Obi-Wan smiled tentatively at Jango, briefly contemplating calling for Quinlan. Perhaps his friend could get him out of this interaction before it went off the deep end, but Obi-Wan knew that even if Quin had the right intentions, it wouldn’t work the way he’d want it to. Quinlan would only derail whatever was happening further. Jango tilted his buy’ce covered head to the side.
“ Su cuy’gar. ”
Obi-Wan stood with baited breath for a few seconds, eyes darting off the shelves as a form of distraction. “So … are you here for tea?” He immediately regretted the question, chiding himself for the redundant and useless inquiry.
Jango let his hands fall from Obi-Wan’s shoulders as he moved to remove his buy’ce . Obi-Wan tried to look as politely neutral as possible as Jango’s strong face and sharp jawline came into view. “I am.” He had one eyebrow raised and a small smirk on his lips.
“Good.” Obi-Wan decided suddenly, whipping out the tea label and holding it up for Jango to see. “Have you any idea where this might be located?”
Jango frowned at the label, grabbing Obi-Wan’s hand to pull it in closer rather than grabbing the piece of paper itself. Obi-Wan said nothing about it, accepting the gloved hand cradling his wrist as a normal reaction. Besides, he isn’t upset to have physical contact with Jango.
“Where did you get this?” Jango asked curiously, looking up from the label to meet Obi-Wan’s eyes.
“Arla.” He replied with a short shrug. “She was kind enough to host me earlier this morning.” Jango looked like he already knew what Obi-Wan was talking about, he had no response to indicate otherwise. Obi-Wan squinted at the Mando’ad , trying to decipher him. “You don’t look surprised.”
Jango shifted on his feet, a spike of guilt tainting the force around them before it disappeared just as quickly as it came. “I visited with Arla earlier today.”
“Let me guess, she asked you to replace the tea we finished?” Jango's shoulders lost the small amount of tension they’d been harboring, and Obi-Wan barely noticed the minuscule change in body language. Reading Jango was practically impossible. He seemed to be relieved by Obi-Wan’s question, but Obi-Wan had nothing to attribute to the reason why.
“ Elek. That’s it.” Jango assured. “Should we go find it now?”
Obi-Wan nodded, glad they could breeze past the akward greeting they’d had and move onto the search for tea. It was as good a distractor as any. Jango wrapped an arm around Obi-Wan’s shoulders and steered him through the isles, and it took every ounce of Obi-Wan’s self control to pretend like the action hadn’t caused his heart to race. Jango led him through the sea of teas, and they finally came across what Obi-Wan assumed was the final destination.
“I believe this is where they are kept.”
Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed. He believed? “You’ve been here before, right?” Surely he had if Arla had sent him to pick up tea here, it wouldn’t have been the first time.
“No.” He replied casually. “But I can read the signs and that label,” He pointed with the hand settled over Obi-Wan’s far shoulder at the shelf in front of them. “It looks like what you are looking for.”
Obi-Wan stepped forward, out of Jango’s embrace and squatted to look at the products. He could understand most of the packaging, but the sheer number of different types of tea by the same company was greatly confusing him. “Jango?” He called. “Which one is it? They look too similar.”
“Hm? Oh,” Jango shook himself from whatever dazed or spaced out state he’d been in. “Orange outline around the logo.”
“Here we are!” Obi-Wan announced, hopping up as he analyzed the label and the box, finding them to be identical.
“Are you hungry?”
“Huh?” Obi-Wan was a little baffled by the sudden turn in conversation and he looked up into Jango’s mostly impassive face. “Y-yes.”
A smirk tugged at the corner of Jango’s lips at Obi-Wan’s confusion. “I know a good epar’yaim around here.”
“ Janad ?” He asked teasingly, trying to release the hesitance he harbored into the force. Obi-Wan wasn’t sure what impression Jango had of him, but he would do his best to assure it was a good one.
“ Gana jate tiingilar .” Jango leaned in, something humorous twinkling in his eyes.
Obi-Wan straightened up as Quinlan came around the corner, emerging from the extensive tea collection with a look of confusion on his face. “I see you found Cody’s clone.”
Jango frowned. “If anything, he’s my clone.”
“Good try, but I don’t believe it.” Quinlan stepped up and snatched the tea container from Obi-Wan’s grasp. “Is this the stuff?” He looked up at Jango quizzically. “Are you here for it too?”
“ ... yes.”
He gestured to the shelf. “Then grab a box you fool. Leaving empty handed is not the way to go.”
Obi-Wan grabbed the box back from Quinlan and then moved to grab a second one, depositing them in Jango’s arms. “Actually, we were just about-”
“You’ve made local royalty work as your living shopping cart? Really Obes?”
“As I was saying.” Obi-Wan huffed out. “Jango and I are going to go get mid-meal.”
Quinlan raised a skeptical eyebrow, looking between Jango and Obi-Wan before poking at Obi-Wan through their mental bond. ‘ Mid-meal sure … that’s a whole kriffing date you’ve agreed too. I leave for a few minutes, interview the store owner, and come back to find that you’ve got plans.’
Out loud Quinlan monotonously said, “It is that time of day.”
“Do you think you’ll be okay on your own? I know you have more New Mandalorians to hunt down.”
‘ You’re blowing off my very legitimate and time sensitive collection of testimonies for a date? ’
Obi-Wan eye’s darted to glance at Jango from his side view. ‘ It’s just mid-meal .’
‘ That’s a date. ’
‘ It’s really not .’
‘ It’s a date and you know it. ’
“Quin?” Obi-Wan asked with a smile, breaking the staring contest they’d been sharing.
“Oh I’ll survive, but by no means will it be considered enjoyable. You will rue this day.” He announced dramatically, drawing a disbelieving huff from Jango. “I don’t want to talk to anymore New Mandos, and most certainly not while alone. I am willing to stereotype them from just one interaction and that says a lot.”
“You’ll be fine.” Obi-Wan assured. “If finding them in the wild goes wrong, interview Satine’s entourage or something. I’m sure they’ll be refined.”
“They’re something, that’s for sure.” Jango bit out.
Quinlan threw his arms up. “Well, that settles it, I’m karked. Hire me a team next time, and oh, don’t forget my raise. In an economy like this, I want my pay and I want it now!”
“You can expect it under your mattress within the next few day-cycles.” Obi-Wan promised, grabbing onto Jango’s free hand to pull the both of them away. Spending more time with a melodramatic Quinlan would only shorten their lifespans considerably. Jango shuffled with the things in his other arms and Obi-Wan attempted to let his hand drop from Jango’s. The attempt didn’t work, and Jango miraculously ended up with his buy’ce on his head and two tea boxes safely tucked under his other arm.
In the back of his mind, Quinlan prodded. ‘ I’m gonna go find Master Tholme, you have fun on your date, but for the love of everything, don’t get caught. I can only make up so much bantha shit, and honestly I have no idea how to finesse this planet’s news cycle. ’
‘ It’s not a date, and don’t forget that you already have a job as a Jedi. ’
‘ This hobby might determine your future, be nice to the journalist. ’ Quinlan grumbled, shoring up his natural shields and abruptly ending the conversation.
“Did he say anything I should know about?” Jango asked curiously, guiding Obi-Wan out of the shop and into the alleyway way adjacent. Obi-Wan was briefly stunned by the fact they didn’t have to be travelling by the main walkway and it took a second for the question to set in.
“Oh, you mean just now?”
“You talk with your mind, right?”
Obi-Wan nodded, letting Jango pull him closer as they pushed passed a few other Mando’ade travelling along the darkened passage. No one paid them any mind, the others seemed to be on personal missions, exuding a deep sense of determination. “He’s not doing too well right now.”
“He’ll get better.”
“Where are we going exactly?” Jango shifted their path, leading Obi-Wan into a network of walkways he hadn’t seen before. “Where are we?”
“ Norac tra ra ashi din’waadare .”
Obi-Wan eyed the darker atmosphere, this market was nestled in the shade of the buildings around, and everyone around seemed to be minding their own business. It was almost a shadow of the other market area, this one had a more hostile air and Obi-Wan quickly came to the conclusion this was a space specifically for those with more bloody professions. “Is this a guild spot?”
“A few aliit headquarters. Back here is mostly home to the more traditional Mando’ad storefronts. You can get quality armor and cultural tattoos, it is more closed off from the general shopping district, but everyone comes here to swear on the Resol’nare .”
Obi-Wan gave a shallow nod in acknowledgement to the answer, suddenly feeling very out of place in this sacred and secretive area. He was only an outsider, there thanks to the interpretation of a prophecy and Jango’s invitation to eat. “Aha.”
“The epar’yaim sits on the outskirts of this square.” Jango’s voice was low in his ear as they drifted through the sparse crowd milling about. “I just took a shortcut, but we can look around after if you wish.”
“Any tour is fine by me.”
They arrived at the restaurant shortly thereafter, Jango leading Obi-Wan inside before he could finish reading the dinged up sign out front. The blaster markers on the metal sign didn’t make Obi-Wan feel any better, but the hospitable air inside and the sounds and smells of the kitchen eased whatever fears had been building. The tables were packed at the front, but he didn’t get a good look, for as soon as they entered, one of the waiters pulled them off to the side.
“ Alor .” They greeted Jango reverently. “ Nu’amyc kajir ?”
“ Gedet’ye .”
The waiter glanced briefly at Obi-Wan before taking a double-take, a stutter being heard through the voice modulator in their buy’ce . “ Ke’pare … ”
Obi-Wan gave a smile he hoped was genuine and Jango moved forward to block him slightly from view as they stood by the entrance to the more private dining area. “ Elek, a nayc olar ra jii .”
The waiter nodded enthusiastically, swiftly leading them away from the more crowded dining room and into a booth lodged against the far wall. Jango seemed familiar with the place, and the t-visor of the waiter’s helmet kept finding its way to the back of Obi-Wan’s head as he lowered himself into the seat.
“I heard some rumors, but I didn’t know they were true.” The waiter murmured.
“What about?” Obi-Wan asked hesitantly.
“You and the other jetti were interviewing Mando’ade .”
“Still are, well, Quinlan is. My duty has been fulfilled.”
“ ... this isn’t secret or anything, is it?”
Obi-Wan blinked at the unexpected question. “Not really? I’d prefer if my location wasn’t broadcasted though. I’m sure you can find Quinlan and get interrogated easily enough.” Others had flocked to their location previously just for a chance to get their opinions heard and to stare at the celebrity like figure Obi-Wan was becoming.
They nodded slowly, as if absorbing and processing all the information as carefully as possible. “And what can I get for the both of you today?”
“Two daily specials please.” Jango asserted and the waiter scampered off. Obi-Wan turned to give Jango a raised eyebrow at his lack of choice. “The options they provide you here with are a lie. It’s all variations of the same daily dish.”
“And what if I have a food allergy?”
“You don’t. Nothing here can cause a reaction.” Jango replied breezily, taking off his buy’ce to level a look at Obi-Wan that invited any challenge to his statement.
“I want to say that I am curious as to how you know that, but I’m not sure I’m going to like the answer.”
“You’ve already gotten poisoned on Manda’yaim . Do you really think we’d let it happen again?” Jango asked playfully as if he hadn’t just implied there were major decisions and surveillance in play to make sure nothing was slipped into Obi-Wan’s drinks. He appreciated the sentiment but worried about where the information could’ve been lifted from. Maybe the Temple had given them access to his health file, or maybe their mainframe and security system wasn’t as safe as they thought it was.
“I survived the first attempt, but I hadn’t put more thought into the fact there might be more. Although the haat pirur was never meant for me, I just happened to chug the tea.”
“Did you recover from it with minimal symptoms?”
Obi-Wan frowned. “Are you going to spike my drink and try to glean my secrets?” Jango seemed appalled by the suggestion, but Obi-Wan wasn’t completely sure, for his expression was controlled and Obi-Wan had yet to learn how to read past his mask . “I’d say my biggest symptom was lingering embarrassment.”
“The only people who should feel embarrassment over that experience are the or’dinii who tried to poison you and Kryze.”
“I don’t know, I got on the Holo-News and had to explain it to the Jedi Council. That seems like my problem more than anything.”
Jango nodded once in acknowledgement, letting them sit in a comfortable silence for a few minutes. Obi-Wan picked at his sleeves, observing the quiet tables around them and the waiter returning with two trays of food. Jango handed over a few credits and the waiter retreated back the way they'd come.
Obi-Wan peered into the steaming stew set before him, already sure that the spice of the meal would burn all his nose hairs. Jango set buy’ce next to him on the table and slid utensils across the table towards Obi-Wan. “ Haili cetare. ”
“Thanks.” Obi-Wan blew at the rising steam, carefully dipping in a spoon and raising it to his lips. He glanced up to find Jango giving him a quizzical look. “What?” He said before sealing his fate and dumping the spice ridden stew into his mouth.
“Too hot?” Jango asked, likely observing the red tint Obi-Wan knew was rushing to his face.
He nodded his head and quickly swallowed the spoonful down. “I should’ve let it cool off more.”
Jango hummed. “Well, eat up and then we can go take a look around.”
Obi-Wan smiled. “I’d enjoy that, thank you.”