“Are you a Jedi?” The Mandalorian’s words are cautious, apprehensive.
“I am,” Luke replies, studying the scene before him. He tries not to betray that he’s gotten into this situation rather haphazardly, by his regular standards. He had been tracking the child’s Force signature for days, finally narrowing it down to their current location on Gideon’s star cruiser. Luke’s initial plan had been to board the cruiser, take down any stormtroopers or officers who wandered into his path, grab the child, and flee.
He hadn’t quite expected that the personnel would already be dead. Nor that the dark troopers would be blocking his path. The Force could not tell him all the details of that which was coming to pass. Prescience had a limit--it could give him notions, ideas, ways to start preparing. But he couldn’t know every minute detail of what was to occur. The dark troopers had been a surprise. Not an especially difficult one, but unexpected nonetheless.
But now, as he looks upon the bridge of the star cruiser, he tries to piece together what could have possibly occurred. There is a curiosity in him that wants to ask what happened, that demands an explanation. But for now he needs to appear calm and collected. He needs to portray the image of a wise and learned Jedi, even though he’s barely six years into his knighthood--if he could even call it that, to begin with. First impressions were important, even though his first instinct had been to dash in, look around, and ask Where is the child? Is he safe?
Dead stormtroopers and imperial employees litter the ground before him. The Mandalorian stands before him, front and center, cutting a striking figure in his beskar armor. Accompanying him were a couple of other Mandalorians and two women, all armed with weapons at the ready. Luke could only guess that they were attempting to rescue the child as well. This is some rescue , Luke thinks, genuinely impressed with their tactical skills. Not only had they managed to commandeer the entire ship--they had also succeeded in subduing Moff Gideon, who lay unconscious near one of the consoles.
All to save the child.
To his relief, he sees the child in question, now, peeking out from behind the seat of a console, staring at him with apprehension and awe. When he first started feeling Grogu’s call through the Force, Luke had perceived a vague notion of what the child looked like; he could at least glean that the child was the same species as Master Yoda, rare as they were. He had prepared himself--or so he thought--for the sentiments this would bring to mind. But nothing has really prepared him for the sight of the child in person--the large, curious eyes, the small stature, the comically large ears.
He can’t help but smile slightly now, looking at those large brown eyes. It’s no wonder that Grogu has managed to gain so many allies during his adventures. “Little one,” he says softly. “You called for me?”
Grogu moves his ears slightly, as if in affirmation. Luke is immediately charmed, and from that moment he knows that he would do anything in his power to keep any harm from coming to him.
He shifts his attention back to the Mandalorian, who is still staring at him. His body stance is tense, as if ready to spring if Luke dropped any hints of subterfuge. “I’m sorry that it took so long for me to find him,” he says apologetically. “The Force doesn’t always give us direct instructions.”
The Mandalorian cocks his head slightly. “You’re here now,” he says.
Luke moves forwards slightly, and feels the Mandalorian take a slight step back. I need to work on my introductions , he thinks shortly before extending his hand. “My name is Luke Skywalker,” he says, offering it to the Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian hesitates before taking it. “Din Djarin,” he says, and just from the way he says the words, Luke knows that this name is barely spoken.
Even just through these simple interactions, Luke can feel the emotions radiating from the child as he watches them talk. He can feel the warmth, the strong positive associations, the simple love that the child feels for this man, this unlikely-seeming guardian. And Luke knows that this is the protector that Grogu was referring to, when his call for assistance rang through the Force from Tython, reaching Luke from so far away.
He looks back to Grogu. “You didn’t tell me your extended family was here, little one,” he says, in mock surprise. He looks back to the group. “I’m honored to meet all of you who have kept the child safe.”
At this, he feels a slight stirring from the woman standing to the right of Din. Looking more closely at her, he now notes the uniform of a Rebel shock trooper, albeit one that hasn’t been manufactured for about a decade. The teardrop tattoo--the mark of a survivor of Alderaan--just below her eye tells him all he needs to know.
The woman comes forward slightly. “You’re...you’re the pilot who destroyed the first Death Star, aren’t you?” she asks quickly. The Mandalorian looks over to her, and Luke can tell that he is somewhat surprised.
“Cara…” Din says, in a warning tone.
The woman turns to Din. “He’s the one who fired the shot. The shot that blew it up. I was on Yavin with the Alliance when it happened.”
Din looks back at Luke. Even though he can’t see Din’s face, Luke knows that he is being questioned. “Yes...that was me,” he affirms. It seems like so long ago--and it is, nine years ago now. But the fact that he is still remembered for this accomplishment seems unwarranted, when there had been so many other heroes since then in the skirmishes that took place across the galaxy.
Luke turns his attention to Cara. “I know that you lost everything on Alderaan,” he says mildly. “Princess Leia speaks of it often.” He lets the emotion show in his voice. Even though he had never set foot on Alderaan, it had been Leia’s home. Over the past few years, he had learned so much about the planet from Leia’s recollections that he also found himself mourning his sister’s adoptive family, and the planet that had sheltered her.
Cara’s expression softens at Luke’s mention of his sister. Not many people know that Luke and Leia are twins, but many in the Alliance knew of their close friendship. “Please give the princess my regards,” she says softly. Luke nods.
Din is still looking over to Cara incredulously. “So you know him?” he demands. “He’s a Jedi and he’s in the Alliance?”
“Look, all I know is that he’s the same person that helped us win the Battle of Yavin,” Cara answers. “And that he’s close to Princess Leia of Alderaan. So there’s that.”
Din looks back to Luke. Luke understands how Din is feeling. Even though Cara has now vouched for him--even though they know that he is who he says he is--there is still a hesitation, and it’s natural. He has seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and he doesn’t expect anyone to trust him straightaway.
Nonetheless -- he has come here for a reason. “Grogu called for me,” he said simply, showing Din that he knows the child’s name. “Come, little one,” he says, raising his hand slightly.
Grogu, who has been listening to the exchange from his place on the chair, coos softly. Hearing Luke say the child’s name seems to satisfy Din, but he’s not willing to let the child go yet. “He doesn’t want to go with you,” Din says plainly.
“He wants your permission,” Luke says. He lets his hand fall to his sides. “I know you don’t want him to go. But he needs training. He won’t be safe until he masters his abilities.”
Luke knows that logically, Din understands this. But Luke also expects the mild objections that come from a place deep down, to the place where parents hold their children close to their hearts. “I know that,” Din says quickly, almost aggressively. “But you need to understand. You need to protect him. You need to keep him safe.”
“I would give my life to protect him!” Luke exclaims, letting his emotions show now, letting the gravity of the situation settle upon them. What Din needs from him is reassurance, which he is prepared to give. “You have my word. I will treat him as my own.”
A moment passes between the two men. Luke stands there firmly, but he remembers that he has come into this situation as a supplicant, not a claimant. He is not there to demand Din hand over Grogu--he is merely there because Grogu had reached out to him through the Force. The ultimate decision is up to the child.
The child coos slightly. Din goes over to him and picks him up in a well-practiced gesture that Luke knows has been performed hundreds of times. From the feelings and emotions he had been able to glean from Grogu’s call, he had known that the child’s protector was someone that was loved and trusted completely. He hadn’t expected this person to be a Mandalorian, but he had certainly seen stranger things. Watching their interaction now, he knew Grogu hadn’t been exaggerating.
Din holds the child close to him. “Hey, go on,” he says half-heartedly. “That’s who you belong with,” he continues, his eyes flickering towards Luke briefly. “He’s one of your kind.”
Grogu doesn’t seem completely convinced, but Din keeps talking. “I’ll see you again. I promise.”
The child raises a hand towards the helmet. In a swift second, Din raises his fingers to grasp it, and pulls it off his head.
In one instant, Luke is taken back to that moment on the second Death Star. Amidst the explosions and the sirens, lying against the ramp of the escape shuttle, raising his hands to his father’s helmet to remove it from his face one final time. Let me look on you with my own eyes. He feels his own heart tremble now, thinking of the last time he saw his father.
Din’s face below the helmet reveals brown hair and eyes. Luke wonders if Din belongs to a sect of the Mandalorians who never remove their helmets--judging from the wonder and surprise that he feels from Grogu, it’s clear that the child has never seen Din’s face before today. Slowly, a different emotion permeates the scene. The love that clearly envelops them is so powerful, so pure, that Luke can feel the pain that passes between them. The last thing he wants is to wrench a beloved child from the arms of a guardian. He almost regrets coming at this point--almost.
But this is how it needs to be done.
“Alright, pal. It’s time to go. Don’t be afraid.” Din sets Grogu down on the floor, but all the child does is grab onto his knee, looking up at him with pleading eyes. Luke sees that it takes Din all his mental energy not to reach down to pick him up again.
Right on cue, Artoo-Detoo rolls up, coming to stand next to Luke as Grogu looks up in curiosity. Luke is grateful for the interruption. He knows that, on his own, his stoic appearance and serious demeanor isn’t enough to sway a small child from leaving his guardian. But Artoo has a tendency to bring out a different side to people. Simply seeing him usually makes anyone drop what they’re doing to come over and say hello.
And it works. Grogu turns towards Artoo with a questioning glance, and slowly makes his way over. Artoo seems to be delighted with this--it almost seems like they recognize each other, which makes Luke wonder if Artoo and Grogu had ever crossed paths before. It wouldn’t be impossible--Grogu had grown up at the Jedi Temple, where Artoo had spent many years with Anakin. In that case, this would be a perfect reunion. Luke resolves to ask Artoo about it when they all get home.
Artoo beeps enthusiastically, looking down and Grogu and doing that familiar shake that indicates deep excitement. This seems to soothe Grogu somewhat, or at least placate him for the time being. Luke kneels down, sinking down to one knee next to Artoo. “It’s going to be okay, Grogu,” he says, holding his hands out. “You’ll be safe with me.”
Grogu comes to him quickly, and Luke rises. Grogu seems so tiny and fragile--it’s hard to believe such power is contained in such a small frame. Grogu looks up at him with a glance, and Luke feels the wariness within. But along with that apprehension comes a different feeling--a hesitant feeling of trust. We’ll work on it , Luke thinks briefly as he turns to his droid.
“Artoo,” he says, tapping against Artoo’s domed head. “Not forgetting anything, are you?” Artoo chirps in response, and quickly rolls forward, up to Din. Out of his head a grasping appendage shoots out, delicately balancing a small data disk. “This disc will give you information on our coordinates,” Luke explains. “When the time is right--you can come to visit him.”
Din looks surprised. “I can’t do that,” he says, looking down at the disc extending from Artoo’s dome. “He needs to be among his people. There’s no room for me there.”
Luke looks down at Grogu once more, and sighs. He thinks of Anakin again, dying before they could even spend a moment together. He’s not about to let the same thing happen to Grogu. “You are also his kind,” he says, looking up at Din. “You’ve raised him and protected him. Don’t doubt the love you have for each other.”
Din shakes his head again.“He doesn’t need me anymore. I’ll just hold him back.”
“That’s not true,” Luke says insistently. “When Grogu reached out to me through the Force, he told me that he wants to learn how to protect you. That is the reason he wants to complete his training.” He pauses for a moment, to let this sink in. “When he learns how to use his abilities, your presence will empower him.”
Din finally seems to take consolation in this. He looks down at the disc, hesitating one moment before he takes it from Artoo. He looks back up to Luke with glistening eyes. “I understand,” he says slowly. “Thank you.”
“I will take care of your son. I promise,” Luke says, and he hopes this reassurance is enough to put Din at ease, at least for the time being. “May the Force be with you.”
But after a moment, Din speaks. “This is the way,” he whispers, his voice almost too choked to finish. It’s not a phrase Luke has heard before, but it’s fitting to the situation at hand.
Luke turns, setting Grogu on his shoulder as he strides down the hallway, Artoo following behind him. As they reach the elevator, he turns around, giving Grogu one final look at his father. As Luke gives Din one last glance, he reaches out through the Force, knowing that Din may not be able to feel it. But still--he could try.
He is a really special kid.