The bounty hunter left Bilbringi with a feeling of restlessness and absence he hadn't felt in a long time. The annoyance and disgruntled feelings were more familiar; those came from the idiot who thought Boba Fett could be cheated out of his full pay, and subsequently had to be killed. Unfortunately this meant that he now had no credits and no merchandise, and had spent the past five and a half months in a futile job. He hated that, inasmuch as he hated anything. Worse still, there wasn't any merchandise to be found, no jobs that he would take, anyway. Just the usual flotsam and jetsam, jobs he left to Bossk, Dengar, or other second-string bounty hunters.

His restlessness had taken him on a longer-than-usual journey to the Outer Rim, searching for something (he didn't know what). The journey which normally took three or four days took ten now, with the route he had chosen, but it left him time to think. Time, he realized as the third day crept up on him, to contemplate what had happened and what he would do now...

"So what are you going to do about her?" the girl asked, stealing into the room with a furtive air that wildly contradicted her authoritative attitude. The pinned bounty hunter turned his head to look at her. She had his eyes, he realized abruptly, with some amount of startlement since he rarely took the time to look in a mirror. And yet looking at her was almost like looking into a mirror, distorted into a female form half his age. He wondered if this was how Jango had felt, looking at him, especially since he wasn't a real son at all, but a clone.

"About who?" he asked, unconsciously distracting himself from uncomfortable thoughts.

"You know who," Kashya retorted, "My mother. Cassandra. The woman you're at least a little ..." she trailed off, not wanting to utter the forbidden 'L' word that was anathema to everyone between the ages of twelve and sixteen.

The bounty hunter made a noise somewhere between a snort and a grunt. "No."

"You are!" Kashya said. Her voice sounded almost teasing, the way she might tease a girlfriend in the playground about the boy they wouldn't look at in Navigation. But there was something almost desperate in it too, a child who needed the father she'd never had, who wanted him to stay now that he'd finally reappeared.

"No," the bounty hunter said, in sharp tones that had sent lesser men cringing. She only scowled, and even the scowl was his.

"You won't admit it, even to yourself," she said slowly. She came closer, but she didn't come within grabbing distance, even for his limited range. Clever, he admitted grudgingly. "Neither will she, but she's more angry about it than you are. I think she's afraid of it."

"Afraid of what?" he asked, almost managing to sound curious.

"Afraid of you. Not you, you ... both of you. You together. She's afraid of what will happen... I think." Kashya leaned against the wall, frowning slightly. "She... well, you know. It's when she looks... when she talks about you. Even when she's angry, her eyes go all soft and far away. Whenever she thinks about you she does that. And you do it too."

The restraints hissed slightly as they slid off his arms. The bounty hunter sat up slowly.

"Aren't you afraid?"'

"You won't hurt me," Kashya said quietly. "I'm your daughter."

It was true. He rubbed his wrists and tried to come up with a way to conceal it, but it was true. He couldn't have hurt her any more than Jango could have hurt him. Suddenly, looking back on it, things became more clear than they had ever been... a few things, anyway. He watched the daughter he'd just met a few days ago and realized that if he held a mirror up before him he would see Jango Fett.

"Did you ever have a girlfriend?" (The bounty hunter scowled. There was no reason for him to be remembering this so clearly.)

"I never knew any," he said quietly, clinically.

Kashya stared in blatant sympathy, which made him scowl. He had never wanted or needed sympathy. "You never knew any girls?"

Boba Fett stopped, thought about Zam. But then, she wasn't really a girl. "Not really," he said, blatantly ignoring the nagging, persistent memories. His father. Zam. Jokes. Fishing. And the rain, after his father had told him Zam had ... gone. Shortly before his father, too, was gone. "No."

"You know, you were the first guy..." Kashya blushed, realizing she was betraying an incredibly personal secret that wasn't hers to tell. "Well, the first guy she ever... she doesn't talk about anyone else. And she barely talks about you, anyway."

The bounty hunter thought about this for a few minutes. "What does she say?"

Kashya pulled up a stool and curled up on it, staring thoughtfully at the floor. "It's more what she doesn't say. Whenever she talks about what h... well, all the two times she talked about what happened with you two, and that wasn't much... she never says anything mean or bad about you. Comes close, sometimes. But never gets there. She doesn't really hate you. She just acts like she does to protect herself." The girl looked up at him sharply. "And you aren't nearly as selfish as you like to think you are."

The bounty hunter snapped awake, not even having realized he had drifted off. For a second there it had sounded as though Kashya was in the co-pilot's seat, a place that hadn't seen a child in twenty six years. He scowled, disturbed for reasons he couldn't have named if he'd tried. The navigational computer flashed a proximity warning; they were coming up on the planet he had finally chosen for a destination. Time to strap in.

Kamino was as wet and rainy as he remembered. Almost more so, or perhaps it was the last vestiges of his imagination. The seas below the last few city-platforms rocked and roiled with the ever-present storms. Tipoca City was still there, but it had nearly become a ghost town. He landed on the old, familiar platform with no interference. The doors slid open as he walked towards them, as they had slid open for someone wearing the Mandalorian armor more than two decades ago. He walked through the halls, the echoes of his boots on the soft floor identical to echoes long gone.

The door to the old suite still opened for him. He wondered if the codes had ever been changed, thought back to the events that had unfolded just after their leaving, and decided not. The Kaminoans had probably kept it for him, or Jango, in case their prime breeding stock ever returned. Carrion creatures.

He looked around the small set of rooms, as empty as the day he had left. If he squinted till his eyes watered he could still see the hated Jedi who had prompted his father to move them to Geonosis... where his father now remained permanently. Damn them, anyway. They had killed Jango, and Zam...

Zam. If he listened till it made his ears ring he could almost hear her laughter, or her bad jokes. Jango had never laughed at her jokes, although the young Boba Fett had, had even made some bad jokes in return. But now, with the perfect vision of hindsight and the perspective of an adult, Boba Fett caught the hidden glances his father hadn't meant for him to see. He caught the looks Zam had given his father when she thought neither of them were looking. Sometimes he caught the looks Jango directed at her in return, although she didn't see those either. The game they played, that was now being played out again, that had never been concluded due to the untimely deaths of both parties. He could almost hear Zam laughing now.

The bounty hunter scowled. This wasn't helping; if anything this place was making him more restless. He shouldn't have come back. This place was better left abandoned. He hadn't been back since he had left the first time, for good, and he should have remembered why before he set foot on the floating city. Angrily he jammed his helmet back onto his head, walked out through the rain to his ship. It trickled down over his helmet, down behind and between the cracks in his armor, soaking him to the bone before he'd walked the first few steps to his ship. Finally he just gave up and took the helmet off altogether.

He looked out over the sea, the waves only occasionally broken by the splash of a passing creature. The rain was letting up, inasmuch as it ever did. It would have been on days like this that his father would have taken him out fishing. It had been on a day like this that he had first met Zam. His mouth moved into a rusty smile at the memory. So maybe it wasn't entirely a bad idea that he had come here. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, letting the lighter spray of rain fall onto his face and take him back two decades and more, for a brief moment remembering what it was like to be ten years old, the last time he had been without cares or responsibilities or deadly motivations.

What had Kashya been like at ten, he wondered briefly. What had really been going on between Jango and Zam. Why was he so restless.

Boba Fett walked slowly up the ramp and back into his ship, the decision made but not thought about beyond implementation, not yet. He shook the water off his armor and outer clothing; it would dry soon enough, but it wasn't very far to where he was going now. He thought about a young girl with his eyes, and wondered for the first time if maybe he hadn't gotten the lessons just a little bit wrong, a little bit off. He wondered if there had been something he missed, or something he simply had never gotten to learn. Or maybe this was as bad an idea as he thought it was.

Cassandra watched the Slave I descend onto the platform, making a mental note to speak with Romy about exactly how bad of an idea it was to trick your best friend into ... well, whatever this was. And about giving people known to be dangerous the ability to access her personal space-port facilities, or what passed for them. Granted, it was a fair hike to the compound, less by speeder (and there weren't any speeders around right now) but it wasn't like that would stop him...

Her hand clenched tighter around the butt of her blaster, the hilt of the lightsaber she'd constructed years ago still concealed in the back of her tunic. Her knuckles were white by now, she was certain. It was the only way to keep her hand from shaking.

The ramp began to descend a good five, ten minutes after the ship had landed, as though the pilot was also uncertain about the advisability of what was going on. Familiar booted footsteps padded deliberately down to the deck. Her blaster was out and pointed at his head even before she had a chance to register that his helmet was tucked underneath his arm.

"I told you what would happen if I ever saw you here again," she said. Her voice came out steady, which almost surprised her more than her hand refusing to shake.

"I know," he said quietly, still rasping a little. That last bit of harshness might never go away, or maybe it had always been there and she just hadn't noticed the first time. She had, after all, been rather distracted. Her face reddened slightly as she remembered.

"So why did you come back?" Her voice cracked slightly. The blaster never wavered, and neither did he.

"I don't know." There might have been a hint of a smile, a slight tone of mocking in his voice, but not enough for her to call him out on it. The irony still didn't escape her.

"You think I won't do it?" she asked, her voice rising higher than she wanted on the last three syllables. She gestured slightly with the blaster, a gesture that became more exaggerated as she had a brief moment of panic that she was actually going to fire the thing and kill him. And then she realized how little she actually wanted him dead. It was dismaying, shaming, and reassuring all at once. Of course, she couldn't let him know that.

"You won't," he said with perfect confidence. Damn.

"The hell I won't..."

"You won't." He took a step forward. Cassandra thought briefly about pressing the point, and then gave up. The blaster came down and she slumped slightly, although she didn't take her eyes off him.

"Perhaps not," she said quietly. Then she lifted her head to lock eyes with him; even if she couldn't kill him, be damned if she was going to let him beat her. "Now what?"

They said it together, and neither of them could tell who was mocking the other for being predictable. "I don't know." And then, surprisingly, he began to chuckle. She gaped at him for a few minutes, and then she began to laugh at the sheer rustiness of his amusement. He realized, after a moment, how ridiculous the whole situation was, and how much his entire reputation would crumble if anyone saw. He wondered briefly if he was losing his edge. Cassandra stopped laughing abruptly, watching him guardedly, as though at any second he might revert and try and capture or kill her for some nonexistant bounty. No, he wasn't losing his edge, and wouldn't.

Cassandra's head snapped around abruptly, breaking his train of thought. She glanced back at him, her eyes wide and more frightened than he'd seen in a long time. And angry, or perhaps irritated.


She shook her head slightly, and from the small of her back drew a silver cylinder. He didn't realize what it was until a golden beam shot slowly, abruptly, from one end. "Your daughter's in trouble," she called over her shoulder as she pelted towards a skimmer.

"My daughter?" Irony sizzled as it hit the floor.

"Of course. When she's in trouble she's obviously your daughter." She looked back, seeing him hesitate for a split second as he looked between Slave I and her land-skimmer. "Don't bother, this is quicker. And less conspicuous."

She had a point. But he was still going to put the fear of him into whoever ... The bounty hunter settled his helmet back on his head as he slid into the seat next to Cassandra. She gave him a sidelong eye-roll as she rocketed across the intervening ocean at speeds that would have been irrational under any other circumstances. But not now, not when it involved his little girl. The bounty hunter thought back to Kamino, and to the ghost of another bounty hunter, dead these many years past.

I think I understand, now, Dad.

Kashya was looking around frantically when they arrived, her back to her friends and her friends' backs to the wall. It looked like slavers from what Boba Fett could tell, five of them, a combination of Twi'lek and human and what might have been a Trandoshan. They had stun-sticks and nets and other, more deadly weapons. Twin emotions rose in him, unfamiliar and searing hot with their strength, and it briefly occurred to him that this was probably due to the entirely emotionless existence he had tried to maintain until now. The twin emotions were pride and anger... pride in his daughter, for so clearly (and with a fair amount of success) attempting to defend herself and anger at whoever thought they were good enough to touch her. Beside him he saw Cassandra leaping out of the land-skimmer, a similar sentiment reflected on her face.

"Walk away," she said before he could get out a word, and in his mind he heard an unvoiced prompting to summon Slave I. "Now." More linked emotions, irritation that she had voiced the threat before he had and admiration that she was quick to think on her feet.

"Or what?" one dead man asked before the Twi'lek next to him kicked him, hard, in the back of the shins and whispered what he should have registered before.

"Shut up, you idiot. That's Boba Fett."

Cassandra grinned tightly. "Kashya," she called to their daughter. "Come on."

"Now hold on a second," one of the humans said, and reached towards the girl, who screamed and kicked him expertly in the side. At the familiar, unspoken signal, the brawl erupted in blaster fire (from Boba Fett), screaming and stun-sticks (from the kids and the slavers), and the unexpected hiss of a lightsaber (from Cassandra). It was only a few seconds till Slave I would be there, but both Fett and Cassandra knew that that could be a few seconds too long. Within seconds both were standing between the slavers and their daughter.

Screams and curses rang through the air in at least two languages that Fett could understand and one that he couldn't. Cassandra stayed entirely on the defensive, blocking blaster fire aimed at her, Kashya, and Fett himself with deft flicks of her golden-bladed lightsaber. The bounty hunter had no time to examine the automatic feelings of loathing, distrust, and hate that surged at the gleam of the blade; his mind was occupied with protecting his daughter and her friends (as his father had once protected him). Dad, he thought, you would be proud.

The Slave I arrived before he had much time to think about anything else. The whoosh of the landing gear distracted most of the slavers, convincing them that the armored figure in front of them was indeed Boba Fett, and never mind what the hell he was doing on a backwater planet like this anyway. He heard Cassandra yell "Get on board!" before he had time to contradict her, and then he heard Kashya scream.

Despite his and Cassandra's best efforts, one of the slavers had gotten in a lucky vibroblade strike. Kashya punched the man, sending him reeling into Boba Fett's blaster fire, but the damage to her side was uncomfortably evident in the growing dark stain against her vest. Fett caught her as she crumpled, tossed her as gently as he could to Cassandra.

"Take her," he said, and opened up the flamethrower on the slavers. If they had thought they were getting away before (and they could have) they were about to be disabused of that notion. While Cassandra half- carried, half-walked the girl up the ramp and into the ship, Fett calmly and dispassionately executed all five figures in a rain of blaster fire. Through the helmet commlink he signaled the Slave I to return to Cassandra's island, and felt a touch of her grim satisfaction in his mind before she withdrew to turn her attention to her daughter.

Well, she was definitely a very un-Jedi-like Jedi.

Boba wondered what Jango would have thought of her.

The other children had been left in the holding area, which made them distinctly uncomfortable as the more humane and customary prison areas had been renovated to create more prisoner spaces, more closet-like in shape and much more intimidating. Cassandra had taken Kashya up to the pilot and sleeping area, settling her in the small bunk and (presumably) healing the deep gash in her side. It was the third time that night that Boba felt an unaccustomed emotion, and this time it was guilt. Guilt for not having protected his daughter better, he realized. Had Jango's last emotion been guilt? Guilt for abandoning his son in a strange place among stranger people. He had never really blamed his father, but he also hadn't thought to do so until now.

"Things happen," Cassandra said softly, and Fett didn't realize she was speaking to him until he saw that Kashya was unconscious. "She's alive, and she'll be fine in a few hours. Things happen, we just have to make our way as best we can despite them."

'I'm just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.'

Boba Fett stared at the woman who had somehow managed to echo his father's words nearly perfectly. The landing sequence alert forced him to turn his attention back to the controls, but his father's response still echoed in his mind. It had seemed to him almost as though she had spoken with his father's voice, and that sense of understanding crept back into his thoughts again. The protective instincts, the sense of responsibility... it didn't complicate matters, it made everything more simple. Against the dark viewscreen he thought he saw the reflection of a small, dark-haired, scowling little boy next to him, and it seemed as though his helmet was brighter, blue and steel. Just a simple man. With a boy. Only now it was a girl, and it wasn't just for her sake anymore. It was in the memory of Jango Fett.

The bounty hunter smiled, very slightly, for the first time in what seemed like forever.