weapons?” Han knows she has a few hidden surprises of her own.
A sound that Han thinks is a scoff from Big Blue. “It wouldn’t matter.”
Be ready , Han hears Luke’s voice echo in his head.
He mentally projects an image of the sarlacc mating ritual and immediately feels Luke’s presence recoil, but he does another mental check all the same.
Into the belly of the beast , Han thinks. For a split second he regrets kicking Luke out of his head -- that was a pretty good joke.
Luke rolls his eyes from behind Han, just barely catching a terrible joke as he lets his consciousness melt away. He trails behind Han, Chewie, and Leia, trying not to react to the band of Sand People at his back.
Still, he feels prickly and strange, wrongfooted and unsure in a way he normally isn’t. The Force is in and around all things, but something about the Mandalorians’ distinctive armor warps it. Like looking through cracked glass or trying to listen to a bad holo.
Inside the throne room is much the same as the last time -- dim, but clean, and not particularly crowded.
Three more Mandalorians are inside, two with their helmets off and one wearing a strange golden helmet and a skirt of fur. They’re all already watching the entrance, unphased by the sudden crowd.
He recognizes as Bo-Katan Kryze from her holos with Leia, but can’t place the helmet-less man beside her. The golden helmeted Mandalorian is a total mystery.
None of them are Fett. He wonders if any of them are the bounty hunter from the cruiser. Or if maybe the golden helmet is a sign of the Mand’alor?
Leia apparently has similar thoughts, gliding forward past Shand towards the trio.
“I’m Senator Leia Organa of Alderaan. This is my husband, Han Solo, and his first mate, Chewbacca.”
“I’m Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi.”
Blue makes that same scoffing sound again. Kryze smiles strangely, tilting her head at them.
“You’re no more the last Jedi than I am the last Mandalorian,” she says.
“What the fuck?” Luke’s cheeks heat immediately. He-- very much didn’t mean to say that.
A booming laugh from down the private hall behind the throne cuts off any further introductions. Everyone turns to look as Boba Fett and the same silver Mandalorian from before exit.
“I wouldn’t go quite that far,” the silver armoured man drawls. He feels familiar …
Chewie suddenly lets out the happiest growl Luke has heard since they blew up the Death Star. Han nearly snaps his neck whirling to look up at him.
“You what ?”
The silver Mandalorian is suddenly laughing, and then everyone else -- even the other Mandalorians -- seem as confused as Luke and Han.
He steps forward, clapping his chestplate hard with both hands as Chewie does the same to his own chest. Luke’s brain blue screens when Chewie picks the man up in a tight hug.
“Mand’alor, would you care to explain?” Kryze says, face screwed into a deep frown.
“Mand’alor?!” Luke, Leia, and Han all cry out at the same time. Nobody pays them any attention at all.
Still both laughing, Chewie sets down the Mandalorian, clapping him on the shoulder in a move that Luke has seen knock over lesser men. The Mandalorian says something else in Wookie -- and Luke didn’t even know humans could make Wookie sounds -- before taking a step back to Fett.
Even through the armor, Luke can feel the confusion. The only one unphased is the woman with the golden helmet and the fur skirt.
“Chewie and I met when I was just getting started as beroya ,” he says, gesturing to the woman in the golden helmet. “That job on Onderon?”
The large blue Mandalorian is laughing now. “This is the bounty who tried to adopt you ?”
Chewie growls something out, still laughing a little.
“I am not a pet!” Han cries out, deeply offended.
Leia is still blinking too fast, but she recovers quickly. “I- well. Mand’alor, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
The Mand’alor turns his visor to her, and most of the warmth in his aura drains away. Luke fights the urge to pull his saber. The man isn’t radiating hostility, just-- caution. Suspicion.
“Senator. Skywalker. Solo.” He gestures to a long table at the back of the room, where Jabba had once hung Han’s carbonite tableau. “Let’s talk.”
Fennec excuses herself, saying do you really want to leave the kids alone? (KIDS?! Han's internal voice screams, picturing tiny armored Mandalorians running around and shooting him in the ankles.)
Only half of the Mandalorians take off their helmets when they sit, Big Blue, the golden woman, and the kriffing Mand’alor stay covered. They also offer no names, only stations. Blue is the head of Security, the golden woman is the Armorer, and well. Now Han knows who the silver one is.
“What did you mean I’m not the last Jedi?” Luke blurts out.
The Mand’alor raises an arm before Kryze can answer. “That you haven’t been looking very hard. It took me less than a year to find one.”
Luke blinks, thoroughly cowed. He settles back in his seat with red cheeks.
“Hey, whadya m--”
“Han.” Leia barks.
Now it’s Han’s turn to be cowed, sitting back with red cheeks of his own.
The Armoror tilts her helmet at them. “The Mand’alor’s riduur has shared your desires, but we would hear them from you.”
Leia frowns. “Riduur? I’ve been speakin with B--”
“Riduur means partner,” Fett cuts in, helmet off and scarred face breaking into a wide grin as he reaches out with one hand, clasping the Mand’alor on a pauldron with the same mark he’d seen on Shand in the transpo.
Fett’s expression turns a little manic when he looks at Han. “Husband.”
Han sees the same mudhorn on Fett’s own armor and his brain exits the building. For a long time he can’t hear anything over his own internal screaming.
By the time he tunes back in to what everyone is saying, he finds that he wants to externally scream too.
“I got myself off of the Imperial cruiser,” the Mand’alor says, clearly confused. “It’s fine. They never got out a distress call.”
You could hear an Ewok fart in the silence that follows that. Han swallows hard. And that’s just one Mandalorian. He cuts a look to Boba Fett. Fett grins again.
Han has a bad feeling about this.
Luke is reeling, Leia is fuming, Han is panicking, and Chewie is chilling. He resists the urge to hum the old Mandalorian battle song Metal Man -- Kasyyk nicknames really didn’t translate into Basic well -- taught him two decades earlier. He doesn’t think it would be well received right now.
“ Husband?! ” Han shouts as soon as they’re away from the escort back the Falcon and the ramp has closed behind them. “I’m going to have an entire kriffing planet trying to stick me in carbonite and sell me to the highest bidder!”
“Not the last Jedi?!” Luke shouts back, pacing behind the pilot and co-pilot’s chairs as Han and Chewie kick them into hyperspace. “Not looking har-- I was looking for his kid! And he won’t let me even met him, let alone train him!”
“Not joining the Republic?!” Leia hisses, slapping Luke out of the way to sit at the table and grab her holopad. “A whole planet of advanced warriors who hate the Empire and he says we have no interest in serving your government . The nerve !”
A few long seconds Chewie’s personal comm dings twice in quick succession.
The yelling starts up all over again when his passengers realize one is from Blue inviting him to Mandalore the spar and the other is from Metal Man asking if he’d like to come meet his two foundlings, the force-sensitive child that Luke is so upset about and a young wookie he’d only adopted in the last few months.
Chewie quietly responds the sooner the better . He could use some time away from the Senate and it’s been too long since he’d seen a child of his own people.
He’s sure they can handle a few months without him.
Boba doesn’t want to be surprised, but he is.
Din turned them down. An agreement of neutrality, nothing more. No blanket agreements. Each request for each ship, each base, each everything would be individually debated.
He thinks about it for days, trying to understand. Din clearly knows that Boba is thinking about something, but he doesn’t ask. Lets him turn it over in his own mind until he’s ready to share.
Boba thinks and thinks until it’s been a month. Din’s gone to Mandalore and come back again. Chewie -- who Boba has found to actually be delightful when not around Solo -- is happily baby-sitting Din’s newest foundling, a barely walking Wookie named Kerbee, the pair of them causing trouble with Paz on Mandalore. They’re sitting in Boba’s private quarters, Grogu asleep in the next room over.
Din’s cheeks are pink after one glass of spotchka.
His own cheeks are probably pink, too. Boba plants his feet and sits up a little straighter, elbows resting on the table between them.
He looks at Din, sprawled across the bench and profile turned to Boba. His head rests against the wall, curly hairy fluffy from a fresh sonic and face tilted towards up to the window. Starlight shines in his eyes.
“Why did you tell them no?” Boba finally asks.
Din rolls his head to Boba, blinking. His eyes flick over Boba’s face and he sits up, matching Boba’s posture. He doesn’t need to ask Boba what he’s talking about.
“I don’t think the New Republic is right,” he finally says. “Not-- they’re better than the Empire. I guess.” He chews on his cheeks and frowns.
Boba thinks about how long he’s spent under the helmet, how bare his emotions are. How honest they are. He wonders what his own face says.
Din looks down, breaking their gaze and swirls his glass, newly topped. Takes a sip and looks to Boba again.
“Nothing should be that big.” Din gestures to the window he was just staring out. Stars in his eyes. “The whole galaxy under one governing body? It’s too much. Too wild, too different. They want order , Boba.”
Din stops, words coming faster and louder. He stands suddenly, chair scraping loud and disjointed over the floor. Pacing.
After a long minute Din stops, tension fading as fast as it flared. He inhales, exhales. Face turned to the starlight streaming in the window.
Boba can’t wait anymore.
He stands, moving slowly but deliberately across the room until he’s close enough to wrap his hand around the back of Din’s neck and pull him down. Whatever tension was left in Din melts , his own hand coming up to Boba’s neck as their foreheads meet.
"I’ve seen what order does to the fringes,” Din breathes out. “Cuts them off, crushes them. Burns them. Even if they have the best intentions.”
Boba loves him.
Din smiles, pressing his mouth to Boba’s when he tells him as much. His lips are soft and warm, and Boba revels in it.
Later, spotchka finished and laying in bed with the dawn of the first sun creeping through the window, Din starts to laugh. Boba sits up, already half-laughing at the sound alone, and looks down at Din.
“What?” He asks
Din turns, moving off his cheek to rest his chin on Boba’s chest and smiles, chest still jumping with half suppressed laughter.
Boba’s never known Din to be so full of laughter. He’s never known himself to laugh at the mere sound of someone else’s laughter. At the idea of them being happy. Of Din being happy -- Fennec, Grogu, Kerbee.
“I can’t decide what was funnier,” Din says with a smile. “The look on Solo’s face when you told him we were married, or the look on Skywalker’s when Bo-Katan told him he wasn’t the last Jedi.”
Boba laughs at that too, belly bouncing Din a little. Din rolls over and on top of the arm Boba had had around his waist, laughing again too.
It takes time for the laughter to fade, slowly tapering off until Boba’s cheeks hurt. His hand is asleep under Din’s back but he doesn’t even think about moving it.
The second sun breaks over the horizon, red light spilling in through the windows and painting Din’s skin in shades of fire. He’s never been a poet, but Din makes him want to write songs in the stars.
“How do you think they’re going to react when they realize I have a laser sword too?”
And suddenly they’re laughing all over again, Din letting out an ugly snort and Boba squeaking for lack of air.