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The first time Luke meets Din, it’s four in the morning and the tombs are packed to bursting. 

Luke’s coming in hot off a violent encounter with a D&D who tried to grab him through the bars of the drunk tank, so his heart’s beating really fast, blood pumping. He skids to a halt in front of one of the group cells, takes a quick look at the next file in his docket, and calls out, “Din Djarin?”

“Here,” says Din.

He looks scared, is the first thing Luke thinks. Which is strange, because he’s a big guy, he’s got some tattoos. Even though he’s attractive, he’s not the sort of pretty that can get you in trouble down here, like Luke is. But he has big brown eyes — soft, scared eyes — and Luke became a lawyer for one reason and one reason only: to help the people who most needed it. That’s why he’s in the tombs at four in the morning, a first-year at Legal Aid, working the fucking lobster shift. To help people. And hopefully not to get puked on again, because he’s all out of friends to lend him extra suits.

“I’m Luke Skywalker, Mr. Djarin, I’m your public defender,” he tells Din. “You’re set to be arraigned at five thirty, but we’re running behind so I wouldn’t expect to get out of here until at least seven.”

“I’ve been in here since ten,” Din says.

“Yeah, sorry about that. They can technically keep you for up to twenty-four hours, but as you can see it’s getting kind of crowded in here so we’re trying to hustle — ”

“I’ve got a kid at home,” Din says. “I was supposed to be back at two. No one’s given me a phone call.”

Luke blinks at him. It might be the sleep deprivation, but it takes a second for his brain to catch up with the words. “Right,” he says, when it does. “Sure. Yeah, look, they might not get around to that before I get you out. Why don’t you tell me the number to call and what to say, and I’ll take care of it.”

Din looks like he wants to argue, but he grits his teeth, nods once, and rattles off a local number. “Her name is Cara Dune. Just tell her where I am and ask her to take care of the kid.”

Luke nods, finishing the note to himself. “Got it. Okay, I see here they brought you in for — assault with a deadly weapon?”

“It was a beer bottle,” Din says.

“That counts. And you — wow, you put four guys in the hospital? With a beer bottle?”

Din shrugs modestly.

“Okay,” Luke says, suddenly a little hot around the collar. He dated more than one wannabe MMA fighter in college who liked it when he called them daddy, and suddenly he’s having flashbacks. “Uh, and I see you’ve got priors? All for assault?”

“I used to be a bounty hunter,” Din says. “The NYPD are sore losers.”

Luke tries not to look too much like he’s salivating, since he knows salivating is unprofessional. “Okay. The arrest tonight — what were you doing at a Mando bar?”

Din shifts uncomfortably. The scared look is back. “It’s my bar,” he says.

Luke revises his assessment of his client. Probably he should’ve been clued in sooner by the tattoo on Din’s arm — which he now realizes is a Mando symbol, that strange elongated skull — but it’s been a long night and Din’s the tenth petty criminal he’s had to hand hold through arraignment. Only he might not be so petty, because from what Luke knows about Mandalorians, they’re essentially a small organized crime family disguised as a biker gang. He might’ve caught the tail of a tiger with this case, and he can only pray that it doesn’t manage to whip around and bite both of them.

“Anything else you want to tell me?” he asks.

Din shifts again. Shakes his head.

“Okay,” Luke says. “I’m going to make that call for you. I’ll see you upstairs.”

“Luke,” Din says, when he turns to leave. 

Luke stops and turns back. That liquid fear is still in Din’s eyes — fear that Luke’s starting to think is connected to his child, to keeping his child or losing it, not to the fact that he’s sitting in a cage. Men like Din, men who ride with Mando tattoos, are used to sitting in cages.

“They were going to — ” Din says, and then stops, swallowing. It’s loud in the tombs, men’s voices echoing off the cinder block walls, but Luke swears to God he can hear the sharp intake of breath before he continues, “I saw them drug a girl’s drink. They were all gonna take her home.”

Luke feels something tight at the base of his throat, behind his sternum. “Where is she now?”

“Paramedics took her.”

Luke nods. “Okay. Okay, I’ll try to rustle up a tox screen. Maybe we can get this thrown out before you have to post bail.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Din says.

“I know.” Luke meet his eyes. “I know. Just trust me, okay?”

Din holds his gaze for a moment, entreating, like he’s desperate for Luke to see that he’s a good guy, that he’s not just some thug, and throw him a lifeline. And Luke does — he has. All that’s left is for Din to take it. 

And at last, he does.

It’s one nod, but that’s all Luke needs. “I’ll see you soon,” he promises, and takes off at a run.

***

Luke practically grew up on the lobster shift — it’s why he didn’t raise much of a fuss when Legal Aid assigned him to it. Of course, he still raised a little fuss; no matter how many nights he spent between the ages of five and twelve haunting the halls of 100 Centre Street, following Beru around while she took shorthand notes in arraignments and smoked cheap cigarettes on the fire escape with off-duty bailiffs, napping on empty benches and nagging Ben Kenobi to help him with his civics homework, he would never enjoy working between the hours of one and eight in the morning. Who would?

But it’s in his blood, despite his hatred for it, like Leia’s tuna casserole and the blazing Arizona sun, which stuck with him even though he moved to the city with Beru before he can really remember. He might hate it — getting up just before midnight and eating dinner with the morning rush hour — but it’s a part of him.

Thing is, it’s hard to remember that sometimes. 

Like now, for instance, when he’s on the phone with Cara Dune, trying to convince her that he really is a qualified attorney and that he’s not going to get Din sent to prison for the rest of his life on a simple assault charge, this isn’t even a trial, all while Biggs and Wedge attempt to shoot wadded up balls of paper over his head into Bodhi’s wide open, drooling mouth. 

“I am not an idealistic idiot who thinks he can save the world!” he’s telling her (pshh, Biggs says to Wedge). “Not everyone at Legal Aid is a—” he cuts himself off, dropping his head in his hands. “Look, this is a courtesy call. Mr. Djarin wants you to watch his kid. Can you do that?”

Of course I can,” Cara snaps.

“Great,” Luke says, and hangs up.

A wadded up ball of paper hits him in the face.

He picks it up and tosses it over his shoulder into Bodhi’s mouth without looking. Bodhi shocks awake, spluttering, while Wedge whines, “Come on, man. Why’d you have to ruin it?”

“Don’t you have cases?” Luke asks pointedly.

Wedge and Biggs grumble, but they go back to their work. It’s still strange, for Luke — being the voice of reason — but ever since Ben Kenobi retired last year, there’s not reallly anyone else around to do it. Biggs and Wedge are good guys, good lawyers, but they’ve been here longer than Luke and he’s pretty sure the monotony of it all is starting to get to them — day in, day out, pushing paper in the middle of the night for clients who’re mostly just going to end up back here a week from now or a month from now pleading guilty to the same crime, paying the same fine, accepting another strike on their record. Luke’s fallen victim to it too, in a way. He doesn’t go to bat for all his cases anymore, because he knows some of them just aren’t worth the energy. But he hasn’t yet accepted that none of them are. He still goes to bat for the ones that matter. 

And he can feel that Din Djarin matters.

Legal Aid’s offices — really nothing more than a store room with six desks crammed into it — are clear on the other side of the building from AR 24, where Din’s scheduled to be arraigned. Bailiffs give Luke indulgent looks as he does his nightly lost-track-of-time dash through the echoing early morning halls of the courthouse, but Luke figures they can stuff it because running gets him to Din’s side on time.

“Did you run here, Mr. Skywalker?” asks the judge, when Luke’s standing in front of him with flushed cheeks and a windswept expression.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Luke says, breathing hard. 

“Very well,” says the judge. Somewhere in the courtroom a baby is crying. A dozen other arrestees waiting their turn are packed in a cell with a plexiglass wall. It’s loud enough that the judge has to raise his voice to be heard, but he’s been working bonds court for a while so he’s good at it. “Din Djarin, charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecution — what do you have?”

“Ninety days and one year probation, Your Honor,” says Krennic, the self-important DA who’s on duty tonight. “The defendant has priors, the state believes this is more than fair.”

“Mr. Skywalker?” says the judge.

“My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor.”

“Oh, Lord,” the judge sighs, like he always does when Luke does anything other than blindly and happily accept the plea deal offered by the state.

“Your Honor, Mr. Djarin was acting in defense of a third person. I have a tox screen from the hospital showing that Ms. Omera, the witness who the four complainants were attempting to ‘escort’ home came in with enough rohypnol in her system to knock out a horse.”

“Is that a medical term, Mr. Skywalker?”

“Ah — no, Your Honor.”

“Mr. Krennic, in light of this evidence, would the state like to adjust its offer?”

Krennic glowers. “Five minute recess, Your Honor.”

“I’ll recall you,” the judge says, and bangs his gavel.

Five minutes and ten seconds later, the charges have been dropped and Luke’s trying not to smile too psychotically while Din gets his handcuffs taken off by the bailiff. He might not manage it, because Din’s looking at him with a strange mix of gratitude and apprehension which suggest he might be a little bit weirded out by how invested Luke has gotten in his case.

He heads right out of the courtroom as soon as the bailiff tells him he’s free to go, head down and steps quick, like he doesn’t want to give anyone a chance to change their mind. 

Luke tries not to be too bummed out about not getting to talk to him again, but it’s sort of hard because Din’s hot and he’s a dad and he owns a biker bar and he knocked four guys out with a beer bottle. He’s only half paying attention while he pleads out his next three cases, six months probation for a shoplifter and 90 days for a repeat offender who likes to expose himself on the subway and $2,000 bail for a college weed dealer on his third strike. 

By the time the judge bangs his gavel on the coed, the sun is fully up and Luke is jonesing so bad for a greasy plate of bacon and eggs from the diner across the street that he’s sure it must be writ large on his face. 

He smiles and flips off the Legal Aid people on their way in for the day shift, and he’s so focused on making sure Jyn Erso sees that he’s flipping her off that he doesn’t even notice Din is there until he says, “Luke.”

He’s standing against one wall, next to a muscle-bound woman with an undercut and a lot of military tats who Luke figures must be Cara Dune. Luke breaks away from his deadlock with Jyn and heads over. As he gets close he realizes that Din is holding a baby — an adorable, babbling, kind of green baby — and he’s hit with a wave of soft, affectionate longing so strong he thinks maybe he really ought to let Leia have him committed. Three hours ago, he reminds himself. You met this man three hours ago. In the tombs, no less.

He tries to sound as normal as possible as he says, “This must be the famous kid, huh?”

Din smiles — a quick, tired flicker of warmth. “His name is Grogu.”

“Grogu?” Luke echoes.

“Yeah,” Din says. “It’s a little weird, I know, but he came with the name.”

“No,” Luke says. “No, I think it suits him. He’s — ”

“Kind of green?”

No. Well, yeah, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I had a professor at Georgetown who was kind of green. I was going to say he’s a cute little gremlin.”

“You’re right about that,” Cara drawls, smiling at the baby.

Grogu reaches for her, burbling happily, but Din keeps him tucked tight in the crook of his arm, like he’s not willing to let him go even that far. 

“I want to thank you,” he tells Luke, endearingly serious. “For everything.”

Butterflies take flight in Luke’s stomach. “You don’t have to thank me,” he says. God, he hopes he’s not blushing. He feels like he’s blushing. “Really. I’m happy to help — and not just because it’s my job. It’s not every day I get to defend a knight in shining armor.”

Din shifts uncomfortably, and Cara laughs. 

Before anyone can make fun of him, Luke fumbles around for his wallet and takes out a business card. Handwritten, but still — a business card. “Listen,” he says, handing it over. “If you ever get in any legal trouble, feel free to call me. Pro bono.”

***

“You gave him your number?” Leia demands, that weekend.

They’re in her and Han’s kitchen, slaving over a complicated meal of hot dogs, watermelon, and potato salad. Breha and Bail are out back in the yard running herd on Ben, who was covered in mud and holding a frog the last time Luke saw him, and Han is upstairs pacing the creaky floors and yelling at Lando over the phone about some book deal or another. Luke normally finds some way to wiggle out of Leia’s Sunday afternoon barbeques, since she uses them as an opportunity to try and badger him into quitting Legal Aid and becoming a first-year associate at Organa & Organa, but every few months Leia stops accepting his excuses and comes over to his apartment to drag him out herself. 

This is one of those days, only instead of getting badgered over his life choices he’s getting badgered over what he thinks must be Jyn’s interpretation of what she saw in the hallway Thursday morning. 

“I gave him my business card,” he says. “I told him to call me — yeah — but only if he needed legal help.” 

His argument, he feels, might be slightly undercut by the fact that he’s elbow-deep in potato skins, but he’s not about to admit to Leia that he’d felt more than a passing attraction to a Mando he met in the tombs at four a.m. He remembers how she was when he was thirteen and decided he wanted to be an astronaut; Leia, wildly hypocritical for someone who married a coyote-turned-starving-artist, suffers romance and daydreams on pain of death. 

She eyes him over the island. “Don’t tell me you told him you’d represent him for free.”

“It’s called pro bono,” Luke says. Before he can even finish speaking she’s rolling her eyes and opening her mouth for the usual condescending lecture on how Luke is an idealistic naif who just invites people to take advantage of him, with his boyish good looks and burgeoning legal genius — but he cuts her off deftly with his own argument, which amounts, mostly, to, “His eyes, Leia! And he had a baby!”

Leia, predictably, does not find other of these good enough reasons to look twice at a man, let alone offer his free legal services and personal phone number, but she doesn’t get a chance to say so, because there’s a piercing shriek from outside, and they look out the window over the sink to see Bail hosing Ben off with a high pressure setting and a remorseless expression. 

Dad!” Leia shouts, storming out the back door.

Luke, because he prizes his dignity and his manhood, doesn’t start laughing until she’s outside. Breha slips in the door from the porch, a hand held modestly over her own smile, and the moment their eyes meet they’re dissolving into helpless giggles, leaning against each other over the potatoes. 

That’s how Han finds them, when he shuffles downstairs in his robe and house slippers to see what all the noise is about, half-moon spectacles perched on the end of his nose. 

“What the hell is so funny?” he demands, staring at them like they’ve grown second heads.

Luke and Breha only laugh harder.

When they settle down to dinner an hour later, the sun is starting to turn a beautiful July-orange over the line of the trees, Greenwich is quaint and calm and quiet around them, and Luke feels — tremulously, in a way he knows is fleeting — content. 

After Beru died, Bail and Breha were the ones who took him in. They opened their home to him. They became surrogate parents, inasmuch as any two people could have become surrogate parents to a twelve-year-old boy who was furious with the universe and scared of everything and woke himself up every night sobbing and choking over memories of flames and heat and the smell of burning flesh. They’d known he was Leia’s twin all along, even though they hadn’t told either of them until they were sixteen — Ben, when he’d brought Luke to the Organas’ door, had only said that they were good people, old friends, and that Luke would be safe with them. Luke had been unwilling to listen, angry with Ben for not keeping him himself, and he’d said horrible things — things he knows he can never take back, even if he someday musters the courage to apologize — but in the end Ben had been right. Breha and Bail were good people, kind and caring people. They gave him stability Ben never could’ve, they did their best when Luke was at his lowest and most difficult, and he’ll always love them for it.

He’ll always love Leia for it, too — for never begrudging him her parents’ attention. For never lashing out at him, never taking it out on him, at least not in any way that mattered. She’s wiser than any twenty-six year old should be now, and she was wiser than any twelve-year-old should’ve been then. And Luke only ever said it to her once, in the privacy of her bridal suite the morning of her wedding, but he knows that she saved his life. She did his homework for months; she was on his team when he felt like no one was; she sat with him that night when he took a knife from the kitchen and stashed it under his bathroom sink, and she never said anything, just took the knife when she left and put it back in the block and slipped inside to kiss his forehead on her way back to bed. They’re not friends in the way that Luke and Biggs or Luke and Wedge are friends, but they’re something deeper, something more permanent — she’s his sister. He might not pretend to like her casserole, but if she ever needed someone to take a bullet, he’d be there.

And the little family she’s built for herself — Han, Ben. Luke loves them, too. Han might’ve spent the last eight years working on ‘the next great American novel,’ but he’s a good father and a good husband and he only has to be retrieved from Vegas once or twice a year, which Luke figures is pretty good for someone who used to smuggle people over the Mexican border. And anyways, Chewie tends to do most of the retrieving, so it’s not as if Luke has grounds forcomplaint. Han’s a good friend, too — it was a combination of him and Lando that pulled Luke out of his deep dark pit of despair after him and Mara split. (Which they accomplished by getting all three of them so sloshed they ended up in the drunk tank and had to call Bail to bail them out — which had seemed hilarious at the time but not so hilarious the next morning. Still, Luke figures it’s the thought that counts. Even though Bail hasn’t stopped holding it over their heads. Luke suspects he’ll still be holding it over their heads when the sun expands past Venus and consumes the Earth.)

Han and Leia’s spawn, Ben, is only five, but he’s already the most serious and dour person Luke knows — including Judge Tarkin — and he inspires in Luke such a fierce protective love that Luke is almost scared to find out how he’ll feel about his own kids, if he ever gets to have them. He’s not sure how anything could be stronger than this, could be more  all-encompassing, but he thinks he understands, when he’s with Ben — in a way he never understood when he himself was a kid — why parents die for their children, why they kill for them, why they arrive in custody hearings and promptly abandon all dignity, all civility, all semblance of reason. 

Ben Organa-Solo is his family — all these people around this picnic table at this well-loved house in Greenwich are his family. Leia doles out portions of potato salad like a judge handing out sentences, Han tips his surreptitiously onto the grass for the dog, Ben gives severe no-nonsense yes and no answers to Breha while she asks him how he’s enjoying kindergarten, and Luke looks over to find Bail watching him — quiet, understanding, like he knows that Luke’s smile is colored with anticipatory sadness, with the long train ride back to the city and his empty apartment and the empty bed he’ll cat-nap in before he has to go to work. 

He holds Bail’s gaze for a long moment, letting his adopted father’s easy calm ground him. Bail has always been a keystone, an anchor — something for the rest of them to hold onto. For a second, sitting at that picnic table, Luke feels like he’s in the eye of a storm. 

Then Han says, “So, Luke. Biggs tells me you joined a biker gang,” and the spell is broken.

***

A few weeks later, Luke’s phone rings in the middle of the night. Or, technically, the middle of the day — but he’s dead asleep and the blackout shades make it feel like the sun isn’t even out, so to him it’s the middle of the night.

He rolls over and answers without looking at the caller I.D. “Skywalker.”

“Luke?” says the man on the other end of the line. Half-asleep, Luke doesn’t quite recognize the voice, but his mind conjures visions of soft brown eyes and split knuckles. “It’s Din Djarin. You told me — if I ever needed help.”

Luke comes all the way awake. “Yeah. Yes.” He sits up in bed, turns the reading lamp on, puts a hand over his eyes when it’s too bright. “What happened? Are you okay?”

They’re trying to take my kid,” Din says.

Luke’s heart drops out. “What? Who’s taking your kid?”

“Child Protective Services.”

“Alright,” Luke says. His brain feels like it’s coming online one neuron at a time, clueing in to the tight edge of panic in Din’s voice and the fact that there’s a baby screaming and loud voices in the background. “Din, listen to me. I’m gonna take care of this, but you have to give them the baby.”

“What?” Din demands, furious. “No.”

“I know,” Luke says, pulling on his pants with one hand. “I know it goes against every instinct you have as a parent, but if you fight them on this it’s going to be harder for me to get him back.”

“I’m not giving my kid to strangers.”

Luke swallows what’s about to come out of his mouth — he knows escalating the argument won’t help, so he takes a second to think of what he wants to say. “Okay,” he says. “I have a friend at CPS. I’m gonna call her, make sure she’s there to do the intake when Grogu gets to their offices.”

“No,” Din says.

The noise is escalating in the background. If Luke had to guess, he’d say Din has shut himself in the bathroom with Grogu and is refusing to come out — which means the cops are on their way. And if Din’s the sort of guy who can knock out four grown men with a beer bottle, he’s probably not going to go quietly, and then — it’s all over. 

“Din, trust me,” Luke says. “I know what I’m talking about. Believe it or not, they cover this sort of thing in law school. The best thing for you — and the best thing for your kid — is to let him go with CPS for right now. Just for right now. Okay?”

There’s a long, long pause — long enough that Luke starts to worry, standing there in the middle of his bedroom with a wrinkly button-down in one hand. 

Then Din hangs up the phone.

“Hello?” Luke pulls the phone away from his ear and stares at the dark screen, flummoxed. “Shit.”

***

He makes two calls while he’s scrambling to put on yesterday’s suit, one to Ahsoka Tano at CPS where he whines and bargains and debases himself until she assents to get out of bed and go in on her day off, and one to Jyn Erso, to convince her to go through his files and get Din’s address from the arrest report. She grumbles like a wet cat and makes him promise her he’ll have a hot coffee waiting on her desk when she gets in tomorrow morning, but she does it, and so half an hour after Din woke him, Luke’s in a cab pulling into the alley behind the Razor Crest bar.

“Stay here,” he tells the cabbie. “Keep the meter running, I’ll be right back.” 

He’s not too happy to discover that Din and Grogu live in an apartment above a Mando bar, since he doesn’t think it’s going to win them any brownie points with CPS, but he figures that’s a problem for later. The door from the alley is open. Inside it’s deserted, chairs flipped up on tables, stools stacked on the bar. Luke takes the stairs two at a time to the upstairs hallway and knocks on the only door.

In the minute it takes Din to answer, Luke catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror at the end of the hall. His hair, which he keeps cut in a fashion Leia assures him should’ve been left behind in the year 1977, is a travesty, because he forgot to brush it in his mad dash to leave the apartment. He has dark circles under his eyes and he missed a button when he was putting on his shirt. He doesn’t look like a lawyer — he barely looks like a law student. Din’s probably going to take one look at him and shut the door in his face.

Instead, Din takes one look at him, and something inside him seems to fold.

Nothing actually shows on his face, or in his body language, but Luke can sense it, like he can sense when Leia’s about to quit biting her tongue and really go after Han, or when Ben’s about to run into the bathroom and slam the door to pretend he’s not crying. 

It’s a subtle shift in energy. A sort of surrender.

“Hey,” Luke says, mouth working independent of his brain. “Hi. Sorry I took so long.”

Din nods once, his mouth a tight, unhappy line, and steps aside to let Luke in.

The apartment is small, modest, a little bit of a mess, but Luke can tell the second he crosses the threshold that it’s a home, which is more than he can say for his own place. There’s a bin of baby toys that looks untouched and an array of household items scattered in a playpen, like Grogu prefers gnawing on egg timers and rubber spatulas to actual teethers, which he probably does. One corner of the hallway wall is covered in crayon scribbles, and there’s a high chair at the kitchen counter, still with baby cereal scattered all over it, like CPS came knocking in the middle of meal time. Luke sees the old model TV with a stack of VHS tapes of Land Before Time and a sliver of the bedroom through the open door where the crib is pushed right up against the slept-in side of the bed, and feels something clench in his chest like a hand grabbing his heart.

Din’s standing in the tiny kitchen like he’s at a loose ends, like he doesn’t know what to do with his hands or his body now that his gravitational center has been removed. Luke realizes with a slap of humility just how much Din is trusting him with right now — and Luke a veritable stranger.

“Okay,” Luke says, suddenly feeling like a putz and a shill and a million other mean and worthless things, with his Brooks Brothers suit and his skinny tie and his satchel. “I’m going to have you stay with my friend, at least for today, because I don’t trust you not to do something stupid.”

Din looks like he wants to argue for a second, but he doesn’t. He shuts his mouth and nods.

“Okay,” Luke says again. “Good. You might want to pack some things — toothbrush, change of clothes. I don’t know how long it’s going to be.”

Again, Din looks like he wants to argue, and again, he nods.

Ten minutes later — after Luke’s talked Din out of bringing a gun and negotiated him down from two knives to one knife and an aluminum baseball bat peeking not-so-casually from his duffel bag — Luke gives the cabbie the address for Chewie’s and then turns to Din and asks, “What did CPS say to you?”

Din, who’d been starting to look a little less like a deer in the headlights, tenses right back up again. “They said I was raising him in unsafe conditions,” he manages to get out.

“And when was the last home visit, before today?”

Din blinks at him blankly. “What?”

“Before today, when was the last time CPS visited your home?”

“Never,” Din says, sounding bewildered. 

That’s good — Luke can work with that. Normally, unless it’s an emergency removal, CPS needs at least two home visits by two separate social workers to determine unsafe living conditions, and Din’s apartment hardly qualifies as unsafe enough for emergency removal, even being above a bar. CPS is perpetually understaffed and always cuts corners, and Luke abused them for it in court before. With mixed results, admittedly, but still. It’s a better strategy than no strategy.

Chewie’s Chess Academy is on the second floor above a Kenyan restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, in a warren of rooms that Luke suspects used to be a music conservatory or something similar. Luke met Chewie back in undergrad at Berkley, where Chewie was a pot-smoking postdoc adjunct doing research in radio astronomy and mostly wore t-shirts that said stuff like I’M AN ALIEN. He’s never really understood Chewie’s relationship with Han, but he understands well enough that when Han met Leia in LA and moved to New York, Chewie picked up and moved with him. He’s heard the guy speak maybe three words in the entire time he’s known him — most of his students learn chess by combination of sign language and Swahili, from the terrifying creature called Maz who runs the restaurant downstairs — so he figures him and Din will get along fine.

“I can’t stay,” he tells Chewie, when he’s done being smothered with a hug. 

Maz is here, even though the students are all still at school, it being two in the afternoon, lurking in the other room. Luke has no clue what the nature of her and Chewie’s relationship is, and he knows better than to ask, since he’s pretty sure Maz would tell him in explicit, harrowing detail.

Luke tilts his head at Din, standing stiffly in the doorway. “Don’t let him run off, okay?”

Chewie nods — peaceful, copacetic — and waves Din inside. Din steps cautiously over the threshold, and before he can do anything like have second thoughts, Maz is dragging him in deeper, saying, “Tell me, where did our Luke find himself a Mandalorian?”

Chewie hears that, and fixes Luke with a long look.

“I know what I’m doing,” Luke says. “I’m a grown man, Chewie, okay?”

Chewie doesn’t look like he believes him, but thankfully he doesn’t press the point.

It takes Luke almost an hour to make it back across town to the municipal building that houses Child Services — he’s racking up quite a fare, but he thinks of Din’s big help me eyes and Grogu’s tiny happy face in his father’s arms outside the courtroom at 100 Centre, and he literally has never cared less about money.

Ahsoka Tano finds him about thirty seconds after he steps foot in the building, while he’s still signing in and showing his New York Bar I.D. and enduring the usual look from the woman at the front desk that suggests she thinks Luke isn’t old enough to buy alcohol, let alone practice law. 

“He’s with me, Sheryl,” Ahsoka says, waving Luke through. He gets another glare from Sheryl as a parting gift, but he barely notices, swept along with Ahsoka into the crazed activity of the CPS bullpen.

“You ask for the worst fucking favors, Skywalker,” Ahsoka tells him, while they walk. “I don’t know what’s up with this baby, but everyone and their mother wants a piece. You got here in the nick of time.”

“What do you mean?” Luke asks, jogging to keep up. 

“I mean he’s some sort of hotcake baby. Kid’s been here two hours and there’s already a couple in the waiting room looking to sign adoption papers.”

Luke’s stomach drops out. “What? How’s that even possible?”

“Hell if I know. Here we go. In here.”

She opens a door and leads him into the nursery. One baby is screeching bloody murder in the corner, being rocked  by a frazzled social worker, and clear on the other side of the room Luke sees small green hands and feet kicking in the air, in a crib.

“Can I — ?” he asks Ahsoka.

Tight-lipped, she nods.

Luke leaves his satchel by the door and hurries across the room to Grogu. He’s alone in a crib that’s bare except for a single, well-loved blanket, covered in little frogs, hiccuping on tiny little sounds that might’ve been wails a while ago, before he realized the person he wanted wasn’t coming for him. Luke’s heart gives a painful tug, and before he can think to check with Ahsoka again, he’s reaching into the crib and picking him up.

“Hey, little buddy,” he says, as Grogu blinks wide-eyed at him. “Do you remember me? Probably not.”

Contrarily, Grogu says Aboo and reaches for Luke’s face. His fingers are sticky with spit and God knows what, but he’s so small and helpless and dear, and Luke feels the same fierce protective surge that he feels when he looks at Ben, so strong that he has to consciously restrain himself from taking Grogu and walking out of here right now.

Ahsoka comes up behind him. “I don’t know who those people in the waiting room are,” she says, “but they’re fast-tracking their paperwork. Whatever you’re planning, you’d better do it now.”

“Can you stall them?” Luke asks.

Ahsoka stares at him for a long minute, then sighs. “The worst fucking favors,” she repeats, and exits.

Luke’s left holding the baby, unmoored, without a single thought in his head.

***

As he always does when he doesn’t know what else to do, he takes out his phone and calls Ben Kenobi.

Luke,” Ben says, when he’s been babbling at light-speed for long enough that he’s starting to hear the desperation in his own voice, “I’m very sorry to say that there’s nothing you can do — legally — in the time you have.

Luke swallows. In his arms, Grogu is gnawing on the end of his tie, his pudgy, slightly green hands wrapped around it in a vice grip. “Okay,” he says, steeling himself. “What about illegally?”

“Obviously I cannot advise you to take any illegal action,” Ben says, ever the lawyer. “For instance, I cannot advise you to call your father and ask him to pull some strings to fast-track an adoption.”

“I don’t want to fast track an adoption,” Luke says. 

Yes,” says Ben, eminently patient, “you do. Just not the suspicious couple in the waiting room’s adoption.

It takes Luke a second to catch on, and when he does all he can say is, “Oh.”

For a few seconds, all he can do is stare down at the baby tucked against his chest and feel like he’s been hit with a speeding train. It’s terrifying, how far he’s willing to go for this kid, for this kid’s dad — and terrifying how it feels like the easiest thing in the world to do it.

“Yes,” says Ben gently, like he knows something Luke doesn’t. “I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear —

“No,” Luke says. “No, you’re right, as always. My father’s the best option.”

He promises to call Ben if he needs any more help, then hangs up and stares at his dark phone screen for a long, long minute. The other baby in the nursery has stopped crying, and it’s strangely quiet, almost peaceful, despite the storm of emotions and fears raging outside the door. Luke thinks with an edge of hysteria that this is a fitting location to finally do this — to call his father after all these years — in a place dedicated to the frought and painful relationships between children and parents.

Luke’s twenty-six now, twenty-seven next month, and until he was twenty he never knew he had a father. Well, he knew that he had one, abstractly, in the way that everyone had a father, but he hadn’t known that he had one who lived in the same city where he grew up, who was aware of his existence and chose not to have anything to do with him. He’d been adopted by Owen and Beru when he was a baby, and he’d always been aware of that — that he was adopted, that they weren’t his parents. They’d always insisted that he call them Owen and Beru, not Dad or Mom, and it hadn’t been until he got to kindergarten with the other kids in their little town outside Tempe, Arizona that he realized it was strange. 

It’s an old hurt, an old wound, has been for ages, and it wasn’t one he was willing to re-open six years ago when his father, at the time running for mayor, decided that he’d better head off scandal and reach out to his estranged children. Leia, as Luke has gathered from Han, had been politely civil in the way that all politicians were to each other — she aspired to run for office one day, and knew she could hardly do that if she scratched out the eyes of the New York Democratic Party’s chosen son. 

Luke, having no such aspirations, had told Anakin to go shove it on the steps in front of 100 Centre Street and promptly walked in front of a bus.

During the long series of reconstructive surgeries and gruelling months of physical therapy which Luke had been forced to endure in order to be able to hold a pencil in his right hand again, Anakin had taken to haunting the hospital in a baseball cap and dark sunglasses, slipping into Luke’s room, where he was immobilized by all the pins in his arm, and insisting that he had changed and wanted to ‘be a real father.’

Luke had threatened him with a restraining order and then, when that didn’t work, threatened him with calling the Post. He has not seen hide nor hair of Anakin since.

But there’s a kid in his arms who needs his help, so he sighs and dials the phone.

“Mayor Skywalker’s office,” answers a polite female voice. “How may I direct your call?”

“I need to talk to the mayor,” Luke says, already sensing the futility of such a statement. “Tell him it’s Luke.”

There’s a polite, miffed pause. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I can do that, Mr…?”

“Look,” Luke says, “I’m his long lost son and I’m about to sit down for an interview with the Post. Can you just put me through to some sort of PR office or something?”

That scares her enough that she does put him through to someone in PR, who bumps him up the line to a higher-level manager and a higher-level manager until he comes across someone who recognizes his name. 

After that, it’s only a few minutes before Anakin picks up the phone and says, “Luke?”

He sounds so blatantly hopeful that it almost moves something in Luke — almost. He grits his teeth against a sudden upwelling of buried emotion, anger and grief and inadequacy, and he must tense up, because Grogu stirs in his arms, blinking up at him as if in question.

But he manages to get out, “Anakin. I need a favor.”

Anything,” Anakin says, like he means it — like he’d help get rid of a body if Luke asked. Maybe he would. Luke doesn’t really want to find out either way. “Tell me what you need.”

***

It’s eight o’clock by the time Luke makes it out of CPS, and he feels so beaten down by the Sisyphean marathon of paperwork and careful legal obfuscation that he just ran that he calls in sick for the night. He must sound really awful on the phone, because Porkins on the five to one shift doesn’t even give him shit for it, just tells Luke to get some rest and that he hopes he feels better.

Luke doesn’t feel better, he feels awful, but at least he’s in a cab driving away from that evil suspicious couple the Gideons with Grogu in a baby carrier next to him. He shoots off a text to Chewie asking him to bring Din to his apartment and telling him to let himself in with his extra key, then gives Grogu his finger to play with and promptly falls asleep.

He wakes an indeterminate amount of time later to the cabbie banging on the plexiglass divider and Grogu wailing in the carrier beside him. Too dazed to be mad, he climbs out on the sidewalk in front of his apartment, throws the cash through the front window of the cab, and hefts Grogu’s carrier up the steps to the front door. 

The landlord put an elevator in last year — thank God — but Grogu’s crying seems even louder in the confined space. Luke tries to comfort him, but he has zero experience with childcare, other than chasing Ben around Leia and Han’s backyard, and nothing he does seems to be working. 

It’s a massive relief, then, when he makes it to his place and finds Chewie and Din already there.

Din’s on him as soon as he’s through the door, crouching in front of the baby carrier to unclip Grogu and pull him into his arms. The baby stops crying almost the second his dad touches him, and some part of Luke that’s been anxious since he got Din’s call this morning finally settles down and goes back to sleep. 

He sets the empty carrier down, quietly, not wanting to disturb Din and the baby, and goes to find Chewie in the kitchen, to thank him for his help and tell him they might need his van in the morning. Chewie hugs him again — a long, suffocating hug, because somehow Chewie can always tell when Luke needs one — and makes his escape without a word.

Luke stays in the kitchen for a minute, re-centering himself, listening to the sounds of his breath and the TV on in the apartment next door and Din in the other room, murmuring soft affectionate nonsense to his child. He meets his own gaze in the reflection on the microwave door, eyes wide and still sort of shell-shocked, and wonders what the hell he’s gotten himself into.

“Luke,” says Din, behind him.

Luke turns. Grogu is asleep against Din’s chest, his little fist curled tight in the front of Din’s henley, and there’s a mistiness in Din’s eyes that Luke doesn’t want to think is tears, but it is. It’s tears.

“Thank you,” Din chokes. 

It sounds like it hurts to say, and Luke wonders — Din’s a proud man, isn’t he? Not in a bad way, but he takes pride in his little family, in his ability to look after his kid, and now here he thinking he has to prostrate himself before Luke, and — “I told you,” Luke says, “you don’t have to thank me.”

“Yes I do,” says Din, in a tone that leaves no room for argument. “How did you do it?”

“Ah,” Luke says, with a tired smile. “Well. You might not like that part.”

Din just watches, patient.

Luke sighs, gets himself a bottle of water from the fridge, and drinks half of it in one go. He hasn’t really had a lot of time to drink today, and he sort of feels like he’s going to fall over. When he’s done, he leans back against the counter next to the fridge and says, “I adopted him.”

Din frowns.

“Look,” Luke hurries to explain, “there was a couple at CPS that wanted to adopt him today, if their paperwork had gone through there would be no way I could get him back, and there wasn’t any chance of getting you in front of a judge in family court until at least tomorrow morning.”

“So he’s yours,” Din says, after a long pause.

“No,” Luke says. “Well, technically, for now, yes. But I’m not trying to — ”

“I know,” Din says. “I know. I trust you.”

Luke fights down a sudden wave of possessive lust, then takes another drink to cool himself off. “Right,” he says, as he swallows. “So, next steps. There’s something fishy going on here. My friend at CPS is going to work on this from the inside, and hopefully between the two of us, we find something we can use.”

“Use?” Din asks.

“To get you your kid back,” Luke says. “Officially, I mean. If I can prove you were unfairly targeted, that there’s some sort of baby snatching scheme running out of CPS…”

“Baby snatching scheme?” Din echoes.

“And if there’s nothing I can prove, then I have a plan B.”

“Plan B,” Din says. “What’s plan B?”

“Well,” Luke says, suddenly embarrassed. “We get married.”

Din blinks. “Who gets married?”

“You and me,” Luke says, before he can chicken out. “It would just be for the paperwork. I’m his legal guardian right now, so if you married me it would be easy to get you on board as his other legal guardian, and then in a year or two we divorce and you take Grogu, no contest.”

Din is quiet for long enough that Luke starts to get uncomfortable. “Obviously it’s not ideal,” he adds. “Today kind of backed me into a legal corner. But I think it’s better than the alternative.”

Grogu makes a sleepy, babyish sound in Din’s arms, and Luke’s heart does a backflip.

“Yeah,” Din says softly, gazing down at his son. “Yeah, definitely better than the alternative.”

***

Luke bullies Din into taking his bed, at least for the first night, because they don’t have a crib for Grogu yet and it’s not exactly safe to have both of them sleep on the couch. He sits on the bed with Grogu, listening to his quick, shallow baby breaths while Din’s in the bathroom getting ready to go to sleep. It’s only ten, but to Luke it feels like the middle of the night — or rather, the middle of his night, which is right around noon. He only got two hours of sleep before Din’s call woke him today, and not counting that he’s been up since eleven p.m. the night before; the exhaustion is only adding to the surrealist quality of all this. He can only imagine what Leia would say if she knew what was going on in his apartment: Mando brushing his teeth in the bathroom, Mando’s baby asleep in bed, and Luke just proposed marriage in the kitchen.

He must look a little hysterical, because when Din shuffles out of the bathroom, he pauses for a second, looking at Luke, and asks cautiously, “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Luke says, even though Din’s wearing soft-looking threadbare sleep pants that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination and he’d like to maybe put his mouth on them, please. “Sorry, it’s been a long day.”

Din nods. He looks very understanding, and edible, and Luke is definitely going to hell because this is his client, a dad who very nearly lost his son today, and here Luke is wanting to crowd him back into the tiny bathroom and pull those pants down to Din’s knees and — Jesus fucking Christ. 

He gets up from the bed as fast as he can without disturbing the sleeping baby curled up against his pillow and heads for the door. “I’ll be on the couch if you need anything,” he says.

“Luke,” Din says.

Luke stops in the doorway. The light’s already off in the room, the only illumination from the lamp in the hall, and it outlines Din with a gentle wash of golden light. “Thank you again,” Din says.

“You’ve really got to stop thanking me,” Luke insists lowly, then escapes to the living room before Din can try any other mean tricks, like telling Luke he’s a good person or curling up lovingly around his baby.

Luke dreams of big tender hands and thighs like tree trunks and has the mortifying pleasure of waking up hard on his own couch at three in the morning because his body thinks he should be at work. Going back to sleep in his current situation is out of the question, and he’s not about to jack off with a houseguest in the other room, so he spends a good hour laying with his hands folded on his stomach, carefully not moving, willing the problem to go away. Eventually it must work, because the next thing he’s aware of it’s six a.m., yellow sunlight is illuminating all the suspended dust in the air around the couch, and Grogu and Din are making quiet noise in the kitchen.

Luke levers himself into a sitting position and just stays there for a moment, listening. It’s been a long time since he woke up to the sounds of someone else in the apartment with him, and it’s nice. It’s nice not to be beginning his day alone.

He knows he’s fucked his sleep schedule by sleeping when he’d normally be working, but he decides that he can cross that bridge when he comes to it — today is about getting all his ducks in a row.

Chewie shows up with his van around eight, after Luke’s had time to explain to Din that he thinks it’s best if Din moves in here for the time being, what with Luke being Grogu’s legal guardian and this being Luke’s registered address — if CPS decides to do a surprise home visit, they don’t want to get caught standing around with their dicks out. He of course uses more delicate words around the baby, but the sentiment is the same. 

When they get to the Razor Crest they’re met by a bald man with a pockmarked face and a New Zealand accent who already seems to know Chewie but introduces himself to Luke as Fett. Luke shakes his hand and tries to un-have the realization that this is Boba Fett, because the fact that Din keeps company with one of the most notorious gang leaders on the East Coast is probably not a point in his safe-environment favor. Boba, who’s apparently helping Din look after the place while they get this all straightened out, goes up with Din and Chewie to pack up a few boxes of Grogu and Din’s things, the baby babbling happly all the while, and Luke steps out into the alley to make a call.

For the second time in as many days, he dials the number of someone he never thought he’d speak to again — his ex, Mara. 

She answers cautiously, like she’s expecting yelling — which is fair, given the amount of yelling that happened the last time they talked. “Luke. I thought you never wanted to see me again.

Luke pushes down all the arguments he wants to start. There are a lot of them, all of which begin and end with how he’d had to find out from his goddamn sister that his fiancée was fooling around on him with half the D.A.’s office. He knows now’s not the time. Now, he needs Mara’s advice, because she’s the best, most cutthroat criminal defense attorney in New York. Accusing her of adultery probably isn’t the way to get it.

“Mara,” he says. “I might — hypothetically — need some legal advice.”

“Uh oh,” she says. He can picture her, the street noise in the background of the call, stopping dead on the sidewalk and beelining for the first bench she sees. She claims she thinks better when she’s sitting still. “This must be bad. I’ve never heard you break out the ‘hypothetically’ before.

“Hypothetically,” Luke repeats, “if one of your clients adopted a baby, then married a man for the purposes of eventually transferring guardianship of that baby…”

“Luke,” says Mara, voice flat. “You didn’t.”

“Hypothetically,” Luke says again.

Mara sighs, a big sigh, one of the performative ones where she wants him to know she’s put-out. “Okay. I think we’re gonna want attorney-client privelege. Venmo me five bucks and we’ll call it a retainer.”

When he hangs up fifteen minutes later, there’s another item on today’s agenda.

“The sooner the ink dries,” Mara had said, “the better. If you have any friends at city hall who can get it backdated, call them. Do it.”

“Can I talk to you?” Luke asks Din, when he’s done loading the last box in the van.

Din nods, passes Grogu off to Fett to be buckled into the back seat, and joins Luke inside the empty bar. Luke knows that they discussed the possibility last night, but suddenly he’s nervous to voice it in the light of day — and it doesn’t make any sense that this has stakes for him, personal stakes, because theoretically Din is a client and Luke’s his lawyer and this is business, but Din slept in his bed last night and Luke held Grogu while his dad made them both eggs, the baby snuffling sleepy and warm against the skin of his neck, and somewhere in the last twenty-four hours the two of them started feeling like something that’s Luke’s, something he can lose.

“Luke?” Din prompts, when Luke’s been quiet for too long. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Luke says. “Nothing. It just might be better if we got married today.”

For a moment Din goes very, very still, like he’s ceased to even breathe. Then he comes back into motion all at once, a ripple going through him, and gives a tight nod. “Okay,” he says. “If you think it’s best.”

Mara, when Luke proposed, had slammed her credit card down on the table and pulled him into the bathroom of a Michelin 3-star restaurant to make love on the golden trough sink. They had not been quiet, and Mara had strutted out with a wet spot on the back of her skirt from the sink and a thousand watt smile on her face, dragging Luke — red faced, resolved never to show his face in Tribeca again — along behind her. He’d been uncomfortable with the whole thing, but his ring was on Mara’s finger and he was in love, so he never said anything. And the sex they’d had that night, when they were alone together and it felt like all of New York, all of the eastern seabord, was empty and they were the only two people in the world, more than made up for Luke’s embarrassment. 

This, he thinks, is probably the polar opposite of that proposal. Not a lick of passion, not a lick of danger. Luke’s not waiting with bated breath to see whether he’ll be walking home alone with his heart ripped out. But somehow it feels more momentous — more important.

“Yeah,” he says to Din. His entire vocabulary seems to have deserted him. “Okay. Good. Great.”

Since they’ve got two witnesses on-hand, Luke sees no reason to alert anyone who might alert Leia that he’s about to marry a man he met in the tombs because yesterday he accidentally adopted his baby. Fett gets in the van with them, and on the way to the courthouse he points for Chewie to pull over in front of a pawn shop, where a tall woman with Mando tattoos comes out, hands him something, and goes back inside. Fett doesn’t offer them any information on what that something might be, but Luke sees a black velvet bag as he passes it back to Din. Rings, he realizes. 

Mandalorian rings. Din’s not the first Mando Luke’s ever met in the tombs; a few months ago he got a girl off on charges of solicitation, and he’d thought the whole time that she was a Mando herself, but when the trial was over she’d laughed, told him she was just a girlfriend. You’re kinda right, though, she’d said. If you’re with a Mando, you are a Mando. We look after our own.

Luke’s not only about to fake-real-marry the hottest man he’s ever met, he’s also about to join a biker gang. Jesus Christ. Leia’s going to have a fucking aneurysm. 

At city hall they wait in line with loud Italian women in poofy wedding dresses and men with slicked-back hair who look like they’ve been Shanghaied and quiet couples with their heads bent together, private smiles on their faces, whispering sweet nothings. The line moves fast, and Luke thinks it just figures that the one time he wants bureaucracy to give him some time to cool his heels and calm down is the one time it actually runs efficiently. Not an hour after they arrived, they’re standing in front of a judge.

Luke put a rush on their marriage license the same way he put a rush on the adoption papers yesterday, but the judge gives no indication that she knows this ceremony is blessed by the mayor. In fact, she sounds like she’s almost asleep as she goes through her script, and before Luke’s really aware that the ceremony has even started, he hears, “Do you have rings?”

“Yes,” Din says, while Luke has a quiet little panic.

Din takes his hand. His touch is careful, but not uncertain. He meets Luke’s eyes, and there’s something heavy in his gaze that feels like a weight on Luke’s shoulders, holding him back down to earth.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Din says, and slips the ring on Luke’s finger.

Heart rabbiting somewhere above his head, Luke takes the other ring from him. He’s never thought much about what he would say if he ever had to emergency marry an almost-stranger, but these words seem important to Din, so he repeats, “With this ring, I thee wed,” and slides the ring on Din’s finger.

“By the power vested in me by the State of New York, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss.”

Luke feels a jolt of surprise — somehow, he’d forgotten that kissing was part of marriage. But if they want this to look real, for the kid’s sake, they’re going to have to sell it.

So Luke grabs Din by the front of his shirt, pulls him in, and kisses him.

***

At 1:18 a.m., just when Luke is starting to think he might’ve gotten away with something, Biggs Darklighter shows up on the other side of his desk and says, “I can’t believe you called in sick to get shotgun married to a Mando.”

Of course, because it’s Biggs, he says it loud enough that by the time Luke’s standing in front of a judge to plead out a misdemeanor DUI half an hour later everyone seems to be trying to get a good look at Luke’s wedding ring, from the court stenographer to the judge himself to the repeat offenders in the plexiglass box. Luke thinks about maybe putting his hand in his pocket, but he doesn’t want people to think he’s ashamed of his husband, which he’s not, and holy shit, his husband. He has a husband.

“Mr. Skywalker?” the judge prompts, eyebrows raised. “Would you care to join us, or will your client be representing herself?”

“No, Your Honor,” Luke says, tuning back in. “Sorry, Your Honor.”

“No apologies necessary, Mr. Skwalker,” the judge assures him. “I remember what it was like to be a newlywed. I’m surprised you didn’t take the whole week off.”

“Justice never sleeps, Your Honor,” Luke says, putting on a smile.

“Indeed it doesn’t,” the judge agrees. “Indeed it doesn’t. So. Shall we begin?”

Around 3 a.m. Luke’s down in the tombs looking for someone called Fennec Shand when a big guy in one of the group cells reaches through the bars and manages to get a hold of his tie. He slams Luke’s face against the metal twice before the guards manage to separate them by cutting Luke’s tie with a pair of scissors. Normally he’d mug one of them for their tie in retaliation, but his shirt is covered in so much blood from his nose that he figures he’s a lost cause anyways. Fennec, when he finally tracks her down, gives him one look and tells him, “That’s broken. You need to go to the hospital.”

Which is how around 3:30 a.m. Luke finds himself laying on the health-hazard couch in the Legal Aid offices, trying to keep his eyes in focus while Bodhi makes him follow a pen, count how many fingers he’s holding up, and tell him what day of the week it is.

Bodhi, having been a med student for about five minutes before he went pre-law, is the closest thing they have to a doctor — which is not to say, really, that he’s anything close to a doctor.

“What’s your full name?” Bodhi asks.

“Luke Skwalker.”

“No middle name?”

“Not that I’m aware of, no.”

“And you didn’t take your husband’s name?”

“No, I — ” Luke stops himself, squinting at Bodhi. He can sense Biggs and Wedge’s hand in this. “I’m not telling you his name, Bodhi. Do I need to go to the hospital or not?”

“Oh, definitely,” Bodhi says. “Should we call your emergency contact? If you just give me his number — ”

Luke glares at him on his way out of the office.

The ER is as it always is at four in the morning — crowded with drunks, druggies, and terrified parents. Luke sits in the waiting area in his ruined suit with blood all over him and bits of tissue stuck up his nose for over an hour before they call him back to be seen by the intake nurse. It’s another hour after that, the sun rising blinding white outside the windows, before he’s shown in to see a doctor, who sets his nose in less than five minutes and leaves him with a prescription for hydrocodon and instructions to ice his face at least three times a day for twenty minutes at a time. 

By the time Luke stumbles through the front door of his apartment, the morning rush hour is well underway and the entire cast of Riverdance is stomping on his brain. He closes the door behind him as softly as he can, hears a baby say Aboo in his kitchen, and jumps.

He forgot. With the hospital, the pharmacy, the agony of the cab ride home — How could he forget? He toes off his shoes and drops his satchel in the entryway, suffused with sudden, shaky warmth. The baby. His husband.

“Luke?” Din comes out of the kitchen. “Jesus, what happened?”

Luke shakes his prescription bottle demonstratively, which — he realizes as he does it — doesn’t really answer the question at all. “I tripped,” he invents. “A few times. Repeatedly.”

“I’m going to go lay down,” he says, and tries to go past Din to the couch, but Din catches him by the shoulder and steers him into the bedroom, where he sits him down on the bed and steps between his legs.

“Um,” Luke says. Normally he’d be all for this, but if any blood tries to leave his head right now he’s pretty sure it’s going to come out his nose, and he’s heard that’s a turn off for some people.

But Din just takes Luke’s face in his hands, turning him gently so his eyes catch the light, examining the doctor’s work. Luke wonders if Din has seen a lot of broken noses. Probably he has. Probably he’s usually the one breaking them. 

“Will I live?” he asks, joking.

Din smiles softly. It’s the first time Luke can really remember seeing him smile. The expression transforms his face into such a kind, open thing that for a moment Luke entertains the absurd notion of pulling him down into bed and kissing him, swollen face and bloody shirt and sham marriage and all.

“You’ll live,” Din says. Then, “I’ll take the kid for a walk, give you some peace and quiet.”

Luke barely manages to take off his halved tie before his head hits the pillow and he’s dead to the world.

When he swims back into awareness hours or days later, the sun is low and yellow in the sky, Grogu is asleep in the crib next to the bed, and Din is asleep in the chair in the corner, chin against his chest, arms crossed. Luke doesn’t want to get up, so for a minute he doesn’t. 

It’s almost unbearably intimate, lying there in what he now realizes is Din’s scent on his pillows, his body still loose and hazy with sleep. Luke’s pretty sure he’s never felt this peaceful in his life.

The more his brain wakes up, the more the thought creeps in: but it’s not his life. This isn’t his life, it’s just one he borrowed. Without asking, to boot.

In the kitchen, he turns on the Mr. Coffee and spreads out the files Ahsoka sent over from CPS. He’d asked for adoption records for babies going back six months, and she’d laughed and told him he could have three weeks — “Do you know how many kids come through here per day?” — but he figures it’s a start. He’s looking, basically, for anything that strikes him as weird. Babies brought in that get adopted out on the same day. Complaints filed by parents who had their kids emergency-removed without due cause. Any other mention of the Gideons, or of kids who are slightly green.

He’s made exactly zero progress — unless one can consider drinking three cups of coffee progress — when an hour later Din appears in the doorway, rubbing sleep from his eyes. 

He blinks at Luke, blinks at the disaster area of the kitchen table. “Hey,” he says.

Luke smiles tiredly. “Hey.”

Din just stares at him for a long moment, thinking unknowable thoughts. Then he pushes away from the doorframe and says, “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

Luke follows the line of his gaze to his shirt, which is covered in dried blood, and says, “Oh.”

Din smiles quietly. “Yeah. Oh.”

In the bathroom, which they crept into on tiptoes to avoid waking the baby, Din wets a washcloth while Luke forces open the dried-shut buttons on his shirt. He hasn’t taken any hydrocodon — being on heavy painkillers sort of precludes him from doing any legal work, and anyways he’s been having entirely too many inappropriate thoughts about his new roommate to trust himself on the good stuff — so his face is throbbing like there’s a living creature burrowed under his skin.

He hisses when Din presses the washcloth to his face, can’t help it. He knows he was entertaining thoughts of kissing and other more interesting oral feats earlier, but now he realizes that he was a fool and an idiot on top of being delusional, because there’s no way the logistics of that would work out with his nose the way it is. Fucking tombs, he thinks, because Din is standing close enough that he can feel the heat of his body and also close enough that thinking about that will get Luke in trouble. 

When Din’s wringing the washcloth in the sink and Luke’s blood is swirling pink and watery around the drain, he leans his head back against the mirror and says, “I’m sorry.”

Din frowns. “What for?”

“I Shanghaied you,” Luke says miserably.

“You what?”

“I basically forced you into marrying me, I’m imposing myself on your life — ”

“Stop it,” Din says, and turns off the tap. It’s suddenly silent in the bathroom — or as silent as a place can get, being in New York City. Din meets Luke’s eyes. “I called you because I needed a lawyer. You got my kid back. You married me. You opened your home. You adjusted your whole life for us.”

Luke swallows. “My sister’s always telling me I get too invested in my clients.”

“Have you ever married a client before?” Din asks.

Luke looks down at his own knees. He thinks he would be blushing if his face weren’t just one big bruise. “No,” he admits. “Just you.”

Din touches his chin very, very gently. “Good.”

***

Over the next few weeks, Luke dodges no less than one million calls from the mayor’s office. Undeterred, Anakin leaves him no less than half a million voicemails, each impressing upon Luke the fact that Anakin is not going to turn him in for his sham adoption or his sham marriage but that as his father he’s worried about him and he’d feel a lot better if Luke would meet him somewhere so they could talk.

Luke, who’s only had six years to get over twenty years of abandonment, decides that he would not feel better, and starts deleting Anakin’s voicemails without listening to them. If he had a therapist they’d probably encourage him to start some sort of emotional healing war against his own daddy issues, but perhaps precisely for that reason, he doesn’t. He’s always felt like a late addition in all his own families, an addendum — first with Beru and Owen, who made no secret of the fact that he was not theirs, then with Bail and Breha, who for all that they came to love him never quite got over that phase of movig around him him like a temporary guest, a family member from out of town just visiting for the holidays. Feeling like an inconvenient obligation to his real, biological father is not an ordeal Luke’s willing to put himself through.

Din goes back to work at the bar three nights a week, claiming he doesn’t need to go broke on top of all the other legal mumbo jumbo they’re going through, and Luke becomes accustomed to eating dinner (breakfast) around nine with Din and Cara Dune or Din and ex-private eye Greef Karga, who take turns watching Grogu on a schedule that seems to be decided mostly by arm wrestling. (Luke’s pretty sure the winner is the one who gets stuck with babysitting duty, which would be more weird to him if he hadn’t actually seen the baby in question. Grogu’s cute enough Luke would arm wrestle for him, too.)

At work, Luke’s black eyes and broken nose distract from the fact that he got shotgun married to a biker gang, and things go swiftly and smoothly back to normal. Lobster shift sees enough weird shit every day that their attention span for scandal is extraordinarily, blessedly short.

Ahsoka comes through with CPS case files going back four months. Greef arrives for babysitting duty one evening to find Luke in the middle of a blast area of photo copies, trying to keep Grogu from gnawing on colored tabs, and takes pity on him by agreeing to take the case.

“For the little one,” he says, “I’d do a hell of a lot more than come out of retirement.”

That takes some of the pressure off Luke, but not all of it. Mara, who’s honoring her five dollar retainer like a star, calls him one morning when Din’s been living with him for about a month to inform him he’s under investigation by both the NY State Bar and the NYPD.

“Jesus,” Luke says, trying to remember his ujjayi breath and his directional whatever-the-fuck from back when he still had time to go to yoga. “Is it, I don’t know, urgent?”

“Is it urgent?” Mara echoes, and then laughs for long enough that Luke has to lean against the wall.

He’s in the hall outside the bedroom, having snatched the phone just in time to keep it from waking Din and the baby. Yes, they’ve been sleeping in the same bed lately, but Luke doesn’t see any reason to get weird about it. After all, the couch is basically a torture device and it is Luke’s bed, and anyway — it’s fine.

Is it urgent,” Mara says again, amused, like he’s given her a little gift, something she can tease him with for a while. “Well, in the sense of ‘when it all comes crashing down on you, will it ruin your life?’ Yes. In the sense of, ‘will it all come crashing down tomorrow morning?’ No. You have some time.”

“Some time,” Luke says, nodding. “Okay. How much time?”

“A month? Maybe two. It’s tough to say. It depends on what they can shake loose, and when, and how much you’ve pissed off the DA’s office lately.

Luke nods. He knows she can’t see it, but he thinks she probably knows anyways.

“Listen, Skywalker,” Mara says. She’s always called him ‘Skywalker,’ even when they were engaged. That probably should’ve been a red flag. “I know I’m the last person who should be asking you this, but — Are you sure it’s worth it? That he’s worth it?”

“Yeah,” Luke says, without even having to think. 

He knows some things about Din now that he didn’t when this all started: that he has to roll over five or six times before he gets comfortable enough to go to sleep, that he sings Led Zeppelin to his baby like a lullaby when he’s trying to soothe him in the middle of the night, that he isn’t just violently protective of his own, but that he pays attention to them in more subtle ways, to what they like and what they don’t, their fears and needs and the words they say, and that somehow, by helping him, Luke has become one of his own. 

He knows that Din didn’t choose him, not really, that he got randomly assigned to his case by Legal Aid computers and sheer dumb luck. But Din chose to trust him, and Luke thinks that, to Din and to his people, that’s probably the only kind of declaration that matters.

“Yeah,” he says again. “I could get disbarred and sent to jail, and he’d still be worth it.”

“I sure as hell hope you know what you’re doing,” Mara says, and hangs up.

Me too, Luke doesn’t say to the empty hallway. Me too.

Distantly, in some corner of his brain that has time to worry about things like potential heartbreak, he’s aware that he’s getting way too comfortable with this domestic thing they’ve got going on.

For the first week or so, whenever someone at work or in the building would ask him how his husband was, how his kid was, Luke would have this sick feeling in his gut like he always gets when he lies, even though he hadn’t really, technically, been lying. Now he doesn’t — now the nice cashier at the bodega down the street will ask How’s the family, counselor? and he’ll say, They’re good, thanks, and he won’t even think about how none of it is real. He keeps forgetting that he goes to sleep at night next to a husband who doesn’t love him, who isn’t even supposed to, and he knows that someday that forgetfulness is going to bite him in the ass.

***

Organa & Organa is handling a merger between the two biggest renewable energy companies in America, which as Luke understands it is making the SEC sweat about monopolies and making crude oil ETFs plummet — he suspects this is why it takes Leia a month and a half to show up yelling at his door.

“Stop yelling!” he whispers, as he slips out into the hall wearing what he realizes — mortifyingly — might be a pair of Din’s sleep pants. “You’ll wake the baby.”

Leia’s eyes bug out of her head. “Baby?” she hisses.

“Uh,” says Luke, intelligently.

Which is how all three of them find themselves browbeaten into attending Sunday barbeque at Leia and Han’s house in Greenwich, an experience which Luke is certain will go down in history as one of the most awkward meals of all time, second only to the apostles’ brunch the morning after the Last Supper.

“So, Din,” Breha says, passing a basket of rolls. “What do you do?”

(Luke had tried to impress upon Din before leaving the apartment this afternoon that he really didn’t have to come with him, that he was under no familial obligations to put up with Leia’s shit, but Din had gotten quiet for a minute and then said, “If you don’t want me to meet your family, I can stay here.”

And what could Luke say to that, but, “Don’t be stupid. You’re my husband. Of course I want you to meet them.”)

“I’m a bartender,” Din answers Breha. 

“He owns a bar,” Luke amends, taking the rolls.

Han tunes in to the conversation. “Finally, reinforcements. I was starting to think everybody in the world was a lawyer. What’s the name of the place?”

“The Razor Crest,” Din says.

The table goes abruptly silent. The smile falls off Han’s face. 

Luke’s heard tell of his feud with the Mandalorians. He never really took it seriously — Han has ‘feuds’ with half the tri-state area, including every house in the cul de sac and eight New York Knicks. But judging by the way Leia leans over and pinches him hard under the table, this is one Han takes seriously.

Bail, as usual, is the one to rescue them from uncomfortable silence. Unfortunately, the question he chooses for this purpose is: “So, how did you two meet?”

Luke’s fighting down that sick feeling and hunting around for a good lie when Din, honest to a fault, tells Bail, “He defended me on an assault charge.”

Luke expects another uncomfortable silence, and he gets one, but this time it’s Breha who breaks it, when she bursts into high, ebullient laughter. “Oh, God, Bail, don’t look so scandalized,” she chides, when her husband gapes at her. “Or have you forgotten how you and I met?”

“Mom,” Leia says, pleading.

Breha leans over to Din and whispers loud enough for the whole table to hear, “Strip club.”

Leia claps her hands over Ben’s ears and makes noise about childhood innocence while Han throws his head back and laughs heartily, and Luke watches Din’s posture — which he hadn’t realized until now was so tense — ease into something more relaxed, and he thinks he’s never loved Breha more than in this moment.

The rest of dinner passes without serious incident. Leia and Bail comiserate over the renewable energy merger. Han tries to interrogate Din about Boba Fett while Din studiously takes the fifth, and Ben, clearly delighted to have found an attentive audience, rattles off frog facts to Grogu at a clip approaching the speed of light.

When the plates are clear, Leia gives Luke a sharp look and tilts her head toward the house. He sighs and rises, and as he does, Breha catches his hand.

“I know none of us choose who we love,” she tells him in a low voice. “But if we did, I’d say you’d made a fine choice indeed, my dear.”

Eyes stinging, Luke nods. He can’t manage any words, but he thinks Breha probably doesn’t mind. She probably knows what he wants to say better than he does.

Inside, Leia holds him captive with dirty dishes so she can get to the real interrogation. 

“I talked to Jyn. She says you caught Din’s case in the tombs, and married him a month later. A month, Luke? I know it’s sort of your M.O. to rush headfirst into things without thinking, but this is a whole new level.”

“I think,” Luke argues, indignant.

Leia’s eyebrows go straight up. “Oh, really? So you were thinking when you proposed to Mara after like two weeks of dating? You were thinking when you tried to drive to Vermont in a blizzard — ”

No,” Luke interjects, “obviously I wasn’t thinking then.”

“And now you are,” Leia says, flat and disbelieving. “Now, when you married a Mando and adopted his baby in the space of twenty-four hours, you’re thinking.”

Luke grabs the edge of the sink with his soapy rubber gloves and looks at her.

He hates arguing with Leia. The last time she was seriously mad at him, he couldn’t catch a cab for three weeks. He has no idea how she does it, and afterwards he’s always too grateful to have her back to bother asking, too relieved to risk having her turn cold towards him again. 

But he’ll weather it for Din. If he has to, he’ll endure Leia’s cold, stony silences — for Din.

Leia must read as much in his expression, because the belligerent look on her face goes abruptly, painfully, soft. “Oh, Luke,” she says, and draws him into a hug, letting him cling to her, soapy gloves and all.

“I don’t have to think about this,” he mutters, face pressed into her shoulder. “This isn’t the kind of thing I have to think about, Leia. It’s not like with Mara.”

“I know,” she soothes, running a hand over the back of his head. “I know, Luke. I know.”

She does, Luke thinks, remembering that first, horrible dinner when she’d brought Han back to meet her parents, the terrified look on his face and the determined way she’d dragged him back inside after she found him trying to escape over the fence in the back yard. She knows, probably better than Luke does, that this isn’t the sort of thing you sit down and puzzle out, not the sort of thing you put to a vote, subject to pros and cons lists, or send to the quants to calculate the odds of success. This sort of thing, you do on instinct. Luke loved Mara, he really did, but he never stood in the door to their bedroom and looked at the soft sleeping parenthesis of her body and felt a bone-deep sense of rightness, never got the feeling that by standing next to her he was exactly where he was supposed to be, this one fated spot in all of space and time. 

But with Din — on his way back outside, Luke pauses on the porch steps, watching Din swirl Grogu through the air like an airplane, Ben laughing uproariously and running circles around them, and thinks that if either of them were anywhere else but right here, right now, it would be a damn waste.

Din looks up, sees Luke watching him, and sets Grogu down in the grass to walk over.

“You okay?” he asks, standing on the lowest step.

Luke fights the sudden urge to step down into his arms. “Yeah,” he says, smiling. “I’m good.”

Din tilts his head, searching Luke’s face like he thinks he’s not quite telling him everything, but he doesn’t call Luke out on it. “Okay,” he says.

He holds out his hand to Luke, palm open. 

Luke takes it.

***

They get home long after dark, when the city has turned to a starmap of glittering lights and Luke’s heart feels slow and muffled like a cotton ball in his chest. 

Grogu fell asleep on the drive home, snoring lightly in his carseat, and didn’t stir a bit while Din unbuckled him and carried him upstairs. Luke stands in the hall while Din puts him down in his crib. In his socks and his jeans and his Georgetown sweatshirt and the calm insularity of his home — their home — Luke feels as if something tectonic has shifted. 

Din comes back into the hall, closing the door to the bedroom behind him. For a long minute they just stand there, bare inches apart, and the way Din holds his gaze makes Luke feel as if he’s being held. He can tell that Din feels it too — the shift. It’s written all over his face.

He takes Luke’s hand, turns it over, and kisses his palm. Then kisses his wedding ring.

Luke makes a hurt sound. “Din,” he says.

Din steps in, pressing Luke forward until his back hits the wall, and kisses his mouth. 

All the air leaves Luke’s body. He grabs on to the sides of Din’s head, curling his fingers around Din’s ears, thrilled by the shape of his skull and the warmth of his skin, by Din’s thigh grinding up between his legs and Din’s five o’clock shadow tickling his chin. “Din,” he says again, more urgently, and wraps his arms around Din’s neck, pulling him closer, as close as they can get. “Din,” trying to be quiet, but then he bites Din’s lower lip and the man breaks with a low, rumbling sound that’s almost a growl, and the training wheels come off.

There are hands under Luke’s sweatshirt, running up the thin lines of his side, over his bare skin, and Luke can’t remember the last time someone touched him like this — like they wanted it so bad they couldn’t help themselves. He hikes one leg up around Din’s hip, wanting to wrap him up like an octopus, but before he can get there Din is gone, sucking a line down Luke’s throat, pressing a perfunctory nonsensical kiss to the decal letters on the chest of his sweatshirt on his way to kneel at Luke’s feet. They’ve been kissing for — what? thirty seconds? — and already Luke feels better-fucked than maybe he ever has, ravaged, plundered, and then Din’s thumbing open the button of his jeans and he makes a soft, wondering noise. 

Din stops and looks up at him. His lips are red and swollen from Luke’s mouth and there’s a question in his eyes, a question to which Luke can only say, “Yes, please, Jesus.”

Then his fly is open and Din tugs his jeans and his briefs down past his knees in one swoop, and Luke only has a second to feel the cool draft from the hallway vent and feel heart-poundingly scandalized that he’s standing here at full mast in his socks, before his husband takes his cock in his mouth.

Luke fists his hand in Din’s hair and digs his heels into the hall carpet and is trying very hard not to shout when he feels Din’s fingers press past his lips. He sucks on them desperately, relieved, tonguing over the pads and tasting salt while Din’s nose hits the patch of hair at the base of his cock and Din’s throat vibrates ever-so-slightly around him, humming in encouragement. Luke wants to know what it would be like to be fucked like this, for his husband to fuck him, with four fingers in Luke’s mouth, maybe moving into him from behind, one arm like a band around his waist, breathing hard in Luke’s ear, and Din’s other hand digs into the meat of his ass, forcing Luke deeper into the wet heat of his mouth at the same time that his fingers press down on Luke’s tongue, his wedding ring clinking against Luke’s teeth, and that’s it — Luke comes so hard he almost blacks out.

When he comes back around they’re laying on the floor of the hallway, Luke’s pants bunched up around his ankles, face nestled in the crook of Din’s arm. He hums and turns his face to press a kiss to Din’s chest through his shirt, which turns into a kiss to the side of his neck, which turns into his mouth again, where Luke can taste himself. He’s never really thought that was hot before, but now…

He slips out of Din’s grasp, moving down the reclined line of his body. A brief touch of denim on his softening cock makes him suck in a gasp, overstimulated, like a raw nerve, and he has to bury his face in the crease of Din’s hip for a second before he can continue — but then he opens Din’s fly and pulls his pants and his boxers down gently to his thighs, leaving him trapped but just free enough that Luke can pump his cock once, twice, watching how Din’s teeth grit and his jaw jumps and his eyes try to roll back in his head, until Luke says, “Hey. Look at me.” and he does. He meets Luke’s eyes and holds them, burning, as Luke sinks down on his cock.

After, when Din has come with a strangled sound and Luke’s ducked into the bathroom for a washcloth to get the come off his chin, they tiptoe into bed and sink down, wrapped up in each other. The sheets smell like both of them. The pillows smell like both of them. Din reels Luke in and kisses him and it tastes like both of them, and it may not be the smartest choice, but neither of them says anything.

Because right then, in that bed, with the outside world a million miles away and their baby asleep in a crib next to them, it feels as if there’s nothing to be said.

***

Din gets a call at ten the next morning about a delivery issue at the bar, and Luke offers to take Grogu with him on his errands, which include grocery shopping, returning Chewie’s van, and going out to Brooklyn to see Ben Kenobi. 

“You’re sure?” Din asks, lingering in the door. Luke left a hickey on his neck last night, and he almost wishes that he made it bigger — that along with his wedding ring Din could walk out into the world wearing Din’s mark.

“I’m sure,” he says, hefting Grogu against his hip. 

How Din can still be this uncertain about his committment Luke’s not really sure, but then again, maybe Din himself isn’t really that committed. Maybe Din still thinks this is a business relationship, even after all that stuff last night.

Before Luke can spiral too far, Din crosses back to him in two quick strides and presses a kiss to his lips — quick, familiar, like they’ve done this a million times. Like they do it every morning. “I’ll see you later,” he says, and with a last affectionate touch to Grogu’s cheek, steps out. 

Ben doesn’t even blink when Luke shows up with a baby, just crouches in front of the carrier to smile at Grogu and say, “Hello there, little one. And who might you be?”

“He’s a bit green, isn’t he?” he asks later, when they’ve repaired to the study with tea for two and a no-spill bowl of baby cereal for Grogu.

“Yeah,” Luke says, with a prickle of defensiveness. “Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“Certainly not,” Ben agrees. “One of my professors in law school was a bit green. Brilliant fellow.”

In an unprecedented and frankly impressive move, Grogu manages to spill all his cereal out of the no-spill bowl by hurling it against the wall, so Luke and Ben are forced to undertake their fond reminiscence of Professor Yoda’s constitutional law seminar while crawling around on their hands and knees looking for star shaped sweet potato puffs. By the time they think they’ve got them all, it’s nearly lunchtime, so they move into the kitchen, where Ben makes scrambled eggs and a box of Kraft mac and cheese.

“Sorry,” Luke says. “He still doesn’t trust most solid foods, but he seems to like the yellow ones.”

“Yellow lunch it is, then,” Ben says amiably. “I might have some lemonade, if we’d like to really commit.”

Luke laughs, then falls silent for a minute, watching Ben at the stove. He’s in one of what he calls his ‘old man sweaters,’ a thick cable knit with big black buttons,  and there are lines on his face and liver spots on his hands that weren’t there when Luke was little. It’s still strange for him, like Ben’s aging has created some sort of cognitive disonance; Luke thinks he’ll always remember him as he was when Luke first met him, the happy man in the Legal Aid office with the fancy accent who bought Luke candy bars from the vending machines and tought him to play jacks on the bench in AR 12 when there were no cases up. 

Beru always provided for him, kept a roof over his head and cooked him dinner and stayed home with him when he was sick, but Luke thinks Ben was the one who really knew who Luke was, as a kid, who saw him. He knows now that Ben wasn’t just being nice because Luke was a sad little kid stuck pulling the lobster shift with his court reporter mom; he knew Luke’s father, knew who Luke was. But Luke can’t help but think that even if he had just been a sad little kid, it all would’ve happened exactly the same. 

Luke has always suspected that Ben was the one who convinced his father to reach out to him and Leia, six years ago. He’s never asked, because the topic has always been too painful, talking about it has always been like looking directly into a bright light, but today he feels shored up, somehow. He feels ready.

So when Ben sets a plate of yellow food in front of him and joins him and Grogu at the table, Luke asks, “You loved my father, didn’t you?”

The question surprises Ben. Luke can tell, even though the man barely misses a beat.

He meets Luke’s eyes. Smiles ruefully. “Why the past tense?”

“I don’t know,” Luke says, distant, sort of incredulous. “Really? After everything? All this?”

“Anakin could shoot me in the heart, and I’d still love him.” It almost sounds like a confession, except how there’s not a trace of guilt on Ben’s face. “Love rarely follows the principles of logic, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

Love, Luke thinks, turning the word over in his head as he feeds Grogu — babbling, already a mess — a spoonful of mac and cheese. He hasn’t let himself look at it head on yet, because until last night all the signs were pointing to this being only temporary, but now he looks. Now he paces around the idea, examining it from all angles, and sees the bare messy truth: that he’s been in love from the moment Din said, Here.

“After all,” Ben continues. “We don’t fall in love with the perfect image of a person, do we? Not real love, I mean. It’s the rough edges that ensnare us. And your father has more rough edges than most.”

“You’re ensnared,” Luke says.

“Oh yes,” Ben agrees. “I’ve been ensnared for years. Decades.”

“Do you ever see him? Talk to him?”

“Yes,” Ben says. “I tried not to, for a time. A long time. Years. But it’s very difficult to stay away. There’s something gravitational about it.”

“Gravitational?” Luke echoes.

Ben nods. “I’ve always thought that, if you took away all my senses, I could still find Anakin by how the universe shapes around him. Everything’s oriented around him. It always has been, for me, from the moment we met.”

Luke’s breath catches. 

“I know what you mean,” he says, when he regains his voice.

“Yes.” Ben smiles softly at him. “Yes, I believe you do.”

He doesn’t stay too long, because the schedule of Grogu’s naps is a delicate equilibrium which one infringes upon at one’s own peril. Ben sends him off with a paper bag full of childrearing books, admitting with a self-deprecating smile that there was a time when he himself thought he might settle down with a Mandalorian, and Luke, laden like a pack mule, shuffles out the front door into the drizzly Brooklyn morning.

“Stay right there,” says Mr. Gideon, holding a gun in his face.

Luke stays right there. 

Raindrops are pinging off the bill of his D-backs cap. In the baby carrier he can feel Grogu moving around, the tiny shifts in his weight. The front door is already closed behind him. The street’s deserted, and even if it weren’t — this is New York. Someone might call the cops, but no one’s going to stop to help, and the cops will get here too late. 

Moving at the pace of paint drying, desperate not to draw Gideon’s attention, Luke moves the baby carrier so it’s behind his legs. So he’s between Gideon and the baby.

“Mr. Gideon,” he says, in his calm-down-I’m-a-lawyer voice. “What do you want?”

“I should think that’s obvious,” Gideon says. “I want the child.”

Luke forgets to breathe for a moment. All his internal organs are paralyzed as fear and rage war for control — his brain included. He wants to cry, he wants to beg, he wants to dive at Gideon and take the bullet in his own chest, he wants to yell loud enough for God to hear You can’t have my fucking kid, asshole.

He’s saved from having to do any of that when he hears the click of a lock behind him. The front door opens. Luke doesn’t turn, fixed to the spot by the gun in his face, but he hears Ben say, “Drop that gun. Now.”

Luke knows that tone of voice.

He’s only ever heard it once — 2 a.m. on the lobster shift when he was seven years old, struggling through the last page of his math homework with Deepa Billaba’s gentle guidance, someone suddenly coming over the building intercom and saying, Officer Amato please report to AR 8. Officer Amato to AR 8. Deepa had gone pale and quiet but Ben had gotten up from his desk, locked the door, slid a filing cabinet in front of it, and herded them into the supply closet in the back of the Legal Aid offices. Luke hadn’t had any idea what was happening, then, too young to understand that the announcement over the intercom had been code for an active shooter, but he knew that something was wrong and he’d been scared. 

He’s scared now, but Ben is behind him, saying in that same tone of voice he used to tell seven-year-old Luke, I’m not going to let anything happen to you, “The police are on their way. If I were you, I’d be gone when they get here.”

Gideon stands there for another second, finger tightening almost imperceptibly on the trigger, then turns and gets into a waiting car, which peels away with a squeal of tires.

Luke exhales so hard he stumbles. Ben catches him, eases the baby carrier out of his hands, and guides him back inside. 

In the dim entryway Luke realizes Ben has an old hunting rifle slung over his shoulder. His eyes have a sort of murderous fire in them, and when he says, “I’m calling your father,” he leaves no room for argument.

As he disappears into the house, Luke eases himself down to sit with his back against the wall, and unstraps Grogu from his carrier. He looks distressed, but he’s being quiet, like he can tell even as a baby how serious the situation is, and it breaks Luke’s heart to see it. 

“Hey,” he says softly, tucking the baby against his chest. “It’s alright. It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

Grogu’s little hands bunch up in his t-shirt.

Luke manages to get his phone out of his back pocket and dials Din. He doesn’t pick up, so Luke dials again right away, his heart catapulted straight into his mouth by fear. What if Gideon went to see Din first? What if he shot him when he saw he didn’t have the baby? What if, what if, what if —

Luke,” Din answers. “Sorry, I was helping Fett carry a table. Is everything okay?”

Tears spill from Luke’s eyes. He presses the back of his hand to his mouth to keep from making a sound, but he does anyway — a small, choking sob.

“Luke?” Din asks, concerned.

Luke takes a deep breath, pulling himself together. “I’m okay,” he says. “Grogu’s okay. I think you should come over here and I can tell you everything then.”

There’s a moment of quiet, like Din’s having to pull himself together too, and then he says, “Okay. Where are you?”

Half an hour later, Ben has a full house.

The first wave arrives at his door in quick succession: four uniformed officers, Detective Vos from Manhattan SVU, Ahsoka Tano, Mayor Skywalker’s secretary Threepio, Mayor Skywalker’s in-house counsel Mr. Sebulba, and last but not least Mayor Skywalker himself, in his customary all-black suit, looking like he did in all those smear ads the Republicans used to run against him — dark, furious, vengeful. 

Luke retreats upstairs to hide in Ben’s room before his father can corner him and try to talk to him, entertaining the baby with frog videos on his phone, so he only hears the second wave get in. Mara arrives with her usual pomp and circumstance, declaring loudly for all to hear that she hasn’t had to come to Brooklyn since she was still defending college students on baby drug charges. Then there’s Chewie, apparently bearing biblical amounts of Starbucks and a fresh batch of Maz’s mandazi. Then Greef Karga, who Ben seems to already know. Then Judge Tarkin and Krennic from the DA’s office, both of whom, Luke understands, are in the mayor’s pocket.

Then finally Din, who Ben allows upstairs, past the conspiratorial gathering of New York’s legal elite in the crowded sitting room, to rush down the hall at a pace that’s almost a run and slip into the bedroom.

Luke stands to meet him, the baby in his arms. “Din. He’s okay.”

“What happened?” Din asks, breathless, taking Grogu when Luke hands him over, running a big hand over his head, his tiny back, like he’s checking for injuries.

Luke feels suddenly adrift, with his arms empty. “Gideon,” he says. “The guy who was trying to adopt him at CPS. He was here. He had a gun.”

Din’s eyes are the same as they were when Luke met him in the tombs. He knows him well enough to recognize, now, that it’s not fear for himself that makes him look so scared — it’s never fear for himself. 

“Grogu’s okay,” Luke repeats. “I wouldn’t let anything happen to him. I’m not going to let anything happen to him.”

Din catches the back of Luke’s neck and pulls him into a kiss. 

Luke melts against him. Some part of him was worried that Din was going to sweep in here and take his baby and disappear forever, leave Luke behind, and the relief of having his husband holding him is almost indescribable. Din wraps them all up in his arms, this little family, and when Luke breaks away to tuck his face into the crook of his neck, hiding his red eyes, Din just presses his mouth to his hair and stays there, steady as a rock, until Luke feels warm and safe and whole again.

“I have to go downstairs,” he says, a minute or an hour later. 

Din moves back to meet his eyes. “I can come with you,” he offers.

“No. There’s probably going to be a lot of yelling. I don’t want him to get upset.”

Din looks down at Grogu, dead asleep against his chest, then pulls Luke into a last, bracing kiss and lets him go.

Downstairs, there is a lot of yelling. 

Greef and Detective Vos are trying to present evidence while Mara makes a lot of noise about suing CPS and Ahsoka shoots back a bunch of politely-worded threats that basically amount to ‘over my dead body.’ Anakin’s yelling at Krennic and Sebulba’s yelling at Anakin and Threepio is sitting in the corner with Chewie looking hunted while Ben tries to serve him a cup of tea. 

Luke pauses on the threshold for a moment, taking it all in, feeling like he’s a million miles away.

Then he says, “Dad.”

The room falls abruptly silent. 

Anakin looks over at Luke like an electric shock has just gone through him. “Luke?”

Luke swallows. “Can I talk to you in the other room?”

“Yeah,” Anakin says. “Yeah, of course.”

In Ben’s study, Luke closes the door and turns to his father. It’s the first time they’ve been alone together — or even been face to face — since Luke was lying in the hospital with pins in his hand. He feels the old injury twinge now, like a reminder, and curls his hand into a fist to feel it more. The ache.

Maybe that’s all he’s been doing with his father, he realizes. Making it hurt on purpose. Nursing the ache, because he’s been to physical therapy, he’s done the work, and he knows how hard it is to make something heal.

But he also knows that it’s worth it. In the end, it’s worth it.

So he pushes down his hurt and his fear, and he asks his father, “What was wrong with me?”

Anakin looks stricken. “What?”

“When I was a baby,” Luke says. “When me and Leia were babies. What was wrong with us, that you didn’t want us?”

“Nothing,” Anakin says, still with that slapped look on his face. “Nothing was wrong with you, Luke. It was me, I was…Your mother died in childbirth. I was a mess. I had anger issues, I was getting drunk every night, going out, getting in fights. I hurt people, and I didn’t want to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you.”

You did, Luke doesn’t say. Anakin already knows. 

“I asked Ben to take you away. Both of you. You were both supposed to go to my step-brother in Arizona, but Owen and Beru weren’t wealthy people. Owen was sick. Raising two kids would’ve been too much for them. So Leia stayed here, with the Organas.”

Anakin approaches him, hand outstretched, like he wants to touch his son but isn’t sure if he’s allowed. “Nothing was wrong with you, Luke,” he says, quieter than before. “Nothing was ever wrong with you. You’re my son.”

Luke’s pretty sure his eyes are only dry by sheer force of will. He nods once, staring at Anakin’s outstretched hand, and Anakin must sense that a hug is not on the table for today, because he drops his arm and steps back.

“I want to trust you,” Luke says. “I really want to trust you, because I need your help.”

“You can trust me,” his father assures him. “Anything you need, I’ll help you. You can trust me.”

Luke remembers having a thought about getting rid of bodies, some weeks ago, and he thinks now that it’s true — that Anakin would help him get rid of a body, if he asked. 

Instead he says, “The man who was here earlier. Mr. Gideon. I need him to go to jail, and never come out again.”

Anakin holds his eyes for a long moment. Luke makes himself stare back, even though this goes against every lawyerly bone in his body, making sure Anakin can see how absolutely fucking certain he is. Making sure he can see that this man hurt Luke’s husband, that he tried to take Luke’s kid, and that Luke would strangle him with his bare hands if there weren’t a better option.

“Okay,” Anakin says at last. “Let’s make it happen.”

***

A week later, when Gideon is rotting in Rikers and Detective Vos is busy dismantling a scheme inside CPS to auction off kind-of-green babies to the highest bidder, Luke finds a manila envelope from Mara in his mailbox. 

He opens it in the elevator on the way up to the apartment. It’s divorce papers.

There’s a bright purple post-it note stuck to the front page. A note in his ex-fiancée’s flowy cursive reads, The papers your hubby asked for. XOXO, Mara.

Luke’s soul evacuates his body. He feels totally numb as he stares down at the packet in his hands, seeing words like division of assets and custody of children and not really understanding what they mean even after four years of law school. 

When the elevator arrives he stands in it for long enough that the doors start to close again, and he thinks — Yeah. That’s probably a good idea. I’ll just go somewhere else.

It’s only eight p.m., but he figures there will be something at work for him to do, since the night shift is just as understaffed as they are. He puts the papers from Mara back in the mailbox on his way out of the building and catches a cab to 100 Centre Street, where some combination of muscle memory and grief conspire to puppet him through security and up the stairs to the Legal Aid offices. No one is here right now, so he drifts over to the health hazard couch and plants himself face-first in the motheaten pillow.

If he stays here long enough, he realizes, Din will be gone when he gets home. Din will have packed everything into boxes and gone back to his apartment above the Razor Crest, taking Grogu with him. Din will probably check the mail with the key Luke gave him and find the divorce papers and sign them and leave them on the counter — the counter that will seem extra clean and extra empty without Grogu’s sippy cups and no-spill bowls scattered across it, in the apartment that will seem cavernous and quiet even though because this is New York it is of course tiny and loud. The sense of loss that wells up inside Luke is too huge to even consider crying, huge enough that if he started he knows he’d never stop, so instead he hides his face and goes to sleep.

That’s how Jyn Erso finds him around eleven. “Oh, God,” he hears her say, distantly. “Someone call Leia.”

Luke drifts again, and the next thing he knows, the couch is dipping behind him and his sister is easing him out of the tight protective ball he’s curled into, turning him onto his back, brushing tousled hair out of his face. He must look really awful, because she doesn’t say anything, just smiles at him gently, wordlessly, like she used to when he was sick and he crawled into her room at night.

Her hands are cool on his skin, catching tears, shielding him from prying eyes. “What happened?” she asks.

Luke says, “He got divorce papers,” and then realizes too late that in order to answer he’s had to come back into his body, and that there’s no way he can hold it together now. He pushes himself up off the couch and out into the hall. Behind him he vaguely registers Leia on the phone accusing, You got divorce papers! What the fuck?!, but then he’s alone in the long, empty masoleum of the men’s room. 

He turns on the tap. The sound of running water echoes. He splashes water on his face and stares at himself in the dirty mirror, nose dripping, eyelashes dripping. He never put on a suit. He’s wearing one of Din’s shirts. He came to court wearing his husband’s clothes and now he’s having a breakdown in the men’s room, and he’s not sure how much more pathetic he can get, but the thing is that he forgot. He forgot that all this was to get Din’s kid back, that they didn’t go down to the courthouse because they loved each other, that the ring on his finger is just costuming for a temporary role. He forgot that sex and sleeping in the same bed and trusting each other unconditionally does not equal an actual marriage, because for him it did. For him it was all real.

It was silly, he thinks, to believe that this would be the family where he was more than an addendum.

He splashes water on his face again, rips a paper towel from the dispenser, and dries his face. He’ll be okay, he tells himself. He’s been here before.

The door opens. 

Luke turns, expecting to see Leia — historically, the boundaries of men’s restrooms have not been enough to stop her — but it’s not his sister. 

It’s his husband.

Din takes two steps into the room and stops, not sure of his welcome. There’s some sort of trapped energy buzzing under his skin, desperation leashed behind his eyes, but his voice is steady as he says, “I was on my way here when your sister called.”

He still has his wedding ring on, Luke notices distantly. How strange.

“I got those papers because I thought you might want them.” Din comes toward him slowly, like he’s approaching a spooked animal. “I didn’t want you to have to ask. I didn’t want you to feel trapped.”

Trapped?” Luke echoes, incredulous.

Din nods. “You’ve already done so much for us. For me. I don’t want you to feel obligated — ”

“Obligated,” Luke repeats, and laughs. “Din, I love you.”

Din goes very, very still.

“I love you,” Luke says again, gaining momentum. “I love you, and I love your son, and if you want to leave I’ll let you go but I won’t pretend I’m fucking happy about it, because nothing could be further from the truth.”

Luke,” Din says, like it’s been punched out of him. “Marry me.”

Luke smiles wide enough that it hurts his face. “We’re already married.”

“Marry me again,” Din insists, crossing the last few feet of space between them, “keep marrying me, keep being married to me,” and takes Luke’s face in his hands, pulling him into an urgent kiss.

“Yes,” Luke says, when they break for air. “Din. Yes.”

Many happy years later, after some dedicated necking and a near-miss with a bailiff Luke’s known since before he hit puberty, he pulls away again and says, “Maybe we should go somewhere more private.”

“Good idea,” Din agrees, mouth tucked hotly behind Luke’s ear.

Luke does some quick mental arithmetic. His shift doesn’t start for a couple of hours, and he still needs a suit. Din probably stashed Grogu with one of his babysitters on the way here, so the apartment will be empty. 

“Home,” he says, with a brief kiss to Din’s temple. “Take me home.”

“Good idea,” Din agrees again, and does.