The moment Fett's helmet connected with Obi-Wan's head, lightning flashed between them, and Obi-Wan was thrown across the landing pad, groaning in pain as he hit the raised edge of the platform, thanking the Force he hadn't been thrown from the platform entirely.
"–tingaanur jetii osik!" someone shouted, just audible over the storm.
Obi-Wan shoved himself upright, squinting against the rain, and groaned at the sight of two new Mandalorians standing in the middle of the platform. One was in beskar'gam so bright it shone, even in the gloomy lighting, while the other wore darkly coloured beskar'gam and a long, dark kama. Both looked to have jetpacks—of course—and blasters in thigh holsters, with the one in the lighter beskar'gam having a spear strapped to their back, while the one in darker beskar'gam had what looked like it might be a rifle slung over one shoulder, though Obi-Wan didn't have a great angle for a good look.
"...isn't that your ship?" one of them asked, continuing to speak Mando'a.
"It's my ship," Fett corrected from where he, too, had been thrown, back towards the walkway into the facility, and was struggling to his feet. "Who the kriff are–?"
"Buir?" one of them—the one in dark beskar'gam, Obi-Wan assumed, from the way the one in light beskar'gam immediately turned towards them—called, sounding a bit like they'd been punched in the gut.
"Boba?" the other newcomer said, voice only just audible over the rain.
Obi-Wan couldn't help but look up towards the cockpit window of the Firespray, and there was the tiny face of the clone Taun We had called Boba, looking out at the action with wide eyes.
"...buir?" Fett repeated, sounding as confused as Obi-Wan felt.
The darker of the strangers spun, stopping when they were facing Obi-Wan. "Kenobi," they said, and it didn't sound like a greeting, more an acknowledgement of his presence, before they spun back to Fett and said, "Buir, you can't go to Geonosis! That shabuir Windu will kill you!" in Mando'a.
Obi-Wan let out a disgruntled noise and called—in Mando'a, since they all seemed intent on the language—"And what, exactly, did Fett do for Mace to kill them?"
There followed a long moment of silence as all three of the Mandalorians turned to face him, and Obi-Wan crossed his arms over his chest, slipping hands into opposite sleeves and grimacing at the sensation of water-logged fabric weighing on the familiar stance.
The silence was broken by the whine of an animal or young child, which turned into a startled noise.
Obi-Wan started at the sensation of a young, partially trained Force-sensitive tapping rapidly on his mental shields. He cracked them open just enough for communication, and was almost bowled over by a wave of relief and confusion and Master Kenobi, you're alive? Why does it feel like everyone's alive?
Obi-Wan winced and rubbed at his forehead; he'd always thought Anakin the only one capable of subjecting others to instant migraines from being too excited about mental communication. "Slow down, youngling," he requested. "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"Y-you're a jedi?" the one in lighter beskar'gam asked, shifting a bag Obi-Wan hadn't noticed strapped across their chest and resting on their hip to reveal a small face bracketed by long ears; a member of Yoda's species, if Obi-Wan wasn't mistaken.
"Yeah, he's one of their leaders," the one in darker beskar'gam said.
"I'm what now?" Obi-Wan demanded, thrown.
The youngling supplied a...a memory, it seemed like, of Obi-Wan with his hair cut shorter than he currently wore it, walking into the unusually empty Temple commissary with Mace and Saesee Tiin, the three of them appearing to be discussing something that, by the grim cast of their expressions, was not good news. A young Togrutan padawan, by their line of silka beads, stood from one of the only three occupied tables, and called, "Master Obi-Wan! Do you have a minute?"
"Only a minute, I'm afraid, Padawan," that Obi-Wan agreed with a warm smile. "The war, unfortunately, waits for no one..."
The memory faded away, leaving Obi-Wan reeling slightly in the rain. War? Another padawan? Him...on the Council?
"–days before the start of the Clone Wars," the one in darker beskar'gam was saying. Then they turned towards the little face watching from the cockpit of the Firespray and pointed at them. "That's me, actually."
"Dank farrik!" the one in lighter beskar'gam said, and then they let out a quiet laugh, the sound nearly lost to the rain.
"I will shoot you."
The Force-sensitive youngling sneezed, and both of the new Mandalorians turned to look at them, concern filling the Force around the one in lighter beskar'gam.
"Yeah," the one in darker beskar'gam said, before looking at Fett. "Buir, can we put this fight on hold? Gro'ika's a misery when he catches sick."
Fett was still for a moment, then he nodded, motioning them towards the open hatch of the Firespray as it turned towards them, presumably being controlled by the young clone in the cockpit. "Anything funny, jetii–" he growled in warning.
Obi-Wan held out a hand towards his lightsabre and called it to him, feeling much better when he finally had it back in his hands. "I believe, Ser Fett, that we have more pressing matters than you fleeing to, where was it again? Geonosis?" he asked in the most mild tone he could manage, as he attached his sabre back to his belt, before turning to follow the newer arrivals into the ship.
"How was I supposed to know that Kenobi spoke Mando'a?" the one in darker beskar'gam muttered in that language. "It's not like it came up last time."
The one in lighter beskar'gam let out a quiet chuckle, while the youngling cooed once, then sneezed.
"Yeah, I'll go get you some towels, ad'ika," the one in darker beskar'gam promised as Obi-Wan stepped into the reasonably-sized cargo-hold, Fett walking close behind him, before they moved further into the ship with an assuredness that spoke to familiarity with the space.
Inexplicable as it was, Obi-Wan was beginning to think that might, actually, be the same Boba Fett currently in the Firespray's cockpit.
Almost as though aware of Obi-Wan's thoughts, the youngling reached out towards Obi-Wan again, gentler, and agreed that that was Boba, one of his buire, and the other one was Din, but everyone always just called him 'Mando', so Obi-Wan probably should, too.
Obi-Wan hummed and inclined his head in understanding, then sent back a request for the youngling's name.
"What's he saying?" the one in the lighter (all unpainted silver, like much of Fett's, save one vambrace, which was red) beskar'gam—Din, apparently—asked with a tired sort of humour.
"Nothing," Fett snarled as he stalked around Obi-Wan, towards the hallway the other newcomer had vanished down. "Port cupboard!" he shouted in Mando'a.
"I know where you keep the towels, Buir!" they shouted back, sounding so much like Anakin after Obi-Wan reminded him of something again, it was a bit entertaining. "I keep them in the same kriffing place!"
"Grogu was introducing himself," Obi-Wan said to Din. "And he gave your and Boba's names, although, he explained you prefer 'Mando'?"
Din had stiffened at the mention of Grogu sharing their name, before sighing and rubbing a gloved hand over the youngling's head. "Yes. The covert I grew up in, we don't share our names or remove our helmets outside our clan."
"Traditionalists?" Fett asked, glancing back over his shoulder at them. "Didn't think there were many of you left."
"Not many of anyone left, where we're from," Boba—the elder Boba; the younger appeared willing to stay up in the cockpit—said as they shoved past Fett and handed a towel off to Din, then threw one at Obi-Wan, which he barely managed to catch before it slapped him in the face. "I'm not dealing with you catching sick either, Kenobi; Gro'ika's a menace, but everything I've heard about you, says you're a disaster on a good day."
"I beg your pardon," Obi-Wan replied with a frown, even as he used the towel to dry his face and hair.
"Wait," Din said, freezing where they were in the process of drying off Grogu, helmet turning towards Obi-Wan. "General Kenobi of the two-twelfth?"
Ice slid down Obi-Wan's spine at being referred to as a 'general'. He hadn't been called that in a very long time, and he should very much like to never be called such again.
Boba had said something about a war, hadn't they? Something involving the clones. But why would Obi-Wan get a military title? Unless he was going to—had, in some version of the future—quit the Order again to go to war.
"Alor'ika," Boba said, voice flat, "how is it, exactly, that you know Kenobi's name and battalion, but literally everything else in the galaxy is a mystery to you?"
Din muttered something too low to make out.
A battalion. Somehow, somewhen, some version of Obi-Wan was going to be leading an entire battalion in a war.
He glanced around for a place to sit before his legs gave out, picking a sturdy-looking crate and rubbing a hand over his beard in an attempt to disguise how much he wanted to just...not be a part of this conversation. At all. Ever.
The sound of a helmet unlatching filled the room, and Obi-Wan glanced over to find Boba removing their helmet—which Obi-Wan could see, in the light of the cargo room, was a dark green, matching their chestplate, while their spaulders were a golden yellow, and one vambrace was red, the other the same unpainted silver of Din's beskar'gam—revealing a heavily scarred visage, which nevertheless, looked very much like Fett.
"What happened?" Fett demanded, and something about his tone made Obi-Wan think he wanted to pull this aged version of the child in the cockpit into his arms.
Boba grunted. "Fell into a sarlacc."
"You...fell into–" Fett started.
Boba's mental shields were impressive—far better than Din's, given the uncertainty Obi-Wan could easily sense permeating the space around them—but Grogu had a sort of bond with both of his parents, and he clearly thought Obi-Wan needed to know how uncomfortable Fett's questioning was making Boba feel.
"I'm impressed you survived," Obi-Wan interrupted, raising his eyebrows at Boba, who immediately turned to shoot him a surprised look. "I've heard a number of stories about sarlaccs, but I don't believe I've ever heard of someone getting back out of one before."
Fett had fallen silent.
Boba stared at him for a moment, then reached back and touched their jetpack. "Imagine you'd hear more, if jetpacks were more widespread. D– Mando–" they motioned towards where Din was still acting very focussed with drying off Grogu "–got out of a krayt dragon the same way."
Din groaned, but Grogu let out a delighted noise and immediately offered to share the memory with Obi-Wan, who chuckled quietly and agreed.
Grogu's love and fear for his parent was clear in the memory, from the moment Din let himself get swallowed, to the victory of his escape and the krayt being blown up from the inside.
"Well," Obi-Wan murmured as the memory ended, "that's certainly one way to kill a krayt dragon."
"Gro'ika's Force-sensitive," Boba was telling Fett, who had removed his own helmet while Obi-Wan was distracted by the shared memory, and looked a little like he wanted to shoot something, or someone. "Strong, apparently. Mando wants to find him a teacher."
"And you approved?" Fett snarled.
"He's not my kid!" Boba shouted.
Grogu let out a quiet whimper, and Boba and Din both turned to him, Boba's expression falling. "He didn't mean it like that," Din murmured, rubbing gloved fingers over Grogu's head, as the youngling twisted and buried his face against his parent's chestplate. "Your Bo'Buir is just stubborn."
Boba groaned and rubbed at the scars marring their scalp, then turned back to Fett, who looked a little like he didn't know how to react to...something in all that. "Mando found Grogu, adopted him before we met. Agreed to find a teacher for him before we met, too. It's not my place."
"But it's the jetiise," Fett snarled, and shot Obi-Wan a poisonous glare.
Obi-Wan raised a polite, unimpressed eyebrow in response; it was hardly the first time he'd been faced with those who hated him for what he was, and he very much doubted it would be the last.
"Buir," Boba said, something careful about their voice, "you can't blame every single jedi for what happened."
Fett stepped forward, closer to Boba, something dangerous about the curl of his lips. "What would you know of my pain, boy?"
Din's beskar'gam clinked lightly as they straightened, towel dropping from their hand as they dropped it down to hover over the blaster strapped to their thigh.
"I know that, if we hadn't shown up, little me up in the cockpit was going to watch his buir get kriffing decapitated by a jedi, in a couple days, and then left behind in a battlefield, because you left me with nothing!" Boba roared, reaching out and shoving Fett back two steps. "Kriffing Aurra Sing picked me up! Little baby clone, can get in anywhere the other ones happened to be allowed, but otherwise useless. Landed me in kriffing prison. Woulda been dead if Bossk hadn't kept sticking his neck out for me.
"And then where would your 'legacy' have gone, Buir?" Boba continued, tone biting, taking a step forward as Fett took a step back, his expression twisted with grief and what might have been horror. "Would've had to depend on the millions of others just like me. Which, don't worry, they managed just fine: They wiped out every single jedi they could find, just like you always dreamed. Even the ik'aade in their cribs."
Fett made some sort of noise, some sort of response, but Obi-Wan didn't hear it, couldn't hear it past the rushing sound filling his ears. The clones would wipe out the Order? Even the smallest of the younglings?
'Why does it feel like everyone's alive?' Grogu had asked. Because he...came from a future where he'd been one of the last jedi alive.
Obi-Wan didn't realise he'd made the choice to get up and leave the Firespray until the rain was coming down on his head again.
There was no point, he recognised, in returning to the ship; Fett had already made it clear he wouldn't be sharing any useful information—he'd learnt more from Boba yelling at their father, than he had from speaking one-on-one with Fett—and since Boba seemed intent to keep their father on Kamino, there was no reason for Obi-Wan to remain in the ship. He would be better served going to Geonosis on his own, or seeing if he couldn't hack the Kaminoan computer systems to gather more information about where the clone army had come from. Why any jedi master would pick a man who apparently wanted the whole of the Order wiped from existence, to be the template of an army meant to...serve with the Order? Under them?
(Jedi were peacekeepers: Diplomats, healers, teachers; spies, when necessary. Yes, some of them—like Obi-Wan himself—had some limited experience with leading an army in a combat situation, but it was hardly something common. Which wasn't even touching on the psychic damage any jedi fighting a war would suffer, from the sensation of so many lives being snuffed out; those who specified in the Unifying Force, like Obi-Wan, would fare far better than those who specialised in the Living Force, but he knew, from too much experience, that it would only blunt the damage, not protect them entirely.
What had Sifo-Dyas been thinking?)
"Kenobi!" a voice called as Obi-Wan stepped through the automatic doors and into the brightly-lit corridors of the facility. He turned to watch as Din stepped quickly after him, and couldn't tell if he was honestly unsurprised to discover the other had followed him, or if he just felt too numb to process emotions other than the overwhelming horror that was a galaxy without the jedi.
Grogu was straining in his pouch against Din's hip, whining and reaching for Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan reached down and brushed gentle fingers over his head, feeling the damp strands of a patchy covering of hair. "I'm fine, little one," he murmured, and pasted on a smile to try and sell the lie.
Grogu pressed against his mental shields, scrabbling for a connection to another jedi, wanting to help, to soothe the maelstrom of Obi-Wan's misplaced grief and horror.
"It is not your place, youngling, to soothe over the hurts of others," Obi-Wan cautioned, the same thing he'd had to say to Anakin, a few times, in the early years.
"Can you teach him?" Din asked in a rush, a sort of desperation bleeding into the air around them.
Obi-Wan shook his head. "I already have a padawan."
"I...don't know what that means."
Obi-Wan couldn't quite stop a brittle laugh at that; no, if this being came from a future where the jedi were gone, he didn't suppose he should expect them to know that word. "It's what we call our students," he explained, because this was a much easier topic than what horrors the future might hold. "In the Order, all younglings start out in the crèche, grouped in clans for caretaking and teaching. When they reach their species equivalent of young adulthood, an older jedi will take them on as a padawan, a student they teach one-on-one, until the padawan is ready to strike out on their own."
Din's shoulders slumped. "He's still a baby, I think. I mean, he's fifty, but..."
"Yes, the Grand Master of the Order is the same species," Obi-Wan offered. "He's nearly nine hundred."
"Dank farrik," Din groaned.
Grogu let out a questioning noise, looking between the two of them.
"Just...realising how much you're going to outlive me, ad'ika," Din said, quiet and pained.
Grogu's ears went down and he let out a whine.
"Loss is a part of life, unfortunately," Obi-Wan murmured, brushing his fingers over one of the long ears, while he reached out through the Force to offer comfort in that, more familiar, manner. "We can do aught but move on, and remember those dear to us who have joined the Force before us." He glanced up at the distinctive t-shaped visor in front of him, and added, "Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la, in your buire's language."
"Y-you know Mando'a, know our culture?" Din asked, sounding uncertain.
Obi-Wan hummed and nodded. "I spent a year on Mandalore when I was a padawan."
Din shuffled their feet a little, the movement understated enough, Obi-Wan would have missed it if he hadn't been looking down at Grogu. They were bleeding uncertainty and indecision into the Force, so clearly fighting with themself about something.
Obi-Wan nodded at the out-of-place vambrace. "You and Boba are married?" he asked, because that seemed like a safe enough topic, something for them both to focus on, which didn't involve whatever Din was struggling with, or the terrible future they had come from, and what it might mean for Obi-Wan and the rest of his jedi family.
"Yes. And no."
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at that.
Din let out a quiet sound that didn't translate well through the helmet's vocoder, but the frustration and uncertain love bleeding into the Force made the reason for the sound clear. "It's–" They shrugged, just enough to translate through their beskar'gam. "In our, our time, I guess, a number of the surviving Mando'ade, those who have come out of hiding, at least, they don't agree on much. But they do agree that Boba isn't Mando'ad. Which is osik," they added, snarling slightly.
Grogu let out an angry little growl of his own, raising his claws like he was going to attack something. It was unexpectedly endearing.
Din huffed and rubbed their fingers over Grogu's head, earning them an enquiring coo. "You're very fierce," Din promised, and Grogu cooed again, clearly pleased at the praise.
Din held up the arm with the red vambrace. "I didn't want Boba left out, for him to have to, to stay away and never get to see Grogu, so I suggested we say the riduurok; no one can deny he's Mando'ad now."
Obi-Wan hummed; he was fairly certain there was no rule that said that spouses of Mandalorians were automatically Mandalorian, but things could well be different in their future, especially if they were attempting to rebuild their culture anew. Still, he couldn't quite help himself from saying, "It wasn't just meant as convenience or a kindness for you, was it?"
"No," Din agreed quietly, helmet ducking down, like they couldn't bring themself to look at Obi-Wan while they admitted their feelings. "I've wanted more with him...practically since we met. But he doesn't feel the same."
Grogu clearly disagreed with this point of view, for he huffed and shoved an echo of emotion at Obi-Wan, a sense of loneliness/love/not-enough/he's-too-good-for-me.
"Grogu," Obi-Wan translated drily, "says you need to have an actual conversation with your spouse about this, Mando."
"This seems like a...very bad time for that," Din muttered, rubbing their fingers over Grogu's head again.
Obi-Wan hummed. "In my experience, there is very rarely a 'good time' for difficult conversations. But, the longer you put them off, the more everyone involved hurts; sometimes, it truly is better to just rip off the bacta patch."
Din let out a choked sound. "I know at least three medics who would fight you over that."
Obi-Wan chuckled. "Oh, I know one who would absolutely sedate me and drop me in a bacta tank, if she caught me removing a patch without her explicit permission."
Din laughed outright at that, the sound crackling through the vocoder of their helmet, and Grogu giggled with them, clearly delighted that his parent was cheered.
Obi-Wan and Din both looked over at the sound of the door out onto the landing pad opening again, and Obi-Wan blinked in surprise to find it was the younger Boba, who looked around uncertainly for a moment, before catching sight of them and glaring. "Youngling?"
He let out a disgusted noise and hurried over to them. "Dad said I have to make sure you don't get lost," he said, sounding disgruntled.
Obi-Wan suspected that it was more that Fett wanted to make sure Obi-Wan didn't skip off to Geonosis, now he knew that had been his intended destination. He did hope he wasn't being stuck with Boba to make sure the youngling wouldn't see whatever might be destined to occur on Geonosis; he was simply going to have to trust that the elder Boba wouldn't let his father leave the planet.
At any rate, he'd already discovered that the hallways in the facility were easy to get lost in, so he appreciated any offer of assistance, however grudgingly granted. "I was hoping to find a place where I might access the Kaminoans' systems," he said, folding his hands into the sleeves of his robe and doing his best not to grimace at them being wet. Still.
Little Boba cast him a considering glance, then asked, "You want, what? Their holonet access?"
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at the boy, while Din coughed quietly, the sound only just enough for the vocoder to pick up. "I was thinking more information on the clones. Money trails." Jedi, as a rule, didn't have easy access to the sorts of funds that would be necessary for an undertaking of this magnitude, and a large withdrawal from the Order's accounts would have been noticed. Which meant this had most likely been funded from another source; if Obi-Wan wasn't going to be following Fett to Geonosis—or sneaking out on his own—the next best way to discover their mystery benefactor, would be through monetary accounts.
(Obi-Wan had been trained as a diplomat, but his best friend was a shadow, and picking up some of Quinlan's habits and skills had saved his life enough times, he wasn't about to discount this particular trick as a good way to find the Order a lead to act on, while he remained on Kamino to keep an eye on the Fetts and Din. And, alright, teach Grogu, at least until they could find him a better master. Or whatever had brought the three into their past returned them to their present.)
"Huh," Boba said, nearly at the same time as Din letting out a noise, which the meaning of was lost to their vocoder. "Yeah, okay. This way," he directed, and pushed past Obi-Wan to lead the way further along the hall he'd stopped in.
"You're trying to determine where the money for the clone army came from?" Din asked quietly, as they joined Obi-Wan in following the younger Boba. "I don't remember a lot about the war, but I always thought the Republic ordered them."
Obi-Wan hummed. "When I arrived here, the Kaminoans weren't surprised to see me, seemed to think the Order had been the one to order the clones."
"Well, yeah," Boba supplied, looking back over his shoulder at them, his expression unimpressed. "You're supposed to lead them, right? That's what all the training says."
Obi-Wan had to stop, his feet feeling rooted to the floor. "But...that's impossible," he heard himself say, even as he struggled with the concept that a jedi master hadn't just ordered an army of sentients cloned from a man who hated jedi, but that they'd apparently had them trained to expect jedi to lead them in war?
"How?" Din asked, uncertainty bleeding into the Force around them, while Grogu let out a quiet, mournful sound, like he understood, exactly, what had just thrown Obi-Wan off his stride. "Your name was on all of the propaganda. Well, you and General Skywalker."
"Anakin?!" Obi-Wan demanded, feeling like the world had just fallen out from under him. Him leading beings in a war, while uncomfortable, he could accept, but his padawan? He hadn't even been certain it was wise to let him go off with Padmé on their own, and now he was expected to let him go to war?
The Force twisted, clearly also unhappy with the idea, and tugged on Obi-Wan, directing him further along the hallway.
Obi-Wan had lived his life trusting in the Force, so he didn't hesitate to follow the pull, stepping quickly past Boba.
With the Force as his guide, he would find the answers he needed for the Council, and hopefully something to keep Anakin safe.
The number of people Jango would have trusted Boba with, in the event of his death, could have been counted on one hand, and all had been on Kamino. (Except maybe Zam, who had really only been on the list as an emergency option, if those among the Cuy'val Dar who he trusted with his son were, for whatever reason, unable to take him in. And she was dead, now, so it hardly mattered whether or not she was on the list.)
Sing had never been anywhere near a list of guardians he would have trusted with Boba, and the thought that she'd got her claws into him didn't sit well. (He might have to kill her himself, now, just to make sure there was zero chance of that ever happening.)
Dying had always been a possibility—it was a fact of life, especially lives spent working dangerous jobs, like bounty hunting—but Jango had never intended for it to happen while Boba was off Kamino. He hadn't expected a jetii to show up, clearly intending to arrest him for a failed bounty, and running to Tyranus to be his only real option. (He knew how this worked: If he ended up in Republic custody, he would be killed before he had the chance to talk, but he might have a chance at protection with Tyranus.)
The jetii rushing out, followed shortly by the traditionalist—Boba's riduur?—distracted Boba for a moment, which was all Jango needed, really, to butt in and explain what should have happened to his son, in the event of his death.
"Delighted to know you were thinking about me until the moment Kenobi scared you," Boba returned with the exact same sharp-edged smile that Jango always used when he was looking into the eyes of the being he'd been sent to kill.
"The jetii doesn't scare me," Jango snapped, trying and failing to keep from letting his anger at the insult show. "My ending up in prison wouldn't do you any–"
"The Republic is a cesspool of double-dealing," Boba interrupted, expression gone flat, "but even they wouldn't arrest you for playing donator for an army's DNA."
Jango blinked a couple of times, thrown, because, well, no, of course not, why would they even care about that?
"It's not like they'll know you're on the payroll of a Separatist if you don't go running off to him," Boba added.
"You don't know," Jango realised, because of course Boba wouldn't know about the hit on that senator, why would he? Jango had always done his best to keep his boy well-clear of the dirtiest parts of his job. His intention had always been to wait until Boba had passed his verd'goten before taking him on any hunts; he'd wanted Boba to have the sort of childhood he'd lost himself, when Vizsla slaughtered his blood-buire and he'd been adopted by a man who was leading a faction in a civil war.
Boba scowled, and that was an uncomfortably familiar expression, one Jango saw regularly on thousands of versions of his own face every day, tugged in odd places by the mass of scars that left this adult version of his son looking like he'd stepped through the worst haran imaginable. "I don't know what?" he snarled, and the inflection wasn't quite the same as if Jango had asked, came out with an edge of defensiveness that Jango had lost decades ago.
"Yeah, what?" a higher-pitched voice asked.
Jango turned in the direction of that voice and felt a strange twist at the sight of Boba, at ten, head poking out of the hatch to the cockpit, his hair an absolute riot around his head. "I told you to stay in the cockpit," he reminded the younger version.
Boba rolled his eyes in the obvious, slightly dramatic way he'd picked up during the last hunt Jango had been on, and he knew he had to have got it from the clones, even though he wasn't supposed to interact with them, after the third time one of the Alpha-class decided to 'teach him his place'; his position as Jango's only son—and his age difference; older than any of the clones, save the Null-class, but appearing younger than the clones he should have grown up with—had left him struggling to relate to them. "The jetii's gone, Buir," he said, and then turned narrowed eyes on the elder version. "Who the kriff are you?"
Jango just sighed; Boba always seemed to use more curses in the days following Jango being on a hunt.
The elder Boba smirked. "What, you can't tell?"
Younger Boba snorted and gave another dramatic eye roll. "I mean, you're clearly just another clone, one in a million."
Jango had spent ten years raising Boba, had seen thousands of iterations of his same face, including his own, but he still didn't recognise the twist to the elder Boba's mouth when he replied, "No, there's nothing original about me," in a bland tone.
Something in Jango's chest felt like it had cracked open.
Younger Boba frowned, like that was a wrong answer, somehow. "Well, you're...ugly in an original way?" he offered.
"Ugly?" elder Boba repeated, sounding amused. "I prefer 'lived in', myself."
"Boba," Jango interrupted, not sure he could handle listening to the two versions of his son banter insults back and forth any longer. "That's enough. From both of you," he added, when the elder just raised one hairless eyebrow at him.
"You've never cared before," the younger Boba muttered, even as he withdrew from the hatch, then started down the ladder the proper way.
The elder hummed and waited until his younger self's feet were safely on the floor of the cargo hold, before saying, "Buir doesn't approve of you insulting yourself."
The younger turned a suspicious look on the elder. "The kriff is that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
The elder shrugged, casual. "D– My partner missed out on the 'don't touch weird jedi artifacts, especially when you're holding a Force-sensitive' lessons; I'm you, just thirty years older."
...kriff, he was practically the same age as Jango, but he looked so much older, aged in ways beyond just the excessive amount of scarring. As though, for all the haran Jango had gone through, his son had suffered far worse.
No wonder he'd started yelling.
The younger Boba turned to Jango, wide-eyed and questioning. "Buir?"
"I believe him," Jango said, because he did, something in him reaching out towards the other Mando'ad almost before he'd first called him 'buir'.
The elder cast him a considering look, then asked, tone gone flat, "What is it we don't know, Buir? What is it that's so important, you ran away?"
Jango couldn't quite stop a wince at that word choice, and by the satisfied glint in the elder Boba's eyes, the hit had been intentional. "This last time I left," he said, to them both, "I was contracted to ensure a senator's death. I sent Zam Wesell—I don't know if you remember her," he added, looking at the elder; Boba had only been five the one time Zam and he had met, but Jango had mentioned her a few times since, when they ran into each other on a hunt, so he knew the younger Boba would probably remember her, but thirty years was a long time.
The elder frowned, his head tilting slightly to the side. "She was the one who tracked you here, that one time."
Jango nodded. "I passed the job to her, since Tyranus didn't want me doing the deed myself. She failed, got caught by jetiise, and I had to kill her. That jetii tracked me back here."
"Is that why he was asking you about Coruscanta?" the younger Boba asked, frowning, and Jango nodded.
"Was the contract from Tyranus?" the elder demanded, something dangerous in the way he held himself, coiled tight like he was prepared for a fight.
Jango nodded again, then warned, "He's not to be trifled with, Boba."
"I know better than to fight a sith alone," Boba snapped back.
Sith? "Dar'jetii?" he asked; Tyranus had admitted that he'd been a jetii, but he'd left the Jetii'tsad due to political reasons. But he hadn't implied anything about being a dar'jetii; so far as Jango knew, they'd been wiped out by the Jetii'tsad a thousand years ago.
Boba frowned, the lines of his furrowed brow unfamiliar, with the scars. "You didn't know? It was common knowledge, during the war, that the leader of the Separatists was a sith, Darth Tyranus. Although," he added, almost musing, "the jedi always called him Dooku."
Dooku. That had been the name of the jetii who'd led the attack at Galidraan, who had bound Jango's wrists, marched him through the valley of dead Haat'ade, and handed him over to his enemies.
There had always been something familiar about Tyranus, but some part of Jango had always brushed it off as unimportant. Had ended up brushing off the aruetii's mention of having been at Galidraan, too. Like it hadn't mattered, even though it should have; since the moment he'd seen Vizsla's corpse, the only thing that had really mattered, was killing those jetiise who had murdered his people—his aliit—at Galidraan. And he'd made one attempt on Tyranus' life, then let his focus turn to wiping out the whole of the Jetii'tsad.
There were plenty of cautionary stories of the way jetiise and dar'jetiise could twist a mind, that a jetii probably wouldn't, unless the lives of others were on the line, but a dar'jetii would do it just to prove they could. Jaster had cared so much about historical facts like that, had shared them like bedtime stories with Jango, before he'd gone on his verd'goten and insisted he was too old for stories.
(He'd not been too old, he'd realised a year later, when Jaster was gone, and all he had left, were all of the moments he'd pushed his buir away.)
Jango shook away the tangled mess of his thoughts, pushing aside the old regrets and shutting the lid on the simmering anger, forcing himself to consider the newly revealed facts with a cool mind:
Tyranus had led the attack on the Haat'ade as a jetii, and was now a dar'jetii. He wanted to wipe out the jetiise, and had some way to ensure the clones would do it, presumably in the event that they didn't all die while fighting the brewing war. This would also result in the murder of adiike and ik'aade, which Jango had not and would never have agreed to.
Dar'jetii are known for killing off allies as soon as they stop being useful; there was no guarantee Tyranus wouldn't kill him if Jango sought asylum with him. (Not that Jango was inclined to do so, now he knew who Tyranus had been on Galidraan.) He was just as likely to be murdered in Republic custody; it wouldn't be hard for a dar'jetii to mind control some hapless guard into slipping poison into Jango's food. The only potential safe place for him and Boba—and the elder Boba and his riduur and child—impossibly, was with the Jetii'tsad.
There was one jetii on Kamino, and they knew where Tyranus was, but not how dangerous he was. Jango needed an actual plan, but it would all turn out useless if the jetii left and got himself murdered while he and Boba used his knowledge to figure one out.
"Boba. Bob'ika," Jango corrected, looking at the younger version of his son, "I need you to go keep an eye on the jetii. Don't let him leave Kamino. Unless," he added, looking at the elder, "your riduur can hold him here?"
"D– He's not my– Kriff," Boba muttered, squeezing his eyes shut and rubbing at the scar that went between his eyebrows and down one side of his nose. "Not his forte; he doesn't have a dishonest bone in his body."
Jango raised his brows at that—somehow, in all the possible futures he'd envisioned for his son, him marrying a hopelessly honest Mando'ad had never featured—then looked at the younger Boba and jerked his head towards the exit of the ship. "Get him lost in the Cuy'val Dar's wing, if you have to," he suggested; none of them would kill the jetii, not if he was obviously with Boba, but they would certainly serve as a distraction. Especially if they didn't realise he understood Mando'a.
Boba, his little mischief-child, flashed a mean smile, then dashed out into the rain.
"Come on," he ordered the elder version of his son, and led the way through the Slave I to the tiny kitchenette, where he started some caf brewing.
Boba dropped heavily into one of the seats at the table, setting his buy'ce down on the tabletop with a gentleness that spoke to its importance to him.
Jango considered the buy'ce out of the corner of his eyes, taking in the dent in the dome, the spots where paint was chipping from long use, the colour choices—green for duty, red to honour a parent—and found himself slipping into Mando'a as he asked, "How much of your beskar'gam was mine?"
Boba sighed. "All of it. Well..." He held up the unpainted silver of his mismatched kom'rk.
"Yes, that is clearly your spouse's," Jango replied drily.
"They're not–" Boba let out a frustrated noise and pressed one arm tight over his shar'tas, gloved fingers curling tight against the edge, while his other hand was, no doubt, clenching tight around his thigh under the table; it was a sign of discomfort that Jango had inherited from Jaster, and wasn't sure how to feel at the proof that his son had inherited it from him, in turn. "It's not like that, Buir," he said, voice tight.
Jango hadn't seen nearly enough of his son and the traditionalist interacting to guess at what it was 'like', but they seemed cordial enough that it didn't look to be a forced marriage, which meant there was a story.
He should be debriefing Boba about whatever knowledge he had that might prove of use to their survival, and working on creating a plan, but the part of him that had awoken when he held his infant son in his arms for the first time, wouldn't let him leave the conversation there.
So he poured the caf into two mugs, set them and the container of spices—he had no idea how this version of his son preferred his caf—on the table, then sat across from him. "How is it 'like', then, Boba?"
Boba made a face, even as he reached for the spices he wanted. "That's really the conversation we're having?"
Jango hummed and watched him mix in his chosen spices. "I'm sure there's plenty of other stories I've missed out on in your life."
Boba shot him a disbelieving look.
Jango felt like something had just clenched tight around his heart. "Boba, you're my son and I love you; did you expect I would just...not care what happened to you?"
From the way Boba's expression twisted before he ducked down towards his caf, he had thought that.
Jango closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe through the constriction wrapping around his chest.
"Thought you would be disappointed," Boba muttered to his caf, and his tone was that same aggravated and embarrassed one he'd always use when Jango questioned him about his misbehaviour. "Aurra said–"
"I am going to hunt down Sing and put a bolt though their heart," Jango snapped.
Boba shot him a startled look.
"They were never supposed to be your guardian, Boba," Jango reminded him, pointing the container of spice he'd been about to add to his own caf at him. "Whatever shit she put in your head, it's worthless."
Boba blinked, his shoulders loosening slightly. "Oh," he said.
Jango nodded and went back to fixing up his caf.
"I didn't fall," Boba said, voice tense, the words coming out a little too fast, like he'd always done when admitting to a misdeed. "Bounty, half-blind from carbonite, they hit my jetpack. It misfired, sent me into the side of a sandbarge, fell down into the sarlacc. And then jawas stole my beskar'gam after I got out."
Jango didn't need to look to know the expression his son would be wearing, that intent, watching one that all of the clones had inherited, the one that meant 'this is a test, and I'm just waiting to see how you're going to fail'.
He took a moment to stir his caf, forcing his expression to remain calm, to not show any hint of his anger on Boba's behalf, knew it would be misconstrued. He set his spoon down, then looked up and met his son's eyes, raised an eyebrow, and said, "Jawas do that."
Boba blinked, expression twisting with disbelief, before he let out a rusty-sounding laugh and leant back in his chair. "Yeah. Completely stripped D- Mando's old ship, one time. They had to fight a mudhorn to get it all back." He tapped his right bes'marbur, where a mudhorn sigil had been painted in white, for new beginnings. It was the same one, Jango recognised, that the traditionalist had on his own right bes'marbur, although his had been part of the beskar'gam, rather than added via paint.
"You wear their kom'rk, their clan sigil, yet you refuse to call them your spouse," Jango couldn't stop himself from saying.
Boba's eyes dropped, down to where he was running his gloved thumb over the curve of his mug's handle. "It, it's stupid. They asked me for such a, a stupid reason!" he snapped. "What the kriff do I care if the rest of the damn Mando'ade want nothing to do with me?! How has that been different from any other point in my life?!"
"I told them no, because that, that absolute idiot, they've got Grogu and the Darksabre–"
Jango almost bit his tongue hard enough to draw blood; the traditionalist had the Dha'kad'au?!
"–last thing they needs is me weighing them down. I mean, I've got the Slave and Tatooine; what the kriff do I need with kriffing Manda'yaim? But they were all, 'But this is your home, Boba', like I'm supposed to give a damn about some ruined planet I've never even set foot on." He drooped, looking suddenly so very exhausted. "But then we, well, they demanded I pick up a hunt with them, figure they were going to use it to convince me I belonged, or whatever, and it–" he shook his head "–it went sideways, we both lost our buckets–"
"Buy'cese!" Jango shouted before he could stop himself, conditioned by the many, many times the Alpha-class used 'bucket' instead of 'buy'ce' because they knew it annoyed the Mando'a-speaking members of the Cuy'val Dar. He'd got in the habit of wearing his own buy'ce with the external microphone muted, so they didn't know he was reacting. Hearing it in the middle of a rant in Mando'a was somehow ten times worse.
Boba let out a surprised snort, glanced up at whatever expression Jango was wearing, and burst into laughter, the sound rough and loud, completely unapologetic.
Jango groaned and rubbed a hand over his face. "Yes, fine, that joke will clearly never get old."
"I forgot!" Boba said around a snicker. "Ka'ra, your face."
"Your face," Jango muttered back in Basic, and then groaned again when that made Boba start laughing again, presumably aware that Jango had picked that line up from the clones. Despite his best efforts.
"Kriff," Boba finally said, wiping at his eyes, "I missed you."
Something about the way he said it made Jango's throat feel tight and his eyes water. "I'm sorry, Bob'ika," he whispered.
Boba's mouth went tight and he looked down at his caf, touching one finger to the rim of the mug. "You don't have to apologise," he muttered.
"I do," Jango argued, because his death had clearly impacted his son in the worst of ways. "I wanted to teach you your grandparent's ways, but I think you ended up taking a little too much after me."
Boba reached out and placed one hand on top of his buy'ce. "D– Mando, they got my beskar'gam off some aruetii on Tatooine, been wearing it to protect themself from Tuskens. Mando got the Tuskens and those settlers to work together, take out a kyrat dragon; they still do trade with each other, probably one of the only areas in the whole of Tatooine I don't have to worry about breaking out in a bloodfeud over kriffing water every other month."
"...you're in charge of Tatooine," Jango realised, because the only reason anyone cared about the feuds between the settlers and Tuskens on that dustball, was if it was somehow their problem.
Boba shrugged in that jerky, uncertain way that Jango had seen a number of his clones doing when they were trying to downplay something. "Jabba was the only reason I was out near the kriffing sarlacc. Couldn't kill them—Alderaanian royal'd already done it—but it wasn't hard to take over what was left of their empire. Free a few slaves, blow up a spice warehouse or three, set up regular trade for water from off-planet, people suddenly don't care any more where you came from."
Of course Boba would focus on fighting back against slavery and spice, rather than wanting to unite Mando'ade; how could Jango have ever expected anything less from the boy who'd grown up seeing the scars Jango's experiences had left on him.
Jango got up and stepped around the table so he could lean down and press his forehead to Boba's in a gentle mirshmure'cya. "I am so very proud of you, Bob'ika," he murmured.
"Oh," Boba whispered, and pressed back against Jango, one hand catching at the fabric of his kute and clutching tight, almost as though he was afraid that Jango would leave if he didn't hold him there.
They were interrupted by the trilling of a comm from one of Boba's belt pouches. He fumbled it slightly as he tugged the device out, and Jango, who had stepped back to give him some space, dropped his hand to his back, resting atop the neck-guard he was wearing and rubbing his thumb against the back of his head; it was as close to soothingly running his fingers through his son's hair as he could get, now.
The attempt did, at least, seem to have the usual effect, as Boba's shoulders loosened as he set the comm on the table and accepted the call. The image clarified to the traditionalist, whose buy'ce was tilted up, as though looking at something past the comm and saying, "–a, a 'sith'?"
"It's a dar'jetii," came the voice of the younger Boba.
"That doesn't help me at all!" the traditionalist shouted, and the elder Boba went tense again under Jango's hand. "I'd never even heard of a jetii or jedi until my goran told me I had to reunite Grogu with his people! She said you were, were enemy sorcerers!"
The jetii appeared in the video pick-up, wearing that kriffing serene expression his sort seemed to specialise in. "Excuse us for a moment, Fetts," he said, and the comm moved, handed down to the younger Boba, based on the angle, who very cleverly turned it so the video pick-up remained trained on where the jetii had taken one of the traditionalist's hands and held it against his own chest. "I need you to follow my breathing for a moment, Mando. Close your eyes—I have this watch—and take a moment to breathe."
Jango had to admit—while watching the jetii calm the traditionalist down from what looked like a panic attack—that, for a jetii, this one wasn't bad. His Core accent was grating, and Jango's initial impression of him had been 'just like every other jetii', but he'd fought capably enough, spoke Mando'a, and clearly understood enough of their culture to know that a Mando'ad was going to struggle with calming down without assurance that they were safe. And he was respecting the traditionalist's privacy by not using his name, despite knowing it, which Jango knew even some less traditional Mando'ade struggled with.
If he had to entrust the safety of himself and Boba to a jetii, at least this one was almost tolerable.
"Sorry," the traditionalist said, eventually.
The jetii shook his head. "No, this is a lot." He glanced at the comm, quirked a small, almost tired-looking smile, then turned back to the traditionalist. "I'm going to assume pre-Republic history wasn't a common course when you were growing up?"
"Republic history wasn't a necessary topic, never mind anything before," the traditionalist said.
"Outer Rim," Boba interrupted, and the jetii and traditionalist both turned to look at them. "Doesn't matter who's in charge in the Core, the politics there don't matter a lot to the people in the Outer Rim."
The jetii inclined his head. "A fair point, yes. The Force knows I have met my share of beings who are shocked to discover jedi aren't just spacers' tales, or who have no idea what we are at all."
"Oh," the traditionalist said, and the elder Boba started to relax again.
No, this jetii wasn't a bad choice to trust his aliit with.
"Sith—or dar'jetii," the jetii started to explain in an easy, lilting tone, like someone who was used to teaching, "are not unlike the jedi, in that we are all Force-sensitives—we can sense and, to a degree, manipulate a particular form of energy that is in all living things; it allows us to move things without touching them, sense the intentions of others, and survive past the limits of our species' natural abilities, to name some few things—and are known for wielding lightsabres. Kad'ause, in Mando'a," he added, eyes flicking towards the comm.
"How'd you know that?" the younger Boba demanded. Because he hadn't been there when the jetii revealed he spoke Mando'a.
"He's fluent in Mando'a, Bob'ika," Jango supplied.
"Whaaaaaaaaat?" Boba complained in that long, drawn-out manner that Jango desperately wished his son would grow out of soon.
Somehow, he found himself meeting the jetii's resigned gaze, sharing a look of suffering with him.
And then the jetii turned back to the traditionalist, leaving Jango to have a minor crisis over the fact that he'd apparently connected with a jetii over being a parent. How would a jetii know anything about parenting?
"–this?" the traditionalist was asking, before pulling something from behind his cape and lighting up a kad'au.
The comm image was stained blue, but Jango didn't need to see the blade in colour to know it would be black as the space between the ka'ra.
"...you have the Dha'kad'au," the jetii said, sounding stunned, before looking at Jango again, one eyebrow raising. "Well, that just got awkward," he said, voice dry as the deserts left by the Dral'Han.
The image turned, centring on the younger Boba, who looked baffled. "But, I thought the Dha'kad'au belonged to the Mand'alor."
"Technically, yes," Jango agreed, grimacing. "However, neither your ba'buir or I ever had it; Tor Vizsla was using it as his claim to the title, but he never kept it on himself, so I wasn't able to claim it when I killed him." Honestly, he still wasn't certain he would have claimed it, at the time.
"Boba," the traditionalist called, something a little odd about their voice through their vocoder, "when, exactly, were you going to tell me that you come from a line of Mand'alore?"
The younger Boba snickered and turned the comm back to facing the jetii—who was covering his mouth with one hand—and the traditionalist.
"I distinctly recall telling Kryze that I have just as much a claim on the kriffing thing as she does," Boba retorted.
"I thought you meant because you're as much a Mando'ad as her!" the traditionalist cried.
"Kryze?" the jetii enquired, an odd note to his tone.
"Bo-Katan," the traditionalist replied. Not a name Jango was familiar with, but it wasn't like he'd much care for the pretenders claiming Manda'yaim's throne.
The jetii let out a thoughtful hum.
"No, D– Mando–" Boba started.
"Din," the traditionalist interrupted. "My name is Din."
Jango felt his eyebrows rising, surprised.
"Alor'ika," Boba started, tensing up under Jango's hand again.
The traditionalist—Din—pointed the Dha'kad'au at them. "Boba, that's your buir, and that is literally you; your aliit is my aliit."
"I thought Fennec was a special case!" Boba replied, sounding baffled.
Jango had no idea who Fennec was—another clone or someone Boba had adopted as family, presumably—but he somehow doubted that Din would have been quite so willing to consider Boba's aliit his own if their marriage had been an obligation, to him. Which meant—assuming Jango could still read his son—they were both di'kute in love with the other, and convinced the other had only agreed to the riduurok because it was convenient in some manner.
Somehow, he found himself meeting the jetii's gaze again, and trading long-suffering looks.
The jetii turned back to Din, saying, "Yes, like the Dha'kad'au. Which actually once belonged to the first Mandalorian jedi, Tarre Vizsla."
"Boba said Clan Vizsla stole it from the jedi at some point," Din replied, buy'ce tilting slightly to the side.
"Yes, they did. According to what I've read in the archives–" the jetii started, and Jango recognised that tone, had sat through far too many of Jaster's ramblings about facts he'd stumbled across when he got his hands on an historical text of some form or another.
It was nostalgic in a comfortable way, and Jango felt inexplicably fond of the jetii, even as he recognised that, if someone didn't step in, they were going to be listening to Tarre Vizsla's life story, so he cleared his throat and said, "You were explaining the differences between jetiise and dar'jetiise."
Boba twisted in his seat and shot Jango a narrow-eyed, suspicious look, which he couldn't begin to guess at the reasoning for.
"Right. I apologise; my padawan complains often enough about my being a...'nerd', I believe the current term is?"
Oh, kriff, even his sense of humour about his child's suffering his interest in book-learning was the same as Jaster's.
He turned back to Din, pulling out his own kad'au and letting it go to float between them. As they watched, the kad'au came apart, the pieces floating around a central piece, which looked to be some sort of stone.
Din and Boba's child let out a coo, one small claw reaching up towards the floating parts.
The jetii smiled down at the child, the expression warm and so clearly fond. "The central piece of any lightsabre is the kyber crystal," he said, picking the stone out of the centre of the still-floating components with a casualness that caused an odd swooping sensation in Jango's chest. "It's a particular type of stone that resonates very strongly in the Force, and which Force-sensitives can bond with. They start out clear, but take on a colour when they bond with a Force-sensitive.
"Among jedi, the most common colours are green and blue, but our current Head of the Order has a purple one, and one of my oldest friends has a pink one." He placed the crystal back in the centre of the disassembled pieces and they began slotting back together again. "Sith sabres are always red, and the colour comes not from forming a bond with their crystal, but by enslaving it and causing it to 'bleed'."
A chill went down Jango's spine, and he remembered the violent red of Tyranus' kad'au; he definitely struck him as the sort of being who would be capable of enslaving his own weapon.
"How do you enslave something that isn't sentient?" the younger Boba asked, and Jango winced.
"If you're making something or someone do something against their will," the elder Boba snapped.
"But it's a rock."
"It is not for us to determine in what ways the Force choses to interact with objects we would consider inanimate," the jetii replied in an even tone. "I can only tell you that the crystals in the lightsabres held by jedi have a certain contentedness about them, as though they are happy with their existence. But those crystals that have been bled feel like they are screaming. It is a disconcerting sensation, and can make it...difficult to fight against them."
"This one, it's happy?" Din asked, holding up the hilt of the Dha'kad'au.
"Yes, it likes you," the jetii agreed with a faint smile, and the child let out a loud noise of agreement. "Yes, and it likes Grogu and your spouse, an important point."
"It's a rock," the elder Boba muttered, even as he hunched down slightly in his seat, like he was, perhaps, embarrassed.
"Sith," the jetii continued, voice going low and expression darkening, "use the Force in the same way they do their kyber crystals; they order it to their will, where jedi request it help us. They demand ever more, their philosophy requiring them to have everything, to be the greatest, in whatever manner is the most important to them; the jedi philosophy is that what we will do what we can with what we are given, and share with others all that we can."
That was...not the view Jango had ever heard of jetiise, but he could admit that the description of dar'jetii—their greed for ever more, their intent to do whatever it took to come out on top—matched the stories he'd read of them. For Mando'ade, those were not bad qualities to have in an ally. Until that ally decided you were in their way and attempted to stab you in the back, which had happened to nearly every single Mand'alor who had formed an alliance with a dar'jetii, as Jaster had liked to point out.
Boba sat forward, nearly dislodging Jango's hand from where it still rested against the back of his head. "I'd heard you jedi believed the sith were all gone, before the start of the war; you know a lot about an enemy your lot think aren't a threat."
The jetii cast him a considering look. "That is...almost true. We've still had Fallen jedi—those who share a philosophy akin to the sith's, but who are not sith—but, until ten years ago, we believed the sith had been wiped out, yes."
"Ten years ago?" both Bobas asked, and the elder twisted to shoot Jango a questioning look. As if he was expecting Jango to have any idea as to what the jetii was referring. Yes, he'd met Tyranus ten years ago, but if he hadn't realised the man was a dar'jetii, he didn't know how a jetii—who hadn't looked like he'd recognised the name—would have found out.
"You will likely recall the Trade Federation's invasion of Naboo, Ser Fett," the jetii said.
"Yes." It had been notable even in the Outer Rim, if only because of how far out from the Core Naboo was, and the fact that the Trade Federation had been getting ever more greedy for years. Jango had been working on the bounty for Komari Vosa, at the time, and had heard some of the gossip about how the senate didn't seem to care about Naboo while he'd been on Coruscant.
The jetii inclined his head. "A sith was involved; he killed my master when we retook the palace, and I killed him."
Why was it, that every other word out of this jetii's mouth, or action he performed, made Jango like him more? How could a jetii possibly be this likable? Getting revenge for his murdered parent? (Or 'master'; whatever words the jetiise wanted to use to hide the fact that they cared for one another.) That spoke to Jango on a soul-deep level. Helping the Nubians to retake their planet—Jango had heard rumours that it had been a group of fewer than a dozen beings who had returned to Naboo from Coruscant and somehow fought off the droids and captured the Viceroy—while the Republic shoved their hands up their arses and complained about not being able to blow their noses? That was sheer mandokarla.
"Is there a reason you comm'd?" Jango made himself ask, rather than considering any further on why he liked the jetii.
"Yes," the jetii agreed, tucking his hands into the massive sleeves of his cloak. "The money trail starts on a Republic planet—I'm not certain which one, the code isn't immediately familiar to me—before transferring to the Senate, where I can only assume a committee was formed to approve the spending. Boba, however, implied there was a sith involved, which does match what I know of their ways—throwing the galaxy into a war would seem to their tastes—but also means that both you and Boba, as well as our three time travellers, are in danger."
Jango had already determined that much himself, but it sounded like the jetii didn't know that his employer was the dar'jetii, so how did he figure Jango was in danger? And why would he expect the elder Boba, Din, and their child were in danger, as well? No one knew they were there!
"Why would Din and Grogu be in danger?" Boba demanded, sitting stiffly as he stared down at the comm.
The jetii's head tilted to one side. "You're from the future, or a version of it; your knowledge of events—whether you are aware you retain that knowledge or not—means you can either help the Order and the Republic avoid the worst of the fallout, or the sith can determine all the ways in which they failed at some little thing, and tweak it so the galaxy is even worse off."
Boba and Din's child let out a high, terrified noise, and both Din and the jetii turned to them, the jetii crouching down next to Din and murmuring something too quiet for the audio to pick up.
Boba was tense in his chair, one hand pressed tight to his shar'tas, again, and Jango didn't need to ask, to know his son was stressing out about his aliit being so far out of his reach. (Jango, himself, was finding the thought of having either Boba not in easy grabbing distance to be extremely discomfiting.)
"Bob'ika, lead everyone back to the Slave," he ordered the younger version of his son.
The jetii glanced over, frowning. "I need to contact the Jedi Council."
Jango barely gave that a moment's consideration before determining that, no, he didn't want the jetii off by himself, preferred he stay close. (To help protect Jango's aliit, not because he cared if the jetii got hurt, or that he might not be able to take care of himself. Clearly.)
"You can use my ship's comms," he decided.
"Please," Boba added, low and achingly desperate. "We're stronger together."
"Okay," the jetii agreed. "I'll need to collect my astromech on the way; she has the codes I'll need."
"I can do that," the younger Boba agreed as the comm started moving towards an active computer terminal. "You probably don't know the platform number you're at."
"I didn't realise there were numbers," the jetii replied mildly.
"Yeah, they're written in the ultraviolet spectrum," the younger Boba explained as he quickly typed at the terminal one-handed, the comm turned to show that he was looking into the Tipoca City arrivals listing. "Some of the clones go around sometimes, with their helmets, because those have filters to let them see, and rewrite the labelling in a spectrum baseline humans can see. But the longnecks will clean them off if they notice them, so they have to be in weird places, or written super small."
Ah, that would explain why he'd started catching groups of two or three clones wandering the facility, once the batches after the Alphas had got access to their buy'cese. He'd always used his own buy'ce while out of his apartment, with the filter to see the ultraviolet markings, and all of the Cuy'val Dar had some sort of eye covering with the necessary programmes to change the spectrums they could see in—often necessary, as mercenaries and bounty hunters—so it had never really occurred to him that there would be a need to rewrite signs so they could be seen with the naked human eye.
His clever, clever child showed them exactly which dock the jetii was parked on—actually not far from where Jango kept the Slave I—as well as the information the Kaminiise had on his ship—a Delta-7 Aethersprite; excellent manoeuvrability, probably the best combat-capable starfighters in production, but lacking a built-in hyperspace drive, which made them vulnerable to being stranded if someone took out the ring they would have needed to leave in orbit.
Yes, the jetii was definitely better off on the Slave I, in the event that they had to leave the system in a rush. Which, given Jango knew Tyranus had spies among the Kaminiise—he couldn't say which ones, only that there had been too many times where he'd asked a question he shouldn't have known to ask, unless he'd been on planet—was unfortunately possible, once word got back to him that a jetii had arrived and spoken to Jango. Depending on which room they'd been in while talking over the comm, their conversation could have been picked up by monitoring equipment the Kaminiise were in charge of, which could result in Din and the child being further endangered. (If the monitoring equipment had been placed or tampered with by the clones or members of the Cuy'val Dar, Jango would have to deal with that fall-out eventually, but the information that they had time travellers—one of whom had claim to the Dha'kad'au—in residence, wouldn't make it back to Tyranus.)
"Buir, do you want me to keep the comm on?" the younger Boba asked as he wiped the memory on the terminal and returned it to its half-powered rest state.
Jango took a moment to weigh the benefit of being able to keep an eye on Boba, his son's aliit, and the jetii, against the notice an active comm would garner from anyone watching the monitoring equipment they passed, and shook his head. "No."
"Okay. We'll be back soon," Boba promised, and the comm cut out.
The elder Boba let out a shuddering breath and grabbed for his mug of caf, pulling it to his chest, but not taking a drink.
"Boba?" Jango asked, rubbing at his son's scalp, since that seemed to soothe him.
"First time I met Din, Grogu got kidnapped," Boba rasped, sounding not unlike how he had as a child when he was trying very hard not to cry. "It took us weeks to hunt the ge'hutuun down. Din was a mess the whole time, but he held it together. I don't– I'm not sure I–" He let out a choked sound, something that could have been a sob.
Oh, Boba was definitely in love with his riduur, and as much as Jango was so happy that he'd found someone to make him happy, he also ached at the fact that it meant he had a weakness that could too easily be exploited.
Although, Din was apparently Mand'alor, and that wasn't a position meant for someone who couldn't take care of themselves; based on the array of weapons he wore—both openly and not; by the jetii's reaction, Jango hadn't been the only one to miss the Dha'kad'au—and the fact that he'd designed a manner to carry their child that would allow him to keep both hands free, he was very capable of keeping both himself and his child safe.
Jango had had Boba in his life for long enough to understand the fear his son was struggling with—he'd never been kidnapped, but there had been two separate occasions when Mij had called Jango while he was on a job to let him know Boba had fallen sick and was staying with him, because Jango would let the Kaminiise touch his son over his dead body, and finishing the job had seemed so much less important than rushing back to check on Boba—so he leant down and pressed their foreheads together again, pleased when Boba immediately pressed back, and murmured, "Bob'ika knows this facility like the back of his hand, your riduur looks more than capable of taking care of himself, and that jetii knows enough about the danger to be on guard and prepared to fight; they will make it back safely."
"I know. I know Din can take care of himself, and Grogu can use the Force defensively, if he needs to, it just...tires him out."
Well, that was...good. He wasn't certain he approved of letting jetiise near his grandchild—although, he might be convinced if it was the one in residence—but if he already knew some of their cursed abilities, it might prove necessary; some skills, he knew, could not be ignored.
"And Kenobi is, well, it's Kenobi," Boba added, sounding somehow both resigned and comforted.
Jango pulled back so he could properly raise an eyebrow at his son. "You know the jetii," he guessed.
Boba grimaced and shrugged, took a sip of his caf, and then said, "I know of him; today was the only time I ever met him in person. Although," he added, almost musing, "he apparently retired to Tatooine, after the Purge, and rumour had it he visited Jabba a time or two, when the slug was getting greedy about the moisture farmers' offerings, but I never recognised him, if we were there at the same time."
Jango hummed and stepped back around the table, returning to his own seat and his caf. "You know more about him than I do."
Boba cast him a slightly suspicious look. "Buir," he said, voice flat, "I am not feeding you more reasons to eye-kriff him."
Jango sputtered into his caf. "I wasn't–!"
Somehow, Jango hadn't realised he would need to prepare for this sort of conversation to happen with his son. "I have never, in my life, felt the urge to eye-kriff anyone," he insisted, because he hadn't. Aesthetic appearance, sure, he could appreciate someone who looked like they took care of their body and could put up a decent fight, but that didn't mean he wanted to have sex with them. The few times he'd had sex had been with some of the Haat'ade, after a successful mission, but that had always been more to wind down so they could both get some sleep, rather than some form of attraction.
Boba blinked at him, looking a little like he might have been blindsided. "Oh," he said. "I got it from you."
Jango frowned at him over his caf. When it became clear Boba wasn't going to clarify, he demanded, "You got what from me?"
Boba set his mug down on the table. "It's– So, the, after Sing, and prison, I ended up with Hondo Ohnaka."
"Kriff," Jango groaned, because he knew enough about the pirate to know he wouldn't have wanted him raising his son, either.
Boba put on a crooked smile. "It was an...experience," he offered, and Jango couldn't quite stop from groaning again. "Yeah. He was, well, he cared about alcohol and sex, figured he should teach me the same?"
"I'll kill him," Jango muttered into his mug.
Boba snorted. "Don't worry, you taught me better than to over-indulge in drink or drugs–"
That was a relief.
"–and the sex...it was okay? But not something I was ever really...interested in."
Jango gave a shrug, feeling uncomfortable about having this conversation with his son; there was a reason he'd used his position as head of the trainers to ensure it would never be his job to give the sex talk to the clones. "It's fine for unwinding, but not really something to...go looking for."
Boba nodded, looking relieved, and Jango realised he wasn't the only one who was maybe uncomfortable with this conversation. "And that's, I think it's fine," he said, straightening in his seat.
"Yes, it is," Jango agreed, and Boba's shoulders relaxed, like he'd needed that assurance. "What about with your riduur?"
Boba grimaced and picked up his caf to take a drink, clearly attempting to put off answering. But then he sighed and put the mug back down. "Din is– He, he's just so perfect, so damnably good. It should be frustrating, but it's not. It's– If he, if he asked, if he decided that was something he wanted, I, well, yeah, sure, I've slept with people I never wanted to see again, why wouldn't I sleep with him? But it's not...something I need, I guess? I...feel like I'm explaining this poorly."
Jango couldn't stop from letting out a quiet laugh. "You love him, but you're not attracted to him."
"Oh, no, he's gorgeous," Boba immediately argued. "If I could stare at his face for more than two minutes without him getting embarrassed and shoving his buc–ah, buy'ce back on, I would."
Jango didn't bother muffling his laughter at that. "Have you told him how you feel?"
Boba let out a slightly strangled laugh. "No. No way. He would– He's so good, Buir," he insisted, something entreating about his gaze. "If he knew, he'd feel obligated to do something about it, just like, like when he shared his name because I am, apparently, incapable of not using it." He grimaced, and Jango suspected he was silently beating himself up over being comfortable enough around Jango to forget he wasn't supposed to casually use his riduur's name.
Jango sighed and leant forward over the table. "Boba, ad'ika, I have met traditionalists before—a clan of them followed your ba'buir—and if your riduur really felt that obligated to your marriage, he wouldn't have shared his name with me. He said your aliit is his aliit; that's not something he's going to consider casually."
"But it's Din," Boba said, sounding so frustrated. "And it wasn't just you and little me; Kenobi was there, too."
Jango blinked, then cleared his throat. "Your ad shared his name with the jetii while you were finding towels."
Boba groaned and dropped his head to the tabletop. "Gro'ika, I swear to the Ka'ra," he moaned.
Jango chuckled into his caf.
Boba sighed as he sat back up. "What if he was only saying it because Kenobi already knew–"
"Boba," Jango interrupted, because he could see that his son was just going to keep talking himself in circles. "Talk to your riduur."
"What, now?" Boba asked.
Jango sighed. "There are only four cots on this ship," he reminded his son. "Bob'ika and your ad can share, they're small enough, but there's still not enough for the rest of us. So, either someone is going to be sleeping sitting up somewhere, or someone is going to be doubling up. And you two are the only ones married."
Boba, much to Jango's amusement, flushed and ducked his head down. "Oh," he whispered.
"Buir, we're back!" the younger Boba called in Mando'a from the cargo bay, ahead of the sound of boots on the metal flooring.
The elder Boba groaned.
Jango chuckled as he stood. "I'm sending your riduur in here," he warned, and took his leave.
"Buir," Boba whined behind him.
Boba, Din and his child, the jetii, and a red R-series astromech were all waiting in the cargo bay. "Where's Boba?" Din demanded, before Jango could speak.
"The kitchen," Jango admitted easily, before asking, "Might I spend some time with my bu'ad?" Because he assumed the coming conversation would be more comfortable for both of them without an audience.
Din froze, in the process of pushing past Jango for the kitchen. "Oh," he said, and reached down to pull the little being out of the bag hanging by his left hip. "Behave for your ba'buir," he ordered.
The child tilted their head to one side and cooed in an almost innocent manner.
Din scoffed, then turned them to face Jango. "His name is Grogu," he offered as Jango accepted the child, "and he will put anything into his mouth that can fit, and will probably try to swallow it."
The jetii snorted quietly.
Din twisted, buy'ce turned back towards the jetii. "You said you know another like him," he said, sounding uncertain.
The jetii inclined his head. "I have known two others," he agreed, before glancing at Grogu as he let out a curious coo and saying, "Master Yaddle. She died four years ago."
Grogu let out a mournful noise, his ears lowering. Jango hesitantly reached up to brush his fingers along one long ear, and was rewarded with him cuddling closer to his kar'ta beskar, one clawed hand reaching up to press against it.
"Do you know what he should be eating?" Din asked the jetii.
"I do not, but I can certainly ask Master Yoda."
"It's the same one as your buir wears," Jango murmured to Grogu, whose ears had perked back up in interest at his kar'ta beskar. "It belonged to my buir, first."
Grogu let out an enquiring coo, then glanced over at where the jetii and the younger Boba were stepping closer—Din having taken his leave—Boba looking fascinated.
"What even are you?" Boba breathed, reaching up and grinning when Grogu caught his index finger in one clawed hand and tilted his head curiously.
"Boba," Jango admonished.
The jetii chuckled. "A most excellent question, youngling," he said, and Boba made a face. "Perhaps, with Grogu being raised by Mando'ade, Master Yoda will choose to be a little less tight-lipped about his species."
Grogu let out a huffing sound.
"In my experience, they are far more stubborn than jedi," the jetii said.
"You're...communicating with him?" Boba asked, saving Jango from having to do so himself.
"Ah, yes. Many young Force-sensitives—especially those who have spent time with older Force-sensitives—will communicate primarily through mental means long before they will speak. They find it more comfortable, as they can communicate through images or emotions, rather than struggling to shape the correct words."
That...actually made some sense, even if it did complicate things for the rest of them.
Jango frowned as something occurred to him, and he had to ask, "If he's spent time with elder Force-sensitives, why is his buir trying so hard to find him a teacher?"
The jetii's expression went tight and he reached up to rub gently at the top of Grogu's head, getting a quiet, almost sad noise in return. "Grogu says he was in the Temple when the clones started killing everyone," the jetii said, a quiet sort of agony in his voice. "His crèche clan was playing hide-and-find in the Room of a Thousand Fountains; he was the only one who wasn't found."
Ice slid down Jango's spine, even as Boba—the younger Boba, who didn't yet know what his buir had agreed to, what horrors would be done with his face because he'd let hatred guide his choices—looked up and whispered, "Buir?"
"I would never have agreed, if I had known," Jango swore, hugging Grogu as hard as he dared, half-afraid he would bruise the small body with his beskar'gam. "Ni ceta, Grogu," he whispered to the little one in his arms. "You should never have suffered that."
"No," the jetii said, quiet and almost contemplative, pale eyes watching Jango like he could see straight into the heart of him, "I don't think you would have; your creed doesn't allow violence against children, even those of your enemies." He tilted his head slightly to one side. "The 'Tyranus' you mentioned, the one who hired you, he's a sith, isn't he?"
Jango swallowed. "Yes. Boba—the elder Boba—said he was known by another name during the war: Dooku."
The jetii flinched back, his eyes going wide. "Dooku," he repeated, before breathing out a quiet, "Kriff," followed by a hollow-sounding laugh. "Ten years ago. Of course. But–" he frowned "–why would he have started working with the sith? Unless he was already–" He spun and looked over at the astromech, who let out an enquiring chirp. "We need to comm the Council."
Jango felt very much like he'd missed half of a conversation. From the hard glint in the jetii's eyes, when he turned back towards him, he wasn't likely to be getting an explanation until the jetii's comm went through. He scowled, but allowed, "It's in the cockpit, this way. There's not going to be space for the droid, so, she?"
"Yes," the jetii agreed, while the astromech trilled an affirmative.
"She can plug into a port next to the ladder. But, if she does anything–" he had to added, voice dropping low and threatening.
"Oh, Arfour is aware that we're allies of necessity, and any complications on either of our parts will likely result in far worse a fate than being banished back to my ship," the jetii interrupted in a voice that was so falsely cheerful, it made the hairs at Jango's nape stand on end.
He spun and reached out with the hand not cradling Grogu, pressing his palm against the centre of the jetii's chest. "I'm not going to kill you, jetii."
The jetii smiled, something too sharp, too aware, in his eyes. "I think we both know, Ser Fett, that the only reason you haven't returned to attempting to shoot me, is that I'm more use to you alive, right now, than dead."
Something twisted, low and uncomfortable, in Jango's belly, and he snarled in reaction to the sensation. "If that was true, I would have put you in binders," he snapped back.
The jetii almost seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then he smiled, sharp with a flash of teeth. "Oh? You think you can hold a jedi knight?"
Jango found himself stepping forward, into the jetii's space. "I can hold captive anyone and anything," he promised.
Grogu let out an irritated noise, and something shoved at the back of his head, knocking him forward, into the jetii, who had apparently also been knocked forward. The contact, despite the rough push, was softened somehow, leaving their foreheads meeting in a gentle kov'nyn. Which...probably made it more of a mirshmure'cya.
"Grogu!" the jetii snapped. "Improper use of the Force!"
"Impro–" Jango started before he just had to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the moment, while the child in his arms blew his tongue at the jetii.
"Keldabes are not the proper manner to end arguments!" the jetii informed him, and Jango couldn't help but notice that the parts of his cheeks visible around his facial hair were tinting red. "What works for your buire, will not work for others."
Which suggested Din and Boba had been sharing kisses, after a fashion, while refusing to discuss their relationship.
"Let us go," the jetii ordered.
The gentle pressure keeping Jango pressed to the jetii let up, and he was able to straighten again. Which still left him in the jetii's space, more than close enough to see the red tint to his cheeks, the way his eyes flicked down to Jango's mouth, before quickly jerking away, looking behind Jango and licking his own lips before starting to say, "You said there's a port–"
Maybe it was Boba's earlier teasing about eye-kriffing, or the forced mirshmure'cya, or the way the jetii looked that much more human while flushed—maybe all of those things adding up together—but Jango found himself reaching up and catching the jetii's chin, tugging down—blue eyes jerking back to him, going wide—and pressing their mouths together.
The jetii made a high sound, something far closer to a keen than to a refusal, and pressed into the kiss, facial hair an unfamiliar sensation, but not an unpleasant one.
"Ori'jari'ni!" Boba yelled in Mando'a. "Buir and the jetii are kissing!"
From the direction of the kitchen came a choked noise, followed by a loud, delighted laugh, which was quickly joined by a giggle from Jango's grandchild.
"Boba," the jetii said, turning an unimpressed look on Jango's son, which didn't seem to lose any strength, despite the very obvious blush staining his cheeks and nose, "that's not a very nice thing to call..." He trailed off, clearly at a loss about how to refer to the elder Boba.
"Bigger, uglier me?" Boba suggested with a wide-eyed innocent look that was so obviously a lie, Jango was a little embarrassed.
The jetii hummed, cast a quick glance at Jango, and then put on a smile that made Jango want to simultaneously kiss him again—for reasons he wasn't certain he wanted to look at too closely—and run the kriff away. Because that? That was the smile of a buir who had just settled on the perfect punishment. "That sounds rather like you'd enjoy the chance to meditate with Grogu later."
Jango raised an eyebrow, while Grogu let out a loud whine.
"Younglings who misuse the Force, must meditate to better ensure their connection to it," the jetii said in that irritating serene tone jetiise so enjoyed using.
Grogu let out a huff.
"I'll be certain to let Master Yoda know that you disapprove of his punishments."
Grogu whined and slumped in Jango's hold, ears drooping low.
"What about me?" Boba demanded, as his elder version and Din looked out of the kitchen. "I didn't misuse any jetii osik. And I don't need any jetii osik, either!"
"Ah, but meditation isn't just for jedi, young one," the jetii said, his eyes almost seeming to twinkle, and Boba scowled. "It is also a most excellent way to find oneself."
Jango had to laugh, at that, and heard what sounded like both the elder Boba and Din joining him.
Oh, Jango was keeping Kenobi.