The Lost Get Found
Chapter 7—The Family
Thanks again for faves, follows, and comments, and just reading—I do a happy dance every time I get a notification about them! :D
Before I forget (again!), all translations come from
Rated S for shippy content!
"Come on, ad'ika, I know you're hungry," Din implored as he held a small smoked nerf strip to the baby's mouth.
The little one pressed his lips together and shook his head, whining even as his stomach let out a loud growl.
Din sighed. "Okay, want me to reheat your eggs, since they're cold now?"
"NO!" the baby replied as his eyes filled with tears, and he let out a loud wail.
Okay, this is weird. "Heyyyyy, come here." He took the little guy into his arms, and gently rubbed circles on his back. "You just said a new word, and that's good—but why are you so upset?"
The wail turned into a series of sobs, and Din's heart nearly broke. They'd been traveling together nearly five months, and while tears weren't unheard of, since the little one was a toddler, he'd never cried like this—or refused to eat, when he was clearly hungry.
"Are you feeling sick?" Din asked, pressing a hand to the baby's forehead. Did he feel a little warmer than usual? Hopefully that stomach growl wasn't a sign of something more serious, like an oncoming bug.
The baby reached out toward the small conservator, so Din shifted him to one arm so his hand was free to open the door. "Is there something you'll eat in here?" he asked. He knew little ones could be stubborn, and turn mealtimes into power struggles—he'd seen it helping out in the creche as a kid, and more recently with his youngest niece. However, the abrupt change from a happy, easygoing baby to a fussy one made him think something else was going on.
The baby patted the door to the freezer compartment, and Din opened it. A stubby green finger pointed at a container of frozen meiloorun sticks—so Din opened it, and handed his tiny charge a piece of the bright pink fruit. He put it in his mouth, but didn't chew it—and yet, the crying stopped almost immediately.
"Hmm," Din said after a few minutes, when the fruit had softened a bit, and the baby began chewing it with his front teeth.
It took a good five minutes for the entire piece of fruit to be eaten, but once the little one had swallowed the final bite, and was reaching for another stick, Din had come to a conclusion—one he didn't like. "Can you open your mouth for me real quick? I'll give you another one, but I want to check something first."
The baby complied, and Din flipped down the light on his helmet so it shone in the little one's mouth. Just as he'd suspected, there were swollen spots on his lower gums, just behind the little one's existing bottom teeth.
"Great," he said with a sigh, and gave the baby another piece of fruit before heading into the cockpit to call Dara at the Tribe's hideout.
Paz shook his head as he lowered the ramp to his ship. He and his kids had been home for a week now, and after all the bags were unpacked and all the laundry done, they were still missing a boot, three shirts, and the datastick with Ajay's half-finished Mandalorian history assignment—the one he'd kept putting off that had to be submitted tomorrow.
He loved his kids—he really did—but some of them (three, to be exact, because Kyri had the excuse of being a toddler who was still learning) were seriously lacking in the responsibility department. No matter what strategies he and Bryn tried to help them improve, nothing seemed to work more than a few days. Even after sending the owners of the missing items out here to search with Jos for over an hour, all five, which they'd definitely had onboard since their previous stop, were still missing—so he'd taken it upon himself to hunt them down.
Half an hour later, he was surprised to hear the holocall chime coming from the cockpit, and quickly transferred it to his vambrace. He was even more surprised to see his brother when he answered, since Din knew he was home now—where he generally didn't have access.
"Hey, vod'ika, you okay?" he asked, concerned because he could see the pillow behind his brother's head, and the angle of the holoimage was so that he appeared to be lying down.
"Kid's teething," Din replied in a low voice, nodding toward the little one dozing fitfully on his unarmored chest. "He screamed his head off for half the morning, won't eat anything that's hard or requires a lot of chewing…and this is the most he's slept in about three days."
Paz couldn't see his brother's face—but he could hear the exhaustion in his voice. "I'm sorry, man—that's one of those things that's always tough, no matter how many kids you have."
"I was hoping he was past this phase-but apparently not."
"Yeah—and it's especially tough when they're little, and can't tell you what's going on. At least he's sleeping right now—you should do the same."
"Believe me, I've tried—but as soon as I get settled down, he wakes up."
"That's why you need to come home so we can help you. We've got a whole houseful of babysitters who'll be glad to take care of the kid so…"
"Paz, no!" Din replied emphatically. "I am not risking your kids' lives—again—because I'm a little sleep-deprived. That's like putting targets on their back and telling the Empire to shoot!"
His brother shrugged. "I thought you said Stormtroopers couldn't shoot for anything—and they sure can't fight, as my riduur proved when they tried to surprise her that day in the Forge," Paz said proudly. "Plus, all three of my big kids are trained in the Rising Phoenix now—and you know who taught them how to shoot. Anyone who messes with them is in for an unpleasant surprise. On top of that, Bryn and Cara put up security doors at both major entrances to the Covert. Imps won't find it nearly as easy to get in this time, if they even come back and try."
"All that aside, what about the people of Nevarro?" Din asked. "They don't deserve to have their homes and lives destroyed just because I can't handle a fussy baby."
Paz sighed. "Okay, I get it-you don't feel comfortable coming here—I'll just come to you."
"What? No—you just got home! You haven't seen Bryn in months! Besides, you've got things to do to prepare for the relocation meeting."
"I don't mean long-term—just for a few days, until you meet with our cousin and her Jetii companions tomorrow and the kid's feeling better. Then another idea popped into his head. "Or….."
"Or what?" Din sighed. "I don't trust that tone—it's gotten me in trouble too many times."
Paz smirked beneath his helmet. "Well…a certain former Shock trooper happens to be in my living area playing cu'bikad with my kids right now—and you know she's got a week off, since her boss is off planet at his granddaughter's wedding, right?"
"Paz, she's the one who chose to stay on Nevarro—there's no way she's going to spend her time off helping me take care of a teething kid."
"Only one way to find out."
"I am not asking her to….."
"Okay, fine—I'll do it." He sighed, and his voice was softer and more gentle when he spoke again. "Look, I know Bryn put you in charge of finding the kid's people—but that doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Parenting isn't meant to be a solitary job—we all need help sometimes—especially with the first one.
Din was quiet for several moments, and Paz could all but hear him trying to find a valid reason why he shouldn't get help from this woman that he clearly had feelings for beyond friendship.
"All right. You can ask her. But if she says no….."
"She won't," Paz said confidently.
"What makes you say that?"
He laughed. "Because she's just as crazy about you as you are her, little brother!"
"I….she…what do you…?" Paz would bet his favorite blaster his brother's face was bright red beneath his helmet.
"It's true. Any time your name comes up in conversation, her face lights up like a Canto Bight slot machine—not that I've ever seen one in person, but…" Paz shrugged.
"You really think…"
"Yes—I really do," he said, softer. "Now go sleep while you can, and I'll go ask her. If she says 'yes', I'll call you back in a couple hours or so, in hopes that you can rest in the meantime. Then we'll get some things together to help a teething baby—and his tired buir, so be thinking about anything you want or need, and she'll get it at the bazaar or we'll dig it up here. How's that sound?"
"That sounds….thank you, Paz," Din replied, his voice slightly hoarse and higher than usual before he cleared his throat. Yeah, you're at the end of your rope, little brother—good thing you've got a beautiful helper coming your way.
"Love you, Din'ika," Paz replied. "Get some sleep-talk to you in a few hours."
"Love you too, ori'vod," Din replied.
"Where should I put it this time?" Kyri whispered loudly to Cara as they studied the cu'bikad hologram projected over the Vizslas' caf table.
"Put it two spaces under the last one and one space over this way," Cara whispered back to the little girl on her lap.
"Right here?" Kyri asked.
"Yep, that's it."
The three-year-old inserted her holoknife into the square, which resulted in a groan from nine-year-old Nima.
"You blocked me!" the older girl exclaimed.
"You blocked me two times!" Kyri replied, and made a sound that made Cara know she was sticking her tongue out at her sister beneath her helmet.
The door to the apartment slid open, and Paz entered.
"Buir, did you find my boot?" the little girl asked excitedly as she hopped up.
"I did—and something else I think you've been missing," he said, opening the small bag looped over his right wrist.
"My Loth cats!" she said, holding up a tiny pair of lavender undershorts with bright green tookas and pink hearts. Cara and Nima looked at each other, and dissolved into a fit of giggles.
"Ah, so that's where they were, huh?" Miri asked from the table, where she and Ajay were doing schoolwork.
"What about my project?" the boy asked hopefully.
"No luck, ad'ika. Check all the pockets in both your bags again. If you don't find your data stick, you'll just have to ask Kade for an extension. If that's the case, he's not going to be happy—because this is not the first time this has happened since we left."
"I'll go look again," Ajay sighed, and headed toward the room he shared with his brothers.
"Find any other treasures?" Cara asked with a smirk.
The big guy chuckled. "Funny you should ask—can you come out in the hall for a minute?"
"Sure." She turned back to Nima. "Why don't you find us a snack while I'm gone?"
"And you can put this in your closet and these in the hamper," Paz instructed Kyri as he handed her the boot and bag of clothes.
"It's too much!" the little girl whined as the boot fell to the floor. "And that's Eyra's shirt, not mine!"
The big guy shook his head, and sighed. "Her stuff gets washed with yours anyway—and here," he said, placing the boot on top of the bag. "Try that."
"Okay," she sighed, and Cara had to stifle a laugh at her dramatics.
"Nice work, Buir," she told Paz. "It's like you've got experience with his parenting thing."
"We're a warrior people—but we know how to pick our battles," he said as he opened the door, and she followed him out in the hall.
"So…..what's up?" she asked once the door had closed behind them, and the only sound was the machines in the laundry room across the hall.
"While I was cleaning the ship, Din called me. He's not doing well—or rather, the kid's not."
Cara felt her heart clench in concern. "What's wrong? Is he sick?"
"Almost as bad—he's teething. Meaning, he's not sleeping or eating well…."
"And neither is Din," she finished. "Poor baby. Poor daddy."
"Yeah, he's kind of in need of reinforcements….and I was wondering if you might be up for the job. I'd be glad to take you to meet up with him—he's planning to land on one of the moons of the closest planet."
Cara froze, and felt heat flood her cheeks. "I think I know less about kids than he does. I don't know how much help I'd be," she said.
"Teething is such a wild card even for experienced parents—and just having someone else there to lighten your load is a huge help. Plus, kids can get clingy when they don't feel well, and you're the one he's spent the most time with aside from Din. That's why I didn't ask Jos if she would go, since she's the only one who doesn't have school."
"But how do I know what to do?" she asked, wanting nothing more than to be with the little green baby and his father—but fearful due to her lack of experience.
"Bryn and I will make detailed instructions, just like we used to do for our little ones when we left them with a sitter for date nights. I'll also give you the comm channel for the Tribe. You can ask for Dara if you think it's serious—but most of the adults have experience with teething—and sometimes all you need is someone to talk to." He reached out and placed his Wookiee paw of a hand on her shoulder. "And you know, I think you do better than you give yourself credit for. You met my kids, what, three days ago, and Kyri's already asking if you can join our Clan."
At his words, Cara blushed even deeper than before, and her heart twisted with longing for something she'd fought since that first hovercart ride back on Sorgan. "You think Din be okay with it?" she asked apprehensively.
"I've already talked to him about it. The kid was asleep, and I told him to try to do the same—and that if you said yes, we'd get back to him in a couple of hours."
"So you're sure he was fine with it."
Paz chuckled. "He was more than fine with it—he was relieved. He needs you right now, Cara—and not just because the baby's teething."
She gave him a hesitant smile. "I think even with your cousin involved, he's still nervous about the whole Jedi thing—and afraid that somehow he'll still have to give the kid up." Can't say I don't have some concerns about it myself.
"So…..you'll do it?" he asked.
Cara took a deep breath, and just as when she'd agreed to help Din both times before, felt that she was stepping into uncharted territory.
Six hours later, Din bounced the baby as he waited for his brother and Cara to land on the moon where the Razor Crest was currently docked. By some miracle, the little one had slept about four hours after the initial call with Paz, but now he was awake, and the tiny bit of infant pain reliever Din had given him-because it was all that was left in the bottle-was wearing off.
"Hey, ad'ika, look, here come Ba'vodu and Cara," he said as the ramp on the other ship lowered. Cara led out, carrying her pack and a small stuffed frog. "They're bringing you some things to make you feel better, and….." he cut off, speechless, at the sight of the moderately sized hover cart Paz was pushing down the ramp. It was loaded not only with items from the bazaar, but some he recognized from the Covert—that others had used with their kids. Din's heart swelled with gratitude at the generosity of his brother and friends.
"Awww, hi, baby—still not feeling well?" Cara asked as she approached the two of them with a sad smile. She dropped her pack and held out the frog. "Look what I got for you."
"Nnnmgh," the little one trilled sadly, halfheartedly making grabby hands toward the fluffy green toy, but clearly lacking his usual enthusiasm.
"When's the last time you had some medicine? I know you were running low."
"I gave him the last half dose about two hours ago, so I think that's why it's already wearing off," Din told her.
Paz stopped the cart a few meters away. "Give him half a dose and an ice pop from the cold bag." Cara nodded, flashed Din a sympathetic smile, and then took the baby over to the cart, chattering about all the colors and flavors he could choose for his cold treat.
"Hey little brother, how you holding up?" Paz asked, and enfolded Din in a massive hug. Din felt his shoulders and chest loosen from the tension he hadn't even realized he was carrying at the solid weight of his brother's familiar arms.
"Much better, now that the two of you are here. Thank you so much for…..everything," he said, swallowing a lump in his throat.
"Aliit baatir par aliit," Paz replied. "And so does future family," he chuckled, earning himself a punch in the arm.
"Shut up, Paz," Din said as he took a step back from his brother's embrace.
"Hey, I'm all for it—and so is Bryn," he said, raising his hands in surrender. "Far be it from me to mess things up for you."
"Then stop running your mouth or she'll hear you, di'kut," Din murmured as Cara started walking back toward them. The baby's lips were now bright red from the ice pop, and Din was grateful she'd had the foresight to take the frog so it wouldn't get sticky, too.
"Ah, starfruit—excellent choice!" Paz said in an accent that sounded more Core than Outer Rim.
"Ready to go see your ba'vodu?" Cara said to the little one, whose free hand reached toward the big man. She handed him over, then turned her attention to Din.
"You…..that's Mando'a," he said, voice filled with wonder.
She shrugged, blushing. "Yeah, your nieces and nephews decided I need to learn it, so they've been teaching me." She placed the toy on top of her pack, then held her arm out to him as her eyes somehow found his in spite of the helmet. "How are you, Din?"
He took her hand, never taking his eyes from hers—and by some unspoken agreement, the distance between their handclasp closed until it was resting against his chestplate, and their free arms wrapped around each other's backs in a hug that somehow felt like coming home.
"I'm…good," he said, reluctantly letting her go after a few seconds. "How are you?"
"I've got a week off, and I'm spending it with two of my favorite people…so I'm pretty great," she said, giving him a smile that made his heart feel…..full. She looked over to Paz, who was showing the kid something on his datapad. "They're gonna be awhile—all his kids drew pictures for your kid. Want to help me get this stuff inside, and get the Alderaan Stew heated up?"
"Sure," he said, glad for some time with just her—which he guessed was Paz's intent all along.
She put her hands on the cart's handle, and his eyes widened beneath his helmet as he noticed something. "You…..have vambraces."
She smiled. "Yeah, Bryn made them for me. She and Jos and Jerem worked all afternoon to finish after they found out I was leaving. She thought they might come in handy, with the baby and all. I've got contacts for the Tribe's comm system, and your non-Tribe cousins set up in case I have questions while you're sleeping—or in case we get separated for any reason."
"That's…good. What else did she put on them?"
Since he already knew most of the functions, he focused on the various expressions of Cara's face as she described them, adding witty commentary on her crash course in learning how this new accessory worked. He had missed her so much in the weeks they'd been separated, even with daily holocalls—but being here, together, gave him a sense of contentment he hadn't felt since he'd left her behind on Nevarro.
'Woohoo, Din, you awake in there, buddy?" she asked, waving a hand in front of his visor."
He blushed beneath his helmet. "Oh—sorry—what were you saying?"
"I was saying we need to get moving—now help me get this thing up the ramp. I'm strong, but I'm not Paz strong."
Din chuckled as he added his hands to the cart and they started pushing. No one is Paz strong—except maybe a Wookiee."
"I heard that!" Paz said from behind them—and the two of them looked at each other and laughed.
Paz left an hour or so after they'd finished dinner, and with the baby asleep-medicated and full of pureed stew-Cara followed Din up to the cockpit to set the course for Zelik. According to the navicomputer, they should arrive in about ten hours, which would give them some time to get landed and settled before their meeting.
As they made the jump to hyperspace a few minutes later, Cara sat back in the copilot's seat and smiled. 'You know, I've really missed this."
"Yeah, me too," he replied, stifling a yawn.
"Din, why don't you go to bed?" she asked him. "Ship's good, kid's good—and I know you're tired."
"I thought we were going over the relocation stats," he said, sounding disappointed.
"I said we could, if you're not too tired—but you clearly are," she said, rolling her eyes. "Besides, you said the Tribe probably won't do the actual call for a day or two after we hear from Ana and Alec—and they just got back. We can go over everything tomorrow after lunch, and you'll be fine."
He sighed. "Judging by the size of the file, there's a lot of information to consider in just half a day."
She shrugged. "Okay—how bout this? You go get your beauty sleep—and I'll start skimming, so I'll at least know some basic information. Tomorrow I'll give you a quick rundown over breakfast, we'll go see your cousin and her Jedi friends, have lunch with them, and then really dig into all the details while the kid naps. Sound good?"
There was no response.
"Din," she said, nudging him with the toe of her socked foot.
"Hhhmmph?" he mumbled, making her laugh and nudge him a little harder.
"I just outlined my whole plan for you to go to sleep now, and still be ridiculously productive tomorrow—and you slept through it! Know what that tells me? That you need to sleep even worse than I thought!" She stood, and held out an arm to him. "Here, need a hand?"
He took it, and she half-pulled him to his feet—but he didn't let go once he was standing. Instead, he reached down and took her other hand in his.
"Cara…..thank you…..for everything," he said. "I feel like a holomessage stuck on repeat—but your help, in so many things, means a lot to me."
She smiled, relishing the fact that she was here, with him in person—and that they were holding hands. "You think of anything else I can do, let me know," she said, giving his hands a squeeze. "I don't care what it is, or what time it is—you need me, you come get me—or even comm me, if that works better. Now get going before you fall asleep where you're standing and I have to carry you down the ladder."
Without warning, she found herself pulled into another hug.
I could get used to this.
She closed her eyes, and lay her head on his shoulder for just a moment before he released her. "File's open on my datapad—it's in the galley on the table. Don't stay up too late."
She gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Goodnight Din—rest well."
Once he was gone, she sat down and opened the file, her feet curled up on the bench beside her. She decided to first figure out the format of the information Jerem had gathered. She found it to be well-organized and to the point—and was very impressed by the fact that it had all been done by a thirteen-year-old.
After a few minutes, she found that one reason for the large file size was all the images and graphics he'd included. There was even a master sheet that had various features, such as climate, local area population, and distance to needed resources, for all five locations the Tribe was considering.
When Cara found herself dozing off while reading about the Lothal spaceport, she put the datapad in standby mode, and went to change into her sleep clothes. She grabbed her toiletry bag and quietly made her way to the refresher, hoping the sound of running water wouldn't wake Din or the baby. When she emerged, she could still hear two sets of snores, one deep and one squeaky, through the closed door to the sleeping compartment. She smiled, feeling a warm sense of peace as she climbed back to the upper level, where her own bed was on opposite side of the galley from the cockpit. Din had left her several extra blankets, and she placed the two thickest ones on top the mattress for extra cushioning. Then she lay down and curled up beneath the other two, and was asleep in less than five minutes.
She was awakened by a mournful wail less than two hours later, and wrapped herself in the top blanket as she rolled out of bed. Remembering Dara's instructions from when she and Paz had called the Tribe's healer earlier, she grabbed another frozen teething ring as she passed through the galley, then climbed down the ladder-and nearly crashed into Din as she turned around into the darkened area.
He jumped back a couple of steps. "Cara! I was just….."
"I brought him…here," she said, holding out the frosted ring shaped like the outline of a bantha's head. "Did you give him any more medicine?"
Din took the toy and gave it to the little one, who quieted a bit once the cold hit his sore gums. "Yes—but I think he has a fever again, so it might be awhile before he feels like going back to sleep. I'm sorry he woke you, I….."
"Din, that's what I'm here for," she said, trying to be gentle even though she was slightly frustrated at his apology. "I worked the late shift last night, and slept in this morning. I'm fine—but you're not. So why don't you let me take him for awhile, so you can rest? I'll even take him up to my room so it's quieter down here." The wails had decreased to fussy whining, and for some reason she couldn't explain, it almost made her teary.
He sighed. "You might take him into the cockpit—he likes to look out the viewport into hyperspace while he's trying to fall asleep."
She smiled, and gently knocked the back of his hand with hers. "See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" She took the baby from his arms, and said, "Come on, sweet boy—want to go see the pretty lights and clouds while we wait for you to feel better?"
The baby looked up at her from his blanket cocoon, and cooed. She gently touched her forehead to his, like Bryn and Paz did with their kids, then used a corner of his blanket to dry the remaining tears from his little face. Then she gathered him close to her before climbing back up the ladder.
When Din woke up a few hours later he quickly realized his sleeping compartment was too quiet. The baby wasn't on his chest, or in his makeshift bed in the crate. A sense of dread filled him for a good five seconds—until he remembered Cara was there, and she had the little one with her.
He put on his helmet and made a quick stop in the refresher before climbing up to the ship's second level. The door to the cockpit was open, and the sight there filled him with so much of what he now recognized as love, that it took his breath away.
Cara was sitting in the copilot's seat, with her balled-up blanket acting as a makeshift pillow against the ship's wall. She had swiveled the pilot's seat so that her legs were stretched out in front of her at a slight angle. The baby was cradled against her, supported by the seat's armrest and the wall, with her tattooed arm holding him in place. Both were sound asleep.
Din smiled tenderly beneath his helmet. He wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around both of them and never let them go.
"Cara?" he said softly, keeping his distance because he knew she sometimes woke up punching.
"Hmmm?" she responded, cracking an eye open.
"You're gonna have a sore neck if you keep sleeping like that. Why don't you go lie down, and I'll go ahead and take him with me.
She sighed, and slowly stood, careful not to disturb the still-sleeping baby in her arms. "What time is it?" she mumbled.
"Almost five. We'll be in hyperspace for another hour and a half or so."
"Six-thirty—he should be ready for another dose of medicine by then. You were right about hyperspace, though-only took him about twenty minutes to fall asleep, and he's been out since," she said smiling sleepily.
Din held out his arms for the baby, who sighed contentedly as he snuggled close. "Looks like he's not the only one it worked on."
She shrugged. "It's kind of hypnotizing. I didn't even realize I was nodding off, too."
Her eyes met his again, and they just looked at each other for a good ten seconds. That intense look was back—but this was neither the time nor the place to figure out what it meant. "I'm going to try to get a little more sleep myself. Want me to wake you when I come back up?"
"You can-and if I'm not ready to get up, I'll throw my boot at you," she said, giving him a wink before her expression softened. "You feeling better?"
"Yes, thank you. I know it takes a few days to catch up on lost sleep—but even those few hours helped a lot."
"Well, go get some more—it's good stuff," she said, then gave him another sleepy smile and a wave as she headed to her bunk.
Y'all—they're finally together—in person, not just on a holocall! And they hugged…..and held hands…..and he realized he loves her (though the poor man is too tired to fully process that fact at this point…)! Also, Cara is SUCH a mama in this chapter!
Paz is a sweet big brother—and a good wingman—but part of him is still ten years old, and likes to tease his little brother about girls XD And yes, Bryn DID make armor for her future sister…uh, friend ;) Also, Kyri…makes things interesting, and keeps her parents on their toes!
Next chapter our little family-in-the-making will be meeting up with Sabine, Ezra and Ahsoka to talk Jedi stuff—and Din finally feels ready to take a big step (no, not that one….no yet, at least ;) )
Reviews are hugs from someone you love!