A/N: Tag to S2E8 The Rescue
Everyone on the bridge froze, watching the Mandalorian say goodbye to the child. Cara tensed when she saw Din remove his helmet, watched Grogu pat him on the cheek with his little hand. She felt like she was intruding on a private moment, but she couldn't look away. Nobody moved, either afraid of interrupting or just plain afraid of the Jedi. Then the little guy was walking towards the Jedi and his astromech droid.
A moment later they were gone and the only sound was the air recyclers in the hallway humming into high gear to clear the remaining smoke. Din stood where he was, staring after them, looking like he'd been stabbed in the gut.
Cara looked down. She thought she'd knocked Gideon senseless but he was leaning against the base of a control panel, watching everything. The look on his face was true fear, which was a nice change from imperious condescension.
"They say he was responsible for the destruction of Death Star. The first one." Gideon said, seemingly to himself more than anyone else.
Bo-Katan turned sharply, "Did he say Skywalker?"
Gideon looked away and turned his face blank, apparently remembering his situation.
Fennec was watching a display. "The X-wing has left the main hangar bay. It's jumping to hyperspace."
Cara belatedly noticed that Din was gone. He'd left his helmet resting on a console. She strode across the bridge and picked it up. Down the hallway, the elevator closed.
She turned, eyes connecting with Fennec. "Bring him," she ordered, motioning to Gideon. Fennec nodded. Cara hurried to follow Din. She jammed the button for the elevator.
She didn't catch sight of him until she stepped onto the elevated walkway over the hangar bay. To one side was nothing but empty black and twinkling stars. A force field held the air in but solid objects could still pass through. The design was great for speedy launch and recovery cycles. Knowing that didn't make it any less unnerving.
"Wait!" Cara shouted. He kept walking. She ran, calling, "Din! Wait up!"
He froze at the sound of his name. Cara hadn't used it since hearing it for the first time on Navarro but this time she needed something to ground him. Then she was standing in front of him and he looked so…heartbroken. That was the only word for it. Cara knew she should say something but the words stuck in her throat. She held out the silver helmet. It was solid in her hands, lighter than she would have expected for something indestructible.
Din looked down. For a second he looked surprised and disoriented, as if he was seeing it for the first time, but then he took it from her. He made no move to put it on.
The others caught up to them. Fennec held Giedon by the arm, his hands still in binders. He was now missing his armored breastplate and cape and his eye was starting to swell from where Cara had decked him.
Bo-Katan strode forward ahead of them, stopped a few paces from Cara and Din.
"The Darksaber." She bit the words out. She was wearing her helmet and the little lights on her gauntlet were active.
Cara stepped in front of Bo-Katan, blocking Din from her view. "You leave him alone," she said, voice low and dangerous. The other woman might be armored but Cara had some weight on her and probably just as much combat experience.
"I only agreed to this mission so that I could take the Darksaber from Moff Gideon. That was the deal." Bo-Katan wasn't backing down.
"How is that important right now?" Fennec snapped, "We need to get out of here. We killed a lot of troopers but this is a big ship. Any survivors will have had plenty of time to regroup."
The other Mandalorian removed her helmet. She pulled Bo-Katan to the side, spoke to her in a low voice, not in Basic. Bo-Katan removed her helmet to talk and Cara breathed again.
Then she saw Fennec's expression change. Cara spun around in time to see Din with the metal cylinder of the saber in his hand, arm drawn back. Cara felt her expression mirror Fennec's. He flung his arm forward and the weapon arched through the air until there was a small static pop from the force field and then it was gone.
Without a word or even a glance towards them, Din walked off again. Bo-Katan gaped, her expression of shock followed quickly by fury. Cara pushed aside her own shock, again braced herself for action.
An alarm split the air and red lights started to flash. Anyone who had spent any time on a military ship was well familiar with evacuation drills. This one neglected the word 'drill' and skipped right to 'containment breach'.
"Ah, that would be my second in command. She made it to the reactor," Gideon said, "What a shame. She had such potential."
Cara suppressed the urge to punch him again and instead shouted, "Time to go!"
She saw that Din was headed towards an access ladder for the nearest light shuttle. After their hard landing earlier, they would need a new one. Cara rushed to follow him, Fennec right behind her, with Gideon in tow.
Koska was pulling Bo-Katan by the arm, saying, "We'll come back for it. It's beskar. It'll be fine."
Cara boarded the shuttle. Din was already at the pilot's seat, starting up the engines. She slid into the seat beside him. As soon as everyone was on board, Fennec shouted, "Let's go!"
They took off and accelerated hard. Cara was pushed back into her seat for several long seconds. She strained her neck, tapped a display to check the aft view. The cruiser shrunk steadily and then, sure enough, a bright flash as the reactor blew. Then the shuttle seemed to leap forward and they were in hyperspace.
Cara rubbed a hand over her face. Finally, a moment to catch her breath. They had completed the mission and escaped with their lives. They should be celebrating. Instead, the atmosphere in the shuttle cabin was tense.
Din stared into the blurred starfield, his eyes unfocussed. His helmet rested in his lap. Fennec was busy clamping a second pair of binders around Gideon's ankles, then strapping him securely into the crash harness. Satisfied with the restraints, she leaned back in her seat, blaster pistol resting in her lap. Cara thought it was probably overkill, but wasn't about to say so. The other two Mandalorians were in the rear seats.
"I cannot believe he did that," Bo-Katan kept repeating, leaning forwards and burying her face in her hands, "I can not believe he did that."
"The debris is going to be scatter over half a parsec. It would take a lifetime to shift through it all." Koska glared towards the back of Din's seat.
Cara watched Din for a while. "Hey," she said. He turned to look at her.
Are you alright? The words died on her lips. He was clearly not alright. Yes, they had defeated the enemy and rescued the kid, but now here he was. Without his helmet on, when only a few weeks ago he had begged her to leave him to die rather than remove it. Without his ship, that perpetually broken down but priceless relic from the pre-Empire days, now nothing but a crater. And without the weird little kid that he'd practically adopted.
Surprising her, Din spoke first, "He had to go with the Jedi. He needs to learn that Jedi stuff, so he can protect himself. He…wanted to go. I could see it. If he didn't I never would have let him. So it's alright."
Cara had known Din for almost a year at this point and she thought she probably knew him better than anyone. Even so, seeing his face for the first time and hearing his voice without any of the distortion from the helmet was a little disorienting. Cara told herself to focus. She was determined to be a good friend.
"You kept your promise to him. You did the right thing," she said. The words sounded trite.
There was something about the way that he looked at her, pain so close to the surface, fighting so hard to keep calm, that suddenly reminded her of how she'd felt after the Battle of Endor. Everywhere she turned, people were celebrating. Mission complete, a stunning success, better than anyone had really hoped. But what had it cost? She'd lost her home. Her family. All those smiling faces had made her sick to her stomach. She remembered walking through the crowds, filled with streamers and laughing, feeling like a thin piece of glass. One tap and she'd shatter into a thousand pieces.
Then the words came out before she had fully realized she was going to say them, "Still, it's okay to be sad about it."
Din's face immediately crumbled. He turned away, put his hands over his eyes, but Cara had already seen the tears spill over. He let out a slow, steadying breath. Cara cursed herself. She should have known better than to say that, should have waited until they were alone.
She glanced back at the rest of the shuttle. Gideon's eyes were closed, asleep or unconscious. Fennec was looking away, politely pretending not to be listening. The two Mandalorians weren't bothering to pretend, but at least they kept their mouths shut.
After a long moment, Din gathered himself, lowered his hands. He turned his head and looked at her again. He looked calmer, but still more than a little heartbroken. So, what now? The question was written so clearly on his face, he didn't need to say anything.
Cara put on a confident smile, "Now, we take this piece of garbage to the New Republic and get our reward. You'll have more than enough for a new ship."
Din's tension seemed to soften a little. "Alright," he said. He leaned his head back against the seat, closed his eyes.
"Hey." Cara swiveled in her seat to see Fennec. "You can drop me off with Boba Fett first. I'm wanted by the New Republic. They won't give me any reward."
"Of course," Cara said. She wondered if there was a wanted list that Fennec wasn't on.
She recorded a message, angling the camera to show only her face, and transmitted it to Boba Fett. "Mission success. No casualties," she said, always best to keep it brief when they didn't know who else might pick it up, and suggested a rendezvous at the nearest world with a functioning space port. She wanted to wrap this thing up as soon as possible.
Then they could all figure out what came next. Maybe Din would go back to bounty hunting. Or maybe, just maybe, if she played her cards right, he would let her deputize him. Greef Karga had big dreams about making Navarro safe and respectable and there were still plenty of local warlords, pirate gangs, and Imperial remnants about who had different ideas. With Din by her side, they could really shake things up.