Jango straightened, pulling his hand out of his work glove and wiping his sweat from his brow, then adjusting his head-covering. Mentally, he counted the days, then swore to himself. Tugging his glove back on, he strode through the dry field, careful not to crush any of the little green seedlings beneath his boots. At the margin, he climbed into his balky old rust-bucket of a speeder. The engine sputtered, then coughed to life. Turning, he gunned the engine and headed toward the house, a plume of dust rising in his wake.
As Jango pulled up, he slowed his speeder and let it glide to a halt. The gleaming shuttle had already lifted away again, leaving a thin figure in the scant bit of midday shade near the door. Jango climbed from his speeder and pushed his goggles up onto his forehead, pushing the wrap off his head in the same motion before unhooking his canteen from his belt and taking a gulp.
“Sorry about that, I lost track of the time,” Jango offered, holding out his hand. “I’m Jango Fett.”
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” introduced the man who stepped out of the shadow cast by the overhanging roof of the squat pourstone house. Jango ran his eyes over Kenobi appraisingly. A plain olive jumpsuit with the insignia of the Jedi Order and Agricultural Service Corps covered broad shoulders, the cuffs rolled up to display corded forearms with profuse freckles. He had a large pack leaning against his legs, with a small, sleeping droid attached to the straps.
Judging by his build and the callouses on the square palm pressed to Jango’s, Kenobi would be a good worker. Shaggy hair, faded to red-gold, and reddish stubble along a sharp jawline to go with the pale skin. They’d have to invest in some sun protection - Kenobi’s cheeks and nose were already reddened with exposure. There was intelligence in his clear, pale eyes, the pupils pinprick small in the bright sunlight. On first impression, Jango was more than a little hopeful that the help sent by the Agricorps would truly be helpful.
“Welcome,” Jango said, and shifted down the steps past Obi-Wan to touch his hand to the biometric lockpad. “Come on in, we’ll get you settled and I’ll give you the tour.”
Obi-Wan nodded, leaning down slightly to grab up his bag. The house, constructed of dull beige pourstone, was blocky, constructed in a u-shape with two wings extending in front of the central bulk. Large solar arrays were installed on the flat roof to provide power, and a high-powered antenna rotated at one corner, connecting the small house to the rest of the galaxy via the holonet. Broad transparisteel glazed windows with heavy shutters were set into the walls beneath the overhanging roof, providing natural light to the interior but also shade to prevent too much heat accumulation. The house being dug into the hard-packed earth likely helped in keeping it cool and energy efficient. Native succulents huddled against the foundations, providing a bit of colour, and a few scraggly desert thorn trees and fruiting cacti dotted the surrounding yard.
Stepping inside, Obi-Wan blinked as his eyes adjusted after the brilliance of the sun and white sand outside. They paused in a vestibule for Jango to unsling and secure the long-gun he carried across his back, and take off his head covering, boots and goggles. He tucked his gloves into his belt, then headed deeper into the house. Obi-Wan took his boots off before they progressed into the main living space; an open, rectangular area, the walls painted white with blue geometric designs around the doors and at the ceiling. There were some plain but comfortable looking couches, a data terminal that likely also functioned as a holoviewer, and a dining area that opened onto a tidy kitchen. A few doors, currently closed, were set into the walls, leading to the wings of the house.
“There’s only one bedroom, but the couches are comfortable enough,” Jango said. “That door is my room,” he pointed out, “and that one’s the ‘fresher, which also shares a door with my room. That one leads to the greenhouse, and here,” he shifted and pointed at a trapdoor in the floor, “leads down into water reclamation, storage, and machinery for the air handlers and so forth.” The bedroom and ‘fresher were one wing, Obi-Wan mapped mentally, the greenhouse the other. It wasn’t a large house, but it was comfortable for a man living alone, and not uncomfortable with adding a second tenant.
Obi-Wan nodded, not sure what to say. He felt awkward and out of place just standing there, but he didn’t really have anything to add or ask yet. He hadn’t realized how much he’d become accustomed to the routine on Bandomeer, where he’d lived since he was almost 13. He’d wanted to try something new, after ten years there, that was why he applied for the Mandalorian mission. It was still a little unnerving to be experiencing that change. Still, it was a worthwhile mission, and Obi-Wan was honoured to have been selected from the pool of applicants.
The Duke of Mandalore had requested aid from the Agricorps to try and reclaim some of the barren white sand deserts left after the Mandalorian Wars hundreds of years before. The system and sector were more stable than they’d been in centuries, and the leftover radiation had long ago decayed to negligible levels. Arable land was at a premium with the population growing, and the sector’s stability was at risk if more farmland couldn’t be eked out of the inhospitable sands.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Obi-Wan finally said, turning back to his host. Fett was a little shorter than himself, and a bit more heavily built. The skin on his face was dark with exposure, the beginnings of lines forming around his eyes, from laughing or squinting Obi-Wan couldn’t guess. His nearly black hair was cropped short, just long enough to curl at the tips. He wore a plain blue tunic and heavy grey trousers with reinforced knees, the blue and grey checked headcovering lowered around his neck like a scarf, a utility belt with bulging pouches around his waist, and an extremely large knife strapped to his thigh. “Can you tell me more about the farm?”
Jango nodded, crossing to the conservator and fetching two glasses of cold water before returning to the sitting area and gesturing for Kenobi to make himself comfortable. Obi-Wan sat, unslinging his pack and accepting the drink Jango offered. They each took a sip, and then Jango set down his glass and began to talk.
“I run one of the sandier farms,” Jango started. “Originally I’m from Concord Dawn, and while the mineral makeup is different, I grew up silt-farming there, so I figured I’d get one of the cheaper homesteads and make a go of it since my parents’ farm will eventually go to my sister.” Obi-Wan nodded along. “The ground here is too poor for cash crops yet, I have a cover crop down as green manure and nitrogen fixer. For now, I live off the greenhouse, both for what I eat and what I bring to market. I also have some native plants in the greenhouse that will go outside once there’s more carbon in the soil.”
“I was trained on Bandomeer, which is the main Agricorps training center,” Obi-Wan said after nodding his understanding. “We focused mainly on remediation of post-mining environments. It’s not as hot and dry there as it is here, but the remediation is somewhat similar to desert reclamation, although I’m more familiar with plants used to sequester heavy metals or other toxins.”
Jango nodded at that, understanding that there would be both similarities and differences in those knowledge-bases.
“Initially, I’ll be assisting you in the fields and taking measurements and compiling data to better understand the current environment before I can advise my superiors on long term efforts to improve the soil and so forth,” Obi-Wan said, indicating the small droid that had arrived with him.
“Given what little I’ve seen already, my first suggestion would have been to increase the carbon load of the soil as much as possible, but it sounds like you’re already doing that. At the moment, you’re the expert in this environment,” Obi-Wan continued, deferring to Jango. “I may have more suggestions after I’ve been here a little longer, but I’m not here to dictate how you farm your land.”
Jango relaxed a little at that. While he’d volunteered to take on one of the Agricorps Jedi, and looked forward to learning the more advanced horticultural techniques they were purported to know, he’d worried a little that he’d be saddled with some Core-world snob trying to tell him how to do his work.
“I was almost done with my morning rounds when you arrived, the communal agri-droid was here yesterday, and I like to check over its work. Midday, it’s too hot out there for much, so I’ll put together a meal, then show you the greenhouse, and we can go back out after a few hours when it’s cooled back down a little,” Jango proposed, and Obi-Wan nodded. Rising, Jango went to a small chest and opened it. Thankfully, he had remembered correctly, and it was all but empty. “There are some blankets and pillows in here you can use, and if you want to store your things in the trunk, it’s yours.”
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said gratefully, and went to Jango. He didn’t have much - a few changes of clothes, a datapad, a coat in case of cold weather that he doubted he’d use, some tools and a utility belt. He put everything save the belt, datapad, and little droid in the chest, then closed it, laying his things for later on top.
“Do you have any allergies?” Jango asked, heading toward the kitchen.
“Only to Hoi broth,” Obi-Wan said. “I’m not terribly picky either, on Bandomeer we ate what we could grow, and sometimes that was incredibly varied and we could pick and choose what we wanted, and sometimes that was topatoes at every meal for nearly a month because someone hadn’t correctly planned the yields.”
Jango snorted softly, pulling a few things out of the conservator. He deftly prepared two large bowls of leafy green salad with slices of Mandalorian orange preserved in syrup, and large flat broad beans, then warmed some left over chicken and added that and a quick vinaigrette, and fluffy flatbreads on the side. It looked and smelled delicious, and Obi-Wan accepted the bowl Jango offered, settling himself at the table.
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said. “I can clean up after, if you’d like?”
“It’d be appreciated,” Jango said with a nod. “I’ll help, so you know where everything goes.” Obi-Wan nodded his agreement, and they dug into their meal. After they finished and cleaned up, Obi-Wan buckled on his utility belt and perched the little droid on his shoulder. Once he was kitted up, he nodded at Jango, who led him to the door into the greenhouse wing.
“I retrofit all this into the house myself, so if you have suggestions, I welcome them,” Jango said. He pressed the keypad, and the door hissed open. A rush of warm, moist air rolled out as they stepped through, and Jango closed the door quickly. Within, Obi-Wan could hear the steady hum of the air handler and the quiet rush of piped water. “Most of my water use is in here for now, and the water is reclaimed and reused.”
Obi-Wan nodded, looking around. The set up had clearly been optimized for the small space. Aeroponic towers held various food crops. Around the perimeter of the space, larger plants grew in pots - small trees Obi-Wan recognized as veshok and galek seedlings, native to Mandalore, a few small Mandalorian orange trees, their branches sprinkled with blooms, and varos trees, heavy with velvet-skinned fruit. There were other heritage plants too, amber ferns and a multitude of sweet scented flowers.
“This is lovely,” Obi-Wan said, reaching out to touch the velvety green leaves of some type of squash.
“Quench-gourd,” Jango identified, his gaze following the careful way Obi-Wan touched the foliage. “I’m not a huge fan of them myself, but the Duke is from Kalevala, so there’s a good market for Kalevalan goods in Sundari.” Obi-Wan nodded. The politics of the marketplace. Not something he often had to think about. “Everything in the towers is edible, some of it, just on my own preferences, is entirely for the market. I’ll send you the map of what’s where, and the parameters of the system.”
“What’s your favourite?” Obi-Wan asked curiously.
“Of the ornamentals, galek tree and amber fern,” Jango said immediately, pointing them out. The galek was a slender tree with narrow, silvery leaves. The amber fern lived up to its name, the fronds a warm colour between yellow and orange, and not terribly unlike the colour that glinted in Jango’s eyes when the light hit them just right. “To eat? Probably varos. It sells well, but I make sure to keep some for myself. It preserves well as jam or syrup, cooks up a treat, and it’s good just to eat out of hand.” Obi-Wan couldn’t help but grin at that. It sounded like his host had a bit of a sweet tooth.
They walked deeper into the greenhouse. The aeroponic towers were closely spaced, barely enough room between them for an adult human to walk. As they walked, Obi-Wan recognized some of the plants from the greenhouses on Bandomeer - chando peppers, Bellassan peppers, kibla greens, Bith beans, Revwein lettuce, Brekka beets and qiraadishes. It was a wide and varied selection, and Obi-Wan didn’t doubt that Jango was kept well fed on the produce.
“What do you do for protein?” Obi-Wan asked as they paused near a large bank of full-spectrum lights, under which plant seedlings were spread, germinating on damp growth medium.
“I grow broad beans like we had with lunch in here, and I buy fish and meat when I go to market,” Jango said with a shrug. “I grow soy too, but I don’t have the facilities to process it into soypro, and we’re too far into the wastes for the land to support livestock or even enough wild animal population to make hunting sustainable.” Obi-Wan nodded.
“Not even something like Bantha?” Obi-Wan asked, and Jango snorted.
“They could survive, but importing a Bantha is an investment,” Jango said. “Maybe in a few years if things go well.” Obi-Wan nodded, understanding Jango’s hesitance. If he’d only been farming this land a year, and most of his income was from his greenhouse, it made sense to be a bit conservative.
On their way out of the green house, Jango pointed out the droids that did the menial tasks like testing the water to ensure there were enough nutrients and in the correct amounts. As they stepped out through the hatch, Obi-Wan could feel the humidity rapidly wicking from his skin. He scrunched his nose slightly, but didn’t comment. It wasn’t as if there was anything that could be done, after all.
“It’s still a bit warm for fieldwork,” Jango said, glancing at his own datapad. “Here, let’s get you hooked into the holonet and added to the locks.” Obi-Wan nodded, and took out his datapad. Jango helped him get linked to the holonet, and linked him to the devices associated with the homestead - the greenhouse droids and weather station, and Jango’s contact information. “We’ll go back out in a couple hours, I uh - I usually take a nap in the early afternoon.”
“I have plenty of reading to do,” Obi-Wan promised, and Jango nodded, then padded through to his room. Obi-Wan looked around, then sat, and set about updating his subscriptions to look for keywords relevant to the farming he would be doing here. He also reviewed the course he’d downloaded on learning Mando’a. It was a fairly straight-forward language, but that didn’t lessen the effort needed to learn it.
A few hours after he’d gone to lay down, Jango shuffled back out of his bedroom, scratching at his stomach as he finished tucking in his shirt. Jango grunted in greeting, then went to the sink and refilled his canteen. He waved Obi-Wan over as he secured the canteen to his belt.
“I don’t know what you’re used to, but I go through minimum two canteens most days. It’ll probably take you a little bit to acclimate, and I don’t mind at all if you have to make extra trips back here to get more water, I’d rather have you healthy and pulling your weight long term,” Jango said. Obi-Wan nodded, and double checked his own water supply.
Once they were kitted up, they headed back out into the fields to continue Obi-Wan’s orientation. Jango talked about the various cooperatives he was part of as they walked. One was a group that shared a large multi-purpose agri-droid programed to weed the fields and monitor the nutrient and water levels. When it was time, the programming would be changed so it would do the harvesting and tabulation of crops picked. Another co-op would process his crops and transport the product to market. He was also part of a group that bought seed and fertilizer together in bulk, and another that helped one another with household chores and maintenance.
“It sounds like there’s a good community here,” Obi-Wan observed, and mentally made note that a broad-brimmed hat would probably be a good idea. Even with the sun sinking toward the horizon, it was uncomfortably hot and sunny out.
“There is,” Jango agreed with a nod. “You’ll get to meet some of them in a few days, when it’s my market day. Generally we go to the Sundari market, it’s a bit further than Keldabe, but since they’re surrounded by white sand desert, the prices are better.” Obi-Wan nodded his understanding. “Keep track, and if you need anything we can get it then.”
Obi-Wan nodded again. “I’m already thinking I’m going to want a hat,” he said dryly, squinting against the bright sun and pale sand. Jango glanced over, then chuckled.
“Yeah, probably,” Jango agreed. “Do you at least have tinted goggles?” Obi-Wan nodded, and pulled them from one of the pouches on his utility belt. It certainly cut the glare, but wouldn’t do anything to protect his face. “As an alternative, a lot of Mando’ade wear hodasalar,” Jango said, gesturing at his own head covering. “It’s good against both sun and wind. Remind me when we go back in, I have a spare you can use until market day.” Obi-Wan nodded.
“Thank you, it’s much appreciated,” Obi-Wan said politely. Jango waved him off.
“No trouble,” Jango promised. “My sister gave it to me, but I don’t like the colour.”
Obi-Wan couldn’t help his smile at that. He nodded, and they spent a few hours more walking the margins of the field. Jango explained his plans as they walked, and talked about the cover crop he’d put in - it was a native vetch, that would fix nitrogen into the sandy soil as well as adding biomass and preventing erosion. Carbon sequestration was the priority - the soil was far too poor to support anything but plants evolved for a marginal environment, and very few of those had any type of edible byproduct.
While the vetch was a legume, Jango explained, it wasn’t one that would fetch even a return on his investment at the market. The whole plant would be plowed under before it fruited, and another cover crop planted, maybe with a co-planted cash crop if the soil would support it. At the moment, Jango was leaning towards neral, a local variety of sorghum - it was hardy enough to survive in the arid heat, but there a steady market for the grain, and he might do better than break even if he had a good season.
Obi-Wan tried to remember what he knew of sorghum. A cereal, he knew that much. It likely had half a hundred other names on various worlds, including the Mando’a neral, but he recognized the name sorghum. If it was the crop he remembered, it was fairly drought resistant, and of value not only as a cereal crop for human consumption, but also as livestock fodder. Some strains could be used to make a sweet syrup. He nodded, seeing why it would make a good choice.
By the time the two of them finished their tour of Jango’s fields, the sun was sinking down into the desert sands, lighting the sky pink and orange and purple. Without discussing it, they paused, leaning against the speeder and watching the sunset. They were far away enough from any large settlements that the evening stars showed clear and bright while the horizon was still rimmed with lavender light.
“Most of the reason I signed up to homestead was to make a place of my own,” Jango said quietly, looking out into the settling night. “But kriff if sights like this don’t make all the work seem worth the effort some nights.” Staring at the quiet beauty of the desert twilight, Obi-Wan couldn’t help but understand that, just a little. “Alright, enough of that,” Jango said decisively a moment later, “I’m hungry, let’s go.” Obi-Wan let out a startled little laugh, and they climbed into the speeder to head back to the house.
Their meal that night was a bean stew with bits of meat in it, more for flavour than as useful protein. It was warm and hearty, and supplemented with fluffy flatbreads that Jango called shuner, and said were made of milled neral flour. The sticky, fruit studded seed cakes - uj’alayi - that they had for dessert, were made with neral too, both the grains and the thick, sweet, syrup. Neral was a staple of Mando cuisine, sometimes cooked as a whole grain like rice or bulgar, other times milled into flour, and frequently brewed into the popular local beer, ne’tra gal.
When they’d eaten, Obi-Wan again volunteered for clean-up duty. Jango acquiesced, but helped him along so the task was done sooner. Once the kitchen was set to rights, they settled into the comfortable sofas of the main room, Jango turning on the holoviewer and watching a recorded bolo-ball match between Keldabe and Sundari. Obi-Wan thought he recognized a few Mando’a words in the sports broadcast, but his ability to follow the game was mostly due to his extant knowledge of the rules, as bolo-ball was a popular entertainment throughout the galaxy.
They spent maybe an hour in quiet camaraderie before Jango excused himself to bed. As he’d showered before their evening meal, he left the ‘fresher to Obi-Wan after a quick washing of his face and brushing of his teeth. Obi-Wan stepped happily under the sonics when Jango was done, noting that there was no water-capable function. He wasn’t terribly surprised - Jango’s water use was prioritized towards farming.
Pulling out the pillows and blankets from the chest, Obi-Wan made up his bed on the sofa. The day’s travel and then the extensive walking in the heat had drained him. Although they hadn’t discussed it, he anticipated an early morning, and so he meditated briefly, but it wasn’t long before he slipped from meditation into deep sleep.
The sky was still dim and grey when the sound of Jango moving in the other room woke Obi-Wan. He sat up, rubbing at his bleary eyes. The lights flicked on a moment later, and he groaned, earning a quiet laugh from his host.
“Shig will be ready in a moment,” Jango said, and Obi-Wan blinked sleepily. He didn’t quite manage the translation before a mug of something hot and citrus-scented was pressed into his hands. Obi-Wan brought the mug up towards his mouth, inhaling deeply. Shig. Herbal stimulant made from the behot plant. He sipped, then swore as he burned his tongue. “Careful,” Jango teased from the kitchen. Obi-Wan refrained, just barely, from cursing the Mando out.
As soon as the shig was even approaching cool enough to drink, Obi-Wan was draining the mug. It was much more palatable than the industrial-grade caff he was used to waking up to, even if it wasn’t quite as potent. Feeling slightly more sapient, Obi-Wan pulled his clothes on, then finger combed his shaggy hair, debating whether he wanted to crop it short or let it grow. Shuffling into the kitchen, Obi-Wan helped himself to another mug of shig and looked over Jango’s shoulder at the cooker. Jango had a pot of neral stewing in milk, with bits of chopped fruit stirred in - likely varos, from what he’d said the day before.
“Anything I can help with?” Obi-Wan offered.
Jango shook his head. “Not really, this just needs a few more minutes. Well, you can get the uj’ayl, and bowls.”
Obi-Wan nodded, getting out two bowls and two spoons, then finding the syrup. That done, he turned on the holoviewer and flipped through the bands until he found one doing sector news in Basic. They were currently talking about how the Duke would need to replace a member of the advisory council, as the representative from Shukut had resigned to return home and spend time with family. Obi-Wan paid cursory attention as he double checked his utility belt, ensuring he had everything he thought he might need for the day.
“Here we go,” Jango called, and Obi-Wan returned to the table. They ate quietly, neither of them terribly gregarious before the sun had cleared the horizon. When their bowls of porridge had been emptied, they cleaned up together by silent agreement.
When they were done washing up, Obi-Wan filled his canteen, then mentally ran through his checklist. He was pretty sure he had everything he would need. He turned as he heard Jango approaching, having gone into his bedroom and then returned while Obi-Wan was standing at the sink.
“Here, we forgot this last night,” Jango said. He held up a large square of tan and brown checked fabric. “Hodasalar,” he explained, then deftly used it to cover his head and face to show how it was done. There was enough material that it would shield the neck too, at least the amount left bare by Obi-Wan’s jumpsuit.
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said when Jango had unwound the fabric and handed it over. “Uh-” Jango grinned at that, and stepped closer, carefully helping Obi-Wan fold and wrap the hodasalar so it would protect his skin.
“There,” Jango said softly, his fingers lingering at the soft fold of fabric near Obi-Wan’s eye, his thumb brushing along the arc of Obi-Wan’s cheek.
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan repeated, almost breathless as the blood rushed to his face. Jango’s cheeks went a shade darker, and he turned away, fussing with his own utility belt.
“We should get going, before the sun gets too high,” Jango offered, and Obi-Wan nodded. Jango headed for the door, and Obi-Wan followed. They set out with an awkward silence hanging over them, neither of them sure what to say. After a while, Jango noticed something in the fields to point out, and then Obi-Wan had a question, and gradually, things eased. They walked through the fields, and Obi-Wan periodically sent his droid to take measurements or soil samples, but neither of them forgot that brief moment, the rough sweep of Jango’s thumb against Obi-Wan’s cheek, grey eyes meeting brown.
By the time they returned to the house for their mid-day meal, they could converse without blushing. Obi-Wan took to asking after the names of everything they saw in Mando’a, and Jango obliged in amused tones. He clarified too, that the names he knew weren’t necessarily standard Mando’a, but the Concord Dawn dialect he’d grown up speaking. Obi-Wan, always curious, questioned the differences between standard Mando’a and its various dialects.
Each planet in the sector had slightly different ways of speaking, Jango explained. The differences between Mandalore - Manda’yaim, to those who spoke Mando’a - and Concord Dawn were fairly few. The word that meant sibling was vod in standard Mando’a, tat in the Concord Dawn dialect for example, and there were a few other places the languages diverged, but they were mutually intelligible, and most on Concord Dawn still thought of themselves as Mando’ade, and their language as Mando’a.
Their conversation on language took them through their meal - vegetable soup and shuner - and the clean up. They were still talking as Jango herded Obi-Wan towards the greenhouse after the dishes were put away. Obi-Wan followed, leaving his borrowed hodasalar down around his shoulders since they weren’t heading back outside.
As they inspected the plantings, conversation returned to language - Mando’a specifically - and moved from there to the cornerstones of Mando culture. The Resol’nare, or Six Actions. Obi-Wan could hear the capitalization in Jango’s voice when he said it, and listened closely as his host explained.
“Now, I’m not unhappy with Duke Kryze’s rule,” Jango said off the top, and Obi-Wan grinned, always interested in politics at ground level. “But Jaster Mereel published a really good piece about the place of the Resol’nare in modern Mando life that - is a lot closer to what I was raised believing. Maybe it’s because Mereel is from Concord Dawn too, a Protector like my - father.”
“You were about to say something other than father,” Obi-Wan pointed out, and Jango chuckled.
“Mando’a is a gender-neutral language,” Jango reminded. “I was going to say parent, but thought it would be better to be specific.” Obi-Wan nodded thoughtfully.
“I appreciate the specificity,” Obi-Wan said.
“But?” Jango prodded, and Obi-Wan smiled.
“It doesn’t seem fair to expect you to modify your speech for me,” Obi-Wan said with a shrug. “I’m the guest here. And I didn’t think to ask - I automatically gendered you as male, but I shouldn’t make assumptions there either.”
“I think most modifications that I’d make are just for specificity,” Jango said. “Differentiating mother from father or other instances where gender provides more information. As for me, in Basic I accept he/him and they/them pronouns equally,” Jango said with a flash of a smile. Obi-Wan nodded his understanding.
“I use he/him,” Obi-Wan said, and Jango nodded.
“Back to Mereel,” Jango continued, “like I said, they wrote some really influential stuff, and my father and him have similar politics, which informed mine a lot in turn. While I ended up taking after my mother career-wise, I thought pretty seriously about becoming a Protector like my father, but under the current system, it’s - the Protectors are a law unto themselves, because they have to be, but that can lead to bad actors having a lot of influence over a community, and I didn’t want to be part of a system like that. If the Duke adopted some of the reforms Mereel suggested, I think that would go a long way towards lessening corruption.”
Obi-Wan listened thoughtfully. “I think I’d like to read Mereel’s work,” he said. “Are there translations in Basic? I know my Mando’a isn’t half good enough for that sort of thing yet.” Jango flashed him a big smile at that.
“I don’t know, but I can find out,” Jango promised, still smiling. Obi-Wan returned the smile, his cheeks warming.
“On - on a different topic,” Obi-Wan asked, and Jango nodded. “Where can I set up my testing equipment? I only need about a square meter of space.”
“Hmm,” Jango said thoughtfully, glancing around. “My droids in here have onboard analyzers, and the samples from the agri-droid that does the testing in the field are processed at the local lab, I just get a report of the results. I’d try to squeeze you in here, but the space is already pretty optimized to its current use.”
Obi-Wan nodded. There really wasn’t space for his testing set up in the greenhouse, no matter how minimal as his set up was.
“I have some spare space near my workbench in the basement,” Jango finally said after a few more moments of thought. “There’s good ventilation down there, so fumes won’t be a problem. We might need to get you a table, it’s been a while since I checked what was down there.” He shrugged. “Why don’t we go check it out, we’re about done in here, as soon as we check the seedlings.”
“That’d be great,” Obi-Wan agreed, and so they finished up in the greenhouse, then headed for the trap door.
“It’s a bit awkward,” Jango warned, gesturing at the hatch. There weren’t stairs, just a ladder that slid down in sections. The light came on automatically as the ladder dropped, either activated by the motion or by the trap door being locked into position.
“It’s like an old air raid bunker,” Obi-Wan observed as he followed Jango down the ladder, and Jango laughed. “What?”
“Not like, it is an old air raid bunker,” Jango said. “I had to haul out kilos of nasty old food that was supposed to be good forever but had expired about 50 years ago. That’s why all the machinery is down here, so theoretically it would all be protected if the house got destroyed.”
“When was the house built?” Obi-Wan asked. He’d assumed it was newly constructed when Jango arrived to homestead. It was in excellent condition, and clearly built to last.
Jango shook his head. “Records were exceedingly questionable,” he said. “That’s part of why it was available for so cheap. I’m still half expecting descendants of the last inhabitants to show up and cause a stink. I doubt the house was new 50 years ago when the packaged food hit its expiry date. This style of architecture was popular a couple hundred years ago. I did a lot of work to get the place habitable.”
“I can imagine,” Obi-Wan murmured, staring at the massive water cisterns and the bank of batteries that were charged by the solar collectors outside. Jango had probably had to have the entire place rewired for modern energy cells, plus whatever needed to be done to get the water reclamation system and air handlers running. Just the thought of it was daunting. The homestead might have been cheap credit-wise, but Jango had to have put in a lot of sweat equity just to make it livable.
“Workbench is over here,” Jango called, and Obi-Wan turned towards him. A large table was set up with hand tools, mechanical parts, and small bits of electronics. It was fairly tidy, and rather dusty. “I’m not down here much these days, since most things are in good working order. Would this work for your needs?”
Obi-Wan eyeballed the space. “It looks plenty big enough, but I think adding a table might be a good idea, just in case we both need to be down here for some reason.”
“Alright, as long as it fits inside the speeder, you’re welcome to buy what you need,” Jango said. Obi-Wan nodded, then pulled out his datapad to take a few images and measurements. Jango’s speeder was built for carrying cargo, so a worktable small enough to fit inside wasn’t much of a restriction. “Market day isn’t until day after tomorrow, is that soon enough?”
“Yeah, that’s fine,” Obi-Wan assured. “Agree can store the samples for about a month at my planned collection rate before space runs out.”
“Agree?” Jango teased, and Obi-Wan flushed, then shrugged.
“Technically, their designation is AGR-33.” At the full designation the little droid perked up, as it had gone into energy-saving mode earlier. “Perils of naming your droid when you’re 15,” Obi-Wan said. “They’ve been with me ever since.” Jango’s face softened a little at that.
“Hi Agree,” Jango said with a slight smile lingering around his dark eyes. “I’m Jango, this is my farm that you and Obi-Wan are working on. I appreciate your help.” Agree let out a high whistle that sounded like a greeting to Jango.
“You can go back to sleep Agree, we’re just figuring out how to organize the space to process your samples,” Obi-Wan said, and with another whistle, Agree went back into sleep mode.
“Cute,” Jango said, with what Obi-Wan thought was a teasing smile. Obi-Wan just shrugged, biting back the urge to say no, you’re cute as if they were younglings in the creche.
Obi-Wan spent much of their remaining midday break thinking about and taking notes on what he would need to process his samples. A fairly basic analysis setup would probably do the trick. The main things to monitor were soil and rainwater pH, and other aspects of the soil composition. Much of that could be done with a docking station Agree could port into. If he couldn’t find something when they went to Sundari, he could always order something off the holonet.
The late afternoon was spent much like the one before, although walking through different fields. Obi-Wan mapped their route on his datapad, and had Agree collect sporadic samples. The routine of it helped Obi-Wan feel a little more settled, a little more comfortable in his own skin. When they returned to the house, Jango went to shower, and Obi-Wan went to see what was in the conservator that might be good for their evening meal.
“There’s some tiingilar,” Jango offered from behind Obi-Wan, who jumped slightly. Jango chuckled, and Obi-Wan half turned to scold him, then lost his train of thought when he saw that Jango had come out in only a pair of lightweight sleep pants. “It’s a meat and veg casserole, spicy, but I don’t think it’s too spicy.”
“Spicier than Ryloth stew?” Obi-Wan asked, forcing his mind away from Jango’s very nice chest and arms and back onto thoughts of food.
“Can’t say I’ve had Ryloth stew,” Jango admitted. “There are about, three - no, five types of pepper in my tiingilar, some fresh, others dried.”
“I’ll try it,” Obi-Wan said with a shrug. “Although I reserve the right to complain.”
“Noted,” Jango said with a smile, and reached past Obi-Wan to pull out a frozen casserole dish. “It’s a good thing market day is coming up, I didn’t think to meal-plan for two.”
“You’re getting the stipend they promised you?” Obi-Wan asked, not wanting to be a drain on his host’s resources. Jango shrugged, and Obi-Wan did his best not to stare at the ripple of muscle that moved through his shoulders then down into his chest at the motion.
“I’ll have to check at the bank to see if it’s deposited yet, I don’t trust the encryption on my home network for that sort of thing,” Jango admitted. Obi-Wan nodded, then swallowed thickly.
“Let me know if there are any problems with it, and I’ll complain to the bosses,” Obi-Wan promised. “What can I do to help get the meal ready?”
“Lay the table and pull out some shuner, I’ll show you how to cook neral while the tiingilar is warming,” Jango directed, and Obi-Wan complied.
The neral cooked up very much like the rice Obi-Wan was more familiar with. The main difference was that before being steamed, the neral was toasted for a few minutes, and then left to steam off the heat after cooking for about half an hour. It created a pleasant, nutty aroma as it cooked, and Obi-Wan’s stomach rumbled a bit in anticipation.
“If the tiingilar is too spicy, I have some yoghurt you can add,” Jango said, and Obi-Wan nodded. Jango divided the food between their plates, and Obi-Wan ate a bite of the neral first. It had a slightly nutty flavour, but was otherwise innocuous cooked like this, a fairly bland starch that could form the basis of multiple meals. They’d cooked a large pot full, and the extra would be kept as leftovers so they didn’t have to cook another batch for a few days.
Gathering his courage a bit, Obi-Wan stuck a forkful of tiingilar in his mouth. He could smell the spice even before it hit his tongue, and it burned up through his sinuses a moment later. He felt his face flush rapidly, but it wasn’t unbearable. His next bite, he filled his fork half with neral and half with tiingilar. That was a bit better.
“It’s good,” Obi-Wan said. “Probably don’t want to eat it every night, but it’s not unbearable.” Jango smiled at him, and Obi-Wan ate another bite. The more he ate, the hotter it got, the spice building in his mouth. Pausing, he drank a long pull of water, then ate some shuner. That helped some. He ate some more plain neral before going back to his tiingilar. That helped too.
“Still like it?” Jango asked when Obi-Wan finished, his eyes watering and cheeks flushed.
“I do, although I’d probably like it better with less spice,” Obi-Wan admitted.
“Here, dessert,” Jango offered, and served them each a small bowl of yoghurt with chopped varos and uj’ayl over top. It was the perfect counterpoint to the heat of the tiingilar.
“Thank you, that’s lovely,” Obi-Wan said, and nearly licked the bowl clean. Jango chuckled at Obi-Wan’s clear enjoyment, but Obi-Wan didn’t feel belittled by his host’s amusement - warmed perhaps, and hopeful that Jango might become more than just someone he worked alongside.
They cleaned up together as usual, and then Obi-Wan went to clean himself under the sonics. Changed into his sleeping clothes, he returned to the main room, and found Jango working at the terminal. Jango waved him over, and Obi-Wan settled at his side.
“Market is day after tomorrow,” Jango said. “I generally don’t do rounds outside on the day before market, just double check that everything is harvested in the greenhouse and start loading the more durable goods into the speeder. It’ll go quicker with your help, but I’m still planning to hold the more delicate stuff until first thing in the morning on market day.”
Obi-Wan nodded, seeing the wisdom in that. He cocked his head slightly. “Where is the harvested produce stored until market?” Obi-Wan asked, and Jango looked over, brow slightly furrowed for a long moment.
“I guess we skipped that, didn’t we?” Jango said, and Obi-Wan nodded. “There’s a walk-in conservator there,” he said, pointing towards the back of the greenhouse wing. “There’s a hatch between it and the greenhouse, and another exterior door that’s more like a loading dock. I back the speeder up to that and it goes pretty quickly to load in. I splurged on repulsor-crates with the set up credits when I got this place.”
Obi-Wan nodded his understanding at that. Crates with built-in repulsor-lifts were definitely more expensive, but they saved time and energy during the loading and unloading processes. For Jango, who’d been doing the labour alone, they would significantly cut down on the effort needed to get his goods to market.
“Do you have civilian clothes?” Jango asked. Obi-Wan nodded.
“Should I not wear my uniform to market?” Obi-Wan asked. He was so used to his jumpsuit he sometimes half-forgot it was a uniform with official insignia attached. Jango shrugged.
“It’s up to you, I just thought you might be more comfortable in something else,” Jango said. “I usually try to wear something a little nicer than my work clothes, since I run my errands while I’m in town.” Obi-Wan nodded his understanding, thinking about what other clothes he had brought with him. Not much, to be honest, if only because he didn’t own much. He had some decent trousers and tunics, he thought, although he didn’t know if they would fit with the current fashions in Sundari.
They talked a little longer about what market day would entail, but went to bed before it was too late. Morning, Obi-Wan knew, would come far too early. He did go through his clothing though, setting aside a clean jumpsuit for the following day, and looking over his other things. The brown trousers were the better pair, and would probably still fit fairly well. His two tunics were indistinguishable from one another, undyed linen that closed with ties in the standard Jedi fashion, a style shared between Jedi, farmers, and itinerants throughout the galaxy.
Obi-Wan woke as usual to the sound of Jango in the kitchen, filling the kettle and starting the neral porridge that was their usual first meal. Rising, Obi-Wan pulled on his coveralls and went to help. Jango had already fixed their shig, and so Obi-Wan sipped at the hot drink, then pulled down bowls for the porridge. While they weren’t perfectly in sync, the practice of the past few days meant that they worked well together to prepare their first meal of the day.
Once they’d eaten and cleaned up, Jango took Obi-Wan into the produce storage area, and showed him the crates. He opened each of the full crates to do a quick visual check on the condition of the produce. Satisfied with that, Jango sent Obi-Wan to start a walk-through of the greenhouse while Jango pulled the speeder around and prepared it for loading.
As he walked through the aeroponics towers, Obi-Wan consulted the file Jango had sent him that identified the plantings. Some of them he was unfamiliar with, and others were so similar to one another that without the map, he wouldn’t have been sure which he was looking at. He hadn’t found anything that he thought should be packed before Jango called him back to help load the crates into the speeder.
“Today we’ll load vegetables, most of it’s tubers and squashes,” Jango said, pointing out the appropriate crates. Obi-Wan nodded. “How far did you get on walk-through?”
“Here,” Obi-Wan said, pulling out his datapad and indicating the spot on map he’d been using. “I hadn’t noticed anything that looked like it needed to be harvested, and I tried to start where the durable stuff was concentrated a bit more.” Jango nodded.
“Alright, let’s finish that first,” Jango said, and Obi-Wan nodded. “I’ll take the parallel aisle, and we can jump aisles past one another so we finish sooner.” Obi-Wan nodded again, and they headed back into the greenhouse. Their circuit was complete inside of an hour, each of them finding a few things that could be brought to market, but not much. “It’ll be more work in the morning,” Jango said as he settled a quench-gourd into the appropriate crate. “I harvest all of the leafy greens and things like that on market morning.” Obi-Wan nodded, seeing the logic. Leafy greens would wilt and look poorly the soonest.
“Is there any market for live plants?” Obi-Wan asked as he activated the repulsor on one of the crates and steered it into the cargo-hold of the speeder.
“Ornamentals and herbs, a little, but not so much for vegetable plants, at least not right now in Sundari,” Jango said. “Sometimes if I germinate too many seeds for herbs or if I have a good crop of ornamentals I’ll bring them along, but since that’s not really my market, it’s a bit hit or miss.” Obi-Wan nodded. The marketing aspect of farming was something that he knew very little about.
They finished around mid day, and gratefully retreated into the cool of the house. For lunch, they had salad again, although there wasn’t any meat left to garnish it. There was plenty of shuner, and Obi-Wan didn’t really miss the meat. On Bandomeer their main source of protein had been soypro, although they occasionally had meat or meat facsimiles.
“So, since that took a lot less time with the two of us, we get the afternoon off,” Jango said with a smile as they finished washing up after they ate.
“What do you do for fun around here?” Obi-Wan asked, half teasing. Jango looked at him consideringly.
“Not a lot, to be honest,” Jango admitted, “I’m usually too tired to do much at the end of the day. My terminal came with a cu’bikad setup. It’s more fun to play against a real person, and it’s been a long time since I played.”
“As long as you don’t mind teaching an absolute novice,” Obi-Wan said, and Jango smiled.
“I don’t mind,” Jango said, “but you have to speak Mando’a while playing Mando games. That’s the rule.” Obi-Wan chuckled, but nodded. They settled at the terminal, and Jango activated the holographic version of cu’bikad.
“Tion geroya?” Obi-Wan asked, and Jango smiled, but carefully explained the game. The first few games were rather comical, Obi-Wan trying to make sense of the rules between his lack of knowledge of the game and its strategy, and his variable grasp of Mando’a. Once they’d played a few rounds and he’d watched how Jango made his moves, Obi-Wan improved markedly, and the next few games were much more even.
“Jate,” Jango said, the first time Obi-Wan beat him. The second time, he scowled, but Obi-Wan could tell he wasn’t truly angry.
“Pazaak?” Obi-Wan offered after his third win, and Jango laughed and waved him off. They played another few rounds, and Obi-Wan felt he had a fairly good grasp on the game by then. It was more strategic than his initial impression suggested, and had amused him longer than he might have anticipated. Still, it could only hold their attention for so long before their concentration wandered.
“Haryc b’ibic?” Jango asked after a few more rounds, and Obi-Wan shrugged. Jango nodded. “It has limited amusement potential,” Jango admitted in Basic, signalling the end of the game.
“It’s fun, but probably more so if there’s credits on the line,” Obi-Wan said, and Jango laughed.
“Naturally,” Jango agreed. “Your Mando’a is getting better. Tomorrow should be interesting for you.” Obi-Wan nodded. At the marketplace, most of the business would likely be conducted in Mando’a. He’d been working hard on his numbers and transactional vocabulary in anticipation.
“Do people haggle in the markets, or is stated price assumed to be final?” Obi-Wan asked.
“Well, I operate as an independent seller out of a stall in the greenmarket,” Jango said. “I get a fair bit of haggling, and I generally have minimums I won’t sell under. If I was selling to a store, providing their inventory, I would expect that any negotiation was done ahead of time. But I don’t produce on a large enough scale yet that selling to stores is really viable. If I can get a good neral crop, I’d sell that at a set price to the grain exchange, although there’d be some haggling after harvest to say how many bushels at certain quality thresholds - some neral is only good for livestock feed or brewing, other is best for milling, that sort of thing.” Obi-Wan nodded his understanding.
“Is there a fee for your stall?” Obi-Wan asked, and Jango nodded, then waved his hand in a ‘so-so’ motion.
“There is, but since I’m in the first five years of homesteading in the governmental program, the fee is waived,” Jango explained. “Some of my co-op fees are reduced as well, or rather, the government pays some of my co-op fees.” Obi-Wan nodded again.
“It’s very different than what I’m used to,” Obi-Wan admitted. “While we grew food crops on Bandomeer, it was as much for research as anything, seeing what did best in certain prescribed conditions.” He smiled ruefully. “The other stations did more large scale agriculture, I think Taanab’s output provides something like 50% of the food for the RAA’s benevolent aid arm.”
Jango nodded. Before signing up for Agricorps assistance, he’d researched the corps and the associated Republic Agricultural Administration carefully. Like most bureaucracies of its size, the RAA had seen its share of scandal, but they largely fulfilled their missions to provide food to those in need, whether that was due to poverty, ecological disaster, or warfare. They also published a massive amount of research in the ecological and horticultural fields, some of which had been invaluable to Jango as he was setting up his homestead.
The rest of the day, Obi-Wan and Jango idled. Obi-Wan read and studied, and occasionally stole glances across the room at Jango, who sometimes read, and sometimes flipped through the holonet in search of entertainment. Occasionally they conversed, mostly when Obi-Wan thought of more questions about Sundari and the market. It was nice, relaxed in a way Obi-Wan hadn’t experienced in some time - there was nothing they ought to be doing instead.
That night, they ended up eating on the sofa, watching a holofilm Jango claimed was a classic among the Mando. It was a highly fictionalized account of the Tuang conquest of the Mandalorian system, with gratuitous amounts of blood and explosions. While it was nothing like historically accurate, it was incredibly entertaining, and featured some very well choreographed fight scenes.
In the morning, they woke even earlier than normal, and put on their work clothes to harvest the tender greens, then load the last of the crates. Dawn was just barely lightening the horizon when they finished. They took their turns under the sonics, then changed. While Obi-Wan was dressing, Jango filled two flasks with hot shig and packed a cooler with food - shuner and yoghurt and varos preserves, nuts roasted with uj’ayl and spices, and other things they could easily eat out of hand.
The drive into Sundari took a few hours, and Obi-Wan observed the landscape as he rode at Jango’s side. The desert was mostly flat - if there had been geographic landmarks, they’d long ago been obliterated during the wars. What was left was an unrelenting sea of white sand dunes. It was beautiful, in a stark, inhospitable way.
Sundari was visible from a great distance as a result of the flat landscape. At first, it was a dark dot, only the environmental dome visible. As they drew closer, the dark tint to the dome appeared less opaque, and the blocky structures inside were more visible. Obi-Wan knew from his arrival on planet that the city was home to millions, both above and below ground level. The sheer density of the population ensured that there was no way for local farms to supply all the food needed, even with a certain amount of the city itself devoted to urban agriculture, mostly in aeroponic gardens.
They entered the city through a checkpoint, the guards opening a few of the crates and inspecting their goods before allowing them to pass through. Jango drove slowly once they were inside the dome, merging carefully into traffic. Before too long, they pulled up to a massive building. It looked somewhat like a hanger, but the exterior had been fitted with a multitude of loading docks.
From their conversation the previous day, Obi-Wan had some idea of what to expect once they were inside the greenmarket. Their first task was to set up; Jango usually only unloaded one crate of each type of produce he was selling at a time, as the speeder’s climate was more controllable than that of the massive greenmarket. With the two of them working, it didn’t take long, and Jango soon had his stall arranged to his liking, and his datapad’s credit reader primed.
The first customers began trickling in not long after they finished setting up, and Obi-Wan settled back to watch Jango operate. His host was personable, and it was clear that many of his customers were regulars; they greeted Jango by name, and he returned the favour, asking about their lives and families. Fairly quickly, Obi-Wan picked up that those friendliest with Jango were customers who might be struggling a bit economically, and that Jango let them bargain him down the lowest on prices.
As the initial early customers gave way to droids on errands for their masters, instances of haggling dropped to nearly none. Jango didn’t take advantage of the customers who didn’t haggle, but they definitely paid more than those who took the time to talk with Jango and ask if the price was negotiable. Obi-Wan couldn’t find it in him to be anything but amused.
“Shops should be open now, if you want to go look for a hodasalar and anything else you need,” Jango said around mid-morning, and Obi-Wan nodded. He’d mentally put together a list of what he needed - a hodasalar or two was definitely included, along with the tech he would need to do his analyses of his agridroid’s samples. That, he thought, ought to be his priority.
Obi-Wan logged onto the public holonet and found a map as he left the greenmarket. The surrounding area was designated for commercial use, and he could see a number of cafes and shops lining the thoroughfare. More difficult, at least for Obi-Wan, was parsing the Mando text used on the signage. He began walking, looking into shop windows to identify what they sold. Thankfully, he reached a storefront advertising droids and tech before long - it even looked like they specialized in agriculturally focused products, although that made sense, with their location so close to the greenmarket.
Stepping into the shop, Obi-Wan hoped that the salesperson knew Basic, at least a little. While his understanding of spoken Mando’a was improving everyday, he wasn’t quite confident in his own ability to speak the language. And he definitely didn’t know the technical terms that would be necessary for ensuring he got what he needed with regards to equipment for chemical analyses.
“Su cuy’gar,” the person minding the shop greeted politely, their accent notably different from Jango’s.
“Su’cuy,” Obi-Wan returned. “Uh, tayli’bac Basic?” he asked, “sorry, I’ve only recently moved here.” They smiled politely.
“Of course,” they answered. “What can I help you find?”
“I have an AGR series environmental droid, and I need a setup to analyze the samples it collects,” Obi-Wan said. “I’m hoping I can find something that the AGR can just plug into?” Obi-Wan was certain such a thing existed, it was just a matter of whether the shop carried anything suitable.
“Hmm, let’s see what we have,” the storekeep said, and guided Obi-Wan to the appropriate section of the store. Various add-ons and spare parts for environmental droids lined the walls, from little AGR series units like his to big, speeder-sized units like the one that came periodically to test Jango’s fields. “Here we go,” they said, and pointed out an array of possibilities. Some were far more high-tech - and costly - than what Obi-Wan needed. He carefully read the labels, and eventually selected one of the more basic apparatuses, which could test soil acidity, carbon and nitrogen levels, and identify various common chemicals, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
“This would suit,” Obi-Wan said firmly, hoping they wouldn’t try and talk him into anything fancier. It was a smallish unit, far less than the square meter he’d asked of Jango.
“Alright, let’s ring you out,” the salesperson said, clearly understanding that Obi-Wan’s mind was made up.
“I have an account number with the Republic Agricultural Administration,” Obi-Wan informed them.
“Ah,” they said, somehow managing to become more stiff than they were before. They completed the remainder of the transaction quickly. Obi-Wan made a mental note. Republic affiliated persons weren’t welcome everywhere, despite how welcome Jango had made him at the homestead. Obi-Wan supposed he could understand it - Mandalore was an independent system, and in the past Republic interference hadn’t gone well for them.
“Please deliver it to the greenmarket, stall esk-seven,” Obi-Wan requested, and the salesperson gave a stiff nod before summoning a delivery droid. Obi-Wan showed himself out of the shop, and went looking for a table and stool, which he also had delivered. Once that was taken care of, he looked for a clothing shop.
The first he stepped into sold garb much finer than Obi-Wan wished to purchase; long, sharply tailored tunics with geometric embroidery on the sleeves and gleaming metallic accents. He looked around briefly, just to get a feel for the local style, then stepped back out onto the street. He definitely wanted something more casual.
Down a side street, Obi-Wan found a second hand clothing stall tucked between a bakery and a cafe. It was the matter of a few moments to select a couple checkered hodasalars, one in cream and blue, another in two shades of blue, dark and pale. Blue, the wrinkled shopkeep was happy to tell him, signaled reliability to Mando’ade.
Obi-Wan spent longer than he had originally intended, testing his halting Mando’a as he talked to the gregarious old salesperson. He ended up buying a couple other hodasalare, in green for duty; one a solid leaf green with bright yellow geometric design printed around the edge, the other checked deep and pale green. He also bought a couple tunics, not terribly different from those he already owned, but not quite as beige either. Since blue and green seemed to be auspicious colours, he stuck with them, one of his new tunics a pale desaturated green, the other a brilliant blue.
Satisfied he had everything he needed, Obi-Wan made his way back to the greenmarket. Jango was keeping an eye on the stall, but also reading on his datapad. They exchanged greetings, and Obi-Wan tucked his purchases into the speeder. The analysis unit for his droid had already been delivered, too.
“Me’copaani?” Obi-Wan asked Jango. “Su’shebi olar?” He grimaced slightly, knowing his sentence construction was still a bit simplistic. Jango smiled, clearly both amused by his Mando’a but also appreciating the effort made.
“Slanai,” Jango said, “skraan, kebise.” He gave Obi-Wan an appraising look. “Most people here will have at least a little Basic, but it’s best to start off in Mando’a.”
Obi-Wan nodded, and Jango handed him the datapad and showed him how to work it as a credit-chip reader and how that function linked into an accounting setup that listed minimum prices per gram or per item depending on the type of produce. Obi-Wan nodded along, memorizing the various places to touch for the different functions. With a final nod, Jango went to run his errands.
It was almost mid day, and the greenmarket was fairly quiet while Jango was gone. Obi-Wan still made a few sales, some of the customers kind about his stumbling Mando’a, others clearly impatient. Obi-Wan tried to be patient and nonjudgmental himself, but it seemed fairly apparent to him that the customers who got the most irritated with him were the ones with finer clothes and gleaming droids at their elbows.
When Jango returned, he had two steaming containers of spicy-scented food. Obi-Wan cocked an eyebrow, having assumed that the food they’d packed that morning would be their sustenance for the day. Jango just grinned and shoved a container into Obi-Wan’s hands.
“We’ve earned a treat,” Jango said, and Obi-Wan shrugged, accepting the compostable utensils and checking what Jango had bought them. “One is nerf, the other is kebiin’gi. Do you have a preference?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had kebiin’gi,” Obi-Wan said.
“Ocean going fish, but it swims up the Kelita in Keldabe to spawn,” Jango explained. “Firm, pink flesh, I like the flavour. If you want, you can start with the kebiin’gi, and if you don’t like it, I’ll trade you. I don’t have a strong preference.” Obi-Wan nodded, and checked his container. The smell was all spice, but the chunks of meat nestled among the noodles and vegetables was clearly nerf, not fish, so they traded containers before digging in.
“Good,” Obi-Wan said after a few bites. It was spicy, pungent with the flavour Jango called hetikles that burned the sinuses. It wasn’t unbearable, and the vegetables balanced the flavour of the fish without overpowering it. To drink, Jango had bought them chilled milk tea, and it soothed the spice a bit, which Obi-Wan very much appreciated.
They manned the stall together through the afternoon. There was a surge of customers just after midday, people using their meal break to stop by the greenmarket. There was another surge in the early evening, when many left their workplaces and headed home, stopping at the greenmarket on their way. By the time the greenmarket closed, Jango had sold the majority of his produce. His planning with regards to his greenhouse was clearly well researched.
“I sell the remainder at a steep discount to a shelter for the indigent,” Jango said as they closed down the stall and packed up once the doors to the greenmarket had been closed for the night. “There’s also a co-op that I could join that would compost it, so everything I put in would come back to the farm as fertilizer, but right now the credits are more necessary.” Obi-Wan nodded, and helped him pack up the speeder to drive over to the shelter and conduct the last of their business before they headed home.
The drive back out to the homestead was made in the dark, the sun long since gone to bed. Even the stars and moon were obscured, and when Obi-Wan checked the holonet, the weather report showed heavy clouds over their region, and a forecast with high probability of precipitation. They hurried through unpacking the cargo hull of the speeder, shunting the empty produce crates into the big conservator, and with them the new stores of food; big sacks of neral flour to make shuner, a pack of sealed tins of uj’ayl, a few varieties of fish, dried and sealed in flimsiplast packets, frozen meats, and jars of spices.
It was a long day before Obi-Wan finally collapsed into his sofa to sleep, not even bothering to undress beyond shucking off his boots and belt. He was asleep before he could even think about meditating.
When Obi-Wan woke, it was still night-dark. For a long moment, he couldn’t place what had pulled him from his deep slumber. Then, he realized what he was hearing.
Obi-Wan stumbled upright and dashed to the windows. As he drew closer, he could hear it more clearly. Heavy rain pounded against the pourstone house, against the dry sand that surrounded the residence. Somewhere, he could hear it trickling into pipes, the collector gathering precious moisture. The sound of it was almost comforting, a promise that their crops would grow, that this project would succeed.
Obi-Wan realized for the first time, as he stood listening to the rain, how much he wanted the project to work, how much he wanted to see Mandalore green and growing. It wasn’t entirely due to altruism, he knew, even as he recognized that desire. He wanted things to work out because he wanted to see Jango happy, that smile of contentment curling on his mouth, dark eyes warm. He wanted to see Jango prosperous, unworried about how the next season’s seed would be paid for.
Struck by his realizations, Obi-Wan sank to his knees before the windows. Treaties and planetary negotiations had never depended on him. He wasn’t the same sort of Jedi that a Knight of the Republic was. But he knew all too well the dangers presented by attachment, even to a farmer-Jedi like himself. He reached into the Force as he hadn’t really since he was a child, all but begging it for assurance.
Soft footsteps alerted Obi-Wan to Jango’s nearness, and finally the Force moved through him. He could leave Jango, if it was needed. When his orders came to report to another world for some other mission, he would be sad to go. But he would go, because there were people depending on him. But that did not mean he could not enjoy being Jango’s houseguest, and hopefully friend, maybe more, until duty called him away.
The Force unfurled before Obi-Wan, and he anchored himself to the steady presence of Jango, already warm and familiar in his mind, he felt as he never had before the little germs of the plants in the fields and the greenhouse so strongly. He touched that energy, felt the way the fields greedily drank in the rain, the way the vetch sent down its trailing roots and stretched up with its round leaves. A slow smile stretched over his face, the headiness of the sheer life bursting in the Force almost overwhelming.
Jango’s hand settled on Obi-Wan’s shoulder, grounding him. Jango was always a solid, steady presence in the Force, but tonight, with the rain beating down overhead, there was something more. A germ of possibility that Obi-Wan hadn’t noticed before was growing up between them, tender as the unfurling tendril of a new vine. He could feel a quiet contentment rooting that growth, a satisfaction with Obi-Wan’s strong shoulder beneath his palm, with Obi-Wan’s interest in the Mando lifestyle.
“There’s something I want to show you,” Jango said quietly, as if not wanting to break the heavy stillness that had settled over them with the rainclouds. Obi-Wan nodded and rose, Jango’s hand dragging down his spine as he stood. Obi-Wan stood still a moment longer than necessary, enjoying the weight of Jango’s hand as it settled in the hollow of his back. Jango neither hurried him nor pushed him away, and so for a heartbeat or two, they just stood, looking out into the rain, Jango rubbing lightly at Obi-Wan’s back.
“Anything I need to bring with me?” Obi-Wan asked, and Jango shrugged. They stood close enough together that Obi-Wan could feel the motion of Jango’s arm against his own.
“Just yourself,” Jango said. Obi-Wan nodded, and finally pulled away, pulling on his boots and grabbing his utility belt and one of his new hodasalare just incase. Jango smiled as Obi-Wan prepared, and Obi-Wan thought - perhaps it was only his hope, but he thought he saw fondness in that smile, a new-grown affection to match his own.
Obi-Wan didn’t ask where they were going as Jango fired the engines of the speeder, just settled back in his seat and watched the darkness on the other side of the windscreen. The rain hissed against the chassis, falling in pale streaks through the lights. The only other thing revealed were the rolling dunes as they headed out into the wastes.
They slowed to a stop after a few hours. The rain continued around them, but on the horizon, Obi-Wan could see a paler band of sky. Slowly that strip of sky lightened from charcoal to pale grey to dusky rose, and the undersides of the clouds were lit pale pink as the sun came up. The cloud cover receded as the sun rose, and as the light washed pale golden over the desert before them, tiny blossoms burst open.
“Oh,” Obi-Wan breathed, and Jango climbed out of the speeder, then led him down into the hollow beneath the dunes. Tiny yellow and purple and white flowers were opening on low growing vines and scrubgrasses, and there was a gentle hum of insects in the air. “Jango-” he said, exhaling, then turning back to his host, unable to keep from smiling. Jango smiled back at him, and stepped forward to stand at his side.
“I thought you might like to see it,” Jango said quietly, eyes fixed now on the little blossoms. “They’ll fade in the next day or so, and go to seed, planting themselves deep for the next rain.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Obi-Wan said. “Thank you.” Jango turned back to him, and his gaze was weighty. He nodded after a moment, and Obi-Wan couldn’t help but wonder what he had seen in Obi-Wan’s face, to earn that quiet approval.
They stood and watched the flowers blossom until the sun reached its pinnacle, then began to descend once more. Throughout the day, more and more blooms had unfurled their petals, adding their colours to the riot below. Before they left, Obi-Wan reached out with the Force, wanting to set this memory solid in his mind, complete with his impressions of Jango solid at his side and the energy of the plants as they rapidly moved through their life cycles.
As Jango drove them back to the homestead, Obi-Wan lingered in the memory of that small valley, the quiet strength and resilience of life, the persistence of the Living Force. Now that he had stood before the blooming desert flowers, had felt the rains of the night before seeping into the thirsting earth, he thought he could feel the seeds of other plants slumbering deep beneath the sands, just waiting to burst forth and reclaim the wastes.
“So why do the flowers bloom out there, but not closer to the farm?” Obi-Wan asked after a while. Jango shrugged.
“That little valley is lower than us, maybe an old lake or pond, or the bow of a dry streambed. The water gathers there, settles a bit. That last bit of rain isn’t what started the bloom, not really. It just pushed the plants over the last threshold,” Jango explained. “One less storm earlier in the year, and they wouldn’t have bloomed until the next rain.” Obi-Wan nodded his understanding.
“I hope someone is studying that too,” Obi-Wan said thoughtfully.
“Some of the deep desert is set aside to be preserved more or less as is, where the ancestors mapped deserts long ago,” Jango said. “I’m sure it’s being researched so the planet doesn’t lose that environment entirely.” Obi-Wan nodded, pleased at that.
They conversed intermittently the rest of the way back to the homestead, arriving about mid afternoon. Jango parked the speeder, and Obi-Wan looked over, not sure what his host usually did on the day after going to market.
“We’ll take stock in the greenhouse, probably do some planting, make sure that things are ripening on schedule,” Jango said, understanding Obi-Wan’s silent question. Obi-Wan nodded, and together, they walked into the house.
With the memory of the sleeping seeds of the desert fresh in his mind, the greenhouse was almost overwhelming to Obi-Wan’s questing Force-sense. A row or so into their inspection of the aeroponics towers, Obi-Wan had to tap Jango’s shoulder to gain his attention. Jango turned, and Obi-Wan knew the moment their eyes met that Jango had noticed something was wrong.
“What is it?” Jango asked, pitching his voice soft and gentle.
“I was feeling for the plants in the Force earlier, trying to understand,” Obi-Wan said, wincing slightly. “In here - there’s so much life. It’s overwhelming.”
“How can I help?” Jango asked. He reached up, his hand hovering tentatively, then settling on Obi-Wan’s nape. He rubbed gently, and Obi-Wan’s shoulders dropped a little.
“I don’t know,” Obi-Wan admitted. “It’s been a long time since I overextended myself like this.”
Jango pursed his mouth thoughtfully. “Why don’t you go in my room and lay down for a bit,” he suggested after a moment. “It’s as far from the plants as you can get without going outside.”
“I - thank you,” Obi-Wan said, and leaned down slightly, brushing their foreheads together. Jango’s breath hitched, and his hand tightened a bit on Obi-Wan’s neck.
“Go on,” Jango urged. His thumb rubbed gently up the side of Obi-Wan’s throat, and then he let go. Obi-Wan retreated from the greenhouse, staggering across the living area and into Jango’s room. He shucked off his belt and boots and trousers, everything but his smallclothes and tunic, and collapsed into Jango’s big bed. Burying his nose in the pillows, Obi-Wan inhaled deeply, sinking himself into the comfortable musky scent of Jango.
When Jango silently slipped in a few hours later, he paused, staring. Obi-Wan was curled in his blankets, utterly relaxed. The crease of pain that had marred his brow earlier was gone. Jango approached quietly, sitting on the edge of the mattress and reaching out, trailing his fingers down Obi-Wan’s muscular arm.
Obi-Wan shifted slightly, tangling their fingers together. He looked up at Jango, eyes barely slit open and still soft with sleep. Jango smiled softly, squeezing Obi-Wan’s fingers.
“Hey, you want to eat?” Jango asked, voice a low rumble.
“Yeah,” Obi-Wan agreed, but didn’t move. For a few minutes, they just sat in the dim bedroom, holding hands and watching one another. “Yeah,” Obi-Wan said again, and pushed himself up to sitting. Jango didn’t release Obi-Wan’s hand, and Obi-Wan leaned against him, shoulders and heads resting together, Jango facing the door, Obi-Wan facing the opposite wall.
“I’m glad you came here,” Jango said quietly. He turned slightly, nuzzling against Obi-Wan’s hair. Obi-Wan swallowed thickly, his fingers tightening on Jango’s.
“I am too,” Obi-Wan agreed. He leaned a bit more of his weight against Jango’s side, the warmth of their shoulders and arms pressing together. “Very glad.” Jango shifted to accept Obi-Wan’s weight, resting his head on Obi-Wan’s broad shoulder. Obi-Wan’s head rested on his in turn, and their breathing fell into sync.