Kanan headed down the ramp and wandered away from the ship. His hand brushed the soft seed tufts at the top of the high grass, as the warmth of the sun beat down on top of his head and his shadow kept pace before him.
He was alone, having slipped away to meditate over recent events: Senator Trayvis, Ezra's vision, revealing himself to the Empire, everything. Things were changing so quickly and not in a good direction.
He rounded a low rock formation, and one of the little wildcats jumped atop it and growled at him. He stopped, grateful for the distraction.
"What is it, little one?" he murmured, and clicked his tongue at it-- no, her, he knew as he let his senses open to her. She was in some distress, upset at him for coming too close. "Ah, a nest. You have a kitten. So sorry for disturbing you."
He soothed her with the Force with a light touch and turned his path away from her nest, but that left him with his own thoughts. He should meditate, but movement felt better while his thoughts and emotions felt all jumbled.
He was disappointed the senator had been false, like all of them, but not that surprised. He'd had a feeling it was too good to be true, even if he hadn't expected the complete lie it had been. Jedi sense, or cynicism? Probably the second. He hoped the second. If it had been a Jedi sense, then Ezra would share it, and he didn't want to teach Ezra to be like him. It was important for the boy to have hope that the galaxy would be free someday and that there were people out there who shared that belief.
They'd escaped the trap, and Hera would pass on to Fulcrum that the senator was bait. At least they'd done some good, in the end, by pulling the Empire's deception into the open.
Was he bothered that the Empire was clever enough to lure rebels and insurgents with a trap like the senator? How many groups like theirs hadn't been as lucky, and had been taken into custody to work camps or execution because they'd believed Trayvis was against the Empire?
Yes, that bothered him, but there was nothing he could do. He'd learned a long time ago that 'what if' was a cruel, soul-destroying game with no winners, only losers.
What if I'd been faster or better? What if Master Billaba had fought more or sensed the danger earlier? What if she'd run, too, and they'd escaped together? What if, what if, what if...
He shook his head, trying to clear it. But the memory returned: his hand had trembled so hard using his lightsaber to cut off his Padawan braid he'd nearly cut off his ear, too. He'd burned the braid, saying farewell to it, Master Billaba, and all the ways of the Jedi. Or so he'd believed at the time.
Yet here he was, accidental Master to an unexpected Padawan. He was remembering at the same time his apprentice was learning. All of it was coming back, piece by piece, from whatever deep hole he had shoved it in his mind. Like a folded paper he'd put away long ago, Kanan kept discovering he remembered more of his training than he thought.
For all those years, he'd been terrified of being connected to the Jedi. He'd hidden and lied and suppressed so hard, he'd barely let himself think of the Temple, not to mention actually touch the Force. Yet after revealing himself, despite the increased danger, he felt more at peace than he had in years, and it gave him immense pride and satisfaction when the Imperials called him a Jedi, and Ezra his Padawan.
Ezra was developing so quickly, and Kanan felt the weight of that every day. It was his responsibility to help Ezra learn as quickly as possible, so he would know what he needed to know. But pushing him was dangerous. The Dark Side was always there, lurking on the edges to tempt them both with quick and easy solutions and vengeance. With the Force, he could take Kallus by the neck and kill him. He and Ezra together could wipe out the entire Imperial garrison in an afternoon.
He didn't do it, because he didn't want to see the look in Hera's eyes afterward. But Kanan wasn't sure Ezra didn't do it because he knew where the line was, or simply because he hadn't realized he could, yet.
He reached the crest of a low hill, and Hera's voice came through the com-link: "Spectre Two to Spectre One. Need company?"
He was tempted to invite her to join him; it had been awhile since they'd gone walking just to walk together. He missed those quieter days sometimes, when it had been the two of them alone on the Ghost. Her question suggested maybe she missed that time together, too. But he needed to sort out his thoughts, first, before big green eyes distracted him. Or looked deeper than he wanted them to.
Pulling the link off his belt, he turned back to check on the Ghost and answered her, "Not just now, Spectre Two. If I'm not back by sundown, I've fallen in a hole and need rescue."
She laughed a little, not offended by his need for solitude. "Understood, Spectre One. Enjoy the quiet out there."
He didn't want to walk too far, and be out of range of either easy rescue if he got himself in trouble, or running back if something happened with the ship, so he angled his path to make a wide circle rather than go any farther away. Perhaps by the time he returned to where he'd started, he'd figure it out what was bothering him.
Well, Ezra's blaster-saber bothered him, but that was pride. It looked wrong, cobbled together, and inelegant. He also disliked that it was too obviously a weapon. The advantage of his traditional lightsaber, especially in its parts, was that it didn't look like a weapon so he could carry it into places where weapons would otherwise be taken from him or restricted.
But Ezra's had proven useful, and on the other hand, since it didn't look like a traditional saber, he didn't have to hide it from other Force users, as Kanan had for those years on the run from the Inquisition.
At the thought, Kanan's hand closed around the hilt of his saber and held it tightly. A chill breeze blew across his skin.
Yes, there it was. He could hide the truth from the others, but not from himself.
"What was your most recent vision?" Ezra had asked.
Kanan had joked something about Ezra himself, which they'd all accepted. But that wasn't true.
There was another vision that troubled him far more. It had struck him during his meditation after finding out Master Undulli was long dead. Worse, he'd continued to see flashes of it afterward.
Himself fighting the Inquisitor. Ezra on the floor, dead or unconscious. His own wrists manacled together. And the Inquisitor's chilling voice, "What was her last word to you?"
He was going to fight the Inquisitor and he was going to lose. There was very little doubt what it meant. What else could it be? He wasn't sitting down to drink melura juice with the Emperor's Dark Side servant in the vision.
If he was captured, he would almost certainly die, eventually. He would be interrogated, tortured, and killed. He was a Jedi, after all. He might get special treatment, even taken back to Coruscant to see the Emperor. He might get executed on a live broadcast.
He turned his gaze back to look at the Ghost, stricken by that idea.
Force, please, don't let that happen. Don't let Ezra and Hera watch me die.
He dropped to his knees in the grass, fixing his eyes on his ship-- his home. He didn't have much fear for himself; Master Billaba had told him to run, and ever since, he'd known his life would be forfeit once he stopped running. But he feared what it would do to Hera and Ezra. They would endure, they were strong, but they had lost so much already. He would spare them, if he could.
Moving to meditation posture, he closed his eyes and tried to calm his emotions before Ezra sensed there was something wrong. Keeping the vision and his fears from his apprentice and from Hera especially was difficult, but there was no reason to worry them. Either he could prevent it from happening, or he could not, but vague fore knowledge wouldn't help them.
He slowed his breaths and relaxed his hands, open to the Force, letting it flow through him.
The Force was strength and calm. The Force was life itself. Connection. Faith.
Trust in the Force.
"Always in motion the future," Master Yoda had said, as a warning that visions not only could be inaccurate or misinterpreted, but other events could displace them, so they would never happen at all.
Maybe the truth was, he was glad Ezra's vision had turned out to be false, because that meant his could be as well.
So Kanan clung to that hope. It had to be true. The future was not fixed; what he saw didn't have to happen.
Soft fur brushed his fingers and, without moving anything else, he opened his eyes, to see the mother cat carrying her small kitten in her mouth. Gently, she set it down in his lap. She cocked her head to look up at him, as if to check that was all right.
He moved a hand to lay it over the tiny ball of fluff protectively. The cat gave him an approving look and flick of her long ears, as if he was doing it right, and then, tail high, she slunk off through the grass to hunt.
He looked down, at another life he had just been charged with guarding. This one was small enough to sleep in his hand, its eyes closed, absolutely helpless.
Shaking his head a little in rueful amusement-- he'd spent ten years barely responsible for his own life and now the responsibilities were sprouting like fungi after a rain – he smiled and closed his eyes again. There was peace in the Force, and he let it flow through him and ease those unsettled areas in heart, calming them.
I am not afraid, for there is no fear where there is the Force.
I am not alone, for the Force is everywhere.
I am not angry, for there is only the will of the Force.
I am not sad, for there is no end in the Force.
I am a Jedi, and my ally is the Force.
He would do what he could. He would protect those he loved, and he would fight in the memory of those unjustly slain and in hope that the galaxy would be free.