Chapter 1: Entrance
It was just past dusk and darkness was settling in when Mando told her they were getting close.
He set the ship down a ways out of city limits and led her into town, down twisting alleyways cutting through enough sharp turns and strange passage ways that Cara wondered how he ever remembers it all. With each turn a little more light slipped away until Cara was quite sure they're underground now, finding herself latching a hand to his cloak to avoid losing him in the darkness. Mando kept walking, navigating the endless corridors as though they were his home, which to him, she supposed, they are.
Finally she spotted a light in the distance, a torch, and beside it stood a Mandalorian who managed to make even Mando look quite small.
Mando glanced back at her. "Stay behind me."
Given that the other Mandalorian sported a blaster on his shoulder big enough to disintegrate her on the spot, and given that Cara was running alarmingly low on both weapons and energy, she was not disinclined to agree.
Mando greeted the other, exchanging a few words. The other Mandalorian's gaze fell upon her, somewhat accusatorily, and never had Cara wished more that she understood Mando'a.
What sounded like a brief argument occurred, and listening closely, she managed to catch a few words.
Well, she could be relatively certain they were talking about her then.
"-Kyrbej Burc'ya-"(something?) friend
Mando was explaining why he brought her. She recognized a few other words as something she had heard him say before, but she couldn't quite place the meaning.
Eventually the large Mandalorian gave her another once over before nodding, and stepping aside and reaching for something from his belt.
"Aliit ori'shya tal'din." The large Mandalorian took a key and unlocked the door that had been behind him.
Cara followed Mando through the door, momentarily blinded by the influx of light and the chattering noise that erupted from the doorway. When her eyes adjusted, she became aware that she had just stepped into a massive room chalk full of more Mandalorians than she'd ever seen - all of whom happened to be staring directly at them. No, not at them. At her. Her face, more specifically.
She felt the heat rushing to her cheeks. and ducked her head at the attention.
Looking out, she saw that every face was covered, if not by an armored helmet, then by something of a cloth covering that showed nothing but the eyes.
Within a few seconds, the Mandalorians resumed their chatting and working, but still, an uncomfortable number of eyes lingered on her form. Especially the curious gazes of the children, amongst which was Grogu, happily cooing away as the children played with him. Din didn't often leave him behind, but he'd had a feeling this particular mission would go to crap, and he'd been right. Cara watched him greet Grogu, then the other children as well, who still looked decidedly less interested in him than they did her.
Cara hadn't realized she froze until Mando gently tugged at her sleeve, pulling her forwards, farther into the room. He led her back to a doorway behind the room that opened up into a series of hallways. Before long they stopped in front of a room. Though a cloth curtain partially concealed what lay within the room, Cara could see the glow of a fire, along with part of a rather regal looking Mandalorian tending to the flames.
Catching his arm, she stopped him from entering.
"Din," He turned to her, "I'm called Din here."
"Din, then. They don't seem to like me very much, and I don't want to cause you problems with your clan. Don't you think it'd be better if I-"
"You are safe here and you are no trouble" Din assured, "Now, come on. We have to report in."
Beads clinked the stone walls as Din pushed the curtain aside and gestured for her to enter. Cara followed him until they stood in front of a low table that sat directly across from the fire and the regal looking Mandalorian. Beside her, Din knelt, a gloved hand resting on each knee. After a moment's hesitation, Cara followed suit. She was more aware of her bare face than ever now, feeling the Mandalorian's gaze burning into her somehow, despite being unable to catch the woman's eyes herself. Once the Mandalorian, the armorer, Cara realized, took her place at the other end of the table, Din spoke.
"For the foundlings." He said, placing a number of credits onto the table which Cara knew amounted to nearly all he processed.
So that's why his ship is always so kriffed up,She thought.
"They thank you, as always Din Djarin." the armorer took the credits, stowing them in a pouch at her side. Din ducked his head in something akin to a bow.
The armorer turned to look at Cara. "You have taken acyare?"
Cara wasn't sure what acyarewas, but Din nearly choked in reaction to it.
"Um- no, she's-" Din stumbled over his words
"Burc'ya." Cara supplied, desperately hoping she wasn't making a fool of herself. "I'm hisburc'ya."
"You speak Mando'a?" the armorer turned to her, helmet tipping slightly, interested.
"No, just pieces. Words." A moment of silence followed her response, and Cara's gaze dropped to the table, uncomfortable once again, at the attention given her.
The armorer looked back to Din and spoke a few more phrases, questions, in Mando'a. Somehow being left out of the conversation she had no doubt was about her was equally undesirable, and suddenly the fire beside them became quite fascinating. Din replied to the armorer and Cara couldn't help but notice the ease with which the words rolled from his tongue. It made sense in a way, that he was so quiet usually. Basic was his third language after all. It's no surprise he wouldn't feel comfortable with it. Din was still precise, she could tell, using only as many words as necessary to get his point across, but there was no hesitance, no lag time in his speech. Not like there was in Basic.
Then, as quickly as it had begun, the conversation was over and the armorer stood.
"Rise." She said.
Din and Cara stood. The armorer looked at both of them.
"Vodto Djarin isvodto all." the armorer stated, "You will be welcome here now, and always. This is the way."
"This is the way." Din agreed.
"You have seen much. Go to thebaar'ur," the armorer looked to Cara, "the medics. They will see to your injuries. I will send someone to prepare your rooms."
"Vor'e." Din bowed his head.
Thank you.Cara's mind supplied, bowing her head as well.
They turned to leave and were only a few feet from the door when the armorer was heard again.
"Paz will want to see you."
Din nodded, and led Cara out the door.
"Who is Paz?" Cara asked, once they again walked through those dark, endless stone hallways.
"He isori'vod. My older brother."
"I didn't know you had a brother." Cara said, "He was rescued with you?"
"No, he's not a foundling. He is clan born."
The exhaustion of the day, and the battle that had caused their need to go to the Covert was beginning to take its toll on her. Her body ached and she felt the stretch of a blaster burn against her shoulder. Mando's- Din's- she corrected- armor had been damaged and was in need of more repair than he could confidently handle himself. That, and their hyperdrive was kriffed, which meant they had to stay in system until they'd fixed it. It was sheer luck that the Covert happened to be here.
Cara found her mind drifting and she almost didn't notice when Din slipped past a curtain into one of the rooms lining the hall.
The room was mostly bare, only a few cots lining the wall along with a set of cabinets. There were two Mandalorians there, one taking Din's shoulder, and the other, hers, guiding them each down to a cot.
Cara sat as instructed, and she wished for a moment she'd been led to sit beside Din. Somehow staring into cold beskar wasn't particularly comforting when having her injuries inspected. It occurred to her that it would be no different if Din was next to her, it would still be just cold beskar. Somehow though, silly enough, she'd grown to think of his helmet as being his face. His helmet was different somehow, and it was significantly more inviting than the one that hovered before her.
Even so, the touch of the Mandalorian medic, though experienced, was gentle and Cara found herself eventually relaxing, interrupted with single "dank ferrick!" when the medic happened upon a particularly tender part of her wound. Closing her eyes as she leaned against the wall. She was safe. Safe here.
Soon enough it was determined that while neither Din nor Cara possessed any particularly severe injuries, the worst being Cara's minor concussion, they had apparently accrued enough scrapes and bruises to warrant being told to take it easy for a while, followed up by some light pain meds.
A Mandalorian woman entered the room and walked to Cara, greeting her warmly.
"I am Faik. I'm here to show you to your enclave."
Cara looked back to Din, who nodded.
"I'll see you again at last meal, I need to see the kid," he said, "Faik will get you cleaned up."
Cara nodded, swallowing dryly. She wasn't sure what about all this was so difficult for her. Usually she was just fine around new cultures, but- this was Din's, and she didn't want to kark it up. Everything that had happened thus far had felt vaguely familiar and yet so foreign at the same time. There were things she recognized from the little Din had told her about his people, but she had never actually seen any of it herself.
She followed Faik to a small room that contained a cot and a small closet. She stood in the room, feeling a little lost and out of place.
"I put some clothes there in the closet for you. The ones you're wearing are rather dirty and could probably use some mending."
Cara watched her flit about the room, fixing little things, rambling on a bit.
Her slowing mind noted that Din was the exception rather than the rule when it came to rate of speech.
"I figure you'll probably want to wash before last meal." Faik said, "I was about to head there myself. I can show you where, if you'd like?"
Cara knew she must look a mess, she could feel the grime coating her, but she was dead on her feet and that cot looked awfully soft and comfortable... A nap would do her good, and it was definitely a lot less effort.
She was drug out of her thoughts again by Faik's voice.
"Come on. You should wash. Can't have that blaster burn getting infected. There will be time enough to nap later."
Faik was right of course. It wouldn't do to get sick because of a stupid decision. Cara nodded numbly and scooped up the stack of clothes on the shelf, wondering briefly what the outfit looked like before deciding she didn't care.
Chapter 2: Bath Time
Mandalorians are a strange people. Also, Grogu likes water, Paz is observant, and foundlings are cute.
After entering the bath house, Cara learned very quickly that while Mandalorians were scrupulous about never showing their face, they were not particularly concerned about any other part of anatomy.
There was a small booth in the corner of the steamy room with a water basin where Mandalorian women seemed to wash their face and swap out their helmet for a cloth headwrap/mask. When they exited, they placed their helmets along a bench. Clean clothes were placed in a neat pile to right of the helmet, and right there, in front of everyone, dirty clothes were removed and crumpled to the left of the helmet.
Cara was not a particularly shy person. She was a soldier, and as such had done what was necessary, when it was necessary. But communal showers in the military weren't something one lingered around in. It was a get in, get clean, get out type of deal. Here, women lounged about the steaming water, chatting with each other about as much as they washed themselves.
She felt her cheeks get warm as she followed suit. She had removed her armor earlier, when she'd been in her enclave, but now everything else came off. Resisting the temptation to cover herself, she felt incredibly bare as she followed Faik around to the pool entrance, especially as all the women stared at her. They were looking at her face, she knew, but it seemed to make no difference to her rapidly coloring face. Anxious to get into the water, which would provide at least a little privacy, she sank into the pool.
The warm waters did wonders for her sore muscles, releasing knots she didn't know she had. But the relaxation only made it up to her shoulders. As uncomfortable with the situation as she was, she couldn't help but to take in the visible eyes of the women around her. Eyes that would be replaced by beskar before even leaving the room. Some of the women had a thinner, mesh cloth covering their eyes, others had their eyes uncovered. Cara wondered what made the difference. It was comforting, she supposed, to finally have it confirmed that, yes, Mandalorians did indeed possess faces. It humanized them, or rather... people-ized them. Most were human, but not all.
Cara saw what she thought was a twi'lek woman and she couldn't help but wonder how one might fashion a helmet to fit the woman's lekku.
Shortly after Cara left the med bay, Din saw Paz enter with Grogu rapidly in pursuit. He gurggled and cooed as he toddled up, attaching himself to Din's calf.
Din picked Grogu up, holding him in front of him eye level.
"Been keeping an eye on myori'vod, huhad'ika?" Din held Grogu against his chest, having disposed of his armor previously.
"He was anxious to see you," Paz said, "as was I. They didn't tell me when you came before. I wouldn't have known you'd been here if it wasn't for the little one."
"We didn't leave on the greatest terms if you recall."
"We didn't." Paz agreed, "But you know I can never stay angry with you,Din'ika."
Din made a show of grumbling at the suffix, but in reality he appreciated the sentiment. And honestly, he might have gone to see Paz on his patrol, had the mission not been time sensitive. While hisori'vodwas forgiving, he did have quite the temper and it was nearly impossible to tell how long it might take to cool after any one incident.
"I am glad you are home." Paz clapped a hand on his shoulder, "Come. You smell worse than bantha dung."
Din let out a huff, but followed Paz to the bath house. He really did smell like bantha dung.
He settled into the waters of the near empty bath house and feeling the gentle ripples, he knew Paz had walked in aside him.
They settled into the familiar rhythm of their youth, Paz describing the events of his day, Din humming in acknowledgement as they cleaned themselves, letting the smooth Mando'a tongue settle in his ears.
"Who is this woman you bring?"Paz asked, standing to get them towels as they exited the water.
"Ah, the Cara that helped you retrieve this little one?"Paz plucked Grogu from the shallow tub of water sitting aside the pool, clobbering him with a towel. Grogu gave a dissatisfied grunt.
"He likes water,"Din took Grogu from Paz, "It's helped me narrow down the search for his home."
"Hm."Paz rubbed the towel along his arms. "You trust this Cara."
"With my buy'ce."Din replied.
Paz walked into the corner booth. He exited a moment later with his helmet on.
"It was a statement, not a question, brother."
Faik motioned for Cara to approach her and small group of women.
"Come, it's warmer here."
Hesitantly, Cara went to the women.
"This is Bheba, Zhae, and Irelk." Faik introduced, "Bheba and Zhae are clan born, but Irelk hails from Alderaan."
Cara's head turned to Irelk. "Alderaan?"
"Yes," Irelk nodded, "You know of it?"
"I was born there." Cara said, "I was off world when The Disaster happened..."
"The last time I was there, I was a child." Irelk reflected, "Only 8 standard."
"What happened?" Cara asked.
"My parents were gunned down after trying to trade with the wrong people. I would have been too, had mybuirnot found me."
Conversation turned lighter as Cara and Irelk shared relics of their youth. They'd not lived near enough to have met in childhood, but near enough that some cities and landmarks were recognizable to them both.
And then, when each had shared a story, they were done.
Turning to the clothes laid out on the bench, she first took the blouse. The rich red color of it was a far cry from her usual teal and black, but she welcomed the warmth. Leaving the water had set a slight chill to her. The front of the blouse laced up, she noted, as did the blouses of the other women, but they all laced theirs differently.
Recognizing Cara's hesitance, Faik explained, gently pulling the leather cord form her hand.
"All Mandalorian blouses are laced. Thewayit is laced represents youraliit. Your clan."
"I'm not Mandalorian."
"You aren't." Faik agreed, "but you do have a clan if you choose to recognize it."
"I don't understand."
"You are here asburc'yaahDin." Faik explained, "TheMando'adedo not take such terms lightly. To say one isburc'ya,a friend, is to claim one asvod. As family."
Cara let the words sink in.
"You are not Mandalorian, so you may lace however you wish." Faik said, "But I can show you to lace for clan Mudhorn if you choose to claim him asvodin return."
Family. Mando had claimed her as family. Briefly, Cara wondered if it had just been to get her into the covert, if he was just claiming her in words so that they had somewhere to go. But these people, this culture were sacred to Din. He wouldn't do something like that. If he didn't mean it, he would have just left her back on the razor crest while he went to see the Covert. But he didn't. He claimed her, and she would claim him in return.
Faik's eyes crinkled, in what Cara guessed was a smile, and she began to lace up her blouse for her, slowly, so Cara could see how it was done.
Despite Mando'ade lack of care about nudity, they did seem to have a thing about not touching bare skin, so that wasn't just a Din thing. It occurred to her that while she imagined many of the eccentricities Din had could easily be explained by the Covert's code and Mando'ade culture, she wondered just how many were actually just Din things. His personal preferences.
The bath house was only for females, and she assumed there was a male version that mirrored it somewhere. Being female, Cara had never seen much more than Din's wrists unless he was injured, but she couldn't help but wonder if when there were only males on the Razor Crest, they saw an eye full more than expected.
"You have a question, Cara?"
Jumping back to the real world, Cara shook her head.
"Um- well. You don't show your faces," Cara began, "and I'd just kind of always imagined you'd be rather conservative about-" Cara gestured down along her body, "-everything else."
"Oh. I suppose that would be confusing." Faik looked almost amused, finishing up with a knot at the top of the lacing. "Mando'ade believe that the face is keeper of the soul. When we wear our helmets or our masks, we all look the same. We become one. Though our bodies be different-"
"You are of but one soul." Cara said, echoing something Din had said. "I think I understand. I imagine it also helps to be used to bodies when treating wounds."
Faik nodded, "Din chooses hisburc'yawisely, I see."
"How do you mean?"
"Not all can understand and accept our ways, at least not so easily."
"I was a shock trooper, and a lot of the things you Mandalori- Mando'ade-" Cara corrected herself, "do, are just military philosophies taken one step further. I'll admit they're a bit strange to me, but they make sense."
"I am glad you think so."
They were nearing Cara's enclave now.
"Get some rest, CaraDin'burc'ya." Faik said, "You have much more to learn tonight. I will send a foundling to wake you come last meal."
Faik lowered her head as she backed out of the room, and Cara lowered hers in response. Cara was lucky that bowing was an Alderaanian custom as well. At least she could be confident that she wasn't disrespecting anyone by accident.
Flopping onto the cot, Cara noted another thing that she had thought was Mandalorian, but must just be a Din thing. Din used a ridiculous number of blankets on his cot in the Razor Crest, but not a single pillow. He always made himself something of a blanket nest and then curled up inside of it, which looks quite ridiculous when one still has a helmet on and is coated in shiny, bulky beskar.
Cara's cot contained a nicenormalnumber of blankets, and a pillow, all of which were laid out smoothly across the cot. Yes, blanket nests were just a Din thing.
Cara let herself linger on the thought as she drifted to a much needed sleep.
"Do the honors tonight, brother?"Paz asked, "Grogu will adore you."
"He already does."Din stated, staring down at the little green growth on his leg.
"Yes, of course, but he likes fire even more."
Din hummed in agreement,"Fine. I'll light it tonight. But not tomorrow. Can't have you getting out of your chores."
Paz smirked. "Better get started then."
Picking up Grogu, Din started towards the main room of the Covert. Stacked in the corner was a pile of firewood that would be enough for tonight at least. Initially, Din took a large armload of the wood and started towards the center, only to be instantly reminded that he had in fact participated in a mission today. His ribs, though not broken, were quite battered on his left side, and they protested his movement. The next armload of wood he got was considerably smaller.
Din heard Paz's voice float from the doorway, just a touch of concern in his tone. "You saw thebaar'ur?"
Din nodded, but continued working. "Bruised, not broken. I'm fine."
Paz hummed, "I'll send the foundlings to help you."
Sure enough, Din found himself surrounded by foundlings, including Grogu, only a few moments later, all eager to please. He directed them on how to properly lean the logs against each other to create a fire that would burn the longest with the least maintenance.
For the first few minutes, Grogu just sort of sat there, watching, but eventually he toddled up alongside one of the younger foundlings who was struggling to carry a log towards the fire pit, and held out his tiny hand, focusing intently. Suddenly, the log appeared to become quite a bit lighter, and the foundling gave Grogu a fond pat on his fuzzy little head in appreciation.
And if Din smiled beneath his helmet, well, no one could prove that.
Soon enough, the logs were stacked to Din's standards. Now came the fun part. Paz removed his vambrace and tossed it to Din, since Din's was currently being repaired.
"Stand back behind me." Din motioned for the foundlings to scoot back as he put on the vambrace. The vambrace was definitely far, far too big, but it would work if he held it in place. Din picked up Grogu.
"Want to press the button,ad'ika?"
Grogu cooed, then joyfully pressed the button, igniting the flamethrower and eliciting awed gasps from the foundlings. Din waved the thrower around, making sure to get all sides of the wood thoroughly on fire.
Chapter 3: Spotchka and Stories
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Cara awoke to see eyes above her. Her hand itched towards a blaster that thankfully wasn't there, because she realized that the eyes above her were a child's, bright, and laden with curiosity.
"Last meal." the foundling said, "Faik sent me."
"Did she send you to stare at me?" Cara grunted, as she sat up.
"No. I do that myself."
Well, apparently bluntness is not just a Din thing.
The foundling girl continued to stand there, staring at her, looking increasingly antsy.
"Alright, I'm coming, I'm coming." Cara slipped on her boots, and followed the foundling girl out of the room.
"Where are we going?"
"The kitchens." The foundling responded enthusiastically, "Faik is there."
Suddenly, the foundling stopped and turned to her.
"Why do you not wear a buy'ce? Was it removed of you?"
"I'm not Mando'ade." Cara explained, "Just Din's burc'ya."
Cara attempted to judge the age of the foundling, but the cloth mask made it difficult. She was probably something of seven standard or so. Depending on how old she was when she was found, it was perfectly possible she'd never seen an outsider before. Cara knew, from what Din had told her, that children weren't usually allowed outside of the covert until they were 10 standard.
They came to the kitchens, and Cara was bombarded with the smells of peppers so strong they stung her eyes.
"Cara, join us. We all pull our weight here." Faik said, gesturing to a number of mandalorians, both men and women, who were chopping away at various vegetables.
Within seconds, Cara was handed a knife and a large stack of vegetables.
"I'm not much of a cook." Cara said, trying to hand the vegetables back.
"Ah, but you're certainly good at slicing and stabbing things." Faik said, "These things just happen not to be sentient."
Cara couldn't argue with that logic, and she found herself hilt deep in something that roughly resembled an Alderaanian leek. Her favorite vegetable, actually.
Apparently following Cara's eyes, Faik said, "Din requested me put extra this time. I don't know what for - he'd never cared for them much as anadiik,as a child."
Soon enough, Faik determined enough vegetables had been chopped, and the broth that filled an enormous pot had come to a boil. Cara, along with each mandalorian, carried a bucket of raw, chopped vegetables into the main room of the covert, thekaryai,Faik had explained.
Upon entering, Cara saw that a rolling fire had been built up in a line spanning most of the room, leaving some space at the edges for walking around. The smoke funneled up into a large flue directly above. Foundlings and clan born children roughhoused by firelight, wrestling in good fun, but trying to show off their skills all the same.
Making her way towards the fire, Cara observed as Mandalorians migrated into the room from all directions, coming somewhere from the depths of the covert. She heard Din's voice, and saw him reclined against the stairs near largest entrance to the room opposite of her. He sat near another man, both of them watching the foundlings who were clearly trying to impress them, particularly Din, it appeared. Grogu toddled around near by, wanting to be in on the action, but not quite big enough or strong enough to participate quite yet.
Suddenly, a cry of surprise broke out, shortly followed by a ring of laughter. Cara couldn't help but join in herself.
"Grogu, no. Stop. Put him down." Din did his best to be stern, he really did. A strangled sounding laugh broke through anyway. The Mandalorian beside him didn't even try to hide it, giving into a full belly laugh.
Grogu's head whipped around upon hearing his name, and with a disappointed gleam in his eyes, he dropped both the flailing foundlings to the ground. Turns out levitation was something the foundlings hadn't quite learned to combat yet. The girl gave an indignant squawk upon her release, rapidly returning to herbuir, and the boy just scuttled away backward.
Din got the message when Grogu shot his little grabby fingers towards him, making little mumbly noises of apology and discontent.
"I'm not mad at you, ad'ika. You were clever." Din said, "You just need to learn not to gloat. Levitating them was fine, spinning them around was unnecessary."
"Spinning them around waskriffing brilliant!"The larger Mandalorian exclaimed.
Unfortunately, Cara's meager knowledge of Mando'a was insufficient to understand Din's response, but it certainly sounded like a rebuke, and she caught the name Paz.
So this is the long spoken of Paz. Din had previously described their relationship as rocky, but rocky in a consistent way. There were many things they would never agree upon, but when it came down to it they had each other's back.
Cara heard her name called from the kitchens, and tearing her eyes away from Din and Paz, she went.
Faik handed Cara two large pitchers of spotchka before picking up two of her own.
"Usually it's just water or tea, but Paz declared that Din's visit warranted a treat. And naturally, I agreed." Faik said, "I'm never one to pass up some good spotchka."
"What will the kids drink?"
"Ah, it's up to thebuirs.I bring out a pitcher of juice for the younger ones, some of the older ones might talk their way into some watered down spotchka," Faik shrugged, "No harm's come of it yet."
They carried out the pitchers, which earned some attention and exclamations of joy from those who noticed the blue gleam seeping from the pitchers. The mandalorians bustled into a neat line behind the table they sat them at, eagerly awaiting access to the drink.
"The vegetables are in the pot and the drinks are on the table," Faik said, "Time to join the fun."
After pouring herself a cup of spotchska, she flipped up a straw from the side of the tin cup and shoved it up under her helmet, downing it in one long drag before she poured another cup. The cup wasn't small either. Cara couldn't help but be impressed.
"So much better than that kriffingne'tra gal." Faik shook her head, "That black ale is one of the few traditions that should have died with the ancients."
Faik shoved two cups into her hand, tilting her head towards Din on the other side of the room. "Make sure thatdi'kut, thatidiot, drinks too. It's his party."
Cara smirked, offering a stern salute with a cup full of spotchka, followed up by two of the few words she'd picked up so far. "Elek, al'verde."Yes, commander.
Paz stood over a huddle of foundlings, cup of spotchka in hand, animatedly relaying aclearlyexaggerated story of one of his and Din's many misadventures as adiik. The rolling fire and swirling smoke behind him only served to assist the thrill, the foundlings staring up in awe as he went about his tale.
Cara saw that Din still sat where he'd been earlier, reclined against the stairs, watching Grogu squeal in delight as Paz's story continued. His head flicked to Cara as she approached, taking a seat next to him.
Din began to shake his head but stopped, his eyes catching on the leather lacing her blouse. He drew a gloved hand up to the leather trailing from the knot, gently sliding his thumb along the surface as he held it.
"Faik showed me how. She said it was your clan's design."
Din murmured agreement, slowly releasing the cord and accepting the drink she pressed in his hand. They sat in silence for awhile, sipping away at their spotchka while enjoying Paz's stories and Grogu's response to them. At the climax of a particularly suspenseful story, Grogu let out a fascinated coo. He made grabby hands at Paz, who picked him up immediately, using him as a prop for the story. Grogu helped with sound effects, although all of them sounded suspiciously like coos, gurgles, and giggles.
Din shook his head with fondness.
"The kid doesn't understand a word Paz's saying, ya know that?" Din shook his head with fondness, "But he sure can tell it's exciting."
Okay, so I'm just making sure you guys understand what this fire is supposed to look like because I did a crap job of explaining it. It doesn't look like this "O" it looks like this "- - -". A nice long line of fire going through the center of a roundish room. Din and Paz were right at the end of the line, opposite to where Cara had come from. Is my imagination specific? Yes, of course. Incredibly. Do I know how to explain it? Rarely.
Short chapter this time, but it seemed like a good stopping point.
Chapter 4: Tipsy Mandalorians Are Good Fun
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
As it turns out, tipsy Mandalorians are quite entertaining.
Once they had a few drinks in them, it was no longer only the foundlings roughhousing by the fire. A few adults had joined in, allowing the older foundlings to test their skills on larger, more aggressive targets. The alcohol consumed by the adults slowed their reactions a bit and made for a more level playing field, as well as provided an excellent excuse to fall back on if the foundling actually managed to win the scuffle. Full armor was forbidden in the fights, and blows, while not pulled per say, were not meant to debilitate. It was not unlike lionesses teaching their cubs to hunt. Which, Cara supposed, was essentially what it was.
She had hoped the alcohol would loosen Din's tongue, and it did to a certain degree. Cara had never seen him drink before, but he was clearly no stranger to it, just as she had expected. She could feel his body relax beside her as he started to feel the buzz.
That seemed to be most Mandalorians' preferred state. Buzzed, but not enough so to dull awareness. Cara noted with interest that there were several Mandalorians not partaking, and all were seated near the doors of the Covert, guarding the people within.
Music erupted in the background as the covert's elders began another strange song with their string instruments. The strangeness of the song wasn't so much in the song itself as it was the fact that it was played by a smattering of instruments from different planets. Some she recognized, some she didn't, and none had been designed to work well together and yet - It did. The music was jovial and lively, and exactly suited to the (currently) talkative people who listened. Strange, definitely a bit of a patchwork, but beautiful all the same.
Cara's attention was drawn back to the real world upon Paz's approach. Briefly gazing at her, he turned and spoke to Din in Mando'a. Din translated.
"He said, 'shall we test the lady's mettle?'" Din turned to Paz, "Bad idea. She's got a concussion."
"Let her speak for herself."
Cara eyes flit between the two of them before downing the rest of her drink and shoving the empty cup in Din's hand.
"Bacta's done it's work." She shoved the empty cup into Din's hand, "I'm good to go a few rounds." Cara could almost hear Paz's smug smile. She could definitely hear Din's annoyed sigh.
"Quit your grumbling, brother," Paz planted a hand on Cara's shoulder as he led her away from the steps. He looked over his shoulder once they stopped. "You can take on the winner."
"What? You're volunteering me for another round?" Cara rolled her eyes.
"I like this one." Paz nodded in appreciation, "She has muchcopad." Again, Cara could hear the cocky smile in Paz's voice. She wasn't sure what"copad"meant, but she felt confident she knew the proper response.
"You gonna stop talking or is this just a verbal assault?"
Cara knew several things for sure.
1. Paz was much larger than she was.
2. Paz was much stronger than she was.
3. There was no way in hell she was letting him win.
Mandalorians have it trained into them to analyze patterns in battles and adjust accordingly. Paz knew she was Alderaniaan and knew she was a dropper, so she would give him Alderaniaan dropper.
It was tougher than Cara thought it would be, limiting herself to only the basics of her training. She'd learned so much since leaving the droppers, especially since joining Din. Not that Paz was to know that - yet.
Paz was tense, initially. He played with her, much the same way a cat would play with a mouse, testing to see what would make her scurry. She played the game with him, and despite his minute adjustments, his style was still clearly Mandalorian with few outside influences. Makes sense for a man so loyal to his tribe and the Way. It also meant that he was predictable. Or at least, more so than she was.
Once he got a feel for what he thought was the realm of her abilities, Paz relaxed, let his guard down. When he started anticipating her strikes, Cara knew she'd won the match.
Cara feinted a strike and ducked around Paz's block and counter before using a open handed strike to the kidney that was decidedly not that of a dropper. To Paz's credit, he rebounded more quickly than she suspected, catching her in an arm lock. A well placed back kick resolved that problem quickly, however.
By now, Paz had begun to catch on. He kicked it up a notch, realizing she was more formidable than she'd let on. He let out a flurry of strikes, likely to see how much Cara could track at once. Thankfully, Cara had speed and agility on her side, and was able to avoid all but a fist to the jaw. She quickly regained her balance.
Nope. Nope. Can't take it to the floor.
Cara preferred the floor usually, wrestling was always more fun, but it would give Paz far too big of an advantage. On the ground, her speed would not be enough to combat his weight and strength. On the ground, he could essentially just sit on top of her and there wouldn't be much she could do about it. So no. No ground.
Didn't mean she couldn't go aerial though.
Cara backed off, only played defense. Din thought the world of this guy, admired him to death. It only makes sense that... Cara saw Paz getting frustrated the match wasn't moving. She was right. He went for the same exact move she'd seen Din use when he got angry. A poorly planned, poorly executed attempt at some form of charging tackle that barely warranted the name. It wasn't intended to do anything really, she knew, just to get the match moving and convey displeasure, at the very most to get the match, but it provided an excellent opening.
Cara shoved his helmet towards the ground as Paz leaned forwards for the tackle. In the same instant, she jumped and planted her feet on the dead center of his back, face planting him.
Eat dirt, Paz.
Before he could get his wits about him, Cara had him in an arm bar.
"Yield." Cara ordered.
Paz's reply was an attempt to flip her, but a sharp twist to his wrist told him that wasn't a great idea. It didn't take him long to realize he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Cara heard a 3 solid taps of beskar on stone. A yield.
Releasing him from the bar, Cara offered him a hand up. "Good match."
Cara felt his hand clamp on her forearm, and she hauled him up. They both stood there for a moment, catching their breath.
To be fair, Cara would likely not best him in the next match. She'd had surprise on her side this time, and unless he had a very poor memory, she would not have that again.
Returning to their seats, Cara awarded Din a sharp punch in the shoulder. "See, what'did I tell you? Concussion's all healed up."
"It wasn't you I was worried about. Concussions make you kriffin' scary." Din crossed his arms and turned to Paz, "The match was over the moment you managed to clock her."
Clearly the spotchka was loosening his tongue, because that was about as expressive as she'd ever heard Din's voice.
"You think you can do any better?" Paz challenged.
Din tilted his helmet, "Maybe."
Cara smirked, grabbing Din by the shoulder and pushing him towards the room's center.
What did you guys think? We've got Cara settling in a bit, getting a little more comfortable, acting like herself again instead of a deer stuck in headlights. Confidence looks so good on her, doesn't it?
copad = ambition
Chapter 5: Fire is Soft
Din and Cara go head to head, or rather head to helmet. Who will win? Also, Grogu has far more curiosity than is strictly healthy.
Din knew it was a bad idea. He really did. Which is why he couldn't believe he was this stupid when he let Cara tug him down to the fire.
The bacta had done its work, taking a few cracked ribs down to nothing more than some deep bruising, and he was still running off the last of his adrenaline. He hadn't gotten a chance to nap as Cara had, so his body had never hit the reset button. Din was definitely going to regret this in the morning.
But the spotchka was warm in his stomach, and it had long ago dulled the remaining pain in his ribs and chased away a little more of his common sense than he would prefer to admit. And you know, he hadn't sparred with Cara in a long time... It did sound like fun...
Din shook his arms out as he walked, loosening his body up and testing the alcohol's impact on his balance and coordination. He could feel it had affected it, but he'd been careful to drink slow, so it was more than manageable. Provided he did not attempt any spinning kicks or dodges, he should be perfectly capable of handling himself. Plus, Cara had been drinking too, maybe even more than he had, so it would still be a fair fight.
He took a loose fighting stance and waited as Cara did the same. There was no sizing up, as there had been in Cara and Paz's match. They both knew what the other was capable of. Din heard Grogu make an amused coo and a few claps following a kick Cara managed to land on his lower stomach, and Din briefly wondered exactly who hisadi'kawas rooting for. It certainly didn't seem to be him.
Rude little critter. Probably right though.Din narrowly dodged a back fist to the helmet, catching Cara's wrist in a lock up behind her back. Cara responded with a back kick which caught him in just the wrong spot, jarring Din's ribs, and sending a sharp pain through them. His grip remained on her wrist, but his breath caught in his throat and he buckled forwards a bit. The edges of Din's vision wavered a bit, but the pain was already fading and he could tell it wouldn't over take him. Cara didn't have to know that though.
Din weakened his grip on her wrist, buckling himself a little more and letting out a shaky breath.
Take the bait.
Cara turned towards him, bending over slightly with veiled concern.
He rammed his fist up in an upper cut. A brilliant plan, a solid fake out, only -
Cara had been ready for it.
She easily dodged to the side of the attack, leaving Din off balance and vulnerable to a hook kick to the mid-back that sent him sprawling on his hands and knees.
She knows me too well.
Paz seemed to agree, whistling appreciatively.
Din began to right himself, but quickly found that the spotchka was making that a touch more difficult than normal. It didn't slow him down much, but it was enough for Cara to push him back to the floor and land a punch to his beskar as she straddled him.
Definitely knows me too well.
The floor was Cara's domain. If she got you there, and you were under a hundred pounds over her weight, you were done for. But to be honest, the fact that Cara was beating the crap out of him in front of fellow Mando'ade wasn't sitting well and Din wasn't about to let it continue.
Din's hands struck out and caught her by both wrists, hefting his body up and letting the momentum flip her beneath him. He snaked around her, locking her in an arm bar, but quickly found his leg had been trapped between her thighs.
Soon, Cara nearly had herself free of his arm bar, and despite Din's best efforts, he was still quite trapped (Mandalorians certainly aren't known for their flexibility, after all). Thankfully, the time had given Din a moment to plan what to do when Cara disentangled herself from the bar.
A cry split through the room.
Din and Cara's eyes met, sharing the same thought.
They were off the ground in a split second and moving towards the kid's cries.
Apparently Grogu had decided the fire looked awfully soft and cozy, and after sneaking off while the mandalorians watched Din and Cara's match, had decided to pet the fire.
Din swept him up and held him close.
Honestly,Din thought exasperatedly,the kid knew to protect us from the fire back at the cantina, but now he decides to pet it?
Din sighed as he gently wiped the little one's tears.
"Shh... Shh... It's alright now,adi'ka." Din soothed, "You're okay."
Grogu's cries settled to pitiful whimpers, and he stuck out his little hand towards Cara, revealing a small red patch on his palm. Cara took his hand, pulling it to her for a closer look.
"How bad?" Din asked.
"Nothing much, just a little burn." Cara said, "Didn't you teach him not to play with fire?"
"I figured he got the picture after the cantina!"
Cara shook her head, "Apparently not."
"Come on little one, let's get you fixed up. Here, hold him for a second." Din handed Grogu off to Cara before leaving the room.
"What are we going to do with you, little man?" Cara sighed, bouncing the still sniffling green bean in her arms.
Din returned a moment later with the galaxy's smallest bacta patch, pressing it against Grogu's outstretched palm.
"There. All better."
In an instant, Grogu's face changed from pain and despair to joy and the picture of innocence. He turned his head back towards the ground and reached, clearly wishing to be put down. Din nodded.
"Don't play with the fire. It burns you." He said as Grogu toddled away.
Chapter 6: Darasuum
Cara gets a deeper look into Mandalorian culture.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The night continued smoothly, music continuing, and Cara couldn't help but wonder what the elders' voices sounded like without the modulator. Although, with Mandalorian music, clearly everything was an instrument, including said voice modulators, which had been tuned to different pitches to increase the depth of the music. Still, she had to wonder just what their voices, raw and unimpeded, would feel like upon her ears.
She and Din returned to Paz once Grogu had run off again. Cara felt Paz give her a once over and a slight nod of appreciation. Clearly, he'd been impressed with her performance in the match.
"How'd you know to look for the fake?"
"When he's hurt, his grip doesn't get weaker right off the bat. It always gets tighter first." Cara shrugged. "When it stayed the same, then weakened, I knew it was a trick."
"Hm." Paz took a sip of spotchka, " 'magine you've had more than enough time to watch him."
"Watch him? As if I have time to do that." Cara rapped her knuckles against Din's helmet, "I'm too busy bailing him out when he forgets to use anything beneath that beskar."
"Forgets to use his noggin, does he?" Paz asked, "That's not like him." Cara could hear the frown and narrowing eyes in his voice.
"If you had a foundling of your own you'd understand." Din defended, his metal face somehow managing to look annoyed and vaguely offended.
Cara slapped a hand down on Din's shoulder, "Yeah, that little green bean makes his head go a bit wonky."
"What?" Cara asked.
"As if the child doesn't do the same to you? I'm not blind," Paz said, "You sprung up quick as Din did when you heard his cry."
Cara felt a tug on her pants leg and glanced down to see Grogu a hand on her, and a hand in the air. The bacta patch had come loose in his play and was hanging by one side. Kneeling, Cara helped re-stick the patch and sent the little one on his way.
Paz continued his stories, Din occasionally offering his input to correct gross exaggerations, and Cara was fascinated. She was decently confident Din had said more words tonight than she'd heard from him in all the times she'd flown with him put together. She'd have to drink with him more often, now that she knew there was a way to. Honestly, she wasn't sure why he hadn't just asked for a straw all those times they'd been in cantinas. He could have had broth with Grogu, or spotchka with her. There really was nothing to stop him, but still, he hadn't. Cara wondered what made the difference.
Somewhere along the line, Cara began telling a story of her own, of Alderaan, and it soon grew as many enraptured listeners as Paz's had, including Paz himself. Although she wasn't quite as good of a story teller as Paz, the story was new, and When it came to a close, the foundlings erupted with questions about her home world's culture and fighting style, along with questions about herself. How old is Cara? Does she have any siblings?
"I never had any brothers or sisters." Cara's memories turned bitter-sweet at the thought of her family, "Before they died, I imagine my parents thought I was handful enough."
"The armorer said that I had a big brother once, but he died when I was a baby so it's okay if I don't remember him." A foundling volunteered, "Maybe you did have a brother or sister and you just don't remember them!"
Cara smiled at the child. "I'm afraid that's not the case for me. I was plenty old enough to remember my family."
After a few more stories and a lot more play, the music's tone suddenly changed to something both somber and hopeful. Cara saw the foundlings scurry down from the stairs and towards the fire. The rest of the mandalorians followed suit, albeit more slowly.
"What's going on?" Cara grabbed Din's shoulder and stopped him as he began to walk away.
"It's time for thedarasuum."
Din led her to the fire and knelt, much in the same way he had when they'd seen the armorer, palms face down, gently resting on each knee. The only difference was that this time he removed his gloves and discarded them in a neat pile next to him. Cara knelt aside him, joining the growing group of mandalorians that lined the fire on both sides.
When all were present, the last of the music stopped, and the elders joined at the head of the fire.
Din bowed his head, Cara copied, but slightly at an angle, looking for instruction.
The elders' combined voices rang above crackle of the flames.
"Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc, ni partayli, gardarasuum."
"I am still alive, but you are dead. I remember you, so you are eternal." Din whispered the translation. "Mando'adebelieve that when we say the names of those we've lost, we've found them in ourselves."
Cara couldn't help but peek up as she heard dozens of voices in as many languages, first copying the words of the elder, then speaking the names of those gone before. Some had only a few names to list, but some seemed to continue on forever.
"Repeat after me." Din said, "Ni su'cuyi..."
Cara chose to ignore the fact that she was butchering the pronunciation, and repeated him best she could. When they had finished, she heard Din begin to recite his names in his native tongue. She'd never heard him speak it before. It fit him, somehow, in ways she couldn't explain. She felt she could almost see him now, better than she had before, despite not knowing where one name ended and another began.
Cara felt a bit put on the spot, but she began to say the names, starting with her cousins, aunts, and uncles, slowly coming closer to those she knew more intimately. Her family, well... they weren't something she tried to think of often, let alone speak of. But now - now the memories rained down upon her, first in sprinkles, then slowly increasing until they hailed relentlessly. The taste of the air on Alderaan, the view of the mountains in the distance, the feeling of her father's hand in hers... and the sound of her name on her mother's lips. Cara's voice caught painfully in her throat, and for the first time since she'd seen Din on the brink of death back at the cantina, she felt heat rush her face, adjoined by a slight wetness in the corners of her eyes that she would never willingly admit to.
Her mother's voice was still there, whispering to her the joyful times of her youth. The bittersweet memories she'd sacrificed in her attempt to forget the demons that surrounded her.
She could feel Din's eyes on her, and she looked up to meet him. In the light of the fire, she could see the outline of his eyes beneath the visor.
When she spoke again, her voice was steady and her mind was anything but.
"Din I don't think-"
Din slid a little closer to her, voice low.
"In your time," he said, "you've already made it further than most."
It took a bit, but Cara made it through the names while managing to keep an acceptable level of dignity intact. Her voice waivered on the names, but it never broke. Everyone remained knelt as others continued through their names. It was obvious, Cara realized, to tell which losses were fresh and which had settled in their place. Not all the Mandalorians bothered to hide their grief, as she had done. She could hear the tremors in their voices, especially the foundlings, as their lists went on, and on, and on...
Everyone here had lost someone. A lot of someones, most of them. But eventually, the voices quieted. They remained seated a moment, before the elders again spoke.
"Val oyacyir jorcu vi oyacyir. Oya!"
The rest of the covert, stood, responding with a passionate "Oya!"
Cara didn't ask Din what this meant. She felt their tone made it clear enough. Soon, the music returned, jovial and lively again, as the Mandalorians lined up to receive the stew that had been bubbling away over the fire all evening. Each of them got a decently large serving in a tin bowl, then left the room. Cara presumed they were heading to their enclaves to eat.
Din filled a smaller bowl and handed it down to Grogu who wasted no time in slurping it up.
"Bed time, kid."
Later, once Grogu was tucked safely away with the other foundlings, Cara and Din neared their enclaves and prepared to go their separate ways. But Cara had one last question.
"I'd always assumed that Mandalorians had some sort of rule against drinking."
"That's certainly a gross inaccuracy."
"Well, I know that now." Cara rolled her eyes, "But I was wondering, how come you never drank with me? There were times you certainly needed a drink or two."
"Mandalorians do drink," Din confirmed, "But we never drink to forget. We drink to remember."
Ugh, that first bit was kind of gross. Very dialog heavy, and that's never my strong suit. Forgive me for the graven sin of too many dialog tags. It's always easier when there's only two people talking, but throw a third in and things get complicated quick and it's hard to keep track of who's saying what without constant tags. I don't know. Maybe I'll figure out a better way to do it someday.
Then later though! Such an emotional scene, I was literally tearing up as I wrote it. I'd never really bought the idea of Mandalorians being emotionally stunted, it always seemed to me that such a rag tag family would have developed ways of processing their grief because they've all definitely got problems to work through. You can't just ignore those feelings and expect to still be a functional being. So of course the Mandalorians, being family focused as they are, would work through them together. Different bodies, but one soul.
Also, wasn't actually aware of this myself until now, but apparently this is an AU where the covert was never destroyed after the Cantina. It was attacked, but no one who attacked it made it out alive. They managed to throw off the imps' trail, and they are once again (relatively) safe there.
Val oyacyir jorcu vi oyacyir. = They live because we live.
Oya! = (literally translated "let's hunt!" or "Stay alive!"), but most commonly used as an expression of enthusiasm and solidarity. Similar to "hooah!" for the military.)
Chapter 7: Karabast.
Sometimes, Din is an idiot. Cara agrees.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
He felt it before he even opened his eyes.
Someone called his name again, but his still sleepy brain couldn't quite place it.
Something wasn't quite right. He was slow to wake this morning.
"Din! Put that bucket on so I can come in."
Ah, Cara. Definitely Cara.
"Paz told me to tell you to 'get your'sharal sheb'ika'up,' whatever that means."
With a mild mumble of annoyance, Din blindly made a grab for his helmet, but immediately abandoned the movement when he felt a stinging tug along his rib cage.
Sucking in a breath, he tugged his tunic up a bit, noting the mottle of deep purple and blue that covered his left side.
He'd been right. It really had been an idiotic idea to spar Cara, and similarly idiotic had it been for him to forgo a second round of bacta patches in favor of going to bed. In his defense, when dinner had finally finished, he'd been wiped. The events of the day had begun to catch up to him around the time of thedarasuum,and from then on he could hardly keep his eyes open. He'd been thankful it didn't show through his beskar.
Carefully, Din propped his elbows up behind him, attempting to do something half way between sitting up and sliding off the cot. Every hint of movement sent a jolt of agony down his side. Once he'd made it to a seated position, he took a moment to keep his breaths measured. What he tried next, most anyone could tell you was ill-advised. With a pained gasp, he quickly bent over and snatched his helmet from the floor. Better a quick, sharp pain, than a lasting dull one.
Apparently his swear had made it to the land of the living this time.
"You can come in." he said, helmet now in place.
Cara popped past the curtain and into the room. She stood in front of him, just staring for a moment.
"You look like a pile of banthacrap."
Din didn't answer, in part because he wasn't sure what response she was looking for, but also because breathing without causing himself pain seemed task enough at the moment.
Cara's eyes narrowed at his lack of answer, and Din resisted the urge to sigh. He definitely didn't need to be doing that at the moment.
" 'must've stiffened up from yesterday." he mumbled. He was thankful for the voice modulator in his helmet. It sturdied his voice and made him sound at least a little less pathetic.
"Come on youdi'kut, you'll be fine. Breakfast is waiting."
Din huffed upon hearing the Mando'a word roll off her tongue, it was just like her to learn the insults first. He'd bet Paz had a hand in that.
Cara turned to leave, but paused when Din didn't follow.
He'd made an attempt, he really had. And it was so stupid, because he'd done far more arduous tasks with far more incapacitating injuries. But he'd done those things with a certain very important, all consuming chemical surging through his veins which was noticeably absent at the moment: adrenaline.
He'd looked rough, of course, but that was nothing new, really. Cara genuinely didn't think it that big of a problem. She was a bit stiff herself; battles tended to do that to you. But when Din barely made a half-hearted attempt to stand, arm wrapped tightly over his ribs, she knew it was worse than he was letting on.
"I thought it was a fake during the match?" Cara asked, turning back to him.
"So did I." he grumbled. Usually the modulator took out most of his tone, but it was clearly dripping with annoyance this time.
Cara stood beside him as he made another attempt to stand, and this time she was near to steady him. His neck had gone pale, and the hand that wasn't wrapped around his side tremored slightly, compelling her to keep hold of him rather than release her grip.
"kriffin' hurts." Din hissed through what Cara imagined were clenched teeth.
"Let's get you back to the med bay."
To her surprise and concern, Din didn't protest, instead allowing her to steer him towards the enclave's doorway. Cara paused, glancing to the left and right, before muttering,
"All your karking hallways look the same."
"Left." Din released his arm from her hand, trudging forward, still minorly curled in on himself.
For a group that values family, they sure are an independent bunch.
Cara was annoyed at his dismissal of her help, but he was looking a bit better now that he was standing. It seemed getting up initially had been the bigger problem, walking didn't jostle the ribs so much. That was until they got to the stairs, of course. By all appearances those had been a nightmare for him. The wall and railing appeared to be keeping him up about as much as his legs did. Luckily, the stair case was short and it was over soon enough. Didn't stop him from uttering an imaginatively arranged string of swears in the process. Din wasn't usually one to curse much beyond the occasional "dank ferrik," but when he did swear, he did socolorfully.
"Maybe keep it down?" Cara hissed, spying a foundling in the distance that had been attracted by the kerfuffle. Din followed her gaze before dully returning his focus to the act of keeping his legs beneath him.
"They've heard worse... trust me," He muttered.
Upon Din and Cara's entrance, the womanbaar'urapproached. Sighing, thebaar'urjerked a hand back and pointed to a cot before turning to one of the cabinets.
"Thought I might see you here again." she said, "I told you to rest for a reason."
Din had the good grace to look a little sheepish at least, but chose not to respond.
Thebaar'urreturned, holding a small kit of supplies.
"Let's see it."
Din gingerly tugged his tunic up, revealing the damage.
"You let me spar you like that?!" Cara glanced the back of his helmet with a stinging slap. "You could have told me, youdi'kut!"
It seemed that was Cara's favorite word now. To be fair, he did deserve it this time.
The baar'ur shook her head, "The bruising wasn't this advanced yet; the bacta had delayed it. He couldn't have known."
Sorting through her supplies, the baar'ur ordered him to sit.
She gently ran her fingers across his side, checking the progress of his healing, or rather, the lack of it. Once she had determined the extent of the damage, she returned to her supplies.
"Two are still cracked, the rest badly bruised. You must have slept curled; it seems to be the stiffness that's giving you the most pain, since it happens primarily when your abdomen is shifted. Bacta won't be of much use now, given the time since the initial injury. Best I can do is wrap them to decrease risk of further injury. Youwillrest. You'll not be lifting anything heavier than your foundling for several days, and you'll remain without your armor for the same." Thebaar'ur'sorder clearly left no room for compromise. "Cara, help him remove his tunic."
Cara looked to Din who silently nodded his permission as he began to unlace the top. Carefully, she helped him pull it over his head, pausing at times to allow him to adjust his arms when their positioning tugged on his ribs. Once the shirt was off, it occurred to her that she'd never seen much of Din's skin, leastwise, not while he wasn't bleeding out. She was glad to have confirmation that, as she had suspected, he was human. It would make treating any future injuries less difficult to know his anatomy was roughly the same as her own. His skin was darker than she'd imagined, given that it had been hidden behind beskar all these years. He must have been born to a desert planet.
The medic went about her work, securely binding his ribs. Her hands were soft but strong; clearly, she was not one to sacrifice the quality of her work for the comfort of the patient. She did pause for a moment though when Din stopped his pained grunts, realizing his lack of response wasn't due to a lack of discomfort, but rather an excess of it. In her frustration with his lack of care of his body, she hadn't been quite as considerate to his comfort as she could have been. He was still with them, she could tell, but his mind had gone dull and his limbs gone weak as the binding tightly pressed the cracked ribs into place.
Cara had noticed it too.
Once thebaar'urhad paused, it took only a moment for Din to regain himself.
"I'm fine." He shifted uncomfortably, knowing the medic wasn't yet done. "Let's just get it over with."
After a few more wraps and then tying the cloth off tightly, thebaar'urconsidered him for a moment.
"I won't give you a pain reliever." the medic declared, "Given, your actions last night, it appears you need a reminder not to move."
It was a jerk move, to be sure, but it would keep him from injuring himself further.
Cara helped Din replace the tunic, now realizing why all Mandalorian shirts were laced up the front. It allowed them to switch out their clothes without removing their helmet. That would be quite the useful trick in a battle-zone. Lacing by clan design had it's purpose as well. It would make it easier to identify the dead, given they couldn't recognize each other by face.
"To the kitchens with both of you." The medic ordered. "You must replenish your strength to mend."
Quite honestly this chapter was a bit of a placeholder while I figure out where to go from here. Not a lot of plot, just some Cara-Din bonding. That, and Din whump is fun. Buuut... I figured it out, and I actually know what I'm doing for the next chapter! Adios!
sharal sheb'ika = lazy butt
darasuum = the eternal
baar'ur = medic
Chapter 8: Hetikles
Breakfast time in the Covert.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
As thebaar'urhad said, a big portion of the pain had simply been stiffness, and now that Din had moved around some and got his blood flowing, he was fine. Moving slower than normal, certainly, but he didn't appear to be in danger of keeling over - for which both he and Cara were grateful.
Approaching the kitchens, Cara's nose detected a familiar smell followed up by a less familiar one. Meiloorun and... what is it with Mandalorians and their spices? Was that chili? on a meiloorun? Further inspection revealed that it was indeed a massive bowl of fruit salad that was thoroughly coated in a spice and honey mixture.
It looked... Interesting, to be sure
"Here." Din handed her two bowls and another eating apparatus she was unfamiliar with. It appeared to be something halfway between a spoon and a fork. She had noticed it last night, but had been hungry enough when she made it back to her enclave that she hadn't thought much about it and just dug in. Speaking of which...
Cara felt her stomach growl, and given that Din glanced her way, she could tell it was audible as well.
"I genuinely don't understand how most of your people are as big as they are if they only eat one bowl of soup for dinner and fruit salad for breakfast."
"We don't really have set mealtimes, except for dinner." Din explained, "and even dinner... it's more about the regathering ofaliitthan the food."
Din shrugged. "Food is made up each morning, and kitchen is always open. It's not really realistic for us to eat in large groups, so we just eat whenever we're hungry. Helps keep things from crowding."
Cara heard Din rumbling around the refrigeration unit as she spooned the salad into bowls. Whatever he was looking for must have been a ways in there; she was done by the time he finally pulled his head out of the unit, bonking his helm against the door to close it. Given the chipped and worn paint of the door, it appeared Din wasn't the only one to close it that way.
He set down a jug of nerf milk, a jar of honey, and a vial of vanilla before marching off in pursuit of his next ingredient. Returning shortly, he set a small jar that he had retrieved onto the counter.
"What's that?" Cara asked, unfamiliar with the powdery brown substance. She knew Din had a stash of it on his ship, because the kid liked it. She hadn't known he liked it too.
"It's called cinnamon. It's from Terran."
Din went to work, combining the ingredients in a small pan and heating them over the stove. It wasn't long before they were thoroughly mixed. He poured it into two large mugs and then a smaller one.
Cara heard a coo in the distance, and glanced over to see Grogu standing in the doorway, his little nose sniffing the air as he approached.
"You could smell it from the foundling's hall, huh buddy?" Cara took Grogu into her arms, and handed him the little mug. "Careful, it's hot."
Grogu looked at her with wide eyes before cautiously taking a sip. Apparently he decided it was cool enough, because he proceeded to down it all in one go the sip after. He babbled something akin to a thank you, then pointed to the ground.
"Well that was quick." Cara set him down, staring off in wonder as he toddled back towards the door.
"Lots to do here. Plenty of friends - when he's not levitating them."
Cara detected a hint of pride in Din's voice.
"Eat with me?" Din asked.
"And how exactly would I do that?" Cara accepted the bowl and mug in his waiting hands, but was confused about the logistics of things.
"Oh, uh-" Din pointed to a few strips of fabric that lined the walls. "Those. We use them when we want to eat with others."
Approaching one of the sets of fabric, Din took hold of it and clipped it to a little hook that hung from the ceiling of the room. Another piece of fabric had them enclosed in a neat little square tent, out of eyeshot from the room.
Cara was still enormously confused, but sat cross legged in the middle of the tent, looking out at the curtain.
"Scoot over, I need room too."
Cara shuffled both herself and her food forwards, and she felt Din sit down heavily behind her, facing away, his back resting against hers.
So this is how they did it. Hearing a click and a hiss, she knew Din had removed his helmet. Cara heard him begin to chow down on the fruit, seemingly unfazed by the whole situation. She'd never even been in the room when he'd had his helmet off before, and it was strange to feel his bare head brush against the back of hers as he took another bite.
Well, if it was okay with him, it was okay with her.
Cara took a bite of the fruit and was instantaneously reminded that, like the soup from last night, it was spiced almost to inedibility. Key wordalmost. As she ate more and adjusted, the dish grew on her. The warm milk helped calm it, despite being thoroughly spiced in its own right.
"Is all Mando'ade food this kriffin' spicy?" She asked.
And there it was.
Cara had never given much thought to Din's voice before. She'd always known the modulator must affect it, of course, but she hadn't thought it would to this extent. His voice was soft, and while not quite smooth, the raspy tone to it had lessened enormously. But it was still the same voice. It reeked of the kindness that she'd long knew was in him, but he rarely let out.
A thought wormed it's way through her head, and she couldn't help but grin.
"The modulator, youhaveto use it, don't you?"
Given his lack of response and the way he shoved another mouthful of food into him, she knew it was true, and couldn't help but chuckle. She'd noticed last night that there were many Mandalorians that didn't use modulators, including Paz. Obviously, that meant it wasn't something they were required to do.
Din, as it turns out, is so soft spoken that his voice would never make it through the beskar unless he consciously put forth the effort to speak up.
She couldn't help but wonder how many times he had been going to say something, but had forgotten to turn up the volume and was never heard.
"Made training hard when I was young," Din finally replied, "my voice didn't carry well enough during the ambush drills, so the armorer fixed up the modulator. It was easier, ' just became habit after that."
Cara chuckled some more, but stopped when she felt Din stiffen against her.
"You're laughing at me?" he sounded a bit defensive.
"No, no! It's fine. It's all fine." Cara said, "Just a cute image. Baby Din walking around in that giant bucket while talking into a megaphone."
Cara could halt her laughter, but the grin remained sewn to her face.
"...It's not a megaphone."
"But it makes you louder, doesn't it?"
Din gave a huff before shoving more meiloorun into his mouth again. It was quiet a minute, and both were nearly done with their meals when someone spoke again.
"Okay, back to the whole 'who the kark puts chili on fruit' thing?" Cara said, "I mean, I'll admit, it's not half bad. But seriously? Who thought of this?"
Din hummed in acknowledgement, taking time to swallow before responding.
"That just a fancy Mando word for meiloorun?"
"Mando'a, and no, it's not the fruit." Din sighed, "Here, take a big bite, chew it up, swallow it, and then take a deep breath."
Cara did as told.
"Feel that? In your mouth? Nose? Throat?"
Cara nodded, feeling the stark heat swirl through her sinuses.
"That'shetikles.That feeling is." Din began to gather up his dishes. "It's a... something prized by Mando'ade. There are few dishes we make without it."
"Wemake? You mean you cook?"
"All Mando'ade cook."
Cara heard the hiss of Din's helmet.
"Wouldn't have thought that, given the state of the kitchen on the Crest."
"I said all of them can do it," Din's voice came louder this time, the rasp having returned, "I never said all of them are good at it."
Now confident that Din had replaced the helm, Cara stood and offered Din a hand up, who gratefully accepted it with his other arm wrapped tightly to his midsection. They managed it with little struggle, and soon enough their little cloth tent hung flat against the wall, and they made their way back to the kitchen.
Din stripped his gloves off, and cleaned off his dishes in the sink, Cara doing the same right afterwards.
"We probably ought to go see what Paz wanted." Cara dried her hands, "I was gonna let you sleep, but he wanted you for something."
Din hummed his acknowledgement.
"What does 'sharal sheb'ika'mean?"
Din sighed. "Just ask Paz."
Hehehe... Cara's totally going to use that phrase once she finds out the meaning.
sharal sheb'ika = lazy butt (except a little bit stronger connotation)
Chapter 9: 3 Rules Foundlings Must Follow
Paz asks Cara something, and Din ends up in a game he never agreed to.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Finally, vod!" Paz exclaimed, upon Din and Cara's entrance. "Took you long enough."
"What was it you need?"
"We're a man down for the hunt tonight. I was going to ask you to join, but I happened to run into thebaar'uron my way here..." Paz crossed his arms, giving Din a once over, "Bacta didn't work?"
"He didn't give it time to." Cara rolled her eyes.
"Hmm. Rest up. We need you back at fullkot," Paz's glance shifted to Cara, and he translated, "full strength."
It was silent a moment, and Din could hear the cogs turning in Paz's head before Paz could himself.
"Can you handle a pulse rifle?" Paz sent a questioning nod in Cara's direction.
"You're joking, right?" Cara raised an eyebrow. After she received no response, "Yes, of course I can."
Paz looked to Din, who confirmed her proficiency with a single nod.
"Alright then," Paz conceded, "Up for a hunt?"
"Thought you'd never ask."
Din spent the remainder of the day entertaining the younger foundlings while Cara, Paz, and the others prepped for the hunt. And he was sour about it. He'd much rather be suiting up with them than be stuck on baby sitting duty. It wasn't even as though he had to do much. Mando'ade children had few restrictions regarding their play. The restrictions they did have could be boiled down into 3 simple rules.
1. Never killormaim fellow Mando'ade
2. Neverpurposefullydamage the covert or yourself
3. Never expose yourself: do not leave the covert or remove your helmet/covering.
Other than that, anything was up for grabs. Obviously they must be obedient and respectful to their elders, but those situations were handled as needed.
So Din watched the foundlings just enough to ensure they didn't kill themselves or someone else, but other than that, he just sat impatiently at the end of the great room as people bustled about, despising the feeling of uselessness. Despite knowing better, he poked at his ribs to check their tenderness, mildly wishing that he had Grogu's gift and could just heal himself.
Speaking of Grogu...
Din's head popped up, realizing he hadn't heard much out of that particularadiikfor awhile.
A dozen heads popped towards him, wondering why they'd been called.
He'd have to remember he couldn't just call the kid that now. There would be quite a lot of confusion if he did.
"Not you," Din stood and brushed past them. "Where's Grogu?"
The foundlings looked among themselves for the tiny green face, then, realizing it wasn't present, broke into an chatter of where and when he'd been last seen.
Din, meanwhile, was semi-frantically searching high and low for the kid. After scouring the whole of the great room, he was just about to admit defeat and call Paz or Cara for backup when he heard a gurgle off to his far left. Which was really something, considering he'd looked there quite thoroughly already.
A coo in response.
They continued their game of Marco-polo, Din calling Grogu's name and hearing a coo in response, until Din realized theadiikhad managed to climb into a set of drawers and some how push the drawer shut with himself inside it.
Din opened the drawer, removing the foundling from inside.
"You can't run off like that." he scolded, "It's not safe."
Again, just a confused coo in response.
Din sighed, and set the kid on the ground, watching him toddle back to the other children.
Unfortunately, the other children had thought the whole situation quite amusing. It wasn't long before a game of stealth was in order. Stealth was a game much like hide and seek, only the goal of the game was to see who could get closest to Din without being detected. It was quite the chore, considering Din was moving near constantly, trying to corral the children back into the more easily visible areas of the room.
The foundlings always loved to mess with him. He wasn't around very often, and it was well known that Din was the best in the covert when it came to stealth. This meant he was also one of the best at finding people, so getting past him made for a real challenge.
Had Din been aware the game was going on, he might have played along - but it seemed the foundlings had forgotten to tell him. To him, they were simply running off in all directions and disappearing, only to pop up again in the strangest of places. It wasn't long before frustration sat in, and Din just stopped and paused in the middle of the room, running a hand over his helm. Suddenly he felt a presence behind him that nearly made him jump, and had it not been for his hearing the quiet clink of leather against skin, he might have. He spun, catching the foundling under the arms, holding him tightly, wishing theadiikcould see his glare. When he released the foundling, it clicked. He realized he'd been duped, tricked into a game of stealth, just as he and Paz had done to the armorer and thebaar'urall those years ago.
He observed the foundlings with a new perspective now.
Okay... You want competition? You'll get competition.
Soon, through a series of tricks and clever environmental manipulations, Din had the foundlings cornered into the back-right fourth of the room. There was no way for them to get out of it without his knowing, so the foundlings switched tactics to hiding best they could. Din then proceeded to eliminate their possibilities of concealment one by one until the foundlings simply just had to scramble away or around him as he came close. This continued for several minutes before Din realized there were simply too many foundlings and not enough Dins for him to win. This was an issue that couldn't be solved by cleverness alone.
No... he needed a tool.
Din glanced around, searching for the oldest of the foundlings and snatched the wiggling thing by the arm, thereby gaining control of the foundling's shiny new vambrace. The foundlings watched in dismay as he stood along the wall and aimed the vambrace into the corner, firing a few grappling lines at different elevations. Despite their initial confusion, it only took the foundlings a few moments to realize what Din's plan was.
Now he would win.
Din simply grabbed the foundling's vambrace, ropes still attached, holding it tightly enough the foundling couldn't get away. He walked quickly towards the other wall of the room, trapping the foundlings in an increasingly small space. By the time he reached the other wall, the foundlings were all pressed up against it, unable to escape.
Smirking beneath his helmet, Din simply walked along the wall, back to the corner, shoving the foundlings into the center of the ropes, enclosing them in a circle. He pushed the last foundling in, the one who's vambrace he'd commandeered, before cutting the ropes and tying them back to their other end which was thoroughly rooted in the stone walls.
All done. Foundlings contained.
Din settle back down on the stairs, watching with fondness as the foundlings struggled to escape the ropes that bound them, but were pressed so close together that it was impossible to do much wriggling. He let them try. It was good training for them.
Din - 1, foundlings - nada.
Cara, Paz, and another Mandalorian stepped out of the Covert and into blistering darkness of the halls and alleys that led to it. The path was illuminated by the light of Paz's helm just enough that they wouldn't run into a wall.
"Here." The Mandalorian, whom Cara now knew as Thravaa, handed her one of the cloth masks the women had worn in the bathhouse, the type that veiled the eyes.
"What's this for?"
"For you." Paz said, "People have no business where we're going."
"And that relates to this... how?"
"It means if I see eyeballs I'm putting a bullet between 'em," Thravaa shoved the mask at her, "And it'd be a shame if those eyes belonged to you, sweetheart."
Cara had known there were mandalorians that weren't fond of her presence in the covert, and apparently Thravaa was one of them. There weren't many, but Cara found it comforting to know that the ones who wanted nothing to do with her were at least blunt about it. She would rather they spat words dripping with condescension than hum honeyed lies. At least this way, she knew where she stood.
"Fine." She took the mask and pulled it on, wrapping the ties around her face as she'd seen on the children.
For those of who think Din has been a little OOC through out this, I agree, but it's completely purposeful. In the show, we never get to see him in the Covert much, and when we do, someone is either angry at him or he's severely injured and has just lost most of his people. In this fic, he feels safe. He feels comfortable. Relatively relaxed, because he knows he's got his people backing him. And that's not really something we've seen him be in the show yet. So of course he seems OOC, he spends the majority of the show stressed out and on high alert. In this, you're finally seeing him calm. Well, as calm as can be expected with Grogu and a dozen foundlings antagonizing him. XD
For the darasuum scene, I wasn't satisfied with the way I described things. What I was trying to point out with this is that the darasuum is the mando'ade's primary time of emotional connectivity with others - it's the only time they allow themselves to truly grieve, to be emotionally vulnerable, and they support each other through it. I wanted to promote a sense of familial intimacy. There's a sense of unity there during that time that can't really be felt elsewise. I don't know. It doesn't quite read how I'd imagined it. Ah, the struggles of a writer.
Chapter 10: Because When Does Anything Ever Go to Plan?
In which things begin to go wrong.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"So who's our target?"
"Not who,what." Paz shook his head, "You've spent too much time with Din."
Upon Cara's confused silence, Paz continued.
"What? You think we buy meat in the market each week? Like we'd waste credits on that." Paz adjusted the rifle sling on his shoulder. "No, we're after qartuum."
"Qartuum?" Cara raised an eyebrow, an image of the goat-like creature coming to mind. "You send three mandos to down a qartuum? Don't you think that's a little overkill?"
"Doesn't take three of us to down them,aruetii." Thravaa hissed, "It takes three of us to carry 'em back. If you haven't noticed, we're a little low on those fancy speedersyourkindtends to keep around."
"My kind... What's that supposed to mean?" Cara matched his tone, and they stood nose to nose, or rather buy'ce to nose.
"Luubid." Paz suddenly pushed Thravaa back from his near predatory stance before Cara, and up against the wall. "Copaani mirshmure'cye, vod?Vi r'hibirar, ba'jurir ibic verd, nayc takisir. Tayli'bac?"
"A-"Thravaa broke out into a protest, but Paz slamming him against the wall, cutting him off before he got a full word out.
"Elek, al'verde."The words were spat, and Cara knew Thravaa still wasn't a fan of whatever he was agreeing to.
Paz released Thravaa, who re-adjusted the pulse rifle on his back. Turning to the both of them, Paz spoke again.
"We're here to work together. If you can't do that head back now."
Receiving no response, they began again down the stone hallways. At some point, Thravaa trompped off ahead, grumbling to himself, leaving only Paz near Cara.
Cara wasn't sure exactly what Paz had said to Thravaa, and she knew that Paz had intended it that way. It certainly sounded like a rebuke. The ease with which Paz lifted the other from the stone floor only served to emphasize the man's frame. Paz may be nothing short of a teddy bear to the foundlings back at the covert, but clearly he reserved a special side of him for threats.
"I can handle myself, you know." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. From a ticked off sounding shock-trooper.
"I know." Paz's helm only turned slightly towards her.
"Then why didn't you let me?"
"This is neither the time nor the place for that." Paz said, "The more noise we make out here the greater the danger to the covert - I couldn't be sure how far you two would escalate things, so I didn't give you chance to. And given both your reactions, I'm glad I didn't."
They walked in silence for awhile before Cara spoke again.
"I didn't mean to put your people in danger."
The words implied the "I'm sorry" that she was just a little too proud to say.
"Shh..." Paz hushed her, whispering, "We're coming up on the entrance."
Cara fell silent behind him, tightly gripping her blaster as Thravaa exited.
Once they received the 'all clear' sign, Paz and Cara stepped out and followed.
Both the moon and sun were up, creating a twilight that made for some perfect shadows to hide in as they trekked across the rocky terrain. Cara could hear the crowds in the town moving about, shutting up their businesses before returning to their homes for the evening. It gave them enough cover noise that they could keep a decent pace without worrying they'd be heard.
"Where exactly are we going?"
"Lava flats," Paz said, "The qartuum like to sleep there at night for its warmth."
Sure enough, upon reaching the flats, they saw a heard of qartuum stretched out along a distant bank.
"We need 3." Thravaa pointed down to the herd, "Any more, we won't be able to carry them all, leaving evidence we've been here. Any less, and we'll have to make another hunt, which means greater chance of getting caught."
"Their vision sucks, but they've got the best ears in the galaxy. Stay hidden, stay quiet." Paz instructed, "Once they hear a shot, they'll bolt. Near impossible to hit once running."
A Mandalorian, barely old enough to have sworn the creed ran up to Din holding one of Din's vambraces which gave off a low beep.
"I heard it as I walked past."
Din leapt to his feet, accepting the vambrace with a muttered thanks as he sprinted off towards his enclave. Heavily colliding with Faik in the corridor, she stopped him.
"Where are you off to in such a hurry?" she asked, "I thought you were watching the foundlings?"
"They're in trouble."
"Who's in trouble?"
"Cara and Paz."
Cara wasn't entirely sure when the hunt had gone to kriff, but it was probably right around the time the reptavian showed up. The double winged, poisonous creature didn't seem like it was going to be much a problem at first - until the rest of the flock followed it. Three of these things had been enough to down Greef and nearly down Din, and now they had somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen to contend with.
They didn't move a muscle at first, willing the creatures not to notice them. At first, the reptavians just circled the quartuums. It appeared they were simply on a hunt themselves. After hearing nothing, Paz slowly peeked out from behind their cover.
And that was all it took.
The reptavians were upon them now, shrieking as they flew, closer and closer with each pass.
They were in trouble. No doubt about it.
Din walked swiftly as he explained the situation to Faik. "The foundlings are tied up in the great room, I need you to watch them."
"Surely someone else can-"
"Anyone they meet at this time of night is bad news, we need surprise on our side." Din said, "I've got the best chance of dropping in unnoticed."
"But you're still hurt-" Faik protested, "You're not even supposed to be wearing beskar."
"I'll be fine."
In truth, he was still sore. Certainly better than he had been this morning, but he could still feel the pull of his ribs as he tugged on his flight suit and fastened his cuirass.
It was fine. He would be fine.
And that's what he kept telling himself as he slipped out the covert door, pulse rifle strapped to his back.
Hehehe, so I just had a premonition of the eventually ending of this fic. Don't worry. I said eventual. There is PLENTY more where this came from. But I think I know what I'm going to do in the very last scene now. Also, sorry for the super short chapter, but it seemed like a natural stopping point. We get some action next chapter! Yayy!
"aruetii" = foreigner, outsider
"buy'ce" = Mando helmet
"Copaani mirshmure'cye, vod? Vi r'hibirar, ba'jurir ibic verd, nayc takisir. Tayli'bac?" = "Are you looking for a smack in the face, mate? We learned, educate this warrior, not insult. Got it?" (said quite agressively)
"Elek, al'verde." = Yes, commander.
Chapter 11: Me'vaar Ti Gar?
In which Din, Cara, and Paz are all awesome, and Thravaa doesn't entirely suck.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They were everywhere, and there was nothing she could do. She dove to one of the rock formations lining the valley, just barely out of reach of the creature's talons which scratched angerly at the rock surrounding her. She couldn't escape, she'd been knocked to the ground and disarmed by the beast. It had been all she could do to scramble to cover. Then a screech rang out and the reptavian dropped dead and disintegrated from existence. There was only one person she knew with a disrupter rifle like that.
Cara took the opening to retrieve her pulse-rifle, blaster, and maneuver herself into a more useful position. She heard another cry of a reptavian and saw a flash of blue light in the corner of her eye.
Din's sniping them from above.
In retrospect, they'd been incredibly unwise to enter the valley. They had done so only to mitigate risk of one of them missing a shot and then have all the quartuum run off after being scared by the noise. It made sense at the time, but now she couldn't regret it more. To be fair, the quartuum were still around, trapped in the valley by the swarming reptavian.
Thravaa had gotten himself into a bit of a situation, pinned by one of the monsters while Paz proceeded to try beating it off of him. A well placed blaster bolt to the head settled that issue quite neatly. Cara made a run for it across the valley and helped Paz heave the limp reptavian off of Thravaa, who quickly scrambled off the ground.
Sometime during their struggle, Din had picked off another three. Six to go.
Click. Click. Nothing.
He frantically fumbled about his belt, checking every pocket he could find.
He's out of disrupter charges. There hadn't been time to stop by the Crest and restock.
Din slung the rifle to his back, hauling himself out of prone and booked it towards the valley, blaster in each hand.
Reptavians were quick little buggers when they flew - it was hard to hit them unless they were eating someone, and well... that simply wouldn't do. One of his bolts caught a creature in the wing, grounding it, but more importantly,angeringit. Definitely not what his goal had been. The reptavian lunged for him, claws first, and Din dropped to the ground and tucked into roll beneath it. There was a reason lunges were never a good idea - Cara had remined him of that last night.
Before he could put a bolt in its back, it had turned and advanced again and Din scrambled backwards, desperately trying to put some space between them. Once you were under their talons, you didn't get out. Not without help, and given that Cara, Paz, and Thravaa stood back to back, blasters to the sky, he didn't think it would come any time soon.
Distance it was.
On the ground, reptavians weren't so quick, and they definitely weren't coordinated. Quick changes in direction... Yeah, that could work. The reptavian lept at Din again, and he dove to the side. Momentum kept the reptavian moving forward, allowing Din time to put a bolt in its head as it scrambled to regain purchase on the rock.
Din sprinted to Cara, Paz, and Thravaa's huddle, joining them. They had managed to down two more, but the final three were giving them a go of it, weaving between their blaster bolts, even as they filled the sky.
"Nice of you to join us."
"Ran out of charges." Din replied, speaking above the blaster fire and screeching calls of the reptavians.
Thravaa's bolt met one in the chest and it went down. The other two were clearly not pleased with that.
In a second the reptivian were there, darting between them. Talons shrieked on beskar, and Din was knocked harshly against rock, breath gone and vision spinning.
When Din didn't move to get up, Cara yelled out, repeatedly bashing her blaster against her pauldron, trying to redirect the beast's attention. Thravaa caught her trail of thought and did the same, dividing the reptavian's attention.
Paz darted over to the dazed Din, dragging him by the strap to his cuirass and roughly tossing him behind the rock and out of sight of the remaining reptavian until he could get his feet beneath him. In the scuffle that ensued, Paz was relieved of his blaster and was left simply trying to dodge what blows he could and distract the beast until Cara and Thravaa could assist.
Which was unfortunate, because help wasn't coming any time soon.
Neither Cara nor Thravaa could get a clear shot at the reptavian for the life of them. Just as with Paz, it was almost as though the creature could feel the blaster being raised in its direction. You simply didn't have time to pull the trigger before it was after you and your full focus was required to evade its talons.
Put simply, they were kriffed.
Paz, Thravaa, and Cara were running out of steam fast and the reptavians seemed to have an endless supply of energy.
Two sounds happened in rapid succession.
One. Paz cried out as the reptavian caught him by the legs and pulled them out from beneath him, preparing to take off with the heavy mandalorian as an unwilling passenger.
Two. Two rapid blaster shots rang out - and then it was over.
Both Reptavians dropped bonelessly to the ground.
Din tucked his blaster back to holster as he moved to Paz.
"Me'vaar ti gar?"Din stripped off his gloves and ran his hands along the lengths of Paz's legs and then arms, repeatedly checking his gloves for blood, of which he found quite a lot.
"Shupur'yc."Paz ground out, pain clear in his voice despite attempt to hide it.
"You don't say."
The curved talons of the reptavian had found the edges of Paz's armor, shredding his flight suit, sinking into the tender skin and scratching at muscle of his legs. His arms were better off, just a few cuts here or there. Coming across a strangely shaped one, Din's hands stilled.
"What's wrong?" Paz glanced to the area before sucking a breath in. "Kriff."
"Check yourself for bites!" Din yelled out. Cara and Thravaa nodded in response.
Din hurriedly ripped a strip of fabric from the shredded leg of the flight suit. Paz tensed as Din tied the cloth tight as he could around Paz's upper arm, just above the bite, hopefully cutting off the poison from his blood stream.
After confirming that he himself had no bites or other serious wounds, Din looked to Cara and Thravaa who gave him an all clear. Neither of them had been bitten either.
"We've got to get him back." Din said, after running a scanner over Paz. The cuts on his legs were bad, but not life threatening. The poison on the other hand...
"You know we can't just leave all of these out there. It'll lead straight back to the covert." Thravaa protested, pointing out to the reptavian bodies littering the ground.
"I don't know how much time you think that tourniquet buys us, but it's not enough to clean all that up." Cara said, "He'll be dead long before we're done."
"Thravaa's right." Paz pushed himself into less slumped position with his good arm. "We can't risk the covert. If I die, sobeit."
A squabling broke out that they all knew there was no time for. Finally, Din, who had been silent to that point, broke in.
"No one is dying, but we're not risking the covert either..."
"How-" Thravaa started but Cara cut him off.
"How can I help?"
Din looked to Cara. "When I reloaded the disruptor rifle back on the crest, I handed the extra charges to you. What did you do with them?"
"We were in the cockpit, so I put them-" Then she understood. "My pocket." She dug into the pocket revealing a number of the blue capsules.
"Well those would have been handy earlier." Thravaa snorted.
"How many do we have?"
"Not enough." Thravaa said, "There'll still be one left even if we disintegrate the rest."
"Then you better be kriffin' thankful you're such a lousy shot." Din muttered under his breath, plugging the charges into the rifle.
Within a minute, four of the reptavian bodies were gone, disintegrated.
"What are we supposed to do with this one?"
Rather than responding to Thravaa's frankly idiotic question, Din hefted up the rather enormous bird and shoved it into Thravaa's arms.
Cara came trotting up, "We've got to go now. He's getting weaker."
Nodding, Din and Thravaa followed her back to Paz, who was clearly beginning to feel the poison's effects.
"Help me get him up." Din slung one of Paz's arms over his shoulders, and Cara did the same to the other. Together they hauled him to his feet, hearing a sharp intake of breath as Paz struggled to get his feet beneath him.
"Kark. Lay off theujcake, would you?"
Cara didn't quite catch the mumbled protest amongst the sound of their feet. "What?"
"He said it's not him, it's the armor."
Poor Paz. He's dying and they choose now to make fun of him. Anyway, there's our lovely action. What do you guys think? Do you prefer in depth description of the battle scenes, or would it be better to just skim the top and get straight to the consequences of it?
Me'vaar ti gar = essentially asking for a sitrep, (are you injured, if so, how?)
Shupur'yc = Injured
uj cake = spicy, delicious mandalorian cake that has nuts in it.
Chapter 12: K'atini
I will warn you, those with sensitive stomachs may not care for parts of this chapter, as it gets quite intense at some points. Honestly, it's not super bad though. I just felt the need to tell you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Cara's head shot toward Thravaa, the source of the word.
"What does that m-" Her question was cut off when Din instantly dropped, belly to the ground, pulling both Paz and Cara with him.
"We've got company."
"Where?" Cara asked.
Din slowly unslung his rifle and keeping it low to the ground brought the scope to his eyes. "There. 2 o'clock. Four, maybe five people."
Squinting into the distance, Cara made out what looked like the headlights of a speeder, but she couldn't make out much more than that.
"Looks like some townspeople saw the blaster fire." Thravaa pulled his rifle from his back as well.
"Think they saw us?" Din asked.
Thravaa didn't answer, scanning the surrounding area through the scope, then gave a slight shake of his head. "No, don't think so. They're still moving towards the valley. Probably just want to see what the fuss was about."
"Dank ferrik." Cara cursed to herself, "We're kriffing idiots."
"We should be fine." Thravaa said, "Didn't leave anything behind they could trace to us."
"We didn't leave anything behindperiod." Cara said, "That's the problem."
"What do you mean?"
"When they realize there's nothing to find, they're going to head back."
"So those headlights are going to make that shiny beskar of yours turn you into a glow-worm." Cara said, "The moment those speeders get within range, we're done for. We have to move. Now."
Din's heart hammered in his chest, legs aching, and breaths coming quick. They'd picked up the pace after realizing Cara was right, and adrenaline shot through his body, torturing the edges of his mind with the fear that they might not be fast enough. Fear of what might happen to Paz if they were caught. He shoved the thoughts aside, refocusing on the task at hand.
Thravaa brought up the rear, the massive reptavian spread across his shoulders. Paz leaned heavily on both of them, stumbling on weak legs in a desperate attempt to help.
Din suspected the blood loss was starting to get him just as much as the poison. The rapid movement had increased the blood flow, and Paz bled freely down his torn calves, the droplets thankfully being absorbed by the flight suit. That was one less way for the townsmen to track them.
Paz let out a low groan, head sagging as Cara shifted his bad arm higher on her shoulders.
"K'atini, vod. K'atini."
"K'atini."Paz panted his response, little louder than a whisper.
Mando'a always fed easier to foggy minds, Din had found. Less to process, to translate. It worked, Paz brought his head back up, staring at the horizon ahead of them.
"K'atini." Paz whispered, repeating it again and again as they moved at a pace just short of a jog. It was as fast as they could manage. It would be enough. It had to be.
Cara breathed a sigh of relief when the entrance to the covert's tunnels came within sight. Almost there. She heard Paz breathily repeating some Mando'a word, over and over, Din prompting him to continue when he stopped for too long. Paz was fading fast though, and his pauses increased in frequency and he seemed to weigh heavier on their shoulders with each step.
Once they finally made it through the entrance, the stairs downwards presented a challenge. Paz had stopped saying the word now - so had Din. Everyone was far too focused on putting one foot ahead of another to think of much else. Paz made an agonizing choking noise every time they jostled him a step downwards. Cara tried not to imagine the pain that would make a warrior strong as him react this way.
Three quarts down the stairs. Almost there. Paz's head was sagging now, legs shaking under the weight he carried.
Just a little longer.
Hold out a little longer...
Paz dropped like a stone, suddenly limp against them, causing Cara to lose her grip on his arm. Breath catching in his lungs, Din nearly buckled under the unexpected full weight of him, and it sent him reeling to the side, falling harshly into the wall and the railing aside it. Cara hurriedly re-took her position and nudged them onwards. Din obediently followed her lead, stepping off, but she could tell something was off now. His foot steps were halting, hesitant, stumbling now and again as his direction swayed.
"Din?" She tried again.
"K-keep moving." He stuttered on the word, mind not quite connecting with his mouth.
Cara saw his free arm hover over his midsection.
His ribs. She'd forgotten with Paz, and all else that had happened, but Din... he hadn't been well to begin with, and the way he'd just been knocked into the railing-
But it didn't matter. They had no choice. There was no way to know how much longer Paz had; every second counts.
"Go on ahead." Cara looked back over her shoulder, "Get them ready for us."
Thravaa, much to Cara's relief, didn't argue the point. Instead he shot ahead, weaving down the corridor with more speed than should be possible when carrying a reptavian that heavy. Clearly their pace had been making him antsy.
They continued down the hall, Cara trying to shift as much of Paz's weight to herself as she could, offering Din what she hoped was a chance to recover.
"K'atini." She butchered the pronunciation, she knew that much, and she still wasn't entirely sure what it meant. But the word seemed to have been of some comfort to Paz earlier, and she hoped it would have the same effect on Din. She was in luck.
"K'atini." Din repeated, giving a slight nod, and shifting Paz higher on his shoulders. His steps steadied as he repeated the word. "K'atini."
The halls seemed no less endless, than they had been in the past, Din tugging the three of them in the correct direction at every turn off.
"We're almost there." Cara huffed. Then, hearing footsteps in the distance, spoke again. "I think they're coming out to meet us."
It was probably the Mandalorians. Hopefully the Mandalorians. But what if itwasn't. Despite the logical explanation for the footsteps ahead of them, each of their free hands hovered nervously above their blaster even as they walked.
Cara stumbled in surprise as Din suddenly picked up the pace.
"Cara, he's not breathing."
Cara ducked her head closer to Paz's straining her ears, for any airflow.
Din was right.
This is not good. So not good. Paz was dying. Might already be dead (technically). But the Mando medic works wonders, Cara knew. They would be in time. They had to be in time.
The footsteps neared and Cara saw light shining on the wall opposite the tunnel the footsteps came from. Her breath caught.
Please let it be Mandos.
Please let it be Mandos.
If it wasn't they were done for. Paz was down, and following one good blow to the ribs, maybe less than that, and Din would be too. She would be alone.
The first body rounded the corner and in an instant both she and Din had their blasters up ahead of them. They squinted against the bright light, unable to tell yet who they were looking at. Din's hand was shaking, whether from pain or fear, Cara didn't know.
Cara could only see silhouettes as two more rounded the corner behind the first. They still hadn't identified themselves, and Cara couldn't see against the light well enough to know one way or another. Cara steadied her hand, preparing to fire. Better safe than sorry.
"Vi Mando'ade!Don't shoot!"
Din and Cara's blasters dropped in relief when the Mando'a reached their ears, and the three Mando'ade swarmed around them, pulling Paz from them, two at his shoulders, one following up with lower half of him.
"Hurry, he's not breathing." Cara told them. The energy in the room switched from relief upon finding them to anxious energy upon the admission that things were even worse than expected.
Cara and Din rushed after the other three Mandalorians, able to move more quickly now that they weren't carrying Paz. The door to the covert was already open once they reached it, the great room lined on either side with Mandalorians. Upon reaching the med-bay, thebaar'urs were already busy rushing around, prepping equipment.
One of thebaar'urassisted in getting Paz onto the already prepared cot.
"He's not breathing." One of their rescuers explained as he helped position Paz.
Thebaar'urquickly ran a scanner along the length of Paz's body.
"He is. Weakly, but he is." thebaar'urcontested, plugging a thin plastic tubing into a port in the side of Paz's helm. Oxygen, Cara realized. She'd always though they must have a way to administer it without removing the beskar. Now she knew.
The medics bustled around, removing Paz's beskar, everything except the helmet, before speaking out to another in rapid fire Mando'a. To Cara, it sounded like a question, but one that left no doubt about the desired answer. The answer didn't appear to be the desired one though.
Paz's body was drenched in sweat, and Cara couldn't help but wonder whether it was the poison or going through the lava fields with heat conducting armor. Either way, Paz had to be dehydrated, and that couldn't be helping his cause.
The medic seemed to be on the same path of thought, wasting no time at stripping away Paz's flight suit, cutting it in pieces to make it easier. She was working the lower half off while another placed an IV into him, just fluids, by the looks of the bag. Once the pants were off, a medic took to cleaning and bandaging the wounds on Paz's legs.
They were deeper than they had seemed back on the lava fields. In reflection, it was really a wonder he walked on them as long as he did. The pain he must have been in...
Paz's body seized, limbs going so taught the pushed his back off the cot, then dropped him down, elapsing in to a fit of shaking. Din had previously been shifting, watching the medics go about their work, but now he went stock still - eyes locked on Paz's body as it spasmed so hard the medics were forced to take a step back to avoid getting knocked about by flailing limbs.
There was plenty of Mando'a yelling amongst the chaos, mostly by the medics, but also amongst the non-medics that were doing their best to help.
Cara gave a hard flinch when a hand came down on her shoulder, spinning around to the source and nearly bumping into Din in the process. The hand released upon her surprise, taking a step back, palms up.
"It's just me."
It was just Thravaa.
"We're not supposed to be in here." The words were directed at Din now. " Come on, you know the rules."
Cara nudged Din, who responded somewhat belatedly.
"It's Paz." Din's eyes drifted back to the still seizing body.
"I know, Din." Thravaa spoke gently. "But that's why the rules are there."
A blaring alarm redirected all their attentions back to the medics, who somehow appeared even more panicked than before. Cara couldn't tell what the medics were shouting, but Thravaa tensed beside them, and she knew it couldn't be good.
Thravaa didn't even ask this time, just grabbed both of their arms and pulled them away from the room. They kept moving, and he only stopped them once the alarm no longer echoed in their ears. Cara could still hear it though, bouncing about in her mind.
Soon though, the noise and ruckus faded from their minds. Cara still felt the fighter's rush, and knew she probably would for a few hours yet. Din on the other hand - Cara watched as the adrenaline drained from his body, arm creeping up to his midsection as pain finally began to register in his mind again. The other arm he placed against the covert wall as his breaths began to come quick and shallow. The rest of him was stock still, helmet resting against the stone wall.
"I think you need to sit down, bud."
Din sprang against Cara's touch the moment she placed a hand on his arm, and he darted down the hall and around the corner. It wasn't but a second after rounding the corner that a retching noise erupted from him and Cara realized what was going on.
"I'll find help." Thravaa said, "Stay with him."
Din cursed the sheerironyof his situation.
He cursed the fact that the pain and adrenaline had sloshed his stomach enough that it felt the need to bring its contents up, the contraction of it all setting his ribs onfirethus restarting the process.
Worst of all- it wouldn't stop. Again, and again, until there wasn't anything coming up any more. His stomach didn't seem to care and he began dry heaving, which, somehow, was worse. He hardly had time to draw breath between heaves, and he felt his vision fading at the edges.
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't breathe. He couldn'tbreathe.
Panic began to hit, and Din choked on every breath that he did manage, body spasming as it tried to forcefully expel everything that wasn't there. All he could see was dots now, body rapidly alternating between hot and cold, between fire and ice as his limbs suddenly weighed a thousand pounds. His mind drew blank.
Somewhere in the distance, he could hear Cara's voice, but the words weren't registering. They couldn't make it through the onslaught of agony overwhelming him.
Cara paced with indecision. It had been several minutes and Din still hadn't responded to anything she said. All she heard coming from around the corner were gut-wrenching retches intermingled with the occasional desperate gasp for air.
"Din, I need you to trust me." She announced. "I'm coming in. I promise I won't look."
She was still wearing the face covering Thravaa had given her, and she adjusted it to cover her eyes entirely, rendering her sightless, before feeling her way along the wall until her foot met something solid and metal, sending it rolling along the ground.
Carefully reaching out an arm, it came to rest against what she realized was Din's back. He was bent double towards the wall, hands out to support himself as his whole body clenched at the severity of his stomach's rebellion.
Keeping her head pointedly away from Din's she peeked under the makeshift blind fold down at the ground, inspecting the vomit.
No blood.That was something at least.
There was really nothing Cara could do to help at this point, not without actually being able to look at him, so she settled for just being there - a sturdy hand on his back, hoping it provided some level of comfort, but in truth it was as much for her own benefit as his.
He was out of it enough that she doubted he even knew she was there.
It felt like it had been hours, but Cara knew she'd only gotten there a number of seconds ago. Just in time, it seemed too.
After a particularly intense heave, Cara felt Din go slack against her hand. Catching him by the belt and shoulder, doing her best to avoid jostling his ribs, she guided him to the ground. She propped him partly against the wall, partly against herself, hoping to ease his stilted breathing.
For a moment he was peaceful, limp, and she thought either the pain or perhaps exhaustion had been enough to put him out. But then he was heaving again, writhing against her side. Cara's breath caught for a moment as images of Paz's seizing in the med-bay came unbidden, aligning perfectly with the periodic tension she felt in Din's body.
Had he been bitten and not told them?
That certainly seemed like a Din sort of thing to do. But surely, surely he would have gotten worse faster like Paz had? And he wasn't that stupid. Cara not knowing about the issue would have put all of them at risk. What if Din had collapsed while they were carrying Paz and they'd fallen down the stairs or something?
No. Din wasn't that stupid. He might not have told Paz or Thravaa, but he would have told her. He would have told Cara.
But what if he didn't know? What if-
Cara came back to herself sharply.
Din needed her, she had to stay calm. Thravaa was coming with help. It would be alright. Paz hadn't shown any signs of nausea, and neither had Greef, when he'd been poisoned. So that couldn't be a symptom, no. It was just pain. It had to be just pain.
But why though? Why now as opposed to earlier? Din had even fallen into the railing of the stairs, directly against his ribs, and he hadn't done this then. Leastwise, not so badly.
Cara heard footsteps coming round the corner and she hurriedly leant over, blocking Din from sight.
"He's not got his helmet on." she warned.
"I'll close my eyes, then." came the Armorer's steady voice.
Cara hesitated a moment. She was blindfolded and her eyes clenched shut, and even if she wasn't, the armorer's eyes couldn't be seen from behind the helm, she had no way of knowing...
This is the armorer. The leader.If anyone was to be trusted, she was.
Slowly, Cara moved away from Din revealing the form that was currently limp against the wall, taking air in small gasps. Cara could feel the armorer coming closer, brushing up against her as she knelt next to them.
"You can open your eyes." said the armorer, "I've covered his face."
Cara did as told, and saw that a light cloth mask rested over Din's face. It didn't detract from his ability to breathe, instead looking as though it had been designed for exactly that purpose.
Of course it had. This couldn't be the first time they've had had this issue, people get sick all the time, and...
"Help me remove his armor." The armorer said, drawing Cara out of her thoughts. "It should ease his breath and we'll get a better scan of him without the beskar impeding it."
Briefly, Cara berated herself for not thinking of that already. How had she been so stupid...
"Cara, the armor."
Her fingers found the latch to Din's cuirass, releasing it as the armorer did the same on the other side. A wave of tension went through Din's body just as they set the cuirass to the side, but he didn't curl into himself this time. Didn't have the energy. Instead, a hand found Cara's wrist, squeezing tight as he managed to dredge a halting breath into his lungs.
But it was the first sign of consciousness the armorer had seen as of yet.
"Djarin, can you hear me?"
All she received was a haphazard breath in response.
Cara continued to work at getting the armor off him, soon all that remained on his top half was the back piece and a pauldron.
"Help me with his flight suit." the armorer tugged the pauldron from his shoulder. "Did he take any contact to his ribs during the fight?"
Cara shook her head, "No-" she paused, their trip back coming to mind.
She looked up, meeting the armorer's eyes. Apparently her face spoke the truth faster than her mouth could, because the armorer looked back to Din.
"He may have punctured a lung, then. We must hurry."
Cara tugged at the zipper to the flight suit, bringing it down to Din's waist. The wrappings from his earlier treatment were still there, but they looked far, far tighter than they had been before.
The armorer quickly ran the scanner over him.
"Lung isn't punctured." she reported, much to Cara's relief. "But the bruised tissue surrounding his ribs has swollen beneath the wrappings; it's biting into him every time he draws breath. His lungs aren't able to expand without causing pain to his ribs."
The armorer drew out her vibroblade and carefully cut away the bandages binding Din's ribs. Once they were gone, a palatable relief spread through the corridor.
Din calmed, able to draw a little deeper breath now, and the heaving had long since subsided, Cara realized. But his breaths still came quick, and still shallower than she would like, despite the absence of the bandages.
"It's just the pain." The armorer said. "Thravaa's comes with something for it now, and we'll get him on oxygen as soon as we can move him."
Soon enough, Thravaa joined them.
"Sorry, I came quick as I could. It's- It's still chaos in there." Thravaa opened his hand, revealing two small syringes. "I wasn't sure whether you just wanted something for the pain or if you wanted to put him out."
"His body is exhausted." The armorer said, "The moment he feels relief his mind will give him little choice. We need to be able to monitor his state of consciousness."
Thravaa nodded, pocketing the sedative, and injecting Din with the pain-killers. The armorer was right. Once the injection hit his blood stream, he let out a deep, soft breath, and then he was out.
Cara's heart stopped when his tight grip faded from her wrist, irrationally fearing the worst despite having known what to expect.
He's just unconscious. He's not been bitten, no punctured lung, his life was never truly in danger. He was just hurting and he's not now. You've seen this before, hundreds of times. It's ok.
She mentally repeated these thoughts as she helped them move Din back into the med-bay, carefully going around the edges of the room, avoiding those who were still tending to Paz. Cara's eyes strayed to Paz. Din was going to ask about him when he woke up. She needed to know what to tell him.
People were hovering around him, so he was still alive, best she could tell. She couldn't hear the alarm anymore, and the medics worked less frantically, but no less busily. The IV hooked up to him was a blue color now, rather than clear as it had been. Some kind of anti-venom, she thought dully. He seemed stable now, at least.
They lay Din on a cot across the room from Paz. Realizing that the way he lay couldn't possibly be comfortable, Cara went about arranging his limbs much in the same way they sat when he slept.
One arm above, curled around his head, the other resting gently on his hip.
When she was done, Cara felt the armorer's hand on her shoulder.
"Come. There is nothing more you can do for him." she said. "All he needs is rest."
As they approached the med-bay door, Cara looked back once more at his unconscious form.
He would be alright.
Cara followed the armorer down the hallway.
He would be alright.
Ok, woah. That was pretty intense. But it worked out. No one is dead. Also, this is officially the longest chapter I have ever written in my LIFE, but I genuinely couldn't break it up. This just kinda has to be read in one go.
K'atini = It's only pain.
"Vi Mando'ade!" = We're Mandalorians!
Baar'ur = medic
Chapter 13: Stay Present.
Peace after the storm.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
She felt numb now. Yet somehow her body shook with cold, limbs weighing on her like lead.
Cara knew it was just her adrenaline finally falling after hours of buzzing intensity. This... This was familiar. Reassuring, despite the discomfort that came with it. It was like being somewhere entirely new and unfamiliar, but then bumping into an old friend. Which, she supposed, was sort of what it was.
She let the clacking of the armorer's boots fill her mind as she followed, only vaguely aware that Thravaa followed behind her, feeling much the same.
They entered the forge room, the armorer gesturing for both to take a seat.
"Were either of you injured?" She asked.
Forcing herself to feel past the exhaustion plaguing her bones, Cara noted that her only injuries were some bruising and a scattering of scrapes and cuts that sluggishly dribbled blood along her skin. Thravaa seemed to be in similar condition. Sore, tired, but generally alright.
Cara found herself staring into the flames of the forge as the armorer tended to the two of them.
"Tell me what happened."
Well wasn't that a story.
And they told her, each filling in where the other couldn't.
They told her about how they had gone into the valley to better their aim, how reptavians had swarmed them from the skies, preventing them from leaving, in some cases from even reaching cover. How Din showed up, picked the reptavians off from the ridge until he ran out of charges. How he'd joined them in the valley. The struggle that followed, how Paz had been grabbed, bitten. The panic to figure out how to erase the evidence they'd been there. The speeder they saw on the way back, fear they'd been found out. That they'd be caught. The story ended there, but even as Cara's mouth stopped, her mind went on.
It had been close. So close. If one more thing had gone wrong... If it hadn't been the Mandalorians that met them, or if Din had shot the reptavian just a little later, if it had injected Paz with just a little more venom... If the wrappings hadn't protected Din when he knocked against the railing... If his lung had been punctured...If we didn't make it in time...
"Keep your minds present,verda." The armorer said, looking between Cara and Thravaa, "What's done is done. It is time to move on."
The armorer disappeared behind them, and they could hear her footsteps echo down the corridor.
Cara's eyes drifted, first down to her hands, sticky with Paz's drying blood, then to pale purple bruises that dotted her wrist, where Din had grabbed her in his pain.
The images flooded her mind unbidden, of Paz's seizure, of Din's fight for breath. She could still hear it, feel it. Hear the alarms blaring signaling Paz's worsening condition. Feel Din's body writhing against hers with every heave of his stomach... Feel his fingers digging into the flesh of her wrist...
A wet cloth dropped into her hands, and she glanced up to see Thravaa setting down a bowl of water between them.
"Stay present." It was an order, not a suggestion.
Thravaa took a seat across from her, beginning to wipe down his armor, and the little skin that wasn't hidden beneath it. Washing away any evidence of the day's adventures.
Silently, Cara followed suit.
The armorer entered the room not long after, holding steaming tins of liquid that Cara could smell the moment she walked through the door way.
Thravaa had risen from his seat awhile ago, after inspecting his armor to see that it was not damaged. Taking one of the tins, Thravaa asked his leave. After a moment's consideration, the armorer nodded.
"See to it that you rest."
"Yes,alor." Thravaa inclined his head, then left the room.
Cara's eyes drew back to the fire as the armorer sat across from her.
If only she had remembered the disruptor chargers were in her pocket earlier, then she could have-
"I see you got cleaned up."
Cara just nodded, accepting the tin the armorer pressed to her hand.
She held it, staring at the liquid as it swirled. Her mind kept floating back to the battle, just as it always did with close calls.
But she'd had enough of that. the armorer was right. What's done is done. Cara forced her mind onto a different, less beaten topic.
More specifically, to Thravaa, and the mixed messages he was sending. They'd nearly fought back in the tunnels, before the hunt. He kept picking at her, seeming to know all the right buttons to push, but when they returned, he'd been... notkindexactly, but less of an "shabuir,"as the Mandos put it. Even during the battle, and some of afterwards, Thravaa had been contrary to near everything she said, but once Paz was down, he was all business. He did what was necessary, didn't even question her requests...
"Drink," The armorer prompted.
Cara nearly had the cup to her mouth before remembering that she still wore the Mando'ade face covering. She felt her face color a bit, but ignored it, removing the mask. She breathed in the scent, spices assaulting her sinuses as she tasted it.
The liquid set her tongue burning, and now... Now she understood.
Understood, why spice was so precious to the Mando'ade.
The sensation was overwhelming, it flooded her senses and letting her think on little else than the oppressive heat. She took another sip and embraced the feeling, allowing it to ground her, to root her more firmly in her surroundings - on the here, and now.
Cara was safe. They were all safe, and a little more of the battle washed away with each sip.
She was surprised she'd allowed her mind to float so far. Usually the post-battle crash didn't get to her so much; she was more than used to it by now. This time though, it had stuck with her, and she wondered what made the difference. Maybe because there was so much more at stake.
She forced her thoughts to end there, and gazing across at the armorer, Cara took another sip before speaking.
"A direct translation would be 'It's only pain.'" the armorer answered, resting her cup on the low table. "It's part encouragement, part challenge."
Good, she'd used the word in the correct context then, at least. A comfortable silence followed as they each sipped at the spicy tea, but soon enough another curiosity bubbled in Cara's mind.
"Thravaa said something about 'the rules' when we were in the med-bay." It wasn't a question per say, but it begged of one.
"Those involved in a mission are not allowed in the room when others involved are being treated for critical wounds, especially if they arevod." The armorer said, "It's meant to keep the past from stealing them."
Keep the past from stealing them?
"What do you mean?" Cara asked.
"When you were in your regiment, shock trooper, you must have seen many battles."
Cara agreed. She'd seen enough. More than enough, but she wouldn't have it any other way.
"Then you've had those that came home in body, but left their minds on the battlefield."
"You mean PTSD?"
"I am sure it has many names."
It was times like this Cara was starkly reminded, that for all their technological advances, for all their capacity for war and destruction, the Mandalorians were atribalpeople. A tribal people that had hidden underground for decades, only coming out when absolutely necessary. If they didn't learn it during a hunt, and Din didn't bring it back in his report, they probably didn't know about it.
And yet, they were a warrior people composed entirely of children orphaned to wars and child soldiers that would likely become so. If they didn't have a manner for lessening the effects of battle fatigue, they likely wouldn't have had a people much longer.
She appreciated that about the Mandalorians. They were all warriors, yes, but they were family as well, and they cared for one another. When Cara was a shock trooper, they were all just soldiers, nothing more. Just numbers to the higher-ups that posted them. When battles were over, they were over, and you alone were left to pick up the pieces. Sure, sometimes friends gathered to drink away the pain, but broken people can't put others back together any more than they can themselves.
Though the Mandalorians didn't have a word for it, at least as far as she had heard, they handled it better than any army she'd ever met. They preferred to prevent it from ever happening, rather than ignoring it until they couldn't any more, and were forced to treat it.
Cara looked up, reassuring the armorer with a slight smile.
"I've seen worse, trust me. I'll be fine."
"I have no doubt." the armorer stood, collecting her and Cara's cup. "Get some rest,Din'burc'ya."
Cara was about to make a remark of how she doubted she'd be able to sleep for another few hours yet, never could after battle, but then she felt her eyes drooping at the corners, a yawn beginning to build in her throat. Her body was leaden, mind calm. Yeah, she could probably sleep now.
"There's more of the tea in the kitchens, should you find yourself in need of it."
The armorer left the room.
Cara lingered a little longer in the forge, spice still hot on her breath. It was a few moments before she convinced herself to stand on aching muscles and head to her enclave.
It was nice, she thought, being able to go to bed secure in the knowledge that someone else was keeping watch. Din and Paz were being tended to by people who cared about them as much or more than she did. She'd seen Grogu toddling down the hall earlier surrounded by otheradand their parents as they prepared for bed, seemingly oblivious to all that had happened. The mandalorians must have been excellent at distraction, to prevent him from sensing his father's pain.
Gently rolling onto her bed, she let her body still and eyes slip shut.
Yay, another day of decent productivity! Got to see some Cara/Armorer connection, got to see a bit of Cara's thoughts on Thravaa. Thravaa not being a complete jerk, just sorta gruff. He's honestly not trying to be a shabuir. Okay... maybe he is, but it's for a good cause. He's just worried about the covert and doesn't trust Cara as easily as Din and Paz seem to.
verda = warriors
alor = leader
shabuir = jerk, but stronger. Essentially (A-hole)
Din'burc'ya = Friend of Din. Common name for Cara among the Mandalorians, especially the more traditional of them.
Chapter 14: Beskar Remembers.
We all need to sleep at night.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Cara woke up quite suddenly, with only one urgent thought consuming her mind.
Din.Check on Din.
Which was strange, because she hadn't been particularly worried about him last night. Nor right now, come to think of it. She knew full well that he was safe and on the mend, but still...
Cara rolled over, groaning at her sore muscles, telling herself it could wait 'til morning. Din was with the medics. It was fine.
But it wasn't. It wasn't fine. She had to see him with her own eyes. See that he was okay, that he was alive.
Cara laid there for a few more minutes, pillow pressed to her face, but the thought didn't abate.
Din. Check on Din.
She was relatively certain it was still night, though it was hard to tell underground. When she stepped out of her enclave, she didn't hear anyone talking or moving about. So yes, still night then.
She felt a tug on her pant leg, and looked down to see Grogu, who gently cooed at her.
"Careful down there, I nearly stepped on ya." Cara bent down, picking him up. "What are you doing out of bed anyway?"
And then it occurred to her. Quite a coincidence, wasn't it, that she'd woken up at this time specifically, when Grogu was just outside her enclave.
"You..." Cara adjusted Grogu in her arms, holding him in front of her. "Those weren'tmythoughts, were they?"
He cooed abashedly, ears falling a bit.
"There are these things called boundaries, little guy." Cara reprimanded, "You can't just pop into my head without asking and then make me think whatever you want me to. That's not nice."
The kid looked like a kicked puppy now, not even able to meet her eyes. Ugh, that really hadn't been her intention, not with the kid already worried about Din, but he had to understand limits. Then again, it's not like the kid could have explained to her what he wanted. He still couldn't talk.
"Just don't do it again, okay?" She said, "Or at least... At least just tell me that it's notmythought."
Grogu brightened a bit, and pointed down the hall, tugging again on her sleeve.
"Fine." Cara sighed, "Since you woke me up anyway, I guess we might as well go for a visit."
Upon entering the med-bay, all was calm. The room was dim and void of any medics. They must have deemed Paz stable enough not to require constant watch.
Din's body was completely and totally relaxed, and Cara knew they must have kept him drugged up on the good stuff. Cara set the kid on the side of the cot, and he carefully traversed the pillow up to Din's head, placing a tiny little three fingered palm against Din's chin through the fabric.
"Eh?" The child tapped his father's face, looking for a response that didn't come.
"Shh... let him rest." Cara picked Grogu back up. "He's alright. I'm sure he'll talk to you in the morning."
Grogu looked back at Din, then to Cara again, and began quietly babbling, clearly trying to convey something of importance.
"I don't understand, can you show me?"
The child gave a grunt of annoyance before leaning towards Din, arms out, steering Cara in the direction he wanted her to go. Once they were close enough, Grogu latched onto Din's hand, and pressed it against the skin of Cara's cheek.
So that's what the child was trying to tell her. Din was cold.
She could see it now, the occasional shiver interrupting his otherwise peaceful sleep. Cara looked around, trying to find an extra blanket to put over him, but the room was barren of all but the basics, and she was sure the medics didn't want her rooting around their cabinets.
"Should we get some from his room?"
Grogu nodded his assent, pointing to the doorway.
Cara hesitated upon entering Din's room, hoping he wouldn't mind the intrusion. He really had seemed cold though, so surely it was fine.
She plucked the blankets from Din's bed, effectively ruining the little nest he had created the night before.
He'll just have to get over it.Cara thought.
She was nearly at the doorway again before Grogu caught her attention, pointing to something in the distance.
She glanced over to see Din's armor piled in the corner.
He was always so scrupulous about maintaining his beskar, polishing it to perfection every day as the kid ate his breakfast.
It didn't look right there, sitting dirty and sodden from battle.
"You're right. We can't leave it like that; it'll just be even harder to clean later." Cara told Grogu. "Think you can handle the blankets?"
Grogu gave a determined gurgle as Cara dropped the blankets on top of him. The blankets covered him entirely, but with some maneuvering, he managed to pop his head out from beneath them. He sneezed as some fibers tickled his nose.
Collecting up the armor, and shoving the cleaning cloth and fluid into her pockets, they made their way down the hallway silently as possible.
The med-bay was still empty, barring Paz and Din, and Cara gently set the armor down on top of one of the blankets, hoping it wouldn't clink against the stone floor. The kid took the second blanket, and with Cara's help he spread it across Din, tucking it all the way up to his shoulders.
They moved to Paz, trying to observe whether he was cold as well. He didn't seem to be, in fact, he was sweating.
Likely still working off the effects of the poison, then.
Cara sat Grogu aside Din, and began to work at cleaning Din's armor.
She'd seen him do it hundreds of times before, helped him with it even, the time he broke his arm. She knew the routine, the three cloths that it took to do it correctly. The first was used to wash away the dust, dirt, and mud. This cloth was used dry, and always came away the dirtiest once finished. The next, was for blood. It always liked to get in the little crevices of the armor, and took more attention to detail. She used the cleaning fluid this time, and though the beskar appeared clean after only the first cloth, every wipe of the second came away red.
Beskar remembers, Din had said,If you don't help it forget.
Cara pulled out the third cloth, and tiny bottle that went with it. This was for oiling the joints of the armor, to prevent the clasps from creaking as he walked. Not all Mandalorians did this, but Din did, and it had become habit.
She repeated on each piece of armor.
Cara heard Din's breath hitch in his sleep, and quickly looked up. Grogu had curled up on Din's chest, near his neck, and was doing his best to worm himself beneath the blanket.
She shot up, snatching him from Din's chest.
"No, Grogu! You can't do that."
Grogu's ears dropped as he realized he'd caused Din pain, and out came the watery baby porg eyes.
"Hey, now. Don't do that." Cara stroked a hand along his fuzzy little head. "You didn't mean to. You just can't sleep with him right now, it might hurt him."
The child cooed mournfully, looking down and making grabby hands at Din.
"I know kid, but you can't, okay?" Cara adjusted her grip on him, shivering as his chilly little toes pressed up against her arm. "Here, you're cold too?"
Cara wrapped the last blanket around her shoulders, tugging it to cover Grogu as he curled up in her arms. She settled on the floor, back against the wall.
"See, we can watch both of them from here." Cara shifted Grogu to one arm, and picked up Din's pauldron, starting to clean it.
It was slower going, now that one of her arms had been claimed by the green bean, but it was doable.
Soon the kid had settled against her stomach, purring gently as he began drifting to sleep, eyes just barely cracked open, watching the rise and fall of his father's chest.
Cara continued with the armor as the kid slept, a silent sentry over the clan of two, as her mind was lulled by the repetitive, predictable sound of cloth on beskar.
Thebaar'urshuffled about her enclave following the vibration of her vambrace. She'd been able to catch a few hours of sleep, but it was time to check on her patients once more.
Din was fine, it was just a matter of managing his pain and keeping him still enough that he didn't worsen it - which was quite the job as per usual. It was testament to the severity of his pain that relief had kept him out this long.
But Paz, Paz still fought the poison ravaging his body. She hadn't liked leaving him unattended, but in truth, there was nothing more she could do. It was up to him now, up to his stubbornness to get him through this.
They'd began cooking up the antidote the moment Thravaa ran in warning them of their approach, but it had taken awhile and Paz had weakened in the meantime. Blood loss hadn't helped him either, causing his pulse to pick up and spread the poison faster throughout his body.
Thebaar'urwished Din or Thravaa had thought to staunch the bleeding somehow before taking off towards the covert. But it was the heat of the moment, and she couldn't blame them for not thinking of it. As it was, the strip of cloth Din had tied off on Paz's arm was the only reason his heart continued to beat. If he hadn't... It would have been far too late.
She appreciated that about Din. Despite his blatant disregard for his own safety, he kept a cool head when it came to others. In fact, she'd been slightly disappointed when he hadn't branched med corps, instead following in hisbuir'sfootsteps and becoming aberoya.She couldn't deny he was good at his job though.
Upon reaching the med-bay, thebaar'urbegan to inspect her patients. Paz was holding out, pulse weak and fast, but consistent. That was good news. She'd seen a number of these bites in her time as medic. If he made it through the night, she could be fairly certain he'd make a recovery. She pushed another dose of the anti-venom through Paz's IV, watching as it swirled with the saline drip.
As she moved to Din, she noticed he had two blankets, which was one more than she'd supplied him with earlier.
One of the others must have come to check on them earlier,she thought.
Din was breathing well on his own now, the swelling within his ribs having gone down and his pain reduced by the medicine. Thebaar'urturned off the oxygen and closed her eyes, carefully removing the nasal cannula from his face. She ensured his mask was still in place, and opened her eyes again.
After going to dispose of the cannula, she paused at the cabinet. A gentle snore swept through the room, and for the first time thebaar'urnoticed the form huddled against the wall, hidden by the shadows that stretched across the dim room.
Upon closer inspection, the source of the snore proved to be Din'sad,curled up against Cara's chest, hugging her arm to his head as a pillow. The shock-trooper was slumped against the wall, head having fallen forward in such a way that she would surely regret in the morning.
A dull clank rang out as thebaar'ur's boot met something solid. Carefully keeping the light of herbuy'cefrom their eyes, she looked down at the neatly polished beskar strewn across the floor, the last piece, a pauldron, still held loosely in the dropper's hand.
Thisverd, she was really something. The medic hadn't known what to make of her at first. She had seemed like any other soldier turned mercenary, blunt and bullheaded. Her presence in the covert had made her uncomfortable previously.
Now though, thebaar'urunderstood what Din saw in her - why he had claimed her asvod.
Watching as the two slept soundly, she considered them.
The warriors had all been dead on their feet following the hunt, she'd seen them following the armorer like ghosts: their eyes glazed and legs shaking with effort.
The medic doubted Cara would wake if she tried to adjust her more comfortably.
After removing the pauldron from her hand, the medic took Cara's shoulders, gently tilting her away from the wall and lowering her towards the floor. The dropper stirred a bit as her skin met the cool stone, mumbling as her arms instinctively tightened around the child, but she did not wake.
Thebaar'ursmiled at the sight. After ensuring that both were cocooned by the blanket, she checked her patients once more, then returned to her room.
A bit of a slow chapter, but we got some cute Cara-Grogu fluff! Din will wake up soon though, wonder how that will turn out? How will he react to the news that Paz still ain't doing so hot?
baar'ur = medic
buir = parent
beroya = bounty hunter
verd = warrior
Chapter 15: The Heart of Stone
Somethings regarding Din just can't be anticipated. By anyone.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
There were times Cara admired Din's unfailing loyalty to Grogu. This was not one of those times.
There were also times Cara had thought him an idiot for not keeping a better stock of pain meds on the Crest. Turns out, there's a reason.
"If you don't plant yourshebsback on the cot, I swear, Iwillpull a blaster on you."
Din ignored her, glassy but urgent eyes just barely showing through the thin cloth covering them. He went about the business of clumsily pushing himself off the cot, nearly knocking over Cara in the process. Thanks to the pain reliever, his legs were about as steady as jello, and every step threatened to send him crashing to the ground. He repeatedly mumbled a single word, the only one that seemed to make it through that thick skull of his.
Both Cara and thebaar'urwere trying to corral him back to the cot now, rather unsuccessfully. There were few ways they could grab him without risking further injury to his ribs if he fought back. Which he did. Every time.
Cara winced as Din stumbled, bumping up against one of the cabinets.
"Kriff! What the hell did you give him?"
Thebaar'urshrugged, "Strongest stuff we have. Had to get his oxygen intake back under control."
"Did you know he was gonna do this?"
"He had some rather strange reactions to it as a child, but we all thought he'd out grown it."
"Well, he hasn't."
Din swatted at the medic, who was blocking his escape to the other side of the room.
Well, at least he was saying something other than 'Grogu' now.
"Grogu's fine." Cara said, trying to get a grip on Din's shoulder, "He's with the other foundlings. If you sit back on the cot, we can bring him to you."
Again, Din ignored her. He was almost to the doorway now.
"Are you even listening to me, tin-can?"
Another Mandalorian appeared at the door, holding a sniveling foundling who was trying so very hard to be brave. Her shoulder appeared quite unnatural and seemed to pain her. A textbook dislocation if there ever was one.
Thebaar'urlooked over to Cara, then back at the foundling.
"Yeah, go ahead," Cara prompted, "I'll just..."
Apparently Din had successfully managed to navigate the gentle incline to the doorway, because he was now nowhere to be seen.
"Find him, I guess." Cara sighed.
"Do it quickly." Thebaar'ursaid, "With this strong of reaction to it, there's no telling what he might do. Thank Manda I started tapering off his dosage when I did."
Cara briskly walked the halls, looking for any sign of the wayward Mandalorian.
"Din?" she called out.
Despite stopping every person she found, no one seemed to have seen him -including the person currently in care of the foundlings.
What if he went into the bath house?Would he even be able to save himself if he fell into the pool?
Several more equally terrible thoughts ran through her head as she searched high and low, going deeper and deeper into the covert until the hallways started looking less like dungeons and more like caves.
She followed each path until it ended, running her right hand along the walls as she walked to ensure she didn't get lost in the maze of tunnels.
Maybe he didn't make it this far in?Maybe he passed me somehow and went back?
No. She would have seen him, or at the very least, someone else would have.
Finally, after nearly twenty minutes of looking, she found him.
"Maker help me." She mumbled as she walked into the antechamber where Din stood staring directly at the wall.
"Din?" Cara asked gently.
He turned his head towards her briefly before returning his focus to the wall. He'd heard her though, that's good.
"Where's Grogu?" Din began turning in circles in search of the kid. "He was just here."
"Din, he's not in here. No one's in here but us."
"I lost him." The poor man sounded genuinely crushed, his whole body slumping and voice even breaking a little as he spoke. "I'm a horriblebuir. I lost the kid."
"No, no, no! He's fine." Cara gently grabbed Din's arm, pulling him towards the doorway. "Grogu's fine. You wanna go see him?"
Din stared at her as the words slowly computed, then he jerked his arm from her grip, spinning towards the corner.
"There! There he is! He's back!" He stumbled towards a pile of rubble from a crumbling portion of the antechamber wall.
Cara cringed as he rapidly bent over to scoop up a large rock. Man was he going to regret all this once the meds wore off. It was kinda hilarious though, and if Cara was a more horrible person she might have taken a holovid. She'd be lying to say it hadn't crossed her mind.
Upon picking up the rock, Din cradled it into his side with one arm, much in the same way he carried Grogu. He stilled.
"Cara?" he said quietly.
"He's not moving."
I so did not sign up for this.
Din looked up at her, looking progressively more panicked as he held the rock up to her.
"He's not moving Cara. He's not asleep and he's not moving." Din began to pace faster and faster as he carefully inspected the rock. "He was fine this morning, a little tired, but-"
"Is he breathing? I don't think he's breathing. Do I need to do CPR-"
"Where's his heart, Cara?" Din squeezed the rock between his hands. "Does his species even have a heart-"
Din paused, appearing relatively lucid for a moment, before launching right back into his panic.
"He's got a pulse normally, so surely he has a heart? And lungs - I mean, he breathes. But his nose is so small, maybe he breaths through his ears-"
Cara reached up and ripped the rock out of his hands, tossing it to the other side of the room. Din reeled back in shock for a moment before rapidly regaining his footing.
Bad choice. Bad decision.
Din rolled his shoulders back, arms coming up to fight. He appeared much smaller without his armor, Cara noted. It would have been almost humorous if he didn't look like he was about to kill her.
"What did you do to him?" He snarled. "Did you sell us out to the Imps? Is that why he's hurt?! Did you take his blood?!"
Cara ducked a surprisingly well aimed punch given his condition.
"No Din-" She hopped away from a sloppy, but effective side kick that nearly sent Din to the ground from his lack of balance.
She had to end this fast or Din was actually going to hurt himself - if he hadn't already.
"Listen, I don't know how to tell you this but-" Cara blocked an kick to the head. "-you're kriffin' high as a kite, okay?!"
Din took her shoulders, slamming her up against the wall with far more strength than an injured man should have. He pressed his forearm to her throat, hard.
"Din-" Cara struggled against the hold, trying to relieve the pressure from her airway. "You've got to- to calm- down-"
She didn't want to hurt him but if she couldn't get him to stop, she didn't see as how she had another option. Cara felt the first tugs of darkness as he continued to cut off the blood and air from her brain.
Kark.What could she even do that would hurt him?! He was so doped up on pain meds that he wouldn't be able to feel a single thing she did to him. She tried to pry his arm away, but he was leaning his full bodyweight into it now... She couldn't hurt him, but she could disable him. Temporarily, of course.
Cara brought both arms up, slapping Din's ears with cupped hands. The pressure against her throat didn't release, but it lessened, and that was all she needed. A quick chop to the side of the neck had Din's arm numb from shoulder to fingertips, and he stumbled backwards, unable to keep hold of her any longer. He lunged back towards her unsteadily, balance gone even more to kriff from the previous blow to his ears. Cara simply side stepped him, sending him hurtling face first into the wall. Now behind him, she snatched Din's numb arm and drove it up behind his back, locking him in place.
Cara coughed and wheezed as she regained her breath, but didn't dare let Din free. He looked quite pitiful there, struggling to free himself, cheek pressed hard against the wall.
"O-okay... We're just going to stay here for a bit, alright?" Cara said, "Just until you calm down."
Eventually, after what seemed like forever and a half, Din stopped fighting the hold. They both just stood there, breathing.
"If I let you go, are you going to kill me?"
"No, of course not." Din sounded offended, "Why would I kill you?"
"You don't reme-" Cara sighed. Because of course he didn't.
"Nothing, never mind. Don't worry about it." She said, "Listen, I'm going to let you go now and we're both going to sit down. Understand?"
Din grunted his assent, clearly displeased now by the sensation of cold stone pressing against his body.
Slowly, Cara released him from her hold, but never let go of his wrist, pulling him down to the floor with her. They sat there across from each other in silence for awhile.
Just need to wait him out.It's been awhile since Din was hooked up to the meds, so surely the effects would start to fade soon. Surely.
Before long, Din decided to start chatting with her, or ratherather, seeming to have forgotten all about "rock Grogu". He apparently had quite the interesting stream of consciousness. Cara only half listened for the first bit, spending more time looking for any sign he was just talking to distract her from his preparation for attack. After a few minutes Cara decided he didn't seem to have an ulterior motive. Still the drugs talking, then.
"You think Grogu needs a new robe?" Din asked, tilting his head in consideration. "I should probably ask Faik to make it. I only ever learned to sew skin. She says it's different, but I don't see how. Only difference is-."
"Cloth doesn't bleed, right?" Din looked to Cara for confirmation.
Honestly, how much longer will this take?There was a limit to how much loopy Din one could handle, and Cara was verging on it.
"But it does when you dye it though." Din said, before letting out an amused 'hmph.' "Cloth bleeds when it dies. Not different to skin at all."
Clearly the man's brand of humor could use some work.
"My parents dyed cloth. They died too. Maybe there's a correlation?" Din's mouth tripped over the last word, but Cara got the gist.
She straightened a bit at the mention of Din's parents. He'd never talked about them before.
"They dyed a lot of cloth red. Like blood." Din scootched himself closer to Cara. "They didn't dye itwithblood though. Well," He amended, "not until later."
Already, Cara's curiosity was peaking, and so many questions sat on the brim of her tongue. But she knew she couldn't ask them - not now. It was a breach of his privacy. It wouldn't be right.
"Maybe we should talk about something else, Din."
"Why?" Din tilted his head in confusion. "I thought you wanted to know about my parents."
"Of course, I do." Cara said, "I just don't think this is the time."
"You don't talk about this, normally," Cara said carefully, "and I don't think you're in a position to make decisions like that right now. I don't want you to tell me anything you'll regret."
"Oh." Din seemed to consider it for a moment. "Ok."
He seemed a little disappointed, but took the answer well enough. He began tracing his fingers in the crumbled stone of the floor.
"I'll listen if you want, later." Cara said, "-If you still feel like talking."
After another half hour of stream of consciousness jabbering, a few more mild heart attacks, and a string of morbid jokes, the pain meds finally started wearing down. Din's energy was gone, having sufficiently exhausted himself, and he sat back against the pile of rubble, dozing off.
Cara let him sleep. He probably needed it after all of this.
Maker knows she did.
Who know Din reacted so strongly to pain meds?! I mean, afterall, he does cauterize himself several times throughout the show with no indication he's taken anything for the pain. The lower dose he had earlier in this story wouldn't have been enough to affect him really. Honestly, writing loopy Din is the best thing. It's so much fun to watch him act like a three year old, jumping from emotion to emotion faster than a jilted rabbit when usually his only mood is "I'm so done with this crap." That, and I just love torturing poor Cara.
Chapter 16: Thoughts Are Slippery.
In which Din finally comes around and realizes what has happened.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Din was awake before his eyes opened, first sensations being that of the cool ground beneath him and an unsettling fear that he wasn't alone in the room. Silently, he took stock of his body, testing for any soreness or pain. Which was pretty much everywhere, as it turned out.
"You awake under there?"
Din couldn't help but to start at the sudden words, but relaxed when he registered what voice had said them.
Cara. It was just Cara. He was safe. Well, relatively, at least.
Finally, he allowed himself to move, slowly drawing a hand to his head, which throbbed in rhythm to his heart. He blinked open his eyes, the action requiring much more energy and effort than it ought to. He was relieved to find that the room was dim. He wasn't sure he could handle much more than that, at the moment.
Every inch of him screamed with pain. Even the simple act of breathing threatened to tug him back into darkness, and he was tempted to let it.
But he couldn't.
No, he needed to know what was going on.
Din quickly swallowed the feeling, and tried to pry his eyes open. He managed it a little longer this time, but soon enough they went crashing closed again.
"Come on Din," A voice rang in his ears. "Wake up."
Who is that?Din thought,I wish they wouldn't talk. Maybe I should make them stop?
Parting his lips was about as far as he made it towards telling the person to shut up.
Din felt a hand tap against his cheek, and frowned in distaste upon the discovery that it didn't have three fingers.
"... can you hear me?"
He could, and he wished he couldn't.
Just go away...
Finally, he propped his eyes open long enough to register a figure hovering to the side of him. He squinted, concentrating on bringing the figure into focus, which was much more of a challenge than it should have been.
That's right. I knew that.
Din made to sit up, but was stopped by gentle hands pressing his arms back to the ground.
"...'s not a good idea."
Like kriff it's not a good idea!Din needed to see, see where they were at. He needed a plan to get them out, and he couldn't very well do that just staring at a ceiling.
He pushed back against her, but found he didn't make it far before pain flared in his ribs and he fell back against the stone again, gasping, but nottoodeeply, lest he make it even worse for himself.
Kark.He'd known that too. He'd known he was hurt, so why hadn't he remembered?
His mind was so foggy right now...
Okay. Okay. What do I know for sure?
Din struggled to focus as he semi-recalled walking into the room on his own two feet. Why was it that he couldn't get up now, then? He'd been looking for something, he remembered, but what was it? What didn't he have? Maybe it was Cara? Was he looking for Cara? If so, then he'd found her. Or Grogu. No, he hadn't been looking for Grogu. He knew where he was: with the other foundlings.Foundlings.Was he in the covert then? Is that where this is?
Inhaling through his nose, the damp, earthy smell of stone walls greeted him, confirming his suspicion. But then why was Cara... ?
Slowly, pieces of the story that had landed him here fell back together. Coming to the Covert with Cara, sparring, the hunt, throwing up in the corridor... Then blank. Still no recollection of what had brought him here, to the deeper corners of the covert.
Faintly, he heard Cara talking again, and tried to answer.
Much to his embarrassment, his attempt at speech, his attempt at "What happened?", ended up sounding like something strangled, half between a mumble and a grunt.
"Welcome back." Cara smiled at him, but he could see the concern in her eyes.
"You are...You, now-" Cara paused, "Right?"
What a strange thing stay. Of course. Who else would he be?
He tried talking again, this time with a little more success. He was intelligible at least, if a little slurred.
Din swallowed, tongue feeling grainy and dry as it swiped against his the roof of his mouth.
Cara sighed in relief. He was back. Thank the kriffin' maker.
"How much do you remember?" She asked.
Din shook his head, but stopped, fingers reaching for what Cara imagined was a twinge in his neck.
So he didn't remember. That was probably for the best. His mind still moved slowly, Cara noticed. Could be either the last strings of the drugs hanging on, or could also be the knock to the head he'd taken in Cara's attempt to prevent him from killing her. His fingers eventually came to rest on a slightly swollen spot on his forehead, again looking to her for answers.
"You had a reaction to the pain meds." Cara explained, "You werereallyloopy there for a bit."
She paused, waiting for Din's brain to catch up. Din gave a slight nod for her to continue.
"I was worried you were going hurt yourself, and I had to save you from your own stupid somehow, so..." Cara gestured to Din's head.
She was glad he didn't ask for more explanation.
It was silent for a few minutes while Din fully came back to himself, carefully drawing his hands along his limbs as he did his inventory, refusing to move more than strictly necessary.
She heard him suck in a breath upon reaching his trunk.
"Pain's still pretty bad?"
Din grunted, "Couldn't have conked me out sooner?"
Cara bit her tongue against the urge to say that she wasn't actually responsible for that particular hit, but rather that he was for running directly into a stone wall. Instead, she chose to say,
"Well you didn't exactly make it easy for me."
Cara rose to her feet, as Din let out a chuckle that soon turned to a weak cough. She stretched out her legs, sore from having sat so long, as guise for giving Din a moment to catch his breath.
"Stay any longer and we might become part of the floor." Cara offered him a hand. "Think you can get up?"
Din's hesitation to answer and the involuntary tightening of his arm around his middle told her all she needed to know about the state of him. Still, they couldn't stay here forever. She leaned over catching him under the arms.
"Come on, help me." She said, "Gotta get you back to the med-bay or thebaar'urwillskewerus."
The process of getting up was clearly a rough one, and by the end of it Din was left leaning heavily on Cara, panting, and standing on shaking legs that threatened to buckle at any moment.
"Kriff." he grunted, "What did Ido?"
"You don't want to know, trust me."
Cara shook her head. Her thoughts went back to Din doing chest compressions on a rock. "You're lucky I didn't get a holo-vid of it. Paz would never let you live it down."
"He's seen me do worse."
"I don't know," Cara raised an eyebrow. "You were... a lot to handle."
Din gave a huff of indignation and pulled them both towards the doorway, Cara steadying him as they walked. He was moving mostly under his own steam now, it seemed the transition between lying and standing took far more out of him than walking. It made sense, considering the greatest of his pain was in his ribs.
After they'd covered a decent amount of ground, Din paused,
Cara sighed, knowing that Din was simply using the question as an excuse to gather his strength before hitting thosekarkingstairs, though he'd never admit it.
Honestly, you'd think the Mandalorians would have built their covert with injured people in mind, considering how often they get into trouble.
Well, since he asked... Maybe the sheer humiliation would distract him, keep him going all the way to thebaar'ur'sthis time.
"Well," Cara began, "First, you decided it was a good idea to go gallivanting around looking for Grogu, which would have been fine, except you could hardly walk and kept knocking into things."
Thus started their trek down the steps.
"Next, you successfully escaped both thebaar'urand I and made your way back here without a single person in the covert seeing you, still looking for Grogu, mind you."
Halfway down the steps now, still going good.
"Then you took a quick break from sanity, snuggled a rock, freaked out upon the discovery that it wasn't breathing and started CPR on it while asking where its heart was and if Grogu breathes from his ears."
Cara basked in Din's rapidly rising horror, choking down the laugh that threatened to bubble up. Jokes like this are best delivered with complete composure, plus considering Din's usual no-nonsense persona, she had to give him a little bit of empathy.
Only a few more steps...
"I took the rock from you, you declared me an imperial sympathizer," Cara continued, "Had a bit of a scuffle, then we sat down and..." Cara hesitated, "You talked about your parents."
Din stopped in his tracks, head tilting slightly toward her.
"What-" Din's voice wavered a bit with uncertainty, "What did I tell you?"
"Nothing much," Cara shook her head, "I managed to shut you up before you got much beyond their occupation."
Cara nudged Din towards the last few steps, and with it the last of that topic.
"Then you just kind of went on little rants about whatever crossed your mind until you wore yourself out and fell asleep." Cara shrugged, "I can see where Grogu gets it now."
Upon reaching the med-bay, Cara and Din made their way back to the cot.
Din was moving slower now, and Cara could feel the exhaustion that plagued him with each step. When he stopped just five yards short of his cot, Cara was concerned.
Din just hummed in response, not really paying attention. His eyes trailed to Paz, observing him, taking in every detail from the beads of swat on his neck to the ragged breaths struggling from his lungs. Cara followed his gaze, realizing where his attention had been caught.
"Thebaar'urthinks he'll make it." Cara said, "The fever is really taking it out of him, but... he's fighting hard."
Din watched intently as Paz suddenly turned his head turned a bit, negotiating itself into a more comfortable position. "Has he been awake?"
"Mumbled a couple times, opened his eyes once," Cara answered, "Nothing more."
Cara let him stand there for awhile, just watching Paz. If it gave him the same peace of mind that watching Din last night had brought her and Grogu, then he could stare as long as he liked. Which he did.
As time passed however, he slowly grew heavier in Cara's arms, coming to rely on them for more than just stability and balance.
"Din? You're going a little noodle-y on me." She said, "You good?"
All she received was a hum in response.Ugh, is that the only answer he'll give to the question?
"If you're going to drop, you'd better warn me, tin-can."
Again, little response, just continued staring at Paz.
Noting the pallor of his neck and clammy feeling that met her touch everywhere his skin met hers, Cara rapidly became concerned. Looking back over her shoulder at the busybaar'ur,
"Hey, you might want to get over here." Cara said, "He's acting kind of shocky."
"'m not... shocky." the words were slurred, but clearly displeased.
Thebaar'urextracted herself from where she was currently treating a badly sprained ankle, and after reassurances that she would return, went to assist Cara.
"You're shaking, Djarin." Thebaar'urobserved. "Are you experiencing any other symptoms?"
"'m fine. J'st tired."
He really was fine, standing here was doing a number on him, he knew, but he was holding up alright. His voice was a little weaker than he would like, huffing a little with the strain, but it was okay because he got to see Paz.
Cara rolled her eyes,"di'kut."
"Paz..." Din started to explain, but Cara cut him off.
"-Will still be there when I'm not practically carrying you."
"You're not-" Din finally tore his eyes away from the motionless form to observe two things: one, both his knees were bent to the extent they couldn't possibly be doing much to hold him up, and two, he was pressed tightly against Cara's side held in place by a strong arm across his hips. Even the top half of him was slumped forwards, unable to carry its own weight.
He hadn't noticed.
"Uh-huh." Cara hoisted him higher on her hip, much to his ribs' disdain. "You going to cooperate now?"
Din didn't see as though he had much choice. Despite his valiant attempts to right himself upon the realization, his legs weren't answering him. Weren't moving as they were supposed to.
Kriff. Maybe I am shocky.
Somehow recognizing the fact made it all the worse, and he felt the remaining strength draining from his limbs, his head rushing as cold tingled at his fingertips.
Maybe... maybe I hurt something while... kriff. While when? Something with a... rock? Hm- Focus...
Cara nearly dropped Din when he went boneless, startling her.
"Again!?Will you stop karking doing this?"
Quickly, she dragged him to the nearest cot, the one next to Paz.
"Listen to me Din," thebaar'ursaid, "I need you to stay awake just a little longer, ok? You need to eat."
"Eat?" Cara asked, incredulously, "Don't you think we've got a little bigger prob-"
"He's hypoglycemic." the medic interrupted as she filled a cup with water stirring a small packet into it, "Despite all that occurred when he woke up, none of it would have been enough to cause an internal bleed, so it's not hypovolemic shock which would have been the other concern. His body dispelled whatever he ate for breakfast yesterday and dinner the day before, and he's been unconscious or insane ever sense. His body's efforts towards healing itself would have dropped his sugar a lot, and his recent shenanigans just sapped any fuel he had left. He's running on empty and has been for a while."
Makes sense.Cara thought,Fits with why he was so cold last night, why he fell asleep as the drug wore off. Even why the drug affected him so bad, there was nothing in him to dilute it.
Thebaar'urremoved the spoon from the cup as Cara propped him up into a sitting position.
Din lolled his head to the side, weakly groaning as thebaar'urpressed the cup to his lips.
"Come on, stay with me, Din." thebaar'urprompted, as she again tried to get him to drink, to no avail.
Grabbing Din's wrist, the medic took his pulse.Elevated.
"Kark, I should have been expecting this!" She cursed, moving closer to both Din and Cara. "Hold him up straight."
Cara did as requested, and thebaar'urpulled Din's head back and raised his mask just enough to get the cup beneath it. Cara quickly clenched her eyes shut before she could accidentally glimpse skin.
"Hold his head and mouth open."
Keeping her eyes shut, Cara slid in behind Din, so that she could hold both his body and his head.
Thebaar'urgently tipped a small amount of the liquid into his mouth, before manually closing his jaw with her hand, and pushing his head up farther. For a moment, it sounded like Din was choking, but then he relaxed, and the medic saw his throat contract as he swallowed.
They repeated this process a few more times until the cup of liquid was gone.
Cara and thebaar'ursat there as the tension bled off, now that Din was alright.
"I- I'm sorry." thebaar'ursaid. "I should have seen this coming, should have given him a sugar drip while he was unconscious, but- our supplies are limited. And I can't be sure how long Paz will keep his coma. Chances are good I'll need all we've got for him."
"It's alright. He's not making this whole recovery thing easy on anyone. Never does." Cara shook her head. "You're doing the best you can- all he could ever ask of you."
They stayed awhile longer, monitoring Din as he slept, ensuring that nothing else was wrong. A quick once over with a scanner revealed that, just as the medic had suspected, hypoglycemia had been the only issue and Din possessed no internal bleeding. His heart rate was still high though, which would seem to indicate that he was still in a great deal of pain. Within a few moments, Cara knew it wasn't just the pain.
Din shuddered in his sleep, curling a bit as his hand clenched around the blanket. When it continued on, Cara sighed and stood.
The medic watched as she snagged one of the pillows from another cot, and shoved it up under Din's left arm.
"He's dreaming about the kid." Cara said, by way of explanation. She gestured to the pillow.
"That's how he holds him." Thebaar'urthought back to all the times she'd seen Din with his ad - almost always in the crook of his left arm.
Cara nodded, settling back against the wall near the cot. "-figured it might help calm him."
Can nothing go right for poor Din?! Really I just wanted an excuse to write more Din!whump, but also, it would have been a huge issue like this because Din's literally not eaten for almost two days at this point, and we all know just how great his level of attention to his body is to begin with (as in near non-existant). So there's a decent chance he'd not been eating well before that either, especially considering how difficult the bounty he and Cara had been after was. They'd likely been in "go-go-go" mode for awhile. Anyway, following a lovely Grogu temper tantrum, we'll be getting out of the whump soon and back on to some more domestic Din and covert culture! Hopefully.
Also, can we take a second to acknowledge that Cara is way more smart and observant than canon gives her credit for? Because you don't get that good at tactics (as displayed on Sorgan) without having more than enough brain cells to back it up.
baar'ur = medic
Chapter 17: Temper Tantrum
Things happen and Grogu is not a fan.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Where was Din when she needed him? That's right. Dead to the world. Passed out. Asleep.
Cara ducked as Grogu flung another metal cup at the wall hard enough to dent it. He'd been at it for awhile and showed no signs of stopping now - clearly his endurance with the Force was increasing. Much to both Cara and the rest of the Covert's disdain.
"He doesn't want you to heal him," Cara tried to reason with the child. "And if I take you in there that'sexactlywhat you're going to try to do, and I won't be able to stop you. So I can't."
Honestly, Cara didn't see the harm in allowing Grogu to heal Din. Surely throwing all this stuff took up about the same amount of his energy, and if he was going to do it either way, it might as well fix things rather than break them. But Din was the kid's parent, so wasn't she supposed to be with him on this one?
Kriff kriff kriff.
A large wooden bench splintered against the wall, just left to Cara's head.
"How long has he been like this?" Cara called out, carefully training her eyes on the objects the kid was levitating and swirling around himself.
"Nearly twenty minutes this time." Faik answered
"Around the same time Din went down..." Cara paused, "Wait. This time? You mean this has happened before?!"
"Well yeah, he's a kid. Kids have-" Faik was cut off as she was force slammed against the wall, Cara quickly helping her up.
"Temper tantrums." Faik grunted, shaking her head. "Not-not this bad though. Usually he'll just pick up and throw a couple things. This," Faik gestured to the numerous floating objects about the room, "this is new."
Cara felt the ground tremble beneath her feet.
Kark. He was going to bring the tunnel down.
"Kid, Kid you've got to listen to me!"
Every stone, no matter how tiny, rose from the floor of the covert, joining the swirling benches, cups, and a few pieces of beskar mid-cleaning. Breath catching in her throat, Cara dropped to her belly, crawling beneath it all. She gestured for the other's in the room to do the same. Faik copied her immediately, and Thravaa threw himself over a group of foundlings, grunting as a second bench glanced off his beskar.
"Stop! Grogu! Stop it!"
Cara felt beskar slam into her side, knocking the breath from her as she struggled to crawl to the center of the storm. Somehow, in a room with no windows, the wind was fierce and she fought for every inch of movement.
"Listen to me!" Cara slammed her fist against the ground. "You're going to bring this place down on all of us!"
Grogu's eyes shot open, even as the storm continued around them, and never had Cara seen so much hate in the little one's face. But it wasn't just hate, she realized. No there was more. Fear, confusion, pain.
The storm slowed near the center, and Cara took advantage of it, crawling quickly as she could to Grogu. She scooped him up and held him tight against her chest, storm raging around them both, now with flashes of lightning. Cara felt droplets against her skin, both from the rain, and Grogu's cries as he beat his tiny fists against her.
"It's ok," Cara murmured, tucking his head beneath her chin, running a hand along the tiny hairs on his head. "I- I'm sorry I wasn't listening. I am now. Can you show me?"
Grogu's fists slowed, but his sobs did not. His little eyes clenched shut, drawing a three-fingered palm across her cheek before taking root in her hair, grabbing tightly.
Gasping, Cara's mind was shot with an overwhelming feeling of terror, worry, and confusion swirling behind her eyes. But also anger that tore at her like fire, encasing her in flames and boiling through her skin, searing at her bones. Maker, it hurt. Hurt so bad.
It hurt even more to know the pain was not her own.
And then there was a light, startling and bright, but warm. The closer she walked to it the more exhausted she became, but... rain came down upon her, water droplets soothing every place the fire seared, gently putting out the few flames that continued to lick at her core. A feeling of good, of right, came over her, soft but unyielding.
Cara swallowed, "I- I think I understand."
Grogu clung to her, cooing softly now, mournfully almost.
She was supposed to do what was best for the kid, right? Well, it certainly seemed to her that not being with Din was doing far more harm than being with him would.
Kriff.Memories of that anger burned at her, rolling her stomach even as she held the child.
"You know we're just trying to protect you, right?" Cara stared down to the shiny green eyes and down-turned ears.
He felt plenty protected, Cara could tell, but somehow he didn't feel very safe.
"Sometimes what's in our head is more scary than what's going on outside." Cara smiled as Grogu buried his face in her shirt. "Yourbuir's fine now. I promise. He was just..."
Cara tried to think of a term Grogu might understand.
"Very, very hungry." she explained, "He was hungry for too long so it made him sleepy all of a sudden. That's probably what you sensed. He's okay now. We gave him food."
Given the look on the child's face, it seemed it would take more to convince him.
Cara sighed, "Fine. We'll go to him. But... he doesn't want you to do the magic hand thing, okay?"
Grogu nodded assent a little to easily, and Cara was fairly confident he either hadn't heard the rule or had no intention of following it.
Somewhere along the line, all the floating furniture, armor, cups, rocks, wood, and clothes had settled to the floor, the wind was near nonexistent, only just a slight breeze now, and the rain was nothing more than puddles on the ground. Lightning no longer crackled at the ceiling.
Cara looked out and held Grogu as they watched Faik give Thravaa a hand up, both of them instantly turning to tend to the foundlings he'd been protecting.
Grogu had the grace to look a guilty, his eyes once again going shiny, nose crunching as he sniveled.
"I wish I could say it wasn't your fault, bud." Cara said, "But it was. It's okay to get upset, but... you can't you can't hurt innocent people because of it."
The child let out a mournful coo, and looked over to the foundlings, babbling softly as if in apology. The foundlings simply watched him in response, warily nodding their acceptance.
It would take time, but they'd be back to playing with him eventually.
"Let's go seebuir." Cara prompted, standing as she began gently bouncing the child in her arms.
Faik met her by the door as they left.
"Din told me you 'don't do the baby thing.'"
"I don't." Cara said sharply, shaking her head.
Faik glanced down to the now peaceful and previously raging kid in her arms.
"Really." she said flatly.
"I just-" Cara looked down at the soft green ears and still watery eyes, at the tiny hand still planted firmly in her hair. His occasional tugging hurt a bit, now that she thought about it. Cara extracted the hair from his fingers, and Grogu pouted, grabbing for it again. She gave up and let him do it. It wasn't that bad anyway. She looked back to Faik.
"The kid is 50. Not a baby."
"Well, that 50 year old," Faik emphasized, "is chewing on your hair."
Cara quickly looked over to see, yes, it was true. Again she tugged the slobbery hair away from Grogu, flipping it behind her shoulder and out of his reach. Even she had limits.
"I don't do babies. But-" Cara said firmly, then, the slightest bit softer, but no less defensive, "But maybe I can do Grogus when I have to."
Cara could hear the cheek in Faik's voice.
"Well. Best go take that middle aged man to see his father before he gets angry again." Faik looked at the destruction scattered across the floor. Two of the benches were in splinters, unrecognizable, and the third was almost beyond repair. Rubble coated the floor and she felt it prickling beneath her feet as she shifted her weight.
"If he can do this now..." Faik trailed off, but Cara understood the sentiment.
If the kid could do this now, what could he do when he was an adult? No wonder Din was in such a hurry to find a jedi to train him.
Briefly, Cara wondered if Grogu had ever thrown a fit while Din was flying, but she threw the thought from her mind. Apparently he hadn't, because she doubted very much Din would be alive to tell the tale if he had.
Din was still asleep when they got to the infirmary, blissfully unaware of the destruction his kid had caused. Thebaar'ur, however, was not.
"You guys almost woke him up! What thekriffwas going on in there?!" She whisper yelled, "Akarkingtornado?!"
Cara tilted her head.
I mean, sort of.
Behind her, Thravaa ushered in a fewad,each presenting their scrapes and bruises to thebaar'ur.
The medic raised her hands incredulously and turned around, before taking a deep breath and saying, "Alright. Fine. You with the black eye," The medic gestured to a foundling, "you're first."
Cara turned away, and holding Grogu tightly, approached Din.
Little grabby hands appeared as they neared him.
"I told you, no healing."
Grogu grumbled in protest, doing his best to wiggle out of Cara's grasp.
"I saidno, Grogu."
Upon realizing his struggle would be fruitless, he tried giving her his best baby porg eyes. Which almost worked. Almost.
Cara raised an eyebrow, staring down at him.
"That may work on yourbuir, but it won't on me, bud."
Cara held him, near enough to Din to satisfy him, but far enough away that the kid couldn't touch him. The kid could probably heal Din whether or not he touched him, she figured, but it seemed he understood why she was keeping him away.
"He's alright, see?"
Grogu babbled, pointing to the deep purple extending up from the bandages around Din's ribs. Cara frowned, tugging the strips of cloth down a bit for a closer look. The kid was right, he didn't look any better than he had been this morning. If anything, the bruising looked worse now.
"He's a bit pale now, from the low sugar and pressure. Makes the bruising stand out more."
Cara jumped a little at thebaar'ur'svoice.
"Sorry, didn't mean to frighten you." the medic said, "Was just grabbing something, and saw you were checking on him."
Cara looked back to Grogu, still cooing at her.
"You hear that?" Cara asked, "She said he looks worse than he is. He's fine."
An alarm rang through the room, and all heads shot towards the source as Paz began to seize on his cot, back arching and limbs jerking.
"Kark." Thebaar'urswore, shoving the antiseptic she was holding into Cara's free hand before racing over to Paz, pushing him onto his side. Cara moved to help, but was waved off.
"I can handle this." Thebaar'ursaid above Paz's thrashing. "Pull that curtain and take care of the foundlings."
Realizing Thravaa was no longer anywhere to be found, Cara nodded.
"Come onad," she said, funneling them back towards the other side of the room before reaching up and closing the curtain that would keep Paz from view.
"What's happening to him?" one of the olderadsaid, trying to peak around the curtain. Cara grabbed him by the arm and corraled him back towards the group.
"Nothing-" Cara cut herself off, realizing that none of theadwere that stupid. "I mean, Paz is- Because he's sick his brain is making his body do silly things."
Several of theaderupted into chatteringMando'a,Grogu babbling at them as well. Then, suddenly, they stopped, gasping upon onead's proclamation, dashing towards Paz all at once.
"What did you say?" Cara asked, pushing them all back from the curtain. "What is she saying?"
Again, the olderadspoke up, the sentence coming out rushed and breathless.
"She said herbuirtold her what Paz is doing is called a seizure and that it's really bad when it happens and Paz is going to die."
Kriff, kids are easier when they can't talk.
Okay, wasn't sure if I wanted to leave this chapter off here, but I did so I guess I'm going to. I will, however, start writing the next chapter immediately while I still have half a clue where I'm going with this. Well, at least we shifted from whump to angst. That's something. And it won't last forever, not even the whole of the next chapter. I think. It'll be fine. You guys will be fine. You'll like it, promise.
Also, how interesting was that Grogu temper tantrum?! And why was he so panicked right then as opposed to earlier? I mean, Din was actually just fine this time, so what's up with that? What else is contributing to poor Grogu's stress?
buir = parent
ad = children
baar'ur = medic
Chapter 18: The Power of Choice.
It was a hard choice, and yet an easy one.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"He's not going to-"Kark,she couldn't say that for sure either. She took a deep breath. "Thebaar'uris doing a really good job, and if anyone can make it through this then Paz can, okay? It'll be alright."
"I just wish it were quick." One of the foundlings sighed, "The slow ones are always the worst."
"Poison is one of the worst ways to go." Another foundling nodded agreement, sounding resigned.
Cara was again struck by just how much and how little these foundlings knew about the world. Orphans they were, near all of them, and they were certainly no strangers to death and pain. They'd seen it all before. Their lives were built on it.
"It'll be ok though, because he'll be inManda." One of the smaller foundlings pointed out, "It's really no fair that he gets to go first. The elders have been waiting so long already, especiallyba'buir."
Their lives may have been built on death and pain, but they were now held up by the hope and honor given them by purpose, by tribe.
Cara wasn't sure where people went when they died. Wasn't sure they went anywhere at all, if she was honest with herself. Whatever maker had created them had deserted them, left her to fend for herself when she needed help most. If at the end of it all she ended up by the maker's side, she would give them a piece of her mind, along with the wrong end of a vibroblade, if they had those things up there. Kriff, she hoped they did.
Out of the corner of her eye, Cara caught sight of a floating roll of bandage. She could hear Paz still seizing not far away. Not a second later, and a pillow dislodged itself from a cot. A floating glove.
"No no no! Not in here!"
Grogu's face was beginning to contort back into the expression it had held in the great room.
"Not right now!"
Desperately, Cara ran her hand along his ears, hoping to calm him.
The moment she touched him, she was tossed back into the flames, searing through her mind as though it were coated in fuel and left to burn. And then the light, and the rain came, pushing it away.
It was much shorter this time. But it served it's purpose. Sent its message.
"You didn't know who was going to die." Cara realized, "You thought it was Din, but it wasn't. It was Paz."
She could have slapped herself once she realized she'd said that aloud.
"So youdothink Paz is going to die?"
Although Cara definitely should have answered that question, she didn't. Her focus remained on Grogu.
"I shouldn't let you do this." She said, "Din will have my head."
Grogu looked up at her, eyes darting between her and where he knew Paz was hidden behind the curtain.
"Can you do it?" Cara asked, mentally adding"Without hurting yourself?"She hoped Grogu picked up on it. Surely he did with all that force stuff. She didn't want the other foundlings to overhear.
Grogu cooed an affirmation, sounding more older and more confident than a toddler should. Which, Cara supposed, made sense considering he was actually 50.
Still, she was on the line.
If she let the kid do this, if she let him heal Paz, then Din would hate her. Despise her for endangering the kid when it could have been avoided. But Grogu said he could do it, and for some reason, Cara found herself agreeing. She'd never seen anything like what he'd done in the great room. She had expected him to be running on fumes afterwards, to plop over and go to sleep, but he wasn't. He was staring at her, eyes wide and bright, if a little teary and afraid.
But Din would hate her.
But Paz would be safe.
In the end, there was no choice to be made.
After demanding that the foundlings stay behind the curtain and assuring them that she wouldknowif they didn't, she stepped out from behind it, Grogu in her arms.
The seizure had slowed nearly to a stop, Paz's limbs merely having the occasional fit of twitching now, rather than the spasms before. His body still shook though, wracked with shivers as the fever plundered his energy. Thebaar'urhad left him on his side, fearing another seizure, Cara imagined.
Walking alongside thebaar'ur, who now stood at the foot of Paz's bed, Cara joined her.
"He was doing so well..." thebaar'urspoke lowly, no doubt trying to hide her words from the foundlings pressed up against the curtain. "I don't understand why he-"
"How is he doing now?" Cara should have felt bad for interrupting, but her heart pounded and Grogu was heavier than a full load of beskar in her arms.
Maybe having Grogu heal him wasn't necessary. He wasn't seizing now, surely that meant he would be alright? Would heal on his own?
Thebaar'urshook her head, "I give him a few hours at most. The poison is mostly gone now, but the fever..."
Cara shifted her weight.
"Last time the seizures came it was because of the poison. This time it's the fever, and unless we can get him cooled down, they're not going anywhere." Thebaar'urexplained. "And nothing I've done to cool him has worked. He just keeps spiking, and every time he seizes, he's got less energy to fight with. He won't last through another."
Taking Grogu, Cara moved closer to the cot, watching as Paz just... survived. This couldn't be called living.
He had fought so hard for so long, she had watched him as she and Grogu sat polishing Din's armor last night. She could see the strain it had taken him to last even this long. She'd seen the sweat that rolled off his skin, soaking the sheets beneath him before the medic could change them out again. Seen the clench of his fists as he fought wave after wave of pain. But now... This last seizure had taken everything out of him. He had nothing left to offer. No strength left to fight with.
He was starting to give up, and anyone could see it.
Cara wished she couldn't.
Apnea had set in. A few quick, gasping breaths, then a period of nothing, of stillness. Cara knew the beginnings of a death rattle when she heard it.
Thebaar'urwas right. Wouldn't be long now.
There was no decision. Only action.
Thebaar'ur's helmet tilted with surprise as Cara set Grogu down next to Paz on the bed. Grogu stared up at her, for permission, it seemed.
"I know you're probably tired already," Cara ran a gentle hand along the child's ear. "You don't have to heal him completely, but- give him enough to fight with."
Cara nudged the child forwards, and reassured he was doing the right thing, Grogu placed his tiny green hands on Paz's bare arm and closed his eyes. His little brow came together, ears stiffening with concentration. Several minutes passed, far longer than it had taken for Grogu to heal Karga, but no improvement was seen. In fact, he only got worse.
Paz's breath hitched, then stopped, and for a moment Cara feared they'd been too late. Had the time she'd spent talking to thebaar'urcosted Paz's life? She'd never forgive herself it had.
He stopped shivering too, then. He lie completely still, muscles all gone slack where before they'd been tense with pain.
Thebaar'urdidn't speak, but slowly knelt aside the cot, opposite Grogu. She gently pressed her fingers to Paz's neck, moving slightly then pressing again. She began to shake her head, but Cara stopped her.
"No." Cara said, "The kid's not done yet. There's still a chance."
"He's not there anymore, Cara." Thebaar'ursaid, "I took his pulse. There was nothing, not even a flutter."
Cara felt anger flare within her out of nowhere as thebaar'urwent to remove Grogu from Paz's side. In a flash, thebaar'urwas against the wall, Cara's arm pressed against her shoulders holding her in place.
"Let me go, Cara."
"No. He's still there. Just trust me." Cara insisted, "And if you still can't do that, at least trust the kid."
Thebaar'ur's head turned towards Grogu, who was still postured over Paz, beginning to show signs of fatigue.
"He still thinks there is something in Paz worth fighting for, and I'm not giving up until he does."
Thebaar'urdidn't struggle against her, didn't try to escape. Her body was loose and mind calm, even as her feet barely scraped against the ground, shoulders beginning to ache beneath Cara's grip.
For another moment, thebaar'urcouldn't help but think just how veryMando'adeCara's reaction to Paz's death was. Well, similar to that of a youngMando'ade, just past swearing the creed, butMando'adenonetheless. The medic wondered whether this was something her time with Din had impressed upon her, if the shock troopers had held similar views, or if it was simply the way she was. She imagined it must be a bit of all three.
His eyes flew open, and hands grabbed at the edges of the cot as he pulled himself up to sitting, nearly knocking Grogu off of him in the process. The adrenaline fell quick, however, as though he'd been shot up with a stim pack, and Paz faded back against the mound of pillows, eyes closing, before opening again blearily beneath the mesh of the face covering.
The medic stumbled as Cara dropped her, rushing to steady up the kid, who toddled woozily at the side of the cot.
Grogu stared contentedly at his work, giving a small nod, before falling backwards into Cara's waiting arms.
"Paz? Paz can you hear me?"
The medic received a weak groan in response.
Cara watched as thebaar'urdarted around the area, checking monitors for Paz's temperature, his pulse, respiratory status...
It was the medic that interrupted this time.
"He's still got a long way to go. Fever caused some extensive damage, but... he's going to be alright." She stated, and Cara could hear the surprise, but also fascination in her voice. "Din had said the kid could... but I didn't really believe him, thought he was exaggerating. Clearly not. Let me see the little one."
Cara looked down to Grogu, lax in her arms save for his puffing little breaths and steady thumping where her hand sat on his little chest. Hesitantly, Cara allowed thebaar'urto take him.
She knew he needed to be looked after, made sure he was alright after so much strain, but handing him over stripped her arms of warmth and she felt anxiety shoot through her veins as though it were electricity.
The medic examined the child, before nodding her approval.
"He's a little dehydrated andcompletelyworn out, but he'll be perfectly fine too." thebaar'ursaid, "Bet you he's going to take the nap of his life though, by the looks of it."
Cara's hands took back Grogu the moment she could. Thebaar'urlooked to her, tilting her head as though she wished to say something, but chose not to.
It was okay. She didn't need to. Cara understood.
With a last look at Paz and Din's slumbering forms, she walked briskly out of the room, breath caught in her throat.
After getting Grogu situated for sleep in the foundling room, she found herself walking into the depths of the Covert, seeking solitude in the room where Din had hugged a rock.
Letting out a shaky breath, she planted her feet and slid down against the wall, placing her elbows on her knees and head down upon them.
"Kriff..." She whispered to herself, hands digging beneath her hair and into the sides of her head. Then, in a sigh of frustration, "For just one moment- one moment- can wenothave a crisis."
Cara's heart was still pounding, despite her best efforts to slow it. She tossed her head back up against wall and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath.
The kid was alright. Din was alright. Paz was alright. It was okay now.
And somehow, despite it all, Cara was quite certain that it was anxiety had taken the place of blood as it flowed through her veins.
A thought surfaced in her head, dodging the others as they passed by.
Kark. I attacked their medic.
Woah. Got some major feels there. But Paz is alright, and so is Grogu. Which is progress, honestly, at this point. At least he's not gonna die now. Won't lie, I had briefly considered killing him off when I first thought of this part of the storyline awhile back, but even then I knew I couldn't do it. No... Paz must go on. He is necessary. Gotta get some more of those Uncle Paz and Grogu moments.
Chapter 19: Din'burc'ya
Cara's moment of solitude is interrupted.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"You can come out now."
Cara raised her head from where it rested atop her knees, looking up as the dark greys and sickly greens of Thravaa's armor came into view.
He came to a stop in front of her, his stare boring into her, and she held his gaze steadily. The beskar's impurity did nothing to lessen the threat it held.
"Did you come here to kill me?"
It was Thravaa that broke the stare, turning and taking a few steps in the opposite direction before breathing out, "No."
He stopped, running a gloved hand over the stone lining walls. "Thought about it though."
Cara snorted. She tilted her head back to stare at the ceiling, but didn't let Thravaa out of her peripheral vision. "What are you doing here, then?" She was sick of the guessing game already, though it had hardly even started.
"He's awake." Thravaa turned back towards her. "Thought you might want to know."
"... Does he know?" Cara asked, "What I did, I mean."
"Few don't," Thravaa sat cross legged, settling back along the wall opposite her. "Word travels quickly in a Covert,aruetii."
The words were measured, careful to be spoken without emotion. Maybe he'd been told off for being angry already. Cara didn't have the energy to match it - a laugh born half of exhaustion and half disbelief slipped her mouth.
"How much trouble am I in?"
"With him or with us?"
"There's a difference?"
"Yet to be seen." Thravaa answered. "What ever he's thinking, he's keeping it close to his chest."
An uncomfortable silence passed, and in that time, Cara decided that Thravaa truly wasn't intending to harm her, at least not yet. She wished he would just get it over with, kick her out. Worse maybe, if they decided she deserved it. Maybe she did.
Cara sighed. Things had been going so well, how had she managed to kark them up again in just a couple hours? She'd gone from getting along semi-well - with a group of Mandalorians infamous for hating quite literallyeveryone- to nearly killing Grogu, attacking thebaar'ur,and then running away to avoid facing what she'd done.Hut'uun. Coward.The worst insult one could receive, and it fit her perfectly, as of present.
But that wasn't it, was it? No, this had started even earlier than that. She'd fallen asleep in the armory, out in the open, leaving Din's armor unguarded. When she had awoken, it was in a pile next to her, so she knew someone had seen her, must have straightened it all into a pile, and she hadn't woken enough to know. Someone could have stolen it and she'd never have known. And then, before that even, she'd nearly fought with Thravaa, putting the Covert in danger of being found out. Of course, the only people that knew about that were either unconscious or in front of her, still though, it happened, and as Thravaa had said, word travels quickly in the Covert. Then there was the matter of publicly putting one of the greatest warriors in the Covert on hisshebsduring that sparring match the other night. Kriff, Paz was some sort of leader too, wasn't he? And Din? She'd taken his still tender, horrifically bruised ribs and planted a back kick on them. Taken them from a simple injury to cracked and broken bone.
Kark.Things never had been good, were they? No, the only reason they hadn't kicked her out already was because she was "Din'burc'ya". Din had placed a claim on her by bringing here, one he couldn't take back, and what did she do? Kriffed it up.Royally.
Thravaa startled as she jumped to her feet, driving a fist into the stone wall behind her. She stilled, still pressing her fist to the wall, relishing the tendrils of fiery pain shooting through her arm from knuckles to shoulder.
Cara felt her mind clear, and she drew her hand away from the wall and down to her side, flexing her fingers, feeling the burn shoot along them once again.
"Did you break it?" Thravaa's voice came from behind her, closer now.
"Do you care?"
"No." Thravaa stood, "But depending on the outcome of your hearing, you may face trial by combat. It's in your best interest to keep your limbs in working order."
Walking swiftly out of the room, Thravaa motioned for her to follow him. After a moment's hesitation, she did.
It could be a trap of some sort. The Mandalorians may have placed an ambush somewhere along the route. Maybe they thought it would be easier to take her down if they could gang up on her? Get her in a part of the Covert she was less familiar with? Did they think she would resist her trial? She wouldn't. She'd known the severity of her crime when she'd done it. Harming a foundling, especially at the advantage of another, was unacceptable.
"What has Din told you about our justice system?"
"Nothing much, beyond the fact that it exists," Cara answered, "And that it's about the furthest thing from lenient."
They were headed in the direction of the kitchen, Cara realized, why though, she had no clue.
"You know then, the punishments that may face you?"
"Any crime big enough to go to a Covert hearing typically results in loss of life or limb at minimum. Dishelming, or banishment, in my case, at worst."
Thravaa shook his head as they passed through the kitchen threshold. "And yet you still chose to put the foundling in danger."
Cara didn't respond, just watching as Thravaa proceeded to go through the motions of making the spice tea the armorer had given her not long ago. He turned back to her once it was steeping.
"I can't get a read on you." Thravaa crossed his arms, "And I don't like things I don't understand."
"Well, I guess that explains why you're so salty all the time."
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. For a moment, she regretted the jibe, but honestly, there were few ways she could make her situation worse at this point. A little needling of Thravaa wasn't going to matter if she already faced trial by combat. Well, maybe it would lend to an execution instead. But that, to Cara, was still trial by combat. There was no honor in being executed. She'd never allow herself die so easily, even at the hands of the Mandalorian. Even if she might deserve it.
Cara sensed Thravaa bristle at the insult, but he didn't say anything, instead just roughly shoving the cup of tea into her hand. "Drink."
"Why?" she asked, "So you can poison me?"
Cara's mouth had a mind of its own, when she was upset. It always had, she'd known.
"Unlike you,aruetii,I try to avoid dishonor." Thravaa growled, stepping closer to her. "If you die at my hand it will be by your own knife once I've disarmed you."
"Then why?" Cara motioned to the tea.
"To keepthatfrom happening again." Thravaa nodded at her now purple, swelling knuckles. "You've got to stay out of your head. You're about to have a long,longfew days, and the calmer you are the better chance you'll leave with your life."
Cara looked at into the dark visor with incredulousness, "You hate me." She deadpanned, "So why thekriffare you trying to help me?"
Thravaa was silent for a moment, seeming to consider her. When he spoke it was in that same measured, level tone of voice she'd grown to associate with him. With Mandalorians in general.
"There's a difference between lack of trust and the presence of hate." Thravaa took a sip of his own tea. "You fall in the first category. And even if you didn't," he continued, "you deserve the chance to defend your actions. Otherwise, we'd be no better thanyou."
Cara took the insult for what it was, and it stung. But Thravaa was right. He was being fair. He was allowing her a fighting chance at surviving this ordeal. She remembered now, that Din had once told her that any crime relating to a foundling demanded a Covert wide hearing, regardless of whether anyone desired to charge the defendant. Most other crimes could be dealt with by theAloralone, but in dealing with foundlings... everyone must be involved.
"What happened there?"
Cara started as Thravaa's voice brought her out of her thoughts. It took her a moment to realize what he'd seen, and she subconsciously brought her good hand up to feel the small bruises dotting the side of her neck. She'd forgotten about them, it seemed like so long ago that Din had been in that drug induced haze, lost to the world around him.
"He didn't know what he was doing." Cara defended.
"He had a reaction to the pain meds, some sort of hallucinations." she said, "He doesn't remember doing it, and it's going to stay that way."
Cara's voice had hardened into a threat on that last bit, and after a moment, Thravaa nodded.
Good. Good. Din wouldn't know. Cara couldn't have his guilt affecting Din's judgement when he was deciding what ought to be done with her. "Nice" was not a word most would associate with the battle testedberoya,but it was true. Din was one of the kindest men she'd known, whether he'd admit it or not, and she wasn't going to take advantage of that when her trial came. But then again, maybe it wouldn't matter to him anyway. He was kind, but he had limits, and of those limits, the largest one was small, green, fuzzy, and in an orange robe that swamped him. No, when it came to matters of his son, Din's judgement would be unfettered by compassion for a once friend.
Friend.She'd be losing him, soon. Him and and his child, which she'd so endangered. They'd still have Paz though, and the Covert. Din and Grogu would be alright. They'd soon get over this betrayal. But Cara wouldn't. She would miss them, wondering what they were doing. What might have been changed had circumstances been different. No, Cara would be alone, just as she'd been since the destruction of Alderaan. She'd live, she knew, she'd lost people before and she'd certainly do it again, but it was different when the people you lost were still alive and in tunnels not far from where you frequent. Loneliness was always worse when you knew what the lack of it felt like. She did now.
She let the world fill her mind, struggling to shove everything else out.
A variety of emotions picked at her mind, rubbing it raw.
Fear.She didn't want to lose her friend.Sadness.She didn't want to lose the one source of happiness in her life.Anger.It wasn't fair! Nothing about this was fair! It had been that or let Paz die. What kind of choice is that!? Both were wrong! And Grogu told her he'd be fine, he'd promised- why couldn't he just-
"Drink the tea,Din'burc'ya."
Cara saw red, she leapt up and started pacing back and forth across the room, mind spinning with rage and fear and pain and- The cup was pressed into her hand again.
Cara downed the cup in one gulp. The cup made a tinny clank against the floor as she threw it down, and started up her pacing again. Eventually, she began to slow even as the spice drew tears to her eyes and fire to her lungs.
"This is really tearing you up." Thravaa observed.
"Youthink?!" Cara's eyes were still wild, but subtly calming as the tea did its work. "And-" Cara hesitated, "Don't call me that."
"Call you what?" There was a tilt in his helmet.
"Din'burc'ya."Cara spat out, "I doubt that's true any longer."
I had to sit and let this chapter simmer in my brain for awhile. This chapter was hard to write because I had the tone of it so perfectly in my head, I could feel how the emotions of each character were supposed to play out, but as far as actions and words go, nada. Zilch. I had nothing. Anyway, a few rounds in this old bowling ball I call a brain had this pop out. I'm pretty satisfied with what I ended up with. We'll get a little more of Thravaa and Cara in the next chapter, then we'll get to see what Din makes of all this. What Paz makes of it. And finally, how it's going to play out in the Covert.
How could this be such a big deal you might ask? Why would the Covert be so upset when Cara was clearly only trying to save Paz? Because they knew that however Grogu heals, it takes a lot out of him, and they don't know how much will be too much. And Cara chose to let him right after he used a bunch of energy in that temper tantrum. She let him do it anyway. Also, attacking the baar'ur was probably not the greatest plan either. The baar'ur seems to understand Cara's motivations, at least in part, but I doubt the rest of the covert will be so understanding. They weren't there. They didn't see it. They didn't watch Cara make the choice, and they didn't see her initial hesitance. Only that she risked the life of a foundling to save someone who was almost dead anyway. She couldn't have known it was going to work, and it might have killed Grogu trying. This is a big deal.
Thravaa's character was never meant to be important, honestly. When I first created him a few chapters ago he was only meant to represent the more cautious side of the Covert. He was meant to speak for the group, not for himself, but he just wouldn't stinking shut up, so now he's important and way more complex of a character than he was ever meant to be. Go figure.
I recently realized I never specified Faik's age. I know how old I think she is, but I'm curious how you guys have been imagining her?
Also, have you guys ever just kept clicking the reload button on your email hoping to get one saying that one of the fanfics you follow has been updated? Because honestly, and this is a touch embarrassing, I'm quite sure I've picked through pretty much all of the Mandalorian fanfic by now. Anything I haven't read is stuff I'm not interested in, and I'm dying for some new content.
This is the last of the chapters that I had pre-written, so updates may come a little more slowly now. I'll do my best to keep up, but no guarantees. College does tend to make one busy! XD
aruetii - outsider, foreigner
baar'ur - medic
Hut'uun - coward (but stronger), worst possible insult for Mandalorians
shebs - butt
Din'burc'ya - friend of Din, Din's friend. Commonly used by the more traditional of the Covert to refer to Cara.
Chapter 20: Honestly, Din, Just Drink Your Smoothie.
Cara gets snippy, Din's still having troubles (poor guy), and Paz is... Paz.
The Baar'ur and Thravaa endure.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Cara crumpled back against the wall again, taking her head into her hands, knees coming up. She knew this wasn't exactly the show of strength that she wanted to present to the Covert, but she couldn't bring herself to care. In just a couple days, maybe less, she would lose everything.
"Would you do it again?"
She lifted her head to see that Thravaa still stared intently at her.
"If you could do it all over," Thravaa asked, "would you make the same decision? Would you let the foundling heal Paz?"
And it was true.
Given a thousand chances, she would pick to save Paz every time. Because, somehow, she'd known Grogu would be alright. She couldn't explain it, but she'd known the kid wasn't lying when he said he could do it and live.
Maybe she shouldn't have trusted him, he was a child after all, and more than that, he was a child with a self-sacrificing nature not unlike his father's.
"I still don't understand."
Cara rolled her eyes in annoyance, speaking as she stood. "Good thing you don't have to."
Thravaa ignored her as she began her pacing again, instead continuing his train of questioning.
"You clearly mean a lot to the foundling, and he means at least something to you. That much was clear with his little temper tantrum. You were the only one able to calm him since Djarin was out." Thravaa carefully watched Cara's reactions as he spoke. "But Paz... he doesn't mean anything to you. So why would you risk the foundling, who you care about, to heal someone you just met a few days ago?"
Whyindeed. By all accounts, it really didn't make a lick of sense to someone oblivious to Cara's thoughts. It only made half sense in her own mind.
"It's not about what I want."
"Then what is it about?" Thravaa asked, "Why did you commit this crime? Why would you endanger a foundling that you care about? That Din cares about? What were you thinking?"
"I don't know. Alright?" Cara stopped abruptly, coming to a halt directly in front of Thravaa. She stared into his visor. "I don't know why I did what I did. All Idoknow is that I don't regret it- any of it, and I never will. I made the right choice and I'm prepared to deal with the fall out."
Thravaa crossed his arms.
"I wouldn't count on it."
Both her patients were awake now. Following the explanation she'd delivered of recent events, both had been quite shocked. One of them hadn't said a word ever since, but that was okay. The other one more than compensated for it.
"Howdareshe?!" Paz's face was red, not from fever this time, but from rage. "Howdareshe use the foundling to save me!? He could have DIED. What did she think!? That I would want her to sacrifice the runt for me?!"
"Paz, you need to calm down," thebaar'urpatiently readjusted the monitors that Paz had squirmed out of in his fit of anger, "We just stopped your vitals from tanking a few hours ago, I don't need you getting them all worked up now."
"I don't care. She can't do that to him!" Paz yanked his arm away from thebaar'ur."And to think, I was actually starting to trust her. Me! Trusting anaruetii!"
"Calm down or I will have to sedate you." The medic grabbed his arm again and replaced the pulse oximeter. "Your body is still weak and it needs to heal."
In truth, the medic was never going to sedate him. She didn't have reason too, given that he was about to crash any minute. The only thing keeping him going thus far was sheer rage and adrenaline, and even now she could see his efforts waning. His body's exhaustion was beginning to take over again and soon enough he wouldn't have the energy to keep on like he was. He wouldn't have a choice but to calm.
"Not kriffin' weak," he muttered, "that kriffin'aruetiimade sure of that."
Satisfied that Paz was no longer about to jump off the cot and lay waste to the shock-trooper, thebaar'urmoved on to her other patient.
Din was quiet at the best of times, but he'd been suspiciously so ever since waking up. In fact, now that she thought about it, the medic wasn't entirely sure he'd spoken yet. Which was quite concerning given his previous condition.
Considering him more closely now, the medic examined him.
His head was weaving gently as he sat, mind appearing to be somewhat glazed over, but his head turned to follow her as she moved near him.
He looked up, but didn't respond. Thebaar'urtook his pulse again, still elevated a bit.Still hypoglycemic.
Well of course he was. One serving of sugar replenisher wasn't going to cure him when he was five servings short. It was a preventative measure at best, to keep him from worsening as he rested.
"Djarin, I need you to talk to me," The medic gently set a hand on Din's forearm. His head bobbed down to look, before slowly returning to look at her helmet.
"You're still acting pretty out of it..." thebaar'urhummed, "Can you hear me? You're probably feeling pretty lightheaded, right?"
Finally, Din nodded a bit.
"Yes? Yes to which question?"
"How long's it been since you ate?"
He just stared blankly at her for a few seconds, uncomprehending.
Sighing, thebaar'urleaned the top of Din's cot back, and pushed his legs up so that his feet were flat on the cot, knees bent in the air.
"That should help keep your blood pressure up at least for now. That feel better?"
"We need to get some more sugar in you otherwise you'll be out again soon, and I'd rather not start a line on you if I can help it," thebaar'ursaid, "How long's it been since you've eaten?"
"Thinking..." He mumbled, then after a moment, "Breakfast?"
"You threw that up, last meal from the night before too. Try again."
"Hm..." It took him longer to answer than thebaar'urwas comfortable with.
"Djarin?" The medic ran her gloved hands up and down his arms, squeezing lightly to encourage circulation, and hopefully, focus. "You gonna answer me?"
A noise of acknowledgement, then, "Can't remember."
"Alright, probably just liquids for now, then." The medic determined, "Can't have you bringing everything right back up because your stomach forgot how to eat."
After a quick trip to the kitchens, the medic returned with a thin smoothie of the sugariest fruits she could find, along with a heaping spoon of chili, of course. Had to make it taste tolerable, at least.
Upon propping the head of Din's cot back up, he blanched again at the sudden drop in blood pressure, head lolling weakly to his chest, despite his clear efforts to keep it up.
"Come on, drink." Thebaar'urprompted, "I know you don't feel like eating, but we've got to get this into you."
"Haryc."Din whispered between sips.
The medic really tried to be sympathetic. She really did.
"I know you're tired, but you've just got to suck it up. Literally and metaphorically." The medic said, "I've told you this is what happens when you don't take care of yourself."
"No. No, you didn't." Thebaar'ursighed, "You did to begin with, got yourself checked out when you first came, but then you decided to spar while injured, neglected to apply more bacta before bed and by morning got so stiffened up you could hardly move, then you spent the majority of the next day tying up foundlings, shortly followed by going on anon-alorsanctioned mission to save the hunting team. All that while you had been told not to lift anything heavier than your foundling and had been told not to bare your armor. Before you arrived at the Covert, going by the severity of your current condition, you hadn't had a full meal or a decent night's sleep in several days, maybe longer. So no, you've not been taking care of yourself, and don't try to fool me into believing you were."
The medic huffed, crossing her arms and looking down at Din who was staring at her and still seemed to be deciphering her words. Eventually, he seemed to get it.
"What were we talking about?"
Or maybe not.
"Just drink your smoothie."
As it turned out, informing Cara that Din was awake was not the only reason Thravaa had come to find her.
No, as it turned out, Cara would now have an armed escort at all times as she moved about in the Covert and she was under no circumstances allowed near the foundlings. As time went on, however, Cara began to realize that it was as much for her own safety as it was for the Mandalorians.
Around three-quarters of theMando'aderefused to look in her direction, and the remaining quarter found it more appropriate to at the very least glare at her as she passed, some even venturing forth to insult her with words she didn't even understand. Would never understand, likely.
A few Mandalorians made it clear they wished further harm to befall her, but Thravaa's presence seemed to deter the majority of that issue. She almost wished it didn't.
Somewhere in her mind, the most stupid corner of it, came the itch to pick a fight.
Normally, this itch didn't bother Cara. She could ignore it if she wanted to. Normally.
But these were not normal times.
For hours now, she'd been wandering aimlessly throughout the Covert, with nothing to do, no one to talk to, and nothing to think about except what she was trying not to. She wasn't allowed to see Din or Paz and shedefinitelywasn't allowed to see Grogu. She'd been given that warning at blaster point. Even Thravaa had fallen silent, taking to just following her around, moving as she moved, never more than a few steps away. He stared down every other Mandalorian that dared near them.
Cara pushed down the nervous energy licking at her heels.
"So how'd you get stuck with baby-sitting duty?"
Needling Thravaa had to be the superior alternative to throwing a punch at someone. He'd taken it alright thus far, well, he'd at least not stabbed her yet.
"Armorer assigned me."
"Why you though?"
"I'm the most lethal at close quarters."
"Hm." Cara muttered, "I choose to take that as a compliment."
"Of course you would,aruetii."The word was a snake in his mouth this time, unlike before.
Cara yielded to impulse. "What makes the difference?"
Thravaa didn't respond, and Cara continued.
"Sometimes when you say that word 'aruetii,'you say it like its a state of being. Like saying I'm a 'human' or something." Cara's stare was level at his helmet. "Other times you say it like a curse."
It was silent for a while, and Cara decided to drop the issue, turning back to look at the crowd glaring at her from a distance. Of course he wouldn't tell her, she probably wouldn't be allowed to learn any more of their language now. The thought saddened her more than she cared to admit. Even now, she rarely had any clue what theMando'adewere talking about, but in the short time she'd been in the Covert, she had grown used to the tapped, but rolling and smooth sounds ofMando'a. It was nice to know what Din had grown up listening to.
Thravaa's voice startled her out of her thoughts, and she looked back at him
"A state of being and an curse. Depends on the inflection."
"What does it actually mean?" Cara got the jist, but she'd like a definition, if Thravaa was willing to provide it.
Another pause, Thravaa tilting his helmet in consideration.
"One is translated as 'foreigner,'" he said.
"and the other?"
Silence again reigned.
Soon,Cara realized,they'll decide which oneIam.
Upon finishing the smoothie, Din appeared much, much more alert.
However, he was no more talkative.
Thebaar'ursat aside him after checking on Paz again, who'd since gone into a few more intermittent fits of anger, punctuated by the short naps his body forced him to take.
"What I explained earlier," the medic said carefully, "How much do you remember?"
"Paz isn't dying any more?" Din said, "Not-" He broke off with a cough. "Not much more than that. Something about Cara?"
"Hm. You'd seemed to be understanding it at the time." Thebaar'urfrowned. "But then, you always did have a good auto-pilot."
"What happened?" Din asked, "Why is Paz so ticked off at Cara?"
"Paz took a turn for the worse, shortly after you passed out." The medic busied her fingers, checking Paz's monitors as she spoke. "He was... dying. He had minutes, an hour or two at the most."
Din's helmet tilted, "Then how's he..." He stilled, "Grogu."
Thebaar'ursighed. "Your shock-trooper allowed your foundling to heal him."
The room fell back to silence, only interrupted by the beeping of Paz's heart monitor -strong and steady.
Well. It's been a bit. Sorry about that. Life got in the way, and also, I couldn't get this chapter to sound right for the life of me. Still not entirely in love with it, but I realized I'll never get on with the story unless I stop agonizing over it. Soon we'll be getting to the TRIAL. Which is gonna be quite the time, trust me.
Baar'ur = medic
Aruetii = foreigner, traitor
Haryc = tired
Chapter 21: A Strange Thing.
Cara's trial begins.
So, I'm back, finally. I would give the excuse of paper writing, finals, and studying for finals being why I haven't posted, which is true in part, but they've been over for several days now and I still hadn't written anything until now, so... Honestly I'm just kind of lazy and wanted some chill time. Anyway, without further to do, the TRIAL!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They're a strange thing, the Mandalorian people. Still stranger is is a Mandalorian trial.
As the Mando'ade entered, they sat their weapons in two piles, one on either side of the room.
The court was conducted unarmed, and for good reason, as Cara soon found out.
Within two minutes, there was shouting and pointed fingers. Five minutes, and there were fingers twitching towards - thankfully absent - vibroblades. Cara doubted, somehow, despite the clenched fists, tense bodies, and angry words, that violence would occur. No matter how enraged the Mando'ade seemed to get, their feet remained rooted in place. Never once did they take a step forward, or even shift their weight. Only the top halves of them moved.
Until Paz, that is.
Sometime while others had been focused on the general ruckus of the crowd, Paz had made for his feet. Thravaa noticed immediately, moving to shift between Cara and Paz's line of sight.
"Don't you dare."
"It's against Covert rules." Thravaa protested, "Mando'ade cannot speak directly to victims of a crime outside of the trial's proceedings."
"I'm not Mando'ade."
Cara stepped around Thravaa and met Paz's gaze. She knew where his eyes were beneath the helmet. She saw the rage in his body when she found them.
At some point, the Covert had gone silent. Everyone watched as Paz haltingly moved closer, previously fevered body still weak and pained with each step. No one stopped him.
Cara was glad.
Trials had their place within a society, made sure wrongs were never wronged again, but trials alone do not heal hurts, just as dropping a knife doesn't cure the wound it made. No, healing is painful, and Cara was willing to let Paz lash at her as he rode out the agony.
It was less than a second that Paz stood in front of her before his fist met her head. Or tried, rather.
Cara smoothly tipped her head to the side, allowing the punch to do little more than clip her ear.
He came again at her with a jab to the stomach. She simply put an arm down to block it out of the way.
For an ill man, Paz was fast.
For a man weakened, Paz was strong.
For an angry man, he held control.
For a gentle man, he held no mercy.
Cara blocked blow after blow, but never fought back, carefully ensured that she never reflected the rage she saw in Paz. She had no right to.
This was his pain, not her own.
And then he stopped, staggered, as his knees buckled.
Cara instinctively leaned forward, reaching out to steady him, but he knocked her away, arm flying out in one last punch that finally managed to connect, solidly catching her in the eye. She ignored it, working instead to ensure Paz didn't injure himself further as he collapsed.
And then they were both kneeling on the ground, breathing heavily, Paz's anger just as clear as before, despite the clear exhaustion clinging to his frame. He started to flag, gravity threatening to drag him the rest of the way to the ground.
"Baar'ur!"Cara looked up, scanning the crowd for the familiar helmet. Within a few seconds, the medic emerged, pushing her way through the crowd. She moved to assist Paz in rising, but he shook off her hands.
"Gev." Paz's helmet turned to face thebaar'ur,venom in his voice."Slana'pir...Youlether do it."
The crowd began to buzz in argument. Was the medic also responsible for this misdeed? A few smaller fights emerged in the background, both verbal and physical. Insults flew, but none so solid as those Paz dealt when his attention returned to Cara.
She let it happen, stood tall and steady, looking him in the visor as he spat curses that would make a trandoshan blush.
"Kriffin'hut'uundemago-"Paz cut himself off, helmet snapping back with a clang as the bottom of his helm rammed into his back plate.
"I am many things," her voice was firm, "But a coward isnotone of them."
Paz growled, an almost guttural sound. He stood there, staring her down for several minutes before finally relenting upon hearing the Armorer demand that was "Enough." He turned to move back to his corner of the great room.
Thavaa's helmet swiveled in Cara's direction, almost as though he were looking for something. After a moment's hesitance, he moved to assist Paz in his trek across the room.
Cara was alone now, standing in the center of the great room, Mando'ade lining the perimeter on all sides. Directly before her, standing at the top of the stairs leading to the exit, was the Armorer, presiding over the ordeal.
Anger, frustration, fear, and confusion filled the hall so entirely that the air felt thick in Cara's lungs, threatening to suffocate her. So many sounds swamped her consciousness, drifting in from conversations in all directions. She pick out singular words,or'parguur, bikadinir, adenn, a'den, ad'ika, ik'ad, baatir...The terms spun in her head as she tried to assign meaning to them, tried to get a feel for the crowd, what kind of death or torture she may end up facing. She knew it wasn't going to be pretty, whatever it was.
But really, how bad could it be? Surely they couldn't do much worse to her then her mind would do to itself when she realized she'd never again feel those fuzzy green ears beneath her fingertips. Never again have unpainted beskar covering her six in battle. Never hear the familiar grunts and groans of the Crest as it struggled into the air with the three of them in it.
What could they take from her that she'd not already lost?
Cara was brought out of her thoughts not by sound, but rather the lack of it.
At some point, the armorer had raised a hand, and all had gone silent. Every fight in the crowd was ended, or at minimum paused, and then she spoke.
Cara caught movement in her peripheral, turning to see Din in the far corner of the room. She hadn't noticed him. All that shiny, silver beskar, and he still somehow managed to slip past her notice. No wonder he was the covertberoya.Or maybe she'd just gotten used to seeing him floating near by.
The armorer spoke again once Din reached her at the front of the room. "Have you anything to say to Dune?"
He was looking a lot better, Cara noticed, as Din strode towards her. He seemed steadier, thebaar'urmust have gotten his electrolytes and sugars back on target. That's good.
Din, Cara cannot look in the eyes. She makes it to the bottom of his visor, and can go no further.
Kriff, maybe Paz was right. I am a hut'uun...
The thought made her sick to her stomach, and she forced her eyes higher. When she finally made it to his eyes, she felt paralyzed. Locked into place. Flayed apart beneath his gaze. She hated it, and resolved to stitch the slices of herself back together.
Cara couldn't tell what he was feeling. No semblance of emotion leaked beyond the beskar, which she knew by now meant that he either wasn't sure what to feel or was trying desperately not to feel something. It could be either, really. She wasn't sure which was worse.
"Did he use his powers?"
It took a moment for Cara to understand what he was asking.
"No," She shook her head. "he didn't mess with my head. It was my decision."
Emotion finally emerged in his posture. Disappointment.
Her heart dropped. This. This was worse.
Why couldn't he just be angry at her like Paz? Why couldn't he just give in, rear back, and punch her? Surely it would make him feel better?
This disappointment?Kriff, Cara didn't have a clue what to do with that, and it hurt.
"It wasn't your choice to make." His voice was smooth and cold, just like the metal that coated him.
Cara preferred beskar on the outside of him, not the inside, thank you very much. She had to do something about that. Had to fix it.
"It was." Cara disagreed, then amended, "It shouldn't have been. But it was."
They stood there a moment longer, both measuring each other for what they thought they knew. What they hoped they knew.
"We will adjourn for two hours," The Armorer declared, "At which time the trial shall begin."
A bit of a shorter chapter, but I'm just getting back into the roll of things. It's been AWHILE since I worked on this. Trying to get my head back in the game. But the semester is over, so updates should be coming a lot quicker (in theory).
And did the armorer just stay that the trial will start in two hours?! If so, what has all this been?!
Baar'ur = medic
Gev = Stop
Slana'pir = Get out of here! (meant quite emphatically)
hut'uun = coward (worse possible mandalorian insult)
demagolka = monster, child abuser
or'paguur = hate
bikadinir = stab
adenn = merciless
a'den = wrath, rage
ad'ika = little one, son, daughter
ik'aad = baby
baatir = care, worry about
Chapter 22: Vencuyot
Cara's Trial Continues.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"What do you mean there arethreetrials?"
"I mean there are three trials."
Kriff, Cara wanted to slap him sometimes.
"I've got that now, butwhy?"
Thravaa sighed and began to explain once again.
"The first trial is called theJiila.It's to determine if you pose an immediate threat to the Covert by your continued existence." Thravaa explained, "Luckily for you, they've decided not to execute you. So now you'll proceed to the second trial,Vencuyot."
"So... I'm in the clear?" Cara asked, "They're not going to kill me?"
"Not necessarily." Thravaa handed Cara a lump of ice and gestured to her rapidly darkening eye. "It just means they won't kill youquickly."
"Well that's reassuring..."
"It is. You've been gifted a chance to have an honorable death. A warrior's death." Thravaa said, "That's a great deal more than mostaruetiihave been granted in the past. You should be grateful."
Cara pressed the ice to her eye and let the room fall silent. She'd forgotten about the bruise, honestly, until Thravaa mentioned it. The eye was tender now, near swollen shut. Paz packed quite the punch, even after nearly dying a few hours before. Maybe he'd gone easy on her when they sparred. Cara wasn't sure how she felt about that.
"I know thebaar'ursaid he would recover, but Grogu, is he-?"
"He's awake. Playing with the other foundlings, last I heard." Thravaa shifted to sit down across from her. "How much Mando'a have you picked up on?"
"What does it matter?"
"Did you understand what they were saying about you? During the trial?"
"Not a lot." Cara confessed, "Enough to know that most of it wasn't pretty."
"It was actually going pretty well for you at first." Thravaa reflected, "Someone made the point that you werearuetii, that you couldn't be expected to understand the ways of our people, understand that a foundlings' life takes precedence over an adult one. But then someone else pointed out that you knew bits of Mando'a. Knew more about our culture than you ought to if you were just somedi'kut. I told them you said you knew exactly what you were doing when you did it."
Cara was about to give him a sarcastic "thanks a lot" but didn't get a chance before Thravaa continued.
"Then a couple ofdi'kuts themselves decided to start the rumor that you and Paz had started bumping beskar-"
"Please tell me that doesn't mean what I think it means."
"Why in theworldwould they think that?!"
"Why else would you risk the life of a child you cared for to save him? Well, that, and-" Thravaa amended.
"And you beat him sparring the other day."
"So endurance, flexibility, and strength are all desirable traits when selecting-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, shut up." Cara rolled her eyes. "It didn't happen."
"I know that, but they don't."
Cara groaned, pressing the heels of her palms to her eyes, hissing when she forgot about the bruise.
"Kriff, anything else I should know about?"
"Not really, they were mostly just discussing ways to kill you." Thravaa said, "But that's normal for this stage in a trial."
"Lovely. What options we looking at here?"
"Hm... firing squad, disintegration, and slit throat, mostly."
"Might have heard something about beheading too, but that go tossed out pretty quick."
"You're only conscious for 8 seconds following it." Thravaa said, "Wouldn't have hurt enough."
"And disintegration does?"
"Mando'ade believe that disintegration eliminates the body but leaves the soul, since it is not physical. Souls are attracted to warmth, which is why they live in the body. Without the body, they go to the greatest source of warmth. Your soul would be lost to burn in the lava fields of Nevarro for the rest of eternity."
Maybe it wouldn't hurt to learn a little more about the Mandos religious beliefs, provided she ever got the chance again. And here she'd thought disintegration was the easy way out...
But kark, doesn't that put a new spin on things?
Din wasn't exactly easy with his amban... And all this time he'd thought he was banishing people's souls to everlasting pain? But wait. There'd been times Din hadn't used the rifle when it would have been the perfect tool. He'd save it for only the worst of his enemies, not just any old bounty. She'd thought it was to save ammo, but maybe... maybe there was more to it than that.
"Why doesn't blaster fire separate the body from the soul?"
"Because the body is still there. The soul lives on within it."
Cara had questions, so many questions, but now was not the time. She was trying to avoid a death of her own, after all.
Trial part two began more calmly.
It was around this time that Cara realized she hadn't been told what trial part three was. She hoped there wasn't a reason for that. Watch it be surprise trial by combat or something. That seemed very Mandalorian.
"you must always be ready. This is the way."Cara imagined the armorer standing over her, hammer pressing her head slowly towards the forge.
But no. That was stupid. No way they'd kill her in such a holy room.
Couldn't have the blood ofaruetiiseeping into their precious beskar.
Cara cringed to herself. That wasn't fair. Mandalorian were certainly puritan in their ideals, but they weren't pompous about it. She shouldn't be making fun of them like this, even if it was in her head. The people of Alderaan had some pretty strange beliefs and traditions too; Cara still wore her braid because of them. Reasonability is in the eye of the beholder, she supposed.
At times, Cara did wonder why she was to be present at the trial. It wasn't as if she was participating in anyway, beyond being there for them to stare at. It wasn't as if she understood a word they were saying, beyond the few Thravaa had been kind enough to give her. This entire thing could be done without her presence, and she almost wished they would.
At least then she wouldn't have to see Din standing back there in his corner. Wouldn't have to see his hand twitch towards where the child usually sat in the crook of his arm, but couldn't, because he wasn't allowed in the room with Cara.
He was watching her. Both him and Paz were, and the Armorer too, at times. She wondered what they were looking for. Cara felt Thravaa's steady presence behind her, and wondered when she'd grown to find it comforting. Pondered how she could have possibly even found it unthreatening, when only a few days ago they'd been near a fight in the Covert tunnels, when he'd literally just argued against her ignorance in the trial.
It was because he was the only one to actually tell her what was going on, she decided. He was explaining things that would otherwise be confounding, and she was, on some level, thankful for that. Even if what she was told wasn't particularly encouraging.
He'd given it to her straight, hadn't pretended to root for her when he didn't. Clearly, he wanted her to get what she deserved. Nothing more, nothing less. Cara could respect that.
Didn't mean she had to like the guy though. A little jerk, that's what he was. Using her own words against her... Cara clicked her tongue. She'd have to remember that anything she said and did could be held against her. No matter who she said it to.
Raised voices brought her attention back to the trial at hand. It was getting rowdy again. At least it had taken longer this time.
Paz wasn't participating at the moment, instead preferring to stew in the background next to Din. It appeared two members of the Covert were having an argument, which the Armorer appeared to be mediating.
Listening closely, Cara caught the wordbaar'urandaruetiisaid a little too close together for her liking.
"They're talking about whether thebaar'uris guilty too?" Cara angled her head behind her.
Thravaa just nodded, silently following the fight.
It didn't seem to be going well for thebaar'ur,who was slowly being pushed towards the center of the great room to join Cara.
"They can't- It's not-" Cara looked between the crowd of Mando'ade and thebaar'ur, who was now frozen stiff in dismay and just a hint of what Cara hoped wasn't terror.
"It's my trial. I'm can say whatever I want, right?"
"It's allowed," Thravaa answered, "but I wouldn't recommend it. The more you talk, the more likely you'll say something to get you killed."
Cara snorted. They were well past that at this point. Her mouth couldn't make things much worse.
Taking a few strides towards the Armorer at the head of the room, standing between the two arguing Mandalorians, Cara cleared her throat.
The Mandos continued their argument as though they couldn't see her. Perhaps they couldn't. Cara really wasn't sure how good their peripheral vision was in those buckets. Din's seemed decent, but maybe it was different depending on the helm?
At any rate the Armorer could definitely see her, was watching her to see what she did next.
The argument escalated to a shouting match.
The word tumbled out of her before she could stop it.
It went silent. In a moment's time, the room went from loud as a roll of thunder to quiet enough a stylus drop would be deafening.
Well, if she hadn't had their attention before, she certainly did now.
Her mouth went dry, heart rate picking up. She forced a breath, and spoke.
"It wasn't her fault." she said, "Thebaar'ur.She tried to stop me, I had her against the wall. Pinned her."
There was a sharp chuckle in the background, followed by brisk spat of Mando'a.
Thravaa translated. "He says that you must be naïve to believe that ourbaar'urcould not have escaped whenever she so desired."
The Armorer hummed in approval. "Rish'la is correct. While I am certain the she appreciates your defense of her actions, thebaar'urwas fully armored. She remained within your grasp only because she chose to be."
Despite knowing it was most certainly not the time, Cara felt a little stung by the assumption thebaar'urcould take her. That basically proved Paz had been going easy on her. And now Cara wouldn't even get a chance to prove herself. Well, unless she got trial by combat, which wasn't exactly an outcome she was hoping for. She didn't want to kill any Mando'ade. Or injure them either, if she was honest.
"At any rate," Cara stated, "It's me you're trying to punish, not thebaar'ur. How about we keep it on topic?"
A few Mandalorians growled at her nerve, but conceded the point.
This was Cara's trial. There would be time enough for the medic later.
Well. That happened. Still pretty tense, honestly I'm getting some exhaustion and nerves from all this. I'm ready to see the results, but we've still got a little ways to go. Next chapter we'll find out what happens to poor Cara, unless the muse decides to take me on a little unplanned excursion. At any rate, the plan is for next chapter to be a little longer than normal, detailing trial three and the conclusion that arises.
I hope you appreciated the little bit of Cara introspection as well though, that's always fun to write.
Jiila = Immediate
Vencuyot = Future
Aruetii = Foreigner, traitor
Baar'ur = Medic
Di'kut = Idiot
Chapter 23: By the Maker Above...
Paz just needs to chill a little, honestly. All this... It's a lot, for anyone - Especially someone just now recovering from a near death experience.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Paz had done too much too quickly. Even he knew that, at this point. Going at Cara... it hadn't been his brightest moment, but it felt karking satisfying at the time. Key words:at the time. Now, his limbs were lead, body on the verge of collapsing where he stood. He didn't protest the chair he was offered. He was a proud man, but somehow fainting in front of the entire covert seemed like a greater blow to the ego than sitting down.
The fever was coming back on, prompted by the strain of his little scuffle and the unfathomable rage that both preceded and succeeded it. He could feel it. Could feel the heat reflecting back at him from his visor, the sweat dripping down his neck and brow. The shakiness that took residence in his hands, tremoring visibly despite his efforts to control them. He'd followed the first half of the second trial pretty well, considering the rising of his temperature directly proportional to the number of times Cara's name was spoken.
Who did she think she was to take a decision like that away from the foundling's father? Who was she to decide that Paz would want to endanger his nephew to save his own life? And to have the audacity to claim thatGrogutold her it was alright? Yeah, no wonder the kriffin'aruetiidecided he was a reliable source. The kid decided it was a good idea to pet fire a few days ago. There's no way he'd be able to make decisions regarding his own health. He's anad'ika.A child. He does not get to choose with life or death decisions. If children got to choose the covert would be a whole lot smaller. So many children would have been lost. Manda knows Paz'sbuirwould still be alive if children got to choose. If Paz got to choose...
But they don't. Children are the future, but it is those who come before that build it. Children are molded and shaped into the vision of their keepers. They are allowed to have opinions, yes, but they aren't allowed to have choices. Not yet. And that karkingaruetiigave Grogu one. Gave Grogu the choice Paz never had, Din never had,no oneever had - and it wasn't fair.
Grogu wasn't yet old enough to understand what would happen to Paz if he died, or worse, what would happen to Din. He didn't understand that heartbreak runs two ways. Din needed Grogu just as badly as Grogu needed Din, and why couldn't Cara just SEE THAT. Had she not learned that lesson? Was she still just a child like Grogu?!Karkno, Cara was a warrior with an army of bones beneath her feet. He'd seen as much in her fight against the Reptavians. He doesn't know her story, but he can read the pain of a thousand battles in her eyes. He can see the stinging tinge of loss in her eyes.
She knew better.
And she did it anyway.
Paz listened. Listened, and didn't speak, because he didn't trust himself not to do something so stupid as to attack her again. Time went on and on, and eventually he realized that while heheardthe proceedings, it was getting far more difficult to twist the words into some semblance of sense. It was... pure nonsense. But it wasn't. He knew that. He knew what they were stating arguments, cases, but kark ifheknew what they were saying.
No, instead he became intensely aware that his helm was too tight. The inner workings of it must have gotten bent in the fight against the reptavians. Yes, surely that's what had happened, because the beskar was much to close to his nose and lips, spewing his own warm breath back at him suffocatingly. His forehead too, and his cheeks, the beskar was far too near to those as well. He needed to have the armor adjust it. Wait... No. That wasn't right. The reptavian had never gone anywhere near his helm. It'd only been the lower half of him... Then why... Paz felt his mind slowly filling with cotton, leaving him unable to think much beyond the shooting pains that ran laps in his nerves, the aching weakness in his body, and the mixture of rage and the new addition of anxiety boiling in his blood. But soon, even those began to fade into the background.
He... He needed to lie down.
He needed to lie downnow.
Dizziness hit him like a train as he leaned to the side, latching his hand to Din's vambrace where he was seated next to him. The helmet turned towards him, tilted in question, but Paz's tongue betrayed him, stuck to the dry top pallet of his mouth, motionless as though paralyzed. He squeezed the vambrace tighter. What he hoped it would convey, he had no clue.
But something- something was wrong. Very wrong.
Paz felt a fit of twitching start up, first in his fingers and toes, slowly spreading along his legs and arms, and...
Kark kark kark-
The Armorer caught onto what was happening before Din did.
"Baar'ure!"Her voice rang strong and stark, gathering attention immediately. "I believe ourvodrequires your attentions."
Eachbaar'ur 'seyes shot towards the corner where Din was easing Paz out of his chair to the floor. They all briskly moved to assist, but the accusedbaar'urfound herself barred from them by the crowd, held back even as she struggled to follow the otherbaar'ure.
The Armorer sensed her distress, her desire to help one in need, as was her station, but the crowd of Mando'ade were correct. She could not be allowed to. She had not been tried yet and her motivations had not been determined. It hadn't yet been proven whether she wasdemagolka;it hadn't yet been proven that her scientific curiosity had overridden her duty to heal. It could not be risked, no matter how much distress the soon to bedar'baar'urdisplayed at the moment.
Mando'ade are not known for their mercy.
This is the way.
By the maker above.
Cara had sacrificed everything for this man, and she was not about to let him go and die because his friends didn't like his doctor.
It wasthisbaar'urwho had been with Paz through the thick and the thin of it, not the other ones. No one was going to treat him better than her.
No, this wasn't kriffing happening. Not on her watch.
Before Thravaa had even caught on to her plans, Cara had ripped thebaar'urfrom the grip of the Covert's members and started barreling in Paz's direction, taking swings at anyone who dared try to stop her.
Cara felt thebaar'urtry to twist out of her grip, and irritation surged in her as she tightened her hold on the medic's wrist to a painful extent. Before thebaar'urhad time to blink, Cara was pressed flush against her back, using thebaar'ur'sown arm to hold her in a headlock.
"Left or right?"
"Ears. You can't save them both." Thebaar'urstiffened at the feeling of steel sliding up beneath her helm, against her neck, point settling just below the tip of her left earlobe.
Cara saw the medic move to elbow her in the gut, but she couldn't get enough of a chamber to make the blow hurt. Cara just twisted her wrist tighter, and drove the tip of her knife into the sensitive skin beneath her ear.
"You wouldn't dare."
To her credit, thebaar'urkept her voice remarkably level given her precarious situation.
"Want to find out?" Cara drew a slow slit along the underside of her ear, watching as thebaar'urtwitched at the pain. "This isn't a battle you want to fight,verd'ika. Listen to me, very, very, carefully."
The medic didn't move a muscle.
"We're going to walk over there, and you're going tofixhim." Cara said, "And noone, and nothingis going to stop us, understand?"
Cara let the knife slide down the side of the medic's neck as she removed it, and swung her back around in front of her, kicking her forward into the crowd before diving in herself.
They were moving again.
Anyone who dared cross ahead their path was on the ground in an instant.
Cara felt ahandgrapple for her shoulder, and she moved to dislodge it, only to find her effort blocked in a smooth, calculated move that could come from only one person.
Cara let the angry crowd take her, now assured that the medic would make it to her mark.
He hadn't had a choice last time - She wasn't about to take it from him now.
Most Mando'ade were not willing to fight Din, injured as he was. Most. Most weren't.
Thravaa and one of the remainingbaar'urstood guard in front of Paz as the other tended to him, shifted him to onto his side. The twitches were steadily increasing into larger movements.
"Don't." Thravaa pressed his palm against Din's cuirass, holding him at a distance. "This is wrong and you know it. She could bedemagolka."
Din didn't answer, instead turning to thebaar'urstanding next to Thravaa.
"She has an anti-convulsant." He tipped his head back at thebaar'urstanding behind him. "You don't. You'd have given it to him already if you did."
"I don't want to hurt you, Djarin."
"Then let her through."
Din gave them exactly two seconds to consider, before stalking past the two, an iron grip on the medic's shoulder.
"Give him the med. Now."
The Armorer watched with interest at the progression of events. Thankfully, all had transpired before Paz fell too far into a fit to be drawn out of it, and upon administration of the medication his body calmed immediately.
She wasn't pleased that Djarin had gone against her, but to be fair, she hadn't stated the Covert's formal position on whether to let thebaar'urintervene, she'd simply allowed the crowd to do as they would because she'd agreed with them at the time. The Armorer hadn't known thisbaar'urhad anticipated further seizures, hadn't known she'd carry an anti-convulsant with her just in case, but the Armorer ought to have.
Even Djarin, in his state, had made the intuitive leap.
But it was of no importance. The matter was over.
Paz was being checked for any lingering disorientation or injuries attained in his short departure from awareness, but it appeared he suffered no further ill effects.
"We just let him on his feet too soon." Thebaar'urereported, "The stress on his body and mind drove his fever back up."
The Armorer saw thedar'baar'urtake in a deep breath, and add her opinion, which didn't appear to be welcomed by the otherbaar'ure.
"Number of bodies in the room isn't helping. It's warm in here even for those without fevers." She said, "We have to get him back to the infirmary to cool down."
"Kriffin' touch me and you'll lose a foot," came a steady voice.
Clearly the Vizsla didn't welcome thedar'baar'ur'sopinion either. He'd managed to prop his head up with the same fire he put into lifting someone from the ground by their neck.
"I-I'm not missing the trial."
The Armorer couldn't help but be reminded of Paz's younger years, when he'd first begun training with the rising phoenix, only to immediately hurtle towards the ground at a speed high enough to shatter his shoulder - and find out that he was deathly afraid of heights.
While heavily medicated and being treated for the shoulder, he'd threatened to take off the arm of anyone who dared try to put a rising phoenix on him ever again. Paz had a talent for sounding quite terrifying while being completely uncapable of even moving.
It was a handy skill for a Mandalorian, bluffing, but it was also a dangerous one. It could get him in over his head far too quickly, just as it was doing now.
"Demagolkaor not, I believe she is correct in this instance. You will return to the infirmary immediately."
Paz began to protest, but the Armorer raised a hand, silencing him. It wasn't as if he could do much to stop thebaar'urefrom pulling him up, but the Armorer would rather he went willingly. His body would rest either way, but his mind would only if convinced.
"Your body is too weak for the weight that has been placed upon it." The Armorer looked up, now addressing the rest of the Mando'ade as well. "We will reconvene when you are well enough to join us." Then again, to Paz, "Udesii, verd.Your body demands it. Do not let thead'swork be for nothing."
Woah, so we've GOT to slow down for a second, the intensity, this pacing, is killing me, and I know it's got be bothering you guys too. I just need a bit of a chill scene to rest with Paz before getting back to the action.
Also, if you'll notice, we still don't know what happens with Cara. That's because this whole bit with Paz was supposed to be just a couple of paragraphs, but obviously it became more than that because WHUMP and ANGST and DESPARATION and then Din just had to go and DO THAT, and... Yeah. I'm out of things now, but I'm not out of feels. Depending on how the next chapter goes and what muses catch my interest, they may come to a conclusion about her case next chapter, and if not, it WILL be the chapter after that. I promise. No later than two chapters from now. Pinky swear. The whump is just soooo fun...
Ya know, it seemed like a bright idea at the time not to give the baar'ure names. None of them were ever meant to become anything more than background characters, but... clearly she had a mind of her own. And now they're all called baar'ur, and it's a major pain in the rear to let you know which of the three baar'ure I'm refering to. At least our main girl deserves a name, but the opportunity has not presented itself to learn it.
arueti = foreigner, traitor
ad'ika = little one, child
buir = parent
baar'ure = medics, doctors
baar'ur = medic
vod = brother, sister, comrade
demagolka = monster, mad scientist style child-abuser
dar'baar'ur = no longer a medic
verd'ika = little soldier, private. Can be used either affectionately or insultingly.
udesii = Calm, rest
Verd = warrior
Chapter 24: Udesii.
Cara and the baar'ur share words, then Din and Paz have a bit of a heart to heart.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Thebaar'urfelt a familiar hand on her shoulder.
"You should get some bacta on you. I got you pretty good."
She turned to meet Cara's gaze, then spoke.
"Would you have done it?"
"If I'd kept resisting, would you have taken my ear?"
"Would have been more than your ear."
To begin with, Paz hadn't been thinking much of anything.
He couldn't help but make a small noise of relief at the sensation of something cool and wet being pressed to the sides of his neck, another one lacing its way across his forehead, water sinking into the cloth mask. Din and theBaar'ureworked at removing his armor and the heat of his body was finally allowed to escape instead of reflecting back at him in waves.
"Udesii, Paz, Udesii."
Paz felt his hand plucked up from where it was clumsily trying to get at the clasps of a pauldron, then sat to rest against the cot. Careful fingers pulled at his glove, and he didn't have the energy to resist, allowing the weathered leather to slide from his hand.
The same cold on his neck soon met both his wrists, then his under-arms.
He came back to himself slowly.
Now, Paz was going to bloody kill Djarin.
"I swear tomanda,if you don't quit thatrightnow, I'm going to drill holes in all your fingernails and hang you by them."
The noise did stop. But it was replaced by another, just as grating. Din's voice.
"They'd just be pulled out."
The noise resumed.
"Keep that up and we'll find out."
Din stopped drumming his fingers on his chair, instead choosing to rise and begin pacing rapidly, back and forth in front of the cot.
"For crying out-" Paz growled. He clutched the pillow tightly over his ears, grunting at the heat it still held. It did little to block out the quiet, but persistent thumps of Din's boots.
Ignore it and he'll stop.
Back and forth, back and forth he walked until Paz's head began to spin even as the gentle thumps of Din's feet pounded in his skull like tiny blaster bolts to the helmet.
"Kriff, Din." Paz slammed his eyes shut against the vertigo, "Please."
Startled by the uncharacteristically polite request, Din immediately went to the bedside.
"You alright?" Din's hand shot out to feel for his temperature, but Paz batted him away.
"Fine," He mumbled. Paz pressed his head back into the pillows to stare at the ceiling, which seemed to spin more slowly than the rest of the room. "Just got a little dizzy."
"Can I help?"
"Yeah, by stopping that karking pacing." He grunted, "It's killing my head."
Din stood for a moment longer before deciding to sit gingerly back down in his chair. Paz thought he heard a weapon being pulled from it's holster. The familiar clinks and clanks of a blaster being dismantled and scrubbed followed.
Once his vision stopped spinning, Paz risked a peak Djarin's way.
He'd been right, Din was cleaning a blaster, but there was more.
He was doing it poorly.
He struggled to still his hands enough to get the small pins of the blaster back into place as he assembled the weapon. Through out it all, Din shook, trembling with the tension and stress he was clearly trying so desperately to keep locked within himself. He cursed quietly as he dropped a component, then grunted with pain as he rushed to pick it up before it rolled away.
It was almost as if thedi'kuthad forgotten he was injured. Knowing Din, he very well might have.
"Didn't the Armorer banish you to a cot too? You're supposed to be resting?"
"Not tired." Din's gloves clicked against the blaster. Paz heard a noise of contentment when he eventually managed to replace the pin.
"Of course you aren't." Paz agreed, "That must be why you're shaking."
Paz pointedly shot a glance at Din's hands, then softened.
"You're a mess,vod.Anyone would be." Paz shifted to sit a little higher on the cot. "It's going to be alright. Your foundling is safe now, and Cara will get what she deserves. She'll never be able to hurt him again. He's safe. You're safe."
"Do you think-" Din cut himself off sharply, rerouting his words. "I know. Thank you."
"Do I think what?"
"Nothing, it's-" Din shook his head, "it's stupid."
"Vod'ika?" It wasn't a question so much as a command.
"Do you think Grogu might have been doing his Jedi thing? Mind controlling her?"
"You're right, that was stupid." Paz said bluntly, "She already told you that he didn't, and-"
"I know, just hear me out." Din held up a hand, silencing Paz's next remark. "What if she didn't know it happened? The kid's just tapping at his powers and we already know that emotions make them go haywire. Maybe he's strong enough to do something like that and make her think it'sheridea?"
Paz's anger flared. Just how ensnared did Cara have his brother that he was making up excuses for her even now? When she'd harmed his foundling?
"What if it's not her fault?" Din continued, clearly still piecing it together in his mind.
Paz's lips pursed beneath the mask.
Had she brain washed him somehow?
"Cara is my friend. She wouldneverdo something that could hurt Grogu unless she was sure it was the right thing to do."
Maybe it was Cara had these powers too? Could put thoughts in Din's head? There was no way these could be his own. What he was saying, it was near to blasphemy...
"Listen to yourself," Paz interrupted, "Are you trying to imply that yourfoundlingis at fault here?"
Din coughed at the implication, "No, of course n-"
"Supposing he could control minds without the mind knowing, what's to say that he's not been controlling you this whole time?" Paz continued, "Do you see how ridiculous you sound? Dank ferrik, you're in no condition to take a punishment for questioning the Way. Now get your mouth under control before someone else hears you!"
Din shriveled in on himself where he sat in the chair, shoulders coming forward, knees twitching to come up to his chest. But he would not. He wasn't a child anymore, and he wouldn't act like one, no matter how badly he wanted to.
He heard Paz sigh, before speaking again in a softer voice.
"I know how badly you want to believe anaruetiican be a friend. I did too, when you first brought her. She plays the role so well,mandokar, almost, but then this happened, and Din-" Paz paused, gathering his thoughts. "I can't watch her hurt you anymore. I can't watch her twist your mind, make you doubt yourself. Make you doubt the Way."
"I'm not doubting the Way!" Din protested, "I- I- I just-"
Din felt the blaster gently pulled from his grip, felt his hand squashed between two larger ones. His chest stung as he worked to calm both his mind and his body.
In, the cool of control.
Out, the heat of anger.
In, the warmth of focus.
Out, the freeze of fear.
It was something he'd be taught as a foundling, something all foundlings are taught, in fact. It brought him through nightmares, even when indistinguishable from reality.
A sharp pain shot through him as cough jarred his body, but a shuttering breath walked him through the pain.
"Good." Paz soothed, "Now let yourself relax, you need it."
Din grumbled, but did as told, a wave of exhaustion flowing through him in perfect time with anxiety.
He wouldn't be able to sleep, but lie down, relax... He could do that.
Well, he could try, at least.
Din curled up on the cot beside Paz's, childishly lamenting the lack of blankets that his usual bed held. The bed was just... too empty, otherwise. Too cold.
He felt himself shiver and wished for the comforting weight of his armor, even if it would press into his ribs. He didn't feel right without it.
Kriff, this was wrong.
All of this was wrong.
He was in bed, without his armor, next to Paz who was sick, but not dead because of Cara, who was now being punished for making Paz not dead because she chosen to allow his foundling to exhaust himself to heal Paz, but that choice may or may not have been influenced by said foundling, who was by now perfectly okay. Even if Cara had decided against letting the kid do his thing, could she really have stopped Grogu if he'd put his mind to it? The Kid could make fully grown mudhorns fly. So no, if Grogu truly wanted something, he was fully capable of making it happen through any means necessary. So did her decision really matter at all? The kid was always going to do what he wanted to do, so what did it matter? Why should Cara be punished for something out of her control, and even that was if Groguhadn'tmind controlled her.
Snapping back to reality, Din felt his breaths quickening again and he squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself to repeat the mantra again.
In, the cool of control.
Out, the heat of anger.
In, the warmth of focus.
Out, the freeze of fear.
Once again, Din calmed himself, dropping his heart rate back to an acceptable level. For awhile, he let the silence take him, but he still struggled against his thoughts.
"I'm glad Thravaa is the one that's with her." Din wet his lips, trying to follow his own train of thought. "The Armorer- it was a good choice."
"He's going to be fair, right? He'll give her a chance?"
"None are a better scale, Din, you know that." Paz said firmly, "Trust in the Way."
The silence stretched another few moments.
"Ithurts." Din's voice was broken, mournful, and pained.
"I know,vod. I know. But you'll be alright." Paz sighed, "Udesii.I'll keep watch, alright? You're safe now, your foundling is safe. Let yourself rest."
Din pulled the blanket up and over his shoulders, tugging it tightly around himself.
Soooo... short chapter. But we got a little bit of chill time, some brotherly squabbling, an entertaining scene between Cara and the baar'ur, etc. I really appreciate that chill time though, because the angst was wrecking my nerves honestly. I have never related to poor Din more, this trial. Argh. It's just so not right. So much miscommunication, or rather complete and total lack of communication...
Udesii = a command to calm, rest
baar'ur = medic
baar'ure = medics
di'kut = idiot
vod = brother, sister
vod'ika = little brother, sister
aruetii = foreigner, traitor
mandokar = possession of the traits of a good mandalorian
Chapter 25: Burcyan
After a long hiatus, this story returns!
Din and Paz prepare for "battle," Cara learns the results from her second trial, and
the Armorer reflects on the situation.
Well, I can genuinely say this is the longest I've ever left a story and actually come back to it eventually. 2 years is... a lot longer than I had planned between updates. But I mean, it did happen eventually, so here's a short chapter to get all of us back into the swing of things... Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was late in the evening by the time the medics deemed Paz fit enough for them to reconvene the trial. Even then, it was was with the strict order that he remove himself from the room if the strain of it became too much. Din had been given the same order as well, following Paz's brief report to theBaar'ureupon their questioning about how theberoyawas handling the stress.
Much to Din's disdain, Paz's retelling of earlier events (altered to exclude his temporary doubt of the Way,) prompted the medics to buzz around him busily, taking his pulse, temperature, and blood pressure, all while asking far too many questions about his mental health that he wouldn't have answered well even undernormalcircumstances. Paz tossed a nutrient drink at Din's head before opening downing one himself. Din glared at him over the rim of the drink.
"Stop pouting and start drinking, di'kut." Paz called out, as one of the medics shoved the straw up and under Din's helm.
Din grumbled but did as told. Food never sat well with him when he was stressed. It rolled around in his stomach just enough to be uncomfortable, but not enough to bother doing anything about. But he needed the fuel and he knew it, could feel his body was still more tired than it ought to be, despite feeling infinitely better than he had the day before. He managed a little over half the drink before his stomach told him more wasn't a good idea, and he tossed the bottle to the side.
Unfortunately, the pain in his ribs was returning with something of a vengeance following his brief rest, and his body was already sore and coiled with tension even without the added shooting pain in his ribcage every time he tried to take a breath.
With a concealed wince, Din pushed himself to his feet, quickly reaching out to steady himself against the wall.
"I'm fine." Din responded, "Just- just stiffed up a bit from lying there for so long."
True to his word, the pain did improve once he started moving and stretching out a bit. He was walking almost normally by the time they returned to the great room for the results of the second trial, and the proceedings of the third.
Din was still... undecided as to what he wanted to happen in the trial. Wasn't entirely sure that what he wanted mattered either, wasn't sure that he could look at this situation with clear eyes.
Din couldn't help but to think that he had let Grogu heal Karga. Not entirely on purpose, but he hadn't stopped the child either. Was that situation really that much different from the one Cara found herself in? Faced with a dying friend and only one way to save them. But Cara had also known it would exhaust the child. Possibly even harm him. Din hadn't known, hadn't understood well enough then. Cara's use of Grogu's powers was deliberate. Din's had not been, necessarily.
Cara had even attacked their baar'ur, in order to allow the foundling to continue to exhaust himself.
Din... Din wasn't sure what to do with that information.
Especially because in the end, it had all worked out. Paz was alive and Grogu was fine. The baar'ur, while startled, didn't seem much worse for the wear. Cara's plan had worked. But what if it hadn't.
Din wasn't sure whether or not that "what if" warranted the punishment they were discussing for Cara.
Cara walked into the room, head held high and ready. Thravaa had told her he honestly wasn't sure how that last little outburst would play out with the trial. He hadn't been sure what the Armorer would make of it, and surprisingly enough, wasn't quite sure what to make of it himself. Threatening the baar'ur,again,probably wasn't the best move, but it had saved Paz from the pain of another seizure, one that possibly could have bedridden him once again had it been allowed to continue on.
The Armorer stood at her post, as intimidating as ever, but Cara refused to cow. If she was going to die, she might as well do so with her dignity intact.
"A conclusion has been reached." The Armorer announced. "Please rise."
Any Mando'ade that had been seated rose, including Din and Paz, who both got shoved back into their chairs by each of their medic babysitters, respectively.
"Cara Dune, in the court of vencuyot, you are found... dar'burk'yc."
A loud muttering erupted amongst the crowd.
"dar... dar... that means no?" Cara leans in towards Thravaa, "what does that mean? It good?"
"The elders have decided that you pose no further risk to the Covert. They've decided that this incident was a fluke. A temporary lapse in judgement rather than a pattern of behavior. You... got off lucky. Really lucky, after that show you put on with the baar'ur. Somebody must be batting for you."
"Really?" Cara asked, "Who would-"
Cara's eyes fell on Faik, seated next to the elders, one of the youngest among them.
Faik wasn't all that old, just a five year or so older than Paz really, but she was wise and fair, and well respected amongst the covert. Her body was young but her soul was old and kind.
"You should thank her, at some point." Thravaa said mildly, "Doing well at this trial guaranteed your right to a warrior's death."
"I thought that's what the last one did?"
"No, that one just gave you achanceof it."
The Armorer looked on as the trial of ruyot commenced.
The facts were clear.
Cara had knowingly endangered the life of an ik'aad in order to save the life of a fellow warrior, her friend's vod.
Cara had verbally threatened, and committed physical harm against the baar'ur to ensure she was able to do so.
What was also clear, however, is that Cara's intention had not been to hurt the ad, but to save her burc'ya. She had the intent to heal, not to harm.
However, intent only goes so far and action weaves the rest of the tale.
Faik was able to convince the elders that Cara was of no further risk of harm to the foundlings. Reports from Thravaa indicate that although she would not change her decision, she does feel guilt from it. She has learned the lesson and sees the risks.
An argument could be made that she made the decision while emotionally compromised. Which, while it couldn't excuse her decision, could at least explain it. She and Din Djarin were quite close, she must care for Paz Vizsla by extension considering he is Din's vod by akaan - it is likely she also felt the stress of his illness. And she had the potential for loss of aliit so blatantly exposed to her because of their lack of acknowledgement that Din's extended aliit had become her own. That part, at least, was no fault of her own, but rather the Covert itself.
Supposing, that is, a factor that did indeed effect her decisions.
Justice would be served, in whatever form it may take.
Of this the Armorer was certain.
So I just realized that Thravaa and Crosshair have similar vibes. Thravaa isn't quite as snarky as Crosshair on a normal basis, but it does come out on occasion. He's behaving himself particularly well because of the situation and the necessity of him remaining unbiased. But I wrote Thravaa before I saw Bad Batch, so I did not in fact steal him, I promise XD.
In addition... I do indeed intend on continuing this story - Far more reliably than I have for the past 2 years. I can't say I'll be 100% consistent, but this story is not abandoned. It's just sort of been on the back burner while I tried to re-acquire the zeal I once had for it. But. Here I am. Zeal reacquired.
Baar'ur = medic
Beroya = bounty hunter
di'kut = idiot
vencuyot = future
dar'burk'yc = not dangerous
ruyot = past
vod = brother
akaan = war
Chapter 26: Unexpected, but Happily Accepted
Cara's third trial commences. An unexpected friend comes to her defense.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Cara tried to pick out the words she knew amongst the rapid fire Mando'a. Best she could tell, they were going over the specifics of what had happened. Doing a play by play of events. Thravaa spoke later on, a testimony of her behavior since the incident, she assumed, or perhaps speaking on what he believed to be her motivators. She had no karking clue, honestly. Either way, Thravaa's words seemed to spark some...carefullylevel discussion. They seemed to be more focused on keeping calm for Paz's benefit, trying not to send him back into a fit as he'd been in before. She appreciated that. If she was about to get herself killed for saving him, she'd rather it be worth it. She briefly wondered about Faik's absence from her usual position towards the middle of the crowd before turning her attention to the Armorer.
Cara didn't bother to hide her stare as she tried to guess the Armorer's thoughts on the matter. The helmet gave nothing away, as always, but the tilt of her head was considerant rather than resolute, so Cara deduced she wasn't dead meat just yet. In fact, all of the elders appeared rather neutral, now that she thought of it. Perhaps that didn't mean anything at all then. Maybe it was normal for them to preserve their opinions until the end of the trial.
There were still so many things she didn't know, so many customs and courtesies and rules and justeverything.It was all quite overwhelming, if she gave thought to it. Cara had thought she got the basics down within the first couple days, but now, without having someone by her side walking her though everything, translating for her, talking her through things, it all seemed so foreign and confusing. Not as comforting and semi-familiar as it once did.
She'd once enjoyed finding the little pieces of Din within their culture.
She didn't like it now that it was turned against her.
It was all so isolating and unnerving now.
The Armorer began to stare back, which Cara met with an equally level stare, despite her sudden desire to look away.
Cara had nothing to hide. Let her look all she liked.
Thravaa had by now finished his spiel and returned to her side as new discussion developed and other voices filled the covert.
"Me'vaar ti gar?" Thravaa spoke lowly, softly.
It took Cara a moment to process that he was speaking to her, and a moment longer to process what it was he had said.
"Naas." Cara shook her head. She knew that much Mando'a at least.
Thravaa hummed to himself, watching the trial. "You're shaking."
Oh would you look at that. Cara notes the minute trembling of her fingers where they're crossed inside her arms.
"Just nerves, I guess. Anticipation." Cara tried to shrug noncommittally, but it looked more like an uncomfortable rolling of the shoulders. "It's the last trial and I still... don't really understand what's going on. Everyone's speaking so fast, I'm just getting pieces of it. Left to make it up from there."
"Do not worry about what you cannot control." Thravaa shook his head, "You're only working yourself up. Making it appear as though you believe yourself guilty."
"Of course that's what they're getting out of this." Cara sighed, trying to loosen up her posture.
It was silent for a few minutes before Thravaa spoke again.
"We've run through the schemes of maneuver. Who did what, where, and when. I've spoken on behalf of your stated intention and what I believe to have been your intention. The elders are now taking cases for consideration. Anyone is allowed to propose them."
Thravaa nodded, "A... point of view. Any new points to consider, ways of looking at things."
"How's it looking so far?"
"Hard to tell," Thravaa admitted, "Everyone is staying quite... muted, considering the previous trials."
"Because of Paz?"
"Yes, and Djarin as well. The matters need discussed, but not in such a way as to bring them unnecessary distress that may cause ill health."
Cara's brows furrowed, "Din too? Is he alright?"
"The baar'ure report he is struggling with some significant..." Thravaa paused, "I don't remember the basic word.Dush'taab? It's... you're also feeling it."
Stress, Cara supposed he must mean, or something of the sort.
They listened to the cases awhile longer.
"Would you call me guilty?" Cara asked, "If it was your choice?"
"I know, but humor me for a second."
"You're in no place to be making demands." Thravaa sounded a bit annoyed, but ultimately, did seem to consider it.
After a few minutes internal debate, he spoke again, "Yes."
Cara felt her anxiety spike.
"You did all they speak of, so youareguilty." Thravaa considered, "but you pose no present or future threat, so I'd allow you to live. I'd be uncertain of what to do with you regarding punishment. I haven't learned you yet enough to make judgement. Thankfully it is for those much wiser than me to determine."
That settled her in a way. Not entirely, perhaps, but she stood a chance at surviving even if she was declared guilty. Which she supposes she would have anyway, given her guarentee of trial by combat. But then again, she's not certain she could bring herself to kill a Mando'ade. In fact, she's rather certain she couldn't. Not now that she knows them and their importance to her famil- to Din and Grogu.
No, best case scenario, she'd be able to disable them without significantly injuring them. That said, avoiding going for kill strikes was dangerous against a fully armored Mandalorian. She'd likely be killed before she managed to take them down. Of course nothing about this could ever be simple.
Even supposing she did manage it, she'd still be thrown from the covert. Thrown from her little famil-group.And wasn't that as good as dead anyway?
She could always go back to what she'd been doing before she'd ever met Din, she supposed. Back to the bar fights and arm wrestling punctuated by mercenary jobs and such. Somehow that didn't sound as freeing and fulfilling as it once had.
Cara carefully watched the current verd speaking. She was getting better at reading their body language at least. The armor once made it difficult, but she'd spent long enough now with Din that she was able to pick up on the more minute gestures. This person seemed cautiously positive. Maybe speaking something in her favor. They'd gestured at her a few times now, with more impassiveness than disdain. So perhaps they were speaking about her with more indifference than positivity. She'd take that over the previous speaker's disdain at least.
Feeling movement in the corner of her eye, Cara glanced over to see Faik sneak into the room and hurriedly walk up to the Armorer, who tilted her head to listen to what Faik must be saying while keeping her eyes on the other speaker. She seemed to ask a brief question back, to which Faik nodded and spoke again.
Eventually Faik left and took up post near the entrance to the room.
Shortly thereafter, the Armorer held up a hand.
Discussion ceased immediately and all attention shifted to her.
"I'm told we have another case to be made." The Armorer announced, "should the elders deem it acceptable in the eyes of the Ka'ra."
"All cases made by verd are under the eyes of the Ka'ra, are they not?" One elder asked.
"The case is proposed by Lyth."
There was a few short seconds of peace before a rumbling discussion burst forth from the room.
"Silence." The Armorer raised her hand again. "This is a matter for the elders to determine. We will give them a moment to confer. We shall all take 10 minutes break to rest and reflect, and then we shall reconvene to either hear this case or learn why we shall not."
Now there's an interesting development.
So far as he was aware, an instance such as this had yet to occur in this covert.
Thravaa wondered what Lyth had to add to the court, given that she had neither seen the incident nor held any close relation to the involved party. That said, the girl was smart and level headed. Perhaps it would be good to have another, less biased viewpoint to consider. Should the elders allow it, anyway.
Cara paced the empty hall, as per was usual for her when she let her mind get the best of her. It was a tough habit to break, to be sure, but Thravaa really wished she would do it. That, or at least get some manda-be-damned shoes that didn't crunch the gravel so gratingly loud on the tunnel's floor.
Sighing, Thravaa reached into his satchel and tossed a thermos at her, which she barely caught before it nailed her in the side of the head.
Cara glared at him but did as told, first cautiously smelling, then taking a sip from the spiced tea.
It worked exactly as intended, stopping her pacing, reducing it to mindless fiddling with the thermos lid.
Haran! If all it took to stop her pacing was a therm of tea, then he'd keep it on him for the rest of her stay here, be that a day or 40 years. Anything to stop that pacing. He'd never understand why humans do that so insistently. Something to do with their adrenaline, the Armorer had explained to him once, when he'd nearly stabbed Din for it when they were ad. Paz had held him back and drug him all the way to the Armorer, the karking tattle tail. Din, for his part, hadn't said anything, despite similar prior events.
"Why do the elders have to decide whether to hear this case?" Cara asked suddenly, "Who's Lyth?"
"She's a verd'ika," Thravaa explained, "A little warrior. She's too old to be an ad, technically, and she's passed her verd'goten, but her creed ceremony was postponed due to an injury she sustainedduringher verd'goten, so she's not truly an adult either."
"And a kid can't make a case in a trial, so they're debating whether she counts as an adult." Cara nods, "Got it. Has this happened before?"
"Not that I know of," Thravaa answered. "Not in my time here, at least."
"Are you a foundling then? Like Din?" Cara asked, hesitantly.
All her questioning up until now had been related to the trial, or to Mando'ade as a whole. Never about him specifically. She probably didn't think he was going to answer. After a moment's consideration, however, Thravaa determined there was no harm in doing so.
"I'm not. Not exactly, at least." Thravaa said, "I was part of a different covert, but it was destroyed. This one gave refuge to the surviving members, myself included. My buir fell in that battle, so I was raised with the foundlings. But I was born a Mando'ade."
"Oh." then a beat. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not." Thravaa shrugged, "It's better this way, I think."
He saw the confusion on her before she could voice it.
"Our old covert was... headed in the wrong direction," He said. "I was too young to understand at the time, but looking back now, I'm glad I'm here instead. Likely wouldn't have lived this long, had I stayed."
Cara didn't ask anymore questions, though they were undoubtedly hanging off the tip of her tongue.
Despite appreciating her curiosity, Thravaa also appreciated her restraint.
They were nearing the end of the recess anyway.
"Have the Elders come to a conclusion?" The Armorer questioned.
The Elder that had spoken earlier nodded. "We will hear the case, on grounds that the verd'ika has passed the verd'goten and despite not having taken her creed, is fully prepared, and awaits only baar'ure approval. She is adult in body, mind, and spirit, if not yet in words."
"Very Well." The Armorer sits back in her assigned location. "Faik, you will retrieve the verd'ika."
Faik nods once, slowly, or perhaps it's a small bow. Cara's not sure.
Either way, she returns within a minute with another in tow.
Lyth is a young togruta, going by the odd shape of her cloth mask and the training helm under her arm. She's got another growth spurt or two left go go, Cara suspects, considering togruta tend to be quite tall, but this one's only just barely taller than Faik.
When she spoke, Cara could hear the youth in her voice, could hear the nervousness, but it lessened as she continued to speak her case. It wasn't long before she spoke with the same confidence that the other verde had.
Thravaa was paying rapt attention. Clearly whatever the girl was saying was news to him.
Lyth seemed to ask permission for something, at one point, and the Armorer nodded acceptance. Lyth stuck a hand beneath her mask and let out a piercing whistle that had a small group of foundlings shuffling through the entrance towards the middle of the room.
The Armorer asked them a question, and one of said foundlings answered in halting, broken mando'a, mixed with another language Cara suspected was a form of Rodese.
A gasp, followed by a confused murmur spread through the crowd.
"What's happening?" Cara whispered.
Thravaa leans over to her, but doesn't look away from the foundling.
"The Elders have suspected this ad is Ka'ra touched, like Din's ad, though not to the same extent." Thravaa answered, "He claims to have overheard you and Grogu's 'conversation' prior to the incident. He was able to describe how the incident occurred despite his lack of presence, which proves the Ka'ra has touched him. He and Lyth have no attachment to either side of the matter. They have no reason to lie, so the Elders will believe his account."
"What are they say-" Cara glares as Thravaa hushes her.
It's only a few more paragraphs worth of words before the ad finishes off.
Immediately a flood of foundlings flushed into the room followed by a panicked and flustered Faik who was actively trying to corral them backoutof the room, which most definitely was not working.
Cara startled as she found herself surrounded on all sides by dozens of little bodies within seconds, more weaving around the adults to close in on her.
She looked down to see a familiar little green body clinging to her leg like a tooka over water.
The subsequent "Patoo!" was loud and insistent.
Me'vaar ti gar? = How are you? (literally "what's new with you?") often used to request a sit rep in battle.
Naas = Nothing
Dush'taab = anxiety (lit. bad foot[ing])
Pirur, di'kut = drink, idiot
Haran = Hell
Verd'goten = right of passage into Mandalorian adulthood, a test of sorts
Ka'ra = the stars, the manda (Manod'a's understanding of the force.)
Ka'ra touched = What the Manod'a refer to their own force sensitives as