The Mandalorian did not really know how he had gotten himself into this situation. He had acted on instinct. An instinct that told him, nagged him, implored him not to abandon the first thing that had helped him feel anything more than disdain or scorn in the last few decades.
He closed his eyes as he slumped back into the pilot’s chair. Had the events of the last few hours really unfolded as he had imagined? Had he stormed the Client’s domicile without any plan and stolen back the lucrative bounty he had turned in just a few hours prior? And was he now a wanted man, his appearance and presumed location on every bounty fob from Coruscant to Tatooine?
And for what?
He was loath to stop and think about it. When he thought about it, nothing made sense. It was just another bounty. Just another routine. He’d carried out missions to capture adolescents before. And he never had qualms about turning in his bounties. His prey.
The Razor Crest was now swiftly traveling through subspace, barreling towards nowhere. He knew better than to plot a course to anywhere in particular. He had to wait from transmissions from his siblings, from his fellow Mandalorians. He knew that he owed them his life. Without them, there would have been no hope. They had turned their world upside down for him.
A few hours had passed since their harrowing escape from that godforsaken hole of a planet. He felt secure enough to finally stand from his chair with a weary sigh, looking towards the back of the cockpit.
The Child was sleeping on a makeshift bed, an old cloak that the Mandalorian had retrieved from somewhere within the bowels of the ship. He was too shaken to let the Child out of his sight for long. He had to pilot the ship, and he wanted the baby within close proximity. One wrong move and the Child could injure itself.
The Mandalorian knelt down and easily scooped up the Child, cradling it. He held it close to him, just to hear him breathing, to hear him living .
It was time to get some rest.
The Mandalorian carried the Child to the small bunk near the carbonite freezing unit. The Razor Crest was a small ship, with few amenities. Not that the Mandalorian needed luxuries. But now, as he placed the tiny Child inside the bunk, he wished he had more to offer him.
He began to remove his armor. The treasured beskar felt like poison against his skin as he slipped it off. He had given up the Child for a profit--and he did not know if he would ever forgive himself for it. The armor was beautifully crafted, and fit for a warrior of his standing. But for now, he could not bring himself to look at it.
He hesitated before removing the helmet. He looked over to the sleeping Child. The Mandalorian knew the ancient rules. Contrary to the legends--and to what his people let outsiders know--Mandalorians were permitted to remove their helmets. But the conditions had to be precise. Never in front of outsiders, and only in the presence of someone who was completely trusted. Usually this meant a lover, although it could also mean a sibling, a parent, a child.
He stood still, thinking about the gravity of taking the helmet off.
I may take it off in in the presence of someone who trusts me.
He was rationalizing, but right now, he had to trust in his thoughts. He lifted the helmet off his head and set it to the side, breathing in deeply.
All that was left was the thick bodysuit, which was filthy and needed cleaning. But for now--he needed to rest. They needed to rest.
He gently picked up the Child, holding it against him as he slid into the bunk and lay back. The Child was whimpering softly now, squirming against him, burrowing into his shoulder. Without thinking, he gently rubbed the child’s back, trying to soothe it as best as he could.
I don’t know what to do.
He did not know anything about caring for children, let alone a child from an unknown species. The Child continued to tremble as he stroked its ears, unsure of what else he could do to provide comfort. As he continued to hug the Child against him, his mind drifted into distant thoughts.
His people were not concerned with blood. Hell--the Mandalorian himself was not of their blood. To be a Mandalorian, one did not have to be born into their race. These days, pure Mandalorians no longer existed. The Mandalorian and the others who lived in the underground hovel--they were all Foundlings, war orphans who were adopted into the fold. After everything that had happened, the Mandalorians had taken him in, and made him their own.
Looking down at the Child, he understood that he had taken a responsibility onto himself. One that he was not prepared for.
I am a poor choice to be a father.
There was only one thing left to do. He had to say the words. He knew the Child would not understand. The Child did not even understand Basic, let alone Mando’a--the language of his people. But these words were the only thing he could say, the only thing he thought was right to say.
He hesitated, questioning himself. Could he really say these things, to a Child whose identity was unknown to him, whose existence he had only known about for a few days?
But they had come this far. And the Mandalorian had risked everything for this Child.
Once he said those words, he could never take them back. And even if there was no one to witness him say it--he would know what he did. It would be a thing engraved into his heart.
“Ni kar’tayl gai sa’ad.” I know your name as my child.
The Vow of Adoption. And with that short, ancient phrase, the Child was his.
“I’m sorry that I’m all you have” he confessed. “I’m not much.” He closed his exhausted eyes, keeping one hand firmly against the Child as he stirred against him. “ Our People and I will keep you safe.”
The Child ceased its stirring and settled against him quietly, letting out a contented sigh. The Mandalorian smiled, perhaps for the first time in years.
“Ner ad’ika,” he said softly. “Ner ad’ika.”
The Child did not yet need a name. Ner ad’ika --My child-- was enough for now.