It took five months, two weeks, and four days for Din to track down the Jedi.
He spent three months collecting every bounty he could get his hands on, taking every job that would let him keep running just a little bit longer. Anything that kept his mind from lingering on a new ship, bigger and much more empty than before. Anything to keep him from recognizing why it didn’t feel like home, why he couldn’t bring himself to take off all his armor to rest.
He was receding into himself, becoming nothing but the shell of his beskar. He hung a tiny hammock above his cot and tore it down moments later. He looked over his shoulder at the empty seat behind him when he piloted, reached for the tiny silver ball in his belt pouch, slung an empty bag over his shoulder with nothing to fill it with. He didn’t look at his own reflection when he took off his helmet to wash his face; it was the last thing the kid saw of him, and he hadn’t wanted to risk looking up and seeing the same stricken expression branded to his skin.
It was Cara who finally stopped him.
“I get hiding from Bo Katan,” she said, hand on his pauldron, and just her thumb grazing the mudhorn on his armor made his insides feel empty. “But you’re hiding from yourself at this point.”
Din hadn’t said anything; there wasn’t anything he could say. So he let his silence speak for him, staring at her from behind the safety of his beskar as the Nevarro sky darkened around them.
Cara, unperturbed, had just stared back, and even if her gaze wasn’t quite right on his eyes, Din could feel the pity rolling off her. He shrugged her hand off, but felt her eyes on him as he stalked back up to the new ship Greef had given him. He couldn’t remember the last time he hadn’t felt like there were eyes on him.
He laid down in the bed on the ship, a shell of a man in the shell of a home, still fully armored, his own breathing echoing within his helmet.
He stared at the ceiling, tinged green through his visor, eyes catching on the tiny hook still stuck to the wall, a remnant from his sad attempt at a little hammock for someone who was no longer there. He stared at it until he couldn’t anymore, then he swung his legs over the side and stomped to the cockpit. He slammed the door shut behind him and ripped his helmet off. He almost threw it down, but couldn’t bring himself to let it go. Instead, Din wrapped his hands around the sides and looked at the T of his visor, the face the rest of the world saw. The face of all he was.
In the reflective metal around it he could see bits of his own face, swollen and twisted by the curved angles, a funhouse mirror of mixed up identities. He raised it slowly until he could press his own forehead to the cold beskar, then, feeling stupid, he lowered it slowly back onto his head.
Then he sat in the pilot’s seat and stared at the controls of this unfamiliar ship, the place he hadn’t been able to bring himself to call home. His covert had been on this planet, the closest thing he’d had to a family, a home. The armorer had given him a signet and a purpose here.
And then his purpose was gone. He thought about a tiny green hand on his face, the first creature to touch him there since he was a child. And as the light on Nevarro changed, brightening slowly over the horizon, he stood, knees creaking, and left the ship.
Cara was where he had left her, though she had clearly gotten the full night’s sleep he had missed. From the way her brow furrowed when he walked in, his sleepless night was more apparent than he’d hoped.
“I need to track down the Jedi,” he said.
She looked at him, eyes scanning his visor, and then nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Okay.”
He spent three weeks tracking down a former rebel pilot Cara said had flown in and survived the Battle of Yavin, a man named Wedge Antilles.
“I can’t promise he’ll know anything,” she’d told him. “But he had some great stories from back in the day. Claimed to have flown with a Jedi. Maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll be the same one.”
Wedge Antilles was young, but still older than most of the resistance fighters Din had met before. Most of them were too young, still strong enough to believe their glory days on the battlefield would carry them through the rest of their lives. But Wedge looked like he’d had gray hair even when he’d piloted, or maybe it had been given to him by surviving a war that many had not. His dark eyes were tired and weary as Din approached him.
It had taken time to track Wedge down, but less than Din had expected. He’d become a flight instructor for one of the core world academies, so at least Din hadn’t had to track down an active pilot. The most time consuming part had been getting to Hosnian Prime, and being in the core worlds made Din’s fingers twitch for his blaster, too many eyes on him, skating over his armor.
“How’d somebody like you get through security?” Wedge asked, arms crossed over his front, orange flight suit frayed at the elbows.
“I need information,” Din said, rather than answering, and Wedge’s eyebrows raised. “I’m looking for a Jedi.”
Wedge snorted. “You and the rest of the galaxy.”
“You used to fly with him,” Din continued.
“Everybody in the resistance used to fly with that kid,” Wedge said. “Could hardly keep him out of his X-wing.” He shook his head. “Kid’s got enough bounties on his head without another hunter tracking him down.”
Din looked at Wedge, at the burgeoning crows feet beside his eyes, and wondered at a man who called the galaxy’s most fearsome warrior ‘kid.’
“I’m not—” Din stopped, hand drifting toward the little silver ball at his belt. “This isn’t for a bounty.”
Wedge snorted again. “Sure it isn’t. If you don’t know where the kid is, he did that on purpose. If he wanted you to find him, you’d already know.”
“I wouldn’t go looking if it wasn’t important,” Din said, and he wasn’t going to beg this man for information, but the desperation that had been building in his chest for months had started to fold into hope, and it was just enough that stopping before he’d even really started would hurt more than he thought.
Wedge squinted at him, and Din had to wonder how many people had come to him, looking for this Jedi, or for stories about him. He wondered if Wedge had stared all of them down unyieldingly, a silent wall to protect the man he had flown with.
“Please,” Din said softly, the word tangled in his modulator so that it came out as a rasp.
Wedge’s brow furrowed, and Din was reminded of Cara, of Fett, of all the people that had looked at him with that same pitying expression. Maybe the whole galaxy was looking at him and seeing the sadness sitting on his shoulders, the listlessness in his footsteps. Maybe he thought he was hiding in his armor, when everyone around him could see right through it.
Whatever Wedge saw in him, or heard in his voice, made him sigh.
“There are better people to talk to than me,” he said, unfolding his crossed arms. “Granted, you’ll have to track them down first, and they’ll be a lot more difficult to convince, but they’ll know where he is.”
Din straightened his shoulders. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Wedge said, turning toward the building and motioning for Din to follow him. “I can give you a couple names, but everything else is up to you.” He stopped them both in the doorway, peering up at Din with those dark, weary eyes. “I hope you know what you’re getting into.”
“I do,” Din said, conviction deep in his bones.
Din had no idea what he was getting into.
He spent one day looking over the list of names Wedge had given him, scribbled on a piece of paper, rare in a galaxy full of tech and data. His handwriting was nearly illegible, but Din had watched him write the names out. All that was left was finding the one who knew where the Jedi was.
The first name on the list was immediately crossed out. Senator Leia Organa was not a person he was interested in hitting up for information, especially if it meant going even further into the core worlds. He wondered briefly why the first person Wedge had thought could connect him with the Jedi was a senator, but didn’t give it much more thought.
The second name made more sense to look for, since it was one he recognized. Han Solo had a few bounties left on his head even after the New Republic cleared his charges, but his connections in high places had made it hard for anything to stick. It had been at least a year or two since Din had heard of anybody trying to collect on Solo’s head.
The other name on the list was one Din didn’t recognize; Lando Calrissian could be tracked down if Solo was untraceable. But Din didn’t think he’d need him.
He spent three weeks tracking Solo’s location, calling in favors from anyone he could think of that might have seen Solo’s notorious Millennium Falcon flying around hyperspace.
Fett laughed at him and immediately ended the commlink when Din called him with the name Solo, which maybe should have been Din’s first clue.
He spent one week following Solo around in a port city on an outer rim planet, when he finally tracked him down.
No one had mentioned the wookiee, which felt like the kind of error that was intentional, and after making eye contact with the big hairy creature on one of their walks through the port, Din understood why.
He wasn’t going to be able to approach this like a bounty hunter, or he’d lose his chance at talking to Solo.
Standing in the cockpit of the new ship he was begrudgingly starting to call his own, he looked at his gloved hands, at the blaster strapped to his hip, the beskar encasing his body. He thought about taking it off, piece by piece, approaching Solo as a man instead of a Mandalorian, but even as his fingers reached for the clasps he couldn’t bring himself to take any of it off.
He may have shown his face to his child and the Jedi, but he had put his helmet back on after. He had continued to live hidden behind the beskar. And part of him worried that if he took it off again, he’d never bring himself to put it back. And who was he without the armor that shielded him?
So Din left his armor on, shiny and safe, and followed Solo and the wookiee into a bar that night. He waited until they were settled in a booth, until Solo had obtained one drink, then two, until the wookiee had several empty glasses scattered around him, then he approached the table.
Solo shot him before he even made it halfway.
He grunted and stumbled back, the beskar taking most of the blow, but his body still aching from the impact.
Solo twirled his blaster around his finger, then pointed it back at where Din was hunched over in the middle of the bar. The wookiee laughed.
The other patrons around them seemed to move like a tide, swirling away from Din and Solo even as their eyes stayed locked on the action, waiting hungrily for the sort of show Din hadn’t intended to give.
Din raised his hands above his head and growled out, “I’m not hunting you!”
Solo raised an eyebrow and kept his blaster level with Din’s chest. “Coulda fooled me. You’ve been over my shoulder every time I’ve looked this past week, Mando.”
The wookiee made a noise of agreement, and Din knew enough Shyriiwook to understand that he’d only get the one warning shot. The next wouldn’t be aimed at beskar.
“This isn’t for a bounty,” Din continued, hands still beside his head, even as his fingers itched to reach for his blaster. “I’m looking for someone else, someone I’ve been told you can help me find.”
“I’m not really known for being all that helpful,” Solo replied with a grin.
The second shot would’ve hit Din's neck if he hadn’t dodged to the side, pauldron taking the blow.
“I’m looking for a Jedi,” Din ground out, shoulder aching.
Din clenched his hands into fists, inhaling deeply. “He has my son.”
The wookie gurgled, and Solo glanced at him, just a brief moment, but it was enough for Din to know.
Solo knew where the Jedi was. And he knew he had Din’s son.
Solo didn’t lower his weapon, but he looked at Din, eyes zipping around his helmet, like if he only found the right angle he’d find something other than unyielding beskar. He wouldn’t, no one ever could, except for—
The Jedi had seen his face. Grogu had seen his face.
He had already given up everything for his kid. He didn’t know how much he had left to give.
“What do you mean, your kid?” Solo asked, playing stupid, and the question wasn’t exactly convincing, but it did make Din feel a bit better about a Jedi having and hiding his son, even if he spent time with a former smuggler.
Din sighed. “He’s green.”
“Oh,” Solo said, like that explained everything. He glanced at the wookie again, then slowly lowered his blaster. “He’s a biter.”
Din couldn’t stop the short laugh that huffed out of him. “Only if you try to take what he’s eating.”
The wookie laughed, or at least Din hoped it was a laugh.
Din went to lower his arms as well, but Solo’s blaster twitched in his hand. “Lots of people lookin’,” he said. “For both of ‘em. How am I supposed to know you’re not just hunting them both for the obscenely large bounty I know exists out there?”
Din sighed again. “You could always ask the Jedi.”
“Ah,” Solo scratched at his stubbled jaw. “Luke’s a little cagey about that sort of thing. Can never be too careful with his students.”
Luke, Din thought. A name and a face.
“He can vouch for me,” he said, with a confidence he wasn’t sure he felt.
“Sure he can,” Solo said, dropping his heels off the table, and there was an easy gracelessness to him that spoke of confidence, most likely unearned, and a perpetual ease. Even with a blaster in his hand and a potential enemy in front of him, Solo looked like he’d never been more relaxed. He nudged the wookie with his elbow and nodded.
The wookie rolled his eyes, but stood, and he towered over both Din and Solo, before stepping down past them both and back through the bar.
Din sidestepped and turned with him, trying to keep both Solo and the wookie in his view, but the wookie didn’t try anything, just disappeared out the front door.
“Now,” Solo said, setting his blaster on the table, though his hand stayed on it, and something told Din he wasn’t ever really unarmed. “Why don’t you sit and tell me why you’re looking for two Jedi kids in this clusterfuck of a galaxy.”
He also didn’t tell Solo why he was looking. He figured he didn’t need to. He also didn’t like how Solo talked about the Jedi, like he was a defenseless stray he’d picked up once. Din had seen the Jedi, had seen Luke take out an entire squadron of dark troopers without flinching. He’d made his way to them and looked at Din, one of the most heavily armored people in the universe, and gave him the smallest smile. Din had given him his son, he had to believe that he was someone more.
“He has my son,” Din repeated finally, when Solo didn’t say anything else.
Solo nodded but pursed his lips. “If Luke told the story correctly, you gave him the little womp rat.”
Din’s heart clenched inside his chest. “I know.”
“And now you want him back?” Solo said incredulously, waving his empty hand in the air beside his head.
“No, not—” Din shook his head. He just wanted to see him, but he didn’t know how to say that in front of this stranger. He didn’t know how to crack the shell of himself apart to reveal the loneliness that had been living inside of him for months. He hadn’t seen his covert in a long time, his parents in even longer. A part of him was still that scared child searching for home, and he didn’t know how a home could be anything but another person. He didn’t want to be the father who let his child go, not after he’d lost his own family time and time again.
“He needs the training,” Din said instead. “I just want to make sure he’s okay.”
“Let me guess,” Solo said, a smarmy grin quirking up his lips. “You won’t just take my word for it?”
Din wouldn’t trust Solo with anything, let alone words that were just as likely to be lies as anything else. So he didn’t say anything, and Solo laughed.
“I thought not.”
Solo ordered another drink, and they waited for the wookie to return as the bar around them slowly crawled to life again. There were still too many eyes on them, still too many curious glances turning
After what felt like a millennia, the wookie came back. He eyed Din and growled at Solo, and Din just barely caught some of the words.
“It’s not a trap,” Din said, and maybe he was wrong. Maybe the Jedi took Grogu and ran, and there wasn’t going to be a place in the galaxy where Din could find him again. Maybe the little he knew of the Jedi, their sequestered and secret ways, their family-less units and separate spaces, was true. Maybe Grogu was gone, the kind of gone that made Din’s chest ache. He had spent just long enough searching that hope had built up like a dam in his chest, but now he couldn’t afford to drown in its loss.
Solo scoffed, and the wookie seemed unphased. “I’ve been in enough traps before to know that the moment somebody claims something isn’t a trap, that’s exactly what it becomes.”
Something blew up behind the bar.
Din wasn’t sure what it was, only that it threw him the rest of the way across the room, breaking Solo’s table on impact.
Ears ringing, Din pushed himself upright as smoke filled the room. The other patrons were yelling and running through the haze, and even after his head cleared, Din couldn’t see Solo or the wookie.
He stood up, patting his chest to make sure he hadn’t broken any ribs, and stumbled out of the bar, looking upward just in time to see the Millennium Falcon swoop overhead and jet into space.
Din sighed the heaviest sigh that had ever been sighed in the galaxy.
Then he looked down at his wrist, at the tracking beacon he’d lodged the Millennium Falcon before approaching the bar, the red light beeping merrily.
He tracked Solo through space for two weeks.
Solo knew how to dodge a tail, jumping through hyperspace in random points and dropping out near planets and moons that ranged from Republic to abandoned. But Din knew how to track; he’d been hunting bounties to support his covert for longer than anything else in his life. He could follow an ex-smuggler through space for as a long as it took to find his son again.
Even so, Din almost lost Solo twice, picking him up again an hour or so later. Space was big, Din knew that, but sometimes when he was flying through it at the speed of light, he truly understood the magnitude of the place he lived.
He tried not to get too philosophical though, since he was tracking someone, but sometimes in the blur of hyperspace he had to fill his thoughts with something that wasn’t the slowly building hope in his chest.
He spent one week on a random moon in the outer rim called Ajan Kloss.
Solo landed there and spent days wandering around in the jungle or sitting on his ship, looking like he was waiting for something.
Din spent those days trying to keep the moisture and humidity from ruining his ship while drowning in his own sweat. He wasn’t sure how the wookie was dealing with it at all, since every time he spotted the creature through the trees he was almost soaked through. But wookie skin and fur conditions weren’t his concern.
He was starting to think that maybe Solo wasn’t going to Luke. Maybe he knew Din was following him and was leading him on the galaxy’s stupidest wild goose chase. Maybe he was leading Din right into a trap.
Or maybe he was being careful, pit stopping on random moons and picking up supplies from planets on his way to the Jedi. Maybe this was the route he took, one of many, that would eventually lead Din to his son, disguised as a meandering flight, the galaxy’s most boring tour.
Either way, as Din blinked away the sweat dripping into his eyes, watching Solo take another random loop through the same cusp of trees, he was going somewhere. And Din could only hope it was where he wanted to go.
He found them one week later.
The moon didn’t even have a name. It was predominantly forest, green and thriving, though along the far edges, Din could see sand creeping along the edge, a rocky canyon dipping deep into the planet. It was a place of contradictions, of both sand and green, and it was exactly the sort of place he could imagine a Jedi hiding.
He lingered in orbit, letting Solo touch down first, the Falcon disappearing from view as it passed through clouds and treetops. Then Din counted to 100, tapped the mudhorn on his pauldron, and dropped down after him.
No one stopped him from landing. Din thought maybe there would be a shield or gunners or something to prevent him from settling in the clearing beside the Millennium Falcon, a battered X-wing on the other side, but instead the Jedi stood in the clearing, head tipped back to watch as Din landed smoothly on the grass.
Din sat in the pilot’s seat, looking down at the Jedi, the two of them eyeing one another, until Din couldn’t stand it any longer. He sucked in a deep breath and left his ship. And as the landing ramp came down, Din spotted a tiny brown cloak at the Jedi’s feet, hidden in the tall grass. Little green ears perked up, big eyes watching Din, and that was it.
He didn’t know. Maybe it was joy, maybe it was relief. Maybe it was the kid himself filling up Din’s chest with whatever force magic he had.
All Din knew, as his feet, then his knees hit the dirt, was that Grogu was there, and everything in Din made sense again.
Grogu stumbled forward too, reaching for Din, and he fell into Din’s arms, uncaring of the cold metal that pressed against him. Din pulled him close, ducking to press his forehead to Grogu’s, smiling as his tiny green claws tapped at the beskar.
He didn’t sit for too long, though. He glanced up at the Jedi, then further, at where Solo and the wookie were lingering, hands resting on their weapons.
“Well, I suppose that proves it,” Solo said, and the wookie laughed. “I could’ve sworn we lost you on Ajan Kloss.”
“I’m not here to take him,” Din rasped out, even as he clutched Grogu tightly to him, even as he refused to think of leaving him behind ever again. Where I go, he goes, he had said, what felt like a thousand years ago, and now he had followed Grogu to the very edge of the galaxy. Where he goes, I go.
The Jedi shook his head, and he wasn’t draped in flowing robes anymore, didn’t look like the man who had destroyed an entire squadron of darktroopers. He was still in black, still a calm, lingering storm,
A young man, Din realized. Probably wasn’t even thirty yet.
Then he smiled at Din, and all Din could think was how bright it was on this planet.
Luke stepped forward and knelt in the grass about a foot away from Din and Grogu, still smiling congenially, like this was something he’d planned all along. Only the barest crease on his forehead spoke to there being anything wrong at all.
Din felt the sudden need to apologize, but kept his mouth shut. He hadn’t done anything wrong.
But he was starting to wonder if the Jedi had in taking Grogu without any means of contacting Din. Ashoka had told him the Jedi forbid attachments, that Din could get in the way of Grogu’s training. But now he wasn’t so sure. Then again, he could have come all this way just for the Jedi to still send him away.
“Welcome,” Luke said, and Din felt something in his chest lighten. “It seems you’ve been traveling for a long time. I have room at the temple, if you’d like a place to stay for the night?”
Din swallowed. “Just for tonight?”
Luke looked down at Grogu in Din’s arms. “I think we could make arrangements for longer than that.”
The temple wasn’t quite what Din had expected. It was old, for one thing, and enormous. Way too big for what appeared to be just Luke and Grogu. But Din and his covert had spent years filling small spaces, pretending to be few, so he couldn’t begrudge the Jedi for doing the opposite. A young man and a baby alone probably made for a tempting target.
Luke had clearly done some work on the temple himself, and was clearly still doing work on it, if the ladders and piles of stone were any indication. From a distance, the temple looked like it was a few tremors away from collapsing, but as they drew closer, Din could see the solidness of it, the way the trees and foliage around it had grown towards, not through. This unnamed moon was protecting it’s temple, and Din could only hope that protection extended to its inhabitants.
The inside was less precarious, clean but definitely lived in.
Luke gestured at modifications and improvements he's made as they walked, leading the way through the cavernous space. The ceilings were enormous in every room, leaving Din feeling like he was at the bottom of a well, unseen windows streaming in sunlight.
The kitchen was the biggest room. It looked like it had been built to feed dozens, an almost industrial kitchen at odds with the very homely cookware Luke had left on the counter. The dishes looked handmade, and in the whole space the only table was a small round one, with enough chairs for four and a tiny highchair.
“Eventually I’d like to get the whole thing up and running,” Luke said, following Din’s gaze around the kitchen, landing on the little dining table. “Until then, it’s mostly just the kitchen and a couple bedrooms. Grogu’s been staying with me, but I’m sure he’ll want to spend more time with you.”
Din watched the Jedi’s face for any sign of anger or frustration, but there was nothing more than that single forehead crease, and even that gave nothing away. Luke wasn’t exactly happy with his arrival, but Din didn’t think it was entirely to do with him.
“Are there no other students?” Din asked. Is Grogu the only one?
Are you just as alone as I have been?
“For now,” Luke replied, an easy answer, tone giving nothing away. “I have plans for a school though, eventually.”
Din looked around the cavernous space, then at the Jedi standing in front of him. He couldn’t help but feel like an invader, even as he clutched Grogu more tightly to him.
“I can always stay on the ship, if that’s easier,” Din offered, but Luke shook his head.
“We have the space,” Luke said, almost teasing, and led Din down a hallway off the kitchen. It was long and narrow, like barracks, with doors lined up on each side, and as they passed the first door on the left, Luke said, “This one’s me, if you need anything.”
They kept walking past a few more doors before Luke stopped by a door on the right.
“This one you can use,” Luke said, pressing the panel to open the door.
Din followed him in, and it was a small room, just a bit bigger than what the new ship offered in terms of sleeping space, but it was furnished, with a small window above the bed and another door off to the side. Through the window, he could see rolling green, with just an edge of sand at the very start of the horizon.
“It’s tinted glass,” Luke added. “So no one can see in. This space will be yours entirely, and if you ever decide you want to be anywhere else in the temple without your helmet, just let me know and I can stay away.”
Din jolted, patting Grogu’s head when the motion had him squealing. “What?” he rasped.
The crease on Luke’s forehead got just the tiniest bit bigger. He gestured at Din, or maybe at Din’s armor; it was hard to tell the difference these days. “Grogu explained, at least as best he could, and I think that means I should apologize for back on the Imperial ship. I didn’t know; if I had, I wouldn’t have—”
“No,” Din said, and he was shaking now, the motion hidden by his armor, everything hidden by his armor from a man who had already seen his face. “I made my decision. And I would do it again.” His modulator made the words steadier than they felt. Everything made him steadier than he felt.
“Even so,” Luke said, and his voice was gentle now, like he knew Din was falling apart inside his mask. “I wasn’t factored in, and I’m sorry. This is a safe space, for whatever you need, creed or no. Though I will have to talk to Han about how easily you tracked him here.” That forehead crease was back, and that was it, Din realized. The safety of his student was Luke’s priority, and Din had proven it to be faulty.
“I’ve been a tracker for a very long time,” Din said, and it wasn’t a boast, but it was hardly an explanation. “And it still took me months to find this place, and even that was with help. If it makes you feel any better, I have friends who can warn me if another bounty for Grogu appears.”
Luke looked at him, and he made such unerring eye contact with him, that for a moment Din feared he could see through his helmet. That the armor was nothing to a man who had already seen him.
But then Luke gave him a small smile, one that felt less like a Jedi master and more like the young man that flew with Wedge, the kid that Solo referred to so fondly.
“Spend some time with your son,” Luke said, turning back toward the door. “The ‘fresher’s through there. I can get something made for dinner.”
And then he was gone, the door sliding shut behind him.
Din looked down at Grogu, who beamed up at him, arms raising up.
“Okay,” Din said, sitting down on the bed beneath the window.
“Okay,” he said again, leaving Grogu on his lap and reaching up to unlatch his helmet.
“Okay,” he breathed, this time without the modulator, setting his helmet beside him on the bed, and lifting up his son to smile at him, their own bright patches in an already sunny room.
He woke up the next morning alone.
Panic seized in his chest, and he floundered for a moment, nearly falling out of the temple bed in his rush to stand.
Not bothering with the rest of his armor, he snagged his helmet, jammed it on his head, and rushed out the door. He careened down the hall toward the kitchen, convinced that when he got there it would be empty, the Jedi and his son gone, far from his reach again.
He’d never find them again, he thought, panic building in his chest in the place his hope had once been, just as he turned the corner and found the Jedi seated at the little table, sliding a tiny bowl to Grogu in his highchair.
“Oh,” Luke said, blinking at him, probably taking in the frazzled combination of a rumpled underclothes and only his helmet. “Good morning.”
Din, breathing still a little ragged, stared at him.
Luke glanced over toward the stove, where a pot of what appeared to be oatmeal sat steaming. “I wasn’t sure if I should wake you or not, but Grogu was hungry, so I figured we’d at least start breakfast.”
Embarrassment filtered between the panic and relief that clouded Din’s chest.
“Breakfast,” he said, like the word was almost foreign to him, then nodded. “Right. Yes. I’ll be right back.”
Then he hightailed it back to his room.
Properly dressed this time, Din made his way back to the kitchen. He’d scarfed down a small and potentially expired ration bar as he’d put on his armor, just in case he didn’t get a moment to eat what the Jedi had made, but when he got back to the small table, there was a third bowl sitting there, and the Jedi was wearing a strip of black cloth over his eyes.
Something happened in Din’s chest. The feeling was almost foreign, a strange bit of fondness seeping through, before he shoved it to the side and sat down at the table.
Grogu grinned up at him, oatmeal all over his face.
“I don’t know if this counts,” Luke said, gesturing to the blindfold with his spoon, head still facing Din. “But it’s an option, if you wanted to eat out here. Or, you and Grogu can finish in your room, or I can go out to the garden, I won’t mind.”
“No,” Din said, the word thick in his mouth. “It’s—”
It’s fine, he wanted to say, but couldn’t make his tongue shape the words. He’d removed his helmet last night, and the Jedi had already seen his face. But this was a kindness that Din was still getting used to, a promise that this place could be a home if he wanted it to be.
It made the feeling in his chest harder to ignore, but if there was one thing Din was good at doing, it was ignoring things.
So, motions jerky and unsure, he pulled off his helmet and set it down on the table. And he ate breakfast with the Jedi and his son.
“Where did Solo go?” Din asked, when they emerged from the temple and the space beside Din’s new ship was empty.
“Han left early this morning,” Luke explained, turning toward a patch of dark soil, where a few young green plants had started sprouting. A garden, Din realized, just as young and green as Luke’s new student appeared to be.
Grogu toddled after him, chirping at Din to follow them, and so he did. Where he goes, I go.
“You can ask,” Luke said, and Din wasn’t sure which question he meant. There were a lot of them bubbling in his mind, threatening to overflow his helmet like an abandoned pot on the stove. So he started with the easiest one.
“Solo, is he—does he bring you supplies?” What is he to you? Din wanted to ask. Why is a former smuggler one of three people who know you this well? Who did I leave my son with?
“Han is an old friend,” Luke said, kneeling down in the soil and examining one of the tiny green shoots. “Whatever I can’t grow or find on the moon, he’ll bring. I trust him with my life.”
Din nodded. He thought about Cara and Greef, about the Armorer and Peli, about the people he met and trusted that the galaxy might never expect.
“Okay,” he said, and knelt in the soil beside the Jedi, letting Grogu point out different plants until a frog in the woods took his attention.
“At some point I’d like to know more specifically how you found us,” Luke said, and there was that crease again. A stress point in a man so powerful he’d hardly blinked when a Mandalorian set foot on his planet.
“I had help,” Din said. “A friend of a friend and a list. Wedge says hi.”
Luke blinked, and the surprise on his face was the most apparent emotion Din had seen on him so far, the first blatantly unhidden and truthful expression to cross the Jedi’s face.
And then Luke laughed, a bright, almost ridiculous sounding noise, and fell on his ass in the soil.
“Wedge? Wedge Antilles?” Luke gasped, and Din nodded. “Wow. Never thought I’d hear his name again. That’s—and he pointed you to Han?”
Din nodded again. He didn’t mention the senator or the other man on his list; they didn’t seem worth mentioning now. Not when he’d found what he needed and Luke was smiling so brightly.
His coloration was one that Din didn’t see too often—sandy blond hair and eyes like the sky. It was almost daunting how much he looked like the desert sun, like if Din squinted at him for too long he’d be blinded. He looked impossibly young, sitting in the soil, dressed in what looked like farming robes. Luke and the Jedi felt like different sides of the same coin, and Din didn’t know where the line blurred from one to the other.
But something changed, sitting in the dirt with Luke. The temple didn’t suddenly feel like home, his armor didn’t suddenly feel less heavy, but Luke felt less like an unreachable force and more like the man keeping his son safe.
“Oh, Grogu, no!” Luke shoved himself to his feet, bounding toward the treeline, where Din could see that Grogu had shoved half a frog in his mouth.
When Din woke up once more to an empty temple, the first place he went was the clearing out front.
His chest was tight, that feeling of alone and left behind sitting heavy and present behind his clavicle, just waiting to prove him right. It was there most mornings, coiled like a snake, ready for the day when he woke up alone and stayed that way.
He took a few wrong turns, still getting used to the halls and unused rooms, and blinked when he finally emerged into the sunlight. It’s so bright here, Din thought, scanning the tree line.
He caught sight of Luke beside a tree, dressed in tan, something strapped to his back. As Din approached, he could see Grogu’s familiar head tucked against Luke, and the kid let out a shriek when he noticed Din.
Luke turned and smiled at him. It’s so bright here, Din thought.
“Good morning,” Luke called, stretching his arms over his head. He looked strong, stronger than Din expected for someone hiding behind layers of robes.
Din nodded in return, finishing his trek across the clearing until he could stand a few feet from them, dappled in shadowed sunlight.
Luke turned to press his hands against a nearby tree, and Grogu squealed again from where he was strapped to the Jedi’s back in an admittedly adorable little backpack.
Din considered stepping closer to tap one of Grogu’s ears or to grasp one of his little hands, but that would mean getting closer to the Jedi, and Din wasn’t so sure about that yet. They had sat in the dirt, ate breakfast at a little table, but there was a closeness that Din didn’t know how to deal with yet, a knowing that was still so unknown.
“We’re going for a run,” Luke explained over his shoulder, still stretching. “There are some exposed roots on one of the big trees that I wanted to get a closer look at, and I thought maybe Grogu would enjoy it. It’s close to quicksand territory though, so if we don’t come back that’s why.”
Din blinked, and silence stretched between them for a moment before Luke laughed, loud and bright.
“I’m kidding,” he reassured Din, finally turning to look at him. His eyes shone with something, mirth maybe, but tinged with anxiety, and Din realized he wasn’t the only one trying to find his footing.
“Don’t worry,” Din said, a tentative reach between them. “I trust Grogu not to let you die.”
Grogu squealed again, and Luke made a face. “I’ll have you know I’m a very powerful Jedi,” he said, turning back to the tree and resuming whatever leg stretches he was doing.
“You remind me of a young bounty hunter I once met on Tatooine,” Din grunted, looking at the line of Luke’s shoulders, the easy way Grogu settled against him.
Luke glanced over his shoulder again, and surprise flashed across his face, quickly replaced by a smirk. “Roguish and charming?”
Din rolled his eyes, the one gesture he sometimes got annoyed that other people couldn’t see. Then again, the helmet let him get away with all kinds of things.
“A dumbass who’s gonna get himself killed.”
Luke’s smirk dropped along with his eyebrows, then just as quickly his face morphed into a goofy grin. “I would argue, but I’m actually from Tatooine, and you’re not the first person to tell me I’ll die doing something stupid one day.”
“That might be a sign not to do stupid things.”
“I don’t know, sounds like an exciting way to go.”
Din frowned, even though he knew Luke couldn’t see it through his helmet. “You seem awfully chipper about your potential impending demise.”
Luke shrugged, and Grogu patted his shoulder when the motion rustled his perch. “I’ll probably stick around a bit afterwards. Jedi are known for lingering after death.”
“That’s,” Din said, then didn’t bother to finish. There wasn’t really a word for what that was, and if Din knew one he didn’t think the Jedi would appreciate it.
Luke shrugged again, a careless gesture that made him seem even younger. Din wondered how someone who probably wasn’t even thirty ended up a Jedi master. Of course, master probably wasn’t the right term for somebody like Luke. He didn’t really know if there was a right word for somebody like Luke.
“Death is just part of the natural order of things,” Luke said with a smile, like that was something that normal people said.
Din thought about a people who lived on past a planet’s destruction, a creed that outlived the people who carried it. “Not everything dies.”
“Sure it does.” Luke rolled his shoulders and leaned into a stretch, grabbing the toes of his boots. Grogu pitched forward but managed to stay in the little sack, squealing excitedly and grabbing at Luke’s hair. “Even the incorporeal passes on eventually,” Luke continued, before straightening. “Memories, feelings, all things pass through the force and become something more. All things end so something new can begin.”
“And that’s what you’re doing here?” Din gestured around the clearing, at the stone temple that just cleared the tops of the trees, at the baby on his back. “Beginning something new?”
“That’s the plan.” Luke reached up and gently thumbed at one of Grogu’s ears. “Although, if it’s anything like any of my other plans, it’s sure to go to shit before I get too far.”
“I’m sure you have a backup plan for that.”
Luke grinned, a dazzling sort of smile that no doubt got him both in and out of trouble on a regular basis. “And a third, for when that one goes to shit too.”
“Well aren’t you just a man made of plans,” Din deadpanned.
Luke laughed. “I’ve been called worse.”
“Somehow I don’t doubt that.”
Luke adjusted the straps on his shoulders, hitching Grogu up higher. “I’d invite you along, but I don’t know that you could keep up.”
Din did a slow look over Luke, at the worn tan tank top and pants he had on, down to the muddy boots on his feet, then looked at his own armor and back up to Luke’s still smiling face.
“I think I can keep up,” Din deadpanned.
Luke just smirked again. “Sure thing.”
Then he took off toward the trees.
He thought about igniting his jetpack and soaring over the trees, just to see if he could track Luke through them, but decided against it. Grogu was with Luke to train. It wouldn’t make sense for his—for Din to tag along.
So Din went back to the temple and found the kitchen. He ate quickly, helmet sitting on the table beside him, constantly listening for the sounds of Luke's return.
He couldn’t seem to relax, the familiar weight of his helmet a comfort and a curse. He didn’t know what he was anymore, helmet beside him, darksaber tucked away on his ship. He didn’t know what to do in a place where both of the people there had seen his face.
He supposed he probably didn’t have to wear his helmet around Luke; the damage had already been done. He didn’t regret it, had told Luke that. He couldn’t regret it, not with the memory of Grogu beaming at his helmetless face. But there was a part of him that had fractured that day, a part that didn’t know what came after, now that all the purpose he had known was gone.
Din had never been good at sitting still, never been good at purposeless wandering. Everything he did was with reason, with intent. Now he was sitting in a Jedi temple on a tiny moon, and the weight of his decisions had left him motionless. He thought he would find purpose here. He thought things would fall into place, a map he could read, a puzzle he could solve.
He thought a lot of things.
There was a shuffling at the temple entrance, and Din dropped his helmet back onto his head just as Luke appeared in the doorway, drenched in sweat and a fine layer of dirt, Grogu still strapped to his back.
"Great news," Luke called, "the quicksand isn't where I thought it was."
"Even better news," Luke added. "It's not as strong as I thought either."
Din pressed his hands over the face of his helmet and told himself everything was fine.
“Would you like to spar with me?” Luke asked, wearing a ridiculous sunhat and kneeling in his garden, arms soil-stained up to his elbows.
“Right now?” Din asked incredulously, tugging Grogu away from the sprouting seedling along the edge of the garden.
Luke laughed, hands in the soil, and Din thought that, maybe in another life, Luke would’ve made an excellent farmer. “No, not right now. But maybe later today? Or tomorrow? It’s been a while since I’ve been able to really fight with someone, and those dark troopers were fun and all, but I’d like to see what you can do.”
Din, who wasn’t sure what to make of Luke calling the altercation with the dark troopers fun, just stared at him.
Luke, undeterred by the silence and blank, helmet-clad stare, just smiled. “Is that a yes?”
Din sighed, quietly enough that his modulator wouldn’t pick it up. “Are you going to use your glowstick?”
“My glow—my lightsaber?” Luke sputtered, and Din didn’t know if he was laughing or offended.
If he did want to use it, a traitorous part of Din thought, the darksaber might make it a fair fight.
But Din shoved that part aside. The darksaber did not belong to him, he didn’t want it.
“I don’t have to,” Luke continued, wiping his face with the wrist of his ungloved hand, only succeeding in streaking soil across his cheek.
Din wanted to reach out and brush it off him, but set Grogu on the other side of him instead, further away from the fledgling plants.
“I think your armor would protect you from it,” Luke said, sitting back on his heels. “Beskar is one of the only materials impervious to lightsabers, though I’m sure you already knew that.”
“Still, it’s been a while since I’ve practiced with a staff, so I could do that instead.”
“No,” Din said, thinking about his armor and his weapons and his jetpack, about how he had been able to defeat Moff Gideon and a dark trooper, about how his religion made him one of the most dangerous people in the galaxy, and about how he, in all likelihood, would still lose to the Jedi. “Use your sword, and your magic.”
“We should really have a discussion about proper terminology,” Luke said, grinning widely at Din.
Luke won the first round, then the second, but only just barely, and Din walked away bruised but proud.
Or, he would walk away, in a minute, when he was sure his legs would support him again.
“You’re good,” Luke said, breathing heavily beside him, stretching his shoulder when Din had knocked into him, nearly managing to pin him before Luke had scrambled away, grinning maniacally.
“Thanks,” Din grunted. “You too.”
“You don’t project your movements as much as I thought you would. Makes it harder to know what you’re gonna do next.”
Din thought about when he’d taken Grogu, first from the droid that would later save his life, then from the man who had paid him in the armor he was wearing. He thought about the planets he had run to, the people he had known, who had come together to help him save his son one last time. “It pays to be unpredictable sometimes,” he said, and Luke laughed.
“I think, without the force and my lightsaber, and without your armor, we’d be evenly matched."
Din thought he’d be crazy to consider fighting anyone without his armor, but he just nodded.
They sparred again the day after that, and the day after, until Luke begged off to rest his sore muscles, a break Din was grateful for but hadn’t wanted to ask for himself.
Then after that day off they just kept sparring. Luke would wake early and do his meditation, then when Grogu and Din emerged they’d have breakfast and spar.
It was nice, Din thought, to have a routine, to know what he was going to do in the morning or in the moment, even if he didn’t know the bigger picture.
He didn’t know how long he was allowed to stay on this tiny moon, how long before Luke told him to leave or left himself, taking Grogu with him to another hidden place, this time one Din might never find.
So he sparred with Luke and cooked dinner for them and helped in the garden and around the temple. He spent time with Grogu and asked about his training and fixed up a ship he was steadily growing attached to, since it was the thing that had led him here.
It took several weeks at the temple before Din could start to share things with Luke. It wasn’t personal information, not even really anything about himself before he found his son. He hadn’t even given Luke his name, but that was a familiar thing, to be only what his armor said he was. This was the first time he’d ever felt the need to be someone else, to wash away the decision Moff Gideon made for him and choose who got to know and say his name. But it felt like a step Din didn’t know how to make, a rocky path he couldn’t navigate. So he talked about Grogu instead, the things they had seen and done.
Then he course corrected to figuring out what Grogu had already told Luke, fixing up the things Grogu had apparently embellished or misremembered. He didn’t bother to touch the krayt dragon story, since Luke had looked at him, eyebrows raised, and said that Grogu told him that one with such sincerity that he wouldn’t believe any edits Din might try to make.
Other things, though, Grogu hadn’t shared, and Din wondered too late if maybe there were things he wasn’t supposed to share either, or if Grogu was just too young to know how miraculous he was. He still looked to Din for permission to use his powers sometimes. Other times he just tipped forward, pressing his tiny hands to the ground or to the cut on Luke’s arm, squeezing his big eyes shut in concentration.
“He’s used the, the force,” Din said, stumbling over the word a little bit as Luke watched in fascination, “to heal before. It wears him out, but he can do it.”
“Oh?” Luke looked down at Grogu, eyes bright, as the cut disappeared and Grogu blinked up at him sleepily. “That’s incredible. I’ve used the force to heal myself faster before, but never other people.”
“Was that not covered in your...magic training?”
Luke laughed, and the sound made the room seem brighter. “I probably shouldn’t admit this to the father of my only student, but I didn’t exactly have a complete training. My Jedi master title is really one for lack of other Jedi. I learned to fight, but not to heal. Clearly my own masters’ priorities were skewed by the war.” Luke rolled his eyes.
Din thought about Ashoka hiding in the shadows, the barest remnants of an order she no longer believed in. “I didn’t know there were any Jedi left to fight in the war.”
Luke looked at him, surprise briefly coloring his features. “They were almost entirely wiped out when the Emperor rose to power. I had two masters who died shortly after I began training with them, so I guess you could say I am the only remaining Jedi, at least in any official capacity. I know you met Ashoka.”
It was Din’s turn to be surprised. “Do you know her?”
Luke smiled wryly. “In a sense.” His posture was relaxed but his shoulders were tense, and Din knew when to fall away from an uncomfortable topic.
“You fought with the rebellion then.” Din didn’t bother phrasing it as a question. The battered X-wing docked beside his ship gave enough confirmation of that, but there was something about hearing it come directly from Luke that made it feel less like just a story, a bright star burdened by grief.
Luke nodded. “I was a pilot first, then a Jedi. I was stationed on Hoth for a few years, but I found my second master not long after the battle there, and all the Jedi stuff sort of usurped my soldier duties. Luckily I had an in with the base commander, so she didn’t mind me disappearing to train for a bit.” Luke huffed, fondness creeping over his features before they darkened. “Not that my training did much more than teach me to fight. Very useful during a war, not so much when trying to teach other force-users.”
“Grogu is a little young for a laser sword,” Din agreed.
Luke laughed. “Someday he will be old enough to wield a lightsaber, but more likely than not I will be dead and gone by then.”
“You said you’d stick around though,” Din countered, making a fluttering motion with his fingers and then feeling foolish for doing it. “With the force. Lingering Jedi.”
Luke looked delighted that Din had remembered. “That’s right. I can still help him after death, like my masters do for me. Maybe they can help me know what to teach him now.”
Din hummed, thinking about the temple they were in, the empty rooms and lingering memories. He thought about Luke beginning something new. “You’ll get to decide what to teach him, what’s important,” he said, nodding at Grogu.
“You’re right,” Luke agreed, thumbing at one of Grogu’s ears when he blinked sleepily up at him. “I get to call the shots; I think being the last Jedi gives me the right. And I think I can do it differently. Better, if I were confident enough in my abilities to make that claim.”
“I’ll make it for you,” Din replied, too easily, and he wondered when words had come easier than silence for him, when he had started to give them to Luke so easily. When he stopped fighting against and started fighting for. “Be better than the ones who came before you, so the ones who come after can be even more.”
Luke blinked at him. “That was very poetic.”
Din shrugged. “Maybe you can paint it on your temple wall,” he said dryly, and Luke laughed.
“Yes, a Mandalorian quote on a Jedi wall. That’s the new history I’m building.”
Din stood, stepping briefly into Luke’s space to collect a now sleeping Grogu from his lap. “The point is you’re building something,” he said, tucking Grogu’s robes further around him. “And that’s what matters.”
Luke smiled up at him, eyes soft in the fading candle light. “Yeah,” he said quietly, and Din felt contentment settle over his shoulders like a cloak.
“We’ll head to bed,” Din said, nodding down at Grogu.
“Probably a good idea.” Luke stretched his arms over his head. “Rest well, I’ll see you two in the morning.”
Din did not rest well, his mind lingering on building something new, so that those who came after him would be something better.
Luke’s hand was spread across the kitchen table.
Din faltered in the doorway, blinking at the parts and pieces spilling from Luke’s hand, decidedly not human.
Luke, tongue pinched between his teeth in concentration, fiddled with something in his palm, then swore when his hand made a disappointed clicking noise.
“Do you,” Din started, shuffling his feet in the doorway, Grogu on his hip. “Do you want some help?”
Luke glanced over his shoulder and grinned, an embarrassed looking expression. “Would you mind?”
Din carefully set Grogu in his little highchair and then settled in the chair across from Luke, looking down at the scattered parts on the table. He had wondered what was beneath Luke’s glove, had wondered what he’d felt the need to hide. But like so much of Luke it wasn’t just hiding, it was also for protection.
He could see where bits of dust and soil stained the edges of the prosthetic hand, grains caught between the gears dusting the table where they sat.
“I can’t quite get the angle right,” Luke explained, tilting his hand toward Din, so he could see into the control panel. Din, unthinking, reached out, wrapping his hand around Luke’s wrist, cradling the back of his hand.
The touch was intimate, even through Din’s gloves, and he almost let go, feeling as though he should’ve been scalded by the touch. But he wasn’t, and Luke didn’t even flinch when Din’s gloves brushed over his skin. It was synthetic, it must be, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel it.
So Din was gentle, Luke’s wrist in one hand, a tool in the other, prodding inside Luke’s hand.
“What—” Din said, then regretted starting the question.
Luke smiled wryly, like he knew what Din was going to ask.
“Lightsaber,” he said.
Din waited a moment, then asked, “Your own?”
Luke blinked, then laughed brightly. “I think it would take a great deal of skill to chop your dominant hand off with your own weapon, accidentally or not."
“You’re a skilled warrior,” Din muttered, which only served to make Luke laugh harder. “Hold still, or I’ll take the rest of your arm off, accidentally or not."
Luke, grinning, held still. “I did not cut my own hand off. My father did."
Din snapped his head up, looking at Luke. While he was smiling amiably, there was no trace of joking on his features.
“Oh,” Din said, and there was something in his chest, an anger, he thought, or a frustration, at the idea that someone who was supposed to love Luke had done this to him. That anyone would look to take from and harm their child, harm Luke, who grinned through the assessment Din gave him, baring his past and his hand.
“You actually remind me a little bit of him,” Luke said, squinting at Din thoughtfully, and Din decidedly didn’t like that comparison. Luke seemed to sense his displeasure and smiled placatingly. “You’re a much better father, don’t worry. After watching you with Grogu, I can guarantee at least that much.”
Din’s face warmed, and part of him was inordinately pleased by Luke’s reassurance. Another part wanted to ask what aspect of them was similar then, what Luke saw in Din that he had also seen in a man who harmed him so intentionally and permanently. But he was afraid the answer would be truthful enough that Din would have to leave this moon, and he wasn’t ready. The only purpose he knew was here, and the darksaber would never truly be his to wield.
Wherever he goes, I go. He stole a glance at Grogu, who was watching Luke’s hand, still spilled between him and Din, with interest.
So Din didn’t ask, but Luke answered anyway, because Luke could read his silences almost as well as he could his sentences.
“He wore a helmet,” Luke said simply, as though that explained everything.
“So do many Mandalorians,” Din said, carefully twisting Luke’s wrist for a better angle. He couldn’t feel his heartbeat, not through the synthetic hand and his glove, but his own was pounding hard enough for both of them. Not all Mandalorians, a voice in his head said, one that sounded suspiciously like Bo Katan.
“His was a bit different,” Luke conceded, then continued quietly. “The first and only time I saw his face was when he died.”
Din looked up, and Luke was staring down at his open palm, the eyebrow crease in place, eyes miles away.
He wondered what Luke thought about, two fathers baring themselves for their sons, one last chance to see their face and know them at the very end. He wondered if Luke had any regrets, that his own father hadn’t had the same opportunity Din did to chase his son through the stars.
“Imperial droids killed mine,” Din said, and he didn’t know why he said it, this fact he had carried around for several decades, something he had recognized and mourned and tucked away again. His past was safe in his beskar with him, and here he was, handing it to the Jedi, palm outstretched.
“I’m sorry,” Luke said, and it wasn’t pitying, it was knowing, and Din thought maybe that was why he’d waited, why he’d held onto that fact until now, only giving voice to it when there was someone who would really, truly understand.
“Yeah,” Din said, looking back down at Luke’s hand. “Me too.”
The droid showed up several months into Din’s stay at the temple.
Technically, Solo showed up with his wookie and his ship, but a blue R2 unit rolled down the ramp of the Millennium Falcon screaming, and Din had his blaster out before he was even really conscious of it.
“Whoa, hey, you’re still here,” Solo said, not even bothering to put his hands up, and Din hated him a little bit for how nonchalantly he looked down the barrel of one of the most dangerous bounty hunters in the galaxy.
“You’re not Boba Fett,” Luke would say later, to which Din would furrow his brow beneath his helmet, not sure he wanted to know how Fett and Solo, let alone Fett and Luke, knew one another.
In that moment, though, Din would just feel annoyed, blaster pointed at the droid making irritated beeps in his direction.
“R2!” Luke exclaimed, stepping past Din and gently tapping his blaster down, like Din was someone who listened to Luke.
Then Din surprised himself by actually lowering his blaster and tried not to think about what that might mean.
“Hey, kid,” Solo greeted, and behind him the wookie burbled his own greeting.
Luke grinned at them but knelt down in front of the droid, patting it’s rounded head like it was a massiff. “I missed you, buddy.”
“Gee, thanks,” Solo said, sarcasm rolling off of him. “Glad to see you missed this hunk of metal more than me.”
“I just saw you.” Luke reached up to pat Solo’s arm too, almost condescendingly, and the action made Din smile. “Leia’s had R2 for nearly four months, it’s just nice to have him home again.”
“We’ll be glad to see the backside of him,” Solo said, but Din could tell it was a bluff, especially when Solo patted the droid’s head fondly. “Sure you don’t want to take C3P0 too?”
Luke grinned up at Solo. “Nah, he’s needed right where he is, but you’d be welcome to bring him to visit next time.”
“Like I’m ever going to let that droid back on my ship,” Solo rolled his eyes, then looked over at Din again.
Din, realizing he still had his blaster out, even if it wasn’t pointed at the droid anymore, holstered his weapon. Grogu, settled in his other arm, burbled and stretched a little hand toward the R2 unit.
The droid, for his part, seemed uninterested in getting any closer to Din, which Din could at least respect and appreciate.
But then Luke stood and looked at Din, gesturing toward the droid.
“This is R2-D2,” he said. “One of my oldest and best friends.”
“I take offense to that,” Solo said.
“I met him before you,” Luke replied easily, like this was something they’d talked about before.
“Yeah yeah.” Solo ambled a few steps closer to Din and hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “If you’re just gonna gawk at the reunion, you might as well help us cart out the supplies.”
Din grunted. “What are you, the delivery guy?”
“Absolutely not,” Solo sputtered.
The wookie garbled something from inside the Falcon, and Solo glared in his direction. “Just because I bring supplies from point A to point B does not mean I’m a delivery guy!”
Solo stomped back up the ramp, hollering as he went, and Luke beamed, like this was everything he had ever wanted.
Din settled Grogu in the bag slung across his shoulder and helped Solo and Luke haul crates of supplies into the temple.
“My sister needed to borrow R2 for a little while,” Luke explained, using his force magic to help stack crates inside the yawning storage room of the temple, weaving around dismantled ship parts and a landspeeder. “But he’s normally here with me. He and I actually go way back, from Tatooine to the rebellion, but he served in the Clone Wars too, so sometimes he gets borrowed for some diplomacy or history lessons.”
Din nodded, like any of that made sense to him, and kept hauling crates.
Luke did that sometimes, dropped historical events and important sounding names like they were things Din should know. Din was never sure how to react or ask, and it had been long enough now that he figured they were just war stories, things leftover from Luke’s time with the rebellion.
If there was anything he really needed to know, he trusted Luke would tell him.
Din stopped walking, balking at his own realization. He didn’t trust people on principle. People were too eager to cheat or lie, too easily bribed. The universe had proved it time and time again, and yet, Din realized, looking over at Luke, lifting crates with his mind, that stupid swearing droid driving circles around him, that he trusted Luke with both his son and himself.
That realization was almost as strange as Luke’s stories. Din wasn’t sure what to make of any of it.
Solo swerved around him, crate in his arms. “Keep walking, tin can, some of us have princesses to get back to.”
Din kept walking, not sure what to make of that either.
It wasn't until Solo was on his way back out that he pulled Din aside. For a split second, Din thought Solo was going to give him some sort of ridiculous shovel talk, but then Solo opened his mouth and it was worse.
"Wasn't sure you'd still be here, but I got wind of somebody asking around about a shiny Mandalorian. Figured I'd at least take note." Solo scratched his chin but spoke softly, eyes darting around them as if he didn't want Luke to hear. It put Din on edge immediately.
“Lots of people are looking for Mandalorians.”
Maybe it was the Armorer, or Paz. Maybe it was somebody from the covert, looking for pieces of home, scattered across the galaxy.
But Din wasn’t that lucky, and he knew before Solo even said it. He sort of wished Solo had given him a misguided shovel talk instead.
"Someone's looking for you specifically," Solo continued, unaware or just uncaring of how tense Din’s shoulders had gotten. "Another Mando, goes by the name Bo Katan. Something about a sword. Just thought you'd want to know."
Din flexed his fingers, not reaching for the empty space on his belt where darksaber would be, not reaching for anything, but overly aware of how tenuous this peace he’d found was.
"Thanks," he choked out. "For that and any future messages."
Solo rolled his eyes but nodded. "Don't bring any trouble to the kid," he said, then strutted off back to his ship.
Din stayed tucked in the corner Solo had pulled him into, thinking that maybe if he just stood there, hidden away in this Jedi temple on a moon with no name, the past would stay where it was. He could just keep standing there, not the Manda’lor, not Din Djarin, not anything but a father
Din turned to find Luke, Grogu in his arms and that concerned crease between his eyes.
Din swallowed. “Yeah,” he lied. “Everything’s fine.”
“Mando, would you mind passing the salt?”
“Din Djarin,” Din said, and the name felt clunky on his tongue, something he hadn’t spoken in years. He realized that he couldn't remember the last time he had introduced himself, the last time he had given his name to someone, rather than let them call him by his creed.
“Din,” Luke repeated, and it sounded nice in his voice, gentle, like Luke knew to handle the word carefully, a gift freely given. “It’s nice to meet you, Din Djarin.”
Din shuffled his feet under the table, feeling his face heat, glad the helmet shielded him from Luke’s gaze. He didn’t know what he’d do if Luke saw his face and said his name at the same time, the intimacy of being known and seen all at once. It would be too much, he decided, in the safety of his own mind. Too much to be looked at by Luke with such reverence, to have his name spoken directly to his face.
“I haven’t been called that in a very long time,” he admitted.
“Would you be more comfortable if I called you something else?” Luke asked, and it should have been teasing, but it was genuine, the soft freedom to be who he wanted in this place.
And that careful gift, that offer of being who he wanted, uncontrolled and unfettered, filled Din with a lot of hope and a little bit of terror. Who was he without the creed? His people? Who was Din Djarin, standing in the halls of someone who had once been his people’s greatest enemy?
Din shook his head, hearing his own breathing echo inside his helmet. “No. You can,” he faltered briefly, then took a deep breath. “You can call me by my name.”
Luke smiled. “Okay, Din Djarin.”
Din nodded, looking away from that smile, all of him too warm inside his beskar shell.
Grogu, probably tired of being ignored, smacked his bowl against the table and shrieked. Din leaned forward and righted the bowl.
“Don’t play with your food,” he said sternly, and Grogu blinked up at him owlishly, unrepentant.
Across the room, R2-D2 beeped what could only be droid laughter. Din ignored him.
“We’re working on table manners,” Luke said, moving his hand so that the spilled drops on the table whisked back into Grogu’s bowl and slid it back in front of him. “Though admittedly my curriculum for that could use some work.”
“What, the Jedi don’t have a master course in culinary etiquette?”
Luke laughed, loud and delighted. “If they do, I haven’t found it yet.”
“That’s the true secret to Jedi powers,” Din deadpanned. “Table manners.” Then he passed the salt to Luke, who looked at him with such fondness that it made Din’s chest ache.
“Thank you, Din,” he said, and Din felt that in his chest too.
Later, when the sun was setting and casting a golden light on the walls of the Jedi temple, shapes filtered through glass and braided with shadows, Din found Luke sitting in a patch of light, expression creased with concern.
Perhaps giving Luke his name had been too much, Din thought. Just as his own creed had its rules and regulations, so did the Jedi’s. Luke had told him of the Jedi’s beliefs, how he wanted to forge something different, but it was one thing to say and another thing entirely to do. The weight of tradition was heavy, and Din knew what it was to carry that alone, how much heavier it felt to try and cast off.
He wondered if Luke ever looked at the world he was trying to build and thought it too much to do alone.
Luke looked up at him from his square of sunlight, the whole of him drenched in golden light. He looked like a man made of fire, like someone who walked the skies.
It's so bright here.
“My name,” Luke said, carefully, like the words were ones he had learned to wield softly, worriedly. His face was an impassive mask. “I just thought you should know, since you gave me yours.”
Din frowned, though he knew his helmet was expressionless, and looked at Luke, at the broad, tan slope of his shoulders, at the light freckles that sat on his nose, no doubt given to him by the twin suns of Tatooine.
“That’s a Hutt slave name,” he said finally, and Luke’s carefully composed expression faltered.
“Oh,” he said, eyebrows pinching together. “I suppose. My father was—he was born a slave on Tatooine, but was freed by the Jedi order. I hadn’t really thought much about it. My mother, alternatively, was apparently an elected queen at some point, so I suppose my lineage is a bit muddied.”
“You’re royalty?” Din’ couldn’t help the surprise that colored his tone, then felt hypocritical, thinking of the darksaber hidden away on his ship.
Luke laughed, and a fair amount of tension dropped from his shoulders. He stood, and Din followed him into the kitchen, away from his small square of sunlight.
“Not in the slightest. I was raised by my aunt and uncle, many, many planets away from anyone that would consider my blood royal. My sister, on the other hand, is a princess by both birth and adoption.” He looked back at Din, and his expression sobered for a moment, before brightening again. He gestured at Din to sit, then pulled two mugs from a cupboard. “She prefers a different title now. Though, in some circles she’s still known as Huttslayer.”
Din jerked in his chair, palms flat on the table. “Your sister killed Jabba the Hutt?”
Luke shrugged, but a smirk was growing on his face. “Strangled him with his own chains. He deserved it though, especially after what he did to her.”
Din shook his head, trying to look closer at the man now bustling about the kitchen, pouring hot water from a kettle. He tried to see something, anything of the power that sat beneath his skin, the royalty and enslaved history that rolled through his veins, the justice and vindication that lived in his family name.
But aside from the static of something that lived in him, Din couldn’t see anything but the smiling joyful man who taught his son to lift rocks with his mind. He was powerful, yes, but powerful in a way that was controlled. He decided what people saw when they looked at him, and that metaphorical armor was almost as effective as Din’s beskar.
Luke set both steaming mugs down on the table, then sat across from Din, still just as bright and golden as he had been in that patch of light. The ceramic mugs were lumpy, clearly handmade, and Din smiled as he pulled one closer to him, even as he tried to come to terms with the fall of Hutt at the hands of another Skywalker.
“She didn’t know at the time,” Luke said quietly, looking down at his hands, one gloved and one not, both wrapped around his misshapen mug. “That she was my sister. Or that our father had been born a Hutt slave. I only knew bits and pieces, and my uncle wasn’t around for me to ask stories anymore. But I think that makes it more satisfying, you know?” Luke looked up at Din. “That she killed him, without even knowing the effect his rule had had on our family for generations.”
Luke flexed his hands around his mug, then tucked them under the table in his lap.
“Is that why you were hesitant to tell me your name? Because I was—am a bounty hunter?” Din asked, and Luke looked up at him again, blue eyes wide and so, so bright.
“What? Oh, no, honestly, it’s—it’s kind of a relief that you reacted that way. That the only link you have to my name is Tatooine. I’m not some rebellion hero or a dysfunctional Jedi descended from a monster to you. I’m just a kid who made it off a big rock. And maybe helped kill your boss?”
Din huffed a laugh, and the sound just barely made it past his helmet modulator. “I never did work for Hutt. It really is just a big rock, isn’t it?”
Luke grinned, and he looked impossibly young for a person who claimed to have lived through so much.
“Do you want to talk about the rebellion hero stuff? Or the monster thing?” Din offered.
Luke shook his head, biting on his smile. “No. If you don’t already know then it doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to you,” Din said, and it felt like an admission, something that slipped between his lips when he didn’t mean to say it out loud.
Luke blinked at him, lips parting, and Din abruptly stood, nearly knocking the table. His still full mug sloshed a bit, but didn’t spill. “I should go. To sleep. It’s late,” he said, fingers twitching at his sides.
“Alright,” Luke said, standing as well. “Thank you. It’s been...it’s been a while since I’ve had someone to talk to like this. It’s nice. And thank you, for earlier, giving me your name.” Luke smiled again, a soft thing that made Din feel warm.
Din nodded once, a jerky movement, picked up his mug, then turned on his heel and left the kitchen.
He made his way to the room he was staying in, and as soon as the door was shut behind him he pulled up his comms. He made sure to scramble it a few times, as Luke had instructed, but before long he was dialing across lightyears of galaxy, mug still steaming beside him.
It took a bit, but eventually Cara’s face, bleary with sleep and frowning, appeared in glowing blue light.
“Mando,” she groused, and Din realized he must have woken her up, not even sure what time it was on Nevarro. “Why are you calling me?”
“I need to know what the name Luke Skywallker means to you,” he blurted, and Cara’s expression went from annoyed and tired to alert and curious.
“Skywalker? That’s the Jedi who took the kid?” She moved a bit, her face disappearing out of focus briefly before returning, her hair a tangled sweep on her shoulder.
Din hesitated, then nodded.
Cara laughed. “Knew I recognized him from somewhere. Hot shot rebel hero. I had to clean up his mess in Endor after he blew up the Death Star part two. Luckily I didn’t have to help when he did it the first time around.”
Din squinted at Cara. “What’s a death star?”
Cara’s eyebrows nearly hit her hairline, and she blinked at him for a moment. Din wasn’t sure if she was going to start laughing or not.
Finally, she huffed and settled further into whatever she was seated on at her end. “How much time do you have right now?”
“How much do you need?”
Cara sighed. “For an intergalactic war crash course? Buckle up, Mando. Shit in the galaxy has been fuckin weird and this could take a while.”
When Din stumbled into the kitchen the next morning, his eyes crusty and throat dry, wishing he’d gotten more than an hour of sleep, Luke was already seated at the table, a mug of tea in his gloved hand.
The scene was so similar to the previous evening that, for a brief moment, Din wondered if Luke had sat there all night, an ugly mug in his hands, just waiting for Din to come back.
“Good morning,” the hero of the rebellion, the man who destroyed the empire’s greatest weapon twice, the man who was resurrecting an entire order from the ground up, greeted Din, blonde hair rumpled and robe wrinkled.
Din didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure if he could. He sort of felt like the galactic history of the last ten years had been downloaded into his brain at an unhealthy pace. He genuinely wasn’t sure what any more information would do to him.
“My father was Darth Vader,” Luke said.
Din sat down.
“Sorry.” Luke pressed the second mug of steaming tea into his hands. “You seemed a little overwhelmed, but I figured at this point you might as well know everything.”
“Did you—” Din stopped, clenching his hands around the mug, heat seeping through his gloves. “Were you reading my mind?”
Luke made a face. “Not...exactly? Sometimes people think really loud and the force helps me pick up on it. It’s more emotions and big picture stuff than anything else, but your thoughts are...very loud this morning.”
“Everything is very loud this morning,” Din muttered, fully aware that it didn't make any sense. He lifted the mug, then winced when it tapped the edge of his helmet.
“I can put on a blindfold if you’d like the drink that,” Luke offered, and there was the tiniest bit of tension in his shoulders, the smallest trace of a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. If Din hadn’t learned to read him the way he had, hadn’t looked at Luke everyday and memorized the grace of him, he might not have even noticed it. But he did. He watched Luke more than he’d ever watched anyone before, and that thought alone had his head reeling.
“Are you upset?” he blurted, and Luke blinked at him.
“About wearing a blindfold?”
“No, about—” Din looked down at the mug in his hands, then made himself look Luke in the eyes. “Are you upset that I asked someone else about your past, rather than you?”
Are you mad that I know now? That I’m just another person with your history on tab, looking when you were glad I hadn’t known?
Luke shook his head, but the tension in his shoulders didn’t change. He looked at Din, jaw set. “No, I knew you’d find out eventually, either through me or someone else. I understand that it’s a lot, and if you’d rather not deal with all the New Republic stuff or familial legacy, it can be a lot for anyone. I would understand if you decided to go—”
“Go?” Din echoed.
Luke nodded. “It’s not an easy thing to live with, this history. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted out.”
“Luke,” Din said, and he couldn’t stop the short huff of laughter that bubbled from inside him. “I’m not—this doesn’t change anything. Well,” he corrected, “it changes some things, but not, not this.” He gestured at them, at the temple at large, at where he knew Grogu was still sleeping, tucked away safely in this Jedi temple. “Knowing about you doesn’t change this. I want to be here, I want Grogu to be here. I just know now that you’re much more well equipped to defend your school than I thought.”
Luke’s jaw dropped. “Defend my—” he sputtered. “That’s—I took out an entire squadron of dark troopers when we met!”
“And two Death Stars, apparently,” Din added, then he paused. “Wait, your sister is the Huttslayer."
Luke huffed. “Yes.”
“And your father was Darth Vader.”
“And your mother was a queen?”
“Have the Skywalkers been terrorizing the galaxy for generations? Is there anything else I should know about?”
“Technically my father destroyed the second Death Star.”
“That’s.” Din pulled his mug of tea closer to him. “That doesn’t make it less impressive.”
“You didn’t even know what a Death Star was until this morning!”
“My best friend is from Alderaan,” Din said, and Luke’s expression shuttered. “I know what it could do.”
Luke nodded, looking down at his own tea. “My sister grew up on Alderaan. She’d be it’s queen now if it hadn’t been destroyed.”
“You sister, the Hutt slayer...is also a queen?”
“Leia prefers the term Senator now.”
Senator Organa. Her name on Wedge’s list suddenly made perfect sense, lingering things clicking into place in Din’s mind. He was suddenly very glad that he had not attempted to go to her, now sure that she could’ve had him blasted back into space for even thinking about her brother.
“She and Han are married,” Luke added. “In case I haven’t mentioned that before now. But I shouldn’t have any other famous family members crawling out of the woodwork, I swear.”
“Your whole family,” Din said slowly, carefully, “is an absolute menace.”
Luke laughed, and the last bit of tension in his shoulders dropped. Luke was the sun and Din was a planet desperately circling him, helplessly caught in his orbit.
He realized he didn’t care what Luke’s family had done, only that he had people who loved him. He didn’t care that there were murderers and smugglers and senators in his immediate family, just that he was here now, on this green planet with Din, laughing with him and caring for his son.
It’s so bright here, he thought, then his chest clenched and he realized. Oh. Oh.
Something had shifted in Din’s chest, something he wasn’t going to give a name to, for fear that it would crawl from his throat and make itself known. And Din, who had already given Luke his name and his son, who had flown across the galaxy to find him, didn’t think he could give up that final piece.
Luke couldn’t take it, even if he wanted to, both of them bound by very different and very similar creeds. Best to not even bother him with it, to lock it away like the darksaber, ignored and dismissed, even if it wasn’t going away anytime soon.
So he started walking.
He’d seen Luke disappear into the trees, both with and without Grogu, and it was so different from the places he’d lived, so green compared to the desserts he’d spent years on that he couldn’t help but feel drawn to it, maybe in the same way he was drawn to Luke.
The forest was easier to navigate though, easier to give in to. So when Luke and Grogu settled in for meditation, or Luke tinkered with parts of the temple, fixing up a past he had no control over, Din wandered.
It sometimes reminded Din of the jungle around the base on Morak, where he had first removed his helmet for the kid. He’d thought maybe it would fill him with dread, thinking back on that moment, but instead the forest filled his thoughts, loud in it’s own right.
Everything was different here. Din was different here. He hadn’t decided what that meant yet.
Occasionally, when he was putting himself together in the mornings, stacking on his armor piece by piece, he would decide to leave something behind. He didn’t usually get far, just down the hall or, once, all the way to the temple door, before he turned back and retrieved the knife or the glove or the brace, whatever piece of himself he had tried to do without. He had thought maybe it would be easier to walk through the forest one piece less, one piece lighter. But it wasn’t. Instead he continued to feel as though he were crumbling, incomplete beneath the beskar.
And so did the forest.
And the desert at the edge of the forest, waiting to be discovered, a line of sand and sparse trees becoming something else.
But then Din would return to the temple at the end of the day and there would be Luke, still just as bright, turning to smile at him, like he was glad Din was there. Like he was glad Din was home.
And that feeling in Din’s chest would burble and grow and he would sit stoically silent and pretend that everything was fine.
Because it was fine.
He had his son. He had a home, however temporary it was. He didn’t have a purpose yet, and the sinking feeling it may have to do with the darksaber stowed away on his ship was ever looming, but he could continue to ignore that. It wouldn’t be a problem until it was, and he was fine pretending a little bit longer.
Pretending meant cooking beside Luke, their shoulders bumping with a camaraderie that Din wasn’t ever sure he’d find again, not after losing his covert. Pretending meant sparring until neither of them could breathe, pressed together the only way their creeds would let them. Pretending meant prying frogs and foliage and dirt out of Grogu’s mouth, it meant standing on a sunny planet with the first semblance of peace he’d felt in years. It was a simpler and kinder type of pretending, he told himself, than his three months on Nevarro.
The droid cornered him while he was working on the temple’s circuitry system, waist deep in a hole in the wall. He didn’t even see it coming, and when it beeped at him aggressively, Din swore and knocked his helmet into the side of the duct he’d crawled into.
He didn’t even bother to climb out, just kicked with his legs in the direction of the noise, and the droid swore at him again, wheeling back out of reach.
“What do you want?” Din snapped, fingers itching to grasp his blaster. He kept his hands on the wires and tools instead, which he thought counted as major growth.
The droid beeped at him again, and sometimes Din thought about IG-11, about how human droids could sometimes seem. But this droid was a stranger, and a rather angry seeming one at that, and Din wasn’t ready to grow that much.
“I don’t know binary,” Din said, which was partly a lie, because Din knew nearly a dozen languages and was fluent in at least half, and binary was one he’d done a fair amount of study on. But he’d lost interest in it early on, and he’d never found reason to pick it up again when people stopped forcing him to work with droids.
The R2 unit beeped at him again, this time slower, like it thought Din was stupid, and Din rolled his eyes behind his helmet.
A blue light flickered by Din’s feet, and at first Din thought maybe the thing was trying to electrocute him, but he didn’t hear the buzz of electricity. When he finally pulled himself out of the wall, the R2 unit was watching him, a little fuzzy blue projection of a significantly younger looking Luke Skywalker floating in front of him.
Din frowned, looking from the holo projection of Luke to R2, then back again. He knew R2 Had been with Luke for a while, but the image before him, one of a little boy, didn’t quite match the timeline Luke had given him.
R2 beeped again, and then the image warped, growing from a child to a young man, one who wasn’t Luke but bore such a striking resemblance that Din couldn’t help but wonder if they were related. He had the same nose as Luke, strong and straight, the same piercing blue eyes that Din followed through the temple. This young man smiled in the holo, but it was guarded, his eyes still serious even as the rest of his face projected something much more light hearted.
“Who—?” Din started to ask, and then the holo changed again, to a dark mask, the shape so different from Din’s own, with a sharp brow line and a perpetually grimacing mouthpiece.
Din had seen this helmeted figure before, in old empire propaganda, but he’d never placed the mask and the stories Cara and Luke had told him together.
“Darth Vader,” he said. Luke’s father, he didn’t say, and R2 beeped again, this time sounding less irritated. If beeps could be sad, Din thought, then he reached toward the blue projection.
“Did you know him?” Din asked, and felt a little stupid for asking it.
R2 beeped an affirmative, and for the first time, Din wished he knew binary, just so he could ask this droid how it had managed to find itself with two generations of Skywalkers, probably knowing each of them better than they had known each other.
The image shifted again, and this time Din knew for sure it was Luke, with his familiar smile and bright eyes, grinning between a cocky-looking Han Solo and a dark haired young woman, the three of them bright in the empty temple hallway.
R2 made a more twirly sound, one that wasn’t binary but reminded Din of one of Grogu’s coos. Not words but feelings.
Din didn’t think he was any better at understanding those than the binary R2 had been speaking before.
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me,” he said, staring at the image of the carefree Luke, pinned between people he so clearly loved.
The image shifted one more time, and the new one had Din freezing where he sat.
There was Luke once more, but there was also Din, the two of them standing beside the stove, shoulder to shoulder. The Din in the holo was unreadable in his beskar, but his body was turned toward Luke, all of his attention orbiting Luke.
Luke was radiant, smiling up at Din, open mouthed in his joy, eyes bright and body curved toward Din, the two of them parentheses with too much history between them. The way Luke looked at him in the holo made Din grateful for his beskar, that it hid how he was probably smiling right back.
Din tried to conjure up anger at the droid clearly spying on them, but he couldn’t find it in him. He used to wear anger like another set of armor, wield it like a weapon. Now, looking at a captured moment of soft domesticity with Luke, Din could only feel fondness seeping through his chest.
R2-D2 beeped again, and the image disappeared. A little robotic arm emerged from its side, reaching for Din, and Din let it latch to his wrist gauntlet, holding still as R2 transferred the picture to his files.
He didn’t trust the droid, didn’t know that he ever would, but he thought maybe, as he watched R2-D2 roll away from him, that the droid was trusting him. And that was enough for now.
Din was not the only one who wandered.
Some days, ones where Grogu wandered into Din’s room in the morning instead of his, Luke would disappear first. Din didn’t know where he went, only that he’d come back looking restless, something Din recognized.
They would spar on those days sometimes, and it was always more reckless, Luke’s actions less predictable, until both of them were shaking and sweating and Din wanted to lick the sweat off of Luke’s neck.
Other days Luke would just be gone for hours at a time, and Din stayed at the temple, spending time with Grogu and fixing up corners of the temple that Luke hadn’t gotten to yet. Luke would come back, eventually, and after a while the anxiety in Din’s chest went away. He knew he might wake up alone some days, but he wouldn’t stay that way. Not anymore.
Sometimes when Luke was gone Din would think about the holo of Luke with his sister and friend, smiling so joyfully that the whole galaxy couldn’t help but smile back. Other times he pulled up the image R2 had taken of the two of them, a similar smile ghosting his features.
One day Luke stayed away until nearly nightfall, and there was something in his eyes that made Din wonder. He didn’t ask where Luke went, but it had been a while since he’d needed to ask in order for Luke to answer.
“I didn’t leave home until I was nearly twenty,” Luke said, staring out the temple windows, at the way the closest sun disappeared over the horizon, staining everything a brilliant orange and pink. “I was just a kid, and then suddenly there was the whole galaxy, a place I’d been dreaming about for years. I got to see so much of it. And not all of it was as pretty as I had imagined.”
Din stood beside him and couldn’t help but snort, not at Luke, but at the idea of a galaxy full of only pretty things.. “You thought everything in the galaxy was a beautiful place?”
Luke shrugged, and Din was helplessly charmed. “To a boy from Tatooine, just the idea of it all sounded beautiful.”
“Do you miss it?” Din asked.
“I do,” Luke said, and the answer seemed to surprise him even as he said it. “I wasn’t sure I would, but I do. It’s nice to have my feet on the ground for longer than a couple days, but sometimes I look up and I just.” Luke looked from the window to Din. “There are so many more places to go. And I know some of them must be absolutely beautiful.”
It’s so bright here.
“I want to go somewhere beautiful,” Luke said wistfully.
Din looked at him, a man made of sunlight, a human made of song. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Luke blinked at him, a familiar crease between his eyebrows. Din wanted to reach up and touch Luke’s face with his gloved hand, wanted to feel the tilt of his smile under his palm, that forehead crease along his thumb. He wanted to press close to Luke and never let go.
But he kept his hands tucked against his sides and wanted instead.
Din nodded. “Okay.”
He made sure Grogu was settled, wrapped in his little swath of blankets and fast asleep. R2 beeped at him, and Din had reluctantly learned enough binary to recognize it as reassurance. And while he didn’t like the idea of another droid serving as Grogu’s babysitter, he trusted R2 to at least do this.
Then he pulled out the landspeeder Luke had parked inside the biggest storage room.
Growing up, Din hadn’t ever been the type of teenager to drive out away from whatever town the covert was located in at the time to look at stars. He figured he’d seen enough stars up close and personal, flew past enough while being chased by an alarming variety of people that they would have lost their beauty.
But Luke, who hadn’t left his planet until he was nearly twenty, Luke, who looked at the world around him with awe, Luke, who was connected to everything big and small in the galaxy through a force Din could never hope to understand, seemed like the type to think a speeder trip away from the man-made lights of his own temple would constitute as a pretty place. At least for now.
Din drove, because Luke was an absolutely madman behind the wheel, and it meant that Luke would settle behind him, arms wrapped around his waist, chin tucked against Din’s shoulder. Din could feel him, warm even through his armor.
Luke pressed close, until Din was practically in the cradle of his hips, his arms wrapped tightly around beskar, and Din was sure he could hear the way Din’s heart hammered in his chest. Luke pressed his chin to Din’s shoulder, his cheek to the edge of his helmet, and looked out at the space around them. On the rare times they needed to go somewhere and Luke drove the speeder, it was all about what was right in front of him. When Din drove, Luke would look around, take the galaxy at their fingertips, and trust Din to take them where they needed to go.
And where they needed to go was a small outcropping of rocks, edging over the canyon at the boundary of the forest. In the daytime it was washed with bright sunlight and stamped with little trees, nearly indistinguishable from the desert landscape building up to it. But at night, the arm of a nearby purple galaxy stretched out overhead, and the river at the bottom reflected it so identically that the whole thing felt like a crater to another world. The small moon flowers buried along the rocky walls blossomed, making the canyon itself feel star-studded and bright.
Din had found it about a month ago, and he’d almost commed Luke to tell him, to bring him there and show him everything, but something had told him to stop, to wait. There would be a moment when Luke would need something beautiful and bright.
Din parked the speeder far enough away from the ledge that they couldn’t see down into the canyon, then hesitated, but took Luke’s hand and led him to the edge.
“I need you to know that if you tell me to jump, I will,” Luke joked, and his hand was warm in Din’s, even through his glove. Din wanted to drown in the feeling.
“Please don’t jump into the canyon, I didn’t bring my jetpack.”
“That’s never stopped me before.”
Din walked backwards so he could see Luke’s face when they crested the ridge and the soil-bound stars came into view. Luke’s face, a Jedi mask he’d perfected, slipped into slack-jawed awe before transforming into the kind of brilliant smile that nearly brought Din to his knees.
“Din,” Luke whispered, toes at the edge of the rock, head tilted down, then up, then back down. He didn’t say anything else, and Din felt a flash of pride at making Luke Skywalker speechless.
Din kept his hand in Luke’s, kept him tethered to the rocks, to the ground. Sometimes he was afraid that Luke would just fade into the force, disappear the same way he’d suddenly appeared in Din’s life. That he would decide he was better off serving the universe as some sort of cosmic energy, a force ghost suddenly inaccessible to Din.
So he kept his gloved hand linked to Luke’s human one and looked at him, watched as he still found ways to be awed by the world around him.
“I never thought I’d find a desert that I thought was beautiful,” Luke said, and Din huffed a small laugh, one that echoed in the space of his helmet.
“You said you wanted a pretty place,” Din said, and Luke turned the full force of his smile on him.
“Guess I came to the right guy.”
Din sat down at the edge of the rock, legs dangling over the edge. He tugged Luke along too, until Luke settled beside him, tucked against his side. It wasn’t cold, the way some deserts got when the sun disappeared, but Din stayed close to him all the same.
They sat in silence, just looking at their little world, until Luke sighed and dropped his head onto Din’s shoulder.
“Tell me,” Din said simply.
And Luke did.
“I don’t have anything left from Tatooine,” Luke said slowly, fingertips brushing over the edge of his shirt, like the more he touched the material the more familiar it would become. “My Uncle Owen used to say that the sands of Tatooine will follow you everywhere, and no matter how far you go you’ll always find a little sand in your boots.” Luke blinked and looked at Din. “I stopped finding sand a long time ago."
“Sometimes the places we can’t return to are the places we miss the most,” Din said, hoping it sounded like sage wisdom and not a man trying too hard.
Luke smiled sadly, a soft curve on his face. “I’m luckier than Leia,” he said, looking down again. “She doesn’t even have the option of going home anymore.”
“Hey,” Din nudged his shoulder until Luke looked up at him again. “You don’t have to compare your grief to other people’s. You’re allowed to feel sad.”
The rest of the galaxy saw Luke as a hero, a warrior, a sorcerer. But looking at him now, all Din saw was a young man who’d been fighting for so long he didn’t know how to process his grief. He wondered if Luke looked at him, at the beskar he wore, the shields he put up, and saw the exact same thing.
Luke made a soft noise in his throat, like he started to laugh but couldn’t. “Jedi feel everything and nothing all at once,” he said. “Letting go of stuff is kind of our whole thing.”
“Letting go of stuff doesn’t mean pretending it doesn’t affect you anymore.” Din shrugged, like he wasn’t the master of pretending things didn’t bother him. “You’re the one who’s always meditating, shouldn’t that be meditation rule number one?”
This time Luke did laugh, a bright sound in their darkened corner of the galaxy. Din thought that sound was more luminous than any stars he could see from here.
“No wonder you’re so quiet,” Luke said, brushing windswept hair out of his face and grinning up at Din. “If everyone knew how smart you are they’d never leave you alone.”
Din felt his face heat, grateful for the helmet that hid everything.
Or, almost everything, if Luke’s soft smirk meant anything. He knew the Force sometimes let Luke tell when he was feeling loud, and sometimes just knowing that made it feel like he wasn’t wearing any armor at all.
Luke nudged his shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he said, “your secret’s safe with me.”
Somewhere down in the canyon, a bird called out, the noise soft and low.
“What about you?” Luke asked.
“What about me?”
Luke rolled his eyes and settled even closer to Din, their shoulders pressed together. “You told me you were a foundling, but Mandalore was laid waste before your time. Where did you call home?”
Aq Ventina crowded in Din’s throat, but he swallowed the words back down. That was the before, and after his parents had been killed it ceased to be anything remotely like a home.
“After the covert, there wasn’t really a place I thought of as home. At least not—” Din stopped, looking down at his gloves. A ship was a home, he thought, but what did that mean to someone like Luke? Someone who had grown up with his feet on the ground, his eyes toward the stars. What did a ship mean to a man with a place he called home?
Luke hummed, a thoughtful noise that Din was getting used to. It usually meant that Din’s...aura or force or whatever was doing something that made Luke curious, something that would make it seem like he was reading Din’s mind, even if he was already broadcasting his feelings to the universe.
The helmet hid a lot, at least from everyone but Luke.
“My only real friend for a long time was a droid,” he said, and Din flinched. Luke laughed, but not unkindly. “I know you don’t like them, but R2 was the only constant I had for a long time after joining the rebellion. Well, that and my X-wing. It’s interesting how connected you can get to something that isn’t really alive.”
Din looked at Luke, and even with his helmet’s screen, he was the brightest thing on this moon. He nodded, not sure how to speak, and Luke smiled, a soft, starlit thing.
“My ship was all I had,” Din said, and the words felt easier leaving his chest, his mouth. “That and the kid, but it always felt like the closest thing I had to home. No planet or city ever felt like a place I could stay.”
“What was your ship called?” Luke asked softly.
Din felt his nose scrunch under his helmet, and he wondered if Luke could see the gesture through the force, or if he could only feel the thread of mourning that moved through him. It felt stupid to mourn a ship when he should mourn a people, a creed, but the Razor Crest had been his sanctuary both before and after the Armorer and his small pocket of home was gone. Din had lost so much he wasn’t sure when he’d grown accustomed to keeping.
“It was a Razor Crest,” Din said quietly. He’d never named her anything more than what she already was. They had both gone by their assembly line given names; a Mandalorian in a Razor Crest. It was all they had needed to be.
And now she was gone.
Well, most of her was. He still had the little silver ball tucked away, easy to find and fit into Grogu’s tiny hand. They could both remember home that way, like a tiny piece that fit in both their palms, something they could carry with them the way that she had once carried them.
“Those are pre-empire,” Luke said, and he sounded impressed until he continued, “it must have been quite the hunk of junk.”
Luke laughed, tucking his gloved hand against Din’s. The inhuman part of him felt chill, even through the glove, but Din didn’t mind. “You’re seen the Falcon,” Luke said, while Din was still looking down at their hands and the way they fit together. “Some of the best ships in the galaxy are the ones nobody even expects to fly. They’re often the ones that make the best homes too.”
Din folded his fingers around Luke’s. “It’s still gone.”
“And yet,” Luke squeezed his hands. “You’ve found a new home, but that doesn’t mean you forget the old one. And as a wise man very recently said to me, you’re allowed to feel sad.”
Din huffed a laugh and knocked his shoulder against Luke’s. “Sounds like a smart guy. Maybe we should listen to him.”
Luke laughed, starlight in a galaxy-lit canyon, and they stayed there, side by side, until the stars dipped below the clouds.
Things were different after that.
They had already been changing, Luke’s eyes on him, soft and fond, the way their hands fit together. Din didn’t know what to call it, if he was allowed to call it anything. There was affection building between them, and Din may not have known Luke’s history, but he knew Luke. He knew that maybe, if he reached toward him with intent, Luke would reach back.
But the creed stopped him. He didn’t know if it was his own or Luke’s, but he couldn’t be the one to close the gap. He had to let Luke do that. And until he did, Din could hide behind his helmet, his armor, desperately and achingly yearning.
He looked at the holo of Luke smiling at him more and more, until he felt as though his heart would burst from inside him, until he thought that Luke would hear all the thoughts he was trying not to think, all the feelings he was trying not to feel.
But Luke didn’t say anything, and Din thought maybe that was the end of it. That all he’d get were shoulders bumping at the stove and speeder trips pressed together as they raced toward pretty places.
It would be enough, Din thought, just to have this.
It’s so bright here.
Then Luke sat down across from him at the kitchen table after putting Grogu to bed and looked at him with such earnest sadness that Din’s heart jumped into his throat.
“I wanted to—” Luke frowned, and the forehead crease was there, probably the most severe Din had ever seen. “No, I need to apologize. I’ve gone long enough without saying it. I was wrong to take Grogu from you, to not give you a way back to him."
Din blinked. “You let me stay,” he said, and Luke gave him a weak smile.
“For Grogu,” he said. “I can’t—the old Jedi Order, they believed in a...separation. Children were raised by Jedi masters away from their families. But that’s not how I was raised.” Luke looked around the temple, the big space for so few. “I tried, in the beginning, but it’s hard. It’s so hard. It was just me and him. I know loneliness, we’re old friends by now,” Luke huffed, then looked at Din again, and his eyes were so, so blue.
“I realized I didn’t want that for Grogu. I didn’t want isolation to be the Jedi legacy, not when we can do better.” Luke took a deep breath. “Not when we aren’t alone anymore.”
Din thought about the Razor Crest, just him and Grogu. He thought about how big space had felt before him, the way it had yawned open like a hungry mouth until there was someone beside him to look up in wonder.
“Then you showed up and I…” Luke held out his hands, gloved and bare, palms up, like he could grasp the words between them, the history that pulled them both here. “What could I do but ask you to stay? You found him, time and time again. The least I could do was ensure this time it stuck.”
Din almost laughed. The air was thick with something, the earnestness in Luke’s voice filling the space between them.
“I’m sorry for not telling you where I was taking him,” Luke said, and something in Din’s chest, something he hadn’t even realized was still lingering there, loosened entirely.
“It doesn’t excuse it,” Luke continued, “but I was trying to uphold a code I’m still learning. Mistakes are inevitable, but that one feels bigger than I could have ever expected.” He looked down, and his shoulders were hunched, fingers curling inward, like he expected Din to berate him, even after all they’d said, after the evenings spent in this temple, the last two members of their own kind of dying creed.
“Luke,” Din said softly, the sound almost a whisper through his modulator. “You let me stay.”
Luke blinked and his head rose, his gaze unerringly finding Din’s eyes, even with the helmet, and Din wanted. His chest ached with how badly he wanted, the sheer amount of desire striking and unfamiliar. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted, couldn’t pinpoint it further than just Luke. Always Luke.
“Of course I let you stay,” Luke said, and there was a desperate edge to his words. “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t.”
“For Grogu?” Din asked, nearly a whisper again, but it filled the cavernous room, the whole place, the whole history, shrunk down to just the two of them, sitting across from one another at the kitchen table. His modulator added a rasp, but he added the unasked question, one he so desperately wanted Luke to answer.
Just for Grogu?
Luke nodded, then bit his lip, shoulders still high, and surely he could feel it. Surely the force was screaming at him, pushing everything that radiated off of Din to Luke, filling the room, the whole temple. It was Din drowning in his own feelings, praying Luke would pull him free, be his island in the storm.
“For Grogu,” Luke repeated, then, in a softer tone, “but not just for him.”
Din’s heart was racing, his palms sweaty beneath his gloves. For once, he was not his armor, but the man beneath it, hoping that if he took it off, his heart, exposed and beating, would be held gently. Din didn’t know how to exist without his armor, but he thought maybe he could learn. He already had a pretty good teacher.
“Din, I…” Luke started, then clenched his hands into fists, as if he could hold his own admission, hidden along his palms. “The old Order forbids attachments, and I am changing the rules for Grogu, but...maybe I want to change them for me too.”
“You don’t strike me as someone who likes to follow the rules,” Din teased, and Luke’s shoulders lowered a bit, the tension moving through him as he gave Din a small smile.
“Not really. But it’s gotten people hurt in the past—my friends, my family. The galaxy doesn’t seem to like happy Jedi, and I’m striving for something that has only ever ended badly. This,” Luke gestured between them, movement stilted and unsure, “I don’t know how to have. I just know that I want.”
“And what is this?” he asked softly, repeating Luke’s gesture, placing his hands on the table between them, reaching, offering. Wanting.
Luke’s face was pink, and he wasn’t a Jedi in a mask, cloaked in serenity, shielded by grace. He was young, and he looked at Din with a fondness that rivaled any other way Din had ever been looked at. He felt seen in a way he hadn’t in years, not since placing the beskar over his face for the very first time.
“It’s,” Luke started, and his hands twitched, fingers just barely touching Din’s gloved ones on the table, and between them there was only one bare hand. Din could see it trembling.
Din raised one of his own hands and moved to tug off his glove, just the one, so his own bare hand could sit beside Luke’s, calloused and warm.
Luke looked at his hand, their bare fingertips just barely brushing, and his gaze was filled with such hopefulness. Warmth swelled in Din’s chest.
“Cyar’ika,” Din whispered, and Luke shivered. “What is this?”
Luke moved his hand until his fingers overlapped with Din’s, skin to skin on the kitchen table. Something moved through Din, sharp like electricity, building in his bones and singing through his veins.
“This is us,” Luke said finally, weaving their fingers together. “And I am...I am yours, in whatever capacity you want me.”
Din squeezed his hand around Luke’s. “I want,” he said, and didn’t know how to finish. He pushed away from the table and stood, fingers still linked with Luke’s. He moved toward him, and Luke looked up at him, wide-eyed and hopeful, lips parted.
Din leaned forward, until Luke’s blue eyes were close, until the metal of his helmet gently pressed to Luke’s skin. “I want,” he repeated, and placed his other hand on Luke’s shoulder, thumb on his neck.
Luke nodded, their foreheads still together, and reached up to trace along Din’s helmet with his free hand. He cupped Din’s beskar-covered cheek with his cybernetic hand, and Din was struck by how, even through all the metal and machinery between them, he could still feel the phantom touch.
But he wanted more.
He let go of Luke’s shoulder and reached up, touching Luke’s hand on his helmet, then moved to unlatch it.
Luke’s hand moved with his. “Wait.”
“This,” Luke said, brushing his fingers along the edge of Din’s helmet, “is important to you.”
“You’re important to me,” Din said, and Luke blushed pink.
“I know,” Luke said, and he pressed his forehead against Din’s, holding their linked hands to his chest. “I know.”
Din could feel Luke’s heart pounding under his robes.
“But,” Luke continued. “You don’t have to. I know you, and I—I care for you, regardless of whether or not I see your face. Now or ever. This,” he tapped the helmet gently again, “is part of you. And it’s a part I won’t ask you to change for me. Not until you’re sure.”
“You’re changing your creed,” Din pointed out.
Luke gave him a wry smile. “And I will still be a Jedi. There is no one to tell me otherwise. I think the galaxy can spare one more Jedi for this very specific Mandalorian.”
Din laughed and lowered his hand, cupping Luke’s face.
“You are changing your creed,” he repeated. “I would like to change mine.”
“Okay,” Luke said, and then he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Din’s forehead, a benediction.
Din thought about a father facing his son, face bared and waiting, about how far people were willing to go for the people they loved.
And then he reached up and unlatched his helmet.
Luke helped him lift it off, the two of them dismantling two creeds at once, and then Din set it down on the table and looked at Luke.
He was softer without Din’s screen between them, but still so, so bright. And he looked at Din with such bare fondness, such ferocious want that Din’s knees felt weak. He knelt down, hands settled on Luke’s thighs, and looked up at him, drinking in everything he could.
He didn’t feel naked, or ashamed. He didn’t feel like the weight of a history, of a lifetime lived before him waiting on his shoulders.
He just felt Luke, warm beneath his palms, looking at Din like he was the pretty place Luke had always dreamed of going.
Luke’s human hand moved, slowly, until it was cupping Din’s cheek, and the touch was so overwhelming that Din had to close his eyes, turn his face to Luke’s palm. He brushed his lips over the heel of Luke’s hand, his skin warm and all at once unfamiliar.
Din couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched his face, nothing beyond the small press of Grogu’s tiny claws against his cheek.
When Din opened his eyes again, Luke was looking at him with awe.
“You’re so expressive,” Luke whispered, and it should have been teasing, should have been light and meaningless, but instead it held such reverence that Din felt his eyes grow damp.
“I never learned to hide,” Din said, feeling Luke’s hand move with his words, his stubble scraping against Luke’s palm and fingertips.
“Of course you learned to hide,” Luke said, and his gloved hand moved to rest on Din’s helmet, mirroring the way his human side brushed Din’s cheek. “You’re just letting me see you now.”
Din blinked and pressed his bare hand over Luke’s, holding his skin to Din’s, feeling the warmth spread between them, the callouses on Luke’s fingertips, the careful way his thumb traced the curve of his face.
“You are everything,” Luke said, and Din knew exactly what he meant.
“It’s so bright here,” Din said, and then leaned forward to press his lips to Luke’s.
Luke tasted like the tea he was always drinking, felt like the temple he was building, until he yielded to Din, and then it was like sitting in the cockpit of the Razor Crest, staring out at the galaxy spinning by him. Luke hummed under his lips, pulling Din closer, like he wanted to drink him in, and Din leaned into him. He would let Luke consume him if that was what he wanted. He pushed his hands into Luke’s hair, tangled there, and held him close.
Din felt his stubble scrape against Luke’s cheek and briefly—sharply—wondered what it would feel like to scrape his cheek against Luke’s skin in other places. He broke away to suck in air against Luke’s neck, Luke breathing raggedly as he ducked down to nose at Din’s jaw.
“I want—” Luke gasped, and his eyes were so blue, face flushed so beautifully.
Din didn’t let him finish, just tugged him back. “Me too.” He said, pressing his forehead to Luke’s, his lip’s to Luke’s, all of him to Luke until there was nothing but them. “Me too.”
His cuirasses hit the chair edge with a dull thunk, his body between Luke’s thighs. The noise made Luke laugh, a noise Din wanted to swallow, but he couldn’t, because he was laughing too. The two of them were smiling too much to keep kissing, Din had to turn away, duck his face into Luke’s neck.
Luke shivered at the scratch of stubble against his skin, and Din moved his arms to Luke’s waist, wrapping himself around him, a beskar shell for them both. Luke looped his arms around Din’s neck, keeping his human hand tangled in Din’s hair.
“We don’t have to do anything,” Luke breathed. “We can just do this. Forever or never again. I want what you are willing to give me, Din Djarin.”
“I want to give you everything,” Din said, and he meant it with such sincerity that his chest burned.
“It’s yours,” Din said, twining his fingers in Luke’s. He took a step backwards and Luke followed, then another, until they were walking down the temple hallway towards Luke’s room, leaving Din’s helmet and one of his gloves behind on the kitchen table.
It wasn’t until they got to Luke’s doorway that Din realized he’d never been inside before. It felt like a metaphor for whatever they were going to do, and Din considered lingering on that thought or at least looking around Luke’s space, until Luke stepped through the door and loosened his robes.
All rational thought abandoned Din, his brain short circuiting at the sight of Luke’s exposed skin.
He couldn’t tear his gaze away from the curve of Luke’s collarbone, his tanned skin traced with faint white scars. Din wanted to reach out and touch, and after a moment of just staring at Luke, who was looking more and more amused, he realized with a jolt that he could. He tugged his remaining glove off, tucked it into his belt, and moved forward until his fingertips spread against Luke’s skin. He pushed the robe open further, glancing at Luke as he did, but Luke was too busy looking at Din’s armor to say anything.
Din could practically see the whirling calculations in Luke’s mind, probably tracing over the beskar and wondering what the best method for removal would be. Luke reached between them, thumb going to the mudhorn on his pauldron, and he smiled.
“What goes first?” Luke asked, reverent in his touch, because he knew, of course he knew that there was a process, a ceremony, a way to take apart all of Din in a way that honored and dismantled all at once.
And Din couldn’t help but tug Luke closer to him, push his robe back over his shoulders, and kiss him again.
“Gloves, then vambraces,” Din said against Luke’s lips, reluctantly pulling his hands away from Luke to start on his own clasps as he spoke. “Pauldron.”
Luke watched, eyes bright, tracing over each part of Din as he was exposed, helping Din carefully settle his beskar’gam near the window, stacking each piece as it would appear on Din. He felt like he was laying himself out on Luke’s floor as he went, taking apart who he thought he was and spreading it out before Luke.
Luke helped him with a light touch and a careful smile, eyes going back to Din’s face with each piece, looking for something, or maybe just looking, drinking in the features Din had hidden from him for so long. It made him blush, which made Luke’s smile grow, a vicious cycle that left Din feeling hotter than a sun and Luke shining brighter than any star.
Din settled the last piece on the ground, hands shaking, and felt as though he should be able to reach into his chest, pull out his heart, and set it on the ground inside the nest of beskar. Instead, he turned to Luke, who was watching him with such open fondness that Din couldn’t help but reach for him, pulling himself back into Luke’s orbit.
Luke caught him, because he always did, and let Din untie the last of his robes, pushing the material off his shoulders until it pooled at their feet.
And then it was just Din and Luke. Not the Mandalorian and a Jedi, not the father and the teacher. Just Din and Luke.
Luke reached for the zipper on Din’s flight suit. “Can I?” he asked, whispered voice loud in the quiet room, where the only other sound was Din’s heart pounding in his chest.
Din swallowed and nodded. He moved with Luke, pulling his arms from his sleeves, until both of them were bare from the waist up.
Din’s body had never been anything more than a tool to him. He used it to fight and to run and to care for his covert and his child. But as Luke moved careful fingertips over his skin, his shoulders, his chest, the scars the beskar couldn’t quite protect him from, he could feel it come to life beneath him.
So he reached out to do the same, tracing one of Luke’s white scars from the base of his neck down his pectoral, and Luke shivered under his touch.
“Force lighting,” he admitted, stepping even closer to Din, so that their chests bumped together, the two of them close enough to breath the other in. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
“Okay,” Din said, brushing his nose along Luke’s. He licked into his mouth again, and a small fire was burning in Din’s stomach, igniting him from the inside out.
Luke palmed his chest, thumb catching on a nipple, and Din inhaled against Luke’s mouth. Not quite a gasp, but enough of a noise that Luke did it again, then again, dragging his nails lightly over Din's torso until Din was arcing away from and toward him at once, his whole body on fire.
“Is your entire body sensitive?” Luke asked, and he was looking down at Din, at the faint red lines Luke’s nails were leaving on his body, the way Din shivered under his touch. “After so long in the armor?”
“It’s been a long time since I let anyone—” Din started, then shook his head, because that wasn’t right either. There had never been anybody like Luke. “I haven’t done much, but what I have done was mostly with the armor on.”
“I imagine that makes it a little difficult to be intimate,” Luke said, hands moving back up to Din’s neck, eyes back to his face. “You’d be worth it, though. If you decided you wanted that.”
Din shook his head, hands moving down to Luke’s hips, thumbing at the top of Luke’s pants briefly, before slipping his fingers under the very edge of the fabric. “I’d much rather have this,” he said.
Luke exhaled shakily, and he was the most beautiful thing Din had ever seen. Then he nodded, and Din tugged his pants down, until Luke’s cock bobbed free and Luke was stepping out of them, all of him bared to Din.
And Din wanted to look at Luke for the rest of his life. Luke stepped back, his tan skin almost a cool blue in the moonlight, long and lean and strong, until he reached his bed. He sat down and crawled back, cock bobbing with his movements, until he was sprawled in his own bed, golden hair haloed around his head.
“Come here,” Luke said, and Din—
Din’s mouth watered, and he quickly stripped out of the rest of his flight suit and shorts, until he was naked too. He moved quickly, nearly tripping on Luke’s pants and ignoring the small huff of laughter Luke made at his clumsy movements. He crawled forward, hovering over Luke on his forearms, just looking.
Luke preened under his gaze, arching his back and stretching out, laid out beneath Din like the galaxy’s sexiest Jedi. And he probably was, given his competition was nobody at this point. But Din sort of figured, on principle, that if there were other Jedi, Luke would still be the most attractive.
“You just gonna look at me?” Luke teased, as if his eyes were roaming over Din’s body, catching on the way Din’s hardness lingered close to his own.
“Nobody would blame me if I did,” Din replied easily, reaching up to brush some hair on Luke’s forehead. “You’re beautiful.”
Luke blushed. “You need to come here.”
“I am here,” Din insisted, then Luke reached up, hands on Din’s hips, and yanked him down, until they were pressed together, shoulder to knee.
Din groaned at the contact, and Luke echoed his own beneath him, breath hitching when they brushed together and electricity surged up Din’s spine.
Din’s hips twitched, almost of their own accord, but then he did it again, a slow intentional roll against Luke, until they were both panting and gasping.
“This is more what I meant,” Luke breathed, and his thighs fell open to make room for Din, one leg hitching up around his waist as they moved together, just a close press of bodies and lips.
There could probably be more finesse to their movements, but Din was so caught in Luke’s orbit, burning at just the opportunity to be close to him. He wanted with a ferocity deep in his bones, and Luke was offering, wanting in return, and all Din could do was ride the waves of it. Pleasure spiked in his fingers, his chest, his dick, grinding down against Luke and drowning in the desperate sounds he made.
“Let me,” Luke said, breathing hard against Din’s cheek, and one of his hands moved from Din’s hip to the space between them, grasping at them both, until they were aligned and gasping at the contact. “Let me,” Luke said again, palm gathering the wetness spilling from them both, then stroking down around them.
Din dropped his forehead down, eyes fluttering shut. He pressed his lips to Luke’s shoulder and rolled his hips with Luke’s hand, the slick sounds of them filling the room.
“I’m—” Din gasped, arms and thighs shaking, all of him coming apart at the gentle hands of the Jedi beneath him.
“Yeah,” Luke agreed, and his hand sped up. “Next time,” he gasped. “Next time we should do more. I want to put my mouth on you. I want to fill you everywhere, want you to fill me up, and—”
“Yes,” Din breathed, turning his head until his lips brushed Luke’s neck, kissing blindly. Pressure built inside him at the thought of pressing Luke down, fingers on his thighs, fingers inside him, stretching him open until Din could slip inside. He thought about Luke on his knees, sitting at the curve of Din’s hips, taking Din so well. He thought about Luke reaching down, pressing his fingers into Din too. “Yes, I want—yes, me too, Luke, I—”
And then Din was gone, spilling over the edge of Luke’s fist, all of him caught in the way they came together. Luke stroked him through it, and then with a flick of his wrist he was coming too, the both of them floating like stars, untethered.
It took a few moments for Din to come back, Luke still shaking underneath him, all of them still pressed together. Din thought maybe his heart had beat it’s way into Luke’s chest.
Din pressed a kiss to the corner of Luke’s mouth, then slid to the side so he wasn’t crushing Luke, chest heaving. Luke followed him, rolling onto his side, reluctant to pull away from him. And Din wanted that contact, wrapped Luke in his arms and pressed his face into his hair and breathed.
Luke’s face was pressed to Din’s neck, and Din's chest was the lightest it had ever felt. And maybe it was the lack of armor, maybe it was the way his head was still spinning, or the way Luke looked in the moonlight. But the words he’d kept tucked away in his throat, unwilling to let them out, slipped easily between his teeth, weightless between them.
“I love you.”
Luke blinked and pulled back, just enough to look up at Din, and Din was breathless all over again.
“Yeah?” Luke asked, smile radiant.
It’s so bright here.
Din nodded, heart in his throat.
Luke settled back down against him, prosthetic moving up to rest over Din’s heart, and Din was sure he could feel it racing.
“Good,” Luke said against Din’s skin. “Because I love you too.”
The moonlight came in through the window, illuminating Luke beside him, and Din pulled him closer, until they were tangled together, breathing in tandem.
Din being in love with Luke didn’t solve all his problems, and Luke loving him back didn’t solve them all either. There would still be days when Din would wander, or when Luke would be restless. Din was still purposeless, but he was slowly realizing that it was okay. He was allowed to just exist on this tiny moon with his two Jedi.
He still had the darksaber, hidden away on his ship, waiting for either he or Bo Katan, or some other poor bastard even, to come along and pick it up. To claim a heritage and planet that Din didn’t know what to do with. But that could be a problem for another day, another week, another month. It could fill the corners of Din’s mind with worry when he wasn’t in bed with Luke, the soft sounds of Luke breathing better than any echo his helmet had ever provided.
And maybe Din was still struggling with that; his helmet, his beskar, his identity within and away from it.
Din had, he was slowly realizing, a complicated relationship with religion. With creed, with order, with rules and restricted life tied and twisted into a belief system that had been all he'd believed in for years.
Now, looking down at the man curled up beside him, he didn't think there was anything he believed in as much as he believed in Luke Skywalker.
And that was enough for now.