“Wait,” says Fennec, putting down her sandwich, “how do you not know who Luke Lars is?”
Din intercepts Grogu before he can shove an entire half of an orange in his mouth and separates it into slices. “MIT is a big school,” he says. “There are a lot of professors who teach here. I can’t be expected to know all of them.”
“Sure,” says Fennec slowly, “but this one is the son of Anakin Skywalker. You know, the guy who — “
“I know who Anakin Skywalker is,” Din cuts in.
“Well, I would hope so.” Fennec takes a sip of disgusting grass-smelling matcha kombucha, grinning around the mouth of the bottle. “You do teach a class on cults. But then again, you didn’t know that a survivor of one of the most famous cults in history teaches at our school, so — “
“I specialize in the psychology of false religions, Fennec, I don’t stalk former cult members.” Din separates the second half of the orange into slices and puts one in Grogu’s searching hands. “Besides, if he changed his name he clearly doesn’t want to be recognized.”
“You should talk to him,” Fennec says, with finality.
Din gives her a flat look.
“You should,” she repeats, looking unconcerned, but she doesn’t press anymore. Fennec’s not one to nag — she leaves that to Cara, who’s much better at it.
“Did she tell you he’s cute?” Cara asks later that afternoon, feet up on his desk as she demolishes half a Clif bar in one bite. She has not been deterred in the slightest by Din’s protests that, A) Fennec already tried this, B) Dr. Lars deserves his privacy, and C) Din has a lot of very bad freshman papers about Charles Manson to grade.
In fact, she’s more determined to sway him than ever, in a Methinks the lady doth protest too much kind of way. She barrels on, “Because I looked at his faculty page, and — “ a whistle — “if I wasn’t gay, and if I couldn’t tell he was gay just by looking at him — “
“Get out of my office.” Din shoves her feet off the desk.
She puts her feet back up. “I’m just saying, think about how long it’s been since you got laid. Think about how long ago Omera dumped you — “
“Don’t you have a field hockey team to be coaching,” Din says.
“ — and then,” Cara continues, pretending not to have heard him, “consider this: even if you don’t get laid, you can probably write some sort of groundbreaking anthropological paper on him.”
Din sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Did they not make you take one single ethics course in the military?”
“Nope,” Cara says happily, popping the P.
Din picks up his desk phone. “I’m going to call campus security and tell them you’re harrassing me,” he says, “if you don’t get the hell out in the next three seconds.”
Wisely, Cara gets the hell out. Din’s not bluffing — he’s called campus security on her before and he’s not afraid to do it again. Greef gets a real kick out of letting Cara stew angrily in his holding cell for a few hours; he’d be over here in a heartbeat.
By the time Din finishes grading the stack of papers for his 21A.103 course — New American Religious Movements from the 1950s to Now — he’s got the beginning of a raging headache drilling at the base of his skull. More than half his students have written about Jonestown, three have clearly been flirting with plagiarism, and on top of that he’s going to have to wake Grogu from his nap in — he checks his watch — five minutes if he’s going to get to class on time. His sitter cancelled last minute, and luckily he only has one class today, but it happens to fall right in the middle of the kid’s normal nap time. At least it’s a 400-level course, so it’s small and most of the students are seniors who’ve been in the anthro department long enough to know that Dr. Djarin occasionally brings his kid to class.
He’s got a lot of balls in the air as he sets up his lecture — Grogu wiggling around in his baby björn, a teetering stack of graded papers that he keeps forgetting to hand back that goes sliding off the table onto the floor, and an overhead projector that has to be at least as old as the university itself — so he doesn’t realize that there’s a new face at the back of the room until he’s already started.
It would be hard not to spot him. Din only has ten students in this class, and even if he did have more, the new guy would stand out. Bright blue eyes that Din can see all the way across the lecture hall, sandy blond hair cut in a way no one’s worn it since the 1980s, dressed in a dark hoodie like he’s trying to be incognito.
He’s easy on the eyes, that’s for sure, but that’s not what’s most striking about him. There’s this way he holds himself, even just leaning against the back wall, that reminds Din of something ancient and dignified. Byzantine icons, Greco-Roman busts chiseled from austere white marble, weathered Buddha statues standing five hundred feet above azure, tranquil bays.
This man doesn’t look like he belongs in the back of Din’s 21A.440 lecture — Ancient Cults: From Dionysus to the Knights Templar. He looks like he belongs in a black and white photograph, on the wall of a museum somewhere. Or shaking hands with the Dalai Lama.
But here he is — standing in Din’s lecture, hands buried in the pockets of his oddly incongruous hoodie, smart eyes tracking Din as he holds a fidget cube for the baby in one hand and points to images on his slides with the other.
Today’s lecture is on the witch-cult hypothesis; it’s one of Din’s least favorites — he doesn’t like teaching what’s basically the anthropological equivalent of pseudoscience, but whenever he skips it there’s always some self-righteous student who’s done a little too much clicking on Wikipedia and accuses him of anti-feminist erasure, so every year he makes himself slog through it. He’s not all that happy that this is the lecture Mr. Short Bright and Handsome — whoever he is — has decided to drop in on, but by the time he segues into all the reasons the witch-cult hypothesis is unfounded, unsupported, and probably wildly off-base, the guy’s taken a seat and is listening attentively.
Later, when the students are filing out and Din’s trying to negotiate a bunch of slippery transparencies back into a manila folder with one hand, a voice that Din he could fall in love with given a quarter of a chance says, “Can I give you a hand with that?”
He looks up. It’s Byzantine-icon Dalai-Lama guy, smiling serenely with a small, friendly tilt of the head. “Thanks,” Din says, in lieu of higher brain function.
“Sure.” The guy slips the transparencies in the folder and taps the edge on the desk to even everything out, then holds out his hand. “I’m Luke Lars, by the way. I teach over in the biology department.”
“Din Djarin,” Din says, shaking his hand. Grogu makes a burbling noise, bouncing in his baby björn, so Din pats his head and adds, “This is my son, Grogu.”
“Nice to meet you, Grogu,” Luke says, giving the kid his finger to grab, almost like a baby handshake. “You too, Dr. Djarin. That was a great lecture.”
“Thanks,” Din says again. He’s never been good at taking a compliment.
Luke’s smile shifts, from serenity to something realer, something smaller but softer around the edges. “I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s been getting nagged all day,” he says. “My sister’s friends with Cara Dune.”
“Ah,” says Din.
“Yes, ah,” Luke agrees. “And — look, I’m sorry if this is too forward, since we just met a couple minutes ago, but I figured I’d cut their scheming off at the pass and ask you out myself.”
“Ah,” says Din.
“Yes, ah,” Luke agrees again, teasing a little. “I’ll be honest with you, at first I came over here just to get Leia off my back, but now you’re smart and you’ve got a cute kid and just between you and me, I’ve got a thing for guys in glasses, so this is a real offer.”
It feels sort of surreal, like a Renaissance painting leaning down off the wall and asking Din if he’d like to grab a drink, but Din’s not about to say no to someone as pretty as Luke Lars. And not because he thinks he might get an anthropological paper out of it.
“Alright,” he says to Luke. “But Grogu only eats dino chicken nuggets and Kraft mac-n-cheese, so — ”
“Dino chicken nuggets and Kraft mac-n-cheese it is, then,” Luke says, with that soft smile.
And that’s not really what Din meant — he meant he had to go home and feed Grogu and then maybe he could meet Luke somewhere later, when he had a sitter, but half an hour later Luke’s standing on the threshold of Din’s apartment with two packets of dino chicken nuggets, two boxes of Kraft mac-n-cheese and a bottle of merlot, and honestly — what can Din do but let him in?
“Okay,” says Cara, shouldering into his office with an enormous thermos of coffee the next morning, “last night I had dinner with Leia Organa — you know, the dean of Sloan — and — “
“Cara,” Din interrupts, in the low, dangerous voice that used to scare his friends, “drop it.”
She snorts. “Come on, when have you ever known me to — Wait.” She freezes halfway through unscrewing the lid of the thermos, staring at him with narrow eyes. “Why are you wearing a turtleneck?”
“It’s November,” Din says.
“Sure, but the only other time I’ve ever seen you wear a turtleneck was back when — “ she cuts off, eyes widening almost comically. “Oh my God. Who gave you a hickey?”
Din slaps her hand away from his neck. “No one. It’s laundry day.”
“First it’s November, now it’s laundry day?” Cara sits back with a knowing smirk. “You know me and Fennec will get to the bottom of this in like, three hours flat. So you might as well tell me now.”
“Get out of my office,” Din says, and shoves her feet off the desk.
Din stands Fennec up for lunch, because he knows it’s going to be more of the same and he’s not interested in wasting his enjoyment of his salad by having to deflect every three seconds. Fennec will try and root him out, but Din’s just as good at hiding as she is at finding — he leaves Toro, his weaselly grad student, to cover his office hours and retreats to the third floor of the biology building, where there’s a very nice faculty lounge that none of the bio professors ever seem to use.
He’s halfway through his salad and a quarter of the way through a brutal redlining of Toro’s most recent draft of his thesis when a voice behind him says, “Mind if I join you?”
It’s Luke, looking just as gorgeous as he did last night.
There’s a tiny red mark peeking out from behind his left ear, and Din spends so long staring at it, remembering what it felt like to have his mouth right there against Luke’s skin, that he forgets to say Yeah, of course.
Good thing Luke’s not waiting for permission then — he pulls out the other chair and settles down with a coffee mug that says ‘When life gives you mold, make penicillin!’
He’s wearing that same strange combination of clothes as last night — black hoodie, black button-down, black slacks, glove on his left hand — Din feels crazy with how much he wants to touch him. The dorky way he wears his hair, the inner stillness that’s apparent even just sitting here in the empty break room, how his blue eyes stay locked on Din’s for longer than most people would be comfortable with.
Din’s already forgotten most of what they said to each other last night, even though they talked for hours after he put Grogu to bed. It was small talk, mostly, those getting-to-know-you questions that you have to go through in the beginning — where’d you grow up, how’d you become a teacher, what’s your favorite movie — but which feel totally inconsequential when you’ve met someone whose soul thrums on the same frequency as yours. They said all the important stuff with their bodies, angled towards each other on the couch with two glasses of merlot forgotten on the coffee table; with the low, private cadence of their voices; and later — when Din interrupted Luke in the middle of buttoning his peacoat and pressed him back into the closed door to kiss him in a way that was entirely too serious considering they’d just met — with hands and mouths.
It had felt like unlocking something, kissing Luke. Like being that close gave him access to some sort of Luke-centric Rosetta Stone.
But now, sitting across from him in the light of day, Din realizes that Luke is still a stranger. A stranger Din feels intensely protective over, but a stranger nonetheless.
After a minute of painfully awkward silence, Luke says, “Hey, here’s an idea. The professor I share a lab with left for lunch — you wanna go make out?”
Din sort of swallows his tongue, but he manages to say, “Yeah. Sure.”
A minute later, Luke is making those quiet breathy noises against his lips, sitting on the edge of his lab bench while Din stands between his legs, and Din realizes he hasn’t spent so long just kissing someone, or gotten so hot just kissing someone, since he was a teenager.
“God,” he says, breaking away to just breathe and talk his body out of coming. “Luke, sweetheart, I can’t—“
“I know,” Luke says, pressing short kisses to the side of Din’s face, the corner of his eye, his ear, like a car that’s revved up and needs a minute to slow down. “Shit, I know, sorry, you just make me so — “
Din takes his mouth again, and Luke breaks off with a low moan. His hands rove down Din’s back, over his thick turtleneck sweater that he suddenly wishes were a lot less thick. What if someone walks in, Din thinks distantly — What if Luke’s lab mate comes back, but then Luke hooks a leg up around Din’s ass and tugs, and for a split second Din can feel the shape of him in his slacks and nearly whites out.
They break away, both inhaling sharply, and Luke says, “Sorry, sorry, Jesus,” but Din shakes his head, hands still buried in Luke’s hair, and keeps his hips angled carefully away as he goes back to kiss him some more.
He tries to pull away, really he does — he knows two professors having sex in a school lab probably violates all sorts of rules and regulations — but every time he manages to pull his mouth away from Luke’s it’s like his face is magnetized. Rubbing his nose against the side of Luke’s nose, rubbing his stubble-rough cheek against Luke’s cheek like a goddamn caveman. A normal person would be running for the hills, probably, but Luke just leans into it, making a short noise in the back of his throat, hands tightening on Din’s shoulders.
Fuck, Din thinks, what the fuck is happening.
Out loud, he asks, “Does the door lock?”
Luke makes a noncommittal sound and mouths wetly over the hinge of Din’s jaw.
“Luke,” Din says, firmer. “Does the door to the hall lock?”
Luke blinks at him, eyes clearing. “Oh,” he says. “Yeah, it locks, just let me — “ he starts to push Din away and hop down from the lab bench, but Din’s not really interested in letting go of him, so instead he carries him over, his feet barely touching the floor, and presses him against the wall next to the door, close enough that he can reach over and flip the lock.
As soon as that’s done, he surges forward against Luke with his whole body. Luke moans loud enough that Din has to clamp a hand over his mouth. It’s not that Din doesn’t want to hear him — because God does Din want to hear him — but there are footsteps in the hall right outside, footsteps that pause for a moment right after Luke moans, like they heard something, and as much as Din likes the idea of other people hearing proof of how good he’s making Luke feel he doesn’t want to get caught. If they got caught they’d have to stop, and the last thing Din wants is to stop.
But before Din can get down to the very serious business of humping Luke like a horny virgin against the wall, Luke executes a deft little move and flips them.
All the air in Din’s body leaves at once. He’s never been in this position before, pinned by another man, pressed between a hard wall and a hard body, but Jesus.
“Is this okay,” Luke murmurs, close against his open mouth.
Instead of answering, Din takes Luke’s head in his hands and kisses him again.
Two hours later and due to a spectacular lack of foresight, Din shows up to his 21A.103 lecture wearing one of the extra pairs of scrub pants the bio lab keeps outside the chemical shower. A couple of his students give him weird looks, but none of them give him looks like they think he spent his lunch hour hooking up with Dr. Lars from microbiology, so he figures he’s in the clear.
At least, he figures that until he gets back to his office and finds Fennec sitting in his chair, twirling a pen in her fingers.
When she sees him, she grins slowly. Deviously. Like she knows something he doesn’t.
“What?” he asks, not really wanting to know the answer.
“You know who I just saw running across the quad in scrub pants?” she says. “Dr. Luke Lars.”
Din sighs and dumps his things in the empty chair. He definitely didn’t plan on having this conversation the day after meeting Luke. For one thing, it’s way too soon. For another, Din’s always been intensely private with this side of things — with the emotion attached to the sex. He doesn’t want to talk about it, not with anyone but the guy he’s doing this with.
But at least, unlike Cara, Fennec is reasonable. She can be talked to. So Din looks at her — he looks at her for a long time, long enough for the teasing smile to drop off her face, for her to know he’s serious. And he says, “I’d appreciate it if you kept this to yourself.”
She holds his gaze for another long moment, taking measure of him.
Then she stands. “If you don’t want Cara or Leia to figure it out, you’d better be more discreet,” she advises. “No more afternoon delight in the bio lab.”
“Thank you,” Din says gravely.
“Yeah, yeah.” Fennec waves a hand, heading for the door. “You can say thank you by helping me grade freshman fluid dynamics quizzes at lunch tomorrow. Boba stole my TA again.”
Din doesn’t know a damn thing about fluid dynamics, but he can read an answer key well enough. So he does — he grades an entire stack of 8.011 quizzes while he crunches his way through an Asian Chicken Salad, because right now he just wants Luke to be his. He doesn’t want to share.
He doesn’t want the outside world interfering.
They manage to avoid having the Cult Conversation for a good long while. Long enough that Din starts dreading it — long enough that he starts thinking of it in his head as the Cult Conversation — capital Cs. It’s like a dark stormcloud looming on the horizon, and Din knows Luke sees it too, but they’ve reached an unspoken accord not to look at it. Not to acknowledge its existence.
In the back of his mind, Din’s sort of been hoping it would just go away. But that’s a pipe dream. Conversations that begin with ‘So you used to be in a cult’ don’t just go away.
There are plenty of other things they don’t talk about, though, which is why Din thinks maybe they’ll get to skip the cult one for three or four years. He figures the lesser revlatory conversations will come first, like what’s the deal with Luke’s right hand, why is Luke so cagey about his research, does Luke have any exes that Din is going to need to beat up — and why, that one time when Luke came untouched after a devastating four-hour fuck, did all the furniture in Din’s bedroom levitate six inches off the floor.
It’s not really healthy to build a relationship on lies of omission, Din knows, but talking has never been his and Luke’s strong suit. They communicate a lot better in bed.
Unfortunately, they do not seem to be on the same page about this.
Luke waits until Din is trapped — lying flat on the floor of his living room with Grogu asleep on his chest. Then he sits down cross-legged at Din’s hip, face drawn in a somber expression Din has never seen before, and says, “We need to talk about the Jedi.”
If Din were free, he’d probably make a sudden lunge for the door, but Luke’s been smart about this. He knows Din won’t risk waking Grogu after nine P.M, because if he does it’s impossible to get him down again until after midnight. The clock on the cable box reads 9:01.
“Luke,” Din says softly, “you don’t have to — “
“I do have to, actually, because I’m in love with you and you’re one of the country’s leading experts on cults. So here it is. Here’s the whole story.”
He pauses, eyes on the floor, gathering himself. This is when Din should say something like ‘I love you too,’ but his brain is stuck on how the word love sounds in Luke’s voice.
Before he can say anything, Luke takes a deep breath and pulls his glove off.
Din’s noticed that the grip strength of Luke’s left hand isn’t quite on par with the right. He doesn't know exactly what's wrong, but Luke keeps the glove on during sex, isn’t even comfortable taking his shirt off, which makes Din think it's probably something that radiates up the whole arm.
He’s right. The hand is a mangled mess of scar tissue that disappears under the cuff of Luke’s sleeve. Din feels vaguely ill looking at it, because how much must that have hurt? How much pain must Luke have gone through, before Din even knew him?
“Luke,” Din says again, even softer than before, almost a whisper. He reaches for Luke’s hand, and Luke gives it to him — trembling, cautious.
Din kisses the back of Luke’s palm, then rubs his thumb back and forth over the knob of Luke’s first knuckle, as gentle as he knows how to be.
Luke smiles. He runs his fingers along Grogu’s back, curled up slumbering on Din’s chest — not quite touching, but close enough that it’s clear he wants to.
“You probably know already that my father was Anakin Skywalker,” he begins, “and that I was born a Jedi.”
Luke’s smile wavers a little. “So you know that me and my sister are survivors of the Temple Massacre.”
Din nods again, squeezing Luke’s hand.
“What you probably don’t know,” Luke says, eyes dropping away from Din’s to fix on his folded knee, like this is something he has to focus to say properly, “is that I didn’t know who I was until I was nineteen. I didn’t change my name on purpose. I knew that my aunt and uncle weren’t my parents, I knew something awful had happened and that both my parents were dead. But that was all I knew, until a bunch of my father’s crazy followers burned my aunt and uncle’s house to the ground.”
Din kisses the back of his hand again. “That’s when this happened?”
“No.” Luke shakes his head. “No, this happened later. When I found out my father was still alive, and went to see him. I thought I could…I don’t know. Help him, somehow. Cure him of his delusions.”
Din can imagine it — Luke, optimistic and young, blue eyes not yet shrouded with that deep and unidentifiable pain of experience, believing the best of someone who should have loved and cherished him and being maimed in return. It makes him want to do ridiculous things like wrap Luke in a lot of blankets and kiss him on the nose.
“He was living off the grid, in the forest near the Canadian border,” Luke continues. Every word seems hard-won. “When I got there, he wasn’t alone. He was with an old man, who’d been…who’d been poisoning his mind from the very beginning…”
Knowing what he knows about cults, Din wants to say that Anakin Skywalker’s mind was poisoned from the very beginning, but he doesn’t. He bites his tongue.
“My father crushed my hand,” Luke says, void of emotion, taking the hand back so he can start to unbutton his shirt. “And the old man did this to me.”
Under his shirt, his thin chest is covered in a harsh red scars. They run along his veins and capillaries like a map of a watershed. It looks like he was struck by lightning, but he said, The old man did this to me, and Din doesn’t know how one person could do this to another.
He reaches out to touch without thinking, and Luke leans closer to let him. His skin is warm under Din’s fingers, the lines of his scars ever-so-slightly raised.
“Are they dead?” he asks.
“Yeah,” says Luke. “They’re dead.” He doesn’t elaborate on how.
Din kisses his knee. “Good.”
Luke sinks his fingers in Din’s hair. Grogu huffs a little, breath catching, and starts to snore. Din settles a hand over his back, soothing him, and the snoring stops.
“I saw your notes for your lecture on the Jedi Order,” Luke says quietly. His thumb messes up the grain of Din’s eyebrow, then smooths it out again. “And I know you’re very good at what you do, babe, but I want you to know that like half of it is wrong.”
Din stares at him.
“Okay,” Luke says. He leans over and kisses Din on the forehead. “See you tomorrow. Bye.”
Then he gets up, re-buttons his shirt, grabs his coat from the rack in the front hall, and leaves.
Din, weighed down by the baby on his chest, stares up at the ceiling. Well, he thinks. What the fuck.
It’s not until he’s driving to campus the next morning that Din remembers Luke saying I’m in love with you.
The memory comes back to him halfway through a sharp left turn, and he’s so distracted by it that he’d probably drive up onto the median, except that a giant invisible hand grabs the car and redirects it.
Din stomps on the brakes. Horns blare around him. He looks back at Grogu, who burbles happily in his car seat and gives Din a very innocent look.
“Weird,” Din mutters, and pulls back into traffic.
He spends most of the morning fending off Grogu while he tries to eat various pieces of the office and trying to avoid thinking about how his boyfriend might be a member of a very dangerous religious cult. This tack means that he can’t really think about Luke at all — difficult, since lately his thoughts have been about 30% work, 30% Grogu, 40% those short startled little noises that Luke makes during sex — and in order to accomplish that, he closes the door to his office and turns up Grogu’s Backyardigans CD very, very loud.
EVIL GUY! thunder the Backyardigans, SUCH AN EVIL GUY! HE’S CALLED PROFESSOR BUG, BUT NOBODY KNOWS WHY! SUCH AN EVIL TWINKLE IN HIS EVIL EYE!
By the time he makes it to his 21A.440 lecture, Grogu kicking violently in the baby björn like he’s trying to run a marathon, Din is bleary-eyed enough that not even his glasses seem to help. That’s probably why it takes him a full hour to realize that Luke’s sitting at the back of the room.
He’s in his black sweatshirt again, hood up. Din asked him a while ago why he always wore that same hoodie, and Luke just looked at him sideways. “I thought it was the style,” he’d said. “Is it not the style?”
Din had been forced to kiss him to hide how hard he was laughing, and even still Luke had spent the rest of the night playing mock-offended, demanding blowjobs as reparation. I think this is an abuse of your power, Din had teased, as he let Luke push him onto his knees. My power as what? Luke shot back, incredulous, A microbiology professor?
Din wonders how many blowjobs it’s going to take to get him out of the apocalyptic fight they’re about to have.
Luke doesn’t say anything while Din delivers his lecture on the Jedi Order, doesn’t butt in or try to answer any of the dozens of questions Din’s students pose to him. And after class, when a crowd of undergrads have lined up with redlined papers to petition Din to change their grades, he accepts Grogu from Din without a word, straps the baby björn on and goes bouncing over to the other whiteboard.
Din watches them out of the corner of his eye as he answers student questions by rote — No you can’t have an extra ten percent just because; No I don’t care if this class is the one keeping you from a perfect 4.0; No I’m not a tyrannical asshole who changed the spelling of the word ‘Bacchanale’ just so I could take seven points off your grade. Luke is talking softly to Grogu, murmuring words that Din can only guess from over here, probably calling him ‘bean’ and ‘bug’ and saying ‘Is that so?’ like Grogu’s baby noises are very interesting discourse. He gives Grogu a dry erase marker and lets him scribble on the board, laughing when Grogu goes offroad and puts a blue mark across his nose.
Din’s heart feels like an orange in a juicer.
Once the last of the stragglers have gone, when they’re alone in the lecture hall, Din puts his glasses down on the desk, goes over to Luke, and kisses him. It feels very important that he kiss him first, before whatever huge argument they’re about to have.
Luke makes a pleasantly surprised noise against his mouth and kisses him back. It’s not very graceful, with the baby sandwiched between them, but Din does his best to make a thorough job of it. It might be the last chance he gets to kiss Luke, for a while.
When he finally manages to make himself pull away, Luke licks his lower lip in a way that almost sends him right back in — almost. “What was that for,” Luke murmurs.
“That’s because I forgot to say, me too.”
Din thumbs at the blue mark on Luke's nose. “I’m in love with you, too.”
Luke’s eyes go soft and fond. “You sound like you’re going to the gallows,” he tells Din.
“I feel like I’m going to the gallows,” Din admits.
“Because of what I told you last night,” Luke surmises. Somehow he’s the same as he always is — perfectly calm, an oasis of peace — even though Din’s stomach is tied up in knots. Despite himself, Din finds that he trusts that calm. He trusts that everything is going to shake out okay.
“Yeah,” he croaks.
“Okay.” Luke looks down at Grogu, pats his head affectionately. “Is there someone who can watch the bean for a while? I don’t want to take a baby to a microbiology lab.”
Din’s a little perplexed, but he agrees. They drop Grogu off with Professor Motto in the Mech-E department, who the kid loves almost as much as she loves him, and head over to Luke’s lab. Luke doesn’t say anything at all on the way over, walking silently a half-step in front of Din, and Din is so wrapped up in his own nervousness that it takes him almost the whole trip across campus to realize that Luke’s not just being regular quiet — he’s got a tic in his jaw that Din’s never seen before, and his mouth is tight. He’s worried.
No matter how much Din wants to reassure him there’s nothing to worry about, he can’t do that until he knows what’s going on. So he stays quiet as Luke clicks on lights in the empty lab, fires up one of the computers, turns on a microscope and inserts a slide.
Luke spins on his stool, watching Din expectantly.
Din gives him a look that says What the hell is going on?
Luke huffs and waves him forward. “This is what I’m working on,” he says. He helps Din get his bearings at the microscope, guiding him to peer down at a stagnant mass of blood cells. “I don’t talk about it often, even with my colleagues, because it’s…well, the research is sort of radical. It hasn’t made me very popular at conferences, I’ll tell you that much.”
“I don’t…” Din starts, because he’s not sure how a bunch of cells connect to the ginormous fight about the Jedi they’re supposed to be having. “Luke, I’m not a biologist.”
“I know,” Luke says.
Din straightens up from the microscope to look at him.
Luke is nudging a bunch of papers around on the bench with an expression like Grogu when he doesn’t want to eat his peas. “I told you last night that you were half right about the Jedi.”
“I think you said I was half wrong,” Din reminds him.
“That too,” Luke agrees, too tense still to be fully teasing. “Just, Din — Hear me out, please? Before you run out of here thinking I’m a crazy person, let me say what I need to say.”
There’s not much that Din wouldn’t do, if Luke asked. So he says, “Okay.”
“Right.” Luke runs a hand through his hair, looking down at his work. “So you know about the Force — the great mystical power that the Jedi believe connects every living thing in the universe. That lets them move things with their minds, and sense people’s thoughts, and a bunch of other stuff. Now, I know it sounds like something out of a cheesy sci-fi movie — but it’s real.”
He pulls up a bunch of files on his computer, charts and graphs and 3D models of DNA. Din doesn’t understand any of it. He barely sees any of it, he’s freaking out so much.
“There’s a genetic marker,” Luke continues. “Only one in about a hundred thousand people have it. I have it. My father had it. All the other survivors I’ve been able to test have it, including my sister.”
“What are you saying,” Din says, unable to stay quiet any longer. “You’re saying you believe you can move things with your mind?”
He can’t wrap his head around it, how Luke — intelligent patient level-headed Luke, who just last week told Din over a breakfast of cashew yogurt and granola that he only started believing in calories once he got a firm grip on the science — can believe something so patently, obviously —
Luke picks up a bright green stress ball and levitates it in front of Din’s face.
Din stares at the stress ball.
He takes off his glasses, rubs his eyes, puts his glasses back on, and stares at the stress ball some more.
Luke watches with an indulgent smile as Din looks at the floating ball from every angle, as he waves his hand through the air all around it, looking for hidden wires.
“You want to check for magnets?” Luke offers. He catches the ball out of thin air and hands it to Din.
Din takes it. He squeezes it, palpates it, checking for the hard lump of a magnet shoved in there with the rubber, but again, there’s nothing. That doesn’t mean there’s not a magnet buried at the very center of it, though.
“Pick something,” Luke says suddenly. “Anything in the lab. So you know I didn’t have time to set up a trick.”
Din looks around. A tiny voice in the back of his head tells him that if Luke was really dedicated, he could have rigged the whole lab. It’s insane, and he doesn’t really see why Luke would do it, except maybe to mess with him — Luke’s very dedicated when it comes to messing with people — but he can’t help thinking it. So he takes off his glasses again, and hands them over.
Luke handles them carefully, the same way he does when he’s taking them off himself, hovering over him and leaning down for a kiss.
Then he levitates them back up onto Din’s face.
Din blinks. He feels behind him, finds another stool, and sits down hard. The wheels roll until his back hits the bench and he stops.
Luke is watching him warily. “Not to bust open any repressed areas of your brain, or anything,” he says, “but you do know that your kid spends a lot of time levitating dino chicken nuggets around the dinner table, right?”
Din puts his head in his hands.
“Hey,” Luke says, getting up and coming over to him. He touches Din like he’s afraid he's going to flinch away, and that more than anything is what makes Din snap out of it. “Sorry,” Luke is saying, “sorry, I didn’t mean to — shit, Din, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You can upset me,” Din tells him. “You’re allowed to upset me, I just — ” he stops, shaking his head, not knowing what to say.
His kid. Jesus, his kid. That near-miss in the car this morning, the invisible hand that pulled them back…
“Hey,” Luke says again, hands going to the sides of Din’s head, turning his face up so he’s forced to meet Luke’s eyes. “We don’t have to talk about it anymore. Let’s go home, okay?”
Din nods mutely.
He has no memory of collecting Grogu from Peli, or driving back to his apartment. Luke must do it. Luke must cook dino chicken nuggets and Kraft mac-n-cheese for dinner, put Grogu to sleep, herd Din into the shower and wash his hair for him and dry him off, because the next thing Din’s really aware of, he’s in bed, the alarm clock on his nightstand reads 10:16, and Luke is propped up on the pillows next to him writing a lot of Ds and Fs on a thick pile of midterms.
He’s wearing one of Din’s shirts, Din realizes with a familiar uncoiling of lust. Nothing on earth has ever got him going faster than Luke Lars wearing his clothes.
Luke hums a wordless hello as Din rolls over and tucks his face against his hip. That’s a pair of Din’s pants, too — the soft flannel ones with the blue and green plaid that Luke picks every time even though he always ends up kicking them off in the night.
Din’s hand travels up and down Luke’s thigh under the covers, then across his stomach. He noses past the hem of his own shirt to set his mouth against Luke’s hip, breathing him in.
Luke finishes grading the midterm in his lap, writes A at the top and circles it, then caps the pen and tosses the whole stack onto the nightstand. “Hi,” he says, sinking a hand in Din’s hair. “Hello. Welcome back.”
“Hi.” Din tilts his chin up ever-so-slightly, pressing a kiss just above Luke’s waistband.
Luke’s breath catches. His hand tugs at Din’s hair. “I thought maybe we could talk about the cult that you grew up in now,” he says. “But maybe that’s a conversation for another day.”
“Another day,” Din agrees, mouthing lower. It’s a conversation they’re going to have to have, but all he wants at this very moment, more than anything, is Luke’s cock in his mouth.
Luke makes that noise — that gasp low in his throat — as Din feels out the shape of him with his lips. “Din,” he says, sort of urgent.
Din gets on his knees and frames Luke’s hips with his hands. He presses a firm kiss to the wet spot he’s left on the flannel pants, another firm kiss to Luke’s clothed stomach, another to his mouth.
“I love you,” he says, against Luke’s lips.
“Still?” Luke asks, sounding so uncertain that Din’s heart is back in the juicer. How could Luke even ask that, how could he not know, but Din figures if he doesn't know, then it's his job to tell him.
So he does. “Always, sweetheart,” he promises.
Luke relaxes in his hands, like he was worried about that — worried that Din would stop loving him, because of all this. Din's not sure he has the words to tell him just how crazy that is; instead just he kisses him again, harder than before, hungrier.
Luke makes a low noise, and gets hungrier right back.
And later, when he comes apart quietly under Din’s mouth and the bed floats six inches off the floor, for the first time ever, Din won’t pretend not to notice it. He won’t say much about it, either — just a sleepy Don’t wake the downstairs neighbors as Luke sets the bed gently back down on the carpet.
But in the morning, maybe Luke will levitate him a cup of coffee and maybe Din will catch it, and that last glyph in the Luke-centric Rosetta Stone he’s been trying to decipher will slot brilliantly into place.
And it'll all shake out okay.