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"Get back, now." Fennec’s voice cuts across Boba’s comm minutes after he leaves hyperspace. 

He blinks, a little surprised despite himself. He hits the sequence for the jump to lightspeed, frowning at the comm. “That was fast.”

"Dark Troopers are coming back."

“Two minutes,” he responds, the stars already stretching around him. 

He manages to get there in time, just barely, the alarms blaring as everyone hustles aboard.  Boba wants to look for the kid but keeps his eyes on the horizon, watching the tiny platoon get bigger and bigger until he can see their red glowing eyes.

That's new, he thinks.

“Go!” Dune shouts from below, ship sealing behind them.

He slams the ship back into hyperspace, barely clearing the light cruiser.

Boba blinks. From his end this was almost easy. He hits Fennec’s comm.

“All accounted for?”

"Yeah, we’re all here."

“Tell the Mandalorian if he wants to check on the kid, my quarters lock.”

"You’re getting soft, Fett."

Boba rolls his eyes and hangs up (and he’s not soft, he just wants the mission to be a success). He can hear people moving about below but can’t quite hear their voices. He spares a thought to regret not bugging the cargo hold. But then -- most of his guests have been frozen in carbonite. 

After a minute he hears the sound of his door sliding open and shut again and smiles. Then frowns. Kriff, maybe he is getting soft.

After another minute or so Kryze and her lackey climb up to the cockpit, helmets off. They both look like they just ate bantha shit, and that makes Boba smile under his helmet too. Not that soft, then.

Dune climbs up not long after, looking more like the lothcat who got the cream. “Shand suggested carbonite transport for the Moff. I had no objections.”

“Good,” Boba nods. 

He pauses, casting a glance at the Mandalorians muttering in the corner of the cockpit, looking at the ladder to the hold occasionally. 

He looks back to see the Marshal - Dune - watching the others talking too. Her hand sits on top of the blaster on her hip, fingers drumming.

“Who gets Gideon’s bounty?” He asks.

Kryze nearly snaps her neck whipping to look at him so quickly. She narrows her eyes.

“Mando,” Dune says, still watching Kryze. “He won the Darksaber, too.”

It takes a second, but when it clicks -- Boba bursts into laughter.

--

He doesn't see Mando for hours.

Everyone has long since left to find a corner in the cargo hold, and it’s just Boba in the cockpit now. He’s taken off his own gloves and helmet, setting it on top of the console to stare back at him. It reminds him of his father sometimes. He wonders what Jango would think of him.

Mando is surprisingly quiet despite the weighty armor, and it takes a moment for Boba to notice he’s there, catching the glint of the beskar as a reflection in the glass. He’s barely standing, mostly just slumped against the doorway. No sign as to how long he’d been waiting.

Boba nods to the reflection, and Mando straightens. He settles into the co-pilot’s seat stiffly, carefully.

“That medkit was for both of you, Mandalorian,” Boba says, face still turned toward the stars.

“I’m fine,” Mando says quietly. “I’m not --” He stops. “My name is Din. I’m not sure I’m a Mandalorian anymore.”

Boba is relieved he’s already facing away from Man-- Din. He watches the reflection, though. Din’s head is bent, staring at his gloves. His helmet is still on.

“Why wouldn’t you be?” Boba asks.

Din exhales, loud enough to be picked up by the vocoder. “On Morak -- I removed my armor. Showed my face to people outside of my Clan. I am dar’mada. This is the Way.”

It's the most words Boba’s ever heard Din say in a row and he sounds devastated. Boba wants to shake him, to tell him his soul is his own and only he can decide the Way. 

“Why did you take it off?” He says instead. He doesn’t know enough about Din’s Creed, but he knows that it’s different from most. More intense.

Din clenches his hands in his lap. “We needed a face not in the system to access Moff Gideon’s coordinates. Mayfield wouldn’t do it. I-- I needed to find the child. Grogu.”

A bubble of fury in Boba’s chest at Din’s voice, cracked and uncertain -- Mayfield wouldn’t do it. He clenches his hands on the controls, working to keep the anger off his face lest Din think it’s directed at him.

“Foundlings are the future,” Boba says instead of what he wants to say. Again.

“Yes,” Din says, voice cracking again

Boba can’t do it, can't stay quiet. He can’t say what Din wants to hear. Not when it makes him sound like that. He turns to face him, but Din’s head is still bowed, shoulders drawn up tight to his ears.

“Vod.”

Din shrinks further. Boba can’t have that. 

He spins in his chair, reaching out with both hands to clamp down on Din’s shoulders. Most of his hands stay on the pauldrons, but his thumbs dig into the rough fabric of Din’s flight suit, warm and -- wet?

Din flinches and Boba immediately removes his hands, looking down at his bare hands. Blood.

“Din,” he says quietly.

“I’m f--,” Din stops himself again. “I fought a Dark Trooper and the Moff.”

He doesn’t say where he’s been injured, or even that he’s hurt at all. But the blood is still on Boba’s hands.

Boba stands, ignoring the way Din’s helmet follows him moving around the cockpit. There -- a shelf in the back.

He comes back with a heavy-duty medkit, swiveling Din’s chair to face his, and setting the kit set beside his helmet on the console.

“I keep one here just in case I have to patch myself up while making a getaway,” Boba finds himself explaining as he unpacks a large tube of bacta gel and bacta patches. He doesn’t know why he wants to explain anything.  “Generally if the patch job can’t wait until after the getaway, it’s bad.”

“I normally use a cauterizer,” Din says quietly.

Boba’s head flips up at that, hands stilling. Nobody used those anymore, really. Painful, nasty things. 

“You’re about as likely to catch an infection from the burn as you are to successfully stop the bleeding.”

Din just shrugs. “It’s been fine.”

Boba inhales and exhales slowly. He picks up a clean cloth, setting the bacta aside for now.

“I’ll need the top flight suit off,” at least, Boba doesn’t add. He suspects there are more injuries than whatever has blood seeping through the shoulder of Din's flight suit.

It takes a moment for Din to nod and an even longer one for him to start removing the armor. Pauldrons, cuirass. Boba resists the urge to offer aid in this -- armor is sacred and there are some lines he’s not sure he’s willing to cross. Lines he's not sure he's welcome across.

Din’s smaller without the armor, but not small by any stretch. He struggles to raise his arms, but manages to unfasten the flight suit. It goes loose at the neck and back, sliding down his arms to reveal a mess.

Blood, some dry but most fresh or still tacky, spread across the back of his neck and shoulders. Coming from under his helmet. Dark red splotches already darkening to bruises covering the skin not already bloody. Whatever scars Din has, Boba can't see.

Boba stares and then looks up to meet Din’s gaze.

“I didn’t think it was that bad,” Din says quietly, looking down and away. He pokes at a bruise and hisses. 

“Where’s the blood coming from?” Boba says in lieu of yelling.

One hand lightly touches the back of the helmet. “I hit my head on a wall.”

Boba raises an eyebrow but doesn’t answer, leaning in with the cloth to wipe away the blood. Din shivers at the touch but doesn’t pull away this time. Boba swallows hard.

You did, huh?”

Din doesn’t answer until Boba looks up from his chest. The visor is as blank as ever, but trained steadily on Boba. The moment stretches. Din looks away first.

“A Dark Trooper did. Repeatedly.”

This is Boba’s first lesson is exactly how little self-preservation Din has.

Chapter Text

Boba doesn’t know what he expected Din to do when they got to Nevarro, but this certainly wasn’t it.

“Thank you,” he says softly, turning to Boba and Fennec. He pauses, tilting his head and extending one arm. “Vod.”

Boba blinks behind his helmet, first at Din and then at his hand. He reaches forward to take it after a little too long.

Bo-Katan sneers. “He is no brother of mine.” 

She reaches forward, slapping Din’s hand back. Before Boba can react, before even Fennec -- a low hum cuts through the air and everyone freezes.

Din has the darksaber drawn, inky black and as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. It sucks all of the light out of the room, and Boba is a little grateful it doesn’t actually look like a jetti weapon.

The child presses a button and his pram snaps shut.

“I offered you your claim and you denied it,” Din says, voice very quiet. Nobody has to strain to listen. “Either challenge me and lead your own Way, or accept mine.”

Bo-Katan looks like she’d rather rip Din’s armor off with her bare hands, but swallows and nods. 

Din powers down the saber. “Take your shares and leave.”

“If you’re going to be the Mand’alor , you can’t be a fucking bounty hunter,” she hisses.

Din’s helmet doesn’t move. His fingers twitch towards his blaster. “I’ll meet you on Mandalore in seven cycles. I have unfinished business.”

Bo-Katan jams her helmet on her head while Koska sweeps the credits off the desk. They both leave without another word.

Cara, who’d been watching the events unfold with all the glee of a pod racing spectator, turns to Din and raises an eyebrow. 

“Unfinished business?” 

“My covert,” he says simply. “I’m going to find them and bring them to Mandalore with me.”

Boba frowns, ignoring the look Fennec casts him. Neither of them know anything about Din’s covert -- why he has to find them.

“I thought they were gone,” Cara says quietly.

Din doesn’t respond, turning to the closed pram and tapping lightly. It opens immediately. The child coos and reaches up toward Din. Din immediately lifts him. 

“Want some soup before we go?”

“I have soup on the ship,” Boba finds himself saying. “If you like.”

He wants to dissolve into the floor immediately, feeling himself flush behind his visor. Cara casts him a strange look, and Fennec scoffs. 

Din tilts his head and nods. “Thank you.”

Boba nods back, unwilling to open his mouth again for fear of what may come out. He feels warm, though.

“I’m going to the cantina,” Fennec says. “Marshal?”

Cara stands, chair scraping against the stone. “Lead the way. I could use a few drinks after this week.”

The five of them exit the Marshal's office together, parting ways when Fennec and Cara peel off to the cantina. 

The walk with Din and the child is quiet, but not tense. Din lets him lead the way, and he finds that he doesn’t mind having Din at his back. Enjoys it, even.

Boba takes his helmet off as soon as they’re inside, continuing to the small kitchen space and starting to make the promised soup. He freezes, feeling a flush creep into his cheeks when he realizes he didn’t check anything . Didn’t close the ramp, check the alarms, the perimeter -- nothing. 

He turns, pot simmering over a burner, fingers reaching towards his discarded blaster to see the ramp firmly shut, alarm blinking green, and Din holding Grogu while pointing out a window.

“If you have no cover, choose the high ground,” Din says. Grogu peers out the window, looking at the wide desert surrounding them. 

Din turns toward him when he steps forward. Boba stops reaching for the blaster, gesturing towards the soup instead.

“It should be ready in a moment.” His voice sounds strangled and thin to his own ears.

Din nods. “Thank you.”

Boba watches him produce a tiny silver ball when the child coos and reaches towards Din’s belt. After a moment he turns back to the soup, blush fading. He doesn’t feel the need to recheck the alarms.

Boba spoons the soup into three bowls before he can let himself think about it, setting two on the table that Din and Grogu have settled at. He turns to go but a hand on his arm stops him. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Din, helmet still on and unreadable as ever. After a long moment Din retracts his hand and reaches for his helmet. 

“Wait, wh--” Boba cuts himself off at the sound of Din’s helmet seal hissing open. He can’t close his eyes in time.

Din’s hair is brown and curly, sweaty and stuck to his forehead. A patchy beard and slightly overgrown mustache. His eyes are big and brown and so soft, brow crinkled and cheeks pink.

Din swallows hard, blinking in the light. His face darkens from pink to red but he gestures for Boba to take the seat across from him. 

“It’s your soup.”

Boba can’t do more than blink and sit down, soup sloshing in his bowl. 

They both look down and start eating. Or-- Boba starts eating and Din turns to the child. Eventually he convinces Grogu there are no creatures in the soup.

He opens his mouth, intending to ask what the kriff that’s about but instead says -- “Thank you.” Din tilts his head towards Boba. “Few would consider me a Mandalorian.”

Din pauses, spoon still in his bowl. After a beat he sets it down, planting his hands firmly on the table. His face set and expression sure. 

“You honor your word, your weapons, and your armour. You protect foundlings . You are a Mandalorian.”

Boba swallows and looks down. “I remove my helmet.” He doesn’t understand. He’s afraid to hope.

The silence stretches this time. Finally, Din speaks. His voice is steady.

“Secrecy isn’t our strength. Community is.”

Chapter Text

Boba is different around Mando. But, Fennec guesses, so is she. And Mando is different from most people she knows in general.

She remembers when he was the one who caught her. He wasn’t gentle, didn’t go easy but-- he wasn’t cruel. Wanted to bring her in alive. Trusted that stupid kriffing kid. 

There’s an honesty to him and a special kind of patience. A sense of fairness. (Maker, Fennec can't remember the last time life was fair. If it ever was.) It's easy to miss, hidden under layers of beskar and Mando's taciturn nature, but there nonetheless.

So both Boba and herself, people not known for their honesty and patience, find themselves paying it back in kind. 

It helps that the guy has the cutest kid Fennec has ever seen.

A month after the light cruiser, and Fennec watches Boba watching Mando. 

Boba lounges on the throne, doesn't notice her walk up behind him with his eyes glued to the pair sitting at the bar. 

The kid is sitting on the counter facing Mando, bowl of soup between them. He seems to delight in throwing soup on his robe and Mando’s armor instead of swallowing it, long green ears twitching as he babbles and coos. Mando never yells, just gently urges the tiny creature to eat at least some of it and wipes the spills away with his cape.

Boba’s mouth twitches in a smile when the kid upends the bowl on Mando’s lap.

“He’d stay if you asked him to,” Fennec says suddenly. Boba freezes and she waits for him to unwind and look at her.

Honest. Patient.

Kriff, she misses the old days sometimes. 

“He has responsibilities,” he says. Six weeks ago he would have told her to kriff off. 

He’s not wrong, though. 

Mando has a Jedi child and claim over the Darksaber and thereby, no matter how stupid she may think it to be, the throne of Mandalor. Bo-Katan Kryze, in lieu of being able to claim the throne herself, has assigned herself as Mando’s advisor and has started organizing a plan to call Mandalorians home. To Mandalore. 

He’s a father and a king actively working to rebuild a civilization on an abandoned planet.

And yet -- Mando has chosen to be here, sitting at the bar in Boba’s palace on Tatooine with soup in his lap and a baby laughing at him. 

We need help getting the message out. You have connections throughout the Rim, he’d said the day before, arriving alone (well, alone with the kid) on a ship similar to the Razor Crest.

Fennec and Boba had heard I need a break please give me a break.

“He makes his own choices,” she says finally. “So do you.”  

She’s chosen to be here, too, sitting on the arm of Boba’s throne and watching Mando with soup in his lap and a baby laughing at him.

Perhaps most surprisingly is that Boba has chosen to let them be here. Wants them here.

He doesn't answer her, but the quiet isn't tense. Just contemplative.

For a while the only sound is Mando sighing and the kid giggling -- until someone comes to talk to Boba, a problem that needs his attention. He grumbles and keeps looking over his shoulder and Mando and the kid but leaves eventually.  

Fennec stays.

Mando looks up at her and somehow even through the helmet she knows he’s amused. She’d gotten pretty good at reading expressionless expressions with Boba, but Mando is somehow more expressive than her “boss” despite never taking the helmet off. 

“Something funny over there?” She asks.

“Yes,” he returns easily, unphased by her scathing tone. He’s unphased by most things it seems.

He gestures to the kid, laughing and smacking his tiny green hands in the soupy mess covering Mando’s lap. 

“Okay, buddy,” he mutters softly, scooping the kid up gently and standing. 

He moves a little slow, favoring his left side. Fennec makes a note to tell Boba to make sure he gets checked out by medical. It hadn’t taken long to learn Mando certainly wouldn’t do it himself, and who knows what he was doing with Kryze before this. 

“Time to get cleaned up.”

“You more than him,” Fennec tosses out, standing to come meet them. “I can clean the kid if you want to take care of the armor. Maybe change the flight suit, too, Mando.” 

She offers without thinking. Mando has never left the kid alone with her. If she were someone else, she would retract the offer as soon as the bubble of awkwardness -- of self-consciousness -- hits her. Instead she swallows and meets his gaze through the visor.

He tilts his head, watching, and expressive he may be but Fennec can’t read this emotion. He nods and extends his arms, passing the tiny child over.

“My name is Din Djarin,” he says once the kid is safe in her arms. Her head snaps up to look at him. “And his name is Grogu.”

She blinks dumbly at him. Boba knows his name, she knew, but few others. Even fewer that Mando -- Din -- had chosen to tell and not been forced to reveal it to. She nods once, unable to respond until he walks away. 

Gratitude. Trust . Fondness, she realizes. Not just patience.

Nobody had ever looked at her like that.

She looks down at the kid -- Grogu -- in her arms. He burbles and smacks a soupy palm to her cheek.

Chapter Text

Leia is scary on a good day, and terrifying on a bad one.

Han doesn’t know any better words for invoking speechless terror into the hearts and souls of men with naught but a look and a snarl but he might have to invent someone because Leia while pregnant managed to make a battle-hardened recon specialist burst into tears with a glance. 

“Sweetheart,” Han starts, dragging out the word as he trails after her back to her office. 

He stops in the doorway while she marches forward to tap at a holodesk, bringing up a map of something he doesn’t recognize at first glance.

“That's the fifth scout this month who’s brought me nothing but rumors,” she sneers at the screen.

“They’re spies. Isn’t it their job to bring you rumors?”

“It’s their job to confirm rumors.”

She stares at the holo, foot tapping. Han cautiously approaches. 

After a moment Leia relaxes a little, letting him wrap his arms around her waist from behind. He rests his chin on top of her head and looks at the holo too. Now he recognizes it -- Tatooine, lit up red. After a moment she relaxes further, leaning against him and foot stilling.

“I keep hearing rumors about Mandalorians.”

Han frowns. “Boba Fett was the only Mandalorian I’ve ever met. And he’s dead now. There can’t be many left.” He stops, considering. “Maybe a couple of bounty hunters? Think I heard about one working with the Guild on Nevarro before I ever met you.”

Leia tilts her head, looking up at him for a second, eyebrow raised. “Is that why you won’t go past Tatooine?”

Han makes a face. “I wasn’t exactly eager to tangle with more bounty hunters after Fett.”

"Yes, isn't life better without a bounty on your head?"

He rolls his eyes and points at the holo. “Sure, Your Highness, but what do Mandalorians, Tatooine, and dearly departed Boba Fett have to do with each other?”

“A lot according to the rumors.”

“Huh?” Han rears back, turning Leia by the waist to get her to look at him. “What rumors?”

Leia smirks, just a little -- she’s messing with him. Han puts on his best porg eyes. She relents.

“This most recent one is that Boba Fett is alive and well and is running the old Hutt syndicate on Tatooine.” 

Han stares, waiting for the punchline. She raises an eyebrow. Not messing with him then. 

She turns back to the table, tapping the planet to enlarge it.

“Fett’s not the only Mandalorian I’ve heard about lately, but he is the only one I know how to find.” She pauses. “You’re going to need Luke.”

“You?” Han pauses. “Wait, me?

-

Luke doesn’t miss Tatooine, exactly, but something settles in his chest at the sight of two suns in the sky when the Falcon touches down on the red sand.

Han grimaces, complaining mostly to himself as he shuts down the ship and rolls down the ramp. Chewie stayed home with Leia, said if Han wants to make a fool of himself around Boba Fett again that’s his prerogative. 

Luke doesn’t feel great about the two of them being the ones looking for Boba Fett, but Leia was too pregnant for hyperspace and wanted it kept quiet. She extracted several promises from both of them that if Fett was in fact alive, they’d be using a talk-first, shoot-later approach as opposed to Han’s regular methods.

He hopes Han knows what he’s doing. Luke definitely doesn’t.

“Han, do you have a plan?” Luke asks.

“Best place to find a bounty hunter is always a bar. C’mon there’s a cantina right down main street.”

Han takes off at a stride, to all the world confident but Luke can feel the near-panic in his chest. Still Luke shrugs and follows -- he has no better ideas.

--

The inside of the cantina is less rowdy than expected, certainly less so than when it was Han’s old stomping grounds. There’s a few full tables, but not all. A family with kids eats at one. A card game is going on at another.

Han pauses, one hand on Luke’s chest to stop him. He nods toward a back booth in the corner,  a tall man with silver hair and a tiny woman with curly hair occupying the bench seat facing them. The man wears a badge pinned to his red scarf -- the town Marshal then.

“Not quite a bounty hunter, but it’s a start,” Han says, relieved to have found something to start that wasn’t Boba Fett.

“You’d be surprised how similar Marshals and mercenaries can be on the Outer Rim,” an amused female voice comes from behind. 

The two of them whirl, Han’s hand halfway to his blaster on instinct before he registers who it is.

“Cara Dune?” Luke asks

Cara and Leia had known each other before Alderaan had-- well. Before. Han and Luke met her a handful of times after that. Han liked her. Funny. Tough. Good drinker.

Cara smiles and inclines her head respectfully to Luke. “Skywalker. Solo.” She chucks Han on the shoulder. “What are you two doing in a skughole like this?”

“Hey! I take offense to that, Marshal. Tatooine is basically respectable these days,” a voice calls out from across the room. Han and Luke turn to see the man in the booth leaned back and staring at their group with a smile. 

“Slander!” The curly haired woman cries out, slapping the table. 

The man laughs and waves her off, raising a glass at the bartender. “Could I get another round of spotchka for me and my friends?”

Well, that’s an invitation if Han ever heard one. And a free drink is a free drink (plus you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get real spotchka in the Core).

“Marshal?” Han says to Cara as they settle into the open seats. Cara sits on the same side as the man and the woman.

Last time he saw Cara Dune she was quitting, giving up being a shocktrooper. Leia had argued fiercely against it, but Han understood. War was hard. He’s glad Cara’s alive and well but surprised this is what she’s doing. She’d been burnt out on the New Republic pretty badly.

He looks her up and down, noting the differences. The Alderaanian mourning braid and tear are the same as always. Little older. Less angry. 

Cara waits until the bartender comes back with a full spothcka bottle and several glasses. The curly haired woman pours generous servings while the man pays and thanks the bartender.

“Not here. On Nevarro. I’m just --visiting friends. Vacation,” Cara says, skirting the question. 

Han registers the hesitation, the sentence change halfway through. He’s sure she is visiting friends -- the Odd Couple they’re sitting with now is evidence enough of that -- but that’s not “just” what she’s doing.

He meets Luke’s eyes briefly -- he caught it too. He also files away Nevarro for later; for a planet he hadn't thought of in years, it seems to come up frequently.

“Yes, I believe introductions are in order,” the man says, smiling wide and bright as he leans forward. “My name is Marshal Cobb Vanth from out in Mos Pelgo. This here is Peli Motto, the best mechanic this side of the Rim.”

The woman, Peli, points straight at Luke. “You owe me a speeder bike. Or 300 credits, you little womprat.”

Luke rears back, blinking stupidly. “What?”

“Oh yeah, I remember you from before you got famous,” she says proudly, leaning back and crossing her arms.

She nods to Han knowingly, and Han tries to suppress a laugh. This is going to be good.

“Yeah, Mr. Blow-Up-the-Deathstar can’t hold his liquor. Bet me his speeder bike and then went and blew the damn thing up before turning tail and running halfway across the galaxy.”

Han can feel his eyebrows hit his hairline. He turns to Luke expectantly.

Luke looks panicked in a way usually only Leia can make him, his eyes flitting back and forth and cool Jedi exterior cracked all over.

“I- that’s not what happened,” Luke says desperately.. “It was one game of sabbac after a few too m-- doesn’t matter. Sorry, Peli. Miss Motto. That I di-- look, I’ll pay you back, I promise. Today.” Luke babbles, increasingly uncomfortable under everyone’s stares. He drops a handful of credits on the counter, the chits chinking in the sudden silence.

Han cracks first, bursting into laughter. I gotta get that story out of him later.

Peli sweeps the credits off the table and into her palm with a dignified sniff. Vanth and Cara chuckle a little, shaking their heads. 

“To paying your debts,” Vanth says, still chuckling a little. He raises his glass and they all quickly raise their own.

The spotchka is bright and smooth when it goes down, like candy. Dangerous and delicious.

“Now, what are you two heroes of the rebellion doing out in my neck of the woods anyhow?” Vanth asks. His smile is still easy, but his eyes are narrowed and his hand hangs off the table, fingertips inches from his blaster.

Han remembers the last time he was in a cantina on Tatooine. They were talking about debts then too.

“I’ve been hearing rumors, Marshal Vanth,” Han says.

“You know what they say about rumors, General Solo,” Vanth says. "It true you hung up your smuggler's coat and picked up a New Republic medal?"

Han grimaces, takes another swig of spotchka. “Sure, I’m about as respectable as Tatooine is these days it seems.”

Vanth raises an eyebrow. Peli narrows her eyes, leaning forward. Cara seems content to watch the show, relaxed and sipping her spotchka.

"We've got about as much of the New Republic as we can stand with this one," Peli says, hooking her thumb back to Vanth. He rolls his eyes but doesn't object.

“That’s why we came ourselves instead of sending representatives,” Luke says peaceably, Jedi mask slipping back into place now that his youthful indiscretions are no longer up for debate..  

Vanth shrugs and makes a show of putting a hand on Peli’s shoulder, both of them relaxing, before gesturing for him to continue.

Luke pauses, eyes flicking across all of them. Han can feel something nudging him and is pretty sure Luke is doing Force nonsense to see if the three are trustworthy. He must like what he senses (kriffing hell Han hates the Force) because he relaxes and folds his hands on the table, plainly moving them away from his weapons.

“I heard that Boba Fett was alive and well and on Tatooine,” Luke says, putting it as blunt as anything. Neither him nor Han really put much stock in the rumor so if they can jus--

“You heard right,” Vanth agrees.

He’s what? That son of a bitch, I’ll put him in carbonit--

A hand on his shoulder jerks Han back to reality and he realizes that was out loud. Vanth and Cara hadn’t drawn their blasters but Peli has one pointed right at his nose.

“Sit down,” Luke hisses, fingers tightening painfully on his shoulder.

Han eases back into his seat. Cobb reaches out, resting a hand on Peli’s arm lightly until she lowers the blaster. Peli reminds him of Leia, a bit. 

“Rebel hero or not, Solo, I know your name too. We like Fett here. You, not so much.”

Han grimaces again. He should’ve paid his bar tab last time.

“Now, General. What would the New Republic want with Boba Fett way out here on Tatooine?” Cobb asks, still carefully relaxed. “You could’ve commed, sent a holo. Woulda been the polite thing to do seeing as you got a Marshal out here.”

“I sent one before coming,” Cara chimes in. She looks strangely amused by the events unfolding. 

She knows something.

“We have unfinished business,” Luke says, voice wise and even and expression blank. Han rolls his eyes.

Luke. You can’t just say that kriff so ominously. This is why people thought Jedi were a cult.

Luke shoots him a withering glare but sighs and relaxes a little. “This is New Republic business, not personal. Just some questions.”

“That’s better?” Peli mutters into her glass. Vanth elbows her lightly. She jabs him harder.

“What makes you think he’d talk to you?” Cara asks, ignoring the scuffle next to her.

Han swallows back his feelings on Fett. This is for Leia.

“Before this conversation -- I didn’t think he would. Didn’t really believe he was alive. Would’ve shot me on sight, I expect. Luke, too, maybe,” Han says with a shrug, as casual as he can possibly make himself sound. “But, as Peli said, you like him so I’m guessing he likes you. What I would like is an introduction.”

Vanth nods. “Fair enough. What do you want to talk to him about? As you said, he likes me and I’d like to keep it that way.”

“Mandalorians.” Luke says.

Cara snorts. “Figures it took the New Republic this long to hear about Mandolorians.”

“Have you been hearing things about Mandalorians?” Han leans in. 

She knows something. They all do.

“You could say that,” Cara responds, mouth twitching up. 

“C’mon,” Han wheedles. “Help us out. I’m here for Leia.”

It’s Leia that breaks her. 

“Mandalorians aren’t extinct,” Cara finally says. “Not at all, as it turns out. And, yeah. We, including Boba Fett, know a few.”

“I’d say Fett knows one of them better th--” Peli jerks, spilling her spotchka. She glares at Cara who pointedly doesn’t look at her.

Luke nods slowly. “Mandalorians were allies during the Clone Wars. We could all use allies these days.”

Unspoken in his words is the pervading feeling that the Empire isn’t really gone. Ex-imperials have been popping up more and more. A thought-to-be-abandoned base blew up on Morak the year before, chalk full of Imperials and weapons. Leia hasn’t been able to find out who blew it up or why or what they were doing before it blew up.

“Fair enough,” Vanth says. “Let’s go talk to a warlord about a king.”

Wait what?

-

Luke is prepared to be disgusted, horrified by Hutt’s palace all over again, but it’s clean and mostly empty. Still dimly lit and mostly stone, but not foul. 

A few people hang around, nodding to Vanth and Cara (Peli having waved them away at the bar, saying give my best to Fett and friends and heading to join a card game in the corner with her 300 credits, courtesy of Luke) as they make their way through familiar halls. 

Luke wondered just how often they all came here, who Fett’s friends were. Who the “king” was.

A woman lounges on the throne when they arrive at the main room, red thread braided into her dark hair. A few people hang around the bar. None of them are Boba Fett, but they all turn to stare. 

“Fennec Shand,” Vanth greets with a shallow bow.

"Cobb Vanth,” the woman -- Shand -- nods back at him and spares a barely-there smile for Cara. “Cara Dune.”

She pauses, looking him and Han up and down. “Solo. Skywalker. Friends of yours?”

“Close enough” Cara offers with a grin. “They’re here to talk to Fett about some Mandalorian sightings.”

Amusement flickers in the Force around Shand, and everyone else in the room, but her expression gives nothing away at all.

“You know where he is.” Shand says.

“I didn’t think he’d appreciate me bringing two of the biggest faces of the New Republic there,” Cara says.

Fennec smiles at that, openly amused now. “Fair.” She turns to Luke and Han again. “Wait at the bar. I’ll get him.”

She turns and leaves without telling them how long she’ll be gone or where she’s going.

Cara and Vanth go to the bar, immediately grabbing waiting glasses of spotchka. Han shrugs and joins them, so Luke follows. 

Luke eyeballs the spotchka Cara and Vanth are slugging back. Cara catches him looking and smiles. Vanth follows her gaze to Luke and raises his glass.

“Forgive our manners,” Vanth says. “Would you like a drink too?”

“You weren’t kidding about being on vacation,” Luke observes.

Cara laughs and drains half the glass. “Trust me, I’ve earned it. You wouldn’t believe the year we’ve had.”

“How do you two know each other?” Han asks, sipping his own glass. 

Cara and Vanth share a look and a laugh. “A mutual friend.”

“Mutual friend of Fett’s, too,” Cara adds. 

“Oh, I’d say they’re more than fr--” Vanth cuts himself off at the sound of a creaking door.

Heavy footsteps and a lighter pair and there he is. Boba Fett, Shand hanging a few steps behind him. Luke grabs Han’s wrist before he can move to pull the blaster out of his holster.

“Boba Fett,” Luke greets carefully.

“Solo. Skywalker,” Fett replies, an exact echo of Shand’s intonations.

His armor has been repainted and touched up, dents gone and scratches hidden. He looks good for a dead man. 

His presence is wary, a little angry, but also amused. Everyone seems a little amused at their expense. It’s driving Luke just a little crazy.

“I see you made it out of the Sarlacc pit,” Han chimes in, can’t quite help himself.

Fett doesn’t respond, continuing into the room to settle on the throne. Shand leans against the throne on the left hand side. 

“What has the New Republic been hearing about Mandalorians?” He asks bluntly. 

The Force around Fett is cautious, protective, really. Curious.

Luke decides to continue with blunt honesty. “Rumors that Mandalorians are resurfacing, buying ships.” He pauses, looking at Shand and Fett. Luke gambles on that curious protective feeling and adds, “We can all use more allies these days.”

His fingers twitch toward his blaster but don’t grab it. “Maybe I have enough allies. Maybe they do too. Maybe none of us much want the New Republic as an ally anyway.”

“Well that’s just hurtful,” Vanth chimes in. 

“Yeah!” Cara echoes. 

Fett’s helmet tips toward him. Luke can feel a spike of amusement despite the expressionless helmet and thinks he gambled correctly. 

This Boba Fett is different from the one who fell in the Sarlacc pit five years ago. He has people he wants to protect, not just hunt down.

“Marshals and bounty hunters aren’t so different on the Outer Rim,” Fett says, an echo from the cantina. "The rules are different here. Nobody’s ever actually colonized these planets. Not really.”

“Someone else is gonna come looking for the Mandalorians soon,” Han cuts in, not unkindly but none too gently either. “Worse friends to have than the New Republic.”

Fett watches them and nods slowly to himself. Tilts his head like he’s listening to something they can’t hear. Luke looks a little closer with the Force-- a transmitter in his helmet. Someone else has been listening.

“Your friend should step out of the shadows,” Luke snaps, aggravated that everyone seems to know something he and Han don't and the memory of Jabba's palace setting him on edge.

Fett’s head slowly straightens. Shand unholsters her blaster. The small conversations in the room go silent. Han has his blaster in hand beside Luke. 

Kriff.

“What do you know of my friends?” Fett says, voice low and dangerous. The Force flares -- protect.

A chair scrapes -- Luke had forgotten that Cara and Vanth were there. Vanth sighs.

Shoulda just stayed in Mos Pelgo,”  Luke hears him mutter to himself, barely audible.

Luke doesn't know who's side they'll be on if this goes wrong. He turns his shoulder, opening up to keep Vanth and Cara in sight too. Cara comes up beside Han, elbowing him hard in the side and taking his blaster. She levels Luke a warning look as she powers it down and steps in front of him and Han. 

“Where is he?” Cara asks, voice tired now instead of amused. 

“Here,” a new voice replies.

Out from the same hall that Fett and Shand -- a private hall -- another Mandalorian arrives. More armor than Fett, and nothing but pure silver. There’s a long spear strapped to his back and a cape down to his knees. Luke blinks. He hadn't heard or sensed the other man coming.

“And you are?” Han asks, surprise sending him back to arrogance and rudeness. Not that Luke can judge, given his own outburst.

“A Mandalorian,” he replies, silver helmet turning and narrowing in on Han. “Jabba wasn’t the only one with a bounty on you, Solo.”

Luke’s not positive he could cut the tension even with a lightsaber. 

Cara sighs again, voice chiding. “D- Mando.”

The man’s posture doesn’t change but he stops looking at Han, head tilting as he looks to Cara and Vanth. “You trust them?” 

Vanth shrugs. “Never met them before, but Cara does.”

The helmet swivels just a bit. Cara nods. “I served with them. I knew Han’s wife on Alderaan and after.”

It turns back to Luke and Han. “What do you want with the Mandalorians?”

Lule has to bite his tongue to keep from snapping again. “Just an introduction.”

The head tilts toward Fett for a moment before turning back to them. “I’ll talk to the Council. You can contact us through Cara Dune or Cobb Vanth for now.”

“Excellent. Now get out of my palace before I put out another bounty on you, Solo.” Fett leans forward in his throne.

Luke almost misses the other Mandalorian laying a gentle hand on Fett's shoulder before Cara grabs his shoulder much more roughly and steers him toward the exit.

"Come on," Cara mutters, pushing Han up next to Luke.

Despite Han's grumbling on the ship, Luke can’t help but think that it went better than expected.

--

Ben is a beautiful baby boy and she feels less like an angry bantha 6 weeks post-birth. 

Han is wrapped around the boy’s fat little finger and, despite his objections, is exactly the doting, hovering, gentle father Leia knew he would be. He can regularly be found wandering around the Senate with Ben strapped to his chest, pointing out various politicians and explaining in careful details to his newborn son exactly why they’re all fools and how lucky Ben is to have a brilliant mother who managed to secure a neutral, if not necessarily positive, relationship with the galaxy’s most battle-hardened race.

Negotiations are going well, Leia thinks. Working towards turning neutral into positive.

After one or two back-and-forths with Cara Dune (thank the stars she's alive and well), the Mandalorian Council (who the kriff would have known there were even enough Mandalorians to form a council) had agreed a representative could negotiate basic terms.

And, despite Boba kriffing Fett being the Manda’lore’s representative, she’s supposed to finally meet the Mand’alor himself tonight. On Tatooine and not Mandalore, but -- baby steps.

Fett gets a kick out of harassing Han. And Luke. Leia he seems to respect, so she lets it slide. Those boys could use a little harassment, if only to let some air out of their egos. 

So, yes, negotiations are going well. Until they aren’t.

She gets a single message from Fett. Negotiations suspended until the Mand’alor can be retrieved.

Retrieved. 

As in gone. As in taken.

By who and by what? Leia doesn’t know. Her eye twitches.

Then Luke calls Leia. 

I sense a disturbance in the Force. Someone powerful, but young, is looking for help. 

“Help?”

His father was taken.

Oh kriff.

“Luke, you’re not going to like this. But we need to talk to Boba Fett on Tatooine again.”

She’s right. Luke doesn’t like it at all.

Chapter Text

Boba flicks through a datapad, scanning recent bounty postings. If the ones he flagged happen to be mostly ex-Imperials or ex-slavers these days, well. Even these days, no one was brave enough to comment on it.

“Careful, even the Republic might notice you’re getting soft ,” Fennec calls out as she crosses the chamber.

Almost no one.

Boba throws a rude gesture up without raising his head, sliding the bottle of spotchka across the bar when he hears her footsteps.

They’re not in the throne room but one of the back rooms, away from the transient population that fills the main ones. Bounty hunters, traders, people asking for favors (or owing them), Boba’s own guards.

“You keep taking them, they might say the same about you.”

Fennec scoffs and pours herself a glass. They sit in silence for a few minutes, Boba finishing going through the postings and Fennec finishing her glass of spotchka. 

“Din’s coming tonight,” Fennec finally says. 

Boba finishes reading before setting the datapad down and turning to look at her. She’s smirking. “Yes.”

“So is Senator Organa. And her husband Han Solo.”

Boba takes the bottle of spotchka and pours himself a glass. “Yes.”

Fennec opens her mouth to say something but Boba’s comm cuts through.

The Nite Owls.

Fennec rolls her eyes and Boba finishes his drink. He expects it’s Axe wanting to go over security for Din (Bo-Katan and Koska can still shove a lightsaber up their collective ass, but Axe proved to not be the worst person Boba’s ever met. It helps that he actually likes Din.).

Boba swipes to answer.

It is Axe, but there’s sweat on his brow and a profoundly unhappy expression on his face. Boba frowns.

“The Empire has the Mand’alor.”

Fennec’s glass of spotchka hits the counter hard.

“Details.” Boba manages through clenched teeth. 

“They hit us on speeders. We were on our way from Mos Pelgo to you. A dozen stormtroopers and another dozen bounty hunters, not Guild.”

“Where is the child?”

“We have him, unharmed.” A long pause, Axe’s face growing somehow even darker. “He is… unhappy.”

“Where are you?” 

Boba and Fennec are already on their feet and arming themselves.

“About five klicks out, east from the palace.” Axe’s jaw tenses. ”They disabled our ship and took off in a TIE fighter. But we captured one of the hunters. Koska is interrogating him now.”

“Fennec and I will be there in five.” Boba pauses, looks up at Fennec. “Leave him alive.”

--

It’s easy to find where the Mandalorians were ambushed in the flat red sand of Tatooine.

Bo-Katan is on the ground, knee bent at an unnatural angle. Koska sits on top of a pile of rubble, bleeding profusely from her head and rifle across her lap. Axe is the only one still standing, arm limp at his side and blood dripping from his fingertips. 

“Where is the child?” Boba asks immediately, ramp from Slave 1 not even down yet.

Grogu comes toddling out from behind Koska before any of the Mandalorians get the chance to answer.

“Ba!” His wide black eyes are watery, wrinkled face twisted into a devastated frown as he rushes to Boba with his claws up.

Boba scoops him up without breaking his stride, Fennec half a step behind him. 

“I know, little one,” he murmurs. “We’ll get buir back.” He turns to Axe. “Where’s the one you captured?” 

Axe nods behind the boulder Koska is sitting on. “Passed out. He gave up quickly.”

“What did he say?” Boba keeps his grip on the child gentle, rubbing small circles on his back. His own pulse thunders.

“They knew we were coming. A mechanic in Mos Pelgo overheard one of your guards talking in the cantina and sold us out to a warlord looking to get in good with the Imperials again.” Axe turns his head and spits, saliva bloody. “Hired the bounty hunters to supplement the storm troopers.”

“They planted mines,” Kryze cuts in, voice thin with pain. “Took out the speeders and went straight for the Mand’alor. We fought. They tossed an explosive in the middle and when the dust cleared he was gone.” 

“They killed their own men to get him, Fett.” Koska slides off the rocks. She doesn’t quite stick the landing, catching herself on the rubble. “Just him.”

“They weren’t after the kid?” Fennec asks, frowning.

Bo-Katan shakes her head, sweat making her hair stick to her brow. “The Republic aren’t the only ones who’ve heard that Mandalorians are coming back.” She raises her chin, meeting Boba’s gaze. “The Mand’alor is a beacon.”

“Where are they now?” Boba breathes through his nose. Now is not the time, he reminds himself. Grogu burbles unhappily, snuggling into Boba’s shoulder.

“A light cruiser just out of orbit.” Koska says. “I have the coordinates.”

Boba takes in the Mandalorians, bloody and dusty and exhausted. “Stay here. Call the palace and my people will come to meet you. None of you can fight. Watch the child.”

Grogu shrieks at that, a wave of devastation hitting Boba hard enough to knock him back a step. He hears Fennec stumble beside him. Axe falls to his knees, Bo-Kotan retches, and Koska clutches her head.

“I think the kid is coming with us,” Fennec manages to grind out. 

The wave stops all at once. Boba tilts his helmet down to look at Grogu.

“Buir.” Grogu says, face twisted in concentration as he tries to land all of the syllables.

Boba looks up at the three panting, bleeding Mandalorians. Koska looks the least terrible.

“Reeves. Stay on the ship with the child.”

By the time the four of them file up the ramp, Din’s been missing for two hours.

--

The cruiser looming ahead of them is sparking and smoking. Something is very clearly going wrong.

“Prepare for a rough landing,” Boba says.

“We’ve had worse,” Koska grinds out, struggling to keep Grogu in his seat and away from the controls.

Nobody shoots at them as they pull up. Whatever is going on is coming from inside the ship.

Despite himself, Boba smiles.

Din.

Chapter Text

Fennec double checks her rifle as Boba lands the ship, Reeves and Grogu staring at her. 

“Bring him back,” Reeves suddenly says.

Fennec pauses, looking up at her. The blood on her head is mostly dried, red dust covering her armour. She looks pained.

Boba hates her, Fennec knows -- her and Kryze. Their first meeting had been less than ideal and he’s not a man to forgive easily. 

Fennec doesn’t feel so strongly, nor had she been insulted so deeply. She can see how both Reeves and Kryze have fallen in line, the way animosity has given way to grudging respect to dogged loyalty to Din and his leadership.  

Fennec looks out a window, watching the rapid descent to the sparking, smoking Imperial cruiser below. “I think maybe Din has this handled.” Still, she shoulders the rifle and gets ready to board. 

Boba stands from the pilot’s chair, grin wide and sharp as he jams on his helmet. “Maybe he left a few for us.”

The ship shudders as it connects to the cruiser, latching on to a docking port. Nobody fires at them.

Fennec nods and then Boba drops in. She lands behind him a second later, Reeves sealing the door behind them.

Alarms are blaring, white walls flashing red and high pitched wailing echoing down the halls. There’s no sign of the troopers that should have been firing on them aside from scorch marks on the floor and walls. 

Fennec can’t help but smile as she and Boba make their way down the halls toward the control room. The damage gets worse the closer they get. More scorch marks. Holes in the walls. Metal slagged and slashed the way only one weapon can. 

Blood and then finally bodies, torn apart drones and limp Storm Troopers alike.

This cruiser isn’t nearly so large as the one they’d rescued Grogu from the year before, but it’s still the size of a small village. It takes a few minutes to get to the controls. They don’t run into anyone still moving.

As they round the final corner, voices echo down the hall. The first signs of life.

They pause, helmeted heads turning to one another. Boba nods, leading the way.

“Where is the Child?” Din’s voice, low and dangerous rings out clearly.

"Please, I don't-- we didn't take him! J--"

Din, standing over the holodesk, snaps his head and blaster up as their footsteps ring out on the metal floor, both intentionally stepping loudly. 

(Fennec had learned quickly that Din was even more prone to fight responses than Boba was when startled after she came into the kitchen and almost caught a vibroblade to the eye. She also learned that Din’s bedhead was hilarious .)  

She and Boba lower their blasters as they take in the scene. An Imp is sprawled in the Captain's chair, tears and snot on his face and darksaber humming at his throat.

The alarm is quieter in this room, and Fennec’s low whistle feels loud.

“Wow,” she says, unable to think of anything else. 

Din’s normally pristine silver armour is half covered by blood and oil, cape torn and only attached at one shoulder. Every Imperial officer in the room is dead, bodies strewn across the floor, except for the man in the chair.

"Help me, p--" the man starts to plead again, turning to Fennec and Boba this time. He cuts himself off with a cry, leaning too far forward and singing his chin on Din's blade.

Din looks back to the officer, lowering his blaster but keeping the darksaber raised.

“Where is the child?” Din repeats.

“Safe on Slave 1 with Reeves,” Boba says immediately. He takes a step towards Din, hand half-outstretched and then glances at the bodies on the floor and the man in the chair.

Din tilts his head, considering the man. He powers down the saber.

"Oh than--"

Din's blaster is back in his hand and the man is dead in the chair. He reholsters it and turns to Fennec and Boba again.

“Did they get out a distress beacon before you went full Mand’alor on them?” Fennec asks, mimicking Din’s darksaber with her rifle.

She can tell by the way he ducks his head that Din is trying not to laugh.

The relief flowing out of him is palpable -- he'd thought the kid was on the ship, too. That explains the carnage, at least.

“No,” He says, huffing a little as he ducks his head to hit a few buttons. “But we should go.”

He hits a final red button, and Fennec watches a 30 minute timer activate.

“Won’t our new friends in the Republic want this ship?” Boba asks, tilting his head.

Din shrugs, picking his spear -- also covered in blood -- up from under the console. “I don’t care.”

He limps heavily as he comes toward them, using the spear for support, and Fennec realizes some of the blood is his.

Boba strides forward, stepping under Din’s free arm and taking more of his weight. Fennec turns, raising her rifle and double-checking the corners before stepping out of the room and leading the way. 

The walk takes a little longer this time, but only barely. There’s still 20 minutes left when they get back to the docking point, Fennec reaching up to slam the butt of her rifle against the door. 

It slides open immediately, big green ears leaning over the edge.

“Brr! Ba!” 

“Hey kid,” Din says, smile clear in his voice despite the pain and exhaustion creeping in the edges, slurring his words. 

Boba helps Din up first.

“Start the ship, Reeves. We’ve got 20 minutes before this place is ash," he calls out loud enough to be heard in the cockpit.

Fennec keeps her eyes down the hall and gun up. They hadn’t seen anyone, but they all knew that getting comfortable in enemy territory gets you killed.

The engines are on and whining by the time Fennec climbs up the ladder into the cargo hold. She knocks against the hull to let Reeves know they're all aboard after she hits the ramp, feeling the ship pull away from the cruiser. 

Just as the stars start to stretch, she sees a familiar ship exit hyperspace on the other side of the cruiser.

She turns away from the window -- safe enough for now. It can wait a moment.

Din is sat heavily on a bench, Grogu balanced on his knees and pulling at his hands. Boba’s rifling through a compartment, pulling out their heavy duty med kit.

“No healing, Grogu,” Din says gently, taking a tiny claw in his miraculously clean glove. “I’m okay. You get too tired.”

Boba snorts, reaching up and taking off his own helmet before settling in a chair he’s pulled across from Din. He looks like he can’t decide if he wants to be concerned or amused. 

“We’ll see about that,” Boba says.

Din reaches up, seal hissing on his own helmet. 

Din’s Creed is still more than Boba’s or the Nite Owls, but it had -- loosened. Few people knew his name, and fewer still his face. Those that did have his trust, are part of his community. 

It still made something warm seize in her chest when she thought about how that includes her, had included her before Kryze or Reeves or even Cara Dune. 

His helmet head is still almost as hilarious as his bed head, though. Din rolls her eyes when she tells him as much. Grogu burbles out a laugh.

“No head wound this time?” Boba asks, ignoring her and reaching up to prod at Din’s head.

“Bruises, mostly,” he says. “An unlucky blaster to the ribs.”

Boba stops prodding, cupping Din’s head. He closes his eyes, relaxing into Boba’s hand. 

Fennec leans up the ladder, calling out to Reeves to let her know that her Mand’alor was fine but to comm in and have the med suite ready at the palace.

She comes back to crouch beside them, picking up the bacta and bandages. Boba nods to her, moving to unclasp Din’s cuirass.

She ignores the warm twisting behind her ribs when Din opens his eyes to meet her own and just smiles, brown eyes crinkling.

Trust. Patience. Fondness.

“Sorry I didn’t leave you any target practice,” he says, flinching only a little when she peels his flight suit away from his side.

It’s bloody and messy, but shallow. A day or two with some bacta and he’ll be fine. There are deep bruises from where the beskar dug in, but those too will heal quickly. 

“Next time,” she says. 

Grogu meets her eyes and smiles, cooing and patting Din’s hand. She reaches out, bopping him lightly on the nose and he giggles. She can see both Boba and Din smiling too out of the corner of her eyes, but nobody says anything.

She finishes patching his side, letting Boba check the rest of his chest for anything urgent. The silence between the four of them is comfortable, easy. Relief is palpable in the air.

She waits until there are no more open wounds and Boba has forced Din to take a painkiller (with the help of Grogu’s porg eyes), all of them settled on benches side by side with helmets off. 

“Saw the Falcon drop out of hyperspace right as we were leaving,” she finally says, a little loath to break the peace. 

Din hums, eyes closed and head tilted onto Boba’s shoulder. 

Boba frowns, expression hardening a little. “How did they find us?” 

Grogu suddenly looks sheepish. “Gah…”

Din cracks one eye, looking down at the kid. He pats his back lightly before settling even more deeply against Boba, legs spreading and knocking against hers. 

“‘S fine,” he slurs. “‘M supposed to meet the Senator later.”

Fennec raises an eyebrow at Boba, mouthing how much did you give him? over Din’s head.

Now it’s Boba’s turn to look sheepish. 

Suddenly Din sits upright, head almost knocking Boba’s chin and eyes wide. “The self-destruct.”

Oh shit.

Chapter Text

Luke heads down to the hangar as soon as he arrives. Pilots bustle past, a few waving to Luke. He’s not a fixture at the Senate, doesn’t even live on the same planet, but everyone knows him. He waves back, half distracted. He’s still monitoring the Force for another message from the child who’d called for help. 

“--think the Mand’alor has a force-sensitive kid?” Han asks, eyebrows at his hairline and hands on his hip.

Luke stops next to him, nodding to Chewie as he heads up the ramp of the Falcon. Chewie rolls his eyes, nodding to Han and keeps walking.

“Hi Luke,” Leia greets.

And this insanely strong Warrior King or whatever has gotten himself kidnapped?” Han continues on his rant, undeterred. “And somehow me and the kid are supposed to fix this by ourselves?”

“And Chewie,” Leia adds with a sunny smile. “He’s the most effective member of our little group anyway.”

Luke frowns. “I have a lightsaber. And the Force.”

“You have one brain cell between the two of you.”

“Then why are you sending us?!” Han asks, throwing his hands up. 

“Because, unfortunately, one brain cell is still more than most. And if the child is force-sensitive Luke will need to train him.”

“He’s definitely force-sensitive,” Luke says. “I’ve never felt someone so powerful from so far away.”

Han cuts Luke a betrayed glare. “Weren’t you just saying that the ancient texts or whatever say you Jedi and Mandalorians are historic enemies?”

Luke shrugs. “They also say we can’t form attachments.”

Leia smiles even more sunnily at Han. Luke bumps his shoulder against Han’s. They all know he doesn’t stand a chance against both of them.

Han deflates with a sigh. “Fine. Where is the Mand’alor?”

Luke sighs. He really doesn’t want to spend the whole trip hearing about how terrible Tatooine is again.

--

Han likes the jump to lightspeed, always has. There’s danger in it, sure -- that’s what makes it worth trying. But it’s also one of the few times he feels like he really, truly understands what he’s doing and how to do it.

Right now Luke is kriffing with his piece of mind.

Chewie growls, slapping his shoulder and gesturing towards the controls. Han sends him a rude gesture but stops staring at Luke. Luke, floating five feet off the floor with a nonexistent breeze ruffling his cloak and muttering unintelligible words. 

“Can you cut it out back there?” Han snaps after another few minutes of nothing but Luke muttering and floating

Luke cracks an eye, sending Han a haughty I’m a Jedi and infinitely wiser than you can imagine look. Right before Han chucks a ration bar at his head. 

“Kriff!” Luke curses, dropping from his hover with a clang and rubbing at his forehead. “I was looking in the Force.”

Han shrugs, grinning and feeling more even-keeled now that nobody’s doing magic on his ship. “We already kn--”

He cuts himself off when Luke throws up a hand, head tilting to the side but floating no longer. He'll take what he can get.

“There’s an Imperial cruiser just outside of Tatooine’s orbit. We need to go there.”

Han groans but changes the coordinates for exiting hyperspace. They should be there in less than a minute. “Of course it’s the kriffing Empire. Hey do you think we’ll get another medal if we rescue their king?”

Luke ignores him, frown deepening as stars contract, the Falcon dropping out of hyperspace with a shudder. “Something’s wrong.”

Han stares out the window, eyes wide and heart suddenly beating rabbit-fast in his chest. “Luke…”

Luke looks up just in time to see Slave 1 enter hyperspace. They both blink. Look at each other. Back to the cruiser.

It’s smoking, sparking. Torn the shreds from the inside out, it seems.

Chewies growls.

“I’m with him,” Han says. “Let’s get out of here.”

Luke leans closer, eyes drifting shut. Han rolls his eyes, throwing his hands up at Chewie.

Then the ship's comm goes off. Han meets Chewie’s eyes again, shrugging and looking over at Luke, eyes still closed and focused on the Force

Han hates the Force. He hits the button.

“That cruiser is going to self-destruct in 10 minutes.”

Boba kriffing Fett.

Luke’s eyes snap open. 

“How do you have this comm link?” Han snaps, already hitting the buttons for the jump to lightspeed.

He still wouldn’t put his back to Fett in a crowded room, but he’s also accepted that he maybe -- maybe -- wasn’t constantly out to get him anymore.

(“I have better things to do than kill some Senator’s trophy husband,” Fett had snapped at him last time he dropped in on a call with Leia. 

Which - rude. But also comforting.)

“I’m the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter,” Fett drawls, sending Han’s hackles back up. Maybe he doesn’t have better things to do, maybe he finally decide that it was time to call in that puck, may--

“Want to test that?” A low, vaguely familiar voice comes in, further away from the link. Han knows that voice…

Fett scoffs, mutters something unintelligible. “8 minutes, Solo. Tell the Senator our meeting is postponed until tomorrow.”

The link dies.

Han looks at Luke, eyebrow raised and poised to exit. 

Luke keeps frowning at the light cruiser. 

“Kid?” Han asks.

“A ship of that size?” He says, frown deepening. “There should be at least 50 troopers on board.”

“All the more reason to get out of here,” Han says, exasperated now.

“There are none.”

Han drops his hand from the control and turns to look properly at Luke. “You’re telling me Fett and friends wiped out a whole light cruiser?” He thinks about the voice in the background. “Another bounty hunter?”

Luke shakes his head. “I don’t know. Maybe.”  He sighs, climbing to his feet and settling properly in a chair to buckle in. “Either way, there’s nothing for us here. Let’s go.”

Han shrugs and hits the engines. 

--

It's not a long trip back, but Luke still has a few hours to think about the what he'd felt in the Force, what they'd seen.

Leia is practically vibrating when they tell her about Fett and the cruiser. Frustration, anger, confusion, relief -- they’re all tangled together in her aura, snagged and snarled.

Luke is less worried than he might be if it were someone else; his sister is a woman of dualities and, truthfully, her aura always looks something like that.

“You didn’t get a look inside before?” Leia asks, fingers drumming on the holodesk. "Could have been useful information in there."

“No,” Luke answers before Han can. “But I could -- sense things.”

Leia tilts her head curiously while Han throws up his hands. His feelings on the Force are well-known and completely ignored.

“Whoever cut through that ship was angry,” he says slowly. “Righteous. Protective. Dangerous.”

“Can sense all of that from space?” Han snaps, crossing his arms and throwing himself down in a chair. He looks like Ben having a temper tantrum. “This just proves my point. All bounty hunters ar--"

“His feelings were very strong,” Luke cuts him off. He’s really not interested in another rant about Boba Fett.

Leia frowns even deeper. “His? Just one man?”

Luke nods slowly. “I think so.”

“Fett?” She asks. 

Luke shakes his head even slower. “No, I don-- I recognize the signature, though. I think.”

She purses her lips. Concern and curiosity both flare in her aura. “Whoever helped Fett rescue the Mand’alor -- you know them.”

“What the kriff are you talking about?” Han snaps. “Think Luke would’ve remembered meeting who could do that.”

“Would you assume I can do what I do looking at me?” Luke says placidly, eyebrows raised. He sees Han open his mouth and turns to Leia instead. “I can’t feel the Child anymore. He’s not dead,” he adds quickly off her panicked look. “I think he’s shielding himself. He doesn’t want my help anymore.”

“So his dad is probably safe,” she says, meeting Luke’s eyes.

“His dad the Warrior King?” Han interjects.

“You seem weirdly fixated on the whole warrior king aspect,” Leia says, snapping and rounding on her husband. 

Han jerks to his feet, stabbing an accusing finger at both of them. “Who apparently has a friend who can cut through an entire Imperial cruiser! Who you are supposed to meet in person!”

Leia smirks, eyes glittering with the promise of violence. Han steps back. “You’re worried about me, flyboy?”

“I-- no.

The yelling takes on a life of its own from there, Han and Leia's voices rising in tandem until nobody knows what they’re saying aside from each other.  

Luke makes eye contact with Chewie, standing silently in the corner. Chewie shrugs and gestures to the door. Luke sighs and follows him out. 

Experience has taught him nobody will get a word in edgewise for another hour at least and Fett said they wouldn’t meet the Mand’alor until tomorrow now anyway.

He wonders if they're serving soup in the mess hall today.

Chapter Text

“That cruiser is going to self-destruct in 10 minutes,” Boba says, leaning against the wall. He doesn’t check to be sure the time is right, and he’s half-hoping that it isn’t.

“How do you have this comm link?” Solo sputters across the connection.

Fennec rolls her eyes from the bench, having taken his place as Din’s pillow.

Din makes a silly face at Grogu, soothed now that he’s pretty sure he won’t accidentally kill a Senator’s husband and brother. 

(Boba makes a mental note that Din is especially sensitive to the new painkiller he got. It usually takes a couple glasses of spotchka and a safe environment for him to be this… goofy.)

“I’m the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter,” he says absently, paying far more attention to the way Din’s eyes crinkle when he smiles at Grogu than Solo posturing over the comm.

Din’s eye’s snap up at that, pupils wide but expression clear. He smirks at Boba. “Want to test that?”

Boba scoffs, pulling the comm away from his face and covering the transmitter with one hand. “I may be 14 years older than you but I can still kick your ass, Din'ika.” He pulls the comm close again. “8 minutes, Solo. Tell the Senator our meeting is postponed until tomorrow.”

He hangs up before Solo can respond. He has better things to be doing.

“My money’s on Din,” Fennec says.

“Brr!” Grogu agrees, nodding wisely.

Din beams at him, still slumped against Fennec with his armor covered in blood and oil and Grogu happily examining a silver ball in his lap. 

“Go kark yourselves.” Boba can’t hide his smile even as he replies, and doesn’t even try. 

He stays leaning against the wall, chest suddenly very warm and tight as he looks at the three of them. 

Din tilts his head, peering out the window and a frown replacing his smile. “Why are we in hyperspace? Aren’t we going back to Tatooine?”

“Precaution. Just in case there were any TIE fighters monitoring the main base who might’ve followed us,” Boba says. 

The frown smooths out and Din settles against Fennec again. “Thank you.”

Both him and Grogu fall asleep quickly after that. It’s been a long day for them both.

For a long time he just watches them, seeing Fennec do the same out of the corner of his eyes.

“Exiting hyperspace. We’ll be on Tatooine in 5.” Koska’s voice comes over the speaker system, a recent installation but a useful one. These days most of his guests don’t end up in carbonite.

Most.

--

Fennec takes Grogu to the bar for soup once they get planetside.

It takes less convincing than Boba anticipates to get Din into the med suite. That, more than anything, is what worries him.

“Just bruises and a lucky blaster to the ribs?” He asks again as Din settles in medbay, helmet back on for now. 

Din doesn’t answer yet, lets the resident droid pass Boba supplies and exit the room first. The door hisses, sealing shut and leaving the two of them alone.

Boba doesn’t break the silence, laying out the extra bacta and hitting the button for the scanner. After a beat he hears Din’s helmet seal hiss. When he turns back it’s to Din’s bare face, lined with exhaustion and pain again. 

“Everything hurts,” he says, slumping against the pillows. “Some of those bruises might be fractures.”

It had taken a long time and a lot of effort to get Din to admit when things just hurt , to not just think of medical as a place to go for mortal or nearly mortal wounds. Boba’s a little proud of the progress.

“A whole light cruiser,” Boba says, more than a little proud of that as he settles into the chair beside Din’s bed. 

One side of Din’s mouth quirks up, hands coming up to help Boba unclasp his armor.

(Help being more about the intention than the result. He gets in the way. Boba doesn't tell him to stop, savoring the feeling everytime their fingers brush.)

“I thought they had Grogu,” Din says quietly, some minutes later.

His chest is a disturbingly familiar patchwork of bruises, now slathered in bacta. A few ribs are broken, and there are more blaster marks that Din hadn’t noticed on his back and arms. Painful and upsetting, but after a night with bacta he’ll be in less pain, if not fully healed.

“Sit up,” Boba says quietly, winding the last of the bandages around a nasty burn on Din’s lower back. 

Din does with a grunt, staying upright once the bandage is in place. Boba settles his hands on Din’s shoulder, just looking at him -- safe and at home.

After a long moment Boba leans down, cupping the back of Din’s neck and pressing their foreheads together. Din’s breath is warm on his cheek.

“Your adika is safe,” Boba breathes out. “I will always come for you. Both of you.”

Din huffs out a laugh, a puff of air on Boba’s skin. He leans in for a kiss before pulling back, raising one hand to tangle it in Boba’s free one. Boba leaves the other on Din’s neck.

“You and Fennec both,” Din says, smiling a little again. “You are Clan.”

The smile fades again, expression going -- not dark. But an emotion Boba can’t quite identify.

Din’s thumb runs over Boba’s knuckles. His eyes flick over Boba’s face, searching for something. Boba hopes he finds it.

“Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar'tome, mhi me'dinui an, mhi ba'juri verde,” Din says.

Boba’s heart skips a beat, thumping painfully against his chest. The hand on Din’s neck pushes him closer, tapping their foreheads together again. His eyes slip closed and he squeezes Din’s hand back. 

“Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar'tome, mhi me'dinui an, mhi ba'juri verde,” Boba breathes out.

Din pulls back, and the press of his lips to Boba’s forehead feels like a boon. They stay like that for a long minute. Boba can feel Din’s lips curve into a smile against the skin of his brow before he pulls away. His brown eyes are bright and wide and clear, painkiller long faded.

Boba wonders if he looks as happy as Din does.

They keep their hands tangled and Boba couldn’t move his hand from the back of Din’s neck if he tried. He thinks if he did his joy would carry him away, drifting in space, and he’s never wanted to stay somewhere so badly in his entire life.

“Now you get to threaten Solo with the entirety of Mandalore if he tries anything,” Din says with a grin.

Boba’s laugh echoes through the palace at that.

Chapter Text

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. 

Boba waits. 

“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. 

Boba waits. 

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. 

It’s perfect.