Actions

Work Header

Christ in Repose

Work Text:

SENATOR ORGANA TO VISIT MANDALORE ON DIPLOMATIC MISSION

For the first time since the re-establishment of an independent Mandalore, the Mandalorian king has agreed to receive a diplomatic envoy from the New Republic.

Senator Leia Organa has been selected to represent the Galactic Senate. General Wedge Antilles will serve as contact to the Chancellor’s office. The party will be accompanied by Organa’s brother, war hero Luke Skywalker.

“The Mand’alor’s willingness to meet bodes well for the future of diplomacy between Mandalore and the New Republic,” Organa said in an official statement. “I hope this mission will be the beginning of a long and fruitful dialogue.”

On the topic of her brother’s involvement, the senator offered no comment.

***

Mand’alor,

I’m sure you’ve already been contacted on official letterhead from my sister’s office, but I wanted to thank you myself for your hospitality this last month. Please excuse my clumsy palace-speak -- we didn’t exactly get etiquette lessons out in the Tatooine desert, and I’m still learning. Slower than a slug, I’m told, but learning.

Maybe I shouldn’t bother -- I know the new Mandalore you’re building isn’t going to be one to stand on ceremony -- but Leia assures me a certain degree of ceremony is called for because of your station, so I thought I’d play it safe. Oh, hell. Am I rambling? Sorry about that.

Thank you for having us, is the main thing. And more than that, because I know you’re contractually obligated to host a Galactic Senator like my sister, thank you for having me.

Though your people aren’t exactly a pacifist race, I felt more at peace in your city than I have since I left my childhood home. There’s a special quality to the hours in the middle of the night, when the foundlings are asleep and warriors stand watch atop the city gates, as if the entire rock is swaddled in some protective shield…The truest thing I can say is that I hope to be able to visit again someday, if you could ever stand to have me.

I think often of you and your son. I hope you’re both good -- better than good. Amazing. And I realize it’s unlikely, given that you’re the king of an entire planet, but if either of you ever need anything…

My private comm code is attached.

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke Skywalker

***

Skywalker,

Rest assured I don’t know any more palace-speak than you do. Until last year I was a bounty hunter. No need for ceremony.

Come back whenever you want. Just leave your sister’s senate aides and that karking protocol droid behind on Chandrila.

I know what you mean, about the night.

Ret’urcye mhi.

***

MAND’ALOR PROMISES PEACE IF LEFT ALONE; REMAINS NAMELESS

“We don’t want war,” the new Mand’alor declared in a rare public statement today. “And trust me, you don’t want war either. If we have to fight, we’ll win.”

The Mand’alor addressed the press as part of a diplomatic summit on Coruscant, where non-aligned planets have met to discuss the formation of a new trade federation without ties to either the New Republic or the remnant Empire.

No accord has yet been reached, and the early departure of the Mandalorian delegation, three days ahead of schedule, seems an inauspicious sign.

When asked what neighboring systems could do to avoid war with the Mandalorians, the Mand’alor -- who still insists on remaining anonymous -- had only this to say:

“Leave us alone.”

***

Mand’alor,

My sister’s work recently brought us to Pasaana, along with a group of senators attending the Aki-Aki festival of youth. If you ever get the chance to see it, I highly recommend the experience. It’s basically a big party in the desert.

Vendors from across the system were there to sell their handicrafts -- one offered the nesting doll candies that I’ve enclosed in this package. Since they’re made to mimic the life-cycle of a common frog, I thought Grogu might get a kick out of them. On the other hand, if you’d rather not encourage his egg-eating habit, feel free to throw them out.

In the future you’ll have to be less gracious with the invitations to come back to your planet -- if you aren’t careful, I might think they’re genuine.

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke Skywalker

***

Skywalker,

Thank you for the gift. Grogu’s started eating tadpoles out of the pond in the north quadrant of the city, and the candy distracted him for a few minutes.

I don’t give invitations lightly, and I’ve never been called gracious. Come back whenever you want. My kid misses you.

And I thought I said no ceremony -- call me Din.

Ret’urcye mhi.

***

WHO IS THE JEDI? HN STAR PROFILES TOP CANDIDATES

What sort of face lies beneath that shadowy hood? Is the Jedi Zabrak? Twi’lek? Nautolan?

From their first appearance at the Galactic Senate alongside Chancellor Mon Mothma to their explosive entrance on the war scene during the liberation of Kashyyyk, the mysterious Jedi has been the subject of heated, steamy speculation.

Here at HN Star, we know you rely on us to deliver the latest up-to-the-minute gossip from across the galaxy -- and we aren’t about to let you down on something as big and juicy as the Jedi’s secret identity.

We polled our contributors across the entire galaxy to try and get to the bottom of your burning questions. Who is the Jedi? Where did they come from? How did they survive the purge? And are their sexual organs compatible with yours?

Social correspondent Kendra Ronaeli reports that the buzz around Chandrila is that Senator Organa’s consort, career smuggler Han Solo, may be the face under the hood.

“Oh, you’re serious?” said Bespin governor Lando Calrissian, longtime friend of Solo’s, when asked to comment. “No. I mean, I guess, officially, yes. It could be Han. It could be any of us. But really -- use your head.”

Others think that Calrissian himself may be the Jedi.

“It’s the wardrobe,” reports fashion contributor Marash Alemad. “The hood? The heeled boots? The dramatic silhouette? It’s a dead giveaway. Calrissian thinks he’s fooling us, dressing in all black, but he’s not.”

One thing no one’s arguing about is that the Jedi is someone close to Senator Organa -- there’s just too much evidence. 

But there may be an even simpler explanation...

Just this morning, HN Star received an exclusive tip suggesting that the Jedi is not just someone close to the senator, but Leia Organa herself.

The tipster offered rock solid evidence and photos of…

To read more, subscribe to HN Star for 5 credits per standard month.

***

Din,

I hope you realize that if Leia ever gets a hold of these letters, she’ll beat me over the head for calling a planetary dignitary by his first name. That being said, I’m willing to risk it if you are, so call me Luke.

I’m sorry. I don’t have any good reason for writing, except that friends are scarce where I am, and it’s nice to talk to someone who isn’t actively trying to kill me. If you’re plotting my untimely demise, please at least hold off until next month -- I’d appreciate a rest period. I’m pretty beat.

Last night I dreamed of that bonfire. Where Leia sang with the foundlings and your people spar-danced with ringing Beskar and you took your boots off to wade into the pond after your child. I saw the sparks rising in the pure black sky and your pale feet in the soil and how the firelight turned the soft baby hairs on Grogu’s head bright orange.

It may sound crazy, but I know that in this memory I saw the heart of Mandalore. I only glimpsed it -- I’ll have to look longer. I yearn to look longer. 

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke

***

Luke,

Tell me where you are. All you have to do is tell me, and I’ll be there. I won’t let anyone hurt you.

***

JEDI SPOTTED IN HUTT SPACE, BOUNTY HUNTERS CONVERGE

BREAKING NEWS -- The elusive Jedi has appeared once again, this time in Hutt Space, on the moon Nar Shaddaa. Blurry footage captured by bystanders on scene shows the Jedi fleeing on foot near the refueling docks from figures unknown.

HNN correspondent Jessmilo Cormadr reports rumors of a bounty on the Jedi’s head worth 50,000 peggats (3.2 million wupiupi, or 2 million credits).

The bounty appears to have been taken out by Tatooine warlord Bib Fortuna, but Cormadr cautions that Fortuna may have been acting as an intermediary for the Imperial remnant or some other coalition.

As the watchdog of the New Republic, the Jedi has accumulated many enemies -- will the league of bounty hunters who have descended on Nar Shaddaa be enough to finally kill them?

Subscribe to HNN’s JEDI WATCH newsletter for updates on Jedi sightings throughout the galaxy.

***

Din,

I shouldn’t have mentioned the mortal peril. I’m alright. I can’t say anything else since I’m on official Senate business.

I’ve been doing a lot of hiding, and while I’m hiding I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Historical texts, mostly -- I’m stuck with one of Leia’s staffer’s pads, and Amilyn seems to have only two interests: politics and hairstyles. If I’m here much longer I may have to start learning the subtle language of Alderaanian braids.

Did you know that Mandalorians used to be enemies of the Jedi? I admit I’m not an expert on Jedi culture -- who is, these days? -- but I find it strange that two orders so alike should be so diametrically opposed.

Before you take offense, let me explain. I’ve heard the stories about Jedi stealing children, and I know that’s nothing like what Mandalorians do with foundlings. You take them in, you nurture them. You adopt them into your culture. But so did the Jedi, in a way. Jedi younglings were never obligated to join the Order -- they could leave, if they wanted, once they’d learned to control their powers. It was the wanting that was difficult. To grow up surrounded by people who understand you, who know what you are, and then to choose a life without that? Without connection, without true understanding -- even if it could allow you to love…

It’s the loyalty to something greater. The dedication to a cause, to a family -- despite the fact that belonging requires great sacrifice. On the part of the Jedi, attachment. On the part of some of your people, never showing your face. I would’ve thought that the Jedi and Mandalorians would be able to find common ground in their perspectives, if not in any friendship for one another.

Amilyn has the archived personal letters of a Jedi named Obi-Wan Kenobi, who was in love with a Mand’alor named Satine Kryze. Did you ever know her? I can picture Obi-Wan like he’s right in front of me, but I can’t get a handle on her. They wrote each other in code, mostly. Maybe we should write in code, too.

I’m sorry if I’m wasting the king’s time, writing long letters about absolutely nothing. The only one I have to talk to here is my astromech droid.

As always, I hope you and Grogu are doing good. I think of you often.

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke

***

Din,

Forgot to ask in my last wave -- have you ever recorded your people’s music? Specifically the songs you played around the campfire. Amilyn has only Gatalentan harp music and meditation tapes.

Luke

***

Luke,

I never knew the Duchess, but I knew her sister. I’ve heard that the Jedi used to be our enemies, and that they were very hard to kill. I hope I never have to try.

One of our lute players had some recorded music files -- they’re attached.

People who write in code have something to hide. I don’t want to hide you. And you’re not wasting my time.

Ret’urcye mhi.

***

ALEENA QUAKE REFUGEES: WHY DIDN’T THE JEDI SAVE US?

Planetwide groundquakes shook Aleen this week, resulting in mass casualties and mandatory evacuation of more than half the planet’s population.

As New Republic relief services assist in relocation of refugees to Aleen Minor, representatives of the displaced peoples had only one question to ask: where was the Jedi in their time of need?

Whether dispatched by Senator Organa or guided by their own mysterious intuition, the Jedi has been present at more than a dozen ecological disasters this year alone, saving millions of lives and billions of credits in property damage.

But there was no sight of them on Aleen. The Jedi’s absence has brought up questions of culpability -- can the Jedi, and the New Republic, be blamed for failing to prevent this catastrophic loss of life?

And if the Jedi really is on the Senate’s leash, can the people of the galaxy trust that politics will play no part in who is saved, and who is left to die?

***

Din, Luke writes, and then realizes he has no idea what to say, where to begin.

He’s back in his rooms on Chandrila. The HoloNet is on in the background, supplying the white noise of a nuna-ball game and a pale wash of blue light in the darkness. It’s the middle of the night, and Luke is wide awake from a combination of pain and guilt so strong it feels like a hot poker in his stomach; he’d hoped the artificial warmth of the holo would insulate him enough to get to sleep, but so far it hasn’t worked.

Han and Leia are asleep in their room at the end of the hall. There was a time when he would’ve considered waking them, putting the kettle on, bullying Han into a game of sabacc until he fell asleep with his face on the table and his sister sat next to him and pulled her feet up under her robes and told him all the Senate business he’d missed when he was gone -- that time is long past. Leia can hardly fake nonchalance when she’s wide awake, and Han hasn’t looked at Luke the same since before he went into the carbonite freezer. It’s not their fault, Luke knows. When he became a Jedi, he stepped across a threshold, went where neither of them could follow. So it’s his fault. But still -- seeing them across such a distance hurts more than not seeing them at all.

He could, theoretically, wake Chewie. Chewie, being the only one who had known Jedi back before the fall of the Order, adapted to Luke’s change better than the rest of them. But Luke still doesn’t speak wookiee; he hasn’t had time to learn.

Sighing, frustrated, he burrows deeper into the nest he’s made of his body-warm blankets. Sleep itches at the backs of his eyelids, teasing, but it won’t take him. His mind is too restless, his body too stiff. The bounty hunters on Nar Shaddaa did a number on him before he managed to slip away, and though he healed most of the major damage in a healing trance while he was in hiding, he wasn’t skilled enough with the delicate work to handle the more minor burst capillaries and torn ligaments.

The light of his pad -- his pad, not Amilyn’s, and she seems to have been about as thrilled with his taste in music as he was with hers -- illuminates his face and his bare chest in the bunk.

Din, he deletes, then writes again.

I’m back on Chandrila. Thank you for the music. It kept me warm during some very cold nights.

So did the memory of you, he doesn’t write.

I’ve been thinking about the Jedi again. How amazing it must’ve been to be around people who truly understood what you were going through, who could know you inherently without words. Is that what it’s like to be a Mandalorian? Always trusting -- always being able to trust? Knowing that you’ll never be alone?

I wonder sometimes if I shouldn’t take an unattended ship and fly out into the unknown regions. I don’t think I’d feel any different than I do right now, to be alone in the void. Less people to beat at sabacc. But less bruised, too.

I don’t know why I’m so honest with you. Maybe it’s because you don’t feel like a person to me so much as a place. I’m sorry if that comes across wrong. I only mean to say that you feel like somewhere I can retreat to.

I’m missing Grogu especially lately. I know you don’t feel comfortable sending holos, but if you can, send stories.

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke

When the wave is sent and the pad screen returns to his mail inbox, Luke turns it off and sets it aside. One of the teams in the nuna-ball game has just scored. Somewhere, parsecs away, the crowd is cheering. Luke pulls the blankets over his head and curls around his pillow.

His Force-sense is a susurrus of noise all around him, a gentle wave that almost seems to lift him off the bed -- all the beings on Chandrila, in orbit, on the next planet in the system, their heartbeats and their voices and the constant patter of their lives, a low-grade murmur that exists always in the bottom of his mind, that Luke has no idea how to turn off. He closes his eyes and feels the ravaged, halved signatures of the Aleena, hears a scream for help that could be three floors down or halfway across the galaxy -- and he tries to control his breathing, like Yoda taught him, but after a few minutes he gives in and resorts to the only thing which has given him peace since he first discovered it on Mandalore.

A tiny, sun-bright Force signature, like a beam of pure, perfect warmth. And the protective, Force-null shield that holds constantly around it, like a lake around an island. The Mand’alor and his son.

***

Luke,

Today Grogu tried a kavasa fruit for the first time. Now he’s on a quest to eat anything the same shape and size. This includes his teacher’s necklace, a piece of one of his toy podracers, and live ammo.

I think I’ll have to incinerate all of it. There’s no hiding anything from him when he’s hungry.

I’m glad you’re okay. You better stay that way.

Ret’urcye mhi.

***

10 DEAD IN BUILDING COLLAPSE ON CHANDRILA, DESPITE JEDI AID

BREAKING NEWS -- At 500 local this morning, the Ocanis Energy buiding in Hanna City began to register strutural failure. The building was evacuated, but a number of Ocanis employees were still inside when it collapsed.

The Jedi arrived on the scene a few minutes after the beginning of the evacuation, and held the building aloft with their powers for nearly half an hour while rescue crews retrieved stragglers from inside the structure.

HNN’s correspondents on the ground reported that at 549 local the Jedi suffered a lapse of their powers, crushing two lower floors of the building. 3 trapped Ocanis employees, as well as 7 rescuers, were killed.

The Jedi fled the scene shortly after rescue crews brought in structural supports for the building, and, as usual, could not be located for comment.

Ocanis representatives tell us that investigations are ongoing into the cause of the collapse. Subscribe to our hourly newsletter for direct updates as the story develops.

***

Luke watches through the window as morgue attendants cover the recovered bodies in sheets. Most of them are little more than blood and pulp; it’s impossible to tell what species they are, let alone determine their identities, but Luke knows them. Luke felt them die like bursts of bile in the back of his throat.

Leia finishes talking to the Rodian pathologist. She lays a hand on their arm, a more sisterly gesture than anything she’s offered Luke in the past few months, and comes to join him in the hall. Security cleared it when they arrived an hour ago. She and Luke are alone down here, with the physical, organic evidence of his failure.

“There’d be a lot more dead, without you,” Leia says, after a long minute watching the Rodian wheel the bodies one by one into cold storage. “I’m not blaming you. But I have to ask -- what happened?”

“Garnib,” Luke says.

Leia frowns. “The system?”

“The star. It went supernova.”

“And you…” Leia watches him carefully, like he’s something she has to be wary of, like if she says the wrong thing he might react badly. “You felt it? The star?”

Luke’s eyes feel stuck open. He feels like he’s going to burst into tears. He feels like he’s going to vibrate out of his skin -- or, more likely, vibrate apart into all his billions of atoms. He wants to put his hands on his face to hold himself together but he senses this may accelerate the process.

“I held it together,” he manages to tell Leia. “Long enough for the planets to evacuate -- or most of them, anyways.”

Leia holds a hand over her mouth. She’s still watching the Rodian. The sterile light over their heads buzzes in the quiet like a humming ’saber blade. Luke tries to recall how Din’s hand felt when he reached back to give him a hand up over a half-built garden wall, warm and strong beneath worn leather, but the sense-memory eludes him.

Instead he hugs himself and holds his own elbows. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t do anything to help the feeling that he might be about to shake apart, or banish the dying screams of millions of spirits.

“You held a star together,” Leia says, “halfway across the galaxy.”

It’s not a question, but Luke nods anyways.

Leia walks down to the end of the hall with her hand on her forehead, sinks into a squat with her back against the wall, and after a minute gets up and comes back. “I didn’t know you could do that,” she says.

“Neither did I.” Luke feels cold and scared and very alone. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Leia asks. But from the tone of her voice Luke can tell she knows the answer. She smiles ruefully, like she knows he knows, and says, “I’m sorry, too, Luke.”

Luke feels the faint ghost of a smile, and teases, “For what?”

She doesn’t share his amusement. “I used to understand,” she says, “at least a little. Now I only understand how much I don’t understand. I can’t help you. I can’t reach you. I don’t know how. And I’m sorry.”

She leaves him standing there, staring at the bodies.

***

JEDI CANONIZED AS GOD BY ORDER OF THE LUMINOUS MIST

HNN Outer Rim correspondent Carwarr Leampet reports this morning that the mysterious Jedi has been anointed as a god by the Order of the Luminous Mist.

Mist-Weavers, inhabitants of a small rocky world on the edge of the Unknown Regions, have long worshipped users of the Force. Their religion was devastated 29 standard years ago with the extermination of the Jedi Order.

Recently, Leampet tells us, activity has picked back up, focused around the being who has so captivated the galaxy -- the Senate’s pet Jedi. The canonization ceremony, held last night, was the first in more than three decades.

The Mist-Weavers are a notoriously secretive people, and could not be reached for comment.

More on this story as it develops. Subscribe to HNN’s JEDI WATCH newsletter for automatic updates.

***

Din sends holos of the child -- heavily encrypted, self-deleting holos of the child, but holos nonetheless. Luke has his morning cup of caf in the dark with all the blinds closed, smiling as he watches Grogu toddle after a tiny butterfly, and tries not to think to long or too intently about how this is the most of either of them he’ll ever get to keep -- missives which at times seem to do nothing more than exacerbate the vastness of space between them.

Grogu coos soundlessly as he seems to notice his father holding the holo-camera, and reaches for him. The way the recording is oriented, it looks like he’s reaching for Luke. Luke holds out his hand and lets Grogu’s glowing blue fingers connect with his, fizzing out to static. A moment later, Din’s hand reaches into frame, keeping Grogu from moving out of the shot.

Before Luke can reach for him, too, there’s a bump on the door -- Artoo, judging by the impatient beeping. Grudgingly, lingering, Luke closes the holofile. It deletes automatically.

As he follows Artoo through the halls of the Senate building, still in his sleep clothes with caf in hand, Artoo tells him that there’s big drama, everyone’s in Mon Mothma’s office yelling, and Luke’s name has been used eighty-two times.

“Great,” Luke says, and knocks on the door.

It whooshes open to admit him, and everyone -- it really does seem to be everyone-- turns to stare at him, arguments falling aprubtly silent.

He stops in his tracks, startled. “What did I miss?”

Han gets up from a couch near the window and walks out without a word. Chewie calls after him, but Han just waves a hand over his shoulder and says, “Gods don’t need friends, Chewie.”

Luke watches him go, then turns back to look at the rest of them. Leia looks like she’s stuck between shock and pure, incandescent rage. Mon Mothma has on the careful mask that she always wears in politics, which isn’t susprising at all because the only time Luke’s seen her withoutit was during the celebrations on Endor, when she deigned to crack a smile. But Wedge is standing with his arm against the window and his head against his arm, and Luke grew up with him -- he knows what Wedge looks like when he snuck out late to hook up with Camie Marstrap and got caught by his mom, so he knows that this is bad.

“What is it?” he asks again, looking at Mon Mothma. She’s a wartime leader, she’s never spared his feelings before -- it seems unlikely that she’ll start now.

And she doesn’t. “Congratulations, Skywalker,” she says. “You’ve been deified.”

***

Din,

Thank you for the holos. Thank you, thank you, thank you. They made for a really nice start to a really karking bad day. I wish I could play them again, but at the same time I know that they’ve given weight to my memories -- I know that absense hasn’t made me exaggerate how adorable Grogu is in the slightest.

I wish that you would send one of yourself. I wish that we could speak face to face -- or face to helmet. Even just over holos. I can’t tell you what a relief it would be to talk to someone who doesn’t expect anything from me. Who doesn’t treat me like a freak. Oh, hell. It’s not their fault. I don’t even recognize myself these days.

I guess we all come to a point in our lives where we realize it’s not going to go how we wanted. But we have to take the cards that have been dealt to us -- what else is there to do?

Sorry to get so maudlin. Like I said, it’s been a really karking bad day.

I hope you’re having a better one. Tell Grogu I’m rooting for him to catch that butterfly.

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke

***

Din doesn’t write back, but he calls about five minutes after Luke sends the wave.

It’s the middle of the night on Chandrila, and must be very nearly so on Mandalore. The incoming call alert blinks in Luke’s dark room, chiming softly, and it takes him a few seconds to accept that no, he isn’t hallucinating, and yes, he ought to hurry up and answer before it goes to auto-record.

He does, in a suspended state of shock. “Din,” he says. “I didn’t expect -- you actually called.”

Even with the helmet on, Din looks uncomfortable. “I can hang up and write a letter, if you want.”

“No,” Luke says, too fast to be dignified. “No, don’t. I want to talk to you. Stars, it’s good to hear your voice.”

He lapses into stupid, tongue-tied silence, just gazing at the flickering holo of Din’s helmet and shoulders that hovers above his desk. “Sorry,” he says, after a minute. “Sorry, I suddenly don’t have any idea what to say.”

“I’m not so good with words, either,” Din says. “Maybe I can put the kid on?”

“Yeah.” Luke smiles. “Yeah, that would be great.”

Grogu’s asleep, but Din picks up his pad and creeps into the nursery, tilting the camera so that Luke can look down on the child’s small, precious face. He has no idea how long they sit like that, the three of them breathing together across the cosmos, but Luke begins to feel his soul transpose; he begins to feel that Chandrila has become Mandalore, the half-built city in the blue wild vast of night, fires burning in the hearths and Mandalorians at watch on the city wall, the last notes of lute music lingering in the air and his head on Din’s shoulder long after the politicians have gone to bed, their pants rolled up to their ankles, bare wet feet drying in the heat from the flames.

He doesn’t dare close his eyes, some groggy part of him worried that Din will hang up if he thinks Luke has dozed off, but he reaches out with the Force anyway, seeking them across the emptiness, across star systems…

Grogu coos softly and rolls over in sleep.

Later, after Din has crept back out of the nursery and into his own bedroom, when Luke’s eyes are beginning to sting with the need to sleep and the sky is starting to lighten outside, turning everything in his room grainy blue, he says, “I don’t know why I’m so sure about this. We don’t know each other, not really.”

Din doesn’t take offense. He doesn’t hang up. He just tilts his head, thinking. “I think,” he says, after a minute, “there are some things too big for humans to understand.”

“And you think we’re one of them?”

Din’s quiet for another minute, choosing his words carefully. Luke is unfathomably grateful for that -- that he chooses his words carefully, when it matters. Lots of people are scared of him, these days, but not many are careful with him.

“I know you,” Din says at last. “I knew you the second you stepped foot on Mandalore. The soil knew you, and the sky knew you, and my son knew you. To me, that’s as big as a thing can be.”

Luke nods, unable to speak.

Ret’urcye mhi.” Din’s voice is low and rough. “Come home soon, cyar’ika.”

Luke manages to hang up a split second before he breaks down.

***

JEDI ASSASSINATED DURING JOINT SESSION OF GALACTIC SENATE

BREAKING NEWS — HNN has received preliminary reports of shots fired in the assembly room at the Galactic Senate. At this time facts are still emerging, but multiple eyewitnesses confirm that the Jedi was hit.

At least one gunman is in custody, but Hanna City police have not yet released the identity of the suspect. All senators were evacuated with only minor injuries to undisclosed secure locations.

Chancellor Mon Mothma gave a brief statement on the steps of the Senate building assuring New Republic citizens that there was no risk to either continuity of government or the unity of the Republic.

“This appears to be an isolated incident,” she told reporters in the impromptu press conference. “As of yet we have no reason to suspect a coordinated attack.”

When asked if the gunman might have ties to the remnant Empire, the Chancellor said, “Investigations are ongoing, but right now we have no reason to suspect an Imperial connection.”

HNN feeds from inside the assembly room were cut just before the attack began.

The Jedi was schedulded to deliver a speech on behalf of the Chancellor’s new anti-slavery legislation, aimed at curbing the slave trade in Hutt space with a ten-year program of economic sanctions.

Personal pad footage of the Jedi’s body has been confiscated by the Hanna City police.

For up-to-the-minute reports as this story develops, subscribe to HNN’s JEDI WATCH newsletter.

***

Luke,

Just got word of the attack on the Senate. Wanted to check you and your sister were okay.

***

Luke,

It’s been three days. Are you okay?

***

Luke,

Just let me know you’re alive. Please.

***

He forgets his own name in the blue-shift blur of endless hyperspace. There are tubes in his arms and in his stomach which feed him and water him and keep him asleep, but he is never more than peripherally aware of his body; there is nothing to his mind but the breadth of space and the width of it and past and future converging into one violent entity called present through which he moves, one creature among countless quadrillions pulsing and straining and yearning and screaming in the Force for safety and happiness and power and freedom and other smaller things which his power struggles to give them even as his body lingers endlessly endlessly in the twilight between alive and dead, peaceful in the knowledge that there is never truly dead in the Force, there is only the collective life of all things and the place at the center of the galaxy from which all things can be seen and all things can be felt and all possible futures and pasts can be known in the great collective present, a boy with sandy hair comes hurtling down the steps of the homestead and a boy holds his father as he dies and a boy becomes a man becomes something which cannot be explained and cannot be understood becomes the universe becomes sparks rising in the pure black sky and bare feet in the soil and tiny hairs on a child’s head --

***

Luke wakes briefly as the X-wing enters orbit. The cockpit shakes and rattles around him. The viewscreen glows bright orange. Artoo is chirping at him but he’s too out of it to understand what he’s saying. His entire body hurts. The bacta on his chest is dry and caked in his open wounds.

He sees, briefly, the nauseating tilt of the curved horizon.

Crash, he realizes Artoo is saying.

The G-force becomes too strong, and he passes out again a second later.

***

GALAXY MOURNS DEATH OF JEDI

As we enter the second week after the assassination of the Jedi, planets across the galaxy are preparing funeral rites and official days of celebration in their honor.

Over the past few years, the Jedi has been a symbol of peace and hope in a galaxy divided by war. Their death has re-ignited questions about the New Republic’s viability and the possibility that it will become a corrupt system.

“It’s hard for people to believe in institutions of government, these days,” said senate aide Amilyn Holdo, when asked for comment. “The Jedi was someone they could trust. They represented something bigger than petty politics.”

Senator Leia Organa, speaking before a joint session of the Galactic Senate, this morning, stressed the need for calm and unity. “The values the Jedi espoused can live on in each of us,” she said. “They don’t have to die too.”

This comes following a bombshell revelation from Hanna City police that members of the Order of the Luminous Mist were responsible for the Jedi’s assassination.

They believed that the Jedi’s death was necessary to complete his ascension as a god. Mist-Weavers in police custody declined to comment, under advice of the Chandrila public defender’s office.

(PAID ADVERTISEMENT)

If you or someone you know needs help processing the Jedi’s untimely death, contact Galactic Cry’s accredited grief counselors at the enclosed comm code. Galactic Cry. When you fall, we catch you.

***

Luke wakes in the Mand’alor’s bed.

It’s night. Somewhere nearby, a window is open, and warm summer air is wafting over his bare skin. The tiny flame of Grogu’s Force signature glows brightly in the other room, along with one Luke doesn’t recognize -- a woman.

Riding a wisp of memory, he looks down at his chest. His wounds are bandaged. Beneath the bandages, he can feel the cool tingle of bacta working on his freshly-healed skin. Someone’s been looking after him. He doesn’t remember how he got here, but he remembers the moments right after the attack, how his brain felt like it had been blown wide open, scattered across all of space -- how he couldn’t focus well enough to use the Force to heal himself. Now the destroyed tissue of his chest barely twinges as he pushes himself up.

Something calls him to the window. He makes his way over on cautious feet, feeling the rough-woven rug and the cool metal floors like his soles are the soft skin of a newborn baby, and pushes aside the curtain.

Mandalore -- and the new city that Din’s people are nearly finished building -- looks exactly as Luke has dreamed it. It’s exactly as he remembers. The warm fires glowing along the city wall, the soft, foggy Force-peace of foundlings asleep in their beds, the inexplicable sense of total security…

Something weak and tremulous begins to unfurl in Luke’s chest, too fragile to look at properly.

He casts his mind outward, seeking the familiar Force-null cloud of Din’s mind, and finds him out on the wall. Before the decision to do so consciously registers, he climbs up on the windowsill and tips forward onto his toes, floating out into the night.

Rooftops drift by beneath him. Tiny eddies in the night air nip at his feet like fish. He feels the gaping emptiness of the sky above him like a lid taken off a container, but his focus remains ahead -- on Din, on the wall.

Din, who is already watching as Luke approaches, probably tipped by one of the other Mandalorians on watch. Din who reaches up and catches Luke by the waist as he returns to earth, holding tight enough to bruise.

“Luke,” he greets, voice strangely shocked.

Luke puts his hands on Din’s shoulders and grabs handfuls of his cape. “Hi,” he says. “How are you?”

“How am I?” Din repeats, with a soft sound that might be a laugh. “Luke, you -- ”

“I’m okay,” Luke says. “The blaster wound is all closed up. You should come back to bed.”

Back to bedhe realizes he’s said, too late -- even though Din was probably never in the bed to begin with. But Din just pulls Luke tighter against him, like he’s sheltering him from something, and says, “Yeah. Yeah, Luke, back to bed.”

They go home the normal way, down the stairs in the observation tower, up the winding streets to the modest house where Din and Grogu live. Luke holds tight to Din’s shoulder, feeling as they walk that he’s re-learning the concept of legs. Din’s arm is strong around his waist, doing most of the work, and he doesn’t speak, as if he can tell that Luke, in his convalescence, has forgotten the basic mechanisms of human interaction.

When they reach the house, Din guides Luke past the woman sleeping on the couch in the main room, past the cracked door of Grogu’s nursery and the blue nightlight glowing in the bathroom, and eases him into bed. Luke’s chest is starting to ache distantly, like an old wound on a rainy day, and he winces as he settles back into pillows that he now realizes smell like Din -- then reaches out at the last moment to catch his hand as he steps away.

“Din,” he pleads, needing something else -- something more.

Din hesitates, then sits down on the edge of the bed, his weight dipping the mattress. He smooths Luke’s sweaty hair away from his forehead, bends down slowly, and rests the cool metal of his helmet against Luke’s overheaded skin.

“Sleep,cyar’ika,” he murmurs. “I’ll be here in the morning.”

***

Din,

I doubt if I’ll ever send this letter. It’s not that I don’t want you to read it, that I don’t think you deserve to read it, or that I don’t trust you with my secret -- but that I’m afraid to send it, in case it changes things between us. Still, I think I ought to write it, just in case. Maybe someday I’ll be braver.

I want to tell you that I’m the Jedi.

Almost ten years ago, a Jedi knight named Obi-Wan Kenobi told me that I was the son of Anakin Skywalker, one of the most powerful Force-users ever to live, and that his powers lived in me. He told me that I was the only one who could stand up to the darkside powers of Darth Vader -- the last of the Jedi -- but what he failed to mention was that Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were one in the same. Once Obi-Wan was dead, I trained with a master named Yoda, the same species as your son, but even after the death of the Emperor, I am still untested in the ways of the Force…

Rambling again. The important thing is that I want you to know the truth. I would tell the whole galaxy the truth if it was up to me, but Leia thinks that it’s best the Jedi remains nameless, that I can be a symbol more than a person. The thing that scares me most about this -- about telling you, in particular -- is that you might start to think of me as the myth, instead of the man. I’m not a symbol, or a myth. I’m just Luke. Some days it feels like no one around me knows that anymore. Especially today.

Today -- I’m writing this today, because some crazy religious cult in the Outer Rim has decided that I’m a god. A god. Stars, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry or scream or…

I can’t remember the last time I felt so alone. I think it must have been when my father died. He was the last person who could understand what it was like to feel this way -- to have the energy of the entire galaxy flowing through you like a bottleneck, to have everyone look at you like they’re not sure whether to pretend not to be afraid or fall to their knees in prayer -- all I want is to look into someone’s eyes and know that they see me, Luke, not what I can do. Maybe, someday, if I’m brave enough to send this letter, those eyes can be yours. I hope they’ll be yours.

If you ever read this, I need you to know that it would be less painful for you to hate me than for you to look at me like I’m not me anymore. That doesn’t make sense, I know, but please. Please.

I hope one day I can still come home to you.

Ret’urcye mhi,

Luke

***

Luke wakes in daylight.

The curtains are drawn, but midday sun leaks around the edges, warm yellow lines along the walls and the ceiling. Luke turns over, turns his head on the pillow, blinking out at the room.

He sees the armor first -- a pile of it on the chair, topped with a gleaming beskar helmet. Then he notices the man at the desk -- Din, at the desk, helmetless in plain sleep clothes, his hair stuck to the back of his head like he’s been sleeping. Luke looks at the pillow beside him, the evidence of Din sleeping there, the impression of his body curled around Luke in the matress like a parenthesis.

Din is reading something on a pad, posture slumped, defeated, like whatever it is has unmanned him completely. As Luke watches, he reaches the end of whatever it was, turns the pad off, and puts his head in his hands.

“Hey,” Luke croaks. Din jumps. Luke clears his throat and tries again. “Hey.”

Din gets up and comes over to the bed. Luke feels like he’s probably staring too much to be polite, but he feels ravenous for Din, for the shape of his face and the sleep-sweat smell of him and the way the pillows have mussed not only his hair but his mustache -- and anyways, there’s no need for polite anymore. Not now. Not with them.

Luke reaches for him. Din moves closer obligingly as he sits up, letting Luke sway into his personal space. This close, his eyes are very, very intense. Very quiet. Very brown.

“Your droid gave me your letter,” Din says. “Maybe too late, after you flew across the city, but…”

Luke’s heart seizes in his chest. He sits back just enough to meet Din’s eyes, suddenly panicked. “I didn’t -- “ he starts, but doesn’t know what he means to say next. “I didn’t know where else to go. I had to get away from there, I needed -- “

Din shushes him, thumbs gentle on his cheeks, and leans in to kiss the tears from his eyelashes before they can fall. “It’s okay,” he says. “I’m not angry. I’m not. You can always come home.”

Luke’s fingertips dig into his shoulders. He swallows down a fresh round of tears.

Din reads his mind. “And you can stay as long as you want. You can stay forever. No one will take you.”

“I can’t.” The weak, tremulous creature in his chest thrashes in death throes. “I can’t stay here. I have a responsibility to -- to the Republic, to my sister. I can’t just disappear.”

“Later,” Din says. “Later.”

Luke -- who is, to some, a god, and to many, a bastion of hope and strength -- buries his face in the Mand’alor’s shoulder and cries harder than he has since he was a little boy.

Much, much later, when his eyes are dry, Grogu is cooing happily in his high chair, and Din is setting two cups of caf on a wobbly, hand-carved wooden table, Luke says, “I just need a break.”

At Din’s skeptical look, he amends, “A long break. A long, long, long break.”

“A permanent break?” Din guesses.

Luke meets his eyes across the table, shot through with a zing of sudden warmth, and realizes as Din smiles softly back at him that he was right, all those months ago. They knew each other the second Luke stepped foot on Mandalore -- that’s something bigger than either of them.

“Cyar’ika,” Luke breathes -- grateful, revelatory.

Din looks poleaxed.

Luke reaches for him, and after a beat Din recovers enough to meet him. He holds Luke’s gaze across the table, expression wondrous with awe, and for the first time in a long time, Luke can feel the ground beneath his feet.