Chapter 1: Spark
After Spark of Rebellion
“You did good today.” Kanan looked up to see Hera standing in the doorway to his cabin. The Twi’lek was silhouetted against the bright light of the hallway, her lekku twitching from side to side in a condescending manner as she stood with one hand on the doorframe the other on her hip. He knew her too well to be able to understand the subtleties of her posture without being able to see even her face. A tiny voice in the back of his head reminded him that he knew her far better than almost anyone else he had come across in the large galaxy.
“You mean with the Wookies?” He said as he leaned back placing his hands behind his head and giving her a cocky smile, still struggling to grasp onto the wild and aimless image of the man he had been when she had met him years ago.
Hera stepped fully into the room, her green skin visible under the lights of his cabin as the door slid automatically shut behind her. “I mean the kid.” She snapped back at him as she came to stand with her arms across her chest, she wasn’t in the mood to put up him his false persona at the moment.
He let out a deep sigh of frustration as his cocky exterior broke. Kanan scooted over on the low bunk allowing her enough room to sit down next to him. He was at a loss. The kid, Ezra. The kid had a name, he had to remind himself. Ezra had without a doubt a connection to the Force, more than just a passing whim but a connection on part to the one that he did, a connection which in a different point of time would have led itself to a title. It was an undeniable realization, but one Kanan begrudgingly had. He didn’t know how to be that, he didn’t know how to teach. He didn’t want to teach. Heck most days he was still reluctant to be actively fighting against the Empire.
He turned and looked at her with a sharp glance. “Don’t get your hopes up.” He muttered as he looked at her.
“Just try and help him love.” Hera said softly. “You don’t have to turn him into the greatest Jedi that ever lived.”
Kanan scoffed. “I don’t even know if I can turn him into a Jedi.” Just saying the word was hard most days.
Hera inhaled slowly. He could tell she was disappointed. She had always been pushing him, trying to rein him in and turn him slowly into somebody who not only paid attention to what the Empire was doing but also fought against it. She had succeeded for the most part, not that he would ever tell her that. But she already knew to expect little gratification for such matters.
She placed a hand on his leg. “Better you than the Empire.” She said softly.
“Hera.” He cut back at her tensely rolling his eyes.
“Kanan.” She snapped right back at him.
He said nothing. At times, there was nothing to say back to her. He raised his hands high over her head letting one of his arms fall across her shoulders. She reached up with her own green hand pulling out his hair tie and running her fingers though his long hair. He didn’t particularly care for the pulling sensation it caused along his scalp but he knew that it was something she got a modicum of pleasure out of, so he let her continue otherwise.
They sat in silence, Hera running her fingers through his hair with a grin on her face. All around them the sounds of the Ghost continued. Metal scraping, the sounds of air whooshing through the vents, the ship was alive and filled with far more occupants than it had ever had before. It had once seemed so large, and now the family that they had made were beginning to outgrown the humble confines of the freighter.
“I’ll do the best I can.” Kanan whispered.
“I know you will.” She murmured back to him. “And you’ll do far better than you think you can.” She added.
He chuckled appreciating the confidence when he himself had so little. He wasn’t even really a real Jedi himself. He just pulled out the lightsaber when he wanted to show off, when he wanted to make a stand of force to intimidate others. He had nearly spent as much time away from the Jedi Temple that he ever had in it at this point. How could he teach someone to be a Jedi when he himself had walked away from so much of that life. But Hera was right, if not him then who. The Empire would either turn Ezra into a weapon or kill him. There was a reason he hadn’t run into any other Jedi since the fall of the Republic, the Empire had made sure they didn’t exist anymore. He wasn’t just fighting for his own life anymore, he was protecting someone else’s as well. And giving the Empire hell while he was at it.
“Karabast.” Kanan muttered. Hera chuckled they had all managed to pick up the Lasat’s favorite expletive over time. “The things I do for you.” He added as he looked into her large green eyes. She had changed him for good, but he had allowed her to as well.
He had fallen under her spell, enthralled with everything she did. Not just because she was a Twi’lek. It was the unconventional attributes that made her attractive in his eyes. She had rebelled against everything she was supposed to be. She had chosen to be a pilot and a rebel because it was the only way she was going to get to live her life on her own terms. She was held up by her own moral code, just like he was. And yet she was just different enough not to be a mirror to him. Together they simply fit, together they could run up against the Empire for a lifetime and never be bored with one another. “You’re right.”
She smiled even wider as he leaned against his shoulder. “I’m always right.”
There was a loud bang from somewhere in the ship followed by a low growl. They both separated and sat up completely alert. “I don’t know if Ezra and Zeb together was a good idea.” Kanan finally said aloud after the noise died down.
She looked at him, with a small wrinkle of her nose. The other alternative was Ezra bunking with Kanan which was not ideal. Not at least to the unspoken relationship they had. Behind closed doors, when no one was looking they were…. Neither of them had ever moved to label their relationship. But it was far longer a relationship that either of them ever had before. They had never given it a label, they had never expressly professed anything but… they both knew they would do anything for the other.
“I know, I know, it makes this easier.” Kanan muttered as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders once more. Her lekku twitched in a gesture which he had taken to interpret as affection. “When the kids aren’t looking.” He muttered under his breath. “Grows harder every day when we take on more kids.”
She sighed in exasperation. “Don’t worry it will work out with the boys. I know it will.”
“Sometimes you talk like you’re the Jedi.” Kanan shot back.
She shrugged. “Someone has to.” She replied with a heavy sigh as she closed her eyes. For a moment she looked as if she would fall asleep. Then she leaned over and kissed him gently on the forehead like the habit that it was. “Don’t stay up too late, we have to find work in the morning.” She added as she stood up and walked to the doorway back to her own cabin across the hall.
Chapter 2: Droids
After Droids in Distress
He waited until the door to the cockpit closed behind him before he said what had been nagging on his mind in recent hours since the events with the minister. “Hera, we’re not part of something bigger, are we?” Kanan asked her tentatively.
She didn’t even turn and looked at him. Her eyes were focused on the navigation computer as the blue and white starlines of hyperspace passed beyond them. “What do you mean?” She asked doing her best to sound occupied when she was in fact not.
A hiss escaped his lips. There was a feeling which he could not shake, it had started the moment he stepped foot on a strange ship to be handed an exorbitant amount of money for two old droids. There was something about the man who had paid him. Something eerily familiar about the smoothness of his voice which Kanan though that he should remember from his past, but then again, he had spent nearly a decade trying to drink away who he had been as a child.
He groaned as he sat down in the chair next to her, “It’s just…I know that there are planets and systems openly in rebellion against the Empire, places like Ryloth and-”
“I am not my father.” She said sharply, the smallest tinge of her accent coming through as she looked at him angrily. He had made the conscious choice to make the low blow about her father’s past and continual revolution for the freedom of his planet, knowing that Hera disagreed with him to the point of avoiding all contact or associations to him. “Kanan I can’t believe you would…” She muttered something under her breath which he did not understand but could easily interpret the context of her insult.
“I didn’t mean it exactly like that.” He retorted, yet she narrowed her eyes as him, her lekku twitching as she crossed her arms awaiting his explanation. “I know that you get messages from an unnamed contact from time to time. It’s not just the two of us anymore, I don’t want to be volunteering Sabine or Zeb for something they didn’t sign up for.”
“We are doing things for the betterment of the universe, for the world they will live in.”
Kanan sighed, Hera could be surprisingly stubborn at times. “I know, but are we acting on behalf of a… rebellion? This Fulcrum that contacts you… I won’t deny that we help the beings of this galaxy, but is that what they are having us do?”
She placed her head in her hands as doubt washed over her. She had only done what she thought was right, what she thought would help them and others. She didn’t leave Ryloth to become a smuggler or a trader, she wanted to do more with her life. Hadn’t he known when he first met her that she was part of something bigger, she was openly taking on the Empire then, why would that ever change when Kanan decided to stay with her.
“And if we are, if we are part of something larger does that change a thing?” She said her voice breaking. “If we call ourselves in the most basic of terms rebels, don’t you think they would stay, they would listen and fight?” She shook her head as she looked at Kanan. “We’re not anarchists, we only fight for those who cannot. We only help the worlds that need help.”
“I know.” Kanan said as he reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder, he understood her deeper desire do to good perhaps more than she ever did. Of all the tenets of the philosophy that had been imbued in him since he was a child, it happened to be one of the few things which had stuck. “But I think you should tell them.”
She shook her head viciously. “We work independently, we aren’t a cell of a larger organism that the Empire will do anything to infect.” She was lying to him, blatantly. What she thought would be hard was suddenly easy, lying to the man she loved to protect a cause. “Kanan I trust Fulcrum, I trust in what we are doing in fighting against a giant.”
He closed his eyes, almost in meditation. “This is going to come to come back and bite you.” He whispered at her mockingly.
She rolled her eyes, knowing he was right. It didn’t matter if they were fighting for the noblest cause in all the galaxy, the lack of trust could easily bring them down.
Chapter 3: Winning Flight
After Fighter Flight
Every single time they had heard the reenactment of what had happened on the supply run another embellishment was added. At least Ezra and Zeb were getting along now, Hera thought to herself as she leaned forward her elbow pressing into the Dejarik table as she looked at the pair excitedly telling the story once more. It was comical to see the tall Lasat tower over the adolescent human as they both mimicked the movement of the TIE that they had flown.
“The view screen was completely covered.” Zeb said with a wave of his hands to express the extent of what they were unable to see.
“So, I opened the hatch and reached out, wiping it off as I stayed inside by sheer will of the Force.” Chopper and Hera both gave grunts of disbelief as Ezra lied in an attempt to impress them.
She tuned the pairs animated words out as she looked over to Kanan. He was leaning up against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest as he looked at them both, his lips curving to form a proud smile.
Hera caught his eye. I told you so. She mouthed at him, satisfied that her plan to get the two to work together had been successful.
Kanan rolled his eyes. I told you so. He repeated mocking her with a nagging shake of his head from side to side. Hera laughed at his childish response.
“The Empire is not funny Hera.” Ezra snapped at her, upset that she was daring to laugh at his story.
“I’m sorry. Please go on recounting your daring adventure against the Empire.” She replied her mockery lost on them both as her eyes shifted across the small lounge area back to Kanan. They shared another silent laugh as they looked at one another, it was a moment of absurdity but sometimes that was all they had to cling onto.
Chapter 4: Master Lost
After Rise of the Old Masters
As he sat up in the top gun turret looking up at the stars he was reminded that sometimes space was terrifying. It was an endless sea of unknown which no civilization had fully tamed, yet they choose to cross it with just transparisteel and a few sheets of metal between them and death. Most of them time, when there weren’t Imperial ships on the horizon, Kanan looked out at the little specks of light which brought him joy at their endless awaiting adventures. Today though, the universe was making him feel small and alone.
He had thought for a shining moment that he wasn’t responsible for teaching Ezra. There had been genuine joy which had coursed through his veins as he ran through an Imperial Prison at the chance of rescuing the Jedi Master, and in a second it had been squandered. Part of him knew that in a way he was still trying to worm his way out of teaching the child, feeling inadequate at his own abilities. He believed that he had strayed too far and too long from the path of the Jedi to teach anyone how to use the Force. He had been desperate to find someone else, not to pass off the kid completely, but to teach them both. The confirmation of the idea that he might be alone, that he was the last Jedi was depressingly terrifying. So, he chose to look up at the stars ahead telling himself that somewhere in some system there had to be someone to teach Ezra, to teach him. Yet the stars seemed to be pressing down on him instead.
He could feel her presence before she spoke to him. Hera was a warm and shining light in the chill of space always willing to lend a comforting smile or scorn him if need be. “Kanan.” She whispered as her head appeared at the opening behind him. She pulled herself up into the gun turret squeezing herself between the transparisteel and his chair.
“I told Ezra I would teach him, properly.” He said, listing to the gruffness of his own voice at the unsurely that was implied.
“Have you not been teaching him correctly?” Her voice was more surprised than scornful of his teaching methods.
He slumped over the controls of the gun with a sigh. Without provocation Hera placed her green arms around his chest. A smile curled at the edge of his lips as he felt satisfaction in her action of affection. “I don’t know what is correct.” He replied. “I can teach him how to channel the Force how to use a lightsaber. But being a Jedi was more than that, it was a lifestyle.” One that he had never lived as an adult.
He could feel her breathing on his cheek, soft warm gentle breaths which made him feel alive. “Maybe that is all you need to teach him.” Hera replied as she moved her face to press up against his. There was something romantic about the idea of a knight and his apprentice going around trying to make the world a better place one little mission at a time, like something out of a fairy tale. She had watched Kanan slowly change over time from the rogue man she had met on Gorse to becoming a mostly noble knight.
“Just do what you think is right.” She added before giving him a soft fleeting kiss on the cheek.
Chapter 5: Breaking Free
During Breaking Ranks
“Thank you Specter-5, keep us updated” Hera said to Sabine. With a small blip the line turned off. Sabine, Zeb and Chopper were settled down on the planet below now, while Ezra doing his best to pass as an Imperial cadet in order for them to gain important information. The logistics of the situation made Hera’s skin crawl, she still was unsure that sending in Ezra to infiltrate the Empire was the smartest idea. She had faith in the kid, but he was the least experienced of them all, one slip and they could all be in major trouble.
Kanan sat next to her in the cockpit of the Ghost, placing his hands behind his head before he swung his legs up on top of the console, with a sharp look from Hera he placed them quickly back down again on the floor. A low whistle escaped him. “You know it’s awfully quiet.” He remarked with a glimmer in his eye. “We’re all alone, not even Chopper is here to bother us. When does that ever happen anymore?”
His eyebrow was raised suspiciously high as he looked at her with playful eyes. “Just under never.” She replied as she sat back in her chair watching him.
Kanan reached out one hand and gently brushed his fingers against the tips of a single Lek. It was a gesture which he would never dare to do when the others were around, the venture into Hera’s space was not only deeply personal but also overtly sensual.
“We might have a lot of time” He began in a silky tone as he slipped easily back into the role of a charmer once more. “In the next few days, weeks even when we are alone.” He whispered as he gently wrapped his fingers around her quivering lek which was buzzing with life.
“Uh huh.” She muttered unable to say much more as she closed her eyes in pleasure.
“We should take advantage of that time.” He whispered.
She opened her eyes, a wide smile running across her face as she quickly double checked the console of the ship to make sure that the Ghost would not crash in their absence before she stood up taking his hand and pulling him back into the corridor of the ship which contained all their quarters.
They stumbled over one another, not able to get to a door fast enough and open it as they met in the middle a mess of hands and legs as they came together for a deep kiss their lips meeting with a desperateness which festered in the uneven periods between when they could express themselves behind closed doors. His large hand was on the small on her back, pulling her in closer to him never wanting to let go.
Her hand fumbled on the wall behind them as she pressed for the controls to her own room. They were all alone, they could be together anywhere in the ship they wanted yet habit was pushing them back to the quarters to which they were accustomed. The door slid open and they fumbled inside with a laugh. He was still running his hands up and down the long green head tails, sending shivers through the rest of her body as Hera began to pull off the plates of armor which he so continually wore. They fell back onto the bed, not needing to say anything between them as they fell into the routine of passion which had become habitual over the years.
“Spectre-2 come in.” Came the loudly and abrupt voice of Zeb through the communicators they were both still wearing.
Kanan pulled back rapidly. “Kriff.” He said as his head his against the wall of Hera’s bunk, his face frozen as if the creature had caught them in the act personally
Hera rolled her eyes as she picked up at her communicator. “What is it Garazeb?” Her voice was seething as her body tensed like a cat suddenly aware of the possibility of an attack.
“Ummm…” The voice on the other line was suddenly taken aback by her hostility and careless use of his real name on the comms. “I just wanted to know how often you wanted us to check in, every day or…” He stopped in anticipation of a snappish cut off which never came and Kanan could picture the purple molted hand running across the creatures’ head in embarrassment.
“Daily on a schedule please. Just like always” She grunted before ending the call.
Kanan lowered his eyes as he looked at her cautiously. “Alright?”
She laughed, her lekku shaking from side to side dismissively like how he would shake his head. “Even when we are alone, we can still be interrupted, how amazingly stressful”
“Well yes.” He tilted his head in consideration. “But it still is awfully quiet up here and I’m sure we can do something about this suddenly stress which you are experiencing.”
A small devious wink made her laugh again. “You know, I think your right.” She replied before she leaned in once more towards him picking up where they had been so annoyingly interrupted.
Chapter 6: Arguing in the Darkness
After Out of Darkness
Hera didn't need to be saved, he was reminded of that when he saw her fighting against the creatures. She didn't like to be saved either, and their sweeping rescue had put her in a bad mood. She was hostile, having assumed that she and Sabine had their own escape under control, or at least that was what she was telling herself.
Kanan sat next to her, appearing to be aloof to her mood rather than his usual cocky. She had not yet given him some thanks, and he wasn’t going to remind her of that fact until he was certain she wasn’t going to lash out at him.
“So, the plan for Empire day then is to…” He trailed off not adding anything else as he looked to engage her sour expression once more.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “We had everything under control.”
He let out a soft harrumph, “Okay.” He muttered under his breath. “It looked to me that you were standing on top of a dead shuttle in the diminishing light with creatures about to tear you apart but if you say you had it under control, then I believe you.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You just had to swoop in and save the day, the grand Jedi Knight saving the defenseless women from the monsters.”
His hands rose up in the air in self-defense. “Hey, I have never claimed to be a grand Jedi Knight, others have thrown that title upon me.” He scoffed. “Besides we would have to come and get you eventually you had no fuel.”
She leaned back in the pilot’s chair muttering to herself in words he could barely hear. “Typical.” Was all he could make out.
Kanan sighed, knowing that the argument between them was a symptom of something larger, little tiny digressions and disagreements which had been building up for weeks. They were working more, having little time for themselves or one another. The little family which they had built for themselves was no longer quiet and calm, Ezra’s arrival had created a strong current in all their lives, and at the moment the young boy was wrapping them up in his world of Lothal.
“Hera” He leaned forward placing a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I know you can take care of yourself. I know that you used to work independently before me and I can only imagine that going back to that way can be tempting at times.” There was a loud bang in the back as two angry voices called out Chopper! Kanan smiled, “I didn’t think that taking on the rest of the crew would make our lives like this either, but we have to look out for each other. We have to trust one another, and sometimes that means we let someone else take the shot.”
Hera’s shoulders fell as she looked at him. “Sometimes I miss the days when you were a drunkard who didn’t care about anyone else. Rather than a judgmental father.” She laughed.
“And I miss when you were still a mystery and not a strict mother.” He laughed as he said it aloud. Even though they jokingly called them kids, it was far more real than either of them wanted to admit. “We’re a team of parents to them.” He added. “We have to act like a team.”
She gave him a nod, as their foreheads came to meet. She took a sharp breathing smelling him, looking at him. “Are you alright?” He asked as he looked up into her green eyes which were like oceans of stars.
“I feel like I am losing myself sometimes, like I am losing you.” She confessed as they sat forehead to forehead all alone in the confines of the cockpit of a moment. “I know I’m not, but it still feels like it.”
He reached down and squeezed her hand. “I’m right here, and I will continue to be right here. This is where I choose to be, for as long as you want me to be here.” He said tilting to kiss her softly on the lips.
She pulled away as the door opened, the two of them quickly breaking apart. Maybe the others knew about their relationship, she wasn’t entirely sure why they chose to keep it so quiet to begin with. It was things like hope and love which were needed to keep out the many kinds of darkness which threatened to take their lives.
It was Zeb behind them, his presence clear from his deep breath and heavy footfalls. “Thank you love.” Hera replied as she turned her attention back to piloting them back to Lothal.
Chapter 7: Self Contained Empires
During Empire Day
Sometimes it was easy to forget they had families outside of one another. They had been misfits, orphans, the exiled and the beguiled when they had come together and chosen a life with one another. Yet at times it was impossible to forget that they did come from somewhere to start with. Their lives did not simply begin and start with one another, no matter how much they sometimes wished that to be true.
The memory of Ezra’s parents rising up had reminded them all starkly of those who they had left behind.
It had hurt Hera to imagine him, a young child on his own at the age of seven, fending for himself with no one to guide him. It so effortlessly explained the behavior she saw in him, the same sorts of wildness that she saw in Kanan too. They had both been left alone from such a young age, too similar in fact that they constantly butted heads rather than got along. It hurt her to know that he had been born on Empire Day, on a day which lived so much in infamy that there was no way anyone would ever forget his birthday, that he would never forget his birthday either. There was a weeks’ worth of pomp and circumstance which led up to the event, in every corner of the sky it was mentioned, even if they tried so very hard to avoid it, it was impossible. For the rest of his life, he would never be able to forget that day, he would never be able to forget the moment his parents left.
She had wanted to reach out and hug him, but he had kept to himself since they had gotten back in the Ghost and set a course to get the Empire off their backs. As much as she felt like his mother from time to time, especially when she was chastising him for a job only half done, she never would replace his parents.
She looked down at the cargo hold, taking note of how much noise was going on in her ship, and yet it was noise for the sake of sound, something to distract them all from the reality of being hunted, both by the Empire and the knowledge of those they had left behind.
She felt Kanan come to stand beside her, leaning against the railing as they listened to the distant sounds of the Rodian chattering. “You can go talk to him you know.” He whispered to her.
She looked at him with a sweet expression which easily hid her condescension. “Bless.” She said with sweet sarcasm. She had lost her mother in the conflict on Ryloth, in a way she had lost her Father to the battle as well. But Kanan had no memory of the parents who had given him to the Jedi order, she doubted most of the Jedi never knew much beyond the planet they had come from. “Did you ever see them as parents, the masters who taught you?”
He had to contemplate what it had been like to grow up in the Temple, he had blocked so much of it out of his mind. Surely there had been something they had done to assure that the infants and toddlers they had taken did not bond with those who taught them to walk and talk until they were old enough to hold a lightsaber on their own. Even still there were times as a youngling when they had still wanted a parent, someone to hold and comfort them after a bad dream of a stumble. He had never realized how cold that lifestyle was until he looked at it now so far removed from its confines.
“Not really.” He replied suddenly uncomfortable. His feet nervously shifted from side to side as he looked anywhere but her face. “It hurt losing my own master. More than…. Well I never knew my parents, I would have no way to find them now even if they were alive. But she… she was someone who believed in me no matter what, who protected me and suddenly she was gone. She died, to give me the chance to run… so that I could….do this.” He let out a laugh. “Well thanks now I feel inadequate.” He replied, playfully hitting her side.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I know.” He smirked. “I guess in a way of speaking she was the only parent I ever had. But he won’t understand, that will he?”
Hera shook her head. “Hearing about someone else lose their family never seems to sounds the same as losing your own.” She whispered, it was just one of those small things that nothing but time seemed to make better. Ezra already felt like he was there’s but he had only been traveling with them for a short time. It was their own little self-contained world, which they were sharply reminded in times like these was made only of wishes and aspirations.
Chapter 8: Forces of Will
After Gathering Forces
Sometimes when they were all alone they talked of nothing easy or exciting, they dreamed of futures which would never come and pasts which they longed to relive. This was not one of those times. Sometime their conversations were hard. They were conversations which reminded them how grown up they were, that no one was going to take care of their problems other than themselves.
He feared the dark side, or at least the wrong emotions which were pulling on Ezra. Kanan knew that he too, was not setting the best example for the boy.
“You can’t stop teaching him.” Hera said softly as if she was reading his mind while she paced back and forth. He hadn’t said as much to lead her to the conclusion but he wasn’t wrong.
“I didn’t say I wanted to.” He retorted.
What he did want was reassurance. He had seen what Ezra had done in defense against the Inquisitor. Weather it was intentional or not it was still brushing up against the things that should never be done by a Jedi. It terrified him, like so much of the aspect of becoming a teacher had.
“If this was back then,” She dared not mention specifics, as if the fear of the word Clone Wars would send them all into hysterics. “What would you do?” She asked. Neglecting to mention the fact that if the Jedi had continued, he would be a very different man than the one before him.
He sighed, trying to remember what it had been like to be a student. “There were tests, no more like trials.” The memory of such events was coming back to him. Moments when they were tested by something far beyond them, unable to really even be prepared or study at all. He still didn’t know where to start, he was wishing for a guide book to be placed in his hands.
A small voice in the back of his head reminded himself that the Force was supposed to be his guide.
A tiny smile flashed across her lips. “Then maybe that is what you need to do, test him like you were tested.” Before sis lips parted to ask her how she already had an answer. “Can’t you still feel the Force? Certainly, the Empire can’t have squashed every place which held that connection.”
“I guess you are right.” He replied as he focused back on what they had been doing in the first place, crammed in between two parts of the ship making repairs that Chopper was too bothered to do, the droid had far more of an attitude than work ethic. He handed her a tool.
“I’m always right.” She muttered under her breath as she got back to working.
He leaned in in the tight space as gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “You always are.”
Chapter 9: The Unthinkable Path
After Path of the Jedi
Hera had dreaded them coming back from the temple. She was afraid of the outcome of Ezra’s trial for a different reason. Either he would fail, and they would have to deal with the ramifications, or he would succeed. She had been old enough when the Jedi order was purged to have known some information about them. One article had always stood out in her mind, more in notice in recent years than other tenets of the Jedi lifestyle.
Jedi weren’t supposed to have attachments.
But Kanan Jarrus did.
Selfishly she wished Ezra would fail. She was afraid of Kanan coming back, suddenly turned into a wizened Jedi master in a matter of moments and stop caring about her. She didn’t mind that their relationship was private, that they kept their affection to one another hidden. If anything, it made their work easier, allowing themselves to compartmentalize their relationship in work, shipmate and personal divisions.
There was a knock on her cabin door. Kanan and Ezra had spent a lot of time talking since they had come back, and other than a quick hello. “Come in.” She muttered looking up from her bed with her head half in her hands.
Kanan stepped into her cabin, waiting until the door closed. He let the tension hang between the two of them, as if examining the silence for her inner monologue. Finally, he cleared his throat. “He…got a Kyber Crystal.”
Hera looked up, knowing what value the Jedi had placed in the increasingly rare crystals. “Does that mean he passed?”
Kanan blinked. “I think so.” With the Jedi nothing had ever been truly concrete, but if anything it was a positive sign.
She looked down at her hands which had inexplicably fallen into his own. She was grasping onto them as if she feared it would be the last time she was ever aloud to touch him. She had dreaded this moment, having him turn away and leave her while he was still a part of the Ghost. Death would have been an easier split between the pair rather than having to go on with their lives as if there had never been a relationship between the two of them.
“So, he is a…. a padawan then?” Her voice was fraught with hesitation as they locked eyes. Kanan slowly nodded. “And you are a master Jedi?”
“In a way.” He replied his face emotionless.
She took a deep breath wondering if he already knew what she was going to say. A sniffle escaped her. “And what does that mean for us?
He shifted on his feet yet his resolve was firm as he looked at her, his eyes dark and serious. “There is no Jedi order left now, there is only the Force.” He said with an emphasis which was lofty and unlike him, before the he flashed her a charming smile. Kanan pulled her in closer his hands running up and down her back. “We're fine.” He whispered as he embraced her.
Hera though was still uncertain of his confidence. “Kanan.” She warned him as she pushed him a way a little bit. “Are you sure?”
He laughed as he held her close, his embrace was a warm and comforting presence and yet she felt guilty as she was enveloped by a sensation she did not want to be parted from. He was the one in charge now, making up the rules as he went with no one to lord over him. “Yes, I am sure.” He whispered before he kissed her once more.
Chapter 10: Array of Iditots
After Idiot’s Array
Ever since Ezra had come on board Hera had noticed there was less drinking. Or at least openly drinking. Back when it was just her, Kanan and Zeb the three of them would rather frequently get drunk in the confines of space. When Sabine joined them, things slowed down a little to the occasional drink after a more harrowing or difficult day. When Ezra had come along the alcohol on the ship seemed to have disappeared to behind closed doors, not that a child who had lived on the streets for half of his life wouldn’t have seen far worse…
But as soon as Lando Calrissian was off the Ghost, Hera could already hear the clinking of whiskey bottles.
The smuggler had been, nothing less than what she expected a smuggler to be. Brash, self-centered, worried about profit rather than risk or life of the crew. There was an arrogance with every step of Calrissian which Hera recognized as a trait which existed in every other member of the Ghost despite their attempts to hide such flaws.
She walked back into the small lounge seeing Kanan pour with the finesse he had picked up from his many years spent in a bar. He handed her a glass as soon as she walked in as she sat down next to him watching as both Kanan and Zeb took turns downing the alcohol in front of them as if it was a contest.
“I don’t like that man.” Kanan moaned as he looked at her with an air of carelessness which was long since gone from his serious gaze.
She scoffed. “I’m not surprised. He reminds me a lot of someone else I know.”
Zeb laughed “Yeah, who?”
“You.” She shot back at Kanan. For a moment, he looked hurt then he took his hands and raised them high over his head as he surveyed the scene before him. He meant it as an act of leadership yet it only managed to drive home her point about the arrogance between the two men.
The Lasat laughed again this time a ruckus and roaring laugh which threatened to wake the rest of the crew. Hera glared at him, her eyes lasers. “And you…” She said pointing a finger at him. “You’re the one who put us in this mess to begin with.”
The large purple hands flew up into the air. “I was confident.”
Hera took a sip of the sharply strong brown liquid in front of her. “Confident, in a game of sabacc? You know better than that Garazeb.” She scolded him as if she was his mother. She smiled to herself, rarely did she ever feel like she was his mother. Certainly, everyone else on the crew, but seldom him. There was disappointment in what his actions had caused, and yet she was tickled by the adventure it had led them on. At least, they had managed to come out on top.
As she took another sip she could feel her head beginning to slightly spin, the alcohol taking affect. Kanan began to laugh as Chopper entered the space and the larger creature began to berate the little droid once more. She rested her head against Kanan’s shoulder.
“He was quite the charmer.” Kanan whispered as they watched the droid and the Lasat become entrenched in an argument.
“That he was.” She muttered in reply.
“He seemed very…” He took a moment to swallow his jealous. “Taken with you.”
Hera laughed and patted him on the leg, “I think he just knew when to appreciate someone with a strong set of skills.” She paused for a long time, thinking about the way Calrissian had talked and looked at her. She had fallen out of expecting people to find her attractive “Do you think he's knew... About us?” She asked with hesitation.
He nodded slightly. “I think he knew.”
“Why didn’t he say anything?”
Kanan shrugged. “Leverage.”
She let out a silly half drunken grin. “You were jealous, weren’t you? That he looked at me, found me interesting.”
“He found everyone interesting.” He countered sharply.
She giggled. “But it bothered you.” She replied in a singsong voice as she gave him a gentle little poke. She found it funny, that he would be bothered by someone else taking an interest in her, she found it more than a little flattering as well.
“Karabast.” Zeb called out as he began to chase Chopper out of the room and down the corridor.
As soon as he was away from eyesight Kanan wrapped his arm around Hera. “Yeah, it bothered me.” He admitted as he smiled at her with wide eyes. She giggled once more. There was a warm comfort than ran though her, a mixture of alcohol and being with the man whom she loved.
“I love you.” She whispered, knowing that didn’t get the change to tell him nearly enough.
“I love you too.” He said softly as he held her close.
It was a blissful serenity which she didn’t always get to feel in her day to day life, she closed her eyes enjoying the moment of his warmth next to hers, of his fingers gently running across her lekku. It was a sensation of home, one that she knew she needed cling onto when she could.
Chapter 11: Vision
During Vision of Hope
Every part of her body had suddenly tensed as the green ends of her lekku twitched in anger giving away her emotions so easily. “So, he's having visions now?” She said her voice filled with contempt as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Hera” He moaned in warning.
“No don't Hera me.” The ends of her head tailed flayed out in annoyance. He wondered for a second if some Twi’leks had learned to control the motions for lies and deceptions. “You should have told me.” She said her eyes staring at him sharply.
“Told you?” He scoffed in a whisper afraid to be overheard by anyone else as they stood in the open lounge of the ship. “Why should I have told you he's my responsibility.”
She shook her head at him. “No, he's not. He's our responsibility.”
He threw his arms out to gesture wildly. “You’re not his mother.”
She rose up to her tallest possible height. “I might as well be.” She replied stoically. “I deserve to know what is happening with the members of my crew, and I don’t appreciate you keeping them from me.”
“It’s a Jedi thing” He said his arms fully flapping in the air now as he looked at her. “You wouldn’t understand.” He added, cringing as soon as he only gave her more ammunition.
With every other word, she seemed to loom closer to him, her face growing sharper and frightful. “I understand that he is scared, that he is frightened. That he is making assumptions about the future and thinking that he needs to protect us all, and do it on his own. He is a child, lost and afraid in the middle of a war, we have both been there before Kanan.” She stopped, dropping her arms to her side, and he shrunk knowing that she was right.
They had both been his age and all alone miraculously surviving through the Clone Wars and the Empire. It wasn’t until either of them had found one another that they began to have a compass for their wills of living. They had taken in Zeb and Sabine seeing the same lost look which they had once had. They were a family of orphans and misfits, a bunch of flawed individuals trying to make heroic decisions.
Ezra had seen a senator in trouble, he had seen a chance to be a hero. He wanted to leave them all behind in the process to protect them, because it was all that he had known. But he wasn’t seeing the truth, that he was surrounded by those who were willing to help.
“He is not alone and he needs to understand that.” Hera continued as her voice became broken with emotion. “No matter what he saw, even if it never come to pass we have to help him in his own quest. The moment he will think other wises he will leave. He will be gone Kanan, don’t you see that? We won’t be there to protect him from the Empire, from the Inquisitors, from himself.”
He swallowed as he looked at her. “Of course, we’ll help him try and meet the Senator. But we have to be careful, its likely a trap.”
She sneered. “I know that.” She responded. “And you need to keep me informed about his training. Even if I don’t fully understand, we have the right to look after him and I can’t do that if I don’t have all the information.”
He sighed. Knowing she was right. She may not have been Ezra’s mother, but she certainly had the ferocity of a mother in her eyes as she looked at him with strong disapproval. “I promise I won’t keep Ezra’s…” He paused not knowing how to word what she wanted to hear. “I promise I will let you know about what he is going through. And I will do my best to explain it to you.”
“That’s all I ask.” She gave him half a smile. “We’re in this together Kanan, always.”
He took a deep breath, a strong sensation of the force was tugging on him, raising his doubts about the mission they had both at the moment an on Lothal in general. They wouldn’t always be able to work together, there would come a day when their luck ran out, but he was dreading that day as much as she was. “I know.”
Chapter 12: Quick Action
After Call to Action
She was determined, she was going to be get him back. Kanan had sacrificed himself so that they could have enough time to broadcast their message, now he was in the hands of the Empire. And Hera was going to get him back, no matter what. It wasn’t just because she loved him, it was what she had sworn to do.
The Phindian looked down at them both with great suspicion as they sat in the waiting area of the landing bay on Phindar station, waiting for the Ghost to gain clearance to allow them down onto the planet below. The tall grey creature’s eyes drifted back to the data pad in its hands as it read the information on their request to the planet below.
Hera was siting calmly, her hands folded in her lap as she tapped her foot gently against the metal floor her eyes floating around the landing bay watching as the other occupants of the few other ships which were trying to gain access to the closely guarded planet bellow. In the far distance, there was another rag tag crew made up of a shaggy looking human, an exhausted orange Twi’lek, a large man who almost looked like a former clone trooper and a green Rodian who were arguing loudly with the official officer as their crates of cargo were being examined.
Out of the corner of her eye she looked at Kanan, he was visibly nervous, which surprised her. Just a few weeks ago they had gone up against far worse than a few customs officers on Gorse, they had taken on the Empire and yet now he was sweating. He was looking across the way at the loud party who were arguing over their cargo, knowing that the cargo within the Ghost was being smuggled away from the Empire.
“Are you reading our life history?” Kanan snapped as he looked up at the Phindian with narrow eyes in an attempt to intimidate the creature.
Hera reached out and placed her hand on his leg. “Don’t worry, love.” Chopper gave an indignant hoot of surprise. “We’ll be out of here soon.” She added leaning in her lips landed on his scruffy cheeks which immediately turned bright red out of both shock and embarrassment. His mouthed opened to ask her what the hell she was doing, yet Hera spoke before he could get a word in edgewise. “Just remember that I love you.” She whispered in his ear, increasing his confusion even more so.
“I’m sorry, my husband isn’t used to the realities of inter galactic travel.” She said in a sweet and charming voice as she flashed her blinking wide eyes up at the creature with the datapad. Chopper gave a clear chuckle.
The Phindian looked down at them. “You’re…. married?” He asked in Basic, his voice a deeply accented hiss.
Hera smiled even wider as she wrapped an arm around Kanan. “Just last week.” She said with convincing pride as she pulled him in closer “My poor husband had never even left Corellia before we set off on our honeymoon, can you believe it?” She was speaking in a sickly-sweet tone, using all the charms and misconceptions about her race to her advantage. She laughed. “I think he might love that ship more than me.” She gesturing to the Ghost with her free hand.
Kanan laughed, falling into the deception with her. “Now darling,” He said with the half-dunked tone she was used to from their first encounters. “How could that ever be true.”
The Phindian looked at the interspecies couple with a wide eye, but let out a hiss. “And what would possibly bring you to Phindar for your honeymoon?”
Kanan looked at Hera waiting for her to give a response. “We’ll it’s his grand tour of the galaxy, of course.” She laughed, resting a hand on Kanan’s chest as she looked deeply into his eyes. They were almost in the clear, almost back to their ship and down to the planet to deliver the stolen Imperial cargo. “Isn’t that right, love?”
He gave a nod as he looked out of the corner of his eye to see if the Phindian was buying the pair of them. “Well you know Ord Mantell wasn’t for me, but I’m interested to see what Phinar had to offer.”
The customs officers tapped at something on his data pad and gave another hiss and a shake of his head. They had convinced him that they were just another harmless couple. He waved his hand. “You have clearance to head down to the planet, enjoy your stay.” He growled as he walked away.
Hera stood up, her arm still around Kanan. “Thank you so much.” She said in her high voice as she walked him back to the ramp of the Ghost, Chopper zooming ahead of them. She waited until the ramp had risen up until she dropped her arm around him the lovesick smile dropping from her face as she returned to business.
“Quick thinking.” Kanan said as he stepped away from her. Her arm being around his shoulders had been an oddly comfortable sensation. From the moment, he had seen her he had been intrigued, but since joining her on the ship he had consciously chosen to quell any further emotions towards her, lest not complicate matters any more than they needed to be when running from the Empire.
She shrugged at him. “I had to do something before he saw through your fear and arrested you for questioning” She snapped as she began her way up to the cockpit of the ship.
“I wasn’t afraid.” He retorted, deeply worried that she would jump to the truth of the matter so quickly.
The door to the bridge swooshed open and she sat down in her chair a laugh escaping her lips. “Don’t worry as long as we are working together I’ll make sure you stay uncaptured.” She watched as he sat down next to her in the chair, his arms folded across his chest as he pouted. “From Phindians, Imps or anyone else.”
As much as they tried to avoid it, there was always going to be a day when one of them got left behind. Separation was increasing inevitable as their stance against the Empire grew bolder. Hera knew at his core Kanan was heroic, or at least trying to be, but she wondered if it was really worth it. They had sent a message of hope out into the galaxy and Kanan was the price they paid.
Now it was her turn to fulfil the promise that she had made him years ago and get the man she loved back.
Chapter 13: Bitter Resolve
During Rebel Resolve
“I’m sorry, my love.”
Hera stood in his room talking to him as if he was there. She could picture him as if he was a holo projection. She had seen him on more than one occasion before, sitting on his knees the image of the old Jedi from the holocron hanging in the air. Sometimes he would confess to it as if it was a deity. Now she stood looking around the bare room doing the same to simply soothe her soul.
Fulcrum had told her not to go after Kanan, and she had done what she once thought was impossible, she had agreed.
“It was hard to walk away, to let you go.” She hearing her emotion racked voice bounding off the wall. Telling the crew of the Ghost that they were not going after Kanan was like a part of herself dying. But she had to. She knew that trying to save him would be a risk to her crew. But still it made her feel like her father, letting lives go for the sake of Rebellion.
“I have to believe that you will be alright. That you will find a way to survive on your own.” She let out a small sob. “You’ve survived before… without me even.” A sob escaped her lips. Loving him was a liability which she had placed herself in denial for years. “I know your strong, stronger even than you imagine.” You’ll be alright. But I have a duty.”
Her hand flew to her face as she felt it twist in anguish. The warm tears were rolling down her cheeks as she looked about at the room which was cold and empty without his presence. “A duty to a Rebellion you don’t even….” Her breath quivered in her chest as her vision blurred. “A rebellion you don’t even know you are a part of.”
She fell to her knees, her body slumping forward as she cried for his forgiveness. She hated herself for the choice she made, for allowing a cause to triumph over her heart and the man she loved. She never imagined that she would listen to a command as such, that she would rather worry about winning a fight than doing the right thing. Kanan was family, he was her other half and yet she was begrudgingly allowing reason to win.
“Would you do the same?” She cried out to the room, wishing that he could hear her through the magic of the Force. “If it were me, would you do the same?”
She wanted an answer, she wanted his voice to softly say yes, but she knew it would not. Kanan wouldn’t leave her, if in her place, he would make the choice to save her no matter what.
She looked up to the ceiling, still seeing his face before her eyes, a ghost already haunting her. “Forgive me.” She whispered. She had to fight for those who could not. She had to continue her stand against the Empire. She would take Ezra and the others, she would lead them in the mission which they had fallen into.
Her father was always ready to make the necessary sacrifices for Ryloth, it was only a matter of time before the crew of the Ghost had to make sacrifices to help in the freedom of the galaxy.
She would fight against the Empire with or without Kanan.
Hera stay on the floor her thoughts only to herself for a long time as she wrestled with the decision which she had made. She wasn’t going to try and find him, the others might and if they did she wouldn’t try and stop him. The minutes felt like hours as her tears dried and her breathing returned to normal. All she could do was cling onto the happy moments she had had in her life with him. If this was really the end and death had come to separate them she did not need to dwell on miss opportunities or the fact that their relationship had happened only behind closed doors.
She stood the image of Kanan faded but not gone from her mind as she pushed aside her hope for his return. “Remember me.” She whispered as she walked to the door. “Remember that I love you, but forgive me.”
The door to the corridor opened with a push of her hand and she stepped out into the corridor, making her way to the cockpit to carry on with their mission. She was still on edge, still upset and bothered by the capture of Kanan, but she rose above to her duty, leaving her feeling for him behind as the door to his room shut.
Chapter 14: Fire
After Fire Across the Galaxy
He had wanted desperately to kiss her as he climbed out of the TIE fighter and saw her standing at the other end of the corridor. But they we’re being watched by too many others, so he settled for a warm embrace instead. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders wanting to whisk her away to spend hours with her selfishly alone. There was a Rebellion and Ahsoka Tano to occupy their time instead, it wasn’t until hours later when they finally had a time to talk on their own.
The door slid behind Kanan as he entered her room. “You must be excited about finding another-”
Hera’s words were cut short as he rushed towards her and kissed her fiercely. He had been waiting to kiss her for hours, and she didn’t mind at all as he pressed her up against the wall of her cabin. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders as they became intertwined with one another. For a few precious moments, there was nothing else which they cared about as they consumed one another.
They said nothing as hands wrapped around one another as they grabbed and pulled half tearing off one another’s clothes as they awkwardly waltzed around her cabin the sounds of breathing and sighs being the only noise to accompany their passion.
It was passion plain and simple, their complex emotions boiled down to the most basic of feelings refusing to use words as they fed on their basic desires. They landed on the bed, a collection of half removed clothes and tangled limbs as they began to go through the motions of sex. It was quick and dirty, simply getting things done with the fear that they wouldn’t have much time to themselves. Sounds were muted and faces were expressive as they relished in the actions which had become a routine.
The primal act was over soon, and both of them settled into what they really wanted, each other. The pair snuggled underneath a warm blanket pushed up against one another their breath warming the others face. Hera was rubbing at the scruff on his face as she looked into his eyes, guilt washing over her. “I…” Her face collapsed, she had to tell him the truth, they had been through enough that she owed him that. “I tried to stop them, Ezra, Zeb, Sabine, Chopper even. I tried to stop them from rescuing you.”
He reached beneath the sheets and began to play with her Lekku, his face thoughtful. “It was a risk.” He said softly. “A risk that revealed us to be what the Empire thinks we are.”
“I shouldn’t have listened to them.” She replied with a sigh. “You’re my family, I should have been with them from the moment the Inquisitor took you. I shouldn’t have listened to Fulcrum’s orders. No matter the cost I promised. I promised I would take care of you no matter what.”
He reached out and placed a finger on her lips to stop her from babbling on. “You made the right choice.”
“Did I?” She asked him, now they had exposed themselves and the rest of the Rebellion as well. Now they were truly at war with the Empire rather than just causing a headache on the outer rim. There would be fewer and fewer moments of joy, safety was no longer guaranteed. Now she had become the rebel which her father wanted her to be. “Why do we fight like we are running out of time?” She exclaimed desperately as she looked into his woeful face.
He closed his eyes. Slowly over the past few months since Ezra had been a part of their family she had seen him become more and more the stoic man whom he would have been had the Empire never intervened. Once more the man in her bed wore the expression of the Knights she had seen as a child. “Because we know we are history in the making.” He said softly. “We both lived through the Clone Wars, we know what can happen how the universe can change in a moment.”
She felt a tear stream down his face, she knew he was right. She knew their cause was far more important than their lives. The day would come when they would die. Death was close, it surrounded them every day, a companion to the Force itself.
“We can’t keep that promise anymore. That we will always keep each other safe. It’s just not… realistic.” Hera said watching as a wearily smile crossed Kanan’s face.
“No, we can’t.” He replied as he pulled his body close to hers.
She felt another sob escape her lips. This, them, it was enough. Until the day came when their stars no longer shone, being in one another’s arms would be enough.
Chapter 15: Under Siege
During The Siege of Lothal
“I already lived through one war. I saw what it did.”
“To the Jedi?”
She was dragging him into revolution. He didn’t want to fight, he didn’t want to be a part of something larger, he didn’t want to be a leader; and yet every time he deviated from that path the universe put him back in the same position. He was a careless wander, then he met Hera. He was a glorified thief, then Ezra came into his life. He was a father and a teacher, and now he was sitting in meetings with generals and becoming part of a military.
He didn’t want any part of it. And yet he stayed.
Each moment that he stayed was filled with internal struggle as he fought against his better judgement. He was sliding into becoming a leader, becoming what he had always fought against, he didn’t want to turn into that sort of person and yet he needed to for the sake of those he cared about.
Kanan made his way down the corridor of the blockade runner back to the small room which served as a cabin for him and half a dozen others. Blissfully it was empty as he sat down on a recessed bunk and closed his eyes, his mind slipping easily into a calm state of meditation. He listened to his breathing, to the sounds of the ship moving all around them. It wasn’t silent, his world never seemed to be truly silently anymore, and yet he drowned it all out, his inner monologue being the only thing important.
Ever since the Clone Wars had ended he had been free; he had been tied down by nothing other than his need to run away from the Empire. But the years of freedom had turned slowly into obligation, responsibility, and rules. He didn’t want to be a part of revolution, he didn’t want to stand boldly against the Empire.
But he had… he was.
Stealing from them and giving to the needy was just the beginning. For as long as he tried to avoid it he had meddled in their affairs, trying to stop them from destroying planets and lives. It was an obligation which had infected him, he fought against the urges, he ran to the unknown reaches and towards danger and yet… it always turned into a way to fight back against the Empire.
In the years after the Jedi Order had been eradicated he had often wondered why they had fought in the Clone Wars to begin with. War seemed to go against every tenet he had been taught in the temples. They were keepers of peace, followers of the Force and yet a war had turned them into military generals. The Jedi fought against droids and Sith lords for the freedom of a galaxy, yet they still preached peace and nonviolence at almost every turn. He had never thought to ask, he was too young to notice if there was a master or apprentice who disagreed with becoming a leader of the Clone Soldiers. But in his increasing years he began to wonder, to theorize; perhaps just as the Clones were conditioned to fight, the Jedi had been conditioned to help the helpless. Maybe there was nothing he could do. Kanan could try to fight the urge to stand up against the Empire, but in the end his will would never win over something deeper.
The door opened with a swoosh and he could sense the familiar silhouette in the doorway. Hera, come to yell at him some more, as if their row in the corridor hadn’t been enough. He could sense that her mind was made up, that she had been committed to the notion of the rebellion since before he ever met her. She knew what she stood for, he had always admired that determination, but he was still claiming to be undecided even on the eve of war.
He opened his eyes to look at her, her green arms crossed over her chest in disappointment. Though he knew it wouldn’t be long until they were back on Lothal, she couldn’t berate him forever, her anger would have to subside in time. “Are you going to leave?” She asked him, her face strained at the very thought that this was how they would end.
He was clueless to the meaning of her disparity. “What?”
She scoffed assuming he was just playing with her. “You don’t want to fight, you don’t want to be a part of this,” She gestured to the ship, the fleet that they were suddenly a part of. It wasn’t where they had stared, it wasn’t the same objective that they had when they began, but it was where they now were. “Are you going to leave Kanan, leave the Ghost, leave me… our family?” Her voice was rigid.
That this was what their lives would turn out seemed to be unimaginable. To go from scoundrels and orphans to the center of war, to becoming a wavering sign of resistance and bravery. Their faces and actions were known on Lothal, they were becoming famous not just in one little part of the galaxy their influence was spreading to other systems as well.
Perhaps there was no quiet life when the Empire was telling citizens what to be and what to do. Freedom and civility seemed to really have died with the Republic. You could either be with the Empire and hope to be a unremarkable cog in their machine, or you were against them. If he left, where would he go, what would he do? What would happen to Ezra, to Hera, to the chance they had to make a difference?
“Kanan!” She yelled at him her voice wrought with emotion as she looked at his placid face. “What are you going to do?”
He lowered his head, not knowing how to respond. He didn’t want to die, he didn’t want to live a life like this. He wanted a quiet place in the sky, a ship which brought him freedom to see the galaxy, he wanted Hera. He had all those things, but every day they were placed in jeopardy. He had to fight constantly for them, and there would be no peace until the Empire fell and then some.
Kanan didn’t want to fight, but he knew if he didn’t, who else would. Ezra, a child who knew less about the Force than he did? Ahsoka, a former Jedi who had spent the majority of her life on the run like he had? The senators who were trying to make their voice heard? Every gun, every ship could make a difference in the sheer power of the giant they were up against.
His head felt as if it contained the mass of a star as he looked up at her. “I wish that life was simple, that we had certainties that existed back in the Clone Wars. It’s hard because I know what life was like back then, because we could imagine so clearly what would happen when we defeated the Separatists. That future seemed so tangible, and yet the Empire rose to cast a shadow over everything I ever imagined by life would be. I don’t want to fight, at all. But … War forces us to make hard decisions, decision that we don’t want to make, thing we don’t want to do. But we have to, if we will ever have a chance to reclaim that life which we thought we would have.”
She took a step closer to him clearing her throat as she spoke in an even tone. “If we join this union it means we have allies. It means we are not alone, that there are others that have our backs. We can fight on our own, but the Empire is at our heels, this buys us time.” She admitted as tears welled in her eyes. “Kanan I want more time.” She reached out and took a hold of his hand. “We need more time.”
He reached up and wiped away at her eyes one by one. “I want that too. I don’t want to leave you.”
“We have a chance, a chance for Ezra and Sabine to one day live in the relative peace that we didn’t have as children and we still don’t have. We can stop the endless cycle of violence, we can establish a legacy of peace.” She squeezed at his hand, her nails digging into his skin. “I don’t want to fight either. But it’s what we can do, what we have the chance to do, for others.”
He leaned in rest his head on hers. “I know.” He whispered as he relished in the small moment. She made him helpless in the best way possible. “I’m not going to walk away from you.”
She nodded, knowing that it would only be death which could ever separate them now. “So, you’ll work with the others?”
He sighed. “It’s better to stand with a crowd than to stand on our own.”
Chapter 16: Lost Serenity
During The Lost Commanders
Hera hadn’t been alone in a long time. It felt strange having the Ghost just to her and Chopper as the two of them made repairs, but she enjoyed the time to herself none the less.
It gave her time to think, time to breathe. They had been running for so much of the past few days, everything was a fight now. They needed a break, they needed a win. She was ready to trust the alliance, ready to have others fighting side by side with her. Most of her crew was as well, Zeb would follow anyone who wasn’t the Empire blindly, Sabine was ready to take her explosive vengeance, Ezra was just happy to have a teacher who was not Kanan.
Kanan, his was still not completely won over. She saw it in his snide remarked and little squirms as he disagreed. He had spent too much of his life being free, the lose militaristic structure rubbed against the freewheeling drunkard she had met. He had a heart of gold, but he a code of honor all of his own and now he was expecting to bend to others, it would take something far larger than her own influence to keep him from snapping.
She loved him, she wanted him to stay. He had agreed to, but unless felt compelled to stay there was nothing else she could do.
Hera looked up at the communication panel, a small voice in the back of her head reminding her how long it had been since they last checked in. Too long, she feared but she was worrisome to contact them on her own. She had to let them make their own decisions, she had to step back.
“You’re not their mother.” She muttered to herself. Chopper gave a small grunt. She rolled her eyes at the droid. “Go check the motivator again.” She said as he wheeled away little arms up in the air giving her attitude.
She pulled herself up to the chair and looked at the planet below. She wanted to protect them all, Ezra, Sabine, even Zeb who was more independent than the other two. When it was quiet, in moments like this, she wondered where her maternal instincts had originated. She had never longed, or imagined to be anyone’s mother and yet she strove to protect the teenagers. She comforted them, made sure they had clean clothes and were fed. She trained them and prepared them for survival in situations such as these.
And she knew she didn’t have to do any of it.
She didn’t need to protect them as such, she didn’t need to worry about them or care. She didn’t need to feel personally responsible for their failures. They were her crew, but it had become more, she had made it more.
Her mother had died in the fight for Ryloth she had often wondered why her mother would have done as such, why her father fought to make her home planet free. She had judged their actions for so many years only for them to manifest in herself. She was her father, she had become the man she ran away from. She lied to herself, told herself that she was different because she had surrounded herself with a family rather than allies, but she had learned how to rebel from him, and it showed.
Yet she loved Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, kriff even Chopper as if they were her own. The love she felt for Kanan was fire and passion, the way she felt for her children was strong yet silent. She seldom said it aloud, she only called them children in jest and yet the family that she had chosen was stronger than what she had been born into.
There was a beep on the console, an incoming message from the Phantom and she felt her heart sink in relief as she reached over and turned on the holo. A smile warming her soul as she looked at the holo projection of Kanan.
“Hello love, what have you found?”
Chapter 17: Relics
After Relics of the Old Republic
The Ghost was officially nearing its capacity. The old clone trooper was bunking with Kanan, the ship was constantly filled with noise as they made their way back to the fleet. It was a warm sensation of serenity that made Hera smile, but as she looked at Kanan shuffling his feet in front of her bunk she could tell that he did not feel the same.
“What is it?” She asked him, already suspecting the answer. He had a problem with clones, his distrust was well placed and yet Hera always marveled at how well Kanan was able to keep a grudge.
But a grudge wasn’t what was bothering him, not at the moment. He had seen what the clone troopers had become, old weary men wishing for monsters, fueled on the passions of their youth. He suddenly knew that he didn’t want to become that.
He had never thought of what his life in a time of peace would be like, but he knew starkly what he did not want peace to turn him into.
“I know that they are Clones, and you have every right to be on edge.” Hera began.
“No, it’s not just that.” He cut her off as he shook his head.
She let out an exhaustive sigh. “Then what is it?”
He stopped his pacing and looked at her as he threw up his hands. “I don’t want to become obsolete”
“Well unless there is a sudden abundance of Jedi hidden within the outer rim I think you’re safe.” She joked. “Kanan…” she reached out and tried to touch him but he took a careful step back.
“They had a purpose you know… the Clones, and I never stopped to think what happened to them when the war ended. I just ran from them, in my mind they became the Stormtroopers.” She nodded in understanding the transition from one uniform to another had been a sooth one, it was easy to lump them into the same group. “But there not, not all of them at least. They are old men running out of time in the galaxy. They’ll all be gone soon, and they will just be another twisted legend, like the Jedi.”
Hera felt her shoulders sag at they reached the heart of the problem. He was a remnant of an old way, he was clinging onto what had been, constantly wondering what his place in the universe was. At times, he felt as useless as an old Clone solider.
“The Jedi order may still be gone, and people do seem to act as if they never existed.” She said as she leaned forward her elbows pressing into her legs as she looked at him her eyes wide with kindness. “But I’ve heard you say a hundred times that the Force isn’t gone. As long as you are still fighting, you are helping. You have a purpose.”
He gave her an exasperated smile. “Every day you seem to find a new way to pull me into your rebellion.” He said in jest, as if he was still opposed to working with such a group. Hera knew he had some objections, but not nearly as many as he claimed.
She stood up knowing that they would be rendezvousing with the fleet soon, the time for little moments that they had to themselves were getting increasingly shorter. “Well.” She said as she placed a hand on his shoulder in passing as the door opened and the volume of life on the Ghost increased. “It seems you have discovered my master plan.” She chuckled.
Chapter 18: Always Arguing
During Always Two There Are
She remembered clone troopers fondly. Hera could only assume the feeling manifested from something within her childhood memories, when the clones on Ryloth had been saviors from the relentless droid army. They had been a kind army of men with a calling for saving them and a kindness for the local population which had not been lost on her. In the years that had passed she had overheard sour mentions of clones; that they were only identical, brainless war machines who were little more independent than battle droids had once been. But she knew from experience they were far more human than how history would remember them.
Seeing Rex walking and talking about her ship elicited a sensation within her that was similar to the physical pull of a tight hug. Yet the warm feeling didn't last long.
"It's not your job to tell me how to raise him." Kanan yelled down the corridor.
The fighting between the two men had been nearly endless. "Look, I knew the Jedi longer than you ever did.” Rex replied.
“Knew them?” Kanan scoffed. “I am one!” He whined irritably.
From her position in the cockpit she could hear Rex sigh as the Phantom flew away towards the empty base. Part of Hera wished she had gone with the kids on their mission just so she didn’t have to listen to the arguing.
“You we're just a kid when the war ended, I was a captain and under a grand general." Every condescending word he spoke in defense of his own beliefs was filled with a sonorous gravitas. Rex was a company man; still proud of the grand triumphs of the old Republic and the failures something which he wouldn’t fully admit to.
"And what happen to your precious general...” Kanan nagged at him. “He died. I survived, don't you this that means I know something he didn't?”
Rex let out a low agitated grunt to respond as he walked into the cockpit and lowered himself down into the chair next to Hera with a grumble. The door hissed shut behind him and a smile creeped over the Twi’leks face as she heard Kanan still muttering to himself in the hall.
“How long has he had the Padawan?” The former captain asked her.
The smile from her face faded, it was strange to hear him talk so openly about the Jedi and their ways, the clone acting as if the order was still around when all Kanan wanted to do was forget about it. “About a year.”
Rex let out another huff. He really believed that he knew what was best for Ezra. “And who trained him before?”
Hera frowned at him. “No one. Ezra was an orphan on Lothal. He had been living on his own for several years until we ran into him. We offered him a chance to stay on the Ghost, we provided him a home. He just happened to be… Kanan hasn’t been looking for other Jedi, not until Ezra came along.”
The old clone crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a swift nod. He was tempting to say something old and stoic about how the Force worked, but he chose a different path. “We?” He remarked with a wide smile on his face. “How long have you worked with Kanan?”
There was something about the look on Rex’s face, as if he had seen right through the deceptions that they were able to use on everyone else. It was almost as if he knew about the true extent of their relationship. “A few, maybe five years now, I’ve lost count to be honest.” She replied as she focused her attention and eyes to the control panels before him rather than looking at the old clone. “Why?”
“I was just wondering, I don’t know much about him, or you for that matter.”
“We’ll we trust each here on the Ghost. I hope that you can do the same.” She was doing her best not to blush. She didn’t care who…. Her mind stammered over her thoughts. She and Kanan had never discussed how much of their relationship they exposed to the outside world. Maybe the clone wouldn’t judge them, or maybe he would launch into another lecture about how the Jedi used to be. “If Ahsoka trusts you, then I trust you.”
“You seem to have a smart head on your shoulders, unlike some.” He said with a jab behind them
She chuckled softly. “He does have a reason to be weary. The clones did turn on their masters, and even if you did take out your chip… mind control seems like the Empire not the Republic.” She reminded him. “But don’t worry as long as you are a part of my crew you have my protection, from Kanan at least.” She added reassuringly
The door slid open rapidly as Kanan strode into the room on cue. “And another thing….” He said his voice riled as he came in ready for another fight with the clone. “You may have worked for the Jedi but I was trained by them. I lived it, you can still barely remember how to put on a uniform.”
Rex turned around in the chair, more entertained than bothered. “Oh, you think I’ve gone soft with age.”
Kanan jeered. “Well you look to be about seventy and you sure ain’t Yoda.”
“My body may be old, but I am in tip-top-shape.” He said each word crisply accented as Kanan raised a brow in response gesturing to his appearance. “I’ll show you that I still have brain capable of high militaristic strategy.”
“And how are you going to do that, by finding a battalion of battle droids to knock over?”
Rex stood up tall, he was still imposing even if he had gone admittedly a little soft and old. “I saw a Dejarik board, in the common room did I not?” Kanan gave a nod. “Then I challenge you to a game.”
Kanan gave a nod as he began to walk down the corridor. “Fine, winner trains Ezra for the next month.” He added confidently as Rex began to follow him.
Hera rose to her feet immediately, grabbing her datapad and running after them both. “No, they do not!” She shouted after the bickering pair. “You are not gambling over our son’s education.” She called in exasperation.
Chapter 19: Brothers... Sisters... Everything In-Between
Sometimes when Ezra is not around, everyone else has far more interesting adventures
During Brothers of the Broken Horn
“We’re going to talk to the locals.”
“The Reynoldston play” Kanan whispered in her ear as they walked into the bar, noticing the mixed species creature behind the bar. Bars were the best place to gather information. They tended to be reliable locations where locals fiercely protected their own, a fair barkeep knew the good gossip about their neighborhood, a good one looked out for the best interests.
Hera gave him a slight nod as she slipped her arms into his, going through the motions that she was used to. If that had more time she would have changed out of her flight suit to a more stereotypical Twi’lek outfit. She hated the presumption but she used the sex appeal of her race often.
Posing as a couple, in one way or another was something which wasn’t nearly as much of a lie as it used to be. But there was still a quiet thrill as Kanan pulled her close as they walked into the bar on Garel. It was dim and the distinct aroma of spice hung faintly in the air, to Imperials it would appear to be a threat, but to them, it was practically a homecoming.
Sabine still had her helmet on, she split away from the group saddling into a booth of similarly armored beings who gave off the air of bounty hunters. Zeb looked around for a moment, eyes turning to look at the rare being.
He growled a primal intimidating sound “Yeah, I’m a Lasat.” He said to the nearest onlooker coming face to face with the snouted Gamoran, “What to learn why I lived while others died?” The snouted creature gave a feeble grunt as it shrunk back. “Sabacc?” Zeb growled and the stubby creature pointed to a back room. Zeb stood to his full height, giving a nod of confirmation to Hera before he headed into the other room.
Arm and arm Hera and Kanan made their way to the bar, sitting on a stool and looking up at the holo of some local sport which was being played overhead. A horned human-like man was rubbing at the glasses with a rag. Kanan gave him a familiar nod as if the men already knew one another, as they were silently handed two glasses.
A smarmy looking Nemodian wearing armored clothing and a large blaster saddled up to Hera in a moment’s notice, running a large grey finger up and down her green lek without warning. “How much?”
Kanan pulled out his blaster and placed it against Hera’s back pointing it at the man. “Get your fingers off my wife.” He growled jabbing the barrel towards the man.
The Nemodian stood still, its wide eyes turning from Hera to Kanan confused and speechless until his eyes drifted upwards. “Sorry about my son.” Came the thickly distinct voice of Rex as he placed a large hand on Kanan’s shoulder in warning. “He’s rather protective, gets that from me.” Rex reached into his belt and threw a credit chit at the man as he scuffled away.
“Kriff, I forgot about grandpa.” Kanan muttered to Hera through gritted teeth as he put away his blaster and turned back to see the bartender who was now looking at them with well justified curiosity.
Before either of them could say anything, Rex was sitting down next to them with a large sigh as he looked around, acting as if he had never been in such a seedy establishment before. “Oh my krelling-” Kanan breathed unable to finish as Hera reached under the table to pinch his leg in warning. He caught her stern eye of warning, they should wait and see how the situation would pan out before they began to react wildly
The half Devaronian, half something else bartender approached them with a wiry smile as he placed down a bottle of something on the counter along with three glasses. “On the house.” He hissed as he poured the red liquid into the glasses. Kanan looked up at the horned man, noticing the bands of color disruption which ran through his greenish skin. He knew it wasn’t polite to ask what someone was, but he was still curious.
“Thank you.” Hera said as she reached out and took the glass in her hand. “You get a lot of trouble around these parts?” She asked in a thick Rylothian accent.
The bartender looked at Kanan, almost checking to see if it was okay to talk with her. He gave a small nod as he took one of the glasses and shoved the other in the direction of Rex. “Not from folks like him.” He leaned in and whispered. “Imps.”
“Don’t we all.” Hera agreed. “Anyone giving them push back?”
He sighed. “Look I know Ryloth is all for independence, but the rest of us are trying to keep our heads down.” Kanan straightened as his free hand reached down for a weapon.
“I think your mistaken.” Hera said softy. “We come by the way of some neighboring systems. My husband and I run a cargo ship, we’re just interested if anyone needs… anything.”
“I’ll ask around.” He said as he tapped on the counter top. His red eyes turned to looked at Rex. “That’s a hell of a lot of Mandalorian pride.” He said making a small gesture between Rex and Sabine.
A smile fell across the clone’s face. “Well my daughter is far more patriotic than this one here.” Rex said with a laugh as he placed another jarringly large hand on Kanan’s shoulder rocking him back and forth on the stool.
Kanan took a large sip of the red liquor. “Thanks Dad.” He hissed in irritation before finishing the spicy drink.
“Well you know. It’s important to be proud of one’s upbringing.” He said, looking at Kanan with dark eyes. “To carry on traditions and skills.” Hera rolled her eyes knowing that they were about three seconds away from arguing about Ezra’s teachings once more.
The bartender was staring at Rex, “You know…” he shook his head but Rex gave him a look encouraging him on his irrational questioning. “You look a little like a clone?”
The old Capitan let out a laugh which echoed off the walls of the cantina. “If I had a credit every time I heard that I would be as rich as a Hutt.” He laughed heartily as he stalled to think of an excuse his eyes darting to the exit. Hera could see Kanan out of the corner of her eye finding his predicament very amusing. “Well you know, old Jango Fett was a second cousin I think”
The man seemed to by the lie. He looked at Hera and Kanan. “You have quite a memorable family.”
“You have no idea.” Kanan said as he stood up from his stool. “We’re in dock 27 if you know of any work. Thanks for the drink.” He added as he threw down a credit. “Come on Dad, let’s go see if we find a place more your speed old man, perhaps a hospital.”
Chapter 20: Spreading Your Wings
After Wings of the Master
She was still on a high from flying in the new prototype starfighter. The mere idea of a new ship was enthralling and getting a chance to handle a craft that others had not made her feel even more privileged. To take it out in battle against the Empire had been a huge risk but someone had to be the first to try, she had reminded herself of that to quell her nerves. Flying like that, with her heart racing as she felt herself challenging the limits of aircraft technology, it reminded her why she loved the stars in the first place. There was still a smile on her face as she watched Quarries ship jump away to head back to the little Mon Cal for more work.
“I wish I could make you feel that way.”
She turned around to look at him with a prideful expression. “You did the supply run without me.” Hera replied as she looked at the smug grin that so rarely made an appearance on Kanan’s face now.
“Well someone had to.” He shrugged as he sat down in the co-pilots chair of the Ghost.
She raised her eyebrow at him. “So, you’re a willing part of the alliance now?”
He sighed as he stretched his limbs, “What can I say, I like seeing you happy.”
It was a statement which made her want to punch the air in victory with how satisfied it made her, but she restrained herself, choosing to torture him more. “You’re not just doing this to please me. You’re making command decisions and communicating with a makeshift military. You’re even making sure that I get a promotion” She countered. Even though she was jesting she was still curious as to what had made him change his mind.
“I was just filling in for you.” He said plainly. “But it is nice… to have backup. People that you can count on.” His lament was serious for a moment as he looked out over the alliance ships in the distance. “Besides, I was only making sure that you have a good job so you can support me and the kids.” He added in a mocking tone.
She leaned over and tapped him in the chest. “One of these days Kanan Jarrus I would love to see you take something serious.” She gave him a soft kiss. “You know you could get a job too.” She kidded.
“I think teaching Ezra and being one of the few remaining Jedi is enough don’t you.” He added with a laugh.
She leaned in even further letting her fingers spread out across his chest. She was still running on the energy and enthusiasm from flying a reckless ship. She tried her best to toe the line of the righteous, only being an outlaw when it served the betterment of others. Hera knew if she did not the same indulgent feeling would take a toxic hold over her. Yet the wild still had a grasp on her as she watched her nails dig into his shirt, curling around the fabric. Hera looked up at him with an impish glimmer in her eyes.
Kanan didn’t need a second signal. He let his hands wander down around her neck, trailing down her lekku. “Lock the doors.” He muttered into her ear and Hera fumbled with her one free hand to hit a button on the console with considerable force. He rose from his seat, moving to sit upon her lap as she tore apart the closures on his clothing. They moved quickly, never knowing how much time they had alone.
His hands went down lower as he created an opening in her flight suit and placed them inside the fabric. Her skin was warm to the touch, clammy as his fingers delved deeper. She was pulling at his hair, kissing at his neck. Together they rode out of the wave of tingling pleasure as quickly as they could while still enjoying themselves; biting their own lips and breathing quickly to keep their voices from rising. With a small little moan, a mere second long, Hera tilted back her head her long lekku dangling over the headrest of the chair her eyes closed, her face filled with a pleasant smile, as if she was floating on water, spread across her face.
Kanan bent in to give her a quick peck on the cheek before standing up and pulling himself back together. “I really hope Zeb sits in that chair next.” He muttered with a grin.
She opened her eyes. “Oh you kriffing….” She chuckled as she reached out to hit him but he evaded her. “Just keep making me happy, or else…”
Chapter 21: Sister, sister
After Blood Sisters
“Do you want to talk about it? About who she was to you?” Hera said softly as she sat across the table from the young woman looking gently at her.
Sabine looked up at her, on the verge of breaking down her invisible walls. Perhaps the armor she wore around not her body, but her own personal past would finally be removed and the woman underneath would be revealed. Then she shrugged, the moment passed.
“No, I’m good, Mom” She replied off hand as she stood up swiftly and walked back to her room. Hera stretched out a hand, the girls name on her lips. She exhausted her more times that she would like to admit, and often over matters like this, hiding her feelings and making easy discussions difficult.
Kanan laughed at her. “Told you.” He said as he crossed his arms over his chest.
She looked at him incredulously. “You know maybe if you weren’t standing there, she would tell me something about the life she led before she met us.”
He shook his head, it was a feeble attempt. Sabine had told them nothing other than that she had once studied at an Imperial Academy and came to change her mind, escaping before she became trapped in the organization. The rest of her life, her past on Mandalore and what if any family she still had in the galaxy was unknown.
“It’s not in her nature. To talk about her feelings.” He replied as he took the few steps needed to sit down next to her.
“Somehow I manage to get you to talk about feelings.” She would have bet that anyone on the crew would be more closed off than Sabine, and yet the opposite had rung true for years.
His face twisted, questioning her once more. “You have a very different sort of leverage over me than you do her.” He paused. “In time, she will let us know, or not. At least for now she is safe and we may have another ally with her… bounty hunter friend?”
“What’s with the sudden optimism?” She asked him with narrowed eyes her suspicion aroused.
“Things have been going well.” He replied as he leaned into her gently. “We’re making headway against the Empire. It puts me in a good mood.” He whispered as one of his hands slid down onto her leg.
Hera brushed his advance aside. “That’s going to have to wait till later, I have to make a report to Commander Sato.” She smiled at him as she slid out of the seat, leaving him disappointed. She made her way to the cock pit stopping for a moment outside of Sabine’s door and listening closely for any telling sounds. She wished the girl would let her into her life, but she knew they all had little things they kept hidden for their own sanity.
Chapter 22: Certain Stealth
During Stealth Strike
Hera watched with a large grin on her face as both Kanan and Rex put on the Stormtrooper uniforms. In the distance she could hear Chopper’s resisting squeals as Sabine painted him in his Imperial color scheme.
“Do you think it's smart, to send them together on this mission?” Zeb asked as he towered beside her looking at them with half a smile on his face as well.
“Believe me, I know what I'm doing.” She sang confidently as she watched Kanan mutter to himself in frustration as he did up the many white plates.
“Why can’t I go with Zeb?” Kanan asked her with narrowed eyes as he shoved on the arm bracers.
“Because he won’t fit in Stormtrooper armor.” She replied lightly.
He threw his hands up in the air looking for any way out. “He could be my prisoner.”
She shook her head. “Just go with Rex, love. It’s the best tactical decision.”
“It’s the best tactical decision.” He mocked her under his breath as he reached for his lightsaber and struggled to find a place to hide it.
“You’re going because I asked you to go, and you do what I say.” She added with a final smile.
“Uhhh.” He grunted as he looked at her, knowing she was right. “I’m not going to like it.”
Hera rolled her eyes unwilling to engage him any more when he was acting like a child. “Are you really sure, they won’t end up killing one another?” Zeb whispered.
She looked up at him. “Believe me I have experience in these sorts of situations.”
“Yes, I do.” She replied loftily as she began to turn away. “Commander Mehluran.” She added
He slumped in defeat. “Karabast.” He breathed knowing that she was correct
Chapter 23: Uncertain Future
After The Future of the Force
“Children,” Hera repeated her face blanched “The inquisitors were after children?” He nodded, noting that she had taken a firm hold of his hand as they sat next to one another by the chess table. “Why?”
He didn’t know for certain, but it was nothing good. Nothing good could ever come out of the Empire wanting children. “Ahsoka is making sure they are safe.” He said softly.
Though how the former Jedi was making sure they were safe and protected he did not know. Back when there was still an order there were people whose entire job was to find Force sensitive children. Even though the job no longer existed he had been naïve to think that with the fall of the order those who could feel the Force had died as well. He wasn’t naïve enough to think that most of them had ended up living a safe and comfortable life with their family.
“What do you think happen to the rest of them?” Hera asked him.
His shoulders fell. “I don't know, I don't want to think about it.” The admission filled him with guilt. He had been lucky to find Ezra before the Empire did. “We can't save them all.” He added seeing her face, she would take every Force sensitive child in on the Ghost if they had the room.
“But we can save some of them.” She remarked with her trademark kindness and care.
He didn’t want that to become his life. He didn’t want to have to find, babysit and raise every child who could feel the force. He didn’t want to have to teach them all, that seemed like a job for a madman or a saint, neither things he wanted to be. The job to teaching the next generation should at least fall someone who had personal determination in seeing the Jedi rise once more. That was a motivation he did not have; as much as their lacking presence was felt he truly believed the galaxy could move on without the hierarchy of the Jedi Order which had once been. “Hera” He sighed at her in exasperated warning, need to stop her before she embarked on a new mission.
“We have to, they are defenseless children Kanan.” She pleaded with him “We have to protect them, it’s our job.”
“I know it’s our job to fight for those who can’t” He corrected her.
“Don’t mock me on this”
“I’m not.” He conceded. “Hera, I agree with you, but we have to choose which mission we are going to focus on. I don’t know the first thing about find potential Jedi, we have to let this be Ahsoka’s taking. We will certainly help when she asks, but…. Our talents are better served elsewhere.”
She nodded at him, more words on her lips, but she couldn’t bring herself to say them. They had to protect the Jedi they had, or else no one would be able to teach another generation.
Chapter 24: Familiar Legacy
Fueled by the belief that they were still alive Ezra was determined to find out what had happened to his parents. It hurt her soul to look at him. Hera knew the Bridgers were likely gone, but she understood that small sliver of hope that he clung onto for dear life as he ran around hardly able to make heads of what he was gathering for his mission.
They were all standing out of his way, letting him act as if he was the first being alive to be in the same position, so elated at a grand possibility only to be greatly disappointed at the outcome. He was too young to realize they had all had such moments in their own haggard lives. Kanan took a hold of Hera’s arm as they passed one another on the Ghost, whispering rapidly into his ear.
“He's desperate” It was a question asking for advice. He had built up such a bond with Ezra and now the young boy was unknowingly tossing him to the side.
She nodded calmly. “I know”
“I'm worried, he’s letting his emotions take control.” He said with a firm gruff voice of a man who was slowly becoming responsible.
“Kanan if you were in the same position you would be just as frantic and desperate as he is.” She whispered, she had seen him in similar states a dozen times before, he just had a different way of showing it.
“I know, that's why I am going with him. Someone needs to keep his head in check” He said as he raised up the stolen cadet helmet that Ezra had claimed as his own.
She pulled him into a hug, checking to make sure that the others were standing in the door way of Zeb and Ezra’s bunk watching the show before them “Make sure you come back. Don't turn me into that.” She whispered shakily into his ear as she clung onto him.
“I’ll try.” He replied as he quickly kissed her, their lips meeting in a warm and soft pass before they pulled apart hastily. There was a thrill of being so openly passionate behind the backs of their crew, yet it was filled with sad desperation as well. Hera was the first to pull away moving to stand behind Zeb and Sabine, waiting until Kanan made his delayed entrance.
She watched in a daze as the two began to talk about preparations, Ezra was going to try and find his family, but she wondered more about the family he might mistakenly leave behind instead.
Chapter 25: Princess Related Side Effects
After A Princess on Lothal
Chopper was laughing, not an occasional snide laugh but a continuous bout of laugher that would lead to asphyxiation to any other being who needed a supply of oxygen. That was her first sign that something was wrong with the children.
With a roll of her eyes, wondering what it could possibly be this time Hera opened the door of the engine room a small crack to see if she could settle the problem from where she was rather than chasing after them and becoming engaged in the current calamity.
“Ezra likes a princess…Ezra likes a princess.” Came the cackling juvenile taunts of Sabine as her voice echoed off the walls of the Ghost.
“No I don’t.” His voice replied in a firm yet wavering tone.
Hera stuck her head out of the engine room, sighing as she looked up and down the corridors for a sign of them. It was merely only a matter of time before the youngest crew members became enraptured in childish crushes, a frivolity of growing up which hadn’t been squandered by their brigand lifestyle. Frankly she was surprised that neither of them had noticed the minor infatuations they for those they encountered in passing on missions. Hera certainly had noticed the sly smiles and smooth lines which Ezra had tried on others before. It was only a matter of time before someone caught on to his teenaged wills. She should have known that it was inevitable that the minor crush the rest of the crew would pick up on would be passing one he had on a princess.
Hera pulled herself up, wiping away oil on her jumpsuit as she walked down the corridors letting the sounds of Choppers laughter be her guide. The bickering pair was currently on the balcony overlooking the cargo hold each of their faces pointed and spite filled.
“You like a princess?” Questioned Zeb as he poked his head out of his room. “Which Princess?”
“No I don’t.” Ezra snapped at him, blushing deeply. “Why do you even think I do?” He spat at Sabine unaware of Hera slowly climbing the ladder towards them.
She crossed her arms over her chest, looking like the all-knowing older sibling she smugly was being. “Chopper told me about the way you looked at her.”
He glared at the droid, his hand twitching in warning for a moment as if he was about to do something to it. “I only looked at her because she was helping us.” His voice was full of teenage attitude which Hera remembered within herself with deep embarrassment
“Really? It’s not ‘cause you love her.” Sabine mocked.
“No I don’t.” He repeated once more.
“You like a princess, you like a princess.” She tattled once more.
Hera came to stand behind Ezra rising to a full height as she watched his twitching hand once more. He needed to get used to being antagonized, but she was afraid of his response if she allowed it to go on any further. “Sabine leave him alone.” She warned her.
Sabine rolled her eyes. “But…”
Hera took a steady pause between each accented word. “Leave. Ezra. Alone.”
Ezra was smiling proudly, Sabine stuck out her tongue at him. “Fine, mom.” She said with a frown as she slunk away leaving Hera to bit at her lip to keep from laughing.
Chapter 26: Protector
During The Protector of the Concord Dawn
“I see her… its bad.”
He clutched his hand as he looked down at her, unconscious. She was hurt, injured, broken. The calm smatterings of the medical droid were of a demeanor to tell him that the worse had passed as Hera was stable. Nevertheless, anger rose up within him as he looked down at her defenseless body, it was impossible to fight the passion which he effortlessly felt as he looked down at her. The call to avenge her, to protect her….
A loud crack broke his inner monologue of revenge as his head jerked to find the source of the sound. Something had broken, his eyes darted around and he saw a large crack in one of the glass monitors which was recessed into the wall. He had broken it in his internal rage.
“You have to be calm” He turned around at her voice knowing it was just a trick of the Force
A vision of Hera was standing before him, a smile on her face as she judged him. The Hera in his mind didn't need to say anything its expression was fluent enough, but he glanced back at the real Twi’lek who was lying on the bed. The medical devices plugged into her beeping with irregularly, wishing that she too would give him a familiar expression.
“You got hurt.” Kanan said aloud. The medic droid paid no attention to the man talking to himself, it was programed to understand such expressions of grief and processing within many different species.
“It was bound to happen sometime.” Hera whispered.
“But I wasn’t there. I couldn't protect you.”
He could have sworn he heard a laugh. “Well of course not. You’re not always going to be able to protect me Kanan. You know that.”
“But” He stammered in protest.
“You have to be calm, for them.” There was something in the tone of her voice which made it obvious who she was talking about. For those waiting outside the door to see how Hera was doing, for the sake of their family he had to be strong.
He sighed knowing she was right. He had responsibilities nowadays to more than just himself. If something ever happened to her…he would be all they had left. He a hated that fact, that he couldn't act out irrationally for revenge. Time had turned him into the man the Jedi Order had always told him he would be. He had tried to rebel and avoid responsibilities, but they found him in the end.
Sabine would want a fiery revenge, it was part of her explosive nature. Ezra and Zeb would be willing to follow her into a black hole if she led them. It was his responsibility to reign them all in, to get their way while still managing to keep the Rebel Alliance intact.
They were no longer alone in the fight against the Empire, it had advantages, but it had drawbacks as well.
He looked down at Hera once more, there was nothing peaceful or calm about her sitting bloodied and bandaged on a table. The anger was still within him but he was able to control it for a while. He didn’t want to leave her side, he didn’t want to leave her injured. He knew if the roles were reversed that she would claim that this was a bigger fight than either of them.
He reached down gently running a finger over her arm. He had committed to fighting the empire, but selfishly he wasn’t ready to lose her to it.
“Out of everyone in the galaxy.” He muttered to himself. “Why did I have to fall in love with you.” He laughed, humor allowing him to cope when nothing else would. To himself he added. “I’ll try to do my best by you Hera, after all that’s all I can do.”
Chapter 27: Legend of Peace
After Legends of the Lasat
The journey through the star cluster had been a terrifyingly exhilarating storm. The space around them churned from bright in one moment to inky black in another. Everything had crackled and flickered, the sounds outside of their merger protection of the Ghost had only been primal and erratic rumbling thunder which gave way to a world destroying splitting crack.
It had been impossible to know what would happen next, impossible to know if they would survive, yet that only made the thrill greater. They had all felt themselves being pulled by something larger than them, a strength known under a dozen different names. They had been life leaves in a stream on a blustery day, able to accept rather than fight against where the current would take them.
Wild Space. It was talked about in whispers, mentioned in hallowed passing. It was a place of legend, a place which seemed to terrify nearly every species in the galaxy which had not originated there nor would ever dare to venture to see it. It was the closest thing the galaxy had, in their mix of cultues, races and beliefs to something that was universal. It had been whispered into all their minds as children as a forbidden wasteland in which they were to never step into. Yet now the crew of the Ghost was privileged to know that it wasn’t such a bad place as the stories had told them, that amongst the monsters that perhaps existed, Wild Space also contained the sanctuary planet of Lira San.
The ship had been so cacophonous when they were running from the Empire, the perpetual ghost that followed after them. Now as they hung above the planet, a quiet had washed over the Ghost. Hera looked at the maps once more, uncharted Wild Space was tempting her. Maybe they could just live out here, far beyond the reach of the Empire. Perhaps life could be peaceful in a place where no one knew who or what they were. The idea was tempting, even if she knew rationally she would never be able to bring herself to cave in to such a selfish request.
The door to the cockpit slid open, but she said nothing as the familiar footfalls entered the space. Kanan sighed as placed his arms on the top of her chair, looking at the planet below. “Do you think there is a place for us?”
She cleared her throat as she felt his warm breath on the top of her head. “What do you mean?”
“A place like that, a place that… that is a refuse from all the war.”
She shifted as she looked down at the planet. She doubted that it would be free from war or conflict, that even though Wild Space was considered isolated to those who live in Coruscant there was still war in this part of the galaxy as well. Hera had heard of a race known as the Chiss who were known for their war record, who in some descriptions ran this part of the galaxy. As a child, she would have believed in a planet that was truly a peaceful sanctuary; but as an adult she knew that not only was it impossible, but also a lack less life she didn’t even want to experience.
She reached up to take a hold of his hand. “Close your eyes.” She whispered as she shut her own. “Right here, us together. This is our place.” She added. She meant the words, as long as they had each other, had their own family it would make living through the rein of the Empire easier to handle. He let out another sigh, knowing she was right. This was the extent of their own private planet, at least for now.
Chapter 28: Call My Name
After The Call
There wasn’t much in the way of space on the Ghost. The only place where the entire crew could comfortably fit was in the small lounge area or the cargo bay, even the cockpit was becoming increasingly more crammed. It was difficult to admit it, but Hera realized if they took on any more members they would be in need of a larger ship as well.
At the moment, they were spread out over the cargo bay, Chopper examining the new load of fuel which they had desperately needed. Never had Hera ever driven any ship down to the point where they were clinging onto the last remaining drags of life support. The chill of real space reminded her sharply of just how little was protecting them from the vacuum of space which only her droid could survive.
Ezra was smiling largely, going on about the new connection which he had formed with the purrgil. She wasn’t one to complain, but Hera was surprised at how easily Ezra seemed to be able to connect with different creatures when Kanan could not. It made her wonder if it was some sort of talent or subskill which existed within the Jedi. Obviously not all Force wielders powers were the same if there was such a stark difference between the Jedi and the Sith.
Kanan brushed up against her as she made her way toward a ladder. “Are you going to say told you so?” She muttered in his ear.
A large grin spread across his face. “No.” He added, knowing that taunting her would never end up well.
Indignation came across her as she looked at him, “But you like seeing me being wrong, don't you?”
It was a tease pure and simple, but he still took the bait. “I mean….” He let the word hang in the air as she gently pushed him in the arm.
“I still think that the purrgil are an annoyance and a hazard to modern space travel. Many beings die every cycle because of accidents with the creatures.”
“Oh but Ezra thinks.” He countered innocently as he tried to steer her wrong.
She rolled her eyes as his false attempt to mock her. “Ezra is a child who hasn’t seen anything outside of Lothal which we haven’t let him see. Does he have a connection with them, yes, and are they magnificent creatures, yes. But….”
“You’re fishing for a way to be right.” He interrupted her.
She raised a finger to point in his face. “First of all.” She began as she drew herself up to an imposing height.
He scoffed at her. “Hera dear.” He remarked as he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Sometimes, even you are wrong.” He shrugged and assuming they were done he began to briskly climb up the ladder and to his quarters.
She came stopping after him a few seconds later “Oh don’t you tell me I am wrong.” She stage whispered at him.
He turned around throwing his hands in the air. “You were just telling me to call you out for being wrong and now you’ve changed your mind.” He stammered incredulously not knowing what she wanted from him.
Her arms folded over her chest and he watched the clear change in her eyes as the anger turned in a moment into desire. He almost giggled, as he looked at the woman who wanted him so badly and yet her sense of morality was avoiding her from acting on her desires when they could easily be seen or overheard by someone else.
“Open the door Kanan.” She said in a little whisper.
He cocked his head to the side. “What if I don’t?”
A primal growl escaped her. “Don’t tempt me.”
For half a second he wondered what she could possibly mean, the idea of tempting her just to see what would happen next was appealing, but he chose instead to open the door to his sparse cabin watching as her green eyes approached his own with speed as the door closed behind them and her lips fell onto his.
Chapter 29: Homecoming Dreams
Bleh.... Sorry for the inconsistent updates moving both homes and jobs this month has taken away from my writing and editing time....
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. It was this episode which helped inspire this series.
Relief washed over her as she saw the carrier off in the distance as they pulled away from the fleet. She nestled back into the pilots chair as the warm feeling of accomplishment washed over her. They had done something amazing for the Rebellion, they had given themselves a huge advantage over the Empire. It was a win, and she wouldn’t let her uneven relationship with her father take that away from her.
Her father had been soft, but she knew it was likely only for a moment. She had been raised by him, his constant devotion to his planet and the war which surrounding them rather than his family shaped her into who she was. She had left Ryloth at the first chance she got, never looking back or second guessing her decision to live life on her own terms. Her father would be kind to her for now, but something always managed to push him away.
The door slid open behind her, “And don’t think I don’t regret teaching you that.” Kanan shouted down the hall. Whether he was yelling at Ezra or someone else didn’t matter, she could already tell it didn’t matter, it was a yell to let of steam at the greater underlying cause of his agitation.
She chuckled to herself as he sat down beside her with a heavy grunt. "You're annoyed." Hera stated clinically.
He looked at her with a twisted expression, as if she was possibly insane for questioning him. "How could I be annoyed?" He replied in a broad tone filled with the levity of a man who had once drunkenly tried to forget about all his problems. "The mission was a success in the end."
She leaned over to look at him, resting the urge for the corner of her lips to curl into a smile. The kissing up to the man had been blatant, almost to the point where she wondered if Sabine or Zeb had caught on. Kanan was trying his hardest to impress her father, a man who was only interested if you had something which would further the case of a free Ryloth.
She still didn’t trust her father fully, and yet Kanan had seemingly crossed and previous nonexistent line or understanding by trying to charm the uncharmable Cham.
"Your annoyed my father didn't ask you what your intentions are?"
He let out a small laugh. "And how could you possibly know that?" He replied still not willing to cave into anything.
"Because I saw the way you acted love." She blinking at him knowingly. "Putting on you best show to try and impress my father. Stumbling over words, being harsh with Ezra, acting as if you were impressed with him…" She was prepared to go on at length over his actions.
"Well I am impressed by him.” Kanan interrupted in his defense. “His war record is legendary, we could learn a thing or two from him."
She raised her eyebrows at him her Lekku moving as well. "Kanan." She said sharply stopping him mid-rant. "You wanted to get his blessing. You wanted his approval to validify our relationship" His eyes widened as he realized she had seen through his not at all transparent plan.
"I am not even going to go into how antiquated that view is,” She said as she raised a hand in disbelief. “But it doesn't matter." She added as she spun around to the controls. "I don't really care about what my father wants for me anymore, I haven’t for a long time. You know that." She paused knowing that his shoulders had slumped forward in disappointment. "But it’s nice to see you try."
“I didn’t want him to hate me.” He whispered honestly.
Hera chuckled. “My father finds something to hate in everyone he meets.” She looked at him with a wide smile. It was touching to see him care so much about what family she did have left. To see him trying to do the right thing in the face of adversity was what had attracted her to him in the first place. He may have been trained as a Jedi but he didn’t fully have the heart of one. He was constantly trying to forge his own path, but sometimes he would surprise her by the actions he took.
This was one of those times. She had assumed he would have adopted her cold stance towards Cham, but instead he fought mercilessly to win over the man even when it was a losing cause.
“Next time just try not to be in too much awe.” She remarked sarcastically. “He’s likes you in your own way.” She added to reassure him enough.
“Really?” He said straightening with exactment.
“Yes dear.” She replied with a laugh as he bent over the controls as well, ready to head off on their next mission.
Chapter 30: An Honorable Way
During the Honorable Ones
Looking down on Geonosis filled him with eerie dread. Something had gone awry on the planet, something had wiped out the population. They flew over the empty graveyard again and again, the threat of the Empire breathing down their backs as they passed over the sandy graveyard.
Something large and imposing, and secretive had tainted the system. It hadn’t even been two decades since the Clone Wars had ended and yet the planet appeared untouched for millennia. It sent a chill through Kanan’s spine to think of what could be so secretive that the Empire or someone else would wipe out such a planet in a vicious manner.
The Phantom docked with its mother ship with a series of mechanical whooshes and beeps. He hopped out of the shuttle looking at the faces which awaited him, even though he had no new updates since his follow through on the comms moments ago.
“What if he doesn’t come back?” Ezra asked with an innocence which was out of place for a child who had lost his parents to the Empire. The rest of the crew looked at one another with a tense eye, all of them had been hiding a similar yet differently worded question with a much darker meaning.
Hera was about to open her mouth and say something kind and motherly, reassuring the boy if the worst was to be assumed, but Kanan cut her off before she could begin to speak. “What do you mean?”
“What if we don’t find him?” Ezra asked again.
Hera looked up at Kanan with a warning eye. There was a very real possibility that the escape pod Zeb had been in had been shot down, or damaged. The fact was that there were no life signs on the entirely of the planet was another hint at what the truth could be revealed as. Rationally they needed to prepared Ezra rather than humor the assumptions which he was too old to have.
“We’re not leaving here without him.” Kanan potentially lied.
Sabine reached out and took Ezra by the shoulder. “Come on, let’s go help Copper boost the signal array.” She gave a nod of understand to the adults as she walked past both of them pulling Ezra out of earshot of their eventual argument.
Hera took a step forward closing the distance between them. “We have to leave when the Empire comes back.” She said in a stern tone. “Or else we’ll all be dead.”
He didn’t want to lose his friend like this. Zeb deserved a more stoic death. “I don’t think he is…. I think he’s alive.” He didn’t feel or sense anything, it was all fragile wishes.
“You better hope your right.” It wasn’t sly, she meant it.
Hera didn’t want to think of the inevitable day in which they were down a crew member. It was only a matter of time in which one of them got injured or hurt beyond recovery. She reached down and grasped at his hand, looking into his faint green blue eyes. She squeezed at his pale hand as if she could grasp her affection out of him. “You better be right.” She added softly.
Chapter 31: Into the Darkness
After shadow of Darkness
Jedi Knight, it wasn’t just a word it was a statement. It was who he now was. Though it had merely been bestowed upon him by the shadowy spirit figure in a Jedi temple he knew that internally something had shifted.
As a child, it was a title which he was eager to earn; after the fall of the Jedi order he had done everything possible to forget about how he had been raised. Now he was back to that life, he had long since accepted it, but there were still moments that took him by surprise. Fighting off inquisitors and heading off for cerebral explorations in a Jedi temple made him feel as if he was living in the past.
He had to fight, that was something deeper within him, a sense of pride and patriotism to what had once been, he had long since accepted his deeper need to fight against the Empire. Yet the statement Kanan Jarrus, Jedi Knight filled him with hesitation. It was a title he himself didn’t think he needed, it labeled him, gave instant connotations and implications of who he was, when he was nothing like a Jedi Knight.
As he walked through the turning levels of the Ghost all those fears ran through his head. He was a leader, whether he had become one or turned into one was another mater for another time. He was a fighter, and again he pondered when the distinction had been made. He had the skills of a Jedi, but the bulk of his training and acceptance of that way had occurred after the temple had fallen. If he was a Jedi Knight but the order was gone, was he really a night or could anyone call themselves that…
“Kanan.” The voice that spoke behind him was soft and feminine, yet it didn’t belong to either Hera or Sabine.
He turned and looked at Ahsoka, standing tall and imposing with her head tails making her so much taller. He couldn’t remember any more if he had seen her back on Coruscant when the galaxy still operated as it should. So much of that time was gone in his mind, a blurred state of what had happened and what did not. He had fictionized most of his childhood to later explain the randomness and horrors of his adulthood.
She took a step towards him “Kanan.” She said once more as she looked at him with her kind wide round eyes. “I know that sometimes temples can be intense.” She continued on in a leading tone full of kind guidance. She would have made a good teacher had her life not fallen down a different path.
“You’re not a Jedi.” He blurted out at her, the words slipping out of his mouth as if he was Ezra. The boy was on his mind now that he had been tasked with keeping him away from the dark side on top of everything else.
As she shook her head her two front lekku moved gently from side to side exaggerating the small gesture. “No, I’m not.”
“Why?” It was almost as if Ezra was whispering the words into his ear. “Why did you leave?”
Her shoulders rose and fell, and while he could tell it was painful for her to speak of the choice he was desperate for an answer. She said nothing as she walked past him and indicating with a small twitch of her hand that they should perhaps talk somewhere relatively less private than in front of the crew quarters. She led him down into the cargo hold and the stood awkwardly amongst the crates that they were taking back to the fleet.
“I was framed for something I didn’t do, a bombing on Coruscant that killed several and seemed to be the work of Separatist allies” She said as she wrung her hands together. “Very few people believe me, or stood by me. My master did, even though others told him not too. The Jedi order expelled me, made me stand trial before Tarkin, who has always been manipulative. I came very close to death, I was acquitted at the last moment by the few who worked tirelessly for me. Then the Jedi offered to take me back in the order.” She paused letting out another sigh as she looked up at the boy. Who had seen the war from far different eyes than she had, even though he was only a few years younger.
“I had seen Coruscant and the Order for the tangled mess of politics and fear that it was. I felt abandoned by those who had raised me and always told me to trust them, yet when I need them the only one who supported me was Anakin Skywalker.” She let out a little sob frustrated by the irony of it all.
Anakin had taught her how to be a Jedi. He had made her laugh, and allowed her to be herself in the stuffy old order. Together they bucked against what other more experienced minds told them was right and did things their own way. They had been so self-assumed of their new way to be Jedi, but it hadn’t worked in the long run. She had turned away from the order, from him, and now he was the half human monster clad in black which terrorized the galaxy.
“What did you do, when they offered to let you back in?” Kanan asked her.
She realized she had been looking at the floor, long since turning distant from him as she too reevaluated her life decisions. “I walked away.” She replied, making eye contact with him once more. “I didn’t stop helping people or fighting for the Republic, I was there at the Siege of Mandalore, and afterwards when it became the Empire, I still fought back. I still use lightsabers because their the weapon that I know. But I wouldn’t call myself a Jedi anymore."
“They made me a Knight back in there.” He hung his head as he said the words still half embarrassed by the whole notion.
She smiled as she crossed her arms over her chest. “I figured as such.”
“What do you think it means?”
She was silent for a while. “It’s a title. One that used to strike emotion in others when they heard it but now is mostly harmless. If you want to call yourself and Ezra Jedi’s you can. That’s fine by me, just because I don’t call myself that doesn’t mean you don’t have to either. But I think we can agree that there were flaws in the way the Order was run, and maybe we don’t have to always follow those either.”
He looked up at her “I was always taught that following the rules was what kept us in line, that kept up from the Dark Side.”
“The Dark Side seems to find a way to prevail anyways.” She said grimly too many recent and past actions weighing heavily on her own mind as she looked at the man. Knowing she had hurt him she reached out her arm and touched his shoulder gently. “If it’s who you are then it’s who you are. But don’t let a title keep you from the more important things in life Kanan.”
He liked her wisdom, he liked that when she was around he felt less of a burden on his shoulders. “Are you going to stick around for a while.”
Once more she shook her head. “No. I only seem to attract attention to you and your crew, and you do a fine job of being on the Empire’s radar without me. Just look at it this way, if they know who you are you must be doing something right.
Chapter 32: No Droid, No Problems
During the Forgotten Droid
Hera had flown off without him on purpose. Chopper had far too much of an attitude problem. If it wasn’t for her sentimental connection to the droid she would have him reprogramed in an instant. She had laid awake at night countless times wondering who would ever program a droid to have such sass.
It would be the astromechs problem to find a way to get back, the Ghost was wanted for stealing fuel. She was pleased they had made quick quiet work of the job. Listening to the quiet of the Ghost they set off into hyperspace with time to rest until they reached the fleet.
As the star lines appeared outside of the view screen she stood making her way back to the lounge where the rest of the crew was assembled, either reading or eating silently. It was peace, plain and simple.
No one looked up as she entered and pulled out her datapad beginning to read silently. Yet after a few moments Ezra was surprisingly the first one to speak, “You know Chopper not being here isn’t too bad.” He said cautiously.
Zeb looked up from the table which he appeared to be laid across sleeping over. “I know no one to bother me.” He growled
“No irrational trash can to berate me.” Sabine added with a smile
Kanan laughed. “To constantly be getting in my way.” He added as he looked at Hera.
She rolled her eyes at all of them, her hands flying to her hip as a scowl came across her face. “You know that Chopper has helped me out of a lot of situations, he’s been with me since I wasn’t much older than you.” She said as her eyes narrowed at Ezra.
Ezra shrugged, “Yeah but he is a bit of a nerf herder.”
She sighed, she could think of hundreds of occasions in which the droid had been more than a jerk to them, most recently within the last hour. Somehow the droid would find its way back to them in time. Her stern gaze fell to Kanan. He rolled his eyes, but didn’t argue as he shifted to look at Ezra.
“That’s a bit harsh.” He rebuked his apprentice. Clearly, he half agreed with what the boy was saying, but he wouldn’t admit that in front of Hera. “We need a droid on the crew, Chopper is the one we have. He more than enough serves his purpose.”
Ezra made a face. “He has more than one circuit loose.” He muttered.
“That’s enough.” Kanan replied sternly. “He’s part of the crew, and being a part of this crew means we take care of one another.” He looked at Hera, raising an eye brow. She gave him a nod of approval for coming to the defense of the absent droid. “Come on, we can get some training done before we meet up with the fleet.”
Thank you. Hera mouthed as they walked past heading down to the open space of the cargo hold for yet another lightsaber training session.
Sabine gave her a narrowed glance. “If I agree with what Ezra said does that mean I have to do Jedi training too?” She mocked after the two had left earshot.
“Ha, ha.” Hera replied dryly as she looked at the girl. “Just hope that Chopper doesn’t have any listening devices in place.”
The treat was convincing enough that Sabine’s face soured. “You don’t think he does do you?” She whispered her eyes full of concern.
Hera stood, wanting to take the time to blissfully be alone. “I don’t know, like you said he’s an irrational trash can. Maybe he does.” She added keeping her grin to herself. As much as the droid drove her up a wall, they shared the same sense of dark humor.
Chapter 33: Mystery of Tomorrow
After The Mystery of Chopper Base
“We’ll see each other again, I promise.”
Kanan reached out and pulled her into a hug. It was tight, desperate. The sounds of ragged, tear laced breathing filled the air as the sun set down on the rebel base. He squeezed his arms and she did the same. He closed his eyes letting his warm tears rain down on her green head.
They didn't need to say anything. Their silence was for the best, their throats were clenched in anguish. The fact that they would see one another again was a lie. Neither of them knew who or what Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka would face on Malachor. As they grasped onto one another only the worst of outcomes jumped to mind. If any of them came back it would be enough to justify the trip.
He wanted to stay in the warmth of the sun clinging onto Hera until the Empire washed over them sending them to oblivion. Each of them had spent a lifetime working for the freedom of others yet they had never been given enough time. Not to fight, nor for themselves.
They kept their relationship quiet because they thought it was the right thing to do. But they also didn’t know how to publicly be a couple while fighting a war. It was ridiculous, but their hearts wore far more armored than their bodes ever did.
They should have run away when they had the chance to go live in Wild Space, or to turned away from becoming rebels. In that long moment, their minds raced through every step they should have taken, every missed opportunity and forsaken outcome. There was no way to alter the past, no way to correct their mistakes or buy more time. This was it. These was the choices which they had made, the life they had decided to leave.
Shaky breathing fell into synchronized rhythm as the darkness spread over the base. Slowly Kanan pulled back, opening his eyes to gaze down at Hera. Tears were entwined in her eyelashes like dew on a spider’s web as she opened her eyelids to look up at him. Her lip quivered with emotion, there was nothing left to be said. Well wishes, and goodbyes didn’t feel like enough. No physical contact would ever feel adequate anymore. He was a part of her and she was a part of him. It was more than enjoying one another’s touch, or bring pleasure to a partner. It was a connection of life.
They had met in a little mining operation, between a planet and moon which the Empire was trying to destroy they two different people. He, a drunken shuttle pilot who cared only about himself, and hiding his past and his heart. She had a been a spy for a budding resistance, focused only on her mission. They had gotten along with one another. They had agreed to work together for the sake of fighting the Empire. The spark of attraction had taken a backseat as their relationship twisted and turned over time into something that they had never experienced with another being.
It didn’t matter if they didn’t sleep in the same bed every night. That they only kissed in private and had sex on an erratic schedule. In one another they had found support, someone who filled the gaps in their fault of character and abilities. They had fought and compromised on the missions they choose, the children they took on and raised. It was a marriage of souls; the Force had tied together and was now ripping them apart.
The future was uncertain. He was going into battle without her, taking Ezra with him to face a Sith threat. There was nothing she could do other than wait and there was nothing he could say to calm her nerves. They were willing to die to make the galaxy a better place, and Kanan was the first to push that promise.
He reached out and wiped away at the tears which had fallen from her eyes. In the distance, the sounds of the base grew louder as they heard Ezra calling out for him. He took the back of her neck in the palm of his hand and pulled down to kiss her once in a soft and quick kiss, as if there would be a thousand more in their lifetime.
Hera nodded at him, her eyes saying the goodbye she could not bring herself to vocalize as they turned to walk back to the ship yard side by side, a foot of space between them. The three Force users were quiet as they boarded the Phantom, a final wordless wave to those who had come to see them off before the hatch shut and the engines roared to life.
The little shuttle rose into the sky and up into the atmosphere and Hera stood, ignoring the sounds around her as the harshest cold she ever experienced washed over her entire body.
Chapter 34: Twilight on Atollon
During Twilight of the Apprentice
Hera walked calmly into the medical…It wasn’t a room, it wasn’t even a tent, it was just an area of the base which had been established and lightly barricaded with crates for privacy. Nevertheless, Hera walked into the area, glancing at the few cots which lay in wait for pilots injured in training or curious cadets attacked by native animals. Only one bed was occupied, two nondescript humans in soft uniforms attending the man. They looked up as she entered ready to salute her in a militaristic manner, but she was in no mood to follow protocol.
“Get out.” She spoke in the voice of a more imposing species.
Wordlessly they scattered past her, pulling along a confused medical droid. She fought the temptation to yell at its befuddled expression, surely the things were programed to understand the different ways grief was processed.
Hera took a step forward. Beside him on a small table was the weapon he once hid. They had taken the armored plates on his shoulder and removed his top shirt to check for additional wounds. His bare chest was dotted with a medley of old and new scars, but the prominent wound was across his face. Gone were the bright eyes she had once fallen in love with. There was just a gash of blackened tissue and deep red pools of congealed blood from the process which had blinded him. Her nose wrinkled at the arid scent of burnt flesh. Two milky pinpricks twitched as she approached and sat down on the edge of the bed next to him.
Her green fingers reached out and brushed against the hairs of his chin running up his emotionless face and into the hair which had been cleaned before the bracers were placed on either side in preparation for a bandage. A tear fell down her cheek as she looked at Kanan. Never again would he look into her eyes, or see the dawn approaching.
He was alive. But…
She jumped as his hand touched hers. “Why are you crying?” As he asked her his dead eyes moved in a miscalculated attempt to look in her direction.
“Because you can’t see.” She replied as his eyes shone boring into an unfathomable future.
“I don’t need to see.” He tried to reassure her.
“But how can you train Ezra, how can you fight…how can you stay….” She couldn’t bring herself to say it. Even if they could afford cybernetic replacements Kanan would never allowed them to be implanted. He’d rather be a broken man than a machine. But if he could not see, what good could be possibly be to a rebel cell.
“I don’t need my eyes.” He said softly as he closed them for the sake of her own comfort “I can feel the Force surrounding everything in the universe.”
She shook her head; his eyes had been replaced with sage wisdom. “I don’t know if that’s enough to convince-”
“I don’t need to convince anybody but you.” He groaned, shifting to sit up. She had prayed for him to return, but the man who had come back from Malachor was broken. His hands reached out searching in the darkness for where she was. “I can still help, I can still fight.”
She was grateful that he was unable to see her doubt. What good could a blind Jedi be to the Rebellion? He could never be what he once was.
She still loved him, she still wanted to be by his side, but she couldn’t be his eyes all the time, not when they were fighting a war. She had a responsibility to those whom she commanded. Hera had never wanted to leave him behind, to let him go. Yet couldn’t be his nurse to guide him through the galaxy.
“In time.” She replied gently. “You will need to learn how to rely on your other senses.”
A empty laugh came from him out of habit. “Are you my doctor now?”
“It will be a process.” She said as she pulled away, standing and kissing the top of his head. A process in which they might not survive, at least not in terms of their relationship. Sight, not death would divide them.
She walked away, hoping he would not reach out and sense her thoughts. “Hera.” He called out, broken and distant. “I still love you.”
She did not turn back to look at him. “I do to.” She whispered just loud enough that he could hear.
“When is our next mission?”
Tears filled her eyes once more. Stubbornly she wanted to yell at him for not understanding. “The Ghost is leaving in the morning, supply run.” Her voice was shaky, they would leave with or without him.
“I’ll...I’ll be ready.”
She couldn’t talk with him anymore. She felt suddenly blind too. “Hera.” He called out waiting her reply, she quickened her pace.
“Hera?” He cried.
She ran. Heart pounding in her chest as she brushed past the confines of the base. Her skin was crawling, her head buzzing as she longed for isolation. She sprinted past the ships and crates, her feet digging into the ground bellow as the markers passed her by. Her lekku hit her back like batons as she ran into the wild desert, creatures scattering away from her until she finally felt her legs give out and collapse into the sand.
Her hands pushed into the hot grains of sand and like a child incapable of concrete thought sound escaped her. Only when her voice was sore did she stop. He was blind, but she felt as scattered as the grains of sand which spread through her green fingers. She pushed deeper into the ground wishing she could find something to quiet the haunting voice in the back of her head.
She loved him, but she would leave him behind if he became a liability. She had become her father.
She stayed until twilight came. Standing only when the sounds of unseen creatures grew threatening. As she dragged her feet in the sand, the lights of camp grew ever closers. She looked up at the distant stars of faraway worlds that glittered peacefully as the growls of nature increased.
Chapter 35: Steps Apart
During Steps into the Shadow
In the months that had passed since Malachor a divide spread between the crew members of the Ghost. At first, Hera believed she was the only one who was able to see the differences but as time dragged on she noticed the glances they received from others. The crew was becoming more willing to split up, to take on missions of their own. Ezra was going off and leading, Hera was training pilots, Sabine was sneaking about, Malachor had changed them all, and not just in appearance.
Feelings were less vivid, laughter less common, and yet they fought harder than they ever had before for what they believed in. They would take down the Empire if it was the last thing they ever did. As she walked through the base she was given salutes, warm gestured and words as she walked looking around the desert until she saw him. Kanan sitting in the sand his head down as he meditated away.
Of all of them, Kanan had been the most changed.
He had become more distant since losing his sight, more ideological and philosophical. He spoke to Ezra differently, trying to pass on his wisdom to a child who was barely listening any more. He spoke to her differently as well, as shell of the man he had been Kanan was twisted and cautious, weary of the world around him which he could only feel.
Kanan was turning away from her, from Ezra, and most importantly from himself. He meditated, he listened to the old Jedi Holocron, he sat in meetings but he didn’t participate. He had only left Chopper base once since losing his eyesight, always finding a reason to stay behind and not join in on the simplest of missions. Hera wasn’t the only one who worried about his wellbeing. They all looked after him in their own way, making sure he ate, he slept, gently supporting him as he began to readjust to the life before him.
The old clone, Rex had been the most help to Hera. He had pulled her aside in the days after the incident, telling her what to expect, what to say the shell-shocked man before her. Even now, months later he still watched over Kanan, the two of them taking on a role which even a year ago Hera would have laughed at. But they were both veterans, damaged and still fighting.
Rex made sure to look after Hera too, having made the correct assumptions about the extent of the relationship she had once had with Kanan. He took on some of the command roles Kanan once did, being the confidant which her Jedi could not be at the moment. Feeding her words and ideas to help get the blind man back on his feet. Even when he was being cautious, sometimes the clone accidentally spoke to her as if she was a widow.
Most days she felt like a widow, the man she had loved had left. She was struggling now to make even the simplest of connections with Kanan. It drove her to tears as she struggled to feel the love which had once flowed so easily between them. Every conversation was now an uphill battle. She still loved him, but it was like trying to revive a plant which was a day away from death. You could give it water and light, bring it back for just a little while longer, but shriveled death was always lurking in its roots.
Hera walked towards him, watching as his head rose. He heard everything now, and yet he never seemed to respond to half of the sounds made around him.
“Hera.” His voice was scratchy from disuse. He only spoke when absolutely necessary for him to make a statement which always seemed coerced.
She took a breath to settle herself, to keep from crying. She wanted to reach out and touch him freely to kiss him gently, but that wasn’t who they were anymore. “I just wanted to let you know that Ezra is going to be leading Sabine, Zeb and Chopper on a mission to get some fuel from an Imperial station.” She spoke in a proper tone which she would use to address a high senator.
His head shifted, but he didn’t look around to face her or give her a smile. She saw the edge of the full beard which he had let grown out and the beginning of the red scar over his eyes for a second. “Thank you.” He replied before turning back to his meditation.
She balled her hand into a fist, unable to say anything else in reply as she turned on her heel walking away quickly. Time would be the only remedy, but she didn’t know how much time they had left or how much she could wait before she broke apart as well.
Chapter 36: Embracing Fate
During Holocrons of Fate
He had to trust himself. It was hard to live as he once had when he could not see. Yet there were no other options, this is what he had been handed. Kanan could either go save Hera and the others, or he could let Maul have what he wanted. That wasn’t an option.
Ezra was attempting to lead the way, to save them all, but Ezra was reckless. He was willing to negotiate with Maul, to compromise. The dark side pulled at him, and now Kanan had less of an influence than even on the boy. He could tell that Ezra though he had outgrown his teachings, it was obvious from the sound of his voice. The child was older, taller, leading missions on his own. He didn’t want to be told what to do. Kanan had never been this defiant to a master, questioning but never defiant. The allure that he and Ahsoka once held over the child had been gone since Malachor.
Maul had called Ezra his apprentice, the words had cut at him as he had been thrown out of the airlock, now struggling to survive he paused to grasp an understanding of his surroundings. The world around him was dark, though he could imagine what things might looked like, picture them off of what he had seen when he still had sight much of the world was unknown to him. Sounds and smells, emotions hanging on the air. His own heart beat was louder than anything else as he tried to steady himself after his near death experience. He stood in the hanger. He had meditated for weeks on end at the base, trying to understand how everything flowed around him, trying to see the world anew. He took a deep breath focusing on that meditative state which he had learned to slip easily into. Ezra was with Maul, no doubt in danger of being corrupted, but he could wait for the time being. His life was not threated.
Hera, she was capable of taking care of herself, but…. A memory flashed before his eyes, Hera on her knees in front of an old smuggler from Ison with a blaster at the back of her head. The memory was a way of understanding the fear that she was in at the moment. He could sense her within the cargo hold of the Ghost with a blaster on her now.
He ran, closer to the ship which felt like home, jumping up top of it. In his dark mind, he was remembering the exterior of the ship as it moved beneath his fingers, climbing up to make his was to the top gun turret and climbing in through the hatch.
He navigated through the darkness of the Ghost. He knew he had changed since losing his sight, he had become less emotional. More willing to go with the flow of events than trying to plan and be disappointed when he had to adapt. Every step he took down the corridors required adaptation as he stopped and listened, trying to get a sense of what was holding Hera and the rest of the Ghost crew captive.
Droids, three of them one for each captive with wheels as bases and arms to carry guns. They were buzzing to themselves in their own language, focused on the helpless captives they had on their knees. He held his breath, taking steps forward only when he was assured of their position. They were preparing to fire to execute. He waited till he heard the air being sliced by raised blasters. Desperation washed over him as Hera, Zeb and Sabine took what they thought would be their last few breaths, regrets running through their minds.
Kanan held his lightsaber in one hand and placed another on the railing as he jumped down. With one effective slice, he tore through the droids.
Hera groan unknowingly as she stood, “Where’s Ezra.” She asked defensively, a mother desperate for her child.
“With Maul, lets go.” He replied ready to turn.
But Hera pulled him into an embrace first. He knew it was her, not just from the smooth skin but from the sensation of completion she seemed to bring out in him. “Thank you.” She whispered in his ear.
He nodded. “Any time.” He replied before they broke free following after Sabine and Zeb who were already running after Ezra.
Chapter 37: Extraction
After the Antilles Extraction
“Welcome to the Rebellion, ha” Kanan whispered into Hera’s ear as Sabine and the two new pilots began to walk away to the make shift barracks, to get them out of the Imperial uniforms and register the two newcomers.
Hera turned to him, her face forming a frown which he could not see. “What's so funny?” She asked him out of the corner of her mouth as they began to walk back towards the Ghost. The ship was a far more comfortable home than any military housing.
He shrugged. “It just seems like a strange line.” He admitted.
She scoffed, “Well what else are we supposed to say?”
“I don't know something more like a welcome to a shortened life span and constant danger.” It was only half a jest. Hera knew that easily from the tone of his voice. She said nothing as they walked up the ramp into the cargo bay of the ship. Slowly he was becoming more and more himself. Hera knew he would never return back to the man he once was, expecting as much was only setting herself up for disappointment but the mere fact that he was using sarcastic jabs was enough for a moment.
The truth in his words bothered her. The life they led now was certainly filled with fear and danger, but it had purpose, or at least they had convinced herself so. She reached out and caught him on the arm, turning him slightly so that she could look into his face. “If you hadn't met me all those years ago, would you be able doing this now? Would you have fought again the Empire?” Her voice was soft but serious.
He could tell that she was fearful of the answer, Kanan let the question sit in the silence of the ship for a moment before he replied, not in a joking tone but a similar gravity. “I assume the Inquisitors would have found me after a while, in surprised Gorse didn't put me in their radar. Hera, you know I was reluctant about this.”
She nodded, he had been reluctant but she never had considered that he wouldn’t have fought at all if it wasn’t for her. It was a blow of sudden guilt, as if she was responsible for everything.
“I didn’t mean to worry you.” He said his own face twisting into sorrow as he reached out and ran a hand up and down her arm in a caring manner. She had forgotten how much better he had become at understanding emotions and minds in the past few months. “I’m glad you showed me a way to fight back. You gave me purpose, just like how we will give those other pilots purpose as well.”
Kanan gave her a reassuring squeeze before he walked away, yet the gesture and his words felt like a half measure which did little to satisfy her.
Chapter 38: Heroes in Our Mind
After Hera’s Heroes
He could hear every little sound in the Ghost. From Zeb snoring, Ezra mumbling over his current dream, to the faint sounds of Sabine painting. The ship hummed around him, the vibrations and pitches a reassurance that everything was still operational and in good working order. Yet there was one sound which brought him a small jerk of alarm each time he heard it. There was one creak over and over again, too random to be mechanical. With a moment of realization, he placed it easily, Hera tossing over in bed.
Kanan’s arm reached out in the darkness feeling for the edges of his bed as he placed his bare feet on the ground. He pulled himself out, standing still as he listened again, worried that someone else might hear him moving. He felt like a child caught out of bed as he shuffled across his room stopping at the door to listening again.
Chopper, he wondered where the droid was. Not that he would care if it saw him, but he has always assumed the astromech had built up a file of blackmail on them both. Surely it had seen and heard their relations over the years, it's logic circuits capable of understanding what was happening between its masters. The droid was to his right, in the cockpit monitoring the ship. Kanan took the three steps forward that were required to be at Hera’s door. He considered barging in, it had been acceptable before, but he hadn't kissed her, touched her purposefully or slept with her since before Malachor. It was his own punishment, feeling as if he was unworthy of surviving the encounter, he had failed Ezra and Ahsoka. He didn't deserve her, though he wanted her.
He raised his hand and knocked, there was a more creaking as inside the cabin as Hera sat up collecting herself wondering who it could possibly be. She thought it was one of the kids, he could sense it from the defensive stance that she'd shifted to. "Come in" She called out wearily, as if she had been asleep.
The door opened. Hera inhaled sharply "Kanan" She gasped, surprised at the sight of him.
He stepped into the room the door closing behind him as he wordless made his way towards her, his arms outstretched to guide him. His foot made contact with something unexpectedly hard "Karabast" He cursed as he bent down hands patting their ground to reach out for the totem on the floor.
She had burned down her family home for the thing. It was a symbolic gesture which frightened him. As he wrapped his hands around it a small nagging voice in the back of his head made him wonder. Would she been so adamant about retrieving the idol if Malachor had gone differently, if he still had his sight?
"Don't-" Hera began in protest, but stopped as he picked it up. It rattled in his hands as his fingers ran over the wooden pieces.
He understood why she wanted it, why now more than ever she was trying to grasp into the family that she had. He had turned away from her, Sabine and Ezra no longer needed her, it was a way for her to remember what she once was. Still it felt strange in his hands, even stranger that it had been on the floor rather than in a place of honor. He turned his head towards her bunk, stretching out his arm and handing her the totem. Hera took it, but her grasp was begrudging. She had thrown it on the floor in frustration.
“Why did you come in?" she asked, hostile as the blind man stood before her.
He shifted on his feet wishing he had more time to figure out how she was feeling. "I heard you tossing about" He said as innocently as he could manage.
She scoffed. He took a step forward and he felt the air around her change to that of surprise. "I know there has been distance between us" He admitted. He wanted to sit down next to her to hold her hand and run his fingers up and down her head tails.
Hera looked down at her hands, at the object which was blazoned into her brain. “I though you needed time to adjust”
“I did… I do.” Everyday there was a new challenge, a new obstacle to overcome since his eyes were taken from him. There was so much he would miss, so much he would never be able to experience in the ways he had taken for granted. He was reminded of his disability in little and surprising ways, he doubted he would never come to a point where he wouldn’t long for what he once had.
Her voice broke, “I'm sorry”
He frowned, still fighting the urge to sit down next to her. He felt as if he was on trial as he stood before her unable to see her expressions to read the movement of her Lekku which he had spent so much time studying. “For what?”
“I don't know how to help you. I don't know what to do. Should I have stayed by your side…or”
He reached out his hand making contact with her shoulder. “Hera”
A sob left her as she placed her hand on top of his own. “Kanan”
“I made mistakes too.” He whispered, the sounds of Sabine next-door ringing in his ear. “I let you walk away from, I couldn't bring myself to... Touch you to love you.”
“I lost my eyes I am still alive” He let out a hollow laugh. He could hear so much around him, he could sense movement and emotions and yet some things, things that had once been easy were now difficult.
In recent weeks, he had been more like himself. Joking laughing, moving around unlike a man disabled.
“Is there a future for us?” She asked the family totem in her hand rattling.
“Of course, there is.” He replied stubbornly.
It rattled once more.
“Be honest” She begged.
He sighed. “I want there to be. I really, really want there to be a future. But, I have to be a Jedi now. Like my master before me. I thought that when I took on Ezra I could avoid it, that we could do things our own way. Malachor showed me how my attachments made me weak. I never understood that before.”
There was a change in her breath, a shaky pause as she tried to steady herself. He could smell the tears as they filled her eyes and dripped down her cheek. “So, this is it then?” Air rattled in her chest as her shoulder rose and fell under his hand. “We’re not… any-”
His hand reached around clumsily to the back of her head as he lowered himself down to her level. He threw himself toward her, hoping he could remember the topography of her as he let go of his rationale and placed his lips upon hers. At first, she pulled back out of shock not having expected him to launch towards her unexpectedly.
“No.” he stammered as he pulled away still holding her head with his hand as he tried to see her, to imagine what she looked like before him. “I need this, I need you. Life is hell without you, Hera.”
“But,” Her breath was hot on his skin, a sensation he had been longing for months.
“I don’t care, I’ve never cared about the rules or about what a Jedi was supposed to be I need this, I need you.” He echoed again. “You keep me sane, you keep me in line, you make me a Jedi.” He muttered wondering if he made any sense as he pulled her head closer to himself once more.
She met him this time, the kiss more intentional as he wrapped his hands around her neck and shoulders. Her own hands were moving too, reminding him about the shape of her, as if he could ever forget it. He fell down to his knees, kneeling before her as his hands moved up and down, drinking her in.
For a long time, they were silent, both of them sitting on the bed and reminding one another of the contact they once had. Feeling each other’s skin, getting used to a new type of contact which would have to take over from the looks and expressions they had once so easily shared. After hours of gentle passion, they fell asleep, arms wrapped around one another.
When Hera awoke hours later she saw the Kalikori lying on the floor once more, fallen aside in their motions. She smiled as she looked at the totem. The Ghost felt like a home again, they were back. Even though her old home on Ryloth was destroyed she has her family, she had Kanan once more.
Chapter 39: Battle of Color
After the Last Battle
In the distance, there was a scuttling of spiders, audible only in the slight pause between the changes from one fast paced song to another. The music was blaring from the rectangular speaker which Zeb had thrown down into the sand, there had already been an hours-worth of argument over the choice of holoradio station before they had even begun.
The old Republic era shuttle sat under the hot sun of the day, as grey and drab as it had been when they had taken it. Sabine was standing with a can of spray paint in one hand and a paint smattered data pad in the other, she was flicking through mock ups with her thumb, Hera turning down every single one of her visions.
“It’s just a bit of color.” She said with a roll of her eyes, becoming increasingly frustrated as her artistic sensibilities were squandered by Hera’s shaking head.
“We don’t want it to be too distinct.” Hera said with a frown.
Ezra and Chopper who had inexplicably chosen to drag the crates of paint through the sand both gave loud grunts of acknowledgement as they joined the rest of the crew. Ezra cleared his throat loudly. “I don’t see why we have to help.”
Hera looked at him incredulously. “Many hands make light work.” She replied airily.
“Um, I’m blind.” Kanan reminded them with a laugh from his seated position next to Zeb.
Hera ignored him. “You may do some stripes, and a few emblems but nothing…”
Sabine rolled her eyes. “Nothing that makes it clear that it is my work.” She replied with a frown.
“We do have an Empire after us.” Kanan muttered wisely.
Sabine blew out her lips, her hair quivering from the ferocity of her breath. “Fine.” She said flatly. “You can all help with giving the new Phantom a white base.” She remarked with a wave of her hand as she twirled the can of paint in her hands and began to almost angrily spray away at the old metal before her rage subsided into focus over her work.
Within no time, they had covered the old shuttle with a fresh white base, and soon Sabine was mixing colors and laying out markings for accent lines with a finer brush. Ezra, Zeb, Hera, even Chopper had simply followed her few directions as they set about painting the desert.
After an hour, there was another argument. “Heraaaa.” Sabine let out in a low moan “Come on…” She said gesturing to the position she wanted. “Just let me finish on my own. Surely the rest of you could be doing more important work than this. I mean…. Kanan is just sitting in the sand.”
The Jedi’s brows lifted at the mention of his name. “I am providing moral support.” He deadpanned. His snapped up as he sniffed the air. He pulled himself to his feet and moved to the nose where Ezra had been taking his time making a yellow stripe. “Stop throwing paint on one another.” He added to both Ezra and Chopper who were visibily covered in dots of paint.
The ferocity of Ezra’s latest stroke placed some in his master’s beard as he tried to combine the gesture with a plotted wave of his hand. “We’re not throwing paint.” He said almost trying to convince the other man.
“I can hear it.” Kanan replied flatly.
Chopper whistled melodically “Choppers says you can’t hear paint.” Ezra replied.
Sabine looked back at Hera incredulously. “You see what I-“ Her head snapped around. She had been watching them all with sharp eyes. “Zeb, what are you doing?” She screeched as Zeb brushed his fur into the blue tipped wings.
“I need to get up to the exhaust port to-” he gestured to what Hera had told him.
Her hands flew to the side of her face in frustration. “Let it dry first.” She yelled at him. “You’re getting fur marks in the paint.” She said remarking to the blue streaks now in his purple fur. “That’s it.” She yelled her hand on her hips and her face in a Heraesque frown. “Leave now. Chopper drag them away if you have too.”
“Huh.” Was all that Hera managed to escape from her own throat before Sabine reached for her blaster.
“I’ll follow your directions. Just go.” She commanded through a chuckle. They scrambled to their feet leaving her with the peace and quiet she so badly wanted.
Chapter 40: Commandos Command
After Imperial Supercommandoes
“Sabine get down here right now.” Hera stated looking up at the sky with her arms crossed fully over her chest.
The woman had been playing with the jetpack which she had restored for hours. Swooping in and out of the natural terrain of Atollon. But Hera and Kanan had only just discovered the younger crewmates out in the confines of the desert, searching for them after growing suspicious of the silence.
Ezra was sitting in the sand his knees pulled up to his chin as he looked up at her almost wistfully as she flew in and out fire roaring behind her. A shriek of pure joy would escape her lips, flying was almost playful to her, a small moment to be a child in the middle of the war. Ezra understood the freedom which she was feeling, it was something he had grown up with, now he was wishing he too had a Mandalorian jetpack so he could join her.
But Hera did not seem to either understand or try to comprehend their desire for childish whims. Her arms pulled tighter across her chest as she looked up at them, her frown deepening. She was worried, annoyed that Sabine would be so careless just to simply test out the jetpack by using it after she had rebuilt it. What if it were to fail and she ended up falling to her death just like that, it was dangerous and seeing Sabine in needlessly dangerous situations made her hair stand on edge. Of course, nearly all the same things could be said about her and flying star ships.
Hera turned to nudge Kanan in the arm sharply. “Kanan tell her to stop playing with that jetpack and get down here.”
He laughed at her nagging. “She is an adult Hera, she can make her own decisions.” He replied with a wiry smile.
Yet Hera was not amused. She placed her hands comically to the side of her mouth, “If you break something young lady I am stranding you on this rock with no Bacta.” Hera called out in warning.
Sabine let out a sharp chuckle as she did a few more rolls and flips in the air. Chopper who had come with the pair let out a mechanical whine and fired up his own booster joining her in the air. The pair danced around one another easily.
Seeing that she wasn’t going to win Hera huffed and turned to walk away. Ezra smiled menacingly. “Can I have a turn when she is done?” He called out sarcastically in a childish tone.
Hera rolled his eyes tapping him lightly on the head as she walked past. “No.” She joked knowing that Sabine would never part with her blessed jetpack in the first place.
Chapter 41: Iron Resolve
After Iron Squadron
Hera was impressed with how Ezra had been able to convince the young rebels of the Iron Squadron to admit their need for help and work with others. She knew firsthand how the emblazoned righteousness of youth could make compromise difficult. It had taken her time for her to adjust to working with others, she had seen the same struggle with her crewmates as well. But she was impressed at how Ezra had been good a talking with Mart convincing him to see the larger galaxy beyond his own small problems.
It was only a few more fighters in a battle against an army which overpowered them easily, but any gains were ones that she was willing to take.
The door to the cockpit opened as she turned her head to see Kanan coming through. The Ghost was becoming increasingly more crowded, as soldiers came and went accompanying the ship on its missions. Weeks would go by before the original core crew of specters occupied the ship. She was beginning to adjust, to cherish the moments she had with her family rather than squandering them.
Kanan moved to sit down in the chair across from her, lounging out comfortably. She was glad that he was unable to see the bitter smile on her face. She hated being away from him the most, every time they parted she worried that she was never going to see him again. She didn’t even allow herself to daydream about what the future might hold anymore, tomorrow was as far ahead as she was willing to look.
“The kids becoming quite the leader, making good decisions thinking of others.” He mused aloud to himself as stroked at the point of his beard.
“I know.” She replied confidently.
“Who the hell would have thought that?” He remarked. Seeing Ezra, or any of them evolve into something more than a gang of scoundrels a few levels of morality higher than pirates seemed inconceivable.
Hera raised an unseen eyebrow, allowing her silence to answer the rhetorical.
“Don't say you predicted that.” He barked at her.
To say that she had predicted it would have been a lie. Perhaps seen the potential was more of a correct statement. Then again, she was worried greatly by the possibilities in all of them. The influence of Maul, on both Kanan and Ezra, was impossible to ignore. The clash of Mandalore had the possibility to pull Sabine away from them. Zeb knew of his race’s sanctuary planet out in wild space, he had little motivation not to return. Other than Chopper, who she wouldn’t be surprised if the droid was mauled by AP-5 any day now, there was the very real possibility that her family was slipping through her fingers. She could try and pull them all in, give them reasons to stay but it seemed fruitless, selfish when she had built a life of being selfless.
Kanan cleared his throat. She jumped having forgotten that she was next to him, she turned her head to see his quizzical lower jaw. She wondered why he chose to almost always wear the blinder across his face, it was obvious to the rest of the world that he was blind, and yet he hid the scar as if for the sake of not scaring others. Still it was half of his face that she didn’t get to see anymore.
“Hera?” He called out questioningly, reaching out to place a reassuring hand on her knee.
She wondered how much if any of her thoughts he had been able to read. “What’s your next mission?” She asked him as she reached down to entwine her fingers in his. “Another supply run.”
He shook his head. “I’m home for the time being.”
“Good.” She breathed not asking when he would leave again.
Chapter 42: Job Mentors
During the Wynkahthu Job
“I know what you are doing, but Ezra has to learn for himself that Hondo is not the friend he appears to be.”
Hera turned back around focusing on flying the ship as she stewed silently coming up with a retort. She was taken aback by the child’s willingness to trust. It wasn’t a quality she would have expected to come from someone who had grown up fending for himself. It didn’t matter how much they warned him, it appeared as if the only way Ezra would ever learn was to be burned, she just hoped he wouldn’t be too hurt by Hondo.
“I mean is this really the best way to parent him?” He added after she said nothing.
She scoffed haughtily, “I'm blaming you for the bad role models."
“Oh, come on,” He said in a snide defensive. “It’s not all my fault he was an orphaned street rat when he first met him. It the only life he has ever known.”
Hera rolled her eyes at him as she punched away at navigation panels. “You’re the one who teaches him.” She replied sarcastically.
He laughed once, knowing that while she was peeved, she wasn’t nearly as bothered as her tone suggested. It was just another way of taunting him playfully. “If I could teach him everything I would.” He added mockingly.
She let out a deep giggle and he could sense that she was smiling at him. Behind them AP-5 was droning on in the corridor in his flat unsettling tone the dull voice growing louder as the droid shuffled towards them with a report. The droid had just left them. They never seemed to have a moment to themselves anymore.
She stood up so that she could catch the droid in the hallway where its plan could be mercifully overheard by those who it was intended for. She reached out placing a hand on Kanan’s shoulder as she bent down to peck him on the cheek. “Well then thank the stars, I’m here.” She mocked before she kissed him swiftly on the cheek once more
Chapter 43: Inside Voices
After An Inside Man
He felt her sit down on the bed beside him. Sometimes it bothered him that he would never be able to see her again. He wouldn't see the lines of worry set in around her eyes with passing age or the scars of war slowly mark her skin. It nagged a him, a peculiar form of guilt which scratch at his belly. But in other times he rejoiced that every time he heard her voice the image that flashed in his memory was a youthful woman slowly becoming a goddess in his mind.
But today he would have given anything just to see her facial expression. At the moment she was still beside him. He expected her to say something about how she was grateful he was still alive after the close escape from the factory on Lothal, instead she began to laugh. Laughter so loud and pure that her whole body was shaking against his. "I just can't believe it." She said between the bursts of chuckles.
Perhaps this was her way of breaking down, but he knew Hera was stronger than that. "Kallus." She said finally. "Kallus is fulcrum."
Kanan began to laugh to finding it just as funny as she did as well. "I know."
"I mean for years he has chased after us..." She giggled "And now…"
He could imagine her smile as she laughed. In his mind, he was picturing an earlier time after Gorse when she had laughed at him for letting Chopper convince him that a fresher was really an escape pod. it was a pure laughter, a laugh that simpler times afforded them.
"I know." He replied as he pulled her in close. She was still shaking. "Be quiet someone will hear you." He whispered at her almost tempted to add the childhood scalding reminder of using an inside voice.
There was a small sniffle as she took a gasping breath trying to center herself. Her nose had begun to run as tears of laughter fell down her cheeks. She let out a long meditative sigh. "I almost feel bad for the man."
He frowned, taken aback by her caring tone. "How could you feel bad for Kallus?"
"He has to work behind the Empire's back, against Thrawn's back." She paused. Silently he had to agree that she was right. Lying to Thrawn's face while trying to help the Rebellion was certainly an honorable act of devotion to the Alliance. Why the ISB Agent would feel compelled to do as such was still half a mystery. Kanan still wasn’t convinced that it was a new type of elaborate trap that the Empire was establishing to determine who their enemy was.
“Spies don’t normally have a long lifespan.” She added gently.
“I think the only person in the galaxy who has a long lifespan is the Emperor himself.” He felt Hera shiver beside him at the joke. She vibrated in laughter once more. “Just imagining it is funny. Did it look funny?”
He scoffed. “No, it looked rather dark.” He shot back sarcastically.
Hera cringed. “Sorry, I still forget from time to time.”
“So, do I.” He whispered as he reached up and removed the mask. He was getting better at moving around like he had when he still had sight at navigating new locations. Yet there were still moments when he wished he could see, particularly when Hera was right next to him.
He had memorized her face years ago, but the realization that he would never see it change was hard to swallow. Even now as he reached up to run his hands across her skin he still expected there to be changes. He leaned into her on the bed, feeling the warm sensation spread across him as her Lek rapped itself around his arm in a gesture of deep intimacy.
Yet even though they were closely entwined with one another their minds were buzzing with serious matters. “It could help a great deal.” Hera said softly. “Having someone like that on the inside.” It already had helped, the information that had been passed on from Kallus had in ways been better that what Ahsoka had managed.
“I know you’re right.” Her Lekku twitched in what he interpreted as self-satisfaction. “But trust is a tricky slope.”
Chapter 44: Voices in the Night
After Visions and Voices
She was already half asleep by the time they came back into the ship from their mission to Dathomir. Hera could hear their voices clearly in the hallway as they whispered, cautious to not disturb anyone, even though those who lay awake were curious as to what had happened on the planet.
“Here take it.” The young woman said.
“Are you sure?” Kanan asked confused. The confusion in his tone caught her attention more than anything as she was unable to see what was being passed between them.
“Just take it.” Sabine replied more forcefully before the door to her own room shut with a soft whoosh.
Kanan groaned out of frustration and another door shut in the hallway. Hera rolled over in her bed waiting for the third door, she would have to wait a few more hours to learn what had happened. The winds of Atollon howled against the sides of the Ghost as Hera closed her eyes still waiting for the inevitable door.
But the sound that came was closer, less muffled as light poured into her cabin. She turned her head to see the silhouette of Ezra standing in her doorway.
His shadow seemed shaken, less like the polish young man he had become and more like the floppy haired child she had taken in years ago. He shook slightly as he cleared his throat.
“I just wanted to say…” He was clearly tired, unaware of sleep pulling on him. Yet his throat gave another emotional clearing sound, as he took advantage of the emotional moment to say something which he rather would not. “I just wanted to say thank you for everything.”
She pulled herself up frowning at him, wanting to ask him more probing questions but he turned away not giving her the chance as her door closed and his opened and shut. She sat up, now thoroughly puzzled. Sabine was defensive, Ezra was suddenly thoughtfully, Kanan was flustered. Her instincts were telling her to both rush to their sides and comfort them as well as leave them to their own devices.
Hera leaned back in her bunk letting her head hit the sides of the metal as she listened for a clue in what to do. But there was nothing other than the movement of feet and restless bodies. Tomorrow she told herself as she pulled herself down under the blankets closing her eyes and wondering how long it would be before sleep wrapped around her again.
Her cabin door opened again.
She sat up again. “What-” she began in protest but stopped as she saw the shape of Kanan walking towards her. His armor already pulled off, the mask removed from his face. Silently he said nothing as he strode towards her and moved deftly to crawl over her and into the bed.
She shifted as his body fell onto the hard mattress alongside her. His breath was still uneven, his hands were shaky. He was still bothered as he wrapped his arm around her. She waiting until his back was pressed up against the wall as he hugged at her before she craned her neck to look at his milky white eyes.
His hand ran up and down her arm. Her skin was soft like the surface of water but it wasn’t without imperfections. Little bumps and scars which dotted the smooth landscape yet seemed to work harmoniously rather than disrupt it. “Maul.” He breathed while still running his hand up and down her bare arm.
It wasn’t a good enough answer. “What about him. Is his connection to Ezra severed? Did they learn what they needed to?”
Kanan knew now that the boy’s connection to the Zabrak would not be severed until one of them was dead. The former Sith had a draw on the child which was terrifying. He cast a spell over Ezra clouding his judgement and morals. The terrifying thing was that Ezra assumed he was in control, he was too blind to see that he was being played.
“For now.” Kanan replied as he pulled her in closer. They were playing with forces which were far greater than themselves. They assumed they could contain them, but it was a lie they told themselves to make it easier to sleep. He and Sabine had nearly been lost for good to the magic of the Nightsisters, every step they took towards progress and understand just took them deeper into an ocean which never ended.
Hera frowned at him, his words making no sense. He was too rattled to talk, to bothered to explain what had happened. Her own desire for answered questions could wait for a time in which they could all speak freely. She only understood clearly his need to be close to her, and she gave no objection as he clung tightly towards her.
Her own hand slipped onto his, a comforting presence to remind him that he was beside someone who loved him. Yet he seemed so cold and far away from her she feared as if he would slip away from her, like he had when he had first lost his sight.
The door opened once more “Sabine.” Hera said as she sat up, trying to mask with her body the man behind her.
The Mandelorian took half a step forward, Hera reached for the sheets fearful that after all these years they would be discovered. Yet Sabine was in the same daze the rest of them were, and she quickly stepped back as if regretting her choice to come into the room in the first place.
“I um….” She stammered her hand gripping at the side of the door. The light inside of Hera’s cabin had not yet been triggered by her motion and if Sabine stayed the doorway the couple would remain in the darkness.
“Yes?” She asked in a pleading voice wishing that someone would give her an answer about what happened.
Yet Sabine looked broken, her face almost in tears her body quivering. Hera felt compelled to get out of her bed and embrace the girl. Yet a shiver ran through her as she felt Kanan’s hand running up and down her back, forsaking the presence of the other woman and tempting her back to him. The Twi’lek let out a shivering gasp as she peered into the face of the trouble woman before her. “Sabine?” She asked gently
Sabine’s head turned away as her shoulders fell, unable to look Hera in the eye. “I just want to….” Her words were echoing that of Ezra’s moments earlier. Again questions ran into Hera’s mind as she wondered why everyone was being so kind and generous to her. “Thank you, for staying by my side. For making sure that I am alright.” Her tone was faint and childlike.
Hera leaned forward, away from the pulling fingers of Kanan to look at the outline of the woman. “You’re welcome.” She replied. Before clearing her throat. “Do you want to talk about what happen on your mission.”
Sabine shook her head. “No.” She replied firmly. “I’m just glad to be with people who won’t leave me behind.”
Hera wanted to reach out and touch her, to comfort the girl who had so many troubles expressing the most basic of emotions to those close to her. But even as the motherly thought ran across her mind the girl was gone and the door had shut.
Hera sat on the bed confused as Kanan wrapped his arms around her waist as he pulled her back down to lie beside him.
“Kanan what the hell happened?” She asked desperate to know the answers, not for the sake of fulfilling her own curiosity but rather of helping the rest of them through an event which had rattled them.
“Shh.” He shushed her as he pulled her closer, his desperate grasp like flames wrapping around her. “Please, just let me have this moment.”
Hera nodded, falling silent as they fell asleep. In the days to come she would learn of their possession, of the inexplicable that they had faced. Every day it was becoming more and more clear that no matter what they did their were powers far beyond their control which could end their life as they led it in a matter of minutes. All they could do was grasp onto what they had for the time being.
Chapter 45: Ghosts of Futures Past and Beyond
After Ghosts of Geonosis
“You have to make sacrifices.” Saw said in a booming voice as he pounded his fist against the table.
Out of the corner of her eyes she saw Rex shaking his head. Hera was surprised by the action. She hadn’t expected the clone to disagree with the fellow warriors’ point of view. The two men had been close back during the Clone Wars, she didn’t think she was the only one to see the divide which had grown between them.
“At the end of the day your life is only valuable to the cause.” Saw continued on as the others sat in the lounge, the rest of the crew only looking like they half agreed with the extreme tactics. “Now on Barabi…”
Rex suddenly yet politely pushed away from his position against the wall and brushed past heading down the corridor and slipping down the ladder into the cargo bay. Hera watched him move with a perplexed expression on her face. Without warning she made the choice to follow him after another moment or two.
Hera climbed down into the cargo bay to see the old man shifting through the crates, his armored shoulders rising up and down with anger. He turned his head as he heard her gentle footfalls giving her a small warm smile.
“Capitan.” He said casually as he turned back to sorting through the few crates of weapons they had.
Hera approached her face quizzical as she looked at him wondering what was on his mind. “Gerrera has quite the personality.”
A harrumph escaped. “You can say that again.” Rex replied gruffly.
Her eyes narrowed, it was almost like the old man was throwing a tantrum in direct contradiction to the old military man she would have assumed he would have gotten along with. “Is something wrong?” She asked, afraid that she had crossed over a line in asking him about his emotions.
He turned and looked at her. He really was a great big hulking thing, but the white beard seemed to soften him into a kind a giving figure. He smiled at her bitterly as he put down the grenades in his hands and looked down at her. “I lived through that war too. I know you did too-”
“But I was a child.” She said, finishing the argument which she assumed he would being.
He shook his head. “I was made for that war.” He corrected her. Hera blinking knowing just how right he was. He ushered her over with a wave of his hand, making a patting motion for the Twi’lek to sit beside him. She complied, smiling at the paternal air which Rex assumed when he was talking to her and Kanan. It was nice to have someone to tell them what to do every now and then.
Rex gave a deep sigh as he looked into her green eyes. “Saw Gerrera knows a lot about warfare.” He began
She smiled. “But you don’t always agree with him.”
“You should never fully agree with someone.” He said smiled, knowing that such a level of complacency put you on level with a droid. “But the way he views other people… the desire to be completely unattached.” He trailed off, yet still making it clear that he disapproved.
Hera cleared her throat, “I think my father is a lot like Saw in that way. He saw my mother and I as unnecessary attachments when he was trying to lead a revolt.”
“Hera.” He frowned at her, both disfavoring in that she had made such a judgement call and that she was correct in her assessment of Cham Syndulla.
“It doesn’t bother me, anyway it’s true. I ran away, it made life better for all of us, but not being there.” It wasn’t a lie either, if given a second change she doubted her father would have even decided to have children or a marriage if he had known how long the war was going to last.
Rex was still shaken that she would think as such. “But thinking that?”
“That was the Jedi way, wasn’t it?” Hera shrugged. “They both got along great with the Jedi” She laughed at the truth of the men who had admired the knights for being larger saviors than they really were.
Something twitched in Rex’s eyes as he looked at her “But it’s not Kanan's way.” He corrected her softly.
“No, it’s not.” Though at times it had been her way.
The silence hung between them for a long while as the Ghost continued to provide a soundtrack for the thoughts which they kept internalized as they hid from Saw Gerrera’s rantings. They couldn’t stay down here forever, but it was enough of an escape that sat in awkward silence as the ship moved though hyperspace back to base.
“You know,” Rex said interrupting the silence. “I saw a lot of things during the Clone War and in the aftermath.” He added sagely. “Some things I never reported to command.”
Hera frowned at him, surprised that he would have taken such an action, she had always imagined the clones to be unwaveringly righteousness until the moment they turned on the Jedi. “Like what?” She asked curiously.
“I met a deserter once.” He left her hanging watching as a frown bloomed across her face. The punishment for a clone deserting their service was sure to be death, but the punishment for coming across and not reporting a deserter had to also have been dire. Immediately it made her wonder what had caused Rex not to report his wayward brother.
“Why didn’t you report it?” He had been waiting for that question with a strange grin.
His large shoulders rose and fell as he readied for his ramble. “The clone I came across had begun a new life as a farmer. He had married a Twi’lek, had two children with her. I couldn’t do that to him, I couldn’t take apart a family. So, I let them be. I didn’t make them sacrifice a family for the sake of war.” He said in a spitting tone which mocked Saw. “I’ve wondered from time to time what happened to them, if they survived the Clone War, if they survived through the rein of the Empire. But I’ve always been too... I’d rather imagine that they are safe and happy than learn elsewise.” He paused his brown eyes meeting her own. “Did you know that? That humans and Twi’leks were… biologically compatible?”
He paused allowing the information to sink in to her mind. Hera read his face easily, he believed he was telling her something which she did not know. He had not spoken in a tone which made it not sound like he condescendingly telling her a statement about her race, but rather it was a subtle push. A roundabout way of saying: by the way, it’s possible.
Hera was more taken aback. As she continued to look at his knowing smile she found herself brought to tears at the clone’s sweet intention of pushing the pair together for eternity with the possibility of children. The fact that he would try and do that for them....
She had waited too long to respond, and she felt too awkward to try and raise a hand to her face to wipe away at the beginnings of tears. Hera cleared her throat, combating his kind gesture with sarcasm. "I would have assumed they bred clones to be sterilized?”
He laughed at her. “I thought that too.” He replied, but his smile quickly fell. “The Jedi treated us far more like… they treated us with the same respect they gave all beings. When most people viewed us as not much more different than battle droids. They saw us that way not because they felt they had too, they didn’t have to heal our wounds, but they did it because it was who they were.” He paused, looking down at his hands before running a large hand across his bald head. She assumed there was far more in the loyalty the Jedi had to their army which he was not telling her, but she wasn’t going to push him.
Rex’s eyes fluttered upwards to the level above them where the rest of the crew was. “You don’t have to put your life on hold just because there is a war. A family, children, it’s all possible, even if your parents didn’t set the best example for you. If you wanted that… there is a way Hera.”
She blinked away at her unexpected tears as she reached out and place a hand on his knee. “I already have a family Rex.” She said breathlessly. “Three rule breaking children and two maniacs droid.” She said as she pointed up above her with her free hand. Not that she hadn’t thought about what he was suggesting either.
A child with Kanan, a biological child with him. If they had been less careless in the past it certainly would have happened. Perhaps they should have been careless, it was a thought which ran across her mind from time to time. There was a tinge of regret that they had let such an opportunity pass them up, choosing rather to be reckless adventures. They had only ever imagines a future in which their fight against the Empire was easier, rather than harder.
For the time being they had silently agreed that the moment had passed, they were too involved in the war to worry about such things. The future was dark and clouded, and Hera had to admit that she knew a happy ending for them likely wasn’t the will of the Force.
“I guess you’re right.” Rex replied with a smile, but something about his expression made it seem as if he considered that he had failed in his attention.
“Rex.” She said as she squeezed at his knee. “I’m not sacrificing the life I want so that I can fight. Neither are you, neither are any of us on the Ghost. I promise you that this is what I… this is what we want.” She stopped herself of saying Kanan’s name. Even if the old man knew about their relationship saying it aloud to him still seemed like a violation of how the pair conducted themselves.
Rex nodded, he had seen in the way the various ways attachments and twisted individuals, clones, Jedi and all other sorts. “As you long as you are happy.” He said again in a fatherly manner which made her smile.
“I am.” Hera replied. “As happy as I can be.” She stood up clapping him on the shoulder. “I bet you have more interesting war stories than Saw.” She remarked with a smile.
“I do. But I think I am going to stay down here for a while. You go, be with your family.” Rex said watching her proudly as she made her way back up the ladder to the upper level.
Chapter 46: Warhead Hotheads
She couldn’t remember if training pilots had always been this hard. Maybe it was the fact that she had never really trained anyone before in the finer points of flying, or maybe that with Zeb, Ezra and Sabine her patience had a long length. But with the new recruits…
Hera found herself yelling more, she found herself becoming more and more frustrated with every small break of protocol or interruption. It was as if there was no end in sight, no matter how much she taught, how much she tried to communicate to them how important the formations and protocols were in their survival against a larger enemy they never seemed to understand.
She sank down next to Kanan at the table, resting her head against the Dejarik board. He let out a chuckle and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Is this what it feels like every day with Ezra?” Her muffled voice asked him.
“In the beginning, definitely. Now…. Every other day.” He replied wirily.
She groaned, at least Ezra was just one person. The chances of them taking in another Force sensitive child were slim, she was going to be training new pilots until the war was over and then some.
“It’s a thankless job.” Kanan said honestly. “One you pushed me into.” He added with a spiteful jab at her back.
She turned over her shoulder and scoffed, making a face which he could not see but did wonders to help her mood.
Hobbie and Wedge, who had docked with the Ghost for the time being as they stretched their legs and chopped down on nutrition bars made their way through the lounge as they emerged from the small galley.
Wedge was gesturing dramatically as he told a tale “And then I say…” Wedge began as he gestured to his head as if he was pulling a covering over it. “My hood’s so big I’m like Emperor Palpatine over here.”
Hera giggled at the comment a mental image coming to mind as she looked at the young man.
“We got her to laugh.” Wedge said as he pointed at Hera who was barely chuckling to herself. “Hobbie we got her to laugh.” He said as he looked at his friend with joy.
She didn’t see what was so special about it. She laughed all the time, or at least she thought she did. Did those under her in Phoenix squadron really see her as a stone statue who never thought anything was funny? The idea passed through her mind as she continued to laugh for a few moments as the pair high fived one another at the victory of getting her to laugh. She needed to lighten up, no one would be willing to learn from a dour and strict teacher.
“All right,” Hera said mocking them both. “You’ve seen me laugh before.” She added, wondering if they truly had.
Yet before either man could attempt to correct her Ezra was sticking his head into the room. “Zeb’s says we need to head back to base, it’s an emergency.” He added before his head disappeared once more.
Hera stood up, the smile falling quickly from her face as she looked at the two pilots. “Get to your ships.” She commanded them as she began to move towards the cockpit. “Ezra can we contact him back?” She asked as she continued to walk, reminded starkly of the job she had to do.
Chapter 47: Trials of Will
This takes places before, during and after Trials of the Darksaber. I feel that this is episode provides the most nuanced and in-depth insight to the family dynamics of the Ghost so far in the series so I have taken the liberty of including a fair bit of dialogue from the episode itself. Enjoy!
“So you’re taking them on a camping trip?” Hera asked as she looked at the supplies which Ezra was placing in the speeder under Kanan’s supervision. It was enough to last them a few weeks out in the desert.
“No” Kanan replied as he gestured at Ezra to hurry up.
“It looks like it.” She corrected him.
He turned, his body language hostile as he replied. “We need to train somewhere isolated”
She raised her brow, “You never did that with Ezra.”
An exasperated sigh escaped his lips. “Hera….” He said tensely as he stroked at beard.
“Fine.” She said raising her hands in surrender as she stepped away. She had to let him try and train Sabine with the darksaber in the manner which he thought was correct. Yet she had opinions, strong ones on the right and wrong ways to get across to the girl. Kanan was trying to compensate for the mistakes he had made with Ezra, but he critically failed to recognize that Sabine was a different situation. “How long do you think you will be?” She asked softly.
“However long it takes.” He snapped at her.
“Kanan.” She scaled him, praying that he would never use that tone with Sabine or else the girl would never want to learn.
He hopped into the passenger seat of the speeder as Ezra finished putting in the last crate. “Sabine let’s go.” He yelled and the girl came running, her helmet masking her own reluctant expression as she hopped into the back of the speeder. “We’ll be in touch.” He stammered as they sped off.
Hera stood, her arms folded across her chest, knowing that with their current attitudes not much would get accomplished.
Kanan wanted to kick something out of anger. The problem was he didn’t have the ability to see what was what. He could mistakenly take of his anger of a power generator rather than a camp stove and destroy the small camp they had built. Instead he settled down on sitting in the sand, his body in a meditative position as his mind did anything but.
Teaching Ezra had been difficult, teaching Sabine was daunting.
She assumed that she knew everything, that practice was beneath her. She didn’t want to be taught a new way of doing something, she didn’t want to consider an alternative. She fought back with every step, every breath she took. She didn’t want to be there, she didn’t want the darksaber and Kanan was tempted to take it away from her. He didn’t want to put in the effort if she was going to be hostile, he might as well pass her off to Ezra. It would be useful if he knew how to teach as well.
The sand was as restless beneath him as he was. It had been days, and the progress was painfully slow. A familiar feeling washed over him, one that he had not felt in years. The desire to have someone to tell him what to do. In the early months of training Ezra, he had longed for someone wiser to lead them both, he had suddenly realized what the point of the old Jedi council had been. He was longing someone who knew more than him, Ahsoka, Obi-Wan Kenobi…. Someone, but there was no time to find some else.
He stood up, pacing the ridge would be the better option than sitting still. It made him feel that he was productive at something as Sabine and Ezra trained bellow.
His commlink gave a beep and he picked it up, sensing the earful of condiment he would get from Hera about her ideas on teaching Sabine. “I read you Hera.” He said calmly, even though he was tempted to lash out at her again. That would do nothing other than sour his relationship with her as well.
“It’s been a couple of days. I wanted to see how things are going.”
“Uh slowly.” He groaned in frustration “Ezra’s still taking her through the basic forms with the training sabers.”
“Training sabers? You mean those sticks you and Zeb made?” Her bewilderment and disapproval was clear in the tone she used with him.
“I’m being careful.” He countered trying to sound wise rather than afraid.
But Hera had always been able to call him out of his bluffs when no one else could. “Were you careful with Ezra? I don’t remember him fighting with a stick.” She said derisively.
It took great effort not to snap at her. “Well, maybe I’m trying to do things differently this time.”
“Or maybe because she doesn’t have the Force, you don’t believe she can do this?”
Once again Hera’s defensive wit had hit upon the truth of his thoughts and fears. He didn’t think she could do it, he didn’t sense that she wanted to wiled the darksaber, and yet he still tried.
“No. The Force resides in all living things.” He corrected her “But you have to be open to it. Sabine is blocked. Her mind is conflicted. She’s so expressive and yet so tightly wound. She’s so….”
“Mandalorian.” Hera replied with the perfect sentiment of how cultural upbringing could so sharply mold someone.
He groaned. “Very.” He said in agreement imagining her smile.gi
“I’ll be sending out supplies. Is there anything specific that you need?” She asked, part of her wishing that he would ask her to come out to the camp herself.
“Patience, understanding….” He trailed off, beginning to laugh at his frustrations. At least he had someone to confide in, at least Hera did her best in trying to supporting the decisions he made. He wasn’t alone in the universe when he had her as a partner.
“Hmm, I’ll see what I can do.” Hera paused, thinking. “What if she had someone else to pass her judgement and frustration on? That way you and Ezra aren’t taking the blunt of her anger.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think you coming out will be a help. Besides you have things to do at base.”
Hera clicked her tongue. “What about a fellow Mandalorian, Fenn Rau? He might give a more rational view of her mindset at the moment.”
His shoulders fell as he listened to Ezra trying to correct Sabines grip down below and her sharp protests. “It’s worth a try.”
“I’ll send him out with the supplies tomorrow.” Hera said gently as the faint beeping on her end of the line increased in volume.
“You’re welcome, love.”
“Thank you, Fenn.” The hologram of Hera said as she turned at the Mandalorian giving him a warm smile. “For all the help you have been giving Kanan.” She meant in honestly, but she was too weary to make sure that her voice sounded as such.
He shrugged “Anything I can do to help. I’m sure Sabine will come around in time.” He replied in a chipper tone before her turned away to allow the pair some privacy.
Kanan sighed as he imagined Hera crossing her arms and frowning at him. “This is taking too long.”
Hera shook her head. “It’s taking just as long as it needs to.” She replied gently.
Kanan kicked at the ground in frustration. “It’s just so hard.” He exclaimed. The frustration ebbed and flowed within him, subduing down in the hopeful moments, and then washing over and drowning him in times like this, when Sabine had literally run away.
“Teaching Ezra wasn’t easy, but you did it well. I’m sure you’ll find a way to get through to Sabine.” She was supportive, but it didn’t feel like enough.
“It’s not the same Ezra was eager to learn.” He laughed. “Sometimes too eager. I was the one who was holding him back.”
“And that’s not what you’re doing now?” She asked suspiciously
“No” He said defensively.
“And yet you still won’t let her train with the darksaber.”
She disagreed with his methods, it was clear from the telling tone of her voice. They had never disagreed on how to teach Ezra, why was everything so much harder now that it was Sabine whom he was training.
“Look Sabine is a capable warrior.” Kanan began defensively. “In some ways more so that Ezra, but she can’t… or won’t find balance within herself. Until she does, wielding an actual lightsaber is far too dangerous for her.” Couldn’t Hera see that he was trying to protect her, that was all he was doing. He didn’t want Sabine to get hurt, for Ezra to get hurt. He was trying to protect them all, he wanted to yell at her for not being able to see that.
Yet Hera continued to disagree. “By letting her pretended with that stick, you’re only encouraging her not to commit to this.”
“You’re not listening to me.” Why wasn’t she listening to him? Why was this the argument which was putting them at odds when there was a war to be fought? “If I let her use the darksaber she will get hurt.”
“She’s already hurt.” Hera exclaimed passionately. “Her family hurt her more than any sword could. You don’t see it because she doesn’t want you to.”
“But you can?” He doubted her confidence in understanding the ways of the Force and lightsabers.
“Because I know what it’s like when people you love don’t believe in you.” She cried out. Her father had never believed in her. She had done everything to prove him wrong and yet even as an adult it still felt as if it was never enough. She would never fly fast enough or smart enough to win his true praise.
“When they let you walk away.” She had loved her father because that was what children did. Yet when she left he had never come after her, never tried to take her back home. She had dreamed in her teenaged years of her father collecting her and taking her back to Ryloth as he asked for her forgiveness because he loved her, he always loved her and never wanted her to leave his side.
“Remember how hard it was for her to trust us.”
He paused, she had been a skittish child on the run from the Empire. Sabine had ben stubborn and unwilling to allow others to care for her. “Hmm… so what do you want me to do?”
“Give her the sword. Let her own it and who she is.” That was the only way they were going to make it through this war, if they were themselves and not who others wanted them to be. “Let Sabine face her demons.”
“I don’t know” He admitted.
“I know you don’t. But this isn’t about you.” Hera paused “She’s a warrior Kanan and the only way she will come to terms with the responsibility of the darksaber is if you let her fight with it.”
“Hera?” Her name meant a thousand things as he called it out into the darkness of his world
“It breaks my heart too Kanan, but we can’t protect them forever”
“They’re back.” Zeb said darkly as the speeder became visible on the horizon. Hera turned, a shiver running down her spine at the sight of the approaching party. She held her breath expecting the worst, the sight of Sabine’s helmeted head doing nothing to calm her until she could speak to them face to face.
The speeder came to a stop outside of the Ghost and Zeb and Ezra began to unload the crates of supplies. Hera took a step forward approaching Sabine and the young woman climbed out, she place a firm hand on each of her shoulders, her eyes quickly falling to the hilt of the sword in her hands.
“Hera.” She replied as her head looked up at her with determination. She reached up between the green arms which were grasping onto her firmly and pulled off her helmet holding it lightly between the fingertips of her spare hand.
Hera looked into Sabine’s face. There was resolve written across it, she had agreed for the time being to wield the lightsaber and the duties which came with it. The amber eyes looked up at her, hardened like the warrior that she was before the softened for a moment, Sabine’s face expressing the thanks and gratitude which was hard for her to vocalize.
The worry lifted from Hera’s chest as she continued to look down into the face of the child she loved so deeply. “I’m going back, to Mandalore.”
Hera nodded silently, pride filling her as Sabine began the first step into her larger role in the galaxy.
Chapter 48: Family Legacy
After Legacy of Mandalore
Meeting them near the Dantooine system hadn’t been the plan, but after the Ghost had been given a supply run to Bastion it made the most sense for them to join up once more. Ezra had been suspiciously quiet in his communications back to the parent ship, leading Hera’s mind to jump to the worst conclusions as she stood in the hallway listening to the hiss as the ships airlocks made complete contact.
Hera watched as the door of the Phantom opened and only two walked back into the Ghost. The skinning feeling in the pit of her stomach was lifted by the understand that all along it had only been a matter of time before one of them left. The faces of Kanan and Ezra were reserved rather than solemn.
“Sabine… ” Ezra began
“She stayed behind.” Hera finished his sentence for him. She looked at Kanan addressing him sharply. “Is she going to lead the Mandalorians with the darksaber?”
He inhaled deeply “She’s going to try to.”
Hera nodded once accepting it before turning back around and making her way through the ship. “Get some rest I am sure we will have another mission when we get back to base.” Her lekku hit against her back as she walked rapidly down the short corridor. She wasn’t letting herself have a strong opinion on Sabine leaving, in fact if anything the only emotion she was letting herself feel was surprise that Sabine would be the first to leave. She had always placed her bets on Zeb.
She heard feet pounding after her “Hera!” Ezra called out scandalized after her ran after her. “Hera how can you just let her leave?”
She turned and faced the boy, her face pointed and filled with frustration at his inability to understand. She didn’t want Sabine to leave, it was a wound ready to rip apart at her heart, but forcing Sabine to say with them would be worse. It would make her less trusting, more restless and defiant.
“She is an adult capable of making her own decisions.” She said sharply as she looked down at him. “If she wants to leave she may.” Hera added coldly.
Ezra threw his hands wildly around. “But we need her, to fight against the Empire.”
“That is exactly what she is doing on Mandalore with her….” Hera felt her throat close up as she struggled to say something so simple. “With her family.” She stammered.
“But we’re her family!” Ezra’s exclamation felt like a stab in the chest.
“EZRA.” Kanan yelled sharply. “Go help Chopper with…something.” He snapped away at his apprentice. Hera watched the child’s neutered expression as he slunk off, still fuming because he felt he was right. He was right in a way.
Hera stumbled forward, and felt Kanan stretched his arm out to hold her up. He took another step so that they were nose to nose as he held onto both her shoulders. She looked up into his masked face trying to read the quivering of his lips.
“Do you feel…shattered too?” She whispered as he held onto her. Kanan slowly nodded. “She doesn’t need us anymore.”
“She’ll always need us in some way.”
“But she has her real family now.” Hera said. While she was happy Sabine had made amends with her mother, it made her feel inadequate. As if all the years of support had been washed away in favor of a blood connection.
He grasped onto her even tighter. “She has both.” He whispered into her ear. Even though he was right, it just didn’t feel like enough in the moment.
Chapter 49: All Seeing Eyes
After Through Imperial Eyes
Hera had been listening to the debrief of the mission with what she had assumed was a neutral expression on her face. It was difficult for her to decide the truth of the loyalty of a man whom she had only known as an advisory. The choice for Kallus to stay behind lent itself to many different interpretations. At the moment Hera was deciding which one she wanted to believe. She looked between Kanan and Rex, trying to read either of them for clues but they were both attempting to be as expressionless as she was.
She folded her arms across her chest. She had been up for twenty some it was well past the time for niceties. “Do you think he will succeed, in doing more good while still in the Empire?” She asked bluntly. The men shifted uncomfortably. “Well?” She pushed them both.
Kanan turned his head to Rex, a mostly useless gesture as he was unable to see the other man’s facial expression, before he turned to shrug at her. Hera was often wondered how many clues Kanan truly was able to pick up through the Force and how much of it was pretending to make others comfortable.
“I think he wants to die.” Rex said in a small grunt.
Both of them turned their heads upon the clone, silently demanding an explanation.
Rex nervously ran his hand across his head, as if he was expecting there to be hair to occupy his fingers. “It was… um…. something that happened to…. well to soldiers.” He uncharacteristically stumbled “The guilt and realization of what he has done… It comes at you like a wave.”
Hera had no problem agreeing with such an assessment, but did the Agent assume he could inflict change to the Empire from the inside out. Surely with such an overarching organization that would be nearly impossible. “But for how long can this last?”
Rex’s eyes were downcast. “Not long.”
“Thrawn is bound to find out sooner rather than later.” Kanan added.
She nodded solemnly. “If we are able to extract him?” She asked in the gentlest way possible. If AP-5 was there he would have given her a monotone percentage, yet even without him she knew it was low.
“Then he becomes a part of this fight, publically.” Rex said with a wave of his hand. “He’s already made his choice.” He added.
Hera nodded as she stood up walking back them in the lounge and back towards the cockpit. She took a firm hold of Kanan’s hand as she walked past him, not caring if Rex saw them. “I’m glad your back safely.” She said in a whisper, knowing that one simple mission like this could be the end for them all.
He squeezed back fiercely. “Me too.”
Chapter 50: Secrets Exposed
After Secret Cargo
There was a strange sense of finality that seemed to vibrate through the Ghost in the wake of Mon Mothma’s transmission. Decisions had been reached, declarative statements made, battles fought. War declared.
It wasn’t just a minor uprising or voices of descent, it was war, and the Rebel Alliance had nothing but courage on their side.
The ships had appeared triumphantly over the atmosphere of Dantooine. But it didn’t matter if they had a thousand ships, the Empire had more. No matter what they did, or how many planets they had on their side the Empire would always have more. It was a giant, and they were ants with dreams of taking down the giant themselves.
Kanan sat in his room, eyes closed in meditation. He listened to the sounds of the ship, ever changing and strange. The more he focused on his breathing, the more alien the sounds became, twisting into groans and screeches of horrific origin. Yet he remained still, bringing him mind back to the rising and falling of his chest as he searched for a sliver of peace.
Hera had told him long ago that being a part of the alliance would be beneficial, that it would give them more support, more time. He had agreed, knowing that more than once the alliance had gotten them out of places which they would not have survived if they had been on their own. Yet it still bothered him at times to be part of something so official, he had always loved being called a rebel, yet now with the word alliance after it the title seemed to lose some of its exoticism.
The twisted sounds of the Ghost were tensing his body, making him feel almost as if he could not move as he sat on the floor trying and failing to relax. Everything was going faster, everything was spinning out of control and he was grasping onto a life that he had never intended to live. Fear was rushing over him as he sat still, looking calm and put together to any outsiders, only knew the turmoil running deep inside and underneath the surface.
He clenched a hand into a fist, the sensation pulling him back to himself for a moment before he was torn away again. There wasn’t enough time, there wasn’t enough security, any day could be his last. His mind had fluttered to the words running through his head, he was focused on his thoughts slipping out of his mindfulness as he turned to panic.
A loud sound broke his concentration as his door opened. His hand immediately flew to his lightsaber before he felt the wash of Hera’s presence spread over him.
She let out a small chuckle. “On edge?” She asked him rhetorically. “I think everyone is. The Senator is where she needs to be, we’re heading back to Chopper Base.”
He gave a solemn nod as he felt his body ease. It was remarkable about how just her simple presence could change him, yet his worrisome thoughts were still rattling around in his mind. “Well, its official now.” He said trying to remain calm and not jittery and hostile like he was feeling.
“As if it wasn't before.” She whispered gentle.
He inhaled sharply. “It's a Rebellion now.” He corrected her.
“Kanan.” Her tone was exasperated as she reached out and took his hand. “It always was.”
Chapter 51: Droid Troubles
After Double Agent Droid
There was a grin on his face as Kanan listened to them explain the circumstances of dealing with an altered Chopper. He could not hide his amusement in hearing the story second hand.
“Really, Chopper was taken over by the Imperials?” He confirmed as he spoke with the rest of the Ghost crew.
“Yes.” Ezra replied.
It was a serious and potentially disastrous moment, but he could not help himself from finding it funny. “And nobody realized the personality shift?” He berated them once more.
“I did.” Hera replied defensively.
“What did I tell you.” The dark and monotone drone of AP-5 rang out against the walls of the Ghost. “I told Wedge from the moment we boarded onto the Lambda shuttle once more that something was wrong with that droid. C1-10P was performing within normal parameters, a highly irregular function for such a disobedient droid. But no one ever listens to me. They would rather have a personable and temperamental companion rather than a reliable worker. I will never understand beings as such….”
Hera watched as Ezra stretched out his hand wrapping around the back of the droid’s neck as he looked at her and his raised eyes asking for permission to shut it the droid off.
“Well it was a good thing you were here.” Kanan said, goading the droid on.
“Of course, it was.” AP-5 responded as Hera suppressed a chuckle, giving Ezra a nod of permission. “I calculate that your percentage of success without me to beee….” The droids voice dipped and faltered in pitch as Ezra shut it off.
“Thank the maker.” Zeb growled as he stood, picking up the lifeless droid and placing it in a corner. “Everything in the universe is always wrong according to him.”
Kanan chuckled and a smile formed across Hera’s lips. “He is useful, as he tends to remind us.” She muttered as she stood up as well, off to prepare for their next mission and enjoying the silence while it lasted.
“Do you think we could slice some of Choppers personality into AP?” Ezra asked with a wicked grin across his face. They all looked at him, entertaining the idea for a moment. It would be fascinating to behold, giving them all a good laugh for a moment but ultimately cruel.
“Ezra….” Kanan finally replied, playfully scolding the boy.
Ezra shrugged. “It’s just a thought.”
Chapter 52: Suns Setting
During Twin Suns
His eyes were still closed. Darkness was still wrapped around Kanan yet he was no longer asleep. His mind had drifted into a far more meditate state, his body fluid and endless and he relished in the imagining that nothing was around him. Yet as he slowly became more conscious of his body he knew that things were around him, a bed underneath him and sounds all around. The sensations never stopped, the sounds never stopped. Even after all this time he still kept thinking that he might see. That one day he would wake from sleep and be able to see the world rather than reach out and tap away at it.
He rolled over in the bed, patting behind him to make out the shape of Hera which he just assumed was behind him. They had fallen asleep on top of the bed, both of them still dressed, too exhausted from planning and missions to even take off their boots. The work never seemed to end, the planning to take back Lothal was endless, making the battle seem further and further away. He was tempted to check the time, but that could wait. Sleep was more important, rest was all they had to east their minds and literally dream of different lives.
With one hand resting behind him on the curve of Hera’s hip he closed his eyes tighter, no longer listening to the sounds of the ship but rather the two of them alone. Her breathing was shallow and even against the back of his neck, her body rose and fell with each breath. He focused on them inviting sleep once more back into his life.
“This is Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.” He threw open his eyes fully expecting to see the top of the bunk about him as the sound broke him away from his ruminations. Sensation rushed into his body as he heard the voice of the holocron across the hall. He had memorized it statement long ago, yet to hear it without warning made him shiver. It was either a dream or something beyond his control.
“This is Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.” It repeated once more and Kanan felt his body go numb almost paralyzed as he began to make assumptions as to what was happening. It wasn’t a dream it was the Force. He moved his hand off of Hera ready to sit up.
“Kanan?” Ezra’s voice was small and questioning.
His lips parted in reply as speech stirred within him, but a cool sensation held his voice back, this moment was not meant for him. He closed his lips and listened as Ezra stepped into his empty quarters.
Hera stirred behind him. “What is it?” She whispered as her body inched towards his once more.
“Ezra and Maul.” He breathed in reply.
She went stiff, desperate to protect the young man. “Is it another trap? Another twisted game? Kanan should we go after him, help him?”
He reached out and place a hand of warning across her body. “No.” He said sternly. “He has to do this on his own.” Kanan fell back into the warmth of her as he said the words, knowing that it was impossibly true.
“It’s almost over now.” He said with unknown confidence. The connection would be broken soon and they could move on facing whatever consequences might come.
Kanan reached out his hands tapping away at the edge of the bunk as he pulled himself up. He had memorized her room yet still managed to baffle him from time to time. “Where are you going?” Hera asked as she watched him stand.
His shoulders were tense, his hands fidgeting from side to side as he stood in her room. He appeared to be so unsure. “He’ll want to talk…” He stammered his voice hoarse and weak, filled with fear. Hera knew he was still worried that Ezra would fall to the temptations of the ways of Maul. “He still…” He cleared his throat, hands wild at his side. “He still needs me.” He added.
But as Hera watched him walk across the room and stand in front of the door to his own quarters in wait for Ezra she wondered which one of them truly still need advice.
Chapter 53: One, Two, Three, Zero
During Zero Hour
Beep, beep, beep. The small alarm in the panel against the bed chirped as his hand reached out blindly to shut it off. There was a strange sensation which washed over Kanan as he awoke, the Ghost was already awake and alive. The ship prepared for the attack on Lothal even if its crew had not entirely come to terms with as much. He felt content under the warmth of a blanket, with Hera breathing beside him. He never wanted to leave the warmth, the comfort that he felt in this moment. There was a strong sense of security which they had built up over years of trust and hard work. No one ever wanted to leave home, not fully.
And yet he was prepared to fight, his body filled with adrenaline at the thought of taking back Lothal, of dealing a blow to the Empire. They had prepared for this moment, not just themselves but others. Over the course of several years they had gone from a small band of rebels, a cell in isolation to leaders of a growing army of descent. Lying in bed knowing what the next few hours or days could hold, he felt invincible.
Hera cool hand ran across his arm gently. It was a loving action, one that was tender and careless as if they had the rest of their lives to awake like this. “You ready.” She whispered gently into his ear.
He nodded. “Yes.” He replied knowing it was true.
“Are you worried?”
He paused words jumbled in his brain. “Not as much as I should be.”
She cleared her throat, the tinny sound echoing off the metal walls. “Make sure you stay beside Ezra and help him.” She was telling him, giving him a gentle command.
Kanan shook his head. “No,” He muttered. There had been a time when he stuck close to the boy because he was forever unsure of his actions, when the orphan’s actions were clouded and snappy. But Ezra had changed, he had grown over the years. He had in a way completed all the training that Kanan could give him. “He doesn’t need me anymore.” He breathed knowing with confidence that he could allow the boy to act on his own and make the correct decisions.
He listened joyfully to her laugh filled breath. “We’ll all right then.”
The old clone held the two mines in his hands, the little flashing lights blinking back at him like comforting faces of old friends. It felt good to fight once more, the preemptive rush of an oncoming battle filling the air. He lived for this sort of chaos. He, a small voice reminded him, he had been made for this chaos.
Yet every battle was different, whether it be on the ground or in the air. While the dance remained similar the music often changed. No matter how many times he got into battle there was still an otherworldly sensation which ran through him. At any moment something could go wrong, the unexpected could rear his head, and in a way, he almost wished for such things to happen. He was the conductor of his moments and men, they had rehearsed and trained for moments like these.
He set the mines down looking up at the darkening sky. It was only a matter of time before the Empire landed down on the surface of Atollon. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he began to run up to the ridge and he defensive position they had taken in anticipation of an attack. He was both confident and unsure of his abilities as his old feet dug into the sand, his body betraying the youthful whims he still had. It was almost time to fight once more, and he couldn’t stand the anticipation.
“Rex,” Came Hera’s voice through his comm. “Get back to base and help Zeb with the shield.”
“On my way, Capitan.” He replied picking up the pace as the excitement continued to surge through him.
Hera stood her face aghast as the green fire raining like a flood fell from the sky, impacting into the one shield that they had. They could feel the heat of the flames even as the shimmering bubble protected them, increasingly taunting them as it showed how weak their defenses were.
Her breath caught in her throat, as she struggled to breath. She had always thoughts they were making differences in the universe, but the Empire was proving just how easy it would be to stamp them all out in a moment. All the struggle it had to be for something, if not for her than for others.
She turned on her heels running back to command, surely there had to be something she could do to help, some message she could send. But as she looked down at the glowing circular table there was nothing other than the sound of the world crumbling around her hears. The rain would drown them all when the shield finally crackled and broke. She closed her eyes, turning her head away not wanting to see the destruction as it rose up to consume them. An image of happier times coming to her minds eyes as she braced herself for death.
The rain stopped.
She opened her eyes to see the shield still holding and the cascade of Imperial fire taking a brief recess. But it wouldn’t be over that easy, just like real rain it would come again in time.
“Kanan?” She muttered into the comms her thoughts selfishly turning to the man she loved out in the wilderness of the planet during the firestorm. “Kanan do you copy?”
The silence went on for an eternity in her mind as she jumped to the worst conclusions. Just like that it was over. He was gone. She felt a speck of dust in a storm, nonexistent useless to anything other than the wind. She grasped onto the table to keep herself from collapsing in grief. Her father had always been weary of attachments, and know she knew why. The pain of him gone was-
“I’m getting the feeling Thrawn’s actually trying to kill us this time.” His voice groaned over the line and she bent forward in relief as joyous tears filled her eyes.
As suddenly as the joy had been diminished from her life at the thought of his death it brightly returned as she realized he was alive. “Oh, that is only funny because you’re still alive.” She chastised him mockingly as she stammered at how fragile their lives truly were
“Now please, come home love.” She added loudly, not giving a damn who heard.
They were only safe in hyperspace. The lines of speed were the only things the Empire could not break for the time being. It didn’t matter where the next base was, or how well it was hidden. Give time the Empire would find it, Thrawn would find it and they would have to fight once more. Now they were truly hunted.
The Ghost was loud and noisy, filled with those who had clambered aboard as they left Atollon in search for safety. Jump after jump they traveled into reaches of space which were dark and unknown on the way to Yavin. Each hour was filled with another discussion, with more plans and assessment of what had failed.
It didn’t matter what happened, they had made it out with their lives and minimal casualties. That was enough for now. The original members of the crew walked up and down the ship, like Ghost themselves as they found their home inhabited by so many others.
Eventually without them even realized they all found themselves crammed into the cockpit. Hera and Kanan side by side in the front to chairs, Sabine lounging back at the one which she had painted so long ago the work now seemed childish. Ezra half asleep sitting on the floor, Zeb and Rex leaning against the door as AP-5 and Chopper bickered.
“Quite the family reunion.” Sabine said as she pulled at her armor.
“At least we’re here.” Rex said darkly and Chopper whined in agreement.
Zeb cleared his throat. “Where are we going.”
“Yavin 4.” Hera replied softly. It didn’t matter if they were overheard by anyone aboard, but she still felt the need to sensor her words. “There’s another base there.”
Ezra raised his head and looked up. “What are we going to do now?” He asked hoarsely.
“Fight.” Kanan said sharply. “Fight for Lothal and other systems under the Empire’s power. This doesn’t change a thing.”
Hera reached out looking at him proudly as she placed a hand on his knee. Of course, they would still fight, it was all they knew. But things had changed, so many things had changed over the years. Things they wouldn’t admit to themselves.
Sabine gulped. “What are the chances we survive another direct attack to the Empire?” She said as all eyes turned to the calculator droid.
It shook its head for a moment, reluctant to respond until Chopper gave it a sharp prod. “I calculate the changes for survival of all members of the Ghost crew at zero.” AP-5 said, but his downing voice was tinged with sympathy.
Hera shook her head slightly as she crossed her arms over her chest in defiance. “Well damn it if we don’t try to beat those odds.”
Chapter 54: Mandelorian Virtues
After Heroes of Mandalore
Hyperspace was meant to make journeys feel short, often it did not. Kanan walked up and down the Mandalorian spaceship, listening. They had all isolated themselves after leaving the planet. Chopper was remaining in the cockpit, reliving his moments of heroics, Ezra was brewing in his own bunk contemplating his own home world while Sabine….
He could feel the darkness of her presence as he walked down the length of the ship towards the small cargo hold which she had chosen to occupy. Her soul was crumpled inward, every breath filled with loathing and hatred. They had given her planet hope, they had restored her family, yet Kanan understood why she was filled with such contempt.
Mandalorians were a hard race. Clans of warriors with long and blood-soaked history. Sabine had always been Mandalorian, she would always continue to, but she didn’t need that harshness at the moment.
The door whooshed open and he stepped into the cargo hold, the young woman’s darkness wrapping around him like heavy fog.
“Go away Ezra.” She knew it wasn’t him, but she still muttered it anyway.
Kanan walked slowly toward her, one hand out to feel the world the other reaching to his belt where he fumbled with what he had clipped to it.
Sabine scooted to make room on the create she was on. “Don’t you have to make contact with command?” She asked reaching out and taking hold of Kanan’s fingers. He shook his head as she helped him sit down next to her. She curled into herself once more. “Are you here to tell me it’s not my fault?”
Kanan didn’t reply, he was still fumbling with the clasp behind his back. Sabine watched as his fingers fuddled with the mechanism almost unlatching the object but never quiet getting it. He let out a frustrated sigh and pulled both hands away, before waving his right with conviction, using the Force to send the rectangular object clatter a few centimeters to the surface of the crate. She still did nothing as he reaching behind to pick it up and hand it to her.
“Why are you giving me a Datapad?” She snapped as he placed it in her hands.
“Can you paint me a picture?” He asked in a scratchy voice.
She scoffed. She wasn’t a bored child, it wasn’t even her preferred medium… “You can’t even see.” She reminded him insensitively.
“You can describe the colors to me.” He was patient in his reply. Unwilling to give up on showing her a kindness.
She stiffened a though twisting deep inside of her. “There are no colors anymore.” Her head fell into her chest. She didn’t want to cry in front of him, she didn’t want anyone to see her as vulnerable. She wanted to be left alone.
His hand reached up and slowly ran through her bright short locks. “That’s not true.” Her head rattled beneath his hand as she tried to disagree with him. His arm trailed down, reaching to pull her in close to himself. Her head rested on his chest as he whispered gently into her ear. “There’s color in the universe if you just know where to look.” A drop of wetness fell onto his stomach as a tear slide down Sabine’s cheek. To some, her art would have just been another interesting aspect of her life, but Kanan had seen enough of it before to understand that it wasn’t just a hobby. It was a way of expressing the true feelings of the woman beneath the armor. “But sometimes you have to paint a lot of darkness before you find it once more.”
“I nearly destroyed it all.” She whispered. “My people, my home world, my family…. How do you not hate me?”
He placed his hand though her hair once more, stroking it gently. “I can’t hate someone who understands that their work can be used maliciously and then makes every attempt to destroy that creation. You did a brave thing Sabine. I’m proud of that.”
Her breath quivered. “Thank you.”
“For what?” He asked.
She pulled away wanting to look into his scared face when she told him. “For being proud of me.”
His mouth curled from a confused frown to a smile, his pale eyes flickered and began to water. The fatherly expression filled his face. “I’m always proud of you.”
Chapter 55: In the Name of Sanity
During In The Name of the Rebellion
Her haunches were raised. "Chopper see if you can find where you they jumped too." Hera muttered through gritted teeth.
"I thought you weren't worried" Zeb muttered snidely behind her.
She glared at him as Chopper beeped and whirled in reply. "No. I don't want to know that...I don't care where his base is.” She told her droid “I care where they went just now" She gestured to the expanse of space which they had jumped to in order to avoid the TIE fighters, still the same sector, but with enough distance to buy them time to calculate their next move.
"You said they could take care of themselves." Zeb prodded her. Today he was especially enjoying the chance to goad her on. Perhaps a payback for her catching him in an argument with a protocol droid back on Yavin 4 which had resulted in Zeb falling down a large set of derelict stairs in the old temples which they had turned into bases.
Despite what he said, she still wasn't paying him any attention.
"I thought that you don’t worry about them...." He whistled his tone more and more flippant.
"Well that was a lie." She snapped as she finally looked back at him her lekku twitching angrily. "Anywhere that man goes the Empire follows. Ezra and Sabine know better than to go cavorting off on a damned adventure with…"
Kanan placed a hand on her forearm silencing her. "We've talked about this...." He said in a small whisper. "Letting them have some freedoms."
"Not with Saw." She growled as she pulled her arms across her chest. “I wouldn’t trust that man with…with… with something stupid and trivial.” She spat unable to come up with a decent retort.
Kanan wheezed. “They’ll come back. I know they will.”
She rolled her eyes at him, grateful that he couldn’t see. “And when they do what destruction will we find in their wake?”
Even Chopper gave a little laugh. “We didn’t track the ship, and we have no idea of where they jumped too. We’ll just have to wait until they come back.” Zeb correctly reminded her as he stood up.
“Fine.” Hera surrendered watching as he left. Kanan pulled himself up as well. “Where are you going?”
He patted her on the shoulder. “To my room. Are we going to wait here or are we heading back to base?”
She clucked her tongue surprised that he wasn’t vocally agreeing with her choice. “I’ll send word that the relay was destroyed and that we will be late coming back.” Had he been able to see Kanan would have seen her large eyes pleading for more reassurance.
But he didn’t see. Whatever private confidence he had that everything would be alright he didn’t share with her, but Hera knew that any day could be the last for any one of them.
Chapter 56: Occupation
“Yeah…. gotta get moving.” He groaned as he followed after the sound of her footsteps in the lonely streets.
Annoyance flashed within him. Another good moment ruined by the Empire, by the job they had to do. He wanted his old life back, he wanted the reckless that ruled with abandon when it was just he and Hera pushing up against the giant of the Empire, barely making a dent.
“Hey” He whispered after her his hand reaching in his personal darkness to find hers. “About that moment.” He said as he pulled her back towards him and leaned in once more for a kiss.
It was quick, but long awaited. Two beings falling back into habit.
Hera chuckled as she pulled back. “Gotta have that moment.” She laughed "Come on we need to get a speeder.” She whispered in his ear.
He grinned as they continued down the streets of Lothal, knowing that she was smiling too.
Chapter 57: Defender of Dust
During Flight of the Defender
Hera looked around the camp nestled in the wilderness of Lothal. The brush strokes were familiar though the colors were different. Men and women, half emaciated doing their best to make blasters out of spare parts. They looked at her grimly, not expecting a handout, but rather their dull eyes wondering she would come to such a place when all that was left of Lothal was a wasteland.
“Has everyone been evacuated?” She asked Ryder as she trailed him on his rounds of the camp.
He gave a stern nod. “All those who wanted to come.” He replied.
Hera remained emotionless knowing that was the way it would be. Some people were too afraid to stand up, they would remain in their homes living under the heel of the Empire until it was too bearable, or they no longer served a purpose. “Do you why the Empire had such a vested interest in Lothal, other than the ship yard?”
The burning of fields and destruction of agriculture was standard for the organization, yet another harsh tactic in driving citizens off their home world. “There is some sort of mining resource.”
“How does the Empire know about it?”
“The Governor they put in my place, her family used to run a mine.”
He bent down to look into the sad eyes of a young boy. He reached into his pocket and handed the small child a bruised fruit. The boy took it with gleeful eyes before scampering off. Ryder stood up and placed his hand on his hips.
“I’m grateful that you are here, but why are you here?”
She stiffened. “To help.”
“Do you really think Lothal can be helped anymore.”
She stood her ground, not flinching as she looked at him. Ezra might not have been able to see it but he was a man at the end of his wits. He knew just as well as she did what the Empire would do to Lothal when they were done stripping it away.
“Do you need help moving people off planet.”
His shoulders collapsed as he sighed. “Those who wanted to get off did when they had the chance, the rest of are here to fight.” He paused, for a second Hera thought he was going to double back on his statement. What he said next was unexpected. “Tell me, beyond this rock, is there really a rebellion or are we all alone.”
She took a pensive breath. “It’s becoming something, there are more with us than there was a year ago.”
“But it’s still not enough.”
She shook her head. “It’s not numbers. One being can catch the attention of the universe, we need that moment. I don’t doubt that much of the galaxy doesn’t approve of the Empire, but we need to do something to catch the attention of those who are passively living the with oppression. My father used to…” She stopped cursing herself that she was leaning upon the wisdom of her father. “My father used to say that if we can hurt the Empire it counts those the shadows will join us.”
“And do you think Lothal is the place where you can do that?”
She shrugged. “It has the new TIE, it has Thrawn. It could be enough, it might not. But we have to try.”
“Then on behalf of my citizens I appreciate that.” He turned away and Hera watched as the old man walked back amongst his people, he had hope in their presence, but not much.
Chapter 58: Kindred Souls
Have they ever had an honest conversation about what would happen when the war was over? No. He knew that was the answer. Chances were they never would at this rate. With everything coming together as he was so found of audibly musing upon, either they would make it out alive or they wouldn’t, or some combination thereof.
But everything felt final now. Every moment felt like it could be the last and there was no point in waiting until the war was over to have that conversation about the future. All they could do was act and hope that they would see one another again.
He had to say something before she left, he couldn’t waste his opportunity. She was getting ready to leave, he knew this could be the last chance they were in one another’s presence.
“Hera about what happened….” He walked towards her promising himself that he wasn’t going to hold back anymore. “I don’t want you to think…. I just….”
Suddenly she was there, her cold hand on his chin, her lips on his. Her was kissing him out in the open when everyone else could see. So much about keeping their relationship private, about only being together when no one else was looking.
He wanted it to go on forever, but war was at their back.
She pulled away her gentle footsteps crossing onto the metal surface of the U wing.
“May the force be with you.” Snappy parting worlds before the door slid before her.
Kanan smiled, hearing the whispers behind him, but ignoring them as Hera took off on the mission back to rebel command. For a moment, everything was fine.
Chapter 59: Commandeering the Conversation
Well the title of this whole story is technically a lie now.... but let's be honest its a very good thing. :)
During Crawler Commandeers
They were supposed to be figuring out where they were, how they had gotten there, what they were going to do next. There were far bigger things to worry about, Thrawn, the Empire, but none of those things were fun to talk about.
“So, how long have you known?” Sabine asked in a deep tone as if inquiring to the galaxies deepest secret.
Zeb’s response was flippant. “Since I came aboard the Ghost.”
The younger scoffed in disbelief. “Really, you knew right away?”
Zeb gave a sigh placing his hands behind his head and leaning back with a smug grin across his face. “Well yes see a man can tell when another man has a deep carnal attraction to a woman. Plus, in the days before you came along there was a lot more drinking. They weren’t always quiet when they were drunk. Especially Kanan. And he was drunk most of the time back then. How long did it take you to figure it out?” He asked Sabine.
She bit the edge of her lip, trying to remember the events of what felt like a lifetime ago. “A week, if remember correctly…. A woman can be also sense these things” She mocked raising her eyebrow at Zeb.
Ezra looked around the outcropping of the cave at the wide knowing smiles that surrounded him. “What are you talking about?” He asked sincerely.
“Jarrus and Syndulla.” The former governor of Lothal sighed casually, overhearing the conversation as he attempted to contact the rest of the camp.
“Yeah they’re a team.” Ezra replied slowly still not understanding what everyone else seemed to know.
Sabine did her best to keep from laughing. “No honey, a team in more than one way.”
“You see when two people love each other…. Ahh. Karabast I’m not explaining that to you.”
Ezra blinked rapidly. “Wait are you saying that….Kanan and Hera are…. They like each other?”
The trio all laughed at him. “Ezra, they kissed. Right in front of all of us.” Sabine sneered, flabbergasted that he did not understand what as so obvious.
The young man blinked once more. “But it was like a goodbye… thing.”
Ryder laughed. “Yeah, a goodbye, I love you, and I hope to see you again after both of us defeat the odds to successfully survive our serious acts of rebellion against an oppressive regime kind of a kiss.”
“Exactly.” Sabine preached.
“Things must be getting bad if they are slipping up and getting affectionate in front of us though.” Zeb said with a grim expression.
“Well this rebellion has to be a strain on their relationship.” Sabine said softly.
Zeb laughed. “And it’s not like we help make things easier.”
“No, we really don’t.” She agreed. They both let out sighs, turning to look at Ezra whose face was still frozen in puzzlement. “You okay Ezra?”
“It’s okay.” She placed a kind hand on her shoulder. “I know it must be hard to realize that Mom and Dad love each other.” She added with an irrepressible giggle. “He’s got to be worried sick about her.” She said looking back at Zeb.
He shrugged. “I’m sure he got some sort of Force assurance that she is alright.”
Ryder cleared his throat. “We should see if we can make any contact with our people?”
“Yeah.” Sabine said as she rose to the balls of her feet and looked around at the few bits of technical equipment they had. “I’m sure I can rig something together….”
His eyes were gone, but his hearing was infinitely better. Kanan stood against the wall of the cave listening with great interest to the conversation which was happening on the other side. They were not as he would have hoped discussing how or where they had miraculously been transported.
“Huh, alright then…” He muttered to himself as he accepted the fact that somehow most of them already knew what he considered to be his great secret in life.
Something was wrong. He could feel it. He knew something wrong had happened in the skies above Lothal before anyone called out what they saw. Their plans had once more been squished at the heel of Thrawn. It was raining death, and Kanan feared Hera was falling with the rest of them. It had been her idea, years ago, to stand up against the giant of the Empire now he was truly afraid that she would leave him to carry on without her.
He could hear the fighters crashing into the capital city, he could fell the agony and pain of the pilots who fell to their death and the fear of citizens who looked up to a burning night. There was no warning for the destruction, no care as to how many would have to die before the causes were given up. The Empire and the Rebels, they would be fighting until they were each down to one soul.
“Kanan?” Someone was call after him, tugging on his sleeve trying to get him out of the way. He didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to hide and plan another attack. He wanted to fight back, jump up in the sky and kill Thrawn himself.
“We have to go.” Someone was placing a hand on his shoulder, comforting him of all people. He had never been this afraid before, this terrified at loosing her. He could sense it, an end. He didn’t know the outcome and for the first time in a very long while he was terrified of loosing her. After everything it could be something so small that separated them.
Hera? He reached out in his mind, trying to find her against all the confusion. He remembered the warm sensation of her lips on his, the memory of her Lekku twitching in anger. He found her amidst fire and stone, alive and breathing. Chopper ever complaining.
He turned on his feet, turning away from where she was. He fought against everything, even sense that was telling him to run into the fire. He got on the speeder he headed back towards the wastelands.
They let him go. He hadn’t expected that. He would have assumed Ezra to protest and yell that they needed him, that he needed him. But the boy had enough smarts to not try and stop the man who feared for the Twi’lek he loved. They let him go, and Kanan was grateful.
He sped underneath the lights, ramming the speeder, coaxing it as much as he could. She was closer, he could feel himself getting closer and closer to her. He could save her, even though she needed no saving.
Something cold stood in his way.
He stopped the bike, rolling off. He could hear the growl, feel the heavy paws on the pavement, hear his name on the wolfs tongue.
The Force was strange, wonderful but strange. It frustrated him to no end. At times he was in control, other times he was the one being controlled. He could feel the eyes baring down on him. The eyes of the wolf, the eyes of his master, the eyes of Hera.
He didn’t want to leave her, but he had too. She had made him into a better man, a man who believed and listened to the forces which pulled upon him. His shoulders felt heavy as he pointlessly closed his eyes and reached out to her. Maybe she heard, maybe she didn’t, but he tried.
“Hera? Hera I know that… I know you’ll make it through this.” He whispered aloud letting his words slip into the cold night air. “Hera, I love you.”
Apologies for the neglect, other writing projects got in the way.
I am both excited and terrified to see how this series ends in upcoming weeks.
Chapter 61: First Night, Last Night
The chapter based on 4.11 will be up near the end of the week. I have some ideas but not the time to write for a few days.
I plan on writing chapters for the last few episodes. In fact I already have some things sketched out, even though well, characters are gone now.
A long time ago…
It was as he had promised her, the good stuff. He had spent more than a few years in or behind a bar to know which bottles were worth nicking. He watched with great interest as she took another swig of the brown liquor, cheeks flushing even more as a giddy smiled dawned across the Twi’lek’s face. The hardened exterior was gone. She wasn’t the focused woman who cared about justice, she was laughing and messy. It was as if she had stooped down to his level for once.
Hera looked beautiful. She belonged to a beautiful species, but there was something more endearing about her when she was swaying into the wall of her own ship, a drunken grin across her face.
Kanan found himself leaning in towards her, closing his eyes as he let passion take him down a familiar path.
A hand reached out to firmly meet his chest. “What are you doing?” Hera giggled, failing to raise an eyebrow.
He grinned. “Kissing you.”
“Come on what's the worst that could happen, you fall in love with me?” He had lived off of charm alone for the past decade. It had failed him spectacularly, just as it had treated him well. He leaned in and looking into her large eyes which had gone wide.
“Oh.” Offended, she scooted away from him. “I would just be another in a long line of women to fall in love with you, wouldn't I?”
He shrugged. “Well yes, but...”
“But what?” She rolled her eyes, suddenly not nearly as a drunk. She had only known the man a few weeks. She didn’t exactly plan on having him stay aboard the Ghost for a long period of time.
He was bored, in need of someone to be affectionate towards. Normally when he got restless he just moved onto a new town and a new bar. It was a little harder when he was in space and she was the only other lifeform on the ship other than the droid. “You don't know how this is going to end.”
“This is going to end with you drunk in some outer rim bar and me leaving you behind as I fly away in the Ghost.” Hera replied confidently.
Kanan blinked at her, he had been left in a worse state before. “We could have a hell of a ride until then.”
He leaned in closer, she pulled back. “You are so selfish. You would never do anything if it didn’t benefit you.”
He almost looked insulted. “How do you know that? How do you know I don’t go around helping little poor kids in alleyways?”
She tutted. “Because of what you just said. Because I know the type of man you are, Kanan Jarrus, if that even is your real name. You’re not a nice man, you’re a scoundrel.”
“Let me prove you wrong.” Her breath caught in her throat. He looked serious, eyes filled with strong will. “If I annoy you to know end, or if I really am as rotten as you think you can throw me out the airlock. But let me kiss you Hera, ‘cause I really want to.”
She played with her fingers, looking at them running back and forth over her palm as she though. What could possibly be the harm in a little kiss. “Fine.”
He leaned in, closing his eyes as he breathed her in. She thought it would be drunk and sloppy. It wasn’t. It was the warmest explosion possible tearing apart her body, she felt a blissful nothing.
Ezra was holding onto her, voices were yelling, her ears were ringing. She looked at the explosion, face slacken as they flew away from the blast. He was gone. Kanan was nothing more than ashes floating into the night.
She felt… everything.
Chapter 62: Dume
She was aware of her hands moving, aware of the old stone room and the flow of air around her but she had stopped herself from feeling several hours ago. Her mind was as blank as she could make it, but it wasn’t blank enough. Hera looked at the little charm in her hand. It didn’t feel like an end, like a proper way to say goodbye. It was her people’s way of marking a death, she struggled to remember what the Jedi had done.
The through made her jump. Fire had already taken him, now it was her turn to let go.
She had lost before. But she had forgotten the pain. His death felt like a new and crushing experience, and yet she had lost count on how many souls she had seen extinguish in front of her own eyes.
The little triangular charm, it meant nothing to others, but it meant something to her. She didn’t care about the specific tradition, he was her family.
“All those years ago when you stepped onto my, ship I had a dream about what my life would be. I thought that maybe for once I finally met someone who could keep up with me.” Hera whispered. Somewhere, somehow, he could hear her. The Force was strange, but it was around her always. “I imagined being a hero, like the ones in the Clone Wars, but I didn’t understand the pain that comes with heroics.”
The little triangle was sharp in her palm, the blue swirls like the blue of his blade. She wondered where his weapon was. It was in Imperial hands. She wanted it back.
“I thought I would die first.”
Her words echoed off the stone walls. She looked up at the painting on the walls, the depictions of a simpler Lothal. Neither of them had come from the planet and yet it had become home.
“I would die in some silly death that was sudden and unexpected and wouldn’t mean a damn. I thought I would die trying to be a hero and you would saunter off to another bar, another brawl. But that was before I pulled you into this.”
She closed her eyes expecting to feel a hand on her shoulder, expecting to hear his voice whispering in her ear. But the air was still.
“I made you fight my revolution. You liked it in the end, but you resisted so much at first. If I had listened to you….” If they had just run away into the reaches of the galaxy she wasn’t even sure if he would have stayed.
A tear was welling in her eye again. The tears never seemed to stop. “I should have said it more. I should have let the galaxy know I love you.”
She looked at the Kalikori… She knew he wasn’t going to walk through the door, she knew he was gone, but it made it final. She had always kept fighting, but she was used to doing it at his side. Still, she wasn’t alone any more, there was still so much of her family left to fight for.
“For Kanan.” Hera whispered as she bent forward and slipped the charm onto the ends, making them lopsided. “So he’ll always be remembered as a part of my family.”
Chapter 63: Closing Doors
During Wolves and a Door
Hera crouched deeper into the soil. In her mind she had reverted back to her teenage years. To the hard tactics of perpetual weariness and a steadfast commitment to the mission she had depended upon for survival. She had been a good soldier, her father had trained her well, no matter how much she had resented him for it. Managing a mission had almost always gone the way she had intended them to be. She knew how to get results.
But those where her kids she had just seen speed off into an Imperial encampment. She couldn't fathom losing them. Not today, not hours after losing Kanan.
She shook her head, lekku bobbing against her shoulders as she put the viewers to her eyes once more. Swallowing hard and trying to forget about the lump in her throat. She didn’t have reassurances any more, she couldn’t lie to herself and pray they would be alright.
Her father had told her to view personal attachments like items in a room. Of course, he of all beings would compartmentalize his feelings. He was ruthless in what he was willing to sacrifice when it came to Ryloth. She had just pushed his advice aside, refusing as always to follow in what her father had wanted her to do. But her hands were shaking, her mind was racing, she still felt on the verge of tears with every breath.
She closed her eyes behind the scanner. Trying to picture all the things which were making her task impossible. Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, Kanan all of them standing in an empty white room, all of the ghosts looking at her, words on their lips ready to demand something of her. She shut the door on them mentally.
She felt strange, surprised that it had actually worked.
“Hera.” Zeb growled beside her. She cleared her throat. “Can you count how many troops are down there?”
She opened her eyes seeing the camp bellow. She took a deep breath and began to count, focusing on the mission at hand.
Chapter 64: Strange World
During A World Between Worlds
It was refreshing to see the sky again. Clear, blue, high above them. As she looked at it Hera’s heart skipped. She had no clue how they had gotten here, let alone where here was. Once again, in a matter of hours she had been transported in impossible ways.
The Force was strange and worked in mysterious ways, he had always told her that. Hera had seen more in the past day that had confirmed as such as she had ever seen in her lifetime. She looked out of the window of the transport, relieved by their miraculous escape from the Imperials. Another blinding flash of light and they had been taken somewhere else once again. She had been in no mood for another firefight. She wanted to take a break, even if it was only for a minute.
“Hera, where are we?” Sabine was at her back, gently breathing down her neck, just as confused as she was.
“I’m not sure.” Hera replied
Zeb grunted. “Are we even still on Lothal?”
She looked up, recognizing the two moons faint in the daylight above. “Yes, we are.” She turned, the control of the vehicle were fried. She would have to examine by heading outside.
Hera looked down at Ezra, asleep or unconscious she was unsure. He looked strangely peaceful head tilted back, an arm hanging down off the bench they had placed him on. He hadn’t looked that peaceful even when they had first taken him on, when he had been small and full of rebellious energy. He was nearly as tall as her now, it took her aback nearly every time she noticed. He wasn’t a boy anymore. Luckily, he didn’t mind if they all mislabeled him. It had been four years of watching him grow up, sometimes it seemed like forever, sometimes it seemed like nothing.
Her lips curled in a small smile as she looked at him. Her mind told her to cling onto the image, knowing how fleeting it all was.
Hera steeped out of the transport and into the swirling air. Everything was brighter, almost like a dream and yet there were still things she recognized. It was still a world that she was a part of. She let her hands fall into the grasses as she walked around looking for something to give her a clue of where she was. Lothal had become well known to her, more so than her own home world.
She stood in a clearing of the grasses, looking at the round emblem, the reverence of the place suddenly making sense. Hera smiled. In one way, they had traveled a great deal. In another, they hadn’t moved at all.
Chapter 65: Reunion
Ahhhh…. Oh my god…. Oh my god…. I didn’t not see that ending coming. Wow, just…. I have never in my life been so excited to take this sad epilogue which I wrote months ago and turn it into something joyous.
Thanks so much for following along and believing in this little ship that could and did become something amazing within the Star Wars canon. Thanks for all the great comments and support. This show that started out as Firefly for kids, I would have never believed it would all end here.
Also apologize if little specter sevens name is proven to be misspelled in the next few days… or if any other facts about this are proven wrong….
After the Battle of Endor
The impact of the explosion rattled the Ghost. The ship swayed from side to side as the debris showered outward from the blast. The control panel was screaming at her, Chopper was whining incessantly, but a smile dawned on her focused face.
The voice of the Mon Cal was joyous as it transmitted once more. "The Death Star has been destroyed, capture all Imperial ships and escape pods.”
Hera felt the Ghost swerve under the shockwave of the explosion, she took her hands off the controls for a moment letting relief wash over her. She grasped it after an instant, focusing as always on the mission. She had to stay alive, she had to set a better example for her child than her own parents had.
A Lambda class shuttle was approaching, quickly she reached down to the coms, "Imperial shuttle surrender or-"
"It's Luke." The voice on the other end was adrenaline filled. "Luke Skywalker."
The name was vaguely familiar, but she had never met the man. It could be a trap, but something about the franticness of his voice made her want to trust. "You better dock with me, there is a capture order on all Imperial ships." She replied mechanically. The shuttle flew alongside the Ghost, the two ships connecting.
She stood up giving Chopper command as she moved, a blaster in hand to see the man.
His hands were up in surrender as the door opened. She squinted at the disheveled man in black, identifying him easily. She lowered her blaster a tad before raising it once more in panic. She recognized the black leg prone on the floor of the shuttle, she had been fighting and running from that monster longer than Luke had.
His eyes glanced back, as if reading her mind. "He is dead." Luke said in a distant voice. "The Emperor killed him."
"And the Emperor?"
"They destroyed one another." Luke’s voice was filled with remorse that she recognized.
Hera holstered her blaster, satisfied that finally the galaxy could begin to breath again. She looked at the young man’s hip seeing the familiar shape of a lightsaber proudly displayed. "You need to burn him." Luke frowned at her. "That was their way, the Jedi way, to burn their dead."
He shifted from foot to foot. "How do you know that?"
Her throat tightened as she looked at him. She had to talk about the Force and the Jedi more as her own son grew older. A day would come when it was easy for her to speak of such things, but Hera hadn’t gotten their yet.
"I knew a Jedi and his apprentice once. When he died.” A tear welled in her eye. “There was no body to…I burned some of his affects.”
Luke's eyes shone brighter. "What happened to the apprentice?"
"He’s…" She looked at her green hands, not knowing the real answer. “He’s gone.” It was all she knew for certain.
“Hera? Hera are you still up there.” A voice on her intercom crackled and she reached for the communicator to reply.
She breathed heavily. “Is Ja-”
“He was on one of the ships away from the battle, he’s fine.” He reassured her quickly.
Her heart settled into her chest. She had been setting aside her son and running into battles since he was just a few months old. Jacen was getting old enough to realize where she went, luckily, she couldn’t imagine many more battles. “You alright?”
“A bit scratched and rattled.” The old clone replied. “But nothing I can’t handle. You?”
“You know the Ghost, it will survive anything. I just picked up Luke Skywalker.” She paused not mentioning the body of Vader.
“Wait Skywalker….” Rex on the other line was bumbling.
She could hear Zeb somewhere within the ship. He and Kallus had both served as her gunners, the men were, as she assumed taking a moment for themselves before they greeted their guest. “Boys we have a visitor.” Hera called out to the ship at large.
“Hera, did you say Skywalker?”
Unsure she spoke into her commlink again. “Yeah, Skywalker. He’s a Jedi or something.”
“Kriff, there is another Skywalker? A Jedi Skywalker?” Rex replied in a destressed voice.
She ignored the clone, looking at Luke. “Where do you want me to take you?”
His eye flashed as if remember where in the galaxy he was positioned. “Back to Endor, if you can.”
She nodded, “Rex we’re heading back down to the surface of the moon. Can you make sure that… that ...I’ll see you soon.”
“… another Skywalker, I’m too old for that.” Rex laughed on the other end. “Hera I’m glad your safe.” He added more solemnly.
“Me too.” She whispered bitterly before putting the communicator back to her lips once more. “Chopper take us back down to the moon.” The droid complained. “Just do it Chop.” She spat at him. She could hear Zeb and Kallus coming up from the gunner positions, she doubted either of them would argue about former Imperials on the Ghost.
Hera looked at the leg in the shuttle once more. “Why did you take him with you?” She asked in a flat voice.
Luke looked at her with blank eyes. “He’s my father.” He replied plainly.
It should have rocked her more, but Hera was not surprised. In fact, she could have almost guessed. “We should be back down to the moon shortly.” The human and the Lasat appeared around the corner. “Can you help Luke get something out of his shuttle please. We’re heading back down to the surface of the moon as we speak.” She watched them followed after the young Jedi. Hera walked back to the cockpit, stopping in the doorway and turning towards one of the doors.
The lights flashed on as she stepped inside.
It had been drab and grey when it had been Kanan’s room. Sabine had taken care to paint it in a series of fantastical colors for Jacen, who had only begun to sleep in his own room in the past two years. Without his presence it was quiet, as it had been when his father occupied the room. Despite the boy’s takeover there were still bits of Kanan left.
The old holocron rested in a drawer. She still played it from time to time, just to hear the voice of the long-gone master. And Ezra’s lightsaber lay in wait, something she knew she need to hold onto.
Hera lowered herself down, sitting upon her knees like Kanan used to when he meditated. The Force surrounded them all, and Kanan was part of the Force now. There were times when she could feel him more strongly, there were times when it felt like he wasn’t there at all.
The war was very close to being over, the war he had never through they could win. She had never thought about what would happen after. That had always been his daydreams. But now it was over. She would still help people, she would help rebuild the galaxy with their son at her side.
“We did good today.” She said aloud to the room, eyes closed as she imagined him before her. “We defeated the Emperor. The Empire is beginning to crack. The war is almost over. I wish… well you would have had something snide to say about it. I won’t tell Jacen about that until he is older. He still views you as a hero.” She paused, letting a laugh escape her. “You were a hero, but we both know it wasn’t all the time.” She stopped again, opening her eyes and looking at all the color in her life. “We did it. Karabast, we did it.”
She stood up, making her way back to the cockpit and lowering the ship down to the moon bellow.
The forest was erupt in celebration Hera didn’t particularly care about any party or collecting her trophy of the Empire. When they landed, old Rex was waiting for her, a smile on his face. He hugged her, and then let go of the little boy whseo hand he was holding onto.
Jacen ran throwing his scrawny little ones around her neck as she knelt in the dirt. She squeezed him, tightly and impossibly. Scarrif, Hoth battles where she had fought and left him in the care of others. It was nearly impossible but she was fighting for him, for Jacen to grown up in a galaxy better than she had.
“Momma.” She kissed his cheeks. “I gotta be with the Mon Cal’seds.”
She pulled back and ran a hand through his green hair. “You did, did you?”
He wrinkled his little nose in disgust. “It was hots on their ship. I didn’t like it.”
“They are a different species, and their environment is different than the one you prefer. You know we don’t say things about different species like that love.”
He rose to his toes looking past her. “Is Uncles Zeb and Kallus back there?” He called out.
She pushed him back down. “Jacen, you have to be patient they both have things to do right now honey.” He loved the pair of men who would rough house with the boy, or tell him slightly inappropriate stories of their adventures. “What about a trip to see Auntie Sabine soon?”
“I want to see the Ewoks. And the…” He fell silent, his little face looking behind her shoulder. Hera turned. Luke and Jacen were looking at one another, both of them stricken with curiosity as if they knew something.
Hera shivered. “Jacen, this is Luke Skywalker. He is…. He’s a Jedi.” The green hair boy blinked. She looked over her shoulder at Luke. “This is my son Jacen.”
Luke for a moment was almost mortified by his fame. He bent down and reached out a gloved hand. “Hello Jacen, it’s nice to meet you.”
Jacen smiled. Hera wrapped her arms around him and picked the boy up, resting him on her hip even though he was getting too big. “Kallus and Zeb need to help Luke move something, we can meet up with them later.” She stood to her full height, she hadn’t seen such a victory celebration in a long time. There would be no sleep at all that night. “Come on Chopper.” The little droid came rolling down the ram, and Hera stepped onto the moon with her family, ready for the unknown.