It was in the middle of a fight, when Din first noticed it.
More of a reckless free-for-all than a structured battle, all things considered, as blaster shots pinged chaotically off of almost every nearby surface with the scattered fury of unpredictable plasma. But nonetheless there was enough time to notice.
He'd seen Boba fight. Many, many times. It was practically a staple of living with the man. And it was never really clear what each day would throw at them, from wildly overconfident assassins to particularly well-defended bounties, but both options and everything in between had been ample time for Din to see how Boba fought.
The takeover of the palace had resulted in the disruption of a booming spice ring on Tatooine, much to the chagrin of those involved in said spice ring. As such, those involved were currently firing away with reckless abandon at the crate with which both Mandalorians currently found themselves behind.
The warehouse the ring operated from had been easy enough to find, and easier still to barge into unannounced. It hadn't been terribly well fortified, simply relying on the blasters of those inside to defend it. Which, all in all, wasn't much of a defense. And, well, when Boba had declared that he wasn't going to rely on the spice cartel's income to operate his new version of the syndicate, Din hadn't thought the approach would be quite so direct.
Not that he was complaining.
Boba was a force to fight alongside.
The man hardly took even a moment to breathe in a battle, whirling from one target to the next with unerring efficiency, as if following the beat to a melody only he could hear.
Something about Boba's otherwise calm demeanor outside of battle, his dry humor and generally calm atmosphere, made his explosion into action at the first sign of a fight all the more intriguing. He fought with a certain rage, a miasma of aggression and unfettered confidence, shaping the violence of the battle to suit his needs without missing a beat.
At first glance, to the untrained eye it may have seemed nothing more than the sight of a Mandalorian in a fit of uncontrolled rage, unleashed upon their assailants as one might sic a Massiff. Competent rage, but rage nonetheless.
But it was more than that -- restrained, focused. Every movement was intentional, every step, and every single usage of the many weapons packed into his armor's kit. The man's fighting style flowed between weapon and hand and blaster in a dance that couldn't remotely be the work of someone without the utmost amount of focus. That rage was controlled, tempered, harnessed. It was there, fueling every movement made and putting an extra level of strength behind his movements that may not have been there without it, but only there at the whim of the man himself.
It was awe-inspiring to watch.
Something about the man's movement, though, brushed on a memory Din hadn't given much thought in years past. It was an odd feeling to pick up in the middle of a battle, surely, but it was there.
Perhaps, though, he'd give more thought to it while not actively being shot at, as he threw himself from behind the crate to join in on the fight.
Din, as Boba was finding, was an enigma.
They got along well, of course, fought together well, practically moved in tandem in every altercation they'd been in together. Boba was fast finding himself reliant on the other Mandalorian's presence in battle as both a deterrent for getting shot in the back, and a grounding point. An anchor, of sorts.
But no, this was something else. This was something in the way the Mandalorian's presence had become almost a beacon for a subset of feelings that Boba hadn't been familiar with in a long, long time. Not quite safety, maybe not quite familiarity, but something close to it. Something about him struck at a nostalgia that Boba hadn't quite known he'd had.
It wasn't easy to identify, more of a vague feeling than anything tangible. But it was there, in the background of his thoughts every time he looked at the other man.
Maybe it wasn't worth focusing on too heavily. For now he'd do little else aside from rely on that grounding point, that anchor, as he got to work on the syndicate.
It took a little digging for Din to identify that feeling, over the next few days.
Something about Boba reminded Din of the ocean.
It was absurd but- Din could almost feel the ocean when he looked at him, could feel the nostalgic whispers of the salt-tainted air on his face, the dull roar of the waves in the distance. An odd sensation for one living on Tatooine, of course, but it was there nonetheless. Something in Boba's voice, his demeanor, the way he carried himself, called out to the vastness of those cresting waves.
His village on Aq Vetina had been coastal, allowing him the privilege of growing up with an admiration of all the things one would expect near the ocean. The experience on Trassk had been horrific, of course, but it hadn't fully tainted that spark. He'd maybe be a little hesitant to jump in water himself any time soon, if anything, but that wasn't much of a problem out in the dune sea.
Din had always felt a certain way about ships. Spaceships of course, but seafaring vessels as well. He'd always felt as a child that they looked- not quite sad, but... forgotten, while docked. Forlorn. Barred from the purpose for which they were built, while tied to their moorings. Held stationary and steadfast as they awaited the concept of being needed again.
Seeing them out on the open sea, though, was another story entirely.
More so than that was the workings of it. The fact that a ship, as it functioned, was more than the sum of its parts. For every daunting functionality and ability the ship possessed, it was the work of a hundred little things all working together. A ship was captivating because it worked, but it was beautiful for how it worked.
And it worked best when out at sea, when in motion.
Perhaps Boba had been from a water world as well, though Din hadn't thought to pry just yet. He hadn't thought to pry about much of the man's personal life in general, despite practically living together. Fighting together, bleeding together. Perhaps it was odd not to ask, but, well, neither of them seemed keen on opening up about their pasts just yet. And that was just fine, given the sheer amount of shadows that seemed to be lurking just under the surface of both their histories.
But maybe that steady presence was something inherent with all beings from aquatic worlds -- that they simply carried both the reassuring calmness and crashing violence of the ocean with them at all times. A soul that spoke of resilience, forged in water and salt and light and life.
He could only guess, of course. For as much time as Boba spent on Tatooine and had returned to it time and time again, it was much more likely to be his origin, or some planet like it. A planet borne of desolation and death, the polar opposite to the life-giving waters of an ocean.
Or, maybe, that had been the draw. Opposites did tend to attract, and this could be one of many.
He'd have to work up the nerve to ask at some point, and hope Boba didn't mind the curiosity.
Din's demeanor towards him was becoming an unending source of confusion.
The man had fallen into a routine in the palace far too quickly, and had warmed himself up to a routine that included Boba even quicker so. Even Fennec -- for all they'd bonded as they fought and bled and survived and thrived -- preferred a good majority of her time alone. It was just a staple among those of their ilk, something grown accustomed to and difficult to drop. Trust was hard to come by, and harder still to find the desire to be social without it. You didn't usually get the privilege of enjoying the company of much else other than your own silence, your own thoughts and memories. And a man of Boba's reputation had hardly known anything else.
Din, however, had metaphorically cozied up to his side like a content Tooka seeking warmth. When Boba woke in the mornings, Din was typically already in the kitchen, two cups of caf brewed. When Boba descended to the armory to clean his armor or his weapons, Din would usually wander in at some point to take up the other end of the work table and do the same without a single word, just simply sharing the space quietly. And when Boba would hold court to the various trade deals he'd found himself between, Din's presence was a familiar one in the corner of the room, merely keeping an eye on things and daring anyone to try something brash.
It was baffling, endearing, and far too easy to get used to.
All in all, Boba still had plenty of time to himself. These rituals had sprung up over only a small subset of his time, and yet they had become alarmingly significant. He found himself seeking out the Mandalorian more often, sacrificing more of his solitary time to just be in the presence of the other.
As much as Din's demeanor had perplexed him, he'd fast been finding his own disposition toward the man to be equally as confusing.
For all of the beskar in-between, Din's presence still commanded a certain level of comfort that Boba hadn't been able to identify, but found himself craving. If anything, the mere existence of the Mandalorian should have put him on guard. Any attempt to inundate himself with their culture had usually gone over horribly, shunned via the actions of his father, and later on by the actions of himself. He'd probably consider himself lucky if they spoke to him at all before simply shooting first.
Yet here now one sat, in the soft early morning light of his kitchen in the palace they took for themselves, drinking caf through a charmingly small straw under his helmet.
Boba didn't trust easily. He just didn't . He had, before, long before the reputation set in and long before he'd learned the risks that it carried.
So, then, why was he drawn to trust this Mandalorian? Why to this degree?
Why was it easy?
Eventually, Din's curiosity got the better of him. He only hoped he could phrase the question conversationally enough to not seem prying.
"Have you spent much time on aquatic worlds?" Din asked.
Boba paused in the middle of his breakfast, utensil still raised, and stared at Din in what could only be perceived as open befuddlement. At least until that expression cracked, after a moment, a lopsided little smile warming his features as he chuckled lightly.
In that endearing laughter though, he didn't particularly get an answer.
"Is that a yes?" Din pressed.
"I'll let you make the assumptions," Boba countered cryptically as he left their shared table to drop off his bowl in the sink. It only took a second, though he stayed by the sink for a little longer than necessary, and Din could see the far off look in Boba's eyes as he focused on whatever memory Din had dredged up.
Din didn't press any further, dropping the subject as Boba continued to putter around the kitchen doing various tasks. But the question had evidently stayed on Boba's mind, as the man eventually wandered back over to sit down at the table.
Boba hefted the sort of world-weary sigh one might before engaging in a touchy subject, which had Din straightening up in his chair a little. "Do you really not know where I'm from?" Boba finally asked.
This... wasn't a trick question, right? "No, I don't," he responded in a measured tone.
"I'm a clone."
Din blinked. He wanted to ask why that mattered , but the last thing he wanted to do was offend Boba in some way. He hadn't known much about the clones, other than the role they played in the war that had made its way to his home. If Boba was a relic from a war decades past, what did it matter now? "Is that... important?" he ventured.
It was Boba's turn to stare now, seemingly studying Din's features as if the helmet didn't do a damn thing. Not that it ever did, Boba always seemed to have a knack for making eye contact through the visor without fail. Possibly just a side effect of wearing a helmet as well, but it never failed to make Din want to double check if the transparisteel barrier was even present, still.
"I suppose not," Boba finally responded. The answer felt a little heavier than the topic at hand, as it left his mouth, as if that truly hadn't been the question he'd been answering with it. He watched some of the tension drain out of the man's shoulders, minimal as it was. "But all cloning was done on Kamino."
"I've never heard of it."
"Most haven't." Boba continued. "It's an entirely oceanic world, though. No land. We lived in these... pods, far above the surface of the water."
Din was right. Boba had been from the ocean, borne of turbulent sea and misty mornings and salted air just as he had. His own soul, it seems, had picked up on the detail long before Din ever consciously had.
The man's voice had an exhausted edge to it, Din noticed. It was slight, but it was there. He did feel a little guilty for asking Boba to bring up such an obviously sore subject, but if anything he'd been expecting to simply be shot down on the attempt, not rewarded. He'd known Boba was skittish about his past -- willing to joke about it at his own expense, of course, but not willing to divulge the details and memories that made up the man himself.
It was a rare kindness, then, to be gifted a piece of that. However small. And it was worth, maybe, repaying that kindness with some information of his own.
"My village was coastal." Din found himself saying, eventually. Boba had gone very still, once he began talking. "It wasn't an aquatic world, but I grew up near the ocean."
"...I see." Boba heaved another sigh before standing from the table finally, though he stayed by it for a moment, rapping his gloved knuckle on the surface of it idly. Distractedly. "Maybe we've got more in common than previously thought."
Din couldn't help but huff a laugh at that. As if finding another Mandalorian wasn't already enough? One he could fight alongside, simply exist alongside, so effortlessly, despite their clearly different approaches to the culture?
But, given Boba's obviously tumultuous relationship with that culture, maybe that wasn't the bridge he'd always hoped it was. Though maybe it could be, some day.
Din's familiarity, his grounding presence, suddenly clicked into focus with an alarming clarity. Something about finding that overlap within their woefully different pasts was... comforting.
He realized that it had been the feeling he'd been chasing, the nostalgia that had struck him over the past months.
Boba hadn't thought he'd find any thought of the ocean to be comforting again -- hadn't thought that he'd remember Kamino as anything more than a last pit stop on the way from Geonisis before his life as a lone bounty hunter truly began -- but Boba found himself sinking into the feeling.
He remembered the rain on his face, the smell of the humidity in the air. The sound of the waves crashing into the stilts as it reverberated up to the facility in an otherworldly cacophony.
Maybe their experiences hadn't been identical, but the thought that some of his oldest memories may have overlapped with Din's in one way or another was- endearing. Warming.
He'd have expected to find that overlap more in the Mandalorian culture they shared, the language they shared, but this was somehow different. More direct, more succinct
Maybe it was something they could even discuss, as Boba found himself warming to the idea of sharing the bits and pieces of his past with less apprehension than he'd held onto in recent years, or even decades.
It gave him- a starting point, to maybe begin the process of aligning their lives on a more personal level.
Though -- as Boba thought of the unaffected way with which Din had just taken one of the most anxiety-fraught details of his life -- a good portion of that comfort was maybe worth simply attributing to the man himself. Regardless of where he came from, Boba didn't think it was too far-fetched to assume Din would always carry around the same calming presence. His origin had shaped him, of course, as had Boba's, but Din's demeanor was entirely his own.
And so -- just as Boba had barely been hit with the dawning realization that Din's familiarity was simply a byproduct of their shared experiences -- Boba swept it aside, as he came to the seemingly more accurate conclusion that it was simply an effect of Din himself. That the feeling that he'd been chasing to name, to give some label to, was simply the fact that the man had endeared himself to Boba in such a way that he was wholly unfamiliar with, and had no experience with.
It wasn't nostalgia, it wasn't some long forgotten sentimentality, no, his mind had simply substituted its name for the closest thing it could find -- it was something pure, fragile, and new.
He wasn't sure he'd name the feeling just yet but- naming it didn't make it any less terrifying.
The days continued like that for some time, with various fights scattered in-between.
Among them all, Boba carried himself with the same degree of careful aptitude that he always had.
Din found himself struggling to pick apart the differences between his admiration of the other Mandalorian -- the quiet respect he held for Boba's sheer level of care and attention to detail in his day-to-day life-
-- And his love of the man.
He'd been in love before, he'd felt the warmth in his heart at the presence of another, albeit not as strong. It hadn't worked out, of course. The life of a beroya hardly left much time for anything else.
But he'd remembered the almost physical pang of it, the warmth in his gut and the stars in his blood.
Of course he recognized love when he felt it.
That hadn't made the realization any easier.
Here was Boba Fett, the Boba Fett, a man of enduring reputation of one kind or another throughout the entire galaxy. A man who was known for the sum of his actions, for the ability to turn words and credits into competent ability, but not much was known about him aside from that.
The man as a whole was known, feared, but not much was spoken of the bits and pieces, details and memories, that made up the man himself. Nothing was known, or much less cared about, of the man underneath it all. Nobody had cared about the man who fell into the Sarlacc -- much less had gone looking for him while he was still obviously very much alive, given the knowledge of how the Sarlacc operated that accompanied every frenzied whispering of his rumored fall into it.
Somewhere, in the back of Din's mind, all he could think of was the ships of Aq Vetina again. The way in which they moored quietly, peacefully, until needed. Dead to the world until necessary.
The way in which not a thought was given, by the average bystander, to the sum of parts that made the ship function. The care given to each detail -- every bolt, plate, fuse, and screw -- to make the vessel function as a whole. Rarely were the panels pulled back simply for the admiration of the mechanisms inside, the lifeblood to a thousand little components, the result of a thousand little decisions to make a grand design.
And as such-- Nobody cared about the man under the reputation, only the looming shadow of Boba Fett. It was only a name, a succinct summary to a series of jobs and stories with almost no bearing from the man himself. A goal for some, a deterrent for others.
And despite that reputation, Din couldn't see anything but the careful inner workings of the person underneath it all.
Boba found Din leaning against the railing to the tower's balcony, some time later. It seemed to be as good a time as any to pitch the idea that had been rattling around in his head for some time, since their last conversation on the subject.
"Maybe we'll go visit one together some time. Might do us some good."
"What?" Din's helmet whipped to stare at him, and he felt the familiar prickle of knowing, somehow, that they'd made eye contact. He'd still never seen Din's face, could only imagine the color of the eyes boring into his, but he could feel them just the same.
"An oceanic world. Or just an ocean." Boba clarified. He joined Din in leaning on the balcony's railing, overseeing the pastel sands below. A bantha could be seen in the distance, drawn by a pair of Tuskens, to which he waved at. "Not sure a dune sea is quite the nostalgia you were looking for."
"No, it's not." Din responded, turning his lead to look back over the dunes again. The Tuskens had waived back, and the bantha was lowing just faintly enough to be heard. "But I don't mind it."
"So how about a trip, then?"
Din turned to look at him again, and seemed to take a moment before responding, but not out of hesitation. Instead, it was to simply stare at him, posture loose as he leaned toward Boba just slightly on the railing. "Why does this sound suspiciously like a date?"
This was a bit of a leap, now, wasn't it?
Not for Din, but for him. A leap of faith on that trust he'd been oh so keen on for these past few months, between the two of them. To trust that the gap Din seemed intent on bridging wouldn't crumble as soon as he took that first step forward, following that gentle, fragile unnamed emotion. But if that lighthearted -- if albeit slightly nervous -- tone that Din posed the question with had any bearing, Boba didn't think he'd be relying much on faith at all.
"Would you mind if it was?" Boba finally responded.
"No. I don't think I'd mind it." Din repeated his words from earlier with an audible smirk to his voice.
Boba released the breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding.
Silence passed comfortably for a moment, after that. The Tuskens and their bantha crested a dune, disappearing into the horizon just as one of the suns had begun it’s leisurely descent in pursuit.
"Do you have one in mind?" Boba finally asked.
"Oh. Not really." Din didn't seem to particularly jump at the chance to suggest his own homeworld, and Boba wasn't keen on the idea of seeing Kamino again any time soon either.
"Could always go exploring, though," Din suggested.
The 'date,' as it was, hadn't started out too bad. Their navicomputer had routed them in the direction of a quaint little planet in the Khubeaie system, less than a few hours travel from Tatooine's lonesome system.
Slave I had angled down toward a planet of open sea, dotted by lush tropical islands of varying shapes and sizes.
They'd found a flat enough space to land, and the ramp had lowered to a cool, salty breeze that Din found himself wishing, a little desperately, that he could feel on his bare face. He'd even considered reaching up and unlatching the helmet for a moment -- his creed had been shaken to its core previously, of course. Was it not worth one more to experience this again?
Boba had come down the ramp as well, bumping into his shoulder in a playful manner as he came to a stop next to Din. "This everything you've been missing?"
Din wasn't quite sure how to respond. Again he felt the tug of a conversation that seemed to be happening on multiple fronts, accounting for a multitude of things within the hidden layers of their words. All the things they feared to say out loud, but would gladly assume in the unspoken lines between.
He bumped back into the man beside him, tilting his head to the side and letting the soft metallic ping of his helmet hitting Boba's be answer enough. Not quite a keldabe kiss, but the intention was recognizable enough. He heard Boba gasp all the same, faint as it was.
Of course, though, the moment was broken by the punchy atmospheric clap of multiple ships approaching at a very high speed.
And so -- as will all things that seemed to involve them -- the fight began.
That's how he found himself, some time later, pressed up along the outer hull of the ship with Boba pressed up against his side in a similar fashion, blasters drawn. The crew of the first ship had gone down spectacularly easily -- if not to blaster shots, then, to grazing swipes of the beskar spear, or to the bone-crushing blows of a gaderffii.
Din felt a tap on the side of his helmet. He glanced at the offending cause of the sound, which turned out to be the side of Boba's blaster, pointed away thankfully in at least the smallest modicum of standard blaster safety.
"Still with me in there?" Boba asked.
As if Din could be anything but.
He nodded, which Boba took as sufficient enough of an indicator to continue the fight.
And as Boba whirled on the next set of assailants -- all cresting violence and crashing waves of tempered aggression and measured movements timed to the beat of enduring eventuality -- Din could never be drawn to anything else.
After all, ships were often prettier when out to sea, thriving on the purpose they'd been carefully crafted for.
And he'd always been drawn to the ocean.