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Jango bought the station five years after signing Dooku’s contract, after receiving the first two thirds of his payment. It’s close enough to one of the main hyperlanes it sees quite a lot of traffic, but out of the way of most populated systems. There’s an asteroid field close by, and water haulers and mining teams make the trip there every month and return with holds full of black ice and iron.

After the war ended, it took the new Empire barely a month and a half to come knocking. Jango let them make themselves at home in one of the unused levels, a base and a small garrison—he had no choice. The station, after all, is just that: a station.

He should sell it. He should take the money and leave the place forever, grab his son once again and find a little moon further out in the Rim, some agricultural world where they’ll be left alone.

Jango knows he won’t do that. He’s worked too hard to have this, and Boba’s happy here. He has—friends. Boys and girls he hangs out with after school. He’s enjoying the kind of childhood Jango never had, and he’s reluctant to grab him and disappear once again, to rob him of that.

So Jango waits, and he keeps out of the way, and when the clone troopers set out shop in the hangars and begin asking for chain codes and proper documents he lets them and contents himself with keeping them out of his private dock and he looks away every time he crosses paths with one of the squads, their steps uniform and beating all the same rhythm.

They aren’t like he remembers. Or maybe they were, and he’s just—misremembering. He’s getting old. His mind might be failing him.

Jango lets them be; they barely look at him. He begins wearing the armour once again. The Imperial officers that rotate through the station during the first few weeks look at his face, at his armour, and Jango can tell they recognise him, and that they do not quite know what to feel about it.

Weeks go by. Jango loses sleep first and then weight and then feels himself freeze inside again. Boba grows quiet and distant and Jango wants to believe it’s just that he’s almost fourteen, but he knows he’s wrong.

Boba also remembers the clones. He used to sneak out to play with the younger batches when he was very young, and Jango knows he’s seen the troopers in their patrols.

Jango knows they’ve seen him, too. They always—stutter, when they see Boba. The smooth way they move pauses and stops for a second before getting back into motion, like a faulty processor getting overwhelmed.

They never talk to him.

*

He spends most of his time in the cantina next to the commercial docks.

He has his table and he stays there, one glass of good tihaar in front of him and not much else to do but break up fights sometimes and keep an eye on things.

Three weeks after the end of the war the first refugees begin to arrive. They come from everywhere in the galaxy: and there have been refugees and people fleeing the fighting since the war started, but never like this.

What was a trickle becomes first a river and then a torrent and then an ocean. There are students and scholars and engineers and families and young blue collar workers and miners and everything in between. Most of them are non-human. Twi-leks and Arconas and Nautolans and Bith. They flood the cantina and they flood the hangars and the station and some of them end up staying there for months, glancing at the troopers and away, while the Imperial officers drink and boast and waste away the hours.

Most of the Imperial officials are young and Human and white and male. They treat everyone that’s not themselves with a condescending superiority that needs to be carefully managed so that it doesn’t turn into petty cruelty.

And they fear Jango too much to get clever with him, but he knows it won’t last. Jango has his name and he has his station, and that’s not a small thing—but suddenly the galaxy’s so much bigger and so much darker than he ever thought it could be.

Jango begins helping out of spite. He gets tired of listening to the same snide comments, of having to be if not respectful, polite. Of Boba’s avoided gaze and of his eyayade walking around like empty suits of cheap armour, the white plastoid plates clattering and clacking like bones.

At first it’s just a kid. A girl, Twi’lek and barely out of her teens. She doesn’t speak Basic, just Ryl and Huttese, and she has the wide, scared eyes of someone who’s been raised in a warzone. And Jango sees the way Ensign Sims keeps eyeing her, and he knows what happens to kids like her in places like this, and she looks like she knows how to defend herself but that only works when you are not in a position that is specifically designed to divest you of that ability.

So he steps in. Jango knows there’s a freighter looking for crew and uninterested in asking or answering any questions.

He instructs one of his waiters to point the girl there and then watches her walk out of the place without looking back. One rotation later she’s gone and no one’s the wiser and then it’s just. Easy. To keep helping.

Jango knows it’s dangerous. He knows he’s being stupid and reckless and selfish. He has his son to think about: he can’t bear to think what will happen to Boba if Jango’s found out and killed or sent to one of the work camps.

But he doesn’t stop.

Two months pass by. By now, the people who work for him know to send certain refugees to Jango. Not all of them, but families with sick children and shell-shocked workers and teenagers on their own. And Jango keeps helping them, and playing nice with the Imperials, and looking away every time his eyayade walk across the door to his cantina. He keeps trying to parent Boba and failing miserably at it—and why did he ever think he was ready to raise a child? Who told him he was the kind of man who could also be a father?—and life goes on.

*

More independent systems comply with the new order and Jango listens to the former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic pontificate on the holonet every day of the week, the Imperial officers crowing and laughing while the rest of the cantina tries and fails to ignore them, and slowly but inexorably he realises that he no longer knows how to lie to himself.

Maybe he’s forgotten how, or maybe he’s grown soft, old and stupid—it doesn’t matter. He puts it away and ignores the guilt and the self-hatred and keeps pointing orphans and waifs and crying parents towards freighters.

*

Jango saw the news about the Jedi on the holonet, as did everyone else. He heard about the burning Temple on Coruscant way before he saw any footage of the flames, and the bounties with the names of surviving Knights and Masters followed not far behind.

It doesn’t make him happy. It doesn’t even make him happier—but something loosens in his chest. After decades of dragging the ghosts of his friends and family behind he feels them let go. It leaves him feeling empty and light and—alone. He’s carried this grudge for half his life: and he finds out he doesn’t quite know who he is without revenge, without the need to burn them off the face of the galaxy.

He doesn’t quite understand what it means for the Jedi to be declared enemies of the new Empire until the eyayade locate one of them in one of the hangars.

They’re young. Rodian kid, their face dry and patchy in places, twitchy and shivery. They were one of the kids Jango helped: he just told them to ask to be crew in one of the black ice haulers. But then the clones saw him, and they just—opened fire in the middle of the docks. They killed three people along with the kid, the Imperial officers as surprised as Jango himself, and then one of the clones grabbed his own rifle and pointed it at himself.

Boba is quieter than usual while they have dinner that day. Afterwards he doesn’t leave the kitchen but stays there, helping Jango load up the dishwasher and clean the counters.

He’s almost as tall as Jango by now, his head peeking over Jango’s shoulder, all curly hair and lanky limbs. When they finish tidying up the kitchen, he leans against the now-clean counters and watches his father while Jango washes his hands before putting his armour back on. He usually leaves Boba alone in the apartment—he knows he doesn’t always stay there, but Jango trusts him to be clever about it.

“Buir,” Boba begins. Jango closes the faucet and grabs a towel. “Buir. Did you—did you know?”

Jango pauses.

“Did I know about what?”

He’s stalling for time. Boba scowls.

“So you did know,” he says. He blinks and looks away and clenches his jaw. His eyes are wet but he’s pale and determined. He looks at Jango like it’s the first time he’s seen him. He stays where he is, but suddenly the small space between him and Jango feels enormous. “About—whatever happened to them.”

Jango wants to sigh. He wants a lot of things.

“I was promised—revenge. In exchange for donating my genetic material and training them,” he finally answers. “I never cared to ask how that would happen.”

Boba knows about Galidraan. He doesn’t know everything, but he knows enough. He’s clever and he’s got good instincts. He would have made a karking good bounty hunter—might still, if he decides he wants to.

He stares at Jango. Jango looks back. He knows his face is blank, and he lets his son stare at him, feeling frozen and ugly inside.

Boba’s better than Jango ever was. Jango made sure he would be. He has a home and he has a father, even if he doesn’t think much of him anymore. He won’t go hungry. He won’t lose friends to sickness and violence and blood and spice and betrayal. Jango didn’t really plan for him, but he thinks—he’s sure—Boba’s probably the only good thing he has ever done.

Boba looks away. He leaves the kitchen without another word and locks himself in his room.

Jango armours up and leaves.

*

Boba’s silence turns first frigid and then bitter and then fades away. Jango knows that Boba hasn’t forgotten and that he’s not forgiven; he never thought disappointing his own son would hurt this much.

*

Rumours grow legs.

A whole underground economy develops with the refugees at its center. It attracts the Hutts and the Imperials and Jango finds himself having to play the game better than he ever has, carefully playing interference between both sides.

And he could just—leave. He could grab Boba and disappear.

But he doesn’t.

*

Kenobi arrives in the middle of the night cycle. Steps out of a freighter, a bag hanging from his shoulder and something held against his chest. He’s bareheaded and clean-shaven, and his hair is very short. He’s wearing spacer leathers and he looks right at home in the middle of the crowd.

They’ll recognise him. His is a face that’s been all around the galaxy for years: and the lack of beard, and the short hair and the change of clothes, all those things make it harder, but they won’t work on the clones.

Jango sees him from where he’s sitting, warm glass of tihaar in front of him and buy’ce by his side. He blinks, looks away, turns back to Kenobi—the man’s gone. Jango swallows, suddenly worried. He sends Boba a message, warning him to get ready for a possible fast getaway, and when the Jedi sits on the stool next to Jango he doesn’t jump.

From up close, Kenobi looks tired and washed out. It’s been three years since they saw each other on Kamino—and they haven’t been kind. His face is still mostly unlined, but he’s too thin, brittle and pale, and there’s gray in his short hair, new scars on the skin of his face and his hands.

The thing he’s holding against his chest is a Human baby. They look barely one or two months old, and for a baby that young they seem strangely alert. They stare at everything with clouded blue eyes.

The Imps look at Kenobi and away—Jango isn’t worried about them, though. He glances towards the door, to the three-men squad patrolling that part of the docks, and back to Kenobi.

“I’ve been told you’re the man to see about getting passage out of here,” Kenobi says. His voice is cold, calm. Pure black ice.

 

His eyes aren’t, though. They burn.

The child huffs. Kenobi blinks, looks away and down at the child. He shushes him, and the child slowly calms down.

“You shouldn’t be here out in the open,” Jango tells him. He can’t stop looking at him. He wonders if Kenobi regrets letting him go.

Kenobi looks at him for a beat.

“Is that a threat, Fett?” he asks, his voice calm.

Suddenly, Jango isn’t so sure he’d win in a fight against him. He’s changed: Kenobi isn’t the man he remembers anymore. The sharp, dangerous Jedi Knight from three years ago is gone, and the person who’s left is still sharp and still dangerous, but he’s also—more.

There used to be a certain softness about him; he wasn’t kind, or especially nice, but there was a twinkle in his eye, like the world was a pretty good joke and he didn’t mind sharing it with everyone.

“No. It isn’t,” Jango replies. His fingers clench around his glass. He wishes he had thought to put on his buy’ce. He nods his head towards the table full of Imps at the back.

The Jedi curses under his breath, and the child whimpers. Kenobi shushes them again. Jango wonders where Kenobi found them, and then he remembers—the Temple in flames, the war, his eyayade—and he looks away.

“I cannot get involved,” Jango tells him. His neck suddenly prickles—someone’s looking at him. At his side, Kenobi snorts, bitter, but he doesn’t say anything.

“Oh yes, you’ve certainly done more than enough already,” Kenobi says, his voice calm, perfectly polite.

Jango turns to look at him. Kenobi’s already staring at him, unflinching.

“You don’t know what you're talking about,” Jango tells him.

For a beat, they just look at each other. Jango’s very aware of his guns at his hips, of the people around him, of the Imps and the clone troopers outside. Kenobi feels like a big predator about to jump: his eyes don’t burn anymore.

And then the baby begins to cry.

It breaks the spell. Jango blinks, looks away and stands up. He grabs his buy’ce and puts it on, and nods at the barkeep. The woman nods back.

Jango turns to look at Kenobi. He’s trying to calm down the baby without success. The child is red in the face, their little noise all scrunched up, and Kenobi looks—frazzled, exhausted. Jango feels something give in in his chest.

“Come with me,” he says. He steps away from the bar and crosses the cantina towards the door. He steps out into the street and keeps walking.

He doesn’t check to see if Kenobi’s following him; he doesn’t need to. Jango can hear the child, wailing, loud, audible over the din of the crowd and the rumble of starship engines out in the docks.

“Where are we going, Fett?” Kenobi asks. He has the child cradled against his chest, and keeps rocking him, the motion practiced. A small pale fist can be seen slipping under the folds.

“Somewhere quiet,” Jango replies.

He actually doesn’t know—there are rooms, offices he owns, all around the station. But he isn’t sure they’ll be safe enough for someone like Kenobi, especially if that baby he holds is as special as Jango suspects he is.

Boba’s in the apartment when they get there, which is both inconvenient and unexpected—he has taken to spending as long as he can out on the streets, with the friends he still thinks Jango doesn’t know he has.

When Kenobi steps through the door, he pauses there, frozen. The baby’s still crying, snuffling wetly, and the man seems half-out of his mind with desperation—it’s all in the eyes.

Boba looks at him, turns to look at Jango, and then stares back at Kenobi: he’s recognised him. Then he sees the child, winces when the baby begins crying louder, and blinks up at Jango, confused and more than a little suspicious.

“Buir?” he asks in Mando’a. “What’s going on?”

He sounds like Jango and not at all at the same time, the Concord Dawn accent weaker and rounder.

Jango doesn’t know how he feels about it.

“That’s what I would like to know,” Kenobi says over the baby’s cries. Jango blinks, and next to the kitchen table, Boba jumps.

He didn’t know the man knew Mando’a.

Jango sighs. He takes off his buy’ce and leaves it on the kitchen table. The apartment is—small. Kind of run down. It has three small bedrooms, a decent ‘fresher, a big kitchen, and not much else. It doesn’t look like the kind of place someone like Jango would live—and that’s the point.

Or it doesn’t, as long as you don’t look at the security system too closely.

“Feed the kid,” Jango tells Kenobi. The man turns to look at him, suspicious. Jango doesn't roll his eyes, but he’d really like to. “When they cry like that it’s because they’re hungry.”

“I’m an empath. I know he’s karking hungry,” Kenobi spits back, his voice low and careful.

Jango raises an eyebrow.

“Feed him, then,” he tells Kenobi. He turns to his son and changes to Mando’a. “Bob’ika. Come with me.”

It’s been years since the last time he called his son that, but Boba obeys wordlessly. They step out of the kitchen and into the small living room—Boba must have been doing homework: the small low table is a mess of flimsi and datapads.

“What the kriff, buir?” Boba asks, his voice low.

“Don’t talk like that.”

Boba ignores him.

“What’s he doing here? How—I remember him. He’s the one who found us.”

“I know.”

Boba stares at Jango for a second. It’s hard to look him in the eye, but Jango’s too old and too stubborn.

*

Back then, Jango was faced with a choice: he could do as Dooku had instructed him, and return to Geonosis with Boba; or he could tell what he knew to the Jedi and disappear.

Jango knew he was disposable. He knew too much and with the clones’ training all but done, he wasn’t needed anymore. If he had survived what ended up going down on Geonosis—as he probably would have—he’s sure Dooku would have had him assassinated.

So he took the second option: he told the Jedi he’d find what he wanted to know on Geonosis, and then grabbed Boba and his ship and disappeared.

*

“He’s—another refugee,” Jango ends up saying. Boba scowls. He crosses his arms.

“I can see that,” he says. “But what’s he doing here?”

The baby finally stops crying. Jango sighs. He rubs the back of his neck and bends it until it cracks. His back feels like it’s made of duracrete.

“He won’t be here long,” Jango replies.

He’s avoiding the question; Boba knows as well as he does. His scowl deepens.

“I know,” he says. “I’m not shabla stupid, buir.”

“Don’t—”

“Yes, don’t talk like that, alright, I won’t,” Boba says impatiently. Jango snorts—he doubts it. His son continues. “But what’s he doing here, dad?”

For a beat, they just stare at each other. Jango sighs.

“His face is too well-known,” Jango ends up saying. It’s not a lie. “And the child—well. He was out on the docks. I’ll find him a place in a transport and that’ll be it.”

“Buir,” Boba starts. He glances at the kitchen—they can hear the Jedi talking softly. He opens his mouth, seems to think better about whatever he was going to say, closes it again.

Jango doesn’t sigh, but he feels the muscles in his back relax. He gestures to the mess on the table.

“Are you done with—?”

“No,” Boba answers. He scowls, and suddenly he’s just Jango’s teenage son, sulky and annoyed by homework and school. “It’s so kr-ka-hecking stupid.”

“Good save,” Jango says. Boba rolls his eyes. “Need help?”

Boba shakes his head.

“No, it’s just—boring.”

Jango raises an eyebrow. Alright.

He leaves Boba in the living room and returns to the kitchen. Kenobi’s done feeding the baby, and he’s trying to put him to sleep, walking around the room with the child held against his shoulder. Jango stares at him for a beat and then approaches his buy’ce, still on the table.

Kenobi tracks him with tired eyes. He’s on edge, wary, but he doesn’t look especially anxious. Jango can’t tell if it’s overconfidence, that he thinks he knows more than he does, or pure exhaustion. He watches Jango, his face blank; Jango stares back.

“There’s food in the conservator,” he finally says. Kenobi blinks. “You should use the ‘fresher.”

He puts his buy’ce on and clicks on the HUD. The baby is a small ball of warmth against Kenobi’s slightly colder frame.

“Where’re you going?” Kenobi asks.

“Out.” Jango opens his mouth and pauses. “Boba’s in the other room. Ask him if you need anything.”

“We can’t stay here,” Kenobi replies. The child huffs, and he shushes him again until he settles down again. “I need to find us passage out of here.”

“Where?”

“Where what?”

Jango can’t believe he’s doing what he’s doing.

“Where are you going? I can have someone ask around.”

Kenobi blinks. For the first time since he got there, he seems genuinely surprised. It doesn’t last; he scowls, his eyes suddenly cold.

“I don’t know what you’re playing at, Fett,” he says. “But that’s none of your business.”

Jango tilts his head. He’s not wrong.

“Use the ‘fresher,” he tells Kenobi. “And then you’re out. Tell the captain of whichever vessel you choose I’ve sent you, they’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

And then Jango leaves. He returns to the docks, to his cantina. The officers noticed his absence, but they leave him alone—they must be able to tell he’s not in the mood for their particular brand of banthashit. Jango sits on his corner of the bar, asks for another glass of tihaar, and lifts his buy’ce barely enough for him to take a sip.

He sends a message to one of his people on the docks, warns them about Kenobi and the baby, and then he just—waits. Whiles away the hours watching people, looking at the crowd out on the hangars and inside his bar, listening to the music, and just trying not to think too hard.

He isn’t worried about the fact that he left Kenobi with Boba. He trusts his son—he’s clever and he’s well trained—and he might be overestimating himself, but he knows he’s good at reading people, and Kenobi isn’t the kind of man who’d hurt a child.

Jango drinks and he thinks and then he finishes his glass of liquor and asks for a second one. The clone troopers walk across the entrance of the bar, the three-men squads indistinguishable from each other, and the thing is: Jango recognises that pattern. He was the one to teach them that specific pattern. He recognises the way they walk, the easy, competent way they hold their weapons.

He watched them practice and train until they could do it half-asleep, out of their minds with hunger and boredom. It hasn’t been such a long time: five years ago, his life was transforming these men he can now see terrorizing the crowd without even trying from children into the best soldiers the galaxy has ever seen or will ever see.

Tihaar is strong, and Jango doesn’t actually drink very often. He stops himself when he catches himself thinking about a third glass, the cantina overwarm and too crowded and too noisy.

Jango never thought it would feel like this. He never thought revenge would make him—happy. But he’d never guessed he’d feel this empty and bitter and exhausted. He would just like to be done with it, but that's the thing: he’s been done for years. It’s been over for twenty years. He’s just been too slow to catch up.

“Another one, boss?” the waitress asks him. Jango sighs inside his buy’ce and shakes his head.

“Enough for me today. Thanks.”

The woman laughs softly. She leans on the bar, her elbows chapped and dry. She’s Twi’lek and one of the smartest people Jango has ever met.

“Bad day?” she asks, voice full of sympathy. Jango snorts.

“You could say that.”

Jango says goodbye to her and turns to face the door. He’s half across the bar, his mind on his home, on Boba and Kenobi, when one of the clone troopers steps into the room. He isn’t alone. There’s an orange pauldron on his left shoulder and he stands straight, his rifle in one hand and a datapad in the other. He finds Jango quickly and easily, and when he moves towards him the crowd parts in front of him as if he were made of hot plasma.

“Trooper,” Jango says when the clone stops in front of him. The clone pauses. It might be something in Jango’s voice, clearly one of theirs despite the buy’ce’s distortion and his age, but something changes in his demeanor. “Any trouble?”

“No, sir,” the trooper replies.

That means that not yet.

Jango frowns.

“We’re looking for a dangerous traitor,” the trooper says. Jango doesn’t react. “He’s suspected of having entered this establishment.”

“There are no traitors here, trooper,” Jango replies. “But you’re welcome to look.”

They’ll be thorough. They’ll ask around. Jango feels cold and—alive. He isn’t scared. He trained those kids, and whatever happened to make them like this has blunted them. They’re effective, they’re competent, they’re extremely good at their jobs—but he knows they used to be better.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” the trooper answers. He gestures to the men at his back, and the other two troopers begin weaving through the bar, still together, stopping at each and every table except at the officers’. They keep drinking, like whatever’s happening doesn’t actually concern them.

Jango wonders if the kid recognises him. He never trained most of the batches—he had a hand in the training programmes, oversaw some of the officer groups and taught the Alpha class, but that was it.

“Anything else, trooper?” he asks the clone.

The trooper stares at him for a beat—Jango can tell by the way he cocks his helmet.

“No, sir. Goodnight, sir.”

Jango tilts his buy’ce and leaves.

He feels—heavy and tired. Around him, the hangars, the rest of his station, they look more crowded and busy than usual. There are more people out on the streets, and most the ships on the docks are getting ready to leave.

Kenobi’s face looks down at him from most of the notice boards. It’s an old picture—he looks handsome and proper, the ideal image of a Jedi, his red hair carefully combed and his beard tidy. He’s smiling slightly at the camera, and his eyes are distant but warm.

The bounty they’re offering for his head is—ridiculous. Someone down in the Core must really hate his guts. It’s barely been a couple months.

*

Jango gets home. There’s no one in the apartment. He blinks at the empty rooms, stares at the living room table, still messy, and then clicks on his HUD, switches on the noise receptors—there’s no one there.

He goes to his son’s room—his things are still there: his beskar’gam, his datapads, his favourite shoes, the blaster he thinks Jango doesn't know about.

Jango clicks off his HUD.

He exits the bedroom. Returns to the apartment door and closes and locks it. Looks around himself: despite the messy table, everything is as it was when he left.

His comm pings. Jango sends the message to his HUD with a blink. It’s Boba: Kenobi left soon after Jango did. His son is with some friends.

Jango looks into the kitchen. There is a sheet of flimsi on the table, a stylus next to it. It looks like someone—Kenobi?—grabbed it from the table in the living room. There are some scribbled equations on the back, his son’s hand messy and familiar, and that’s it. Like Kenobi thought about leaving a note and then changed his mind and just—left.

Jango takes off his buy’ce and drops heavily on one of the chairs, flimsi still in his hand. He’s tired and honestly kind of drunk and—drained. He looks around his empty home and knows, without a shadow of doubt, that Boba’s with the Jedi, that he’s taken it upon himself to guide him and his charge to the docks.

Jango feels old. He feels empty and, strangely, like he’s just been robbed of something.

But he isn’t, that’s the thing: it can’t be.

Jango has everything he has ever wanted.