Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and mature content.
"I don't know if you remember me."
The woman standing behind the doorframe stared out at him with squinted, tired eyes.
"I sit next to you in lectures."
It wasn't exactly a lie. They did sit next to each other, quite frequently, and never on purpose; it simply happened that way. Perhaps they were drawn to each other, by some subconscious energy, souls intertwined... or maybe it was just a coincidence. But he was seeing this woman in his dreams, now.
"Oh," she said. Buried her hands deep into her pockets, and just stood there, awkwardly.
Din cleared his throat to speak, but no words came. A lump formed in his throat and he couldn't help but feel a sense of indignation at the whole situation.
"I know it's late," he finally managed to croak out, "And I'm sorry if I woke you up."
"No, you're okay." The reply was so immediate that Din felt that it was not, in fact, okay. "I just got my daughter to sleep."
Din's stomach dropped.
She had a daughter. This would complicate everything.
"You're not here for notes, are you?" she said, nonchalantly, like she'd known from the moment she'd opened the door.
Din swallowed harshly in a ditch effort to rid the knot in his throat. It remained.
"No," he rasped. "I'm not."
She stared, poker-faced, thinking. He feared for a horrible moment that she was going to slam the door in his face. But she didn't.
"What did you say your name was?" she asked.
"Din. Din Djarin."
She hummed. She wouldn't recognise the name, he knew this, but using 'Donovan' felt wrong. Ever since he remembered his name, his proper name, he wasn't 'Donovan' anymore. He was Din.
"I think it's best you come inside."
Thank god. He'd been convinced she would reject him, turn him away. She didn't. Thank god, thank god, thank god...
He stepped inside, into the warmth of the apartment, out of the cold biting night air. It was quiet, peaceful. Homely.
Children's toys were scattered around on the carpet. She kicked them away with her feet, shooting him an apologetic look. She gestured to the couch, which faced a small, cheap TV, indicating for him to sit. He did, sinking right into the cushions. Comfortable.
The walls were a soft brown, the carpet a light cream.
"Coffee?" her voice called from the other room. "Tea?"
"No, thank you," he called back. She returned not too much later with a cup of steaming coffee for herself, and sank down onto the couch.
She took a long, slow sip.
"I don't recognise your name," she said. "And I have all of my memories."
He tapped his fingers on the inside of his leg. A nervous habit. He didn't used to have those, not back then. Back then, he was... he was... well, he wasn't entirely sure. He was different.
"I never gave it. I don't think."
"No? I see."
Couldn't remember most things. Only fractions of memories. His name was the most cohesive thing he could remember... and that was a fairly recent development. The rest was jumbled. At times, Din found he couldn't separate proper memories from simple dreams.
"I don't recognise your face, either," she said.
"...I never showed it."
That much, at least, he knew. He didn't know what the helmet was for, hardly knew what it looked like, just that it was a religious sort of thing. He didn't understand it yet. Perhaps one day he would.
"Oh." She took a sip of coffee. "You're the Mandalorian, then?"
Din blinked. "The- the what?"
"A Mandalorian came into our village and saved us from raiders. He didn't show his face."
Village? Raiders? Neither of those rang a bell, but if she was right, then maybe one day it would.
"He had a little boy," she said. "Green, with big ears."
He thought back, into the deep recess of his memory, those feelings locked away behind heavy doors, pain and heartache, grief, despair, regret, a yearning for something he couldn't have.
But that was all they were. Feelings. No memories, not even a semblance of thought.
"I don't remember," he mumbled. "Sorry."
She hummed. A gust of cold night air blew in the window, and she stood to draw it closed. Din watched as she stretched over the sill, willing his eyes to wander to where her shirt lifted above her midriff, but felt nothing. Not even a flutter in his chest.
He bit back a resigned sigh.
"I remember liking you," she said, as the window shut with a click. "And that was with the helmet. You're very handsome."
Din stared at the floor. His face burned. "Thanks."
"That's why you're here, isn't it?" She settled once again across from him. Her coffee lay forgotten on the table. "I suppose it's a bold assumption."
"No, you're..." he swallowed. "You're right."
She was pretty enough. Younger, than how she appeared in his dreams, her hair wavier and her skin darker, but her eyes were the same. The eyes were always the same.
"We could try," she hummed. "Go on some dates, I'm not opposed. Winta would like you."
"Winta..." Din repeated the name under his breath. The blurry image of a young child appeared in his mind. "Winta. Your daughter?"
"Oh, yes. The sweetest little girl." She twirled her hair around her finger, staring wistfully into space. "She turned five last month."
"Is she adopted, then?"
She turned to stare at him. "What makes you say that?"
"You're so young. Twenty, I thought- I mean, that's what my friend told me."
"Oh." A small smile played on her lips. "No, she's not adopted. I was fifteen when I found all of my memories. I wanted my daughter back."
Din cast a glance over at a far door with big colourful blocked letters glued to it. Winta, it read, in all capitals. "...did you get her?"
"Well." She looped her hands together. "I don't know yet. She hasn't been tested, it's expensive."
"It's free in Chilé."
She raised both eyebrows, then leaned over to grab her coffee. "You're from Chilé?"
"Yes, but we moved when I was twelve."
She took a long, deliberate sip. He saw her eyes flicker toward a wall-mounted clock.
"I suppose you've always known, then," she hummed. "That you were reincarnated."
Yelling. Crying. His father coming into his room and sitting on the edge of his bed. Din always pretended to be asleep.
"Since I was born. Yes."
"Was that difficult growing up?"
He shrugged, and said no more of it.
"Okay," she sighed, "well..." she gulped down the last bit of her coffee. "It's getting late."
"Right, I- I should go."
"Unless you'd like to stay?"
The invitation was clear. Din's face felt hot. He stood from the couch and swallowed. "My dad will be getting worried. I should..."
"Yes, yes, of course, I understand."
At the door, just as she as about to close the door behind him, she offered her hand.
"Here, I'll give you my number."
Din stared at the outstretched hand for a moment, then slowly pulled his phone out of his pocket and placed it in her open palm.
"There's no password," he murmured.
"Goodness, your phone is so bare."
"I hardly use it."
He watched her type her contact into his phone. Something he got as a gift from his mother, never used it for anything other than emergencies. Now he had some sort of use, at least. He'd felt bad not using it.
"Here." She handed it back to him. He spared a glance at the screen before it darkened. Omera, she'd written as the name. Omera. Yes. That did sound familiar. "Have a good night," she said, in a sweet sort of tone. "I'll message you in the morning."
Din nodded. He put the phone back in his pocket. "I'll... respond." Probably.
"I'll be seeing you in class?"
Maybe. He nodded again.
"Okay. Well... goodnight."
The door shut with a soft click, and Din was left standing out in the cold night air.
The intense pressure in his chest and throat suddenly dissipated, and he found himself inhaling and exhaling like he'd just resurfaced from deep water. Even as the winter air bit at his lungs, he continued to force it down his throat.
Christ. His legs ached with each large stride down the pavement. Shit! He hadn't wanted to talk to her, even as the dreams first began. What would've been the point? But then he'd found himself taking a different route home. In the end, it had been an act of impulse that had him raising a fist against her door. And it paid off, he thought, though his racing heart and clenched fists told him otherwise.
But it was fine, right?
She gave him his number. She was interested. That had been his goal. Now he was just like all the others. They were happy; why couldn't he be, right? What was stopping him?
I'm happy, he told himself. This is good. He held his head up higher. This is what's supposed to happen.
His breathing had evened, by the time he arrived at his apartment. The ride up through the elevator was calm, and quiet. The mechanical whir brought him comfort, it always had, for as long as he could remember. Machinery, technology, wires and cables. He liked to experiment when the night was quiet and young, taking apart his computer and rebuilding from scratch. It came naturally to him.
He pushed open the door to the apartment, and dropped his backpack at his feet. The lights were off, but at the far end he saw his father, Adad, on the couch, his face lit up by the TV, though his eyes were closed and his breathing was deep. Din switched off the TV. The room fell into blackness, and Adad didn't stir, so Din rested him down and draped a nearby blanket over his shoulders.
"I'm sorry I was late," Din murmured to no one but himself. "I'll make dinner tomorrow."
He checked in the fridge for the leftovers, and they sat neatly on a plate encased in plastic wrap. Din wasn't hungry, not really, but eating it was the least he could do for coming home so late, and he knew Adad would be disappointed if he didn't, even if shoving mouthfuls of salad down his throat wasn't exactly his favourite pastime.
He left the bowl on his bedside table, when he was done, deciding he would take it out tomorrow before he went to class. Alongside it he placed his phone. Most nights, he didn't think much of it. But this night, he found his eyes lingered on its dark screen, as though expecting it to suddenly light up. But it didn't, and he sighed, then buried his face into his pillow.
He never had trouble sleeping. No more than the average person, at least. It was one of the few things in life he was truly grateful for. Din's therapist worried that triggering his memories would change this, that they would bring about nightmares. Maybe he was right, but that was a problem for a later day. Remembering was important. And if he really had a kid, as Omera said... it'd be worth losing sleep over.
When he woke up, the bowl on his bedside table was gone. Usually Adad never woke up earlier than Din, but it seemed as though this morning he had. Din thought this was odd until his vision cleared enough for him to make out the time on his phone.
Midday! He'd slept all morning and into the afternoon! And indeed, he had a few messages from Omera, as well as a missed call from Cara, and she never called him because she knew how he felt about phones. When was the last time he overslept? Couldn't recall the day. Panic rising in his chest he leapt out of bed, still wearing the clothes from the day before, and threw himself into the hallway, narrowly avoided colliding against Adad with a bag full of groceries clutched in his arms.
"Hijo!" Adad exclaimed. "You're awake."
Din swallowed a harsh knot in his throat, but it didn't go away. He took a deep breath.
"Why didn't you wake me up?"
"You slept through the alarm, I thought you were tired, so I let you sleep in."
He released the breath, then ran a hand through his knotted hair. When was the last time he showered? He couldn't remember, which meant he rocked up at Omera's house the previous night all smelly and dirty.
"I need to go."
He pushed past Adad into the lounge, then picking up his backpack from the doorway and sliding into his boots he sprinted out into the hallway, took the elevator to the ground floor, and threw himself into the cold streets, layered by a thin, wet coat of snow. He was already calling Cara's phone after two paces.
"Hey, ya git. Where were you?"
Despite the use of the phone, Cara's voice was such a relief that he nearly melted.
"I'm sorry. I slept through my alarm and dad didn't wake me up." He skidded on a particularly icy corner, but didn't falter his stride. "I was out late last night, and-"
"Oh! You need to give me all the juicy details."
Din huffed. "I got her number. That's it."
"Wow! Lucky man. That woman's a keeper, lemme tell you. Also, hey, I got notes from the lecture."
"Oh my god. Cara, you're a lifesaver."
"Hey. Don't mention it. Meet me in the library, yeah? Don't die."
"I'll try, but trouble finds me, not the other way around."
Her loud modulated cackle was the last thing he heard before the call ended with a loud beep. He shoved the phone into his jacket pocket, got ready to zip it up, and collided head-on with a stranger rushing in the opposite direction.
Din only stumbled but the man fell back onto the pavement, along with his books, papers, and things that went flying in all different directions - had the day been any windier they'd have flown into the road, and they very nearly would have if Din hadn't snatched them up first.
"I'm so sorry," he called out to the stranger, who was gathering his books into a large pile. "I wasn't paying attention. I'm so sorry."
The man, who wore yellow-tinted round glasses and was short enough that Din had to crane his neck downward to meet his gaze, waved his hand dismissively as he took the papers from Din's grasp.
"It's- it's fine," he stammered. "I-I wasn't either, I was just..." he winced. "It's quite alright."
"Are you hurt?"
"My- my wrist..." He held out his arm which was covered in gravel and dirt - he'd used it to break his fall, which was made especially clear by the violent red colour slowly spreading across his forearm.
"Is it broken?" Din carefully pressed down on the wrist and the man visibly flinched.
"Just sprained, I think, but..."
"Shit. I'm sorry."
"No, no... it'll heal. And I'm ambidextrous, so-" he gave a forced smile. "It's okay. I should-"
"Yes, I also..."
"Bye. Sorry, again."
Another half-hearted smile, and he was off down the street, his head held low. Din watched for a moment, his face burning, then exhaled, shuddered, and continued the way he'd been going.
He arrived at the library ten minutes later, frozen half to death and his hands stuck under his own armpits for warmth. He wished he'd remembered his beanie and scarf, for in the rush he'd forgotten.
"You look dead," Cara chided from behind the counter. She swivelled in the chair a few times before sliding to the front. Despite the cold weather, she wore only a tank top, jeans, and a sports bra.
"I feel dead," Din grumbled. "You got the notes?"
"Sure." Cara held out a small stack of papers. Din took them.
"I could kiss you," he sighed.
"Too bad I'm not into dudes, or I'd let you."
"I don't think you would even if you were straight."
"Oh, come now. Obviously that woman thought you were pretty enough."
"Her name's Omera. And we didn't kiss."
"Eh, you will." She winked. Din's throat tightened. "So you got her number, right? Messaged her yet?"
Din hummed, then shook his head. "She messaged me this morning. I haven't had time to look at them yet."
"Ugh, bad manners. Okay, let's see them, then."
"I won't let you say something stupid. Go on!" She held out her hand for his phone. He sighed, shoving his hand into his pocket, only to freeze.
It wasn't there.
"Uh." He shoved his hand into his other pocket. "U-Uh." Nothing. "...I can't find it."
"What? You lost it? Let me check."
She leaned over the counter and shoved her hands into his jeans pockets before he had the opportunity to protest.
"It's not there!" he exclaimed.
She leaned back into the chair with a huff. "But you called me like ten minutes ago, dude."
"I guess I dropped it? I don't..." His chest tightened and his breathing quickened. "I don't, I don't know, I-"
"Hey. Hey, hey, hey." She slid over the counter and landed at his side, already running one hand over his spine. "We'll find it, yeah? It probably fell out of your pocket. We just need to retrace your steps."
"But... but your job."
"No one uses this damn library. It'll survive. Come on."
She led him back into the streets. In the short time he'd been indoors it had already begun to lightly snow, but she somehow ignored it even with her arms completely uncovered.
"We'll find it," she said, and she said it with such confidence that for a moment Din believed her. They kept walking, almost in total silence, the only sounds being the ongoing traffic and their own feet against the crunchy snow slowly building up on the concrete.
"It'd be on the ground," Din grumbled. Maybe it's been buried by the snow, he lied to himself.
By the time they arrived again at the entrance to the apartment block, he'd given up hope entirely.
"It might still be there," Cara said. "We can check again."
Din stared at his feet. "It was a gift from my mother." God, he never used the damn thing, but...
"We'll find it." Cara pat him firmly on the back. "In the meantime, you should tell Omera, yeah? I mean, she'd probably get it."
Omera was the last thing on his mind. But he nodded anyway. He'd tell her in class, provided she was there.
"She has a daughter," he sighed on their gloomy walk back. The snow had let up but the concrete was even slipperier than before.
"Oh, yeah? Isn't she like twenty? How old's the kid?"
"Uh, about five, I think. Four or five."
"Christ." Din didn't need to see her to know she was making a face. "Imagine having a kid that young, huh. Ha! Not for me, thanks."
"You love kids."
"Sure, but not when they're from my own ass. I'm cool with being the lesbian aunt."
The conversation replayed in his head, and once again he tried desperately to think past beyond the very little memory he had. But nothing. No child. No little green baby with big ears.
He bit back a frustrated grunt.
"I mean, if anything I'd probably adopt. So many kids who need homes, right?"
"You could foster," Din mumbled. "They pay you for that."
"Nah, nah. I won't get a kid just for credits." Din pretended not to notice the slip-up. "Hey, do you want kids? I mean, if this thing with Omera goes well... I mean, really well, right, that kid will be yours too."
"He had a little boy. Green, with big ears."
"Omera said that... that I had a kid. Do you remember? If that's true?"
"That guy? With a kid? Eh... maybe. I don't remember much, you know that."
"Right." He sighed. "Okay."
They rounded back into the library, after some time of walking in silence. Cara collapsed at the counter, and pulled out a thick coat, which she flung over her shoulders.
"It'll turn up," she said, at the sight of his foul expression. "I'll tell her you lost your phone, if you're too scared."
Din stared over at her then turned his gaze to the floor. "Would you?"
"Course, man. What kinda matchmaker would I be if I didn't?" She winked. Din gave a small smile. "Also, hey, I gotta tell you about somethin'."
She pulled a folded piece of paper out from inside her bra, then unfolded it and lay it out on the table, facing him so he could read what it said.
"Looksie. They're all around campus. School set up a support group for freaks like us. I went today and it's actually pretty chill. You could join."
"I don't know..."
"C'mon. Just one session? We're meeting in the cafe across the street. You know the one."
Din stared at the crumpled piece of paper. He bit his lip as his eyes scanned the words over and over.
Reincarnate Support Group. Sessions every Friday. 4pm.
No pretentious horsecrap. No school motto. Simple, and to the point.
The mere fact that Cara was praising it surely meant something, and he knew this. She hated that group therapy shit just as much as Din did, as anyone would. But if she said it's good...
"I don't know," he said again.
"Eh, your choice. That pretty lady might be there though."
"Omera," Din grumbled under his breath.
She'd messaged him, and he never responded. Even though he said he would. And now... it wasn't like he couldn't afford a new phone, but it would be another week, at least, and with exams just around the corner...
And it was a gift. The stupid phone was a gift and not only did he barely use it but he lost it, too. Just when he needed it the goddamn most.
"Stop moping," Cara groaned. "Don't you have class soon, anyway?"
He stared up at the clock situated on the wall, but hardly registered the time. Just a blur of numbers on a round face. The hands never meant anything to him. Digital clocks were easier.
It was true. He had class. But everything about sitting at that uncomfortable desk in that deathly quiet room was suffocating.
He looked down again and met Cara's eye. She'd moved from behind the counter and now stood in front of him.
"Let's go somewhere else."
He stared down at her outstretched hand. Was she expecting him to take it?
"But your job," he echoed his words from earlier. She shrugged.
"You're more important right now."
He took her hand. She dragged him out of the library and further into campus. He knew the path she was taking him through, he'd taken it himself hundreds of times, when he needed an hour to himself.
It was a secluded area, behind the main hall. Usually reserved for couples, girls confessing to boys, usually. It wasn't really that special, except for the cherry blossom tree that stood tall and rained petals onto the ground below. For now, the area was quiet. Empty.
"I know you come here when you're depressed. So."
He brushed off the snow then lowered himself onto the bench. From his backpack he pulled out a little sketch pad.
Cara sat next to him. "You been taking your meds?"
Din looked at her then back down at his sketch pad. No inspiration. He decided to draw the tree again.
She took the silence as an answer. "You haven't?"
He sketched the trunk of the tree, then blocked out the leaves. It was the same, every time. He knew it by heart. Didn't need to even look at it. He'd gotten in trouble for sketching during lectures, but if anything it helped him focus more. Helped him listen. Drawing did more for him than the medication ever did.
Cara sighed, but said nothing more. They sat in silence for an hour, and then some more. In that time he added to his drawing the benches, and the fallen petals, and the snow. Finally he added the two of them, sitting on the bench in silence. He wasn't any good at figure drawing, they came out more like two abstract blobs than anything else. But it worked. It fit.
He had another class in the evening, but he wouldn't go.
"My shift's done." Cara rubbed her hands together for warmth. "Might pack up. Go home. You should too."
He said he was going to cook dinner, right...? Well, he— he hadn't said it straight to his father's face, but— he'd promised, out loud, even if to no one but himself. It wasn't late in the day yet but he'd need to get groceries if he really was going to cook. But Adad already brought some, didn't he...? Was he planning on cooking again...? He'd ought to ask, offer to do it for him, Adad always overworked, so hard, so much, all so they could keep their little apartment—
"Hey? Earth to Din?" She waved her hand in front of him. He sighed.
"I'll head home soon," he mumbled. But Cara was having none of it.
"Nuh-uh. You're walking with me. I know that face and I don't trust it. Come on." She dragged him from the seat by his sleeve and out of the garden. " 'I'll head home soon', like I'd actually believe that. You'll either stay out all night or go off and do something stupid. Huff!"
There was no escaping her, when she had her way, so he let her drag him through campus and down the street. He let her drag him all the way back to his apartment, even up the elevator.
He expected her to leave, then, mumbling to herself all the way, but she didn't. They stood in silence outside his front door. Finally, she turned to him.
"Hey, I'll buy you a new phone, yeah?"
"...no, I lost it, not you."
"Just consider it a gift. Right? Early Christmas present?"
"I can afford my—..." he trailed off at her expression. He'd seen that expression before. Long ago, now, but the memory of it was still burned into his skull, like a brand on bare skin. So he sighed. And nodded. "If it makes you happy."
"I just want you to be happy, man." She sighed. "Just... just, lemme know if you... change your mind about the whole support group thing. It's not too late. I reckon you'd like 'em. They're a lot like you."
At this, he frowned. "What? Depressed?"
"No, that's not what I—" she sighed again. "They're quiet."
Yeah. Like depressed people.
He knew she meant well. Really, he did. But that expression, that pity-filled expression, combined with the words that came out of her mouth, he hated it. It made his stomach churn and twist, and his face grow hot despite the cold of early November.
Sometimes, when he was angry, visions flashed in his head. Only images, or even just abstract meaningless thoughts but still, they frightened him. The anger turned into fear, then. Fear was worse than anger. Fear was the creeping dread at the back of your throat, or in your chest. That sinking feeling in your stomach and the hairs on your arms raising on end. A cold shiver, a racing heart, the exhaustion despite standing perfectly still. Too still. Frozen.
And when he snapped out of it, barely a moment had passed. Not even a second. Like nothing ever happened at all.
"I gotta go." Cara's voice brought him back. "Ma wants me to babysit bubba." Bubba meaning her baby brother. That wasn't his name, of course, but everyone called him that anyway. "Promise me that you'll—" The words died on her tongue. "Promise me that—" Din waited patiently. Finally she sighed. And as she spoke, it was like the whole entire world froze in place.
"Don't try to kill yourself."
Din stared at her. A knot formed in his throat.
"I wasn't going to," he croaked.
She sighed again, but this time in relief. He was a terrible liar, everyone and their mother knew it, so she knew when he was being genuine. And he was.
"Sorry, I just thought— just how you were sitting, and staring at nothing, and being all quiet. Quieter than usual, I guess."
She had a right to be scared. Every right. But still, it sickened him.
"I'm not gonna kill myself," he said, with more confidence than before. "I have a therapist now. And medication."
"That you don't take!"
"I do take it! Okay, I do! I just— I just forget, okay? Okay?"
"Okay." She ran her hands over her face. "Okay. I'm sorry. It's just that my mom had a friend who had a cousin that—"
"You told me."
"They had a therapist, and medication, and all that fancy shit, and they still jumped in front of a train."
"Talking about suicide is one of the things I'm not supposed to do. It's a 'trigger', that's what Robert says, so can you please—"
"Okay. Okay! I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." She huffed. "I'm bloody clueless. Okay? I admit it. I just wanna help! But I understand. And I'm here for you. For talking. I'm no good at comfort but like if you wanna cry into my shoulder, then, you know, I-I exist. And you know where I live."
With that, she nodded at him, pivoted on the spot, then awkwardly sauntered away. He watched her until she disappeared behind the doors of the elevator. Now, he was left alone, standing outside of his own apartment all dumb-founded-like.
"Don't try to kill yourself."
He hated that expression. He hated that she didn't trust him. That she deemed it necessary to walk him home in fear he'd throw himself in front of a car or off a bridge. All because he looked upset over a lost phone? Anyone would be upset by that.
"Sometimes it's the little things," Robert's voice echoed in his mind, "that set us off into a spiral."
It's just a phone, he told his voice, already imagining the conversation in his head. He sighed. For a moment he simply deigned himself to resting his forehead against the door, too tired to even bother unlocking it and going inside.
But he needed to, eventually.
He couldn't stand there forever.
He slid down the side of the wall. Just a few more minutes.
Just putting chapters here as I write them. Slow to write, so slow to update. I aim for 5k words per chapter. Feedback is appreciated, but not necessary :) I won't be changing anything until every chapter is finished and I can rework the drafts.