In what could only be called an office, though he never viewed it as his own despite it being supplied to him, the Grand Inquisitor stood in front of the desk. He was still, waiting. He could be patient even if his masters could not. He would produce the results needed for the Emperor. All he needed was time.
It had been two months since the Inquisition had had any sign of a Jedi running around. The lesser inquisitors were beginning to think that they had finally achieved their goal. A laughable want to have; if they completed their goal, they will have completed their usefulness. Something Darth Vader had reminded him of only an hour ago.
He had been back on Coruscant for minutes when his master confronted him on yet another failed search. One that had been seemingly promising, initially. More often than not now, they were returning with more failures. Every rumoured Jedi turned into someone wanting to play hero. Easy to dispose of, yes, but not the work they should be doing. The Inquisition was not created to kill random citizens. They had a purpose and they were failing at it.
There was no use in trying to explain that since they were good at their work it made it all that much hard now, nine years later. Darth Vader and the emperor did not want excuses. Only results. If they were not finding Jedi, they were not looking hard enough. Perhaps they were proving their ineffectiveness, finally.
“If you do not start producing the results my master demands of you, be sure, you will be disbanded.”
It was all too obvious what Lord Vader meant by disbanded. The only question was of how literal that disbanding would be.
Walking around the desk, the Grand Inquisitor turned on the Star Map. The Outer Rim lit up before him. Leaning forwards, he began to study to map and mentally checking off where they had recently been in their search. This endless search to squash out the light and hope that the galaxy seemed so keen at holding onto. All his strength had been poured into it and still his masters demanded more. Less intelligent beings would have asked how much more. He knew there was no limit to what he had been tasked to do.
So where? Where were these Jedi? It was possible that there were no survivors of the Jedi Order. He and his inquisitors were sure that they had eliminated all of those who had survived the Purge. The chances that one had slipped past the Empire’s gaze was unlikely. Yet Lord Vader insisted that there were still Force users, Jedi specifically, that would be out there in hiding. He did not doubt his master’s intelligence but he also did not doubt his own abilities. They had killed all the ones that had been discovered.
But the Force didn’t end with the Order, he had been well informed in this. New beings would continue to be born with strong connections to the Force. The Force’s future was constantly shifting, revealing new paths. There was always be a sliver of light trying to fight through. A light they had to be ready to stifle.
It was out there, hiding. A Jedi or a child or something , doing everything it could to work against them. He was going to ensure that this being would never bring hope back to the galaxy. It didn’t matter how carefully the galaxy hid the diminished numbers of the light, whatever backwater planet they chose to escape to, they would never be able to run from the Empire.
The Grand Inquisitor was going to find them.
Lothal was nice. It was the best word Kanan could think of to describe it. It was dull and simple and nice. It was a place you’d go when you wanted to retire from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the galaxy but still live in comfort. Easy to settle down here, start a family, grow old. Maybe you’d take up farming. Lothal was definitely the planet you’d go to if you wanted to have a good and simple life.
He was still unsure why Lothal was the planet they were on.
He shifted his weight while Hera was looking at a datapad she had gotten from the man who owned the storage unit they were all standing in front of. They weren’t here because of Hera’s mission. Lothal had just been a convenient stop for them to try and fuel up, grab some supplies. There were hundreds of other planets they could have gone to but they ended up here. For whatever reason they had landed on this simple and nice backwater planet. He felt completely out of place.
But Kanan wouldn’t be anywhere else than at Hera’s side. While this job wasn’t any different from the work he had been doing for her over the past year, he wasn’t going to skip out on it for any reason. A month ago he told her that he was finally ready to commit to her mission and Kanan had meant it. He wasn’t going to disappoint her and get demoted back to being her muscle (he wasn’t against being her bodyguard on jobs, he just happened to really liked knowing more of the details of said jobs). He had her back, completely.
Except, today would be the perfect day for someone to try and get the jump on her. Ever since they had stepped off of the Ghost, something had been prickling at the back of Kanan’s mind. The walk through Capital City to get here had been odd. Every step he took felt as though something was pulling him in every direction. Something about this place—the city or planet—had put him on edge. Something wanted him to be there. The feeling was familiar but he wasn’t sure the last time he had felt it. But, he knew what was allowing it to exist.
Ever since Gorse, Kanan had been fighting off the Force more than ever. The past year had been the hardest to stay disconnected from it. Having allowed it in once seemed to have led the Force to believe he wanted it to be a part of his life again. It was a curse he still couldn’t lift. One he knew he’d never actually be free of. But its growing persistence felt like it was going to tear him apart.
“Your partner looks a little uneasy,” the man Hera was talking to said, whom Kanan had already forgotten the name of. They were both looking at him as he refocused on the situation at hand—Hera had found them a simple job of moving supplies from the shop location in Capital City to Jalath. “You aren’t trying to pull something over on me, are you?”
Hera muttered an apology before pulling Kanan aside. “What’s going on with you?” she whispered, her hand was gripping his arm. Chopper, following after them, grumbled something about him being a liability. Kanan shot the droid a cold look but continued to let Hera move him. Once they were out of earshot of their potential employer, she let go but moved in close. “This has been going on the whole time we’ve been planetside! I need you to actually be here, Kanan, or I need you to leave.”
Kanan glanced up at the man and frowned “Sorry,” he muttered. She looked him over and sighed. This was all new behaviour from him, he knew that, something she hadn’t seen yet. It was new enough for him as it was. “I’m ruining this job, aren’t I?”
“A little bit,” she said. She offered him a faint smile before digging into her pocket. She pulled out a small handful credits, probably all they had left and offered them to him. “Go get us some food and just wait for me at the ship. I don’t really need a second person on this. I know you wanted to tag along but this isn’t working.”
“Are you sure? I can pull it together. I don’t want you here by yourself,” he said. He reached over and took hold of her elbow.
She looked down at his hand and shook it off gently. She glanced back at the man behind them now, who was looking increasingly frustrated, and then said, “I won’t be alone. I’ve got Chopper. Now please, go.”
The astromech made a sound that could only be described as laughing and then moved in to whack Kanan’s leg with one of his arms. He winced and took a step back. Chopper was still doing his best to get him to leave, or at least make it seem like that was his intention.
With a final look at Hera, Kanan took the credits and turned to leave. He hesitated for a moment but then headed off into the street. He knew the only reason he wanted to stay was to be with Hera. It was true that she really did not need him there, especially with him being so distracted. There was no risk to this job; it was entirely above board for once.
He just liked being with her. He weaved his way through the street, the crowds growing denser the closer he got to the marketplace. He only looked back once in the direction of the garage. He felt a tug on his heart as he left her, his thoughts staying on her as he walked away. Kanan enjoyed spending as much of his time with her as he could. Hera had become his friend, his only friend, and partner so much faster than he had anticipated. He hadn’t been planning on sticking around, especially not this long, but now he never wanted to leave. Entirely unintentional, but Hera had a firm grip on him.
He was hers to do whatever she wanted with. The day he woke up and realized this was both thrilling and terrifying. Kanan knew that if she said yes, he would gladly move their relationship past being just partners. It was obvious to both of them that he was attracted to her physically. He quickly thought the world of her as a person and captain. But he was starting to accept that there was a lot more depth to his feelings for her. He was almost scared to try and figure out what the extent of that was.
Kanan could kick himself for making such a fool of himself today.
The market was packed. It was hard to maneuver through the crowds. He didn’t really have any idea of where to get food from, either, so that wasn’t helping him. He weaved his way through a variety of species and debated asking for directions to somewhere to get food. All his years of living alone had taught to not draw attention to himself in marketplaces, that was asking for trouble. Never let people know you’re a tourist to the world. So he put his hands, and the credits from Hera, in his pockets and continued on his way.
Once in the middle of an intersection, Kanan stopped to try and get his bearings. He didn’t want to get lost after buying their food, he didn’t need to embarrass himself more in front of Hera today. Running his hand over his head, he frowned then sighed. It was always annoying when that habit resurfaced, but it made sense right now, at least. He was still getting used to his hair length and found himself running his fingers through it all the time. Having basically shaved his head shortly after joining up with Hera (something about new beginnings had been the reason at the time), he was finally thinking of growing it out again. It wasn’t anymore close to being able to tie back, but there was enough to give you something to hold onto, if you wanted to.
Shoving his hand back into the pocket with the credits, Kanan started to push his way through the crowds again in his search for food.
He had barely read the name of one stall when he was hit by that feeling again, even stronger than before. Whatever was causing it was closer now. Kanan looked around, trying to pin where it was coming from.
It was so familiar. He hadn’t felt drawn to something like whatever this was since he was a kid. A different person. It felt like it was all around him, pressing in on him. Kanan didn’t know where to even begin looking. He wasn’t sure he knew how to anymore. But it wouldn’t leave. It hovered over him as he tried to walk away from it. It clung as he tried to distract himself by looking at the stands around him. He was trapped.
Taking in a deep breath, Kanan closed his eyes and tried to focus. He stopped, no longer hearing the sounds of the market. People walked by but they quickly became a part of the environment. Soon, sooner than he thought he’d be able to, it was just him and the Force. And the jumped in his mind.
Something… no,someonewas close and the Force was trying to make him aware of this. Whoever it was felt as though they were within reach. All he’d have to do was lift his hand and he was sure he touch them. This connection was ready to be grabbed, begging Kanan to take hold. To embrace this.
Then, he was stumbling. Ripped from his focus, Kanan opened his eyes a found a small, dark haired boy look up at him with the brightest blue eyes.
“Sorry, mister!” the boy said. He grinned and then ran off down the street.
“Way to pay attention, kid,” Kanan muttered to himself. Shaking his head, Kanan found whatever the presence was now slipping away. “I was barely moving, easy to avoid…”
Easy to avoid, yes. But also easy to target. Kanan shoved his hands into his pockets and found they were empty. Hera’s credits were gone.
Kanan took off running in the direction the kid had gone. He was less than a minute behind, but he didn’t know these streets. There was no guarantee he’d find this kid and his credits again. Then, with whatever luck he had, he caught the glimpse of the boy turning off the main street.
He wasn’t sure how long he chased after the kid. Not that long, but long enough to put him in a very bad mood. This day had turned into way more than what he had wanted to deal with. He should have just been with Hera, enjoying her company, not chasing some Loth-rat street kid for stolen credits.
A final turn brought him to the end of his chase. This kid was clearly not an expert pickpocket yet, his escape route had led him to a dead end. A small alley, and even with crates piled at the end, there was nowhere to go.
The boy was at the end, looking up at the roof well out of reach. He was starting to look around frantically for any other chance at escape. But Kanan had him cornered. And all for a handful of credits.
“Look, kid,” he called out as he got closer. The boy turned and looked at him, fear clear on his face. Kanan slowed down. He didn’t want to scare the kid, not really. He just wanted his money back and to forget that this day had happened. Raising his hands up to try and convey he wasn’t a threat, he continued, “I’m not going to hurt you.”
He took three more steps and then stopped.
No. No way. Kanan stared at the boy in front of him. There was no way. It wasn’t possible. After so many years of running and hiding, it seemed like a cruel trick.
"The Force works in mysterious ways." A lesson that every youngling in the temple had known by heart. It was an answer they’d get whenever their teachers were tired of answering questions for the day (Kanan had heard it said to him more than the other younglings, he was sure of that). Apparently, it turned out that those simple words actually had some weight to them.
This boy. This was who he had been drawn to. For whatever reason, the Force needed Kanan to find him.
Lothal wasn’t what it used to be. Ezra couldn’t really remember what it had been like but he knew that now it wasn’t as nice as it had been before. He could sort of remember going on trips with his parents to the fields to see if they could find any Loth-cats. He wasn’t really sure if he just dreamed that, though. Things kept changing and it was hard to keep up. He didn’t really understand why these changes were happening, just that they kept coming.
Today had been hard. Waking up cold and hungry again had just made everything about the morning almost too much to bear. He didn’t cry, though. Ezra had learned quickly that crying only made you a target to the other kids. And, crying just reminded him that no one cared. There was no one to hold him anymore, so there was no point of wasting time on tears. He didn’t need the reminder. Two years alone taught him how to live on the streets and not get targeted. He had learned how to survive.
He had parted ways with the group of kids he generally spent the night with a bit before midday. None of them worked together; they weren’t friends. They slept in the same place, a very dry spot in the continually drying sewers, for safety but that was all their relationships were. It was easier that way. No one let you down. Plus, Ezra didn’t have to share any credits or food he’d manage to get in the day. Not that he really had anything to share. The other kids were all older than him and had been on the streets longer. They took him under their wing early on but they always managed to get more by the end of the day. They were more ruthless. They didn’t go hungry as often.
Except, looking for food wasn’t where Ezra went. Not right away. Quickly, he went along one of the various routes he’d take to go to his old house. Every time he went, he’d switch up how he got there so no one could follow him. Just for an hour or two, he’d go and sit inside and wait.
He really wasn’t sure why he was still going to his old house. It wasn’t everyday, anymore. The first year alone found him there all the time, waiting and hoping. Maybe while he sat at the round table, with all the secrets that ruined his life underneath him, the front door would slide open and he wouldn’t be stuck anymore. But the days kept passing, and while everything else seemed to change, he was still alone. His parents were never coming back. A small part of himself still drove him to check, just in case, but he knew it was never going to be different. No matter how many times he went. And it wasn’t this time.
So, then he headed to the marketplace. He was out of credits and food. He needed to steal something or try and find someone willing to give a nine year old street kid a quick job. Ezra never tried to beg for money. People didn’t care about kids and stormtroopers would kick any kids begging out of the way. Better to be the criminal they thought you were and actually get credits then end up hurt and still be creditless.
It was crowded today. Maybe there were more tourists, maybe everyone was behind on their shopping. It didn’t matter. This just meant more targets for Ezra to choose between. Tourists were the easiest to steal from. They weren’t as cautious about where their money was kept and he could easily run a play on them. Just find the right person and he’d have food for maybe even a week. All he had to do was be patient and someone would come up.
Ezra waited and waited. It was well into the afternoon and there still wasn’t anyone worth trying anything on. He was sitting on the roof of a building that overlooked the main intersection of the market. He started to flick tiny pebbles off the ledge he was leaning on. Maybe today was to be another day where he went hungry. His stomach growled on cue and he shut his eyes tightly. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want another night where his stomach hurt so badly he couldn’t sleep.
And then a pebble dropped next to him. His eyes snapped opened. What was that? Ezra looked down at the crowd below him. Just now… Something pulled at him. He had never felt that before. He stood up to try and get a better look. Something down there had just called to him.
“Weird…” he whispered.
Nothing seemed out of place. People were walking. Shopping. It was just a normal day in Capital City.
But there had been something.
He wasn’t sure how long he looked for the source of whatever had happened. And while he couldn’t figure out what it was, he did spot something else: a target. A guy, dressed in a green shirt that made him stand out a bit amongst the more muted colours of the locals’ clothes, came walking through the crowd. He was looking around, clearly a little lost. This man was definitely a tourist. He was walking with his hands in his pockets, which was a good sign that he was keeping his credits in there. Ezra grinned. Finally, this day was looking up.
Ezra scrambled his way down to the street, grateful that this building had a fire escape. This was the risky; he wasn’t going to be able to keep an eye on the guy once he was on the ground. He was just too small. But, his size allowed him to weave through the crowd. So as long as the guy was in roughly the same place, Ezra wasn’t going to go hungry tonight.
As he got closer, Ezra noticed the man had completely stopped. His hands were out of his pockets and his eyes were closed. Like he was trying to listen for something. As if this couldn’t get stranger, the pull was back. Whatever had tugged at his mind earlier decided now was a great moment to do that again. Shaking his head to try and clear it, he started to jog to the man.
The pull got stronger until Ezra collided with the person. It disappeared upon contact which was great, cause this was the tricky part. He quickly slipped his hand into a pocket, hoping this had the credits he assumed where there and grinned. Jackpot. As he moved away, he grinned up at the guy.
“Sorry, mister!” he said before turning and running into the crowd. He wasn’t that familiar with all the escape routes around here, he generally tried to do this sort of thing in other parts of the city, often at the spaceport. He was going to have to trust he’d get out of here.
It was faint but he definitely heard the man shout behind him. So much for a solid head start. Ezra picked up the pace. He needed to get out of this crowd, any moment the guy could call for stormtroopers to help him and then Ezra would be in real trouble. There was a side street coming up which was going to have to be his escape route. Maybe next he’d plan the escape before he found himself in the middle of it.
He turned out of the marketplace and it was immediately less crowded. It was easier to run but it was also easier to be seen. A small sacrifice to make.
“There better,” Ezra said between each breath he panted out, “be enough credits.”
Risking a glance back, he saw that he was being followed. Panic began to set in. Ezra was fast, sure, but this guy was twice his size with much longer legs. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could out run him. He was going to get caught.
Ezra turned again and bolted down an alley. He just needed to get off the streets. Up on the roofs again or into a store, anything to could hide him. He just needed to hide and this would blow over. And then he ran into a crate. Winded, he paid attention to what was in front of him. There were five crates pushed up against the back wall of a building. A very tall building.
He was trapped.
He looked around, trying to see if there was anything at all that could get him out of here. There was a single door in the alley but it looked like it hadn’t been opened in years. No chance of climbing out of here, even if he had the strength to lift the crates on top of each other, there was no time.
“Look, kid,” a voice called from behind. Ezra turned at saw the guy making his way down the alley. This was it. He was going to be turned in and arrested and would never see Lothal again. He knew that criminals didn’t do well under the Empire, reasons for the crimes meant nothing. It was all about ‘keeping the peace’. The man slowed down and raise his hands up in front of him. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
He took three more steps before stopping. The guy was just staring at him now. Ezra leaned against the crate behind him, trying to shrink away. He didn’t like this. This guy had the same look of concentration on his face as he had in the market. But now it was directed at him.
Ezra looked passed the guy wondering if he just ran for it would he make it, when it came back a third time. That pulling. It was so much stronger now. And it had a clear direction. Looking at the man, he realized what he was being pulled to. Whatever this force was, it wanted Ezra to meet this guy. It wanted them to find each other.
Hera sat down in the Phantom’s pilot seat and let out a content sigh. The job had gone very well, especially after she had sent Kanan off. She still felt a little bad about it, but the fact that they now had enough credits to refuel the Ghost for at least a month and wouldn’t have to rely on eating only rations helped ease her guilt. He knew that the job always came first; she had told him as much more than once.
Behind her came a broken sounding beep and she turned; Chopper was rolling into the shuttle. He let out another series of sounds and she smiled at him. “Yes, I know everything went better since I asked Kanan to do his own thing,” she said.
She turned to the controls and closed up the shuttle. Soon enough, they were in the air and on their way back to the Ghost and Capital City. They could even afford the fees for the spaceport they were at with this job completed. Since their reason for being on Lothal was entirely legal, Hera had opted for keeping it legal. Which meant paying docking fees (and registering fees, though under a fake credentials).
Pressing the comm controls, Hera smiled. Might as well let him know they were on their way back. And maybe she could convince him to head back out and buy them a really good meal. Every now and then she liked to indulge in his cooking. While her fantasy continued to play out in her mind, she said, “Hey, my ETA is about ten minutes.”
And then, no answer, which was odd. Kanan always answered her comms.
She didn’t let it bother her. She wouldn’t. Lothal maybe wasn’t the safest place in the galaxy but it wasn’t anywhere close to what Hera viewed as dangerous. Plus, the Imperial presence here was still minimal. There was very little chance that Kanan had caused a scene that would have gotten him arrested when all he was doing was buying food. A year ago, maybe she would have worried but now she trusted him. In any case, he was probably already back on the ship.
“Whump whump bah bwuuump,” Chopper bleated as he rolled up next to her. She looked down as him and raised an eyebrow. “Bwaaaaah.”
“No, Chopper. We’re not leaving him here.”
They were about five minutes outside of Capital City now. Chopper grumbled something else and Hera had to laugh at this one. “Oh, right. We’d be better off? You’d start missing him within a day if he were gone.”
If Chopper could shrug, she was sure he would have in response. Instead he simply gave her a final thought and made his way to the back of the Phantom, ready to leave.
“I’m not! Your logic chip must be fried again,” Hera snapped. She turned her attention back to flying. They were at the spaceport, finally. She started up the docking process, lowering the Phantom into their docking bay, and muttered to herself, “In love with him? Ridiculous.”
Once the shuttle and ship were connected, Chopper led the way in, only to make himself scarce after a very stern look from Hera. She walked over to the small circular table, dropping her supply bag on it. She looked at the bowls that had been left there this morning, neither she nor Kanan had been in the mood to clean up from breakfast. She still wasn’t. It was odd that they were still there though; Kanan would have definitely cleaned that up if he had been back by now.
Hera made to go into the galley when the ship’s comm went off. Probably Kanan, explaining why he wasn’t back yet. She made her way to the cockpit. It was only when she was sitting down that she began to wonder why Kanan would comm the ship and not her personal comlink.
Suddenly, she was glad Kanan wasn’t here; she hated when she had to ask him to leave so she could deal with her contacts throughout the galaxy. He didn’t like being kept in the dark now that he had committed and he wasn’t above letting her know this. She accepted the incoming transmission and a voice came through saying: “Look to a star for hope.”
Swallowing, Hera answered, “It’s light will guide you.” After a pause, she added, “This is Hera.” It had been awhile since she had been contacted with that code phrase. It meant that whatever this was about, it was going to be more than gathering information. She felt every nerve in her jump.
“How are things on Lothal?” the voice asked. They were familiar, she knew she had spoken with this person a few times before. Male and humanoid, they were an excellent speaker.
“For me, or in general?” she asked. There was a slight chuckle but he didn’t clarify, not that he really needed to. “The Imperial presence isn’t large, yet. The people here seem comfortable in their lives, overall, but it’s obvious that things are slowly getting worse. The people I did a shipment run couldn’t hide their disdain for that way things are.”
“Hm. Then, perhaps it is time to start bringing help to Lothal,” he said. There was a pause that Hera didn’t dare interrupt. She wasn’t sure where this was going. She mostly just ran information around, bringing people together in the hopes that something would build from that. Whatever was coming next excited her, this was maybe the chance to actually feel like she’s doing good out in the galaxy. “There’s someone I need you to meet.”
“Who?” Hera asked in spite of herself. She flinched once the word was out there. It was a pointless question, she wouldn’t be told this over comms.
“A rather… special agent. They are an old friend and we both believe that you have more to offer than simply running intel around the galaxy,” he explained. “They will meet you there on Lothal as soon as they can, so we need you to stay put. They will send you coordinates when it is time.”
Hera confirmed this and was dismissed, the comm going silent. She felt like she was vibrating; every part of her was ready for this moment. Finally, she was making her way closer to the goal: a galaxy wide rebellion. There were people out there working towards that and now she was going to be an actual part of that. She was going to be able to build those foundations that were desperately needed.
The rush of the conversation was starting to fade, however. She eyed her comlink and sighed. “Kanan, where are you?” she whispered to herself. This whole day had been just slightly off and Kanan was the culprit for a lot of that. She just wanted to know where her partner was now.
Her stomach growled as she waited. There was no use worrying, she had to keep telling herself that. Kanan could take care of himself, he more or less did that in the years before they had met. All she could do now was wait and trust he’d come back to the ship. Hera made her way back to the common room and galley, to cook up a dinner from what remnants they had lying around, and pretended the pit in her stomach was just from hunger.
They were just staring at each other. Kanan wasn’t sure how much time had past. A minute or an hour, time had no meaning now. He felt like he didn’t know much of anything anymore. For whatever reason, on this backwater planet, the Force had decided that he needed to meet this kid. A street kid with absolutely nothing. A kid who would be considered unimportant by everyone else.
The boy shifted, his bright blue eyes piercing through him. He wanted to look away but found he couldn’t. He was still being pulled forward.
For eight years Kanan had been running. Running away from any chance of a normal life, or maybe running towards one. He had run from the Jedi, the Force, the memories of who he had been and could still be. He had let Master Depa Billaba die and then he let Caleb Dume die with her. He let every connection he made die out; you couldn’t suffer anymore loses if you had nothing to lose. Then, Gorse happened.
In some ways, he had stopped running on that planet. Gorse had almost become a home, and while that had ended in the usual tragedy he faced throughout his life, he had found a home. In Hera. She saved him for fading away. She gave Kanan Jarrus the chance to make a life for himself. While being a Jedi and Caleb Dume would always be a thing of the past (a past she knew almost nothing about even now), she had offered him a chance to make a future. And he took it.
But here was his past, staring up at him. He took a step forward and the boy tensed up. He was now back to looking for any means of escape. Was this how he had looked when Kasmir found him? Was his this tiny and scared?
“Hey, my ETA is about ten minutes.” Hera’s voice rang through his comlink, making both him and the boy jump. Kanan glanced down at it but didn’t go to answer. He’d apologize for ignoring her later, he had no idea what he could say to her right now.
He looked back up at the boy and frowned. He looked terrified. And of course he did. He probably thinks that Hera is my back up coming to deal with him. That’s what he would have thought in this situation. The kid was younger than he had been when he thrown into the world alone.
Kanan couldn’t do anything for this boy. He was a broken person, his pieces were still being gathered up. He didn’t know if he’d ever be whole again. He had nothing to offer. He wasn’t who this boy needed. He knew he should want to help this kid; that was what a good person would do. Take this kid, who was obviously important, and protect him. Give him a home. How Hera had helped him. But he wasn’t Hera. And this kid wasn’t him, despite whatever similarities were screaming in his face, trying to remind him what it had been like to be that scared and alone.
In this moment, Kanan just wanted to run again.
He looked the kid over one more time before saying, “Keep the credits.” Shock spread across the boy’s face but Kanan was already turning away. He did what he could. He might not be able to actually do anything for him, but a handful of credits would at least get him food.
Halfway down the alley, the boy called after him. He didn’t stop. He needed to get away.
“Wait!” the boy shouted. Kanan glanced back and saw the boy jogging to catch up.
“Just keep the credits, kid,” Kanan said. He stopped at the mouth of the alley, wondering if he should go the way he came from or find a way that would avoid the marketplace; he didn’t feel up to pushing his way through a crowd.
“You’re going to turn me in, aren’t you?” the boy asked. He had run around Kanan and was now standing in front of him. His face set with determination now, the fear was mostly gone.
“What?” He raised an eyebrow before turning away from the way he came. He really couldn’t handle a crowd now. He knew he need to head west to get to the spaceport the Ghost was docked at. Kanan guessed that he was about a fifteen minute walk from there, though it was hard to really tell. One day on Lothal was not enough time to learn what you needed to know about a city.
“You’re going to turn me in. People don’t just give kids like me money. This is a trick,” the kid said, running to keep up. Kanan looked down at him and frowned, but he slowed his pace. “You’re just going to go get some stormtroopers, aren’t you?”
“Kid, the last thing I want to do is involve the Empire.”
Kanan continued making his way in hopefully the right direction. He had picked up the pace again only to slow down when he realized his was still being followed. At one point, a group of stormtroopers did walk by and his shadow had disappeared. He thought he had lost him but a few blocks away from where the stormtroopers had been, the kid returned, now walking in step with him.
The walk was silent. It seemed that the fire he had when he thought he’d be turned in had simmered down. No more accusations were flying through the air. Kanan was uncomfortable. The silence between them made it so he had trouble ignoring the tingles that the Force hadn’t let up on. It was like it knew he what wanted to, and was going to: ditch the kid. Well, nothing was going to change his mind. He’d been ignoring the Force for nine years, why should this time be any different? (He ignored the voice in his head saying that Gorse had been different, he didn’t ignore it there.)
When they got to the spaceport, Kanan stopped in front of the open hangar doors, the boy had followed him all the way through the port. He could see the Ghost waiting. Hera would be there by now. The boy stopped next to him, crossing his arms and looking up at him. The intensity in those eyes was back, though what they were saying this time, Kanan wasn’t sure. He sighed and ran his hand over his head. “I meant it, kid,” he said. “Keep the credits. You need them more than me.”
The boy didn’t say anything this time, no attempt to argue. He nodded and then looked down. Kanan felt his chest tighten as he watching him. He needed to leave. He needed to walk away from this kid and not look back. They both knew he wasn’t going to be some saviour so there was no point drawing out this interaction.
Kanan nodded at him, though it was completely missed because the boy still wasn’t looking up, and walked into the hangar. The access ramp to the Ghost was still up but the Phantom was docked. So, Hera was back. He reached up to press the release for the ramp. Hesitating, Kanan looked and saw that the kid had finally run off. He frowned. It was for the best, right? There was no room in his life for that kind of responsibility, not that he was capable of even attempting to take it on.
“Kanan?” Hera’s voice came through the comlink again, though this time it didn’t hold the ease it had in it before. “Where are you? You should have been here ages ago. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m about to come abroad,” he responded into the comm. He pressed the release button for the ramp and waited for it to lower. He spared a final glance at the empty hangar doors before making his way onto the ship.
Hera was standing in the hold, arms crossed and a very unimpressed look was etched into her face. She looked him over and raised her eyebrows. “Where have you been? And where are my supplies?”
“Yeah, about that,” he answered, rubbing the back of his neck. He hit the button to close up the ship. He watched it shut, putting a final barrier between him and the world outside. Kanan let out a sigh and made his way to stand with Hera. “I might have gotten robbed.”
Worry flashed across her face. She reached over and placed a hand on his arm. “Are you okay?”
He shrugged, her hand dropping from his arm as he did so. He wanted her to keep touching him but at the same time he didn’t want her to pry, and those were often paired together. “Yeah, it was just a pickpocket. Some kid trying not to starve tonight, probably.”
Hera looked him over again and sighed. She offered a sympathetic smile and he gave one in return. “Well,” she said and made her way to the ladder out of the hold, “my day went a lot better than yours. I completed the job and we were paid. We can go buy some supplies tomorrow.”
“Which reminds me, we’re going to be on Lothal for a little while,” she was almost out of the hold now, looking down at him from the top of the ladder. Kanan’s smile faded as he looked up at her. “I’m not sure how long yet, it could be a day, it could be a week. I’ll let you know once I have more information.”
They were staying on Lothal. He had just reached the ladder, one hand resting on a rung. He had hoped they would leave in the morning, get their supplies and go. His stomach dropped. The longer they stayed, the guiltier he was going to feel. That kid, he was alone. And he might be… more than the average kid. Kanan had just let the kid disappear in the hopes that that was the end of it all. He shouldn’t have had any desire to stick around Lothal and he shouldn’t have been worried about staying in the first place. He had made up his mind; the past was in the past. Where it belonged.
So, why was there the feeling of anticipation creeping through him?
“Kanan?” Hera asked, sticking her head through the hatchway in the ceiling.
“Sounds good,” he answered. He re-adjusted his grip on the rung of the ladder and followed her into the cockpit. She was waiting for him in the cockpit. As he pulled himself into the room, Hera nodded towards the door. Quickly, Kanan said, “Sorry. About all this.”
“It’s fine, Kanan,” she said. “It’s an off day, we all have them.”
Not like mine, he thought. He smiled at her and watched her make to the console, leaning over to reach a button.
“There’s food ready in the galley, by the way.” The hatchway opened, Hera weaved through the chairs to head towards the exit. “It’s not a lot, given what we had laying around, but I think it turned out pretty good. I’m getting better at cooking.”
“I’m sure, you are learning from me,” he said, chuckling quietly. Not quietly enough, though. She threw a look at him over her shoulder, it clearly read ‘you’re not as great as you think you are’ and he just laughed more. “Food sounds great, really, Hera. I just want to check something in my cabin, I’ll eat soon. Promise.”
Rolling her eyes at him, she started to make her way out of the cockpit but then stopped. She looked back at him and opened her mouth to say something. Kanan waited, wondering what else was on her mind. Hera shook her head after a moment. “Be sure you do eat, you barely ate breakfast and I know you didn’t buy yourself lunch, Mr. Pickpocketed.” He raised his hands in surrender and she headed down the passageway.
He followed her for a few steps, not needing to go far to reach his cabin. Kanan watched her head off through the ship, going back to whatever she was doing while she had been waiting for him. Once she had disappeared, he went into the cabin.
It was barren. When he had moved onto the Ghost, Kanan hadn’t really owned anything. He had brought on a single bag of possessions, which was mostly just clothing, and his winning personality. It was all he had ever needed. Now, a year later, Kanan just never got around to buying things for himself. At first, he had just assumed he wasn't going to be able to stick around, no reason to clutter up Hera’s ship. But the days had kept passing and he never left. At some point, the emptiness of the room started to give him comfort. A reminder of a life he used to live.
There was the one spot that wasn’t empty. The drawers under the bunk held everything he owned (except his blaster, which was on his person whenever he left the cabin). Three of them just held his clothing, one with credits stashed away for emergencies. It was the fourth drawer that held anything of actual significance.
Kanan walked over to the drawers. He knelt down and laid a hand over the one that keep hidden who he had been. He could feel the objects inside tugging at him, asking to be brought out into the light again, to be used. All he had to do was push the drawer to open. To open himself up to the Force again.
He stood up, taking a step back. No. He wasn’t going to give in. The Force had nothing left to offer him. It had given him everything only to take it away. He wasn’t going to fall for that trick again. That kid out there was better off never knowing the potential he held, it would only cause him pain.
“She’s on Lothal?” she asked. She was sitting across from Bail Organa in his office. The Tantive IV was currently travelling through hyperspace, she needed to be ready to leave once they dropped out. She was looking at a datapad, having just read the intel she had been given. “What’s she doing there? I didn’t realize we had any missions out there.”
“We don’t,” Bail answered. “Syndulla went there merely to find work. She and her associate were running low on funds.”
Frowning, she went back to looking at the datapad. The whole file they had on Hera Syndulla’s was there, how to contact her, and any other relevant information she might need. She wasn’t having second thoughts about reaching out to Syndulla: it was time. Syndulla was a capable rebel and resourceful. Since they had first heard word of her, she had managed to accomplish more for this rebellion than she even knew. (Gorse had been debated amongst many of the older rebels on if it had been a win or not—she and Bail approved with how that mission had gone. That was when they started to really think about how deep Syndulla should be brought in.)
“Is there something the matter with Lothal?” Bail asked. He poured himself another glass of whatever he had been drinking, some wine from Alderaan. She had turned it down, not wanting to worry about flying once she left.
“Other than the Empire digging in its roots?” she said, smirking at her long time friend. “No, nothing’s the matter with it. I just didn’t imagine that she would end up there.” Nothing would have called her there.
“I told her you would contact her once you were able, so she’ll be there until you can,” he said. Setting down his wine glass, he sighed. “She’s young.”
“I was younger when I joined you,” she pointed out. “And look at who her father is, it’s no surprise she’s in this fight already.”
“It’s not that I don’t believe she’s capable, you know that I do. But,” he said as he looked her over, his voice heavy, “our allies grow younger and younger with every year. We’ll be sending children out soon.”
“I was a child in the Clone War.”
“And we know very well how that war ended.”
The ship had dropped from hyperspace by the time she was in the hangar. Her astromech, R3-B0, was making small adjustments to her starfighter. Well, the one she had been borrowing as of late. It would be finished the work soon, the fighter hadn’t been through anything harrowing lately.
She couldn’t shake it. Why would Syndulla end up there of all places? She herself had never been to Lothal before, but its name had popped up in her travels. She could almost remember seeing the name in the archives back when she was another person. Lothal was ancient, there was more history there than what was known. Temples and ruins for lost peoples, old and new, were scattered across the planet. You could find its secrets if you knew how to look.
Which meant Syndulla ending up there raised a good number of questions, none of which she could answer right now. There was no reason for her to be there in the grand scheme of things, and yet she was. If this was the Force’s design, it certainly did work in mysterious ways. Her teachers hadn’t been wrong about that one.
“Arthree, when you’re ready, set the coordinates for Lothal,” she said. She jumped up into the starfighter's cockpit, settling in. She looked over the controls and smiled. “Well, this is going to be interesting.”
I don't really have a release schedule for this. The plan I have is to have 3-4 chapters finished at a time and then go and edit the next chapter for release. Write a chapter, release an earlier one. Just thought I'd let you all vaguely know what my plan is.
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
He looked around the roof again to make sure no one had come up, ready to toss him off for sneaking in, and then looked back down at the ship in the hangar. He was pretty sure it was some type of freighter, he couldn’t remember all the types of ships that his parents had taught anymore. It didn’t matter. He looked down at the ship and waited.
Ezra took a bite out of one of the jogan fruits he had with him, bought with the man’s money, and bounced his feet against the wall. He was sitting on the lip that ran around the roof. He had definitely been there for over an hour—it had been ages now. In that time, all that had happened was a green Twi’lek woman had left the ship, alone, and came back with a small crate. No sign of the man from yesterday. Ezra was starting to worry that he had the wrong ship.
It was still early in the day, just getting to midday now. Ezra had left the sewers before the other kids were even awake. A quick stop at the market to buy the fruit and then he retraced his steps until he found the spaceport again. Since he was alone this time, he didn’t want to risk the workers there seeing him, so it was up to the roof. That made it harder to find the ship but he was pretty sure he had it right. He needed to be right.
He tossed the core to the fruit behind him and resisted grabbing a second one. It was tempting, he hadn’t had this much food in his possession in a long time, mostly just a meal for the day, but the man’s credits was enough for him to buy a good sized bag as well as having a few credits left over. Maybe he’d start a stash, have some credits saved away for emergencies.
Ezra let out a long groan and placed his elbows on his knees so that he could prop his chin up on his hands.
Nothing was happening. The minutes kept dragging by and there was no change down below. Ezra was starting to wonder why he had even come here. He had no real idea as to why; the man clearly wanted nothing to do with him. But something had kept him up most of the night. If he just saw him again, then maybe it would all make sense. He hoped it would, he knew he would be distracted every day until it did. He needed to stick to his daily routine, it was the only way to survive.
A noise from the ship refocused Ezra. He clambered to standing and watched. The access ramp was lowering. The Twi’lek lady was coming out again, speaking to someone behind her. Ezra’s breath caught in his throat as he waited. He needed it to be that man, he needed to know that what was happening, was actually happening.
It was. The tall man, dressed in a different green shirt today, followed the woman out of the ship. He responded to her with a shrug and she headed out of sight, leaving the hangar. The man didn’t go after her. He stood at the bottom of the ramp, completely still. And then, with no warning at all, his head snapped upwards and made eye contact with Ezra, who stumbled and fell back on to the roof. He was blocked from the guy’s sight lines now. Breathing hard, he counted to ten before he crawled back to the edge of the roof. Peering over the lip, he checked to see if the guy was there still. He was, but now he was talking to an orange, and ancient looking, astromech. Soon, the two headed off.
Catching his breath, Ezra made a quick decision. He ran along the roof until he got back to where he had climbed up. It was near the main entrance of the spaceport, which meant he should be able to keep up with them. Once he was on the ground outside, he saw the flicker of green disappearing into the crowd. He followed, wondering where they were going and if any of this was really all that good of an idea.
So, now they were making their way through the crowd towards Hera’s new contact. How she managed to find ten new people to work with on every planet they stopped on was beyond him. At least it would fill the time while they were stuck on this rock, waiting for whatever it was she was waiting for.
Kanan glanced behind him. He could have sworn he saw a flash of orange fabric dashing into a side street. It was the third time he noticed that since they had left the spaceport. So the kid was definitely following them. Kanan had hoped that he had imagined it when he saw the kid on the roof around their hangar, but that would have been more luck than he’d ever had in his life. And there was no way of trying to ditch the kid right now, not easily. That would mean he’d have to tell Hera more about what had happened, or hadn’t happened, yesterday and he was not prepared for that. A final look behind and then he turned his attention back to walking through the crowd.
“You’re jumpy today,” Hera said, stopping to look at him.
Kanan flashed an easy grin at her. “Are you staring at me, Captain?” he asked. She rolled eyes and started to walk again, but next to him this time. Chopper was now rolling ahead of them, despite only Hera knowing where exactly they were headed.
“What’s bothering you?” she asked, not rising to his bait. She never did. He never really meant it, not anymore. But he didn’t need Hera thinking he had changed completely. It was easier to keep up the suave persona around her than to show her how far she had sunk into his heart.
“Nothing, just a bad night. It happens,” he answered. She frowned but didn’t press anymore. Maybe she was remembering the first few months after Gorse when he’d have a number of bad nights; she was no stranger to finding him awake in the middle of the night cycle working on something, staying up too late the next night to try and exhaust himself in to a dreamless sleep. Maybe she was thinking about how those night haven’t gone away yet and this is just confirming something she already worried about. “You’re not going to send me away again, are you?”
“No,” she said. She looked ahead and pointed to the right. “Chopper, turn there. That’s the street we need.”
The droid chortled in response, turning his dome to her to see what direction. The group turned onto an even larger street but less crowded. Hera gestured to further down the street and Chopper started off again, not waiting for the other two.
They followed in silence, though Kanan knew she was going to say something soon. This wasn’t an entirely new conversation between them. She would try, every now and then, to get him to open up to her, each time there was less effort on her side (but she still tried, and he always noticed). He would find a way to deflect her questions or only give half-assed answers. He wasn’t ready for her to know who he was, Jedi past aside. Hera wouldn’t want anything to do with him if she knew just how much of a coward he was.
“You know,” she said softly, after waiting the usual amount of time to start, reaching a hand over to touch his arm, “you can talk to me about anything. If you need to.”
Kanan started to smirk. He had his witty response ready to toss at her but found it died on his lips quickly. How many times could he push her away when she was right? How many times would she come back when all she got was a closed door? “I know,” he said.
She nodded and then pointed just ahead of them. “That’s the place.”
It was an old and somewhat rundown looking cantina; though there weren’t any scorch marks around the entrance so by Kanan’s standards this was an especially nice establishment. There was a sign over top of the entrance that read Jho’s Stop. Hera led the way in after telling Chopper to wait outside for them. He was clearly unhappy with being left out but gave up complaining as the pair made their way down the stairs into the cantina (at least, he gave up complaining directly to them, they could hear his binary grumbles the whole way down).
The inside of the cantina was a bit better kept, but not by much. It seemed to be a slow day, but that might only be because of the quality of the place. Kanan had been in enough bars that were packed enough by midday. He would have been drunk by this hour on especially bad days. Shaking out the thought of his old lifestyle, he followed Hera up to the bar. An Ithorian was working, making drinks for a couple sitting on the other end. Kanan glanced at them as he sat down. The man was leaning over and whispering in the woman’s ear, making her giggle. Letting out a short, breathy laugh, he imagined doing that to Hera; he’d probably earn her hand pushing his face away.
Hera waved the Ithorian over. He was wearing a translator, which was a welcomed surprise. While Kanan understood Ithorese perfectly, as well as a good number of other languages, he didn’t want to explain how he understood it. He was always grateful for a translator to be brought out.
“What can I get you two?” the bartender asked in the mechanicalized Basic of the translator, coming over to them.
Kanan opened his mouth to respond but Hera cut him off. “Two twistlers, thank you,” she said. The Ithorian's eyes widened before he moved off get the drink’s components.
Staring at Hera, Kanan felt a frown set in. She knew better than to order him something alcoholic. They had had their fair share of arguments in the past about his drinking… issues, to put it simply. It had been a rough few weeks until Kanan finally agreed to let that part of his well crafted identity go (and then another rough number of weeks of having to actually let it go). Immediately, she flashed an apologetic smile at him and slowly reached over and squeezed his knee. Her hand stayed there a second longer than he expected it would but then she had readjusted with both hands on the bar, the perfect picture of waiting.
Ah, so the drink order was a code. Of course it was. He sighed and settled onto his stool. Resting an arm on the bar, his hand landed near Hera’s hands, he began to look around the room. It really was a nice place, despite its appearance. There was a warm feeling the filled the air and it was clear that the patrons here felt it. Jho’s Stop must have been the prime joint of the area, it would definitely pick up in here as the day went on.
Movement at the entrance grabbed his attention. He placed his hand on top Hera’s and nodded to the doors. Two stormtroopers walked in, their blasters visible for all the patrons to see. They slowly made their way to the bar.
“I’ve already told you, you stormtroopers can’t keep coming in here and scaring away my customers!” the Ithorian said as the two armoured men stopped in front of him.
“And we’ve told you, Jho, that as long as this location is under suspicion for rebel activity, we will be here to investigate,” one of the troopers answered. It was hard to tell out of the two groups who didn’t want this encounter more. Kanan hadn’t heard such a bored stormtrooper in a long time.
“Rebel activity, that’s ridiculous!”
“We have our orders.”
“Get on with your search, then,” Jho snapped. As the two troopers made their way towards the back of the cantina and into the back room, he muttered under his breath, though Kanan still caught it, “I can’t wait to move out of the city.”
The stormtroopers were on their way out shortly after that and the mood in the room shifted back to the comfortable ease from before. It must have been a fairly common occurrence with how quick the shift was.
“Does that happen often?” Hera asked as their drinks were placed in front of them. She took a small sip of hers and grimaced. Kanan tried not to laugh; she was never big on mixed drinks, the little she drank at all. His drink sat ignored in front of him.
“More often than I’d like,” Jho answered. “They’ve been at these random searches more frequently in the past two years. Trying to catch any supposed rebels. Anyone who talks out against the Empire.”
“What happened two years ago?”
“The Bridger Transmissions. When the Empire took up here, some citizens decided they weren’t going to sit by and watch. This one couple, Mira and Ephraim Bridger, they started doing these transmissions, speaking out against the Empire,” Jho explained. He glanced around the cantina but it was clear no one was paying attention to a bartender ‘chatting’ with some customers. “They brought a lot of hope to the people of Lothal. They really got people to start questioning what was happening here. But, the Empire caught them. They were both arrested, two years ago on Empire Day. No one has been brave enough to try anything like that since. The hope those two brought is almost extinguished.”
Kanan eyed his drink, wishing it were just water. He needed something to do, anything at all, to calm the anger starting to boil inside him. This wasn’t anything new, and he had witness worse, but it wasn’t easier anymore to listen to the atrocities the Empire caused anymore. He had spent too long living with Hera to not be bothered by it.
“A few other people got arrested as well, anyone they knew had a connection with the Bridgers. Ryder Azadi, the previous governor, was arrested,” Jho said. “A real shame. Azadi came to me the day he was arrested, asking if I knew where the Bridgers’ son was.”
“Their son?” Kanan asked. He rested a hand on his drink.
Jho nodded, which more looked more like his was just bobbing his eyes up and down, and said, “Yeah, Ezra Bridger. Bright kid. He’d be about nine years old now. Azadi wanted to take him in, raise the kid for his parents, but then he got arrested. The kid’s been on the streets ever since. I try to help him when he lets me, he’s gotten to be pretty untrusting of everyone. He’s had to; it’s the only way to survive. I worry about him, I don’t think the Empire’s forgotten he’s out there.”
“Kanan?” Hera asked, turning to him. His cup was knocked over, the Corellian mix drink spilling over the table. His hand that had been holding it was now in a tight fist. She reached over and took his hand in hers. “What’s wrong?”
He looked up at her. The concern on her face was too much the bear. “I’m fine, my hand just cramped.” It was the first lie he could think of and Kanan knew it wasn’t going to work. All he needed was for Hera to at least accept it for now so he could think of something better to say once they were alone.
And if he was thinking clearly, he knew he had to be overreacting. There was no way. The kid following him just happened to be around the same age as the kid Jho just mentioned. And he was only worried about being turned over to the authorities because every street kid worried about that. These were just coincidences. Nothing more. This wasn’t the Force trying to tell him something. He could willfully forget his lessons from when he was younger that told him that there weren’t any coincidences in this galaxy, not really. The Force moved through everything, binding it. Because this? This all had to be a coincidence.
Hera gave him a final concerned look before turning back to Jho. “Let us know if there’s anything we can do,” she said. She picked up her drink again and took another sip.
“There is something,” Jho said. He took a few steps down the bar and came back with a datapad and a rag. “I’ve just sold this place, heading out to Jhothal in a couple of weeks. I don’t have time to make this delivery while I work on moving.”
Hera looked over the datapad and then handed it to Kanan. As he read, he smiled. Moving supplies, easy enough. They were very good at that.
“There’s a group of displaced citizens that’s in need of food and medical supplies. They’ve lost their homes and farms because the Empire seized their land. I can lend you a speeder if you’re willing to head out there tomorrow,” Jho explained as he finished wiping up the spilled drink.
Abruptly, Kanan turned on his stool, looking around the cantina. He thought he had felt someone watching him but nothing around them had changed. The same groups of people were still seated around the establishment, no one new had joined them. But… someone had been watching them. He was sure of it.
“We’d love to. We’ll be here,” Hera said. She ignored Kanan’s sudden movement and handed back the datapad back to Jho, who stored it under the bar. He nodded to the pair before heading to the other end of the bar; he needed to pay attention to his other patrons. Hera watched him before eyeing her drink and letting out a sigh.
“You don’t have to finish it,” Kanan said as he turned back to her.
She nodded but took another drink from it nonetheless, larger this time. She didn’t grimace but Kanan knew she hadn’t enjoyed it. She stood up and stretched. “Let’s go. We still need to buy some supplies since someone came home empty handed yesterday.”
“I have already apologized for that many times now,” he replied, but he was grinning up at her. He lifted his hips from the stool to fish credits out of his pocket. He tried to ignore that he caught Hera’s eyes watching the movement of his hips, placing a couple more credits than necessary on the bar. He didn’t need to have any ideas about how Hera felt about him. They had rules in place and he wasn’t going to overstep those. She was right when she had said it was easier that way.
They made their way out of the cantina, Kanan offering a quick salute to Jho, and found themselves outside with a very irritated droid.
“Chopper…” Hera said, rubbing both her eyes. “Not now.”
Kanan laughed as Chopper did not listen. He rattled off about how he didn’t appreciate being left out all the time and he’s far more useful than any new recruit could be, as well as a hundred other complaints. It was the same every time Hera left him on his own. Maybe Chopper would do good by learning the Jedi practice of not being too attached.
Placing his hands on Hera’s shoulders, Kanan steered her in the direction of the marketplace and gave her a gentle push. “Let’s get a move on. Chopper can yell at us while we walk.”
Hera raised her hands in exasperation but started to move. Kanan jerked his head for the droid to follow, who let out his own exasperated response but followed along. If anyone were around to watch, this group was giving some very good entertainment.
The walk back from the marketplace was slow. They had to push their way out of the crowds while carrying crates, on top of which Chopper decided he didn’t want to help. Kanan carried the two smaller ones, one under each of his long arms, while Hera carried the slightly larger one. Chopped rolled ahead and out of sight once he got bored of waiting for the two to keep up with him.
It was when they got on the Ghost that Hera tried to ask him what was wrong, what was actually going on with him. He had just set his crates down in the cargo hold, next to their speeder he had recently convinced her they needed, and stretched his arms over his head, allowing himself to be cornered, when she tried. “Hera…” he said, avoiding looking at her.
“Just tell me what’s going on,” she said. Her hands were resting on her hips. She was taking up as much space as she could, trying to cut off his escape to the ladder. The access ramp behind her was closing. He really was cornered. “Talk to me.”
“I already told you, I had a bad night. I’m just a little on edge from it.”
He started towards her. Stopping in front of her, Kanan examined her face. She wasn’t happy with him, that was very clear; her brows were knitting together and her mouth was set in a strong frown. And her eyes, there was a lot of fire in those eyes. He wasn’t too pleased it was being directed at him. Even if he sort of deserved it.
“I’m fine,” he stated.
“I’ve seen you after a bad night before, Kanan. I know this is different,” she stated. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
“I thought your problem with me was that I don’t stop talking to you, or rather, at you,” Kanan said, shrugging. He smirked down at her.
“You know what I mean,” she snapped.
Crap, he was pushing too hard. He let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his head. “I’m not trying to be a pain, Hera.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Okay, maybe I am. But, I really am okay. If whatever this is—which is nothing—gets bad, I’ll talk. I promise,” he said. He placed a hand on her right shoulder. Her eyes didn’t shift or soften, she didn’t believe him. Not entirely. He knew she wanted to, but he’d been behind a closed door for a year now, they both knew this was a fairly empty promise. “I promise.”
She glanced down and her shoulders softened. “I want you to trust me,” she whispered.
Kanan nodded. “I do,” he answered just as softly. He bent at his knees and tried to maneuver his head to look her in the eye again. “You know that I do.”
Hera pulled away, not meeting his gaze. “Let’s get these crates up to the galley.”
They worked together in silence. Once the crates were in the upper level of the ship, Hera went off to the cockpit, needing to confirm whatever it was that needed confirming today, leaving him to put everything away. Kanan was fine with that. He needed to think, which was an especially hard thing to do around Hera.
Kanan rested his head against the fridge door. His thoughts were all jumbled up. He wanted to run. He wanted to stay. He wanted the kid to disappear. He wanted to help him. If what Jho told him was true and this kid was the Bridger boy, he was in so much more danger than Kanan had originally thought. It was one thing to be a potentially Force sensitive kid running around alone, it was another to be that and have the Empire already hunting you.
Tapping his head against the door, he got back to putting the food away. Tomorrow. He could try and make a decision about this tomorrow. At least he could try and find the kid again, if only to know where he was.
They were back at Jho’s Stop early in the morning, earlier than Kanan would have liked. He hadn’t had another bad night but it hadn’t been a good one. No nightmares plagued him but it had taken him too long to such his brain off. Running on a handful of hours of sleep was something he could do, but after getting into the habit of actually getting a full night’s sleep more often than not, he wasn’t happy to be on the ‘not’ side.
He loaded up the crates of food and medical supplies onto the back of a landspeeder Jho was lending them for the job. It was be a little less intimidating than showing up in a ship, as well as less likely for the Empire to take notice and easier to lie if they did.
“We could say we’re camping, a romantic getaway,” Kanan had joked. Jho had laughed at that. Hera had continued to just get the speeder ready.
The drive to the camp was long and silent, they had to be careful to not travel too quickly at risk of losing any of the crates. It was clear that yesterday’s conversations—or lack thereof—were still hanging over them. Hera focused on steering, never even sparing a glance at him. It didn’t bother him. Sitting in the passenger seat, his thoughts were elsewhere. On someone else.
He hadn’t felt the kid following him that morning, and now that he was thinking about it, hadn’t felt him since they had been at Jho’s Stop. He was oddly disappointed—had the kid given up? Was it a fun but brief mystery for him and now he was bored?
Kanan looked out over Lothal’s landscape and sighed. Why was he disappointed? It’s what he had wanted, at least at the start. It would be so much easier if the kid wasn’t in his life. He didn’t need him.
“We’re here,” Hera said. He glanced over at her and then looked out ahead. There was a small grouping of tents and a couple dozen people wandering around. Some makeshift buildings were being made, the start of finding some permanence. Smoke from a few fires rose into the air. Kanan wasn’t sure the last time he had seen such a depressing place. He had seen worse setups for living in—had lived in a fair few himself, but those had all had some life to them. These people were living in despair.
They parked the speeder at the edge of the encampment. Together, they began to unload the carts. Kanan glanced at the now growing group of onlookers and regretted it immediately. The looks on their faces were too familiar.
“Come on,” Hera whispered to him. She brushed her hand against his arm before walking half the crates, their repulsors turned on, over to the crowd. Kanan followed with the other half.
It should have been easy work. All they had to do was stand next to the crates as the displaced people took what they needed. But he couldn’t shake the uneasiness taking hold of him. He watched reminders of his lowest points come up and thank him for his kindness when all he had done was ride in the passenger seat.
Hera took a step next to him, her hand coming to rest on his lower back. She didn’t say anything—she never had to—standing with him. Kanan took in a heavy breath and felt it struggle to leave. He looked down at her and found her smiling up at him, leaning into him as if to give him something to latch on to, to ground himself with. Maybe she had figured out that this wasn’t a foreign life to him, or it was just that he was visibly unsettled. Even when they were frustrated with each other they were still ready to support the other.
Then Kanan looked back up at the crowd and sighed.
“Be right back,” he whispered to Hera, leaning down to say this at her earcone. She nodded.
Grabbing a larger fruit from one of the crates, one he wasn’t familiar with, Kanan made his way to the back of the group.
“Here,” he said, tossing the fruit to the kid. It seemed they had been followed today, or somehow more likely, the kid had beaten them here. This kid was good, that much was clear. “There’s more where it came from.”
“Thanks,” the boy muttered. He eyed to fruit before looking Kanan over. “That’s a lot of food.”
“Yeah,” Kanan said. He looked over his shoulder to see Hera closing up a now empty container. She met his gaze and gave him a smile before getting back to work. “Med supplies, too.”
“Why are there med supplies?” Kanan asked. He raised an eyebrow at the kid. “These people can get hurt.”
“I mean, why are you doing this?” the boy elaborated, rolling his eyes as though he had been clear enough the first time. “Why are you sticking your neck out for these people?”
Kanan looked him over. It was hitting him how young this kid was. How small. Had he really been that young and small once? He had at least been a part of something, had had thousands of beings he could call his family. He lost all that at a much older age than this kid had been when his family had been taken. Kanan wasn’t sure if he could have survived alone this young.
Shrugging, he answered, “We’re doing what we can to help. You should talk to my partner about that, though. She’ll give you a much more inspiring answer.”
Skeptically, the boy looked past him. “Right,” he said. “Why Lothal, then?”
Kanan sighed. “We just ended up here. Why so many questions?”
“Well, people don’t just end up on Lothal. We’re nowhere. We’re nothing special,” the boy said, shrugging. He turned the fruit in his hands over and looked up at Kanan. “There must be more important people you could be helping.”
“Again, talk to my friend, she’ll give you a really good reason for why we’re here,” Kanan said. This time it wasn’t to get out of a long and complicated answer; Hera would have a better answer for "why Lothal?", he still didn’t understand why they were here.
“Kanan, we should go,” Hera called over. Kanan looked back and gave her a thumbs up.
He turned to the kid and tried to smile. “Grab some more of that food while it’s there. Maybe I’ll see you around.” He then turned and walked back over to Hera.
“They said that Jho normally leaves the crates to pick up later so there’s no reason to hang around,” she said once he was in earshot. She smiled up at him and started for the speeder. “It’s a long trip back and I’m starting to get hungry.”
“Works for me,” he answered.
They took their seats from before and Hera started up the landspeeder. A chorus of thank yous and goodbyes followed them as they left the site.
A little while into the trip back, once the encampment was out of sight, Hera asked, “So, who was the kid you were talking to?”
“Right, him…” Kanan said. He began to pick at the seat under him and looked off to the side. “He, uh, might have been the one that pickpocketed me.”
“Seriously?” She sounded amused. Kanan looked over at her and found her smirking at him, an eyebrow quirked. “And you gave him food?”
“Well, he’s hungry, it’s why he stole the credits in the first place,” Kanan muttered.
“I’m not mad,” she said, starting to laugh. She patted his leg before turning her attention back to the speeder. “I’m just a little surprised. You handled this how I would.”
“Well, I know what he’s going through,” he said before he could stop himself.
The speeder slowed a little and Hera turned to look at him again. He hadn’t meant to admit something like that, even if she couldn’t fully understand what he had meant, what it meant to say it out loud. While she knew he had been a drifter from too young an age, and he was sure she had her suspicions about what else there was to him, that’s all he had allowed her to know. This was a rare moment where his guard wasn’t up. And she seemed to realize the weight of this.
To be alone in every concept of the word, Kanan truly understood what that kid was going through. He understood that he might be the only one who could get the kid out of that world. And that terrified him.
This is probable going to be one of my favourite chapters of the whole story. It's early to say that, I still have 11 more chapters to write, but so far it's my favourite of the five I have done.
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
Was time moving slower now? Hera knew that was impossible, but she still felt like it was happening to her. Waiting. Waiting always made her feel like the galaxy was slowing down just to spite her. A week had passed since the trip out to the encampment, which she had later learned had been named Tarkintown by its residents, and everything felt like it was holding its breath. Nothing was changing. Stagnant.
There had been no word so far from the mysterious rebel contact she was supposedly going to be meeting. Hours had turned into days and now she was wondering if she had been suddenly deemed unworthy. Or maybe the person had died and no one had thought to tell her. There were too many possibilities. Hera hated waiting. She could be out somewhere else, not this remote planet, actually doing something for the galaxy. She should have been out there. Instead, she was sitting around trying to find as many tunes up for the Ghost as she could. Her ship had never been in better shape.
She wasn’t the only one with a deteriorating mood as the week had gone on. Kanan had started pulling away from her, distancing himself. When they were on the ship together he would hide away in his cabin. He’d eat alone. She would only see him in passing or when she’d call him to get some work done (work he’d insist he could do alone).
If she could convince him to leave the ship with her, he was distracted. Ever since Tarkintown, Kanan’s focus had plummeted. He was constantly looking over his shoulder. Startled by completely random noises. She’d have to repeat herself every time she spoke to him. In the entire year they had traveled together, Hera had never seen him like this.
She had an inkling as to what was causing it, or at least part of it. The boy. The one she had seen him talking to last week. The thief. He was following them. She had noticed him the night before when she had forced Kanan to go eat out with her, to get them off the ship for something fun and not just work. And she had noticed him once when she was heading out to visit Jho one morning. Hera wanted to ask why this was happening, what it could possibly mean, but she was pretty sure Kanan wouldn’t give her a satisfactory answer.
So, she waited. She waited for her rebel contact. She waited for Kanan to open up to her. And she was waiting for the test on the hyperdrive to finish.
There was nothing wrong the Ghost’s hyperdrive but it was a thing to check on the inside of her ship. Chopper had told her there was no use checking everything, that the ship flew fine as it was, but she suspected her droid was getting tired of being dragged into all these tests. Of course she had to have saved the grumpiest and laziest astromech.
The test chimed its completion. Hera read over the results before turning the datapad off. Everything was running smoothly just as she had predicted. Maybe Chopper was a right, that she was wasting her time. With a sigh, she began to clean up the hyperdrive unit and area.
Just as she was finishing up, the comm for the ship went off. Hera froze, looking up from her work. Her contact. It had to be.
Dropping what she had in her hands, she scrambled out of the ship's guts and through the corridors to get to the cockpit. Just as she reached the hatchway, Kanan stepped out of his cabin.
“Kanan,” she said, somewhat breathless.
“Hey,” he replied. He eyed her—Hera swallowed as she realized that she wasn’t wearing her jacket; that she was sporting just a tank top, which left little to the imagination—before looking towards the cockpit. “You were taking a while, so I…” He trailed off as he looked back at her.
“I was working on the hyperdrive, it’s a bit of a climb out of there. It’s fine, I’ve got this, go back to whatever you were doing,” she said, rushing through the words. She smiled at him before heading into the cockpit. Hera looked back before the hatch shut and watched Kanan frown, shrug, and then head back into his cabin.
She rushed to the console in front of her seat, which had her jacket strewn over the top, and pressed the button to accept the transmission.
It wasn’t what she thought it would be. No lengthy message explaining what had taken so long. Nothing to tell her who she was going to be meeting (the list in her head was long and filled with many outspoken senators she longed to meet). Just coordinates, a time, and a code phrase.
Hera looked at her chrono and frowned. She had three hours to get to the meeting place. Checking the coordinates in the navicomputer, it would take her over two hours to get to where she needed to go. Not a lot of time to make a decision. But maybe that was the point. It would be hard for her to mount any sort of retaliation against this mystery contact if she didn’t have the time to do so.
She needed to leave. Right now.
Hurrying out of the cockpit, after grabbing her jacket, Hera stopped immediately. Should she tell Kanan? This could end up being a trap she was walking into. While she trusted her contacts completely, there was a chance that this mysterious message wasn’t from any of them, even the new one. And if it were a trap, she would want Kanan to at least know where she was to help her. But if she told him that this meeting was happening, than he’d respond in one of two ways: either to tell her to take him with her or to say don’t go at all. The latter was not an option and she knew that he was not invited to this meeting.
Shaking her head, she made her way down the hall towards to common room. No, she would do this alone. She trusted Kanan—trusted that he was committed to her work—but she wasn’t ready for him to be her partner completely. She still didn’t fully understand him. Until he was ready to be completely honest with her, she was going to keep a few of her own secrets.
She got to the ladder of to the Phantom when a grabble of noise hit her. With a sigh, she turned to find her droid standing in the middle of the common room, his metal hands resting on the tops of his legs as though they were on hips.
“Chopper,” Hera said, offering a smile.
“Whump whump bwah?” he asked.
“Nowhere, just heading out to Kothal to grab some supplies for the Ghost. If Kanan asks, let him know I’ll be back in a few hours,” she said, shrugging one shoulder.
Chopper’s turned to look at the hatchway behind him before moving back to face Hera. “Whoom wah bwaaaah.”
“I’m not! And you really have to stop acting like Kanan isn’t crew, he’s not going anywhere,” she said. She hoped he would pick up on her exasperation. Though, after almost a decade together, her droid often liked to pretend he never irritated her.
They stared at each other. She knew that she could just climb out of the room and be on her way, but Chopper was more than just her droid. She didn’t want to keep him at arm’s-length, not after everything they’ve been through together. She owed him more than that. So when he asked again where she was going, she caved.
“I’m going to meet a contact. And I have to go alone,” she added quickly when he started to roll towards her. “So I need you to keep Kanan here, okay? I can’t have him trying to come after me.” The best way to get Chopper to cooperate was to put him in charge of the ship. The power always went to his head, for sure, but Hera could count on him to do what she needed.
He waved her off and then headed out of the room, most likely to go terrorize Kanan with her “permission”. Hera couldn’t help but smile as she climbed up to the shuttle.
Sitting in the pilot’s seat, Hera started up the Phantom. She put to coordinates in the navicomputer and waited the few seconds for the ship to tell her it was ready for take off. Soon, she was disembarked from the Ghost and soaring over Capital City and off into Lothal’s wilderness.
Was that the Phantom? Kanan sat up in his bunk, putting the datapad his was reading down next to him. He waited and listened. The clunking sound of the Ghost letting its shuttle disconnect made its way to his ears. Yeah, that was the Phantom. Where was Hera going? He jumped down from the bunk—he never used the ladder to get to the floor—and headed out of his cabin.
“Hera?” he called out, even though he knew she had left. He started towards the common room just as Chopper came rolling out. When the droid stopped in front of him, he took a chance and asked, “Did Hera just leave?”
Chopper chortled in response. Yes, she had left. Supply run to Kolath. She’d be back in a few hours. Kanan raised an eyebrow but nodded. The story was plausible, in her boredom of waiting around for whatever she was waiting for, Hera had been working on every nook and cranny of the ship. But why would she go to Kolath for a supply when Capital City was way more likely to have anything worth using?
“Where did she actually go?” he asked.
The sheer delight in Chopper’s response sent a tiny wave of fear up Kanan’s spine. “Right. Sure, Hera definitely left you in charge.”
“Well, Captain, how about I just stay out of your way?” Kanan said. “If you need me, I’ll be outside getting any ion scoring off the hull.”
Chopper let out a low warble, a clear sign of his disinterest in Kanan’s actions. The droid rolled by, going into the cockpit, no doubt to plan on ways to annoy him later. Kanan frowned and waited for the hatch to close before he went to exit the ship.
It was a nice day. The sun was up and everywhere Kanan looked was blanketed with a clear sky. He might have just been trying to avoid Chopper, but coming outside turned out to be a good idea. He hadn’t left yet today, though he’d rather be out on a walk with Hera than cleaning her ship.
Cleaning the ion scoring off wasn’t exactly hard work, but he had been slacking on it. Kanan had been at it for over thirty minutes when he remembered it had definitely been months since he’d down this particular chore. He really needed to stay on top of this, lest Hera got another opportunity to chew him out.
Kanan made his way to the top turret, wincing at just how much scoring was here, and realized he had an audience. He looked around and quickly spotted the kid, his orange shirt acting as a beacon in the sunlight. He was sitting on the lip along the roof again, watching openly with his feet dangling off the side.
Mussing up his hair, Kanan looked around and sighed.
The boy scrambled up to standing, looking like he was going to bolt any second. Fair, considering that roof access was off limits to anyone who wasn’t building staff and Kanan could have just drawn unwanted attention. But he didn’t run, not yet.
“You want to help out?”
A pause. Then, just barely, Kanan could make out a small nod.
“Meet me at the access ramp,” he called over, pointing in its direction. Another small nod and the boy ran off to the stairs down from the roof.
Leaving the tools to clean on the hull, Kanan made his way back into the ship. The quickest way to the entrance was through the cockpit. Which meant most likely dealing with Chopper (he hoped the droid would have moved onto a different part of the ship). Unfortunately, since he had taking himself out of tormenting range, Chopper was still in the cockpit and doing actual work on the ship.
The droid turned and jabbed a mechanical hand in his direction, asking what he wanted.
“Someone’s coming on the ship. Woah!” Kanan shouted. Chopper had blared his response and abruptly turned to the ladder out of the cockpit. “Wait, Chopper, it’s okay! I invited him!”
Slowly, Chopper turned back to look at him. Both hands raised to try and calm him down, Kanan explained, “He’s just a kid, okay? He’s been following me and Hera, well mostly me, around the past week or so. Do not attack him when he comes on board. Got it?”
With a low grumble, Chopper rolled away from the ladder. Kanan moved past him and slid his way down into the cargo hold. A quick press of the release button and the ramp began to unfold itself.
And there the boy was. Standing hunched over slightly and rubbing one of his arms, the boy looked up and his eyes widened.
“Come on up,” Kanan called, waving him in. With the slightest hesitation, he made his way up the access ramp. He stopped at the top, looking all over the hold. His eyes moved across the mostly empty room, lingering briefly on the speeder bike, as though there was somehow too much to take in. Kanan smiled before walking to the ladder. He stood next to it, gesturing up. “This way. And, uh, don’t mind the droid up there. His bark is worse than his bite. Normally.”
The boy gulped and nodded. He walked over and began to climb up. Once he was halfway up, Kanan followed.
“Woah!” the boy shouted, slipping as he crested the hatch into the cockpit. Kanan caught him by the waist and held him until he could pull himself up.
When Kanan climbed through, he glared at Chopper. The droid had his shock prod out and pointed at the kid. “I thought,” he growled, “I told you he was coming onto the ship and to not attack him.”
“Bwah baaaah,” Chopper responded before rolling out of the room.
“What… what did he say?” the boy asked, pressing against one of the passenger seats.
“That I may have mentioned it,” Kanan answered. “Rusted bucket of bolts…”
The kid laughed nervously as he stood upright. Kanan made his way out of the room, leading the boy through the ship and out onto the hull.
“All right, so I’ve just been cleaning off all the ion scoring. It’s pretty easy, watch,” Kanan said once they were outside. He grabbed one of the tools for the work and knelt down by the blast mark he had meant to deal with before noticing the boy. He demonstrated how it was done, then handed the tool over. “Give it a shot.”
With a nod, the boy took it and sat down and started to work. Kanan watched for a few seconds before getting to work himself. The kid was slower at it, but only because he seemed to be determined to get every speck of the scoring off.
“So, what’s your name, kid?” Kanan asked as he moved to a new spot to work. He was a couple feet away from the turret, one leg kicked out in front of him. He bent over to get a better look at a way too large mark. This might just be an actual scratch on the ship.
Kanan felt a pit drop into his stomach. “Yeah, Ezra Bridger. Bright kid. He’d be about nine years old now.” That’s what Jho had told them a week ago. Glancing over, he said, while trying to keep his voice even, “I’m Kanan.”
“I know, that’s what the lady called you the other day,” Ezra said.
“Her name’s Hera.” Kanan smiled, enjoying the idea of what Hera’s face would look like if she heard someone call her ‘lady’.
Ezra nodded. He stood up and moved to another spot, closer to Kanan. They fell back into silently working. At one point, Kanan reached over to offer a tip on how to clean a little faster.
It hit him out of the blue, but Kanan realized he was comfortable. Working with Ezra, it didn’t feel wrong at all. He liked showing him what to do, helping him; it felt natural. Like he was meant to do this. He stopped cleaning to watch him. The pit inside grew. No, he couldn’t get attached. He didn’t fit into that lifestyle anymore. He wasn’t who this boy needed.
Shaking his head, he started working again and replied, “Yeah?”
“Why aren’t you asking about my parents?” Ezra asked. It was barely more than a whisper and the hand on his lap was in a tight fist. He wasn’t looking up, all his attention seemed directed to the smudge across the hull in front of him. “People normally ask.”
“Well,” Kanan said, resting his tool down in front of him, “I don’t need to.”
Ezra looked up, his mouth in a deep frown.
“I’m the same. I don’t have parents, either.”
“I have parents!” Ezra shouted. He stood up, dropping the tool from his hand. “I have parents! They just aren’t here!”
“Hey, hey, it’s okay.” Kanan scrambled to his feet. He took a couple steps over then knelt down, resting a hand on Ezra’s shoulder. “It’s okay.”
They stayed like that, together. A warm breeze swirled around them. It was getting to be afternoon, now. Without saying anything more, Ezra sat back down. He picked up the tool again but didn’t start working. He just sat and stared at the ship.
What do you do in these situations? Sitting again, Kanan looked around while rubbing the back of his head. He needed time. Time to figure out what he should be doing here. The life he was living didn’t have room to take this step. It was a path he had never taken. Ezra was too young, there was no room for him in this life. It was too dangerous. But to leave him and let him try and survive on his own; that could end up being a death sentence.
Kanan had the power to help Ezra. He had the responsibility to do something. But it would mean changing everything. Either he’d have to drop a child into Hera’s lap and hope her rebellion had room or he would have to leave her. He didn’t want to make that choice. He just wanted to live the comfortable life he finally had. Was it really too much to ask for him to just get to live and be happy? Hadn’t he given up enough already?
How much time passed, Kanan couldn’t say. They each moved around the hull, sometimes working near each other, sometimes further away (though always within earshot). Ezra eventually wandered back to his side and sat down next to him. He fiddled with the tool before asking, “So, is Hera your wife?”
Kanan whacked his hand as he jerked in surprise from the question. He looked over at Ezra, eyes wide. “What?” Where had that come from?
“Well, you two live together, aren’t you married?” he asked, shrugging.
Trying to laugh, Kanan answered, “No. We’re just partners. And friends. I work for her.” This must have been his way of trying to ignore his outburst, move the focus off of himself. How many people had this boy opened up to and been turned away? How many more would?
“How about some lunch!” Kanan said, standing up. He brushed his pants off and smiled. “We’ve been working too long. We’re pretty much done out here, anyway. You saved me a lot of time, thanks.”
Ezra nodded and stood up as well. He handed back to tool. Kanan jogged over to the toolbox, putting everything away before leading them back into the ship. Kanan dropped the toolbox off in the cockpit to put away later. Then he led them to towards the common room. At the ladder up to the turret, Chopper was waiting. He started towards them but when Ezra ducked behind Kanan, grabbing hold of his arm, the droid whistled a string of frustrations before rolling off to somewhere else on the ship.
“I don’t think your droid likes me,” Ezra muttered, letting go of Kanan’s arm.
“He belongs to Hera and he doesn’t like anybody,” Kanan grumbled in response. “No matter how many times I ask, she won’t get rid of him. So.” He pointed to a closed door and looked down at the boy. “That’s the refresher. You can clean up if you want while I make our food. There’s a shower, some extra towels in there too. If you want.”
Pointing to another door, he continued, “That’s the common room and galley. I’ll be in there. Shout if you need anything.”
Ezra looked between the doors before turning to the refresher. With cautious steps, he went inside, glancing back before the door slide shut. Kanan turned and went into the common room. It was a bit of a mess. Since he had been hiding in his cabin to avoid Hera, he hadn’t been keeping up with the cleaning. It wasn’t dirty, there was just a couple dishes on the table and some tech strewn across the room. Picking up the dishes, he headed into the galley. He could cook and clean.
With water set to boil on the fold out stovetop, Kanan started washing the leftover dishes. He had already pulled out and prepped the ingredients for their meal: noodles and some Lothalian root vegetable he was curious to try. There were more dishes than he thought there was going to be; Hera and him had really been slacking this week. He really didn’t need the kid to see all of this.
What did the Force think he could for this kid? Kanan had abandoned that life when the Force abandoned him. Now it was asking him to go back to it and all for some Loth-rat?
Was this how Kasmir had felt? Having some kid dropped into his life who was probably more trouble than he was worth? Kanan knew he wouldn’t have survived without the help he had received, but this was a completely different situation. All Kasmir had to do was hide him and teach him how to not be a Jedi. And they had been older than him and Ezra were now. Kasmir was never going to be in the position of raising him, not that he had been given the chance to really try.
No one was actively hunting Ezra for what he might be, no one really even knew the boy existed. He was so much younger. He needed more than just a partner to hide him away. He needed a family.
And Kanan was supposed to be the one to give that?
The noodles were cooking now and the vegetable was almost done. Kanan rummaged around the cabinets, trying to find the seasoning he had just bought with Hera when Chopper came rolling in.
“Wah wah blaaah,” he said, urgency somehow sewn into the warbled binary.
“No, he’s in the 'fresher,” Kanan answered, only half listen. There, found the spices, top shelf and in the back. Completely out of Hera’s reach. No wonder her cooking is bland, I keep hiding the spices.
“Baaaaah!” Chopper screeched.
The spice bottle fell onto the counter, making a loud crack as the lid broke.
“He’s where?” Kanan demanded, already running out of the room.
He made short of the distance to his cabin, his strides long. Smacking the controls to the room, the hatchway opened. There was Ezra, standing in front of the bunk, his floppy hair wet and hanging limply around his face. A damp towel was lying at his feet, dropped and ignored. His eyes were wide with awe. The room was brighter than Kanan had ever seen it.
His lightsaber. Somehow, Ezra had found his lightsaber. It was ignited and humming. A sound Kanan hadn’t heard in too long and suddenly, now, it was all too soon.
“Careful.” Kanan forced the word out and he stepped into the room. He could hear Chopper rolling up behind him. He reached a hand out, palm open. “That’s not a toy, you could hurt yourself.”
“What is it?” Ezra asked, not taking his eyes off the blade.
“Ezra. Give me the lightsaber.”
“A… lightsaber? My parents told me that the Jedi used those,” he said quietly. He was entranced. His blue eyes bluer than before.
He blinked and looked away from the weapon finally. Kanan’s brows were knitted together and he took another step forward. “Ezra, hand it over.”
Nodding, he fumbled with the controls and then, as though it had never existed, the blade disappeared and the cabin was silent again. He placed the lightsaber in Kanan’s hand, hugging himself afterward. “Sorry.”
“How did you even get in here? The door should have been locked,” Kanan muttered. He walked to the opened drawer. He dropped the saber in, hearing it clank against the metal, and kicked the drawer shut. He turned back to Ezra who was staring at the drawer.
“It called to me,” he whispered.
“Like in the marketplace, I could hear something calling me. It led me here,” Ezra said. He looked up and met Kanan’s gaze. “I’m sorry.”
Kanan sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Just, don’t do that again, okay?” He moved across the cabin to Ezra. He placed a hand on his back and steered him out of the room.
“Yeah,” Ezra said. He glanced over his shoulder as the door shut behind them.
They walked together back towards the common room. Kanan let Ezra go into the room first. He pointed to the booth around the dejarik table as he headed into the galley. Everything was finished cooking, though maybe all a little overcooked. He combined everything, added the seasoning from the now broken container. Quickly dividing the food into three bowls (one would be for Hera whenever she got back), Kanan took two out.
“Here,” Kanan said, placing the bowl down. He slid into the booth on the opposite end from Ezra, though staying close to the edge. Ezra reached out and slowly pulled the bowl to him. He looked it over and glanced up. “It’s nothing special, but it’s better than just jogan fruit every day.”
Ezra pressed his lips together before starting to eat. Kanan watched before starting on his own bowl. He tried to think of what to do next. He had to decide if he’d try and keep Ezra around for the day. If he did, what would he tell Hera when she returned? Then there was tomorrow. Kanan had to make a decision. How long could he keeping reaching out to Ezra?
He took another bite of his noodles.
Honestly, no clue when chapter five will be out. I have a lot of writing to do to play catch up and my life is going to be a bit work oriented for the next month ish. I wanted to get this out before that just so there would be a month and a half to two months between postings. Hopefully I'll have something to post before the end of April.
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
A warm breeze danced through the field and Hera wished she wasn’t alone to enjoy it.
She was sitting on the floor of the Phantom, its hatch completely open and allowing the warm air to move around her. The field of tall grass stretched out from the shuttle, only disrupted by the occasional rock formation. Every now and then, movement in the grass would catch her eye. Most likely just some loth-cats running around and playing, maybe hunting. It was peaceful.
“Kanan would like it out here,” she muttered and leaned back on her hands. Closing her eyes, Hera tried to focus on the breeze and the warmth, but the thought of Kanan kept popping into her head.
She let out a sigh and flopped onto her back before rolling over onto her side. This was why she hated waiting, she couldn’t keep her mind from wandering. And all this past week her thoughts have been wandering over to Kanan.
If she could just shake the guilt of leaving him behind then she could wait in peace. But, she couldn’t. He had been having such a bad week and she knew she had just added one more thing to whatever weight he was carrying. A weight that he was choosing to carry alone.
Pushing herself back up to sitting, Hera looked around the field. She didn’t need him here, and if she was honest, she didn’t want him here for this meeting. Kanan may have become fairly dedicated to her cause, but she wasn’t ready to involve him in every aspect of it. If this had just been a trip out into nature, then she would have been more than glad to invite him along.
Hera laughed at the thought. A leisurely trip out anywhere was not something they’d do. They didn’t do leisure, especially together. Not really.
Still, she found herself starting to imagine the picnic they would have, all the foods Kanan would make to try and impress her. Perhaps he would have bought her a gift, something small she didn’t need but had always wanted. She could see them wandering around, admiring the scenery. She’d slip her hand into his or maybe tuck one of the now longer strands of hair back behind his ear. He’d lean down and whisper something at her earcone, a secret for just her that would make her laugh. They’d look at each other.
Standing up, she stretched her hands over her head and started to walk around the outside of the Phantom. It was fine to let her mind wander sometimes, but when it made its way into the what if world with Kanan, she had to put a stop to it. There couldn’t be more between them, Hera was sure of that.
What she wasn’t sure about was when these kinds of thoughts started pushing their way to the forefront of her mind. When she had met Kanan, there really was nothing appealing about him. Yes, she had thought he was attractive on some degree but everything else about him had been almost unbearable. And then he had saved her life, trusting her completely in that moment with what was possibly the biggest secret in the whole galaxy. Was it then when her thoughts had turned on her? Hera wasn’t so sure. It had been a grand gesture but not a romantic one.
It wasn’t like she was falling in love with him, Hera didn’t do that. She didn’t have time for romantic gestures and Kanan knew there was no point wasting his time with them. She had been firm when he joined her on the Ghost; there was no room for any funny business from him. They were partners, colleagues, and that was that. He had rolled his eyes, playfully and uncharged, and accepted. It wasn’t why he was there, he had said, he didn’t want to ruin this chance.
But something had changed over the past year. The physical distance between them lessened, Hera would find herself comfortable when she’d had to sit pressed against him. Gentle touches, easy to view as gestures of friendship, became more and more common. She would move into his space just as easily as she let him move into hers. It was hard to imagine her life without Kanan now.
Maybe in another life there could have been picnics for them. Hera was entirely aware of the fact that Kanan was very smitten with her, she wondered if he would still be that way with her had they met under different circumstances. Probably not, he might have ended up a Jedi in that other life; love had been off the table for them. How would she have felt? The Jedi were these fantastical warriors, from what her father had told her—she had only briefly met the few who had come to Ryloth after the fighting was over. There was something romantic about Jedi Knights. But the idea of Kanan running around dressed in robes, jumping into a firefight to save her made her laugh. He had tried that move on Gorse and it hadn’t gone that great for him. It was hard to picture him as a hero of the Republic.
No, Kanan and her, they weren’t ever going to be more. She was happy with the life they were living, it was a comfortable one. If there were feelings growing within her, she’d straighten it out when the time came. For now, she was going to just enjoy the ease that they had together and just rely on the support he gave her. He was her teammate, she didn’t need anything more from him.
The wind shifted and the sound of a ship flying overhead pulled Hera’s gaze up. A starfighter was soaring overhead. It looped once before landing yards away from the Phantom. She watched the ship. Her stomach was tight. This had to be the contact. The whole trip over and the whole time waiting, she hadn’t been at all worried about meeting this person alone, but now she was starting to wish she had brought Kanan along.
The hatch to the cockpit opened and a Togruta woman jumped out. She didn’t look over immediately, talking to her astromech that was still in the ship. Then, lifting the strap of a satchel over her head, the woman turned and started to make her way over. Hera resisted reaching down for her blaster, but stayed ready to, just in case. When she was still a safe distance away, the woman called over, “By the light of Lothal’s moons.”
Hera gulped and replied, “The loth-wolf runs.”
The woman smiled and started to walk again. “It’s good to finally meet you, Hera,” she said. She stopped in front of her. She was taller than Hera, especially with her montrals. She was also a good few years older; she had the air of being an actual adult about her. “I’m glad that you’re being given this opportunity.”
Hera nodded. She wasn’t quite sure what to say yet. This really was everything Hera hoped for, she wanted to be brought closer to whatever inner circle was out there, if it was out there. She had her contacts and had assumed that there was something somewhat organized moving against the Empire. Now, it was clear she was right and she didn’t know what to think.
“You probably have a good number of questions,” the woman said, “and we’ll get to them, I’ll answer what I can. I’m Fulcrum. I, to put it simply, work with different cells around the galaxy, helping them with finding missions to move against the Empire.”
Her chest tightening, Hera took a step forward but didn’t say anything. This was it.
“I believe, as well as some of my associates, that you’re ready to take on larger missions. Not just gathering information. We know you have more to offer,” Fulcrum said. She smiled again.
“I’m ready,” Hera said. Fulcrum’s face changed slightly at the words, as though she had just realized something, and a sadness filled her blue eyes. Hera wasn’t sure what the realization could be but she was determined to prove it wrong. “I am. Tell me what you need. If you need me to start a cell, go undercover, I can do it. Whatever it is.”
Fulcrum smiled again and her face went back to the ease and control it had before. “No, not that. Not yet, at least. I don’t have a specific mission for you right now, I have to admit, but we will find something for you and your associate to do soon,” she explained. “We’ll need to set up a secure channel for us to contact each other. Overall, we’re going to be asking you to keep a low profile. Lower than you have been, over the last year.”
Hera felt her face warm. Gorse hadn’t exactly turned out to be as under the radar as it should have been for a mere passing of intel. “That shouldn’t be too hard,” she responded.
There was a glint in Fulcrum’s eyes, her mouth twitched. Perhaps she didn’t believe her. “And, I’m sure you’ve put this together already, but don’t tell your associate about me,” Fulcrum said. “Let’s stick to me just being a secret contact for now.”
“He doesn’t even know I’m here.”
Fulcrum gave her a sympathetic smile.
“Do you need us to stay on Lothal much longer?” Hera asked. Things would improve if they could leave, she was sure of that. Kanan needed to get off this planet. She needed it, too; she didn’t like staying in one place too long.
“I see no reason why you should,” Fulcrum said with a shrug.
As the woman moved, Hera noticed two metal cylinders swinging from her belt. Her eyes widen. How long had it been since she had seen objects like that? Over a decade now. She looked up and met Fulcrum’s gaze.
“Are those...” she started. The word was too foreign now, too lost, to say aloud. She gestured. Fulcrum followed the hand and then frowned as she looked down at herself. “Are you...? How?”
Taking a lightsaber in hand, Fulcrum stared at it before letting out a sigh. “I don’t know why I forgot to take these off. I’m normally a lot better about keeping that quiet,” she said to herself. She looked up and gave a wry smile. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t spread this around.”
“Are you a Jedi?” Hera asked, barely audible. Even out in this field, the thought about openly saying the word scared her a little. But she needed to know.
“No,” Fulcrum answered. She shook her head before hooking the lightsaber back on to her belt. “Or, at least, not anymore.”
Hera opened her mouth and then closed it. She had a million questions but didn’t know where to start. Fulcrum took a step forward and reached out, resting a hand on her arm. “You know someone.” It wasn’t a question.
She started to nod but stopped herself. This wasn’t her secret. She didn’t have any right to tell this stranger who Kanan really was, not that she knew for sure. But if Fulcrum could help, if she had been a Jedi once herself, wouldn’t it be smarter to share this information?
Was Kanan suddenly just information to pass on?
“I can try and help. If you know someone, they’re in danger,” Fulcrum pressed.
“I might,” Hera whispered. She looked down. Guilt poured over her again as she betrayed Kanan’s trust. He had let her in on this secret and here she was giving it away. “My friend. Who I'm travelling with. He…”
“Hera, I need to know.”
Nodding, Hera continued, the weight of each word she spoke bearing down on her, “We met when I was on Gorse. He was with me through everything that happened. At the end, I was about to be crushed by a catwalk on the ship we had infiltrated. He… I don’t know how, but he threw it away from us.”
Fulcrum didn’t say anything. She did let go of her arm and took a step back. The distance gave Hera the courage to keep going.
“I haven’t seen him do anything like that since, but I don’t believe it was a fluke,” she said. She looked up again, making eye contact now. “He’s a good fighter, he’s quick on his feet. Sometimes I have no idea how he can pull off some of the things I’ve asked of him.”
Hera paused. She glanced down and a faint smile ghosted her lips, her cheeks warming as she spoke. “And he’s selfless, he tries to hide it but I see it every day. He wants to help people. But, something happened to him so he’s trying to be someone else. I just can feel that there’s more to him than what he’ll let me see. I know there’s more. He’s a good person.”
Nodding, Fulcrum looked out at the field. “What’s his name?”
“Kanan Jarrus.” It was getting easier to reveal these things.
“I don’t know that name,” she said after a moment. “But, that doesn’t really mean much. I’ve had to change my name a few times over the years.”
Changed his name? Hera had never even considered that. But, of course he did. Whoever he had been, Jedi or not, something horrible had happened and he had run. He was hiding. A new identity would have been key to that. How many names had he gone through at this point?
“How old is he?”
“Twenty-three, or so he says,” Hera answered. She was now wondering if that was even true, he could have changed that detail about himself as well. She was beginning to wonder who she had just spent a year travelling the galaxy with.
“Well, I would have crossed paths with him, if he had been there,” she said, more to herself. There was a longing in her voice now. Hera wondered what she was remembering. “This is dangerous, Hera. Force users… we can attract too much attention if we’re not careful.”
“He’s definitely careful,” Hera said. Though, that wasn’t really true. He was careful about what he said to her but when he was in field, in a fight, she couldn’t have pulled off all the feats he did and she was very good in a fight. “I don’t know for sure if he is.”
Fulcrum offered her a pointed look before sighing. “Keep me updated on him. If Kanan ever shows signs of being more than just… lucky again, tell me. It might have been a fluke while you were on Gorse, him tapping into an ability during a crisis, it does happen. But, if he had been a Jedi before the fall of the Republic, there’s no telling what the Empire will send after him if he reveals himself. There’s a reason his hiding things from you.”
“Get off of Lothal, you’ve been here long enough,” Fulcrum said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a datacube. “This has the information to contact me. Do so the moment you know where you’re headed. If Kanan is what we think he could be, we can’t afford to lose him.”
They parted ways after that. No goodbyes, no uplifting talk about how bright the future would be now that they’re working together. Hera watched Fulcrum’s starfighter lift off and fly away from their meeting place. She briefly wondered where this top secret rebel agent was going only to find she didn’t really care. Fulcrum had her right to her secrets, she had already revealed more than she had probably ever meant to.
Right now, Hera just wanted to get back to her ship. Back to Kanan. From the moment she first saw him he had stuck out to her. She could remember their conversation on the Expedient, when they were flying knowingly into what should have been their deaths (if Kanan hadn’t save her, it would have been).
“Yeah, you don’t strike me as a victim of oppression.”
“You never know. Appearances can be deceiving.”
She should have realized sooner, accepted it sooner. A part of her had from the moment of the Forager. She had trusted him, though, let him keep his secret. After all, he’d know best about how to deal with his situation. She just wished she had been more open about what she suspected. That she had offered him an ear to speak to, for if and when he’d ever need one. But with all the walls and boundaries she had set up, she suspicions got lost and they had just gone on living their lives.
That would change now. She wouldn’t force him to tell her anything, but Hera was determined to make sure he knew that whenever he was ready, she’d be there.
She moved through the startup sequence for the Phantom and was in the air so quickly she barely noticed the shuttle’s hatch closing. Hera resisted gunning the shuttle back to Capital City; drawing unwanted attention wouldn’t get her anything she wanted, but she did fly a little faster than she normally would have.
“You don’t have to stay, you know,” Kanan said as he came back into the common room. Ezra was sitting at the small round holotable, kicking his legs against the side of the booth. He was also trying to pick at the booth’s cushion, pulling at the edges of it. “I’m not keeping you here as a prisoner. You can head out whenever you want.”
“I know,” Ezra answered, but he made no move to leave.
Shrugging, Kanan made his was to the other side of the booth and sat down. A few moments of silence passed and then he decided that maybe a game of dejarik would help pass the time, it would be fun to teach Ezra how to play. He reached over to turn the holotable when the sound of a ship nearing the Ghost filled the room. He looked up at the ladder and frowned when the Phantom finally docked. Ezra was staring up at the ladder as well, his legs had stilled. Kanan stood up and moved so that he was standing between the ladder and the table, as though he were a shield.
The hatch above them opened and Hera’s boots came through. When she was halfway down, Kanan watched her peak down at him and smile. “Sorry I was gone so long,” she said as she finished her descent. She turned to look at him. “It turned out that Kothal was a bust, it didn’t have the parts I needed.”
“Yeah, I could have told you that,” he said, going along with her lie from when she left. As he spoke, Chopper rolled into the room. He started to make a comment only to stop when Kanan threw him a sharp look. The droid made his way over to Hera instead, silent. Running his hand through his hair and then resting it on his neck, Kanan continued, “Uh, Hera…”
“Yeah?” she asked, still smiling. She looked him over and Kanan watched as her eyes then moved across the room. They widened before darting back up to his. She smile melted away. “Kanan, why is the boy who stole from you and then followed us around all week on my ship?”
“You know, I meant to comm you before you got back to give you a heads up, but—”
“But you just ‘forgot’ to or something like that, right?” Hera snapped at him. He flinched, but took it. She glared at him, then took a deep breath before turning to Ezra. Kanan moved to stop her, he really didn’t need Hera spooking the kid, but he watched her soften immediately. She walked to the booth, sitting down in front of Ezra on one of the small stools. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Ezra muttered. He was looking down at the table.
The side of her face visible from where he stood, Kanan could see Hera smile before looking over her shoulder back at him. “Do you want to fill me in?”
“Well, I was cleaning the hull of the ship when I noticed him hanging around again,” he said. “I figured I could, I don’t know, use the company? I made us lunch.”
Raising a brow, she turned back. “What’s your name?”
“Well, Ezra, I’m Hera,” she said. She lifted her right hand. Ezra, a smile creeping onto his face, took her hand and shook it. “So, how old are you? I get the feeling you’re a bit young for me to hire, would that be right?”
Kanan shook his head and walked over to the table. Crossing his arms, he leaned against the table—behind Hera—and watched to two talk. He smiled; Hera had a way with people, he already knew that, but watching her with Ezra was something new.
Giggling a little, he answered, “I’m nine.”
“Hmmm, that is a bit young,” Hera said, nodding gravely. Ezra’s face brightened as his smile grew. He was trying to fight the giggles that were still coming “We’ll have to figure something out. What about your parents? Can we talk to them?”
The air in the room shifted. Tense again. The smile that had just shown up disappeared, Ezra had put up his guard. Kanan couldn’t fault Hera for asking, she needed to know what she was getting into. That didn’t change the weight of the question.
Shaking his head, Ezra leaned against the table.
“Is there someone else we can talk to? Is there anyone waiting for you?”
He shrugged. He wasn’t looking up at her anymore, his eyes were glued to the checkered pattern in front of him that he was starting to trace with a finger.
Leaning forward, Hera took hold of both of his hands and held them. Ezra, timidly, looked up at her. “Okay,” she said, squeezing his hands slightly. Kanan let a hand drop and rest on Hera’s shoulder. “We don’t have to talk about that.”
Ezra nodded. He looked down at his lap. Hera looked up at Kanan and sighed, he squeezed her shoulder, offering her a supportive smile. She let go of Ezra’s hands and sat up straight. “You’re welcome to stay here the night, we’ve got more than enough space.”
He looked up. His bright blue eyes were shimmering, tears had started to well up. “Okay,” he whispered. He wiped his eyes on his sleeves and sniffled only once.
Patting his arm, Hera stood up and stretched. “I’ll go find an extra blanket, I’m sure I can wrangle something up. While I work on that, Chop,” she said, turning to her droid, “why don’t you teach Ezra how to play dejarik?”
“I know how to play!” Ezra cut in, completely petulant. He eyed the droid, distrust on his face. Kanan swallowed the laugh that threatened to come out.
“Well, then you can show Chopper how to play,” she offered. Looking over at Kanan, she jerked her head to the door. He glanced over to it and sighed. Right, he really did have some explaining to do. He hoped that Ezra would have charmed her enough that this conversation could be put off until tomorrow.
Pushing up from the table, Kanan made his way out of the common room, Hera following close behind. He glanced through the hatchway and saw the hologram game light up the room, Ezra grinning over at the orange droid next to him. The door closed, hiding the picture of innocence from him.
Hera walked past him down the hall, stopping between their respected cabins. She watched him close the distance and crossed her arms. Kanan shoved his hands into his pockets and decided to lean against the door to her cabin. She raised a brow at him, her mouth set in a frown, and waited. He was the one who brought the kid onboard so he could be the one who started this conversation. Well, Hera, that meant he was going to try and just keep avoiding it.
“You know, he asked if we were married,” Kanan said, grinning over at her. He hoped that would elicit some sort of positive response, maybe lighten the mood a bit before she got to her questions. All it did, however, was deepen the frown on her face.
“So, what’s your plan? Because I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here and assuming you have one,” Hera said.
Kanan let the smile on his face fade and looked back to the entrance to the common room. He remained silent.
“That’s the boy Jho told us about last week, isn’t it?” she asked. She stepped towards him; he didn’t need to look at her to know how close she was now.
“Yeah, I think so,” he replied. He let out a shaky breath.
“Kanan, why is he here?”
Shaking his head, he cast his gaze to the floor. To answer that question, he needed to already know the answer himself.
“What’s going on in there?” She rested her hand on the side of his face and brushed her thumb against his cheek, the leather of her glove catching against his skin. He leaned into her touch. It was so familiar. He didn’t know when that had happened, when her touch had become something that he relied on. He blinked and lifted his head. He took a step away from her.
“Hera, I…” The words were trapped in his throat. I was a Jedi. I was a coward and ran when my master was shot down by the men I had called my friends. I turned my back on everything I believed in and loved. Ezra has the chance to be so much more than he is but I have to be the one to guide him. I’m still a coward, now. I’m afraid. He shook his head again and pressed the heel of his palm against one of his eyes. “I don’t know.”
He really was still a coward. He was scared. Scared of what it would mean to take Ezra on. Scared of what it would mean if he didn’t.
Wouldn’t it be better if Kanan just left him alone? Two Force users together would draw too much attention, it would only be a matter of time until the Empire or something worse found them. If this was left to just be, then maybe Ezra would just slowly lose his connection to the Force. It could fade and he could just live his life, away from the problems it would bring him. Ezra’s life would be better without the Force, without him.
And what did he even have to offer? Kanan was washed out, a handful of lessons from when he was a kid. Even more than that, he had distanced himself from that all for so long now. He wasn’t sure he knew how to get back to the life that was torn away from him.
There was no guarantee that if he took Ezra on that anything would be achieved. For all Kanan knew, if he let this boy into his life it would just end with both of them dying at the hands of the Empire. That’s what happened before, it could happen again.
“Kanan.” Hera moved back to his side. She placed a hand on his back and with her other one turned his face to hers. “What’s your plan?”
He looked her over. Her green eyes were filled with concern, but something else. There was a caring in them—a specific warmth that he only saw when they spoke, usually late at night after a long day. Kanan brushed his hand against her cheek before cupping her face. Her breath fluttered for a moment.
Shaking his head a final time, he turned. “I don’t know,” he repeated, his voice barely a whisper. Then, he walked away.
“Kanan?” Hera called after him.
He didn’t stop. He walked to the cockpit, pressing the release for the hatchway.
He was on autopilot now, running away from his problems still came so easy to him. He heard Hera calling after him again, telling to stop running, but he was already sliding down the ladder. Kanan just needed to distance himself from the situation. He couldn’t think with hit staring him in the face. He couldn’t breathe inside the walls of the ship anymore.
The warm evening air of Lothal moved around him, drawing him out of the ship.
He didn’t have anywhere to go.
She had followed Hera here after their meeting. Her curiosity about this Kanan Jarrus had gotten the better of her. She doubted that she would be able recognize him from the temple days, a decade had passed since she had been a part of the Order. But that didn’t stop her from wanting to just see who this person could be. Overall, Hera had not disclosed much about her travelling companion to her and those she worked with. Until tonight, Ahsoka had somewhat assumed that Hera was merely involved with this person but didn’t want to lie and say she was still travelling alone. How she had misjudged her.
The ship began to open up. Ahsoka moved in order to get a good look, grateful that evening had come in and making it harder to spot her. Wrapping the dark blue cloak she was wearing tightly around herself, she watched as a tall human male with relatively short brown hair made his way down the ramp. He stood at the bottom, rubbed his face, and then started to circle the ship. He looked around the hangar, though not as far up as the roof. He stopped a third of the way round the ship, glanced around again, and then he jumped.
Ahsoka’s eyes widened and she smiled.
“Ah, so he is a Force user,” she whispered.
The man made his way across the hull and stopped in front of the turret. He rubbed his face again before dropping into a seat position. A familiar one, legs crossed and arms relaxed. His breathing evened out as he closed his eyes.
“And maybe a Jedi.”
How humans looked was still something of a mystery to her. Yes, she had spent most of her life surrounded by them, but she could never quite figure them out. There was something familiar about this person but a decade between maybe having seen him in the temple halls and now meant there was really little chance of her recognizing him.
She hoped that she had known him. Just for there to be one connection out there for her to grab hold of. While she may have left the Jedi Order, that never stopped them from being her family. To find someone again after all this time… It could be dangerous to hope but wasn’t that the point of the Jedi? If he really had been one, wouldn’t he just be doing his job by giving her this?
Ahsoka turned away, finally, spending longer than she should have watching him. She made her way off of the roof. The desire to reveal herself to Kanan Jarrus was becoming too strong. It wasn’t the time. She didn’t know who he was, where he was at. He could just as likely run away from her as join her. Hera had made it clear that Kanan held many reservations about this fight. The last thing he needed was a long lost ex-Jedi popping up in his life.
She was back at her starship when it was well into the night. She had decided it was best to stay outside of the city, away from prying eyes. Togrutas were not common on this planet and she did not feel like drawing that attention to herself.
Why Lothal? The thought was still on her mind. She couldn’t shake it. It had to be this Kanan, he had to be the reason they ended up here. Lothal was old. Its connection with the Force ran deep. For a Force user to just end up on this planet, it couldn’t be a coincidence. Ahsoka hoped that the answer would reveal itself soon. Questions were consuming her.
Why Lothal? Why now? And why Kanan Jarrus?
New chapter finally! It takes awhile to write out two whole chapters to get me back on track. Work has chilled out but unfortunately I'm going to be taking another break from this fic. I have to work on my fic for the Rebels Exchange. That shouldn't take too to write it, if I'm being honest, but write it I must (and obviously want to).
Hope you guys enjoy this chapter! It gave me a lot of trouble, originally it was going to be two separate chapters but then it made more sense to merge them. It was the right choice, for sure, but it made editing a nightmare.
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
Ezra came to his cabin earlier than Kanan had expected him to. Waking up at his usual time—oh-six-hundred—he had assumed he was going to be able to get to the galley and start making breakfast before their guest was even thinking about food. He should have remembered that wasn’t how mornings went on the streets. It was easy to forget the habits of street kids when you hadn’t been one in years.
Slipping into the room without saying anything, Kanan had left the door unlocked just in case Ezra needed him during the night, Ezra waited for him to finish getting ready. Kanan didn’t ask if he had slept well, he knew what it was like to get a night’s sleep in a bed after days and months (and years) of trying to find a softer patch of duracrete. The sleep would have been good, after he got used to the sounds all around him, but there would have been definite panic when he woke up in a new place. No wonder he was already hovering.
They made their way to the galley together. Ezra sat at the table, out of the way, as breakfast was being prepared. Hera only raised an eyebrow when she joined them an hour later.
“Jho contacted me,” Hera said as she rinsed her plate off. She left it in the sink and turned to Kanan. “He has a quick delivery he wants us to make since we’re still here.” She glanced at Ezra. She smiled.
Kanan peered over at the boy across from him and hid his own smile; Ezra had just managed to steal the neglected fruit from his plate. “Do you want to head out now?” he asked.
“If you’re up for it.”
Nodding, Kanan turned fully over to Ezra. He was sitting quietly, he hadn’t said much at all this morning. He was watching them, eyes wide. “You can hang out here while we’re gone,” Kanan said.
“As long as you don’t steal my ship,” Hera added on, her smile growing. Ezra gave her a shy smile back and nodded. “We shouldn’t be gone for too long. We’ll be back in the afternoon.”
“You can leave if you want, though.” It wasn’t lost on Kanan how Hera and he sounded right now: two parents leaving their kid at home, laying out the ground rules. But they weren’t his parents and this wasn’t his home. “We’re not forcing you to stay here.”
Hera shot him a sharp look before turning away. “I’ll meet you outside the Ghost in ten minutes.”
Kanan watched her leave, his chest tightening. He had a feeling the only reason Hera was even speaking to him today was because Ezra was in the room. Though, if Ezra hadn’t been here in the first place there would have been no reason for her to be so frustrated with him. Sighing, he ran his hand over his head and looked over at the boy across from him. “You finished?” he asked, gesturing at the plates.
Ezra stuffed a final hunk of fruit, a large one, into his mouth and somehow managed to answer, “Arll derne.”
“Yeah, be sure to actually chew that,” Kanan said, pointing at him. Ezra grinned and started to thoroughly chew. Reaching for the plates, Kanan stacked them and headed over to the sink. Turning the faucet on, he said, “You are welcomed to hang around here. I think Hera would like it.”
“Chew and swallow.”
The exaggerated sound of a swallow met his ears and he smiled. Looking over his shoulder, Ezra was gently hitting his chest. Then the kid took a deep breath and repeated, “Okay.”
“If you get bored, Chopper can show you how to turn the holonet on,” Kanan said. Though, he wasn’t really sure if there was anything playing that a kid would find interesting but that would be a problem for Chopper to figure out.
“I know how to occupy myself,” Ezra said with a small shrug.
Reaching for a hand towel, Kanan dried the now clean dishes and then his hands. After placing them in their proper place in the cabinets, he headed for the door. “There’s food in the fridge when you get hungry. You know where the ‘fresher is. If there’s a problem have Chop contact us.”
“Okay. I’ll be fine, I can take care of myself.”
Kanan nodded and headed out of the room. He stopped at his cabin to grab his blaster (and to make sure the door was locked). Chopper rolled by him in the corridor towards the common room, muttering he wasn’t programmed to look after children. Kanan wanted to respond that he wasn’t either, but that wasn’t entirely true.
He headed out of the ship to meet Hera.
“You’re getting pretty good at timing your ambushes,” Kanan sneered. They were walking back to the Ghost, almost at the spaceport, the afternoon sun beating down on them. It was later in the day than they had planned for. Still, there was no need to rush back to the ship after having checked in with Chopper they knew things on that end were fine. This allowed Hera to launch her attack against him. “Can’t you just let this go?”
“No, I can’t ‘just let this go’. Kanan, you brought a nine year old onto my ship! I think I deserve answer to what you’re planning on doing,” Hera answered. She crossed her arms. Neither of them slowed their pace as they spoke. “I need to know what you’re planning.”
Kanan let out a frustrated sigh and glared over at her. “Nothing has changed since yesterday, Hera. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m sorry to break it to you but I don’t always have the answer,” he said.
She returned his glare before leading them into the spaceport. “This would go smoother if you actually told me about yourself,” she said.
“What does that mean?”
“You know what I mean,” she snapped. “We’ve been living together for a year and all I know about you is what I learned a year ago. If any of that is even true.”
Hera’s strides lengthened. It wasn’t hard to keep pace with her. Soon, they were in front of the Ghost. Hera reached for the ramp’s release. Kanan quickly put his hand over hers and looked down at her. “If you have something to say, cut this cryptic crap out. Just say it.”
Her eyes snapped up to his before she let a long breath. Her expression softened only a fraction, but he could still feel the heat in her eyes. She wasn’t going to let whatever this was go. “He trusts you, Kanan. For whatever reason, that scares you. But it doesn’t change that you’ve opened yourself up to him and now he trusts you. You need a plan,” Hera said. She pulled her hand out from under his. “You have to be careful.”
“I know all this,” he countered. He pressed the access button and they watched the ramp into their home unfold. He needed to get inside just in case he lost control and let secrets slip out. He couldn’t afford them being overheard. Ezra couldn’t afford that. “That’s the problem.”
“Then explain this to me! I’m trying to understand!” Hera exclaimed, following him up the ramp.
Kanan reached the ladder out of the hold and looked back at her over his shoulder. “Why are you pressing this? I know you don’t really want to have some kid hanging around. That could get in the way of your grand mission, right?” He started the climb out of the hold.
“This isn’t about me, Kanan,” she snapped. “Don’t try and use whatever your issues with me are to deflect!”
Even though she couldn’t see his face, Kanan rolled his eyes as he climbed into the cockpit. He wasn’t given even a second to try and compose himself, Hera was already climbing into the room after him.
“Why are you running from this?”
“Who said I’m running?” he threw back at her. He then turned to the door.
It opened just as Hera started to say, “Ezra is counting on you now, you can’t just abandon—”
“Keeping him here with us—with me—will cause nothing but problems!” Kanan shouted, turning back to her. He was standing between their cabins, torn between hiding within himself and opening up to her. Each side pulling, threatening to rip him in half. He felt hot. The control in his voice that he worked to keep was slipping away from him. What happened to all that training that was supposed to help him stay calm? He took a deep breath in. He never raised his voice, it wasn’t fair to do that now, not at Hera. She had been nothing but accepting and patient with him, she didn’t deserve this kind of treatment. But everything was crash down on him and he was struggling to pull himself out. “It’s not safe to have him here! Ezra’s better off without me!”
He turned away and stormed down the corridor. He made it into the common room, now empty aside from a dish left abandoned by Ezra on the table. Hera followed him in. There was nothing on the ship that could stop her pursuit.
“You can’t mean that.”
Kanan looked back at her. Hera stood in the middle of the room, arms at her side. Open. She was angry but it was clear she was willing to still try. If he reached out to her, even now, they would be able to get through this.
“You don’t know anything about me. You don’t know what I mean.” It was all he could say.
“Then tell me! Kanan, I’m right here. You know I’m here. After a year of whatever this has been, you have me. I’m not going anywhere!” Hera said. Her voice was starting to break. She swallowed. “What about you?” Her eyes were filled with accusation.
“Hera… I don’t want to go anywhere,” he confessed. “But this…”
“You can’t abandon Ezra. You can’t,” she said. Pleaded, almost. Hera moved further into the room, closer to him. She didn’t reach for him but he could still feel her. He looked away.
“I can if it’ll save his life.”
“Whump waaaaaaah!” The sound tore through the room, interrupting the two trying to make sense of the words weighing down on them. Chopper came rolling into the room, barely stopping in time to avoid crashing into the pair. “Whum whum waaah!”
“What?” Hera snapped. She glared up at Kanan before running out of the room. Kanan followed, half a step behind her. Chopper continued to blather at them as they moved, explaining what had happened. They stopped in the cockpit, staring out the viewport. Ezra, the orange of his clothing bright in the afternoon sun, disappeared through the hangar doors.
“He heard…” Kanan muttered. He held onto the co-pilot’s chair, his legs weak beneath him. “He heard us.”
Hera was glaring at him. There were tears in her eyes. Her disappointment was easy to read as she looked him over. Her anger was radiating around her. “Are you happy? He knows you don’t want him. Well, now he’s gone, you don’t have to pretend to care about anyone!” Turning away from him, she wiped her eyes against her gloved hand and walked out of the cockpit. Chopper warbled in the hatchway, his dome turning briefly to Kanan before following Hera into her cabin. The hatchway to the cockpit closed.
Kanan sank into the chair. His head dropped into a hand and he let out a shaky breath.
“Keeping him here with us—with me—will cause nothing but problems, Hera! It’s not safe to have him here! Ezra’s better off without me!”
He was running as fast as he could. The streets around him where blurring, he had no idea where he was going. He didn’t really care. He’d find his way to something familiar eventually. For now he just wanted to get away from that ship.
Ezra knew he shouldn’t have been listening their conversation, even if they hadn’t been quiet at all. He should have been in the common area or galley, somewhere they would have seen him. Or, he should have stopped listening once he was what was being talked about, but it was hard to just ignore them. But he had been nearby and he had listened.
Bumping into someone, Ezra muttered an apology before turning onto a different street. One that was hopefully less crowded. He ran and ran. And then he stopped. Panting, he looked around. This street was empty, a connecting one between two larger and more crowded streets. He leaned against a wall, trying to catch his breath and sort out what had happened.
Of course Kanan didn’t want him. It had been stupid to hope for anyone to be there for him, especially since it had been two years since anyone had been around. Whatever he had felt had just been his loneliness making him think something more was happening. He knew no one ever cared. There was no one out there for him. Hoping that Kanan would save him was the same as hoping for his parents to come back and take him home. It was nothing. There was nothing connecting the two of them. Ezra was alone. He knew that, he had always known that.
It’s what helped him survive.
He wiped his eyes on the back of his arm; he wasn’t crying, there was just sweat from running. He needed to start moving again, just in case Kanan and Hera came looking for him. For what he had with him.
Looking down at his hand, he gulped. He shouldn’t have gone back into Kanan’s room, he had promised he wouldn’t, but they were calling to him again. The lightsaber and this. A metal cube of some sort, glass sections revealing metal on the inside. It was beautiful whatever it was. And it sang. It was the best way Ezra could describe what he had heard. He had just wanted to know what it was, what was calling him. He hadn’t meant to take it with him. But Ezra had been in Kanan’s room still when the argument through the ship—the argument about him—had happened. And when he had realized he could run without being seen, he had taken the chance to escape. Whatever this was had still been in his hand.
He felt guilty but there was nothing he could do about it now. He couldn’t go back. Maybe he could sell whatever this was. There were rich people in the city, maybe they’d think it was art or something. It was pretty enough. Maybe he’d be able to get even a hundred credits for it. That could feed him for so long.
Ezra shoved the cube into his inner jacket pocket, where he’d hide anything of value. Then, he made his way off the side street. He was ready to go back to the sewers and get some sleep, even if it was still only the afternoon.
Three steps onto the main street and suddenly he found he couldn’t walk without bumping into someone. Three someones; two wearing white boots and armour while the third had black boots. Ezra looked up, fear overtaking into him.
“Well, what do we have here?” the Imperial officer, with a stormtrooper on either side of him, said.
Inside the room, a wave of anger rushed through him again. Trying to let it out, to shed some of this bile building up inside of him, he grabbed his blaster and hurled it across the room. It smacked against the wall, landing on the lower bunk. When he walked over to retrieve it he just leaned his head against the top bunk instead. Unsurprisingly, throwing things wasn’t helping. He kicked one of the drawers lining the bunks. He heard it slide open but he didn’t bother look down.
Turning away, Kanan started to pace. A week ago he could have said he was happy. Happy to be alive. Happy to not be alone. Hera had given him a life again. He felt like she was a chance to have everything he had wanted to have again. But that life was starting to feel out of reach. He wasn’t sure that if he reached out to it now if even his fingers would graze the edges of it anymore. He was losing this chance at a life again. He didn’t want to lose any more than he already had.
He wanted to help Ezra. Every ounce of him wanted to take that boy under his wing, keep him safe. And he knew that it would be the right thing to do. But he was scared that it would mean leaving Hera, that would be the sacrifice he’d have to take. And isn’t that what the Jedi were about? That selflessness?
He wasn’t a Jedi. Not anymore. Not really ever. He wasn’t the heroes he had looked up to as a child, he hadn’t ever been that. Kanan had just been an overly excited and far too optimistic child. And those kids could never survive in the cruel galaxy they lived in. That was what he had been given, the chance to survive. Why should he have to throw that away, make that survival all the more difficult?
Kanan had made sacrifices. He had made more sacrifices than anyone should ever have to in their lifetime. But now that the sacrifice was his only chance at happiness, his only chance to live a life close to worth living, he knew that he was never actually meant to be a Jedi. The Jedi never knew when to pull back from the line, giving up even their own lives for the galaxy. Well, Kanan had nothing left to give the galaxy anymore, so why wouldn’t it stop asking?
And how could anyone blame him? He had only been fourteen when the Jedi Order fell, when the only family he had ever known was murdered in front of him, had done the murdering in front of him. That wound never leaves. It was going to sit in him forever. The best he could do was keep it in the past. The Jedi were a thing of the past and he was fine with keeping them there.
Looking back at the bunks, he saw that the fourth drawer had been the one he had kicked. A frown set in as he walked to it. The drawer that held his past. The reminders of what he was never meant to be. He knelt down in front of it. Reaching in, he pulled out his lightsaber. Its weight was so familiar. There was a comfort in it, like a security blanket that would protect him from the monsters in the night. He knew it was a ridiculous thought, his lightsaber was the opposite of that; it would only bring the monsters to him if he wore it.
Setting it aside, Kanan reached into the drawer again. When his fingers brushed against the cold metal of the bottom, he leaned over to look inside. Empty. There was nothing else in the drawer. Which was impossible because he had locked his door and no one had been inside since he had left in the morning. His holocron, his last reminder of his master, should be here.
Except his door hadn’t been locked when he came in. Just like yesterday.
“Damn it!” he shouted, stumbling to his feet. “No, no!”
Tripping over his feet as he made his way out of the room, Kanan called for Hera. He didn’t wait to see if she would come out, there was no time to. He just had to hope that even in this moment she could still trust him. He turned sharply into the cockpit and practically jumped down into the hold. He heard Hera call after him but he kept moving.
Once outside the ship he stopped running. He took a deep breath and focused. Listen. He needed to listen. The Force had connected him and Ezra, he needed to use that. Kanan breathed in and out, in and out. Everything around him stilled. His whole body felt like it was slowing down. The Force was there, it always was. It waited for him to open himself up to it. It was harder to connect to it now than when he had been young, but it was never impossible. There was a desire for this from both sides. As he focus deepened, he felt everything and nothing. And he felt Ezra.
Kanan opened his eyes, turning to Hera who was now coming down the ramp. Her arms were crossed and it was hard to tell if she was more angry or confused. Her eyes were puffy. Seeing her like this, hurt and angry because of his actions, was like a punch to his gut. He never wanted to be the one who caused her pain. But he didn’t have time to think about that, none of them could afford that time.
“Ezra’s in trouble.” She looked up at him as he said it, her brows knitting together. “He’s in trouble and it’s my fault. We have to find him.”
“How do you know?”
Kanan reached over, cupping her face. She stiffened but didn’t move away. “Please,” he said, dropping his hand, “just trust me on this.”
Hera looked him over. For a moment he thought that she wouldn’t, that she’d walk back up that ramp. That this had been the final straw. But she nodded.
“What can we do? We don’t know where he went.”
“I know. I can find him,” Kanan said. He turned away and closed his eyes, reaching out again through the Force. It took less time, he knew roughly where the boy was now. Taking Hera’s hand, he started to lead her away from the Ghost. When he was confident she’d keep following him, he let go.
Outside of the spaceport, they broke into a run. Ezra didn’t have much of a head start on them but that didn’t mean much if Kanan got them lost. It was harder to focus on Ezra while they were moving. Every time he thought they were close just led them to another empty street. They ran through Capital City, ignoring any looks that they were drawing their way.
Finally, Kanan stopped. Hera bumped into him, grabbing hold of his arm to steady herself. He looked around the street, watching the citizens of Lothal walk past them. He listened. Listened for any sign of Ezra being nearby.
“Over there,” Kanan said. He ran off towards a side street, Hera right behind him.
And there he was. Ezra was at the other end up the short street. Kanan opened his mouth to call out, to let Ezra know everything was going to be okay and that he was safe now, when he was pulled roughly to the side.
“Hera, what are you—”
“Troopers!” she hissed, pulling him into a doorway. They stood there, hidden from the view of the stormtroopers and what looked like an Imperial officer, pressed together.
“Well, what do we have here?” the officer said, just loud enough for them to hear.
They watched Ezra take a step back only for a stormtrooper to grab his arm. Kanan jerked forward but Hera’s grip on him was tight.
“I think we have a thief running around,” the officer said, smiling down.
“I didn’t take anything!” Ezra shouted, trying to shake out of the soldier’s hold on him.
“Yes, of course that’s what you’d say,” the man said, shaking his head. “I think it would be safer for everyone if you were taken off the streets.”
“I didn’t do anything! Let me go!” Ezra shouted, even louder this time. The crowds behind the scene slowed as they passed—watching—but no one stopped. No one came to Ezra’s help. “Let me go!”
The Imperial officer jerked his head and the two stormtroopers started to walk off with their captive.
The group walked out of sight and Kanan pulled out of Hera’s hold, almost making it off the side street they were on. Hera managed to grab hold of him again and turned him to face her.
“What are you doing?” Kanan snapped. “We have to help him!”
“How? Neither of us have blasters, and I’m pretty sure that man was ISB. What would you have done?” she asked, tightening her grip. “We’re outnumbered. People will get hurt if we try anything.”
“It doesn’t matter! This is my fault, I have to fix this. I have to save him!” Kanan said. He tried to pull away from her but she wasn’t letting go. “Hera! Let go!”
“You can’t save him if you die!” she shouted. She started to drag him, using both hands, back down the street away from the eyes starting to stare. “Kanan, please. We need to be smart about this.”
Looking over his shoulder, he let her drag him away. Halfway down the street, he stopped. She let one hand drop and he turned away. Staring at where Ezra had been moments ago. Moments ago when he could have fixed this. If only he had been faster at tracking him down. If only he hadn’t said what he had said. If only he hadn’t set foot on Lothal, on the Ghost. “This is my fault.”
She didn’t say anything. She stood with him in the street and waited for him to move. He waited too, waited for the answer of what to do next to come to him. He waited. Waited.
This was a hard chapter to write. It's tough at times tackling Kanan in the early days because he's gonna end up doing things that aren't all that great. I struggled (and if I'm being honest I'm still struggling a bit) with some of the stuff Kanan does in this chapter but I do think it's right and what's best for the story. Didn't make it easier to write.
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
Kanan walked back and forth in the cargo hold. There was nothing in here for him to focus on. No distractions from his thoughts, nothing to keep him from sinking into the guilt bubbling up inside him.
The Ghost felt less like a home right now. It was a prison, trapping him with every terrible decision he had made. He wanted to be anywhere but here.
After Hera had stopped him from chasing after Ezra, she had sent a message out to someone. Someone to meet them back on the Ghost. Had it been any other situation, Kanan would have pressed to find out who this mysterious person was; anything off the ship he was fine with the secrecy but on the ship he wanted Hera to be open with him. They owed each other honesty, at least that was what he told himself even if he never seemed to follow through with that one.
But this time he hadn't had the energy to care. He still didn’t. He may have been locked away in the cargo hold with the mysterious contact kept out of sight for secrecy, but this meant nothing to him. All that mattered was Ezra.
He had failed him. So completely. Instead of accepting what had been presented to him, Kanan had turned away. Again. It’s all he knew how to do. He thought that joining up with Hera and sticking with her so long meant he had changed, that he had moved on from his past. That he had finally become a good person again. But it all turned out to be a lie. He was still trapped by what had happened. Trapped in behind all the walls he had put up around him. Ezra had been the opportunity to embrace who he was and he just ran away.
He always ran.
What was Hera doing? Kanan looked up at the ladder, perturbed to see that she had actually gone as far as locking the access to the cockpit. Did she really not trust him to stay out of her way? He didn’t care about her rebellion right now, he didn’t care that she was trying to keep this person’s identity safe. How could she be prioritizing this over Ezra’s life? He understood this was all because he made a mistake, misjudged everything, but she wasn’t letting him do anything to fix it now.
They didn’t need help. They just needed to do something. Now. They were enough to take this on, why did Hera have to go to some outside source? Why now did she will like he wasn’t enough for her? Why wasn’t she down her with him and planning their next move? Time was running out.
There was no telling what the Empire would do to Ezra. Kanan knew that just because he was a kid didn’t mean they’d hold back. Whatever the Empire had planned for Ezra needed to be stopped. They needed to save him. He was sure Hera knew this, too. She was no stranger to the cruelty of the Empire. So, why were they doing nothing?
He stopped his pacing next to the speeder bike they owned. After looking it over, he spared a quick glance at the ladder up to the cockpit before turning the vehicle’s repulsors on. Hera would forgive him if and when he came back. She would put aside his recklessness if it all worked out in his favour, he hoped. (And besides, if he didn’t make it back then it really wouldn’t matter if Hera forgave him or not, he’d finally be out of her way.)
Walking the bike to the ship’s exit, Kanan pressed the controls to open the ramp. As it unfolded in front of him, he thought a final apology up to Hera. He then climbed onto the bike and headed out. He had to hope Hera wouldn’t follow in his recklessness and come after him. He needed to do this but if he lost her as well…
Evening was setting in over the city. Its citizens were still lining the streets, going about their lives completely. No sign of what had happened only a couple of hours ago was around, but why would there be? People didn’t care about street kids, no one ever paid attention to their plight.
Kanan eyed the dome at the city’s heart. It loomed over, casting its shadow in the setting sun. The Imperial Complex was where Ezra would have been taken to. Jho’s words were starting to ring in his head again. He had said that the Empire hadn’t forgotten Ezra was out there; was this them finally finishing what they had started with that family? That was bad enough as it was, but if they discovered the potential that the boy held it would have a completely different outcome. One Ezra wouldn’t get to walk away from alive. Kanan could only begin to imagine what would happen.
He sped up, weaving through the groupings of people. Every now and then someone would shout at him to be careful but he didn’t care. An annoyed person was nothing new for him on a normal day. Today it meant even less. He just needed to get across the city as quickly as possible.
A few blocks away from the compound, Kanan was forced to slow down. A checkpoint. Two stormtroopers were standing at the end of the street, stopping everyone who was coming through. There was probably going to be more scattered along the way. Swearing under his breath, he turned off the street. He was going to have take a different way to the compound.
After a few minutes of weaving through side streets, the compound always in clear view, he found and alleyway to stash the speeder in. Begrudgingly, he got off the bike and tucked it away, out of sight. He didn’t want to leave it behind; it would be impossible to convince Hera to get them another one if he lost this one today. Plus, he just really liked this bike.
“Maybe I’ll get able to get it back later,” he muttered half-heartedly. He knew the chances of getting back here where slim. He didn’t know if his chances were slimmer for him even making it out again alive.
Looking to the entrance of the alley to check if the coast was clear, Kanan jumped. He grabbed hold of a fire escape, pulling himself up onto its metal frame. If the streets this close to the compound were going to be filled with stormtroopers than rooftops it was going to have to be. It had been awhile since he had gone running across roofs, the memory of running with Hera came back to him. He smiled before making his way up.
It was easier to avoid any patrols up here. Lothal was a peaceful planet even with the Imperial presence. Capital City, overall, was no different. Troopers weren’t paying attention for any renegades running over rooftops, granted they didn’t really seem to be paying attention to anything. That was always the perk of a quiet city: lazy troopers.
Outside the Imperial Complex was different. He watched from on top of a house across. There were pairs of stormtroopers moving in front of the building. There was no chance of just waltzing right up to the front doors and going in. He could sit and wait, watch the patrols go by and learn their patterns. He could wait until the cover of night and find a way in then. But Kanan was tired of waiting. The longer it took him to get in the more likely that something horrible would happen to Ezra.
A plan would have been really good to have figured out before getting here. He could admit that much to himself.
Looking down the street behind him, he smiled. A small transport. Just carrying supplies, no doubt. One or two people driving it. This was exactly what he needed. He quickly made his way down to ground level and watched it draw closer. It wasn’t moving too fast, there was no rush to get into the compound because nothing was happening. Just a normal night in Capital City. This gave him all the time he needed to roll under and grab hold of the bottom of the vehicle. No one even checked underneath for hitchhikers.
The cargo bay was less manned than the outside of the whole facility. Kanan climbed out from under the transport and quickly made his way behind a tall row of crates. The men working in here were focused on whatever inventory they had to be doing. It made leaving the large room easy, even with the maze of supplies to navigate quietly through. He was going to get out it without getting caught.
The stormtrooper on the other side of the exit, however, wasn’t exactly the best discovery.
Thankfully, Kanan had surprise on his side. He grabbed hold of the trooper’s blaster, ramming it up into his helmet before ripping it from his hand. He brought it down quickly on top of the man’s head, knocking him out as the hatchway behind them closed. He fired against the locking mechanism, hoping that those inside wouldn’t notice the blaster fire.
With a grin, Kanan started to head down the hall before glancing back. He ran back and pulled the helmet off of the stormtrooper’s head. “You don’t really need it right now,” Kanan said, putting the helmet on. “I’m sure they’ll just give you another when you wake up.”
Then he ran off into the complex.
Hera stopped. She wrapped her arms around herself, turned away from her mysterious rebel contact, a stranger. Why had she called her? She should be planning with Kanan right now, trying to figure out how to save Ezra. But she didn’t understand what was happening. She wasn’t prepared to jump headfirst into a fight without knowing the basics. If Kanan wasn’t going to offer that, she needed to turn to someone.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. We were supposed to leave,” Hera whispered. She couldn’t look up. She was angry and frustrated and scared. This wouldn’t have happened if they had been able to leave Lothal earlier. It was hard to not blame herself for all of this on some level; she was the reason they stayed on Lothal long enough for Ezra to come to them. She kept digging deeper into the budding rebellion and she had dragged Kanan along for the ride. He had been apprehensive but had changed his mind enough for her. He had done so much because she had simply asked him to. What had she done for him?
“Hera.” The firmness of the voice pulled her from her thoughts. Hera looked up. “Tell me about this boy.”
“I don’t know a lot,” she admitted. She turned back to Fulcrum, though her arms remained wrapped around herself. A small protection. “Kanan found him a bit over a week ago. Ezra latched onto him. He started to hover around us, following us through the city everyday. Something was happening between them, I’m not sure if Kanan fully understood it or if he was pretending he didn’t. I think he wants to help Ezra, desperately, but…”
She shook her head. Her arms tightened. “He still wouldn’t tell me anything. Ezra was taken and I still don’t know what’s going on. We know his parents were arrested two years ago but the fear in Kanan’s eyes, it’s more than just that.”
Fulcrum walked over, gently placing her hands on Hera’s arms. “What do you mean?”
“This afternoon, Kanan and I were arguing about what to do with Ezra. Fulcrum, he was so scared. I have never seen him that scared before. He said it was too dangerous to keep Ezra around,” she said. Hera swallowed roughly and continued, “That’s when Ezra overheard us. That’s why he ran off. This is all my fault, I was pushing Kanan. I was pressing him too hard. He wasn’t ready to open up to me yet and now all of this has happened. I shouldn’t have meddled, this is my fault.”
“Hera, this is not your fault. I don’t believe that this is anyone’s fault, not entirely,” Fulcrum said. Her hands squeezed reassuringly. “I believe a series of events that shouldn’t have happened yet have, and that is always complicated.”
Hera looked up at the older woman. She was visibly worried. Yesterday, even with the reveal of who Kanan maybe have been, Fulcrum hadn’t seemed that surprised or shaken by it. But something was different today. Just Kanan hadn’t been enough to be a cause of worry. But now that Ezra was in the mix, it was different. Everything was different.
“What’s special about Ezra?” Hera asked.
Moving away, Fulcrum rested her chin gently on one hand. She glanced back before saying, “I have my suspicions. It’s too early to reveal them, however.”
“If you know what’s happening, I think I need to know at this point,” Hera said. She moved her hands to her hips and stared defiantly at her. “This is affecting my partner, I need to be able to help.”
“We need to come up with a plan to rescue Ezra Bridger.” Fulcrum didn’t look at her as she said this. Deflection. Apparently a common tactic for Force users. A flash of annoyance flared up within Hera. Quickly, she turned and walked over to the door. As it swooshed open, Fulcrum came up next to her. “Where are you going?”
“To get Kanan,” Hera replied. She stepped out of the cabin and turned back to look at her. “This is ridiculous, keeping him in the dark. He needs to be a part of this conversation, I don’t care what the protocol is here anymore.”
“This isn’t about protocol,” Fulcrum said. Hera turned away. She walked over to the hatchway into the cockpit. “You want Kanan to stay with you, right?”
The cockpit opened up to her but she didn’t go in. She rested her hand on the frame and looked over her shoulder. Fulcrum was standing in the middle of the hall. Hera glanced down at the lightsabers at her hips.
“What I want doesn’t matter,” Hera said. She walked into the cockpit straight up to the console. She reached to release the lock on the hold when she noticed a light that shouldn’t be on. “No…”
She pressed the unlock button and then ran the short distance to the ladder out of the cockpit.
“Hera?” Fulcrum asked from the hatchway. She didn’t answer, she was already climbing down into the hold.
“Kanan!” she called out as she made her way down. She looked around as she descended but there was no sign of him. “No, no, no.”
Her feet touched the floor and she turned to look at the wide opened exit to her ship. Their speeder bike was gone. Her ship felt empty. Pieces of it were missing. It was as if she had never spent any time on it alone, even if a year ago she had been living that way.
“We have to go after him. He’s going to do something stupid and reckless. I can’t lose—” The rest of the sentence hung in the space of her mouth, words she didn’t think would come from her. Couldn’t let come from her. She had never allowed this kind of thinking before, not with the life she chose to live. Only yesterday had these thoughts truly begun to plague her and now it all seemed too late. Like she had missed her chance. Hera swallowed the words. “He’s my crew, I can’t just sit around here.”
Looking back at Fulcrum, she saw the woman was standing with her eyes closed as if listening for something. Just like mere hours ago when Kanan said they needed to find Ezra. This time, however, Fulcrum frowned and shook her head. “I can’t sense him.” The words were quiet, almost lost in the sounds of the city drifting into the ship. Her frowned deepen. She opened her eyes and stated, “I can’t go with you.”
“I can’t. Kanan isn’t ready to see me. If he is what we believe him to be, this is a complicated moment for him. A crossroads. One wrong move and it will shatter him,” Fulcrum said. She walked to stand next to Hera, looking outside of the ship. “He’d know who I am, it would be too much. I don’t think he’d stay if he found out about me and this is where he’s meant to be, with you.”
Hera looked out of the Ghost. She understood that this wasn’t something she knew everything about; she had more than enough questions. That didn’t stop her frustration with Fulcrum. Everyone was keeping her at arm’s length. How was she supposed to do anything, help anyone, with only half of the information. She didn’t care what the reasons were. She just wanted to be able to do something.
“Fine. Do what you think is right,” Hera said. She walked over to the controls for the access ramp, pressing them. It began to fold in. “I have to go after him, though.”
She bit tongue to keep whatever snide comment was rising up within her from coming out. She took a breath in and exhaled. Think. She needed to start thinking.
“Fulcrum, can you fly the Ghost out of the city?” Hera asked. “I can take the Phantom—my shuttle—to go after Kanan, it’ll be easier to search the city in that. I can’t leave my ship here, I can’t risk bringing hordes of Imperials coming down on this spaceport.”
Nodding, Fulcrum said, “I can do that.”
Hera smiled faintly.
“I’ll send you the coordinates once I’ve landed,” Fulcrum said.
But you won’t be there, she thought. Hera’s mouth tightened. She walked over to the ladder out back out of the hold. As she passed Fulcrum, she felt her arm being grabbed.
“Ahsoka. My name is Ahsoka Tano.”
Hera looked up at her. This woman, this rebel agent, who has been fighting in this war far longer than she had been. Who used to be a Jedi. She was standing on her ship and asking her, Hera, to trust her. And this was the gesture she could offer, the only one. This situation had exploded, none of them had been ready for this. Just because yesterday Fulcrum, Ahsoka, seemed completely in control of their situation didn’t mean that things wouldn’t ever surprise her. Hera knew well that no one was omnipotent, aware of everything and always able to act.
She was frustrated. And scared. But that wasn’t Ahsoka’s fault.
“Thank you,” she whispered in response.
They climbed out of the hold and Hera left Ahsoka in the cockpit after a quick rundown of her ship. When the hatchway closed behind her she buried her face in her hands.
This was too much. It wasn’t fair. They were supposed to have left Lothal, not trying to take on the Empire almost singlehandedly to save a boy they barely knew. She should have been looking for a job for them to do, to help unnamed someones out there in the galaxy. Just the two of them. Wandering together. Hera felt a smile tug at her mouth.
A quiet warble from down the hall caught her attention. Looking up, wiping her eyes quickly, she watched Chopper roll towards her.
“Yes, we’re going after them,” she answered.
Chopper then gingerly lifted up a blaster. Kanan’s blaster. Her chest tightened. He ran off without any means of defending himself because she had kept him at a distance.
“Go prep the Phantom,” she said. “We need to leave as soon as we can.” She took the blaster from him and followed her droid to the common room.
She watched him fly up into the shuttle and placed her free hand on a rung.
This had to work. She couldn’t lose them. If anything happened to Ezra after only a day of knowing them, she wouldn’t be able to handle that guilt. Growing up she hadn’t had the means to stop those that mattered from dying, she had been powerless to save the family she had already lost. Now that she did have the means, it would crush her to let anything happen.
The thought of losing him was too much, even if she had only had a year of knowing him so far—she couldn’t do it. One year of Kanan wouldn’t be enough. What she felt for him, it was more than just a comfortable partnership. She didn’t want to define it, not with how close she was to losing him now. But it was there, inside her, just how deeply she felt for him.
She wasn’t ready for this to end, not when it hadn’t had the chance to start. They deserved more time together, to figure it all out. To figure out if there was something really there.
Climbing up into the Phantom, Hera wasn’t sure what scared her more. Never knowing what could become of them or finding it out.
“Let’s go,” she said to Chopper. She sat down in the pilot’s chair and began the process to detach.
I'm not thrilled that it's looking like I'm gonna be posting a chapter a month but c'est la vie. I would love to post the next two chapters in June cause they tie up a lot of the current action stuff so having them together would be nice. That's my dream.
I hope you guys enjoy this chapter. :)
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
The cell was cold. Colder than sleeping in the sewers. Colder than the first night he spent alone after his parents were taken. At least out in the city things were actually alive, even if he felt separated from it all. But in here, there was only the cold. The dim artificial lights did very little to brighten the angular room he had been forcibly shoved into. It was cold and dead. Ezra was all alone in here.
He was sitting on the built-in bench across from the cell’s entrance. His feet were up on the long seat, they wouldn’t be able to touch the ground even if he wanted to have them down. His arms were wrapped around his legs and he was burying his face into his knees. Maybe if he thought hard enough he’d open his eyes and find that he wasn’t in a cell in the Imperial Complex. Images of Lothal’s grass fields filled his head even though it had been two years since his parents had last taken him out to them. If he thought hard enough maybe he’d end up there. Outside of the city and its rules. He’d be free out there.
Ezra looked up and fought the tears that were threatening to spill over. He was stuck in the compound and he wasn’t going to cry. He couldn’t. It would just show how scared and weak he felt. And that would only get him hurt, or worse. No, he wouldn’t cry. Crying never fixed anything in his life and it wouldn’t fix this.
There was a noise on the other side of the cell door that made Ezra jump in his seat. He held his breath, wondering what it could be. Was it Kanan? Did he and Hera decide to come and save him? But nothing followed the noise. No one came into the cell to liberate him. Of course no one came. Kanan didn’t want him, he had made that very clear back on the ship. Kanan thought he was a nuisance and a problem. Hera probably did too, she was too nice to say anything. They weren’t going to save him, they didn’t care about him.
Wrapping his arms around his legs again, he continued to fight down the tears that were still trying to get out. No. No. He wasn’t going to cry. He had to be stronger than that.
Maybe he was alone but that wasn’t anything new. He had been alone for two years now and he knew that he was going to be alone for the rest of his life. He was ready for that. He shouldn’t have tried to change that, it was always going to end with him alone. He had set himself up for another disappointment. It was his fault for even trying.
No one was coming for him. No one was ever going to come for him.
The cell door opened. Ezra’s head snapped up, the unwanted hope that Kanan would step through the door to save him overtaking him again. But it wasn’t Kanan.
It was the Imperial who had grabbed him on the street. He smiled down at Ezra as he walked down into the cell. A younger man, with blond hair and a beard covering the sides of his face, followed him in. Ezra inched further back onto the bench, trying to get as far away from the approaching pair.
“I hope that our stormtroopers weren’t too rough when they put you in here,” the Imperial from the city said. The hatchway behind then slid shut. He was still smiling and now was looking around the cell. “They can get carried away.”
Ezra’s mouth tightened. He wasn’t going to answer, he wasn’t going to play his games. Adults always tried to act like your friend when they wanted something from you.
The man frowned when he got no response but it changed quickly back into the fake smile. “My name is Agent Regal Dewan. I work with the ISB, do you know what that is?” He waited for Ezra to chime in but then continued on once it was clear nothing was coming. “The Imperial Security Bureau. I work to keep people safe across the galaxy, but right now I’m focusing here on Lothal, to put it simply for you.”
Eyeing him, Ezra shifted on the bench. He really didn’t know what the ISB was but he was pretty confident that this man didn’t care about the people of Lothal and their safety. He glanced over at the younger man who was just standing near the entrance, a bored expression on his face.
“Ah, that’s Agent Kallus. Don’t worry about him, he’s merely my assistant. He’s not going to hurt you. Neither of us will,” Agent Dewan said. He took another step towards the bench. He bent forward to make better eye contact. “Now, can you tell us your name?”
“Jabba the Hutt,” Ezra answered. He didn’t know why that’s the name that came to mind, or why he even felt the need to lie in the first place. But Jabba the Hutt was powerful, he had just learned about the Hutts pretty recently from some fellow kids on the street, so maybe he could use some of that power and strength to help him now.
“No,” Dewan said, shaking his head, “I don’t think so. I believe that you’re actually Ezra Bridger.”
Ezra frowned. He lowered his legs even though the urge to hide only grew stronger. How did they know who he was? He hadn’t ever done anything worth the Empire’s attention, that had been his parents. He knew better than to draw their gaze his way. All he did was try and get food, maybe annoy the occasional officer walking through the city (but only when he was with other kids and felt particularly brave).
“We’ve been looking for you ever since you were separated from your parents,” Dewan explained. He straightened up and held his hand out behind him. Agent Kallus immediately handed over a datapad. “When your parents were relocated, we were worried we had lost you for good.”
“My parents?” Ezra asked, before he could stop himself. He leaned forward, trying to stretch his neck to see the datapad in the man’s hand. “Where are they?” Even though he wanted nothing to do with Imperials, if these ones could tell him where his parents were, he had to try. They would still want him, if they were out there. Maybe he could see them again.
Dewan shook his head with false sympathy, making a tsk, tsk noise. His focus seemed to be on the datapad as he searched through what content was on there. After a minute, he finally looked up and said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. That’s really no concern of yours, now. What matters is that we found you. And that we can help you. I believe, and so do many others in the Empire, that there is a great opportunity that we can offer you. You have the chance to be the upstanding citizen that your parents failed to be. With our help, you can show the galaxy that anyone, no matter how unfortunate their background may be, can be a good Imperial citizen.”
“My parents were good! They didn’t do anything wrong!” Ezra shouted, his fist clenching at his sides. The only thing they did wrong was leave him, but that wasn’t their fault. They didn’t choose to leave him. They never would have chosen to leave him.
“That’s just not true, they were criminals. But we understand that you’re young and you just don’t know any better. We can fix that,” Agent Dewan said. He handed the datapad back to Kallus. “We’re going to place you in the top school of the sector and when you’re old enough you’ll be admitted into the Imperial Academy. You’ll be on the path to be an outstanding Imperial officer. You’ll help bring peace to the galaxy.”
Ezra stared up at him in disbelief. He didn’t want that. He hated the Empire, it was only there to terrorize him. His parents had explained that much to him; the Empire was not there to protect them. They needed to stand up to them, they were bullies. They picked on those weaker than them and took whatever they wanted. He hadn’t really understood that until what they took was his family.
“I don’t want to,” Ezra said, trying to sound strong. It was hard, his voice was a little shaky and he still felt cold and scared. But if his parents could talk against the Empire then he could try to do so, too.
Dewan let out an exaggerated sigh. He walked up to Ezra and grabbed his chin and lifted his face up. His grip was too tight to continue pretending that he was a friend. “Thankfully what you want doesn’t matter. We know what’s best for you.” He pulled his hand away, jerking Ezra’s face as he did. “Come, Agent Kallus. There’s a lot to do to prepare this… child. And arrange for him to be cleaned up, we don’t want filth creeping into the system.” He led the way to the exit. In the doorway, Agent Kallus threw a look over his shoulder, his brows pulled in tight. Ezra glared up at him as the door slid shut and locked.
It felt like it hours had to have passed when Ezra finally felt like he could breathe again even though he knew that it had just been a few seconds. Except, now every breath that came was a struggle. If he left himself breathe properly he knew he’d start to cry. He fought the tears as best he could. He wasn’t going to show the Empire that he was scared and weak. He couldn’t. He was alone but he had to try and be strong.
Lifting his legs up to hug them again, Ezra felt something pressing into him as he moved. He reached into his jacket and pulled out the metal cube he had stolen. Stolen from Kanan. Kanan who didn’t want him and wasn’t going to save him. He should have just ignored him, should never have taken his credits in the first place. If he had just ignored whatever the feeling was that drew them together, a feeling that proved to be worthless, then maybe he wouldn’t be in this cell right now.
Ezra turned the cube over in his hand. It wasn’t singing to him anymore, it just felt like a metal box now. He fingered the lines all across it, its ridges pressing through his gloves. Looking more closely, the lines at each corner seemed to be connect, as if they were revealing that this cube was made up of multiple pieces. Ezra gripped a corner and tried to turn it. It didn’t budge. He tried another corner and another but none would give. Whatever this cube was, it wasn’t going to open. Not by his hands.
And that was the breaking point. Ezra let out a sob and threw the metal cube out in front out him. The clattered against the hard, cold metal floor and bounced once. Tears were pouring down his face now, there was no controlling it anymore. He had nothing. There was no point fighting anymore.
He buried his face against his knees and just let the tears soak into his pants. He didn’t have anything else to do but wait and cry and wish that things were better. Ezra felt as though he had just lost his parents all over again. In away, he had. He had lost the chance of maybe having people in his life. Now he was going to be a puppet, with no life of his own.
He wished he had something, anything, that could help him. Something more than himself. He knew that he was just a kid, so it was only wishful thinking, but the thoughts still came to him. If he could just think of something, do something, that could help him. If he could, maybe he could go find Kanan and apologize for stealing from him and being in the way. Maybe he could find somewhere new to live, perhaps a family in a different city would help him. And if he was to be alone, he would make it work. He would protect himself. He could live out of the city, away from the dangers it brought. All he needed was some hidden strength or power or force to just let him out of here. All he wanted was to be safe.
"This is Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I regret to report that both our Jedi Order and the Republic have fallen…”
The words echoed throughout the cell. At first, Ezra thought he had started nodding off, that he had fallen into some sort of dream. But his cheeks were still wet, tears still falling down them. He lifted his head slightly and noticed that the colour within the cell had faintly changed. There was a blue light radiating.
Looking up fully, Ezra couldn’t believe his eyes. The cube he had thrown had change. More than changed. Its pieces had separated and each one was floating up in the air. Just above the main component, the hologram of a bearded man dressed in robes was speaking.
“...with the dark shadow of the Empire rising to take their place…”
Ezra stared at the hologram, eyes wide.
It was his first proper time in an Imperial Complex and it was showing. Kanan had no idea where he needed to go. He wandered through the corridors aimlessly, trying figure out just where the holding cells were. There was minimal chatter over the comm systems; no one was aware he was here yet. That was good, but it was only matter of time before that trooper woke up or was discovered. It had only been about five minutes but Kanan would be lucky if he got another ten minutes of free roaming.
He turned down another empty corridor and sighed. It was this recklessness and lack of planning that made him leave Hera behind, but it was proving to be a problem now. While he could stop to try and sense where Ezra was, he was still out of practice and would take too long. He didn’t need to be discovered just standing in the middle of a hallway.
He got to the end of the current path he was on, about to turn the L-shaped corner, only to see two Imperial agents coming out into the corridor he was going to take. Kanan stumbled back. They were heading in this direction. There were no doors here for him to go hide behind and there was no chance he’d reach the other end of the corridor before this pair spotted him.
Kanan looked around frantically. He couldn’t get this close to saving Ezra only to be caught now. This couldn’t be the end. He had to find an escape. And fast. The voices of the two Imperials were getting closer.
Looking up, Kanan grinned. There was an access panel to the vents. One he was pretty sure he could fit through, he had to try at least. Taking a deep breath, he focused on the latch. It took longer than he liked but it fell open just in time. Kanan jumped and grabbed the edge of the now existent hole in the ceiling. He went in feet first and grabbed the hatch to shut it just as the pair turned into view. It was a tight fit, the stolen blaster rifle and stormtrooper helmet weren’t helping with the squeeze. As long as he didn’t move, he was going to be fine hidden up here. Through the slots in the metal, Kanan could see and hear them.
One of the men was from out in the city, the one who had grabbed Ezra. The other man was younger, clearly an underling.
“Confirm we’re taking him to Garel tomorrow, I don’t want any complications. It took a lot of convincing of my superiors to let me do this with the boy. No mistakes, Agent Kallus. Not if you like the path your career is on,” the older Imperial said.
They disappeared from view and Kanan waited for their voices to die out. When he was sure the coast was clear, he let the hatch fall open. He pushed himself out head first, twisting in the air so he would land on his feet. He looked up at the hatch and flicked his hand so it would close. No need to let anyone passing through think something was up.
Kanan walked back to the bend in the corridor. This was the best lead he had as to where to go. They had to have been coming from talking to Ezra, they had to be. If not, there was just no way of finding him. He went down the path they came from. It led to a door. A door guarded by two troopers. “Fantastic,” Kanan grumbled before firing off shots. The guards weren’t quick enough, probably thrown by a man in a green shirt and trooper helmet suddenly appearing. The sound of the blaster going off echoed throughout the corridor. His time was running out.
He ran to the door and grabbed a code cylinder from one of the bodies. With it, he got through easily. He locked it on the other side, wishing he had some way of changing the codes needed to get them open. Maybe one day they would have a slicer in their crew, that is if Kanan made it back to Hera (and if she’d have him back). Make their lives a little easier.
Studying the new corridor he was in, Kanan smiled. Just barely, but it was hard not to be a little pleased. He was at the holding cells. For once luck was on his side. Well, somewhat on his side. He still had to figure out which cell Ezra was in and this wasn’t the shortest hallway, the Empire needed all the space it could get to lock away criminals and rebels and scared citizens. He could be in any one of these identical looking cells. And then his luck would have to hold out for their escape. But for now, he did seem to have a little bit of luck.
Kanan glanced over his shoulder and sighed. Pulling off the trooper helmet and tossing it aside, he moved further down the corridor. A few meters down, he stopped and closed his eyes. Wait. Listen. Be calm. Be here. He felt the Force moving through him, every time today a bit quicker than the time before as if the Force was trusting he was actually willing to connect again. The Force was always there and it was ready to be used.
He thought of Ezra. He pictured the boy’s blue eyes that held so much fierce determination but would quickly shift to the sadness he carried at far too young an age. He thought of how quickly he would have fit into their lives, how easy it was to care about him. He thought about how much power there was in him and how it was just waiting to be explored. Kanan accepted the connection he had with Ezra, the bond that they were meant to have.
He opened his eyes. He walked down the hall slowly, his breath steady. Four doors down and he stopped. Ezra was in here. Kanan could feel his fear and despair. He could feel him losing hope. But Ezra hadn’t lost all his hope yet, there was a light coming from inside the cell, an energy Kanan hadn’t let himself know in almost a decade.
Slotting the code cylinder into the door’s lock, he groaned. Of course the guards wouldn’t have access to the prisoners, not just at any random time. Can’t risk someone coming and stealing the cylinder to try and spring a prisoner. He shoved the cylinder into his pocket and held his hand out to the control panel. He pictured the locking mechanism in his mind and saw it opening. The door slid up.
Kanan moved to the doorway and took a step inside. There he was. Ezra was sitting at the far wall, tears rolling down his cheeks slowly. In his hands, was the holocron he had taken. It was open. Opened the first time for Kanan to see. He had never dared open it after Master Billaba had died, out of fear and guilt. He had never felt worthy enough to try and then eventually he just assumed there was no point; he had turned from that path. Why would it open for him after everything he had turned away from?
Before he could fully process what this all meant, Ezra looked up and his eyes widened. “Kanan!” he shouted. He dropped the holocron and jumped down from the bench. He ran forwards and flung himself at Kanan. He wrapped his arms around his waist and buried his face into the green shirt. He started to cry in earnest.
Kanan stumbled back from the force of the hug, dropping his blaster. His arm waved in the air to keep them both upright. He stared down at the boy—just a kid—clinging to him. He didn’t deserve this, he didn’t deserve the trust that Ezra was putting on him. He was the reason this was all happening. He wasn’t worthy of their bond, not after trying to break it and abandon it.
But he couldn’t deny this anymore. He couldn’t deny that he wanted this, he wanted to have Ezra in his life. He wanted to be there for him. He wanted—no matter of terrifying that want was—to be a Jedi again, wanted to be one with Ezra.
Kneeling down, Ezra pulled away slightly to allow him to do so, Kanan wrapped his arms around him. Ezra went back into the hug, hiding his face against his neck. His tears slowed but didn’t stop immediately. Kanan tightened his arms, giving the comfort and support he should have given a over a week ago when they first met. It felt like a lifetime ago, now. All this unnecessary running just to end up where he needed to be.
As much as he wanted to stay here with Ezra wrapped in his arms for just a bit longer, he knew they needed to start moving. He didn’t want this reunion to end with them both being imprisoned. Gently, Kanan pulled away. “We need to get going,” he said, with a softness in his voice he had never heard before. He cupped the back of Ezra’s head, for just a moment, and let his hand fall.
Ezra nodded, blinking tears out of his eyes. Then, he turned away and ran to the short distance to the far wall. He picked up to dropped holocron and walked slowly back to Kanan. “I’m sorry I took this,” he whispered, holding it out in front of him.
Kanan sighed. “You hold onto it,” he said. He picked up his blaster and stood up. “I trust you not to lose it, you haven’t so far.”
“Kid, we can apologize to each other later, okay? Right now we have to get out of here so there is a later,” Kanan said. Ezra moved next to him and nodded. A hand on a shoulder, giving a quick squeeze, and then Kanan was leading them out of the cell.
Hugs! Finally. It only took us eight chapters to get here, but here we are nonetheless. I'm very excited about this chapter, I loved writing it. I really really hope you guys like this one. It's very dear to me.
I plan on getting chapter nine up before the end of the month. Ideally well before the end of the month but I can't be totally sure yet.
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
“How can you not remember the way out?” Ezra asked. He was a little out of breath from the running.
Kanan rolled his eyes. They were stopped at the end of a corridor, Kanan peering around the corner to make sure the coast was clear. “I was sort of preoccupied with the finding and saving you, I didn’t take the time to memorize the way out! Just… just be quiet, okay?” He took a step out and gestured for Ezra to follow him. It was taking too long to find an exit, the compound hand too many corridors that all looked the same. Kanan had had Ezra as a beacon to follow on his way it. Their way out wasn’t going to have that guiding force. “I’ll get us out, I promise.” He glanced back and saw Ezra nod, his hands gripping the holocron tightly.
They moved as quickly as they dared. They didn’t want to start running and become reckless in their escape. The fact that they had gotten this far undetected (for the most part) was a miracle and Kanan didn’t want to risk that miracle ending. He’d find their way out, they were just going to have to be disciplined and focused.
Every second that they spent inside the compound felt like an eternity. Kanan did his best to lead them in the right direction but each corridor looked like the one they had just left. It was an endless maze in here. Next time—if there was a next time—he infiltrated an Imperial compound he was definitely going to study the schematics. No more running in blind.
Three more turns and Kanan smiled. He recognized this new door. It was the one that led to the cargo bay. Where he had come in original. Maybe the Force was with him, leading them back to familiar ground. He looked back at Ezra to gesture for him to follow but was arrested by the look on the boy’s face. “Ezra?”
“Something’s wrong,” he whispered. He took a few steps towards Kanan and reached out as if to grab hold of his arm but instead just readjusted his grip on the holocron. Kanan readied his blaster and looked down the hall. It was empty, now. Kanan swallowed a groan. That meant the trooper he had knocked earlier had been moved. The base knew something was going on, he just had no way of knowing how much it knew.
“We really need to get going now,” Kanan said. He turned to the cargo bay entrance just as an alarm started to blare all around them. A red flashing light filled the corridor. So the base definitely knew they were here and on the move. “Okay, we really, really need to go.” He made for the hatchway but only managed to take a handful of steps before Ezra was tugging on his arm. “Ezra, we need to hurry, what are you doing?” he asked.
“We can’t go that way!” he shouted but it was too late of a warning. The hatchway in front of them opened and Kanan only just got them both out of the way of the onslaught of blaster fire in time.
Kanan pushed Ezra back down the corridor and turned to the left. So they couldn’t go out the way he had come in but at least they knew they were near the edge of the dome now. All they had to do was find a different exit before getting caught or shot.
The sound of heavy footsteps filled the corridor behind them. Kanan wanted to get them out of this hall but so far there just weren’t any opportunities, not a single new door or new hall to turn in to. It was getting hard to think with the alarm still going off and the flashing light, both doing everything they could to make his head pound. And, not to mention, the countless number of stormtroopers behind them, which wasn’t helping him focus on their escape.
Ezra stumbled but Kanan caught him in time. “No slowing down,” Kanan managed to say between laboured breaths. Ezra merely nodded in response—it was clear he was getting tired from the running. They weren’t going to be able to keep up this pace for much longer.
Finally, there was a turn off from the hallway. Before Kanan could give any direction to turn, Ezra was making his way down the new hall. Kanan picked up the pace, overtaking the boy. There was a new hatchway and hopefully this time there wasn’t a trap being laid beyond it. Stopping in front of the door, and making sure Ezra got between him and their exit, Kanan palmed the controls. When that didn’t open up the door, he swore (severely enough to make Ezra look up at him with faint delight in his eyes) and he pulled out his stolen code cylinder. Before he could start wishing for it to work, the sound of the hatchway unlocking reached his ears. Their exit opened before them and they stumbled through.
They were outside the dome now but still well within the Imperial Complex. The alarm was blasting out here as well. The tarmac all around them was lit by bright artificial lights, blocking any chance of seeing stars overhead. Also ensuring there were no shaded areas to hide in. Kanan turned and shot the controls to the hatchway, hopefully keeping that group that was following them out of their way for a bit longer.
An itch on the back of his head made him turn quickly and grab Ezra. He threw both Ezra and himself down on the ground as blaster bolts flew over them. The moment that there was a pause in the onslaught, Kanan hauled them up again and shouted, “This way!” Without taking his hand off the boy, he led them to a transport parked nearby by. They ducked behind it, just missing being hit by another round of blaster fire.
“Kanan?” Ezra asked, looking up at him. Fear was creeping onto his face and Kanan really couldn’t blame him. It felt like there was an army between them and their escape. He reached down and squeezed his shoulder, trying to offer a confident grin as well. It didn’t last long as they both flinched when blaster fire hit the other side of the transport serving as their cover. Kanan peered over enough to see another group of stormtroopers approaching, and this one led by the ISB agents he had overheard in the corridor on his way in.
That’s when it hit him that there really was no chance of him saving Ezra. He had simply run into this head first and now they were truly trapped. All he had done was get Ezra’s hopes up that he’d escape. Trapped between the transport and the dome’s exterior, with two troops of stormtroopers closing in on either side, Kanan knew he had doomed them both.
“You’re surrounded, rebel.” The voice belonged to the older of the two Imperials. “I can promise that you won’t be killed if you surrender. All we want is the boy. Whatever the goal is here, trust me, you won’t succeed. One boy won’t change anything in the long term. Hand him over.”
Ezra gripped Kanan’s arm, his body shaking enough that Kanan could feel it. His fear was pouring off of him now, radiating around them. But he could also feel the trust mixed in. Trust that there was a way out of this.
“Yeah, I think I’ll pass,” Kanan called out. He gently pulled his arm out of Ezra’s grip and readied his blaster. “I can’t say I approve of how your lot handles kids!”
“So be it,” the ISB agent answered.
Shortly afterward, the other Imperial, Kallus from what Kanan remembered, shouted, “Surround them!”
Kanan shoved Ezra behind him as he started to back away from the transport. There was stack of crates near the building’s wall. If they could get there, though they would end up pinned, he would at least be able to return fire without worrying about Ezra being in view.
They were halfway to the crates when the stormtroopers all came into view. There was at least a dozen of them coming forwards, if Kanan took the time to actually count he was confident the number would be higher. The ISB agent called Kallus was moving with the group on the left, an odd looking weapon, larger than a normal Imperial blaster, raised and clearly ready to fire. Behind the group was the ISB agent in charge, a smug look on his face. Everyone here knew that he and Ezra had little chance of escape.
“Ezra, I need you to run for those crates,” Kanan said as he tried to keep his eyes on all the white clad soldiers closing in.
“No ‘buts’, just go! Now!” he shouted. He felt Ezra’s hesitation but then his resolve. Right as Ezra started to run Kanan fired at a trooper. The soldier dropped. He fired again as the stormtroopers all began to fire at him. As always, their aim was subpar but that didn’t mean he was safe; with so many firing it was only a matter of time until one of them landed a shot.
Kanan made his way to the crates the moment he noticed Ezra was behind them, staring out at him urgently. Diving behind their new cover, he just missed getting hit. He took a moment to catch his breath before looking over the edge of the crate. When a blaster bolt hit in front of him, sparks flying into his face, he winced, feeling a few sparks hit his face, but managed to get a read on the situation. They were completely cut off from the compound’s exit. He could maybe take out a handful of the troopers but there was no way he’d be able to shoot his way out of here with an E-11 blaster. Maybe if he had had a different weapon… but it was too late to worry about that.
“Kanan!” His comlink came alive. He had totally forgotten he had that on him. Both Ezra and he stared at his waist where the device was attached. Hera spoke again, “Kanan, are you down there?”
He fumbled when grabbing it then lifted the comlink to his mouth. “Down here and pinned by way too many stormtroopers? Yeah, that’s me,” he answered.
“Is Ezra with you, I can’t see you yet,” she said.
“Wait, where are you?” Kanan asked. He glanced over the crate again only to immediately be forced to duck down again.
“I’m flying over now!”
Kanan looked up and a grinned formed on his face. The Phantom came soaring overhead, blasting fire at one of the nearby ground turrets. It exploded and forced all the stormtroopers to back away from the crates. Ezra let out a whoop next to him.
The shuttle made another pass and the stormtroopers started to focus their fire on it.
“We’re behind the crates, can you get to us?” Kanan asked into the comms.
“So Ezra is with you?”
“Yes! Just get over here!” Kanan stood up and started firing at the stormtroopers. Two dropped before the group of them remembered that he was there. Agent Kallus shouted something inaudible over the all the new commotion. He raised his weapon, Kanan could now see that it was some sort of rifle, and took a shot. It just missed but was definitely too close for comfort. “Any time now, Hera!”
“Here!” The sound of the shuttle’s repulsors filled the air around them. Slowly, the Phantom was lowering itself near the crates, the hatch opening up. Hera had gotten the shuttle as close as she could, it was always more difficult to control these kinds of getaways when the shuttle was hovering. And, as a bonus, all the troopers had basically only one target again.
“I’ll cover you as you go,” he said to Ezra. The boy looked up at him to most likely protest but Kanan was already grabbing the collar of his shirt to haul him towards their escape. They moved to the edge of the crates and Kanan stood out in front of them, firing. “I’ll be right behind you! Go, Ezra!”
Ezra hesitated but ran for the shuttle. Just as he passed Kanan, Agent Kallus shouted, “Stop them!” He and two stormtroopers started to charge, firing as they moved. A shot landed just behind Ezra and forced he tumbled into the shuttle, just missing him.
Panic flooded over Kanan. No. Not again. Not Ezra. He could not watch someone who needed him get shot down again. He wasn’t thinking anymore when he lifted his hands in the air in front of himself and shouted, “NO!”
Kallus and the two stormtroopers, only a mere handful a feet away now, went soaring back through the air as if a large gust of wind had pushed them. Kanan stumbled back, though the force of what he had done had no effect on him. He stared out in front of him as every person on the tarmac stood still. Kallus, now back with all the troopers and laying on the ground, seemed to just be able to stare. Behind the group, the older ISB agent watched with a look of intrigue on his face.
Scrambling to his feet, Kallus pointed towards the Phantom and Kanan. “All troopers, focus your fire on… on the Jedi!”
“Kanan! Move!” Hera’s voice came from inside the shuttle. Kanan was vaguely aware that she had been calling his name for a while now. But he couldn’t move. He stared out at the group stormtroopers all raising their blasters. This was it. The Empire knew he what he was. His death sentence had been handed out and now it was time for the executioners to strike.
Blinking, he looked to his right and saw Ezra leaning out of the shuttle, now a few feet higher up in the air, his hand stretched out as far as he could reach. His blue eyes were wide, completely terrified. When he was still Caleb, all those years ago, had he looked like that as he watched the clones gun down Master Billaba? Was history doomed to repeat itself, pulling them apart years too soon?
He forced his legs to start moving just as the blaster fire commenced again. No, he wasn’t going to let what happened to his master and him happen to Ezra. He was going to survive this. His long legs made quick work of the distance. He grabbed the bottom of the Phantom’s hatch and vaulted up into the shuttle. Ezra grabbed him and did what little he could to help a body at least twice his size land.
“Punch it, Hera!” Kanan shouted. He twisted and fired shots as the Phantom’s hatch started to close up. The last thing he saw before a durasteel barrier filled his vision was one confused ISB agent and one that seemed all too pleased.
No one moved inside the shuttle other than what was needed from Hera to fly. Kanan wanted to make his way to the viewport but couldn’t figure out how to make his legs move. All he could do was lean forwards, trying to comprehend what he had just done. What he was going to have to do now. His choices were laying themselves out but no matter how hard he thought, none of them made any sense. Leave? But Ezra was depending on him and Hera believed in him. Stay? That would just lead to all their deaths.
The sound of metal rolling across metal filled the small space. Kanan looked behind him to see Chopper closing the short distance from the pilot’s seat. He braced himself for whatever the droid was going to do, most likely shock him with his electro-shock prod. But the shock never came. Instead, the droid rested one of his metal hands on Kanan’s arm. They stared at each for a moment before Kanan started to look around the shuttle.
“We’re outside the city now, I’m just waiting for…” Hera trailed off and sighed. “We’ll dock with the Ghost soon.”
“Okay,” Kanan whispered in response. Chopper patted his arm before rolling over to presumably check on Ezra. Kanan followed the path with his eyes. His gaze landed on Ezra who was just staring at him in wonder. His mouth was hanging open slightly. Kanan shifted his gaze over to Hera who was now watching him in return. She was doing a better job of hiding her surprise but it was still there on her face, he knew her well enough now to see it. Her brows were pulled together over eyes that looked far too sad considering they had just pulled off a successful rescue.
Kanan shifted on the floor, bringing a knee up. He rested his forehead against it, his kneecap pressing against him just enough for him to focus on only that and not the eyes zeroing in on him.
There was no more hiding.
He closed his eyes and breathed.
“Thank you, Agent Kallus,” he said as his subordinate finished speaking. “Keep what happened this evening between us. If any of the surviving troopers start to spread the details of this event around, you know what to do.”
It was a clear dismissal.
“Sir,” Kallus said with a small nod of his head. He turned and left the office.
Dewan picked up the datapad that had been left but merely moved it aside. He’d go over the written report later. He had no doubt it was done perfectly; while he didn’t care at all for Kallus as a person (he was merely another ambitious young man trying to work their way to the top), he knew the work done by him was impeccable.
Instead, he sat at his desk and mulled over the events. He knew that a part of him should be furious that they had let a nine year old boy escape. He knew that he should be furious that even after all his careful planning he had nothing to show for his work. He wasn’t going to be able to transform the false hope the Bridgers tried to bring this world into a useful tool for his emperor. In one day his plans to better the Lothal sector were shattered. Destroyed by some fumbling young idiot who somehow managed to waltz in and rescue the boy.
Dewan fingered the buttons on his desk. He should be angry but he wasn’t. No, he felt excitement. Yes, this day hadn’t gone how he had expected but the discovery made was more than enough to make up for that.
Pressing one of the buttons, a holo appeared out of the desk in front of him. The security footage from the Bridger boy’s cell. Dewan watched as the youth pulled out a small box, try to open it and then throw it away. Moments later, he watched the cube slowly begin to undo itself and rise into the air. That’s when the camera feed cut out. No one could explain why that happened because no one was allowed to talk about the reason.
The Force. The Jedi.
A taboo topic now. Even discussing it to just add insult to a dead society was discouraged. Best to let them all fade from the galaxy’s memory. But he was old enough to remember the Jedi. He had fought in the Clone Wars so he had known Jedi. Spoken with them. Had always had a faint admiration for the feats they could do. That is, until they revealed themselves as traitors. Or were revealed as traitors. The difference meant nothing to him. The galaxy was better now that they were gone.
Dewan played the footage again and looked at what had to be a holocron, an object that held information pertaining to the Jedi. He smiled. A Jedi. Here on Lothal. This was a discovery he had never thought would happen. He was fully prepared to perpetuate the lie that the Empire told when they said that all the Jedi had been killed. But now one, perhaps two, had fallen into his lap.
He reached over to another button on his desk and pressed it. Waiting, he couldn’t help but feel anticipation build inside him. Things on Lothal were shifting. Whether or not he’d play a large role in that shift was inconsequential to him; he was just pleased to know there was change coming to this backwater planet. Perhaps he would be rewarded for this discovery and moved to a more fulfilling planet.
In front of him, the hologram changed. No longer did it show the footage of Ezra Bridger. Now a Pau’an, and a particularly menacing looking one, stared at him through the projection.
“Agent Dewan, to what do I owe this interruption?” the alien asked, his tone dry. “ISB must have something important if you feel the need to contact the Inquisition.”
Keeping a faint smile on his face, to hide any distaste he held for this creature, Dewan leaned back in his seat. “Always a pleasure to speak to you, Grand Inquisitor.” He was offered no response to the obvious lie so he kept on speaking, “This is why we so often work together.”
“Agent, if you have nothing to offer then I suggest you end this transmission. I do not have the time to waste on whatever miniscule problems may have arose for you,” the Inquisitor said.
“Oh, I don’t believe this will be a waste of your time,” Dewan said. “I hear that things for your inquisitors have not been going well, that you’re running out of… targets to pursue.”
The Inquisitor frowned but said nothing. It felt good to be the one with the power for once in their exchanges, so often the Grand Inquisitor viewed him and his agents as lesser beings. Now he was the one with the power, and rightly so. He was not a part of a dying breed. Whether or not that breed was working for the Empire, it didn’t matter. Eventually they would be gone alongside their Jedi counterparts.
“I am confident that you will be interested if I could pass on information that would lead you to a Jedi survivor.” Dewan leaned forwards and his smile grew. “It seems that one has appeared here on Lothal.”
The Inquisitor’s yellow eyes widened before a grin appeared on his face. “Yes, Agent Dewan,” he replied. “I do believe that I am very interested. By all means, send me whatever information you have on this… Jedi.”
This was a tough chapter to write not because it was emotional but only because I am so unenthused when it comes to writing action sequences (though this allowed me to write my favourite sport: Force tossing Kallus). It's a harder thing to write. I think it did okay (gosh I hope I did). But this was worth it, getting to where Kanan and Ezra are safe again was very satisfying. Hera swooping in to rescue the boys was also very satisfying.
The next chapter will actually be out pretty shortly, like by the end of the month. I'll also be giving you guys an updated on the writing/release schedule.
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! I know you're all going to really love the next one. It's a doozy. ;)
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
The holocron was lying on the bunk between them. It was still half opened. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ezra gently brush a finger against its many edges. Kanan fiddled with his lightsaber, which he had pulled out when they first came into his cabin. On the other side of the bulkhead the various sounds from the ship could be faintly heard if he tried to listen.
The ride to back to the Ghost had been longer than Kanan had anticipated. When they left the city, he realized just how busy Hera must have been once he had run out. Of course she had been, it would have been foolish to stay near the Imperial Complex after breaking in. Everyone had been silent as they had flown over Lothal’s grasslands. No one had known what to say to him and he certainly had no clue how to even try to start at a conversation himself. While Hera had obviously had some idea as to who he was, this reveal was shattering to everything they had going for them.
He still wasn’t saying anything now. Once on the Ghost, Hera rushed off to the cockpit muttering something about moving the ship again with Chopper following close behind. Kanan silently ushered Ezra to his cabin, unsure of how to begin.
So they sat on the bottom bunk with relics of the past between them.
Where does one even start?
Kanan placed his lightsaber down beside him and picked up the holocron. There was a brief moment of fear when he thought it would start to close up once he touched it, confirming that he had missed his chance of being a Jedi again. That he had truly corrupted himself beyond repair. But the holocron remained as it was. Waiting. Waiting for him.
Taking a deep breath in, he closed his eyes and held out the last thing his master ever gave him. Gently, it lifted from his hand. Even with his eyes closed he could feel that the holocron had opened up. It’s energy filled the dull cabin around him. It’s light shone through the darkness, within the Force. Kanan missed the world the holocron was from.
“This is Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I regret to report that both our Jedi Order and the Republic have fallen, with the dark shadow of the Empire rising to take their place.”
He wasn’t surprised to hear the warning beacon from the Jedi Temple playing now, even if the last time he had heard it was when it had been originally sent out. When the Empire rose and he thought his life had ended. He had no clue how it had ended up in the holocron but there were stranger phenomenon throughout the galaxy. He had never taken the time to explore the knowledge he was given within this piece. Perhaps it continued collecting information on its own even after the Temple had fallen or it just had all the knowledge all the time and shared it when the time was right. Thinking on this would just give him a headache.
“This message is a warning and a reminder for any surviving Jedi: trust in the Force. Do not return to the Temple. That time has passed, and our future is uncertain. Avoid Coruscant. Avoid detection.”
Avoid detection. For almost a decade he had. But now that wasn’t an option. There was no more hiding. Kanan had to accept his fate. His destiny, whatever that was. Everything was still so unclear to him, his future still just a blur to him. There was a part of him, almost forgotten, that did want to still run back to the Temple, the only home he knew before Hera. Why was there no one to guide him, anymore? Why was everyone like him dead?
Kanan felt Ezra shift next to him, moving closer.
“Be secret... but be strong. We will each be challenged: our trust, our faith, our friendships. But we must persevere and, in time, I believe a new hope will emerge.”
A new hope. Kanan had felt hope again when Hera found him. She gave him the safety he never thought he’d be allowed to have. He had felt hope, even through all the fear, when he had met Ezra. He felt hope now. And while his secret was now out, he also had strength again. The hope that was brought into his life was fuelling him. He finally felt like he had the power to do something, to make a change in even just one life. He felt complete, for the first time in too long now. He had hold of pieces of himself that he never thought he’d get to hold again. Ezra came into his life and restored him.
The debt he owed this boy was unimaginable and while he was beyond terrified, Kanan wanted to do everything within his ability to help him grow. To have the life they were both destined to have together. Whatever it was.
“May the Force be with you always.”
The holocron then began to close as Master Kenobi’s final message finished playing. It drifted back into his hand and Kanan opened his eyes. It was a cube again, just as it had been before it was taken from this room. He only now realized that the holocron had been humming as it had waited for him to open it. Now the room was completely still, as if he had done what it had wanted and now it could rest.
“What’s the Force?” Ezra asked. Kanan looked over at him but his focus seemed to be on the holocron.
“It’s everything. The Force, it’s everywhere. It surrounds us, penetrates us. It’s energy that binds the whole galaxy together,” Kanan explained. “The Jedi… we used it to try to keep the galaxy safe.”
“Did you use it today?”
“Yes,” he answered. His fingers tightened around the holocron before he placed it between them. Immediately, Ezra started to run his fingers over it again. “It’s a part of me, it always has been. It always will be. The Force is within everyone. And it’s strong within you, Ezra. Otherwise, you’d never have been able to open the holocron.”
“So, I’d be able to do what you did?” Ezra asked. He was still looking at the holocron, though now his fingers were gently brushing against the lightsaber.
Kanan chuckled, “One day, maybe.”
“My parents… they said that the Jedi were heroes.” It was a whisper. Ezra looked up and Kanan saw a mix of excitement and sadness. The stories of the Jedi would have been forbidden to tell once Ezra was born but here he was, carrying the hope that fuelled the lives of every Jedi that had lived. His parents had decided that hope was more important than fear, they had tried to pass that onto their son. “They said that the Empire was spreading lies and to not believe it. The Jedi helped people.”
“They were heroes,” Kanan responded. He let out a sigh and leaned forwards, resting his forearms on his thighs. They were definitely heroes, they had always been that to him. Master Billaba had inspired him even before she took him on. They were everything the Empire claimed they weren’t. “But they’re gone now. Or, I guess, most of us are.”
“What happens to me now?”
Kanan tried to answer but his throat completely dry now. He had hoped it would take longer to get to this part. At least, longer now that they were actually talking about this. But there really was no avoiding it. He had accepted this. He wanted this.
“You have a choice, Ezra,” Kanan said, the words finally coming out, though roughly as they left his mouth. He looked around his cabin, barren as ever but it never felt more like home than today. Maybe it was because he almost threw it all away or maybe it was because he was finally allowing himself to be the person who suited it. “You can go back to Capital City and forget you met us. We can’t stop you, not really. Or, you can stay here. Stay with Hera and me. I can try and teach you how to use the Force. I would… We would both like you to stay.”
“I’ll be a Jedi?” His voice was filled with wonder. Anticipation. The thought of being the heroes he had learned of from the parents taken from him was obviously enticing, Kanan wasn’t surprised to hear it all in his question. He had been no different. It was all he had wanted when he was a kid. To travel the galaxy and save people, to fight any evil trying to take hold. It was so easy to want to be that hero.
But that wonder and anticipation stayed only with Ezra; it wasn’t making its way over to him. Gone were the days when Kanan dreamed of being the galaxy’s hero. “Yeah, something like that.” Kanan looked back at him, smiling. “We can both try, at least.”
Ezra nodded. He smiled which then immediately turned into a yawn. When he tried to fight off a second yawn, Kanan laughed and stood up. “I’m going to grab you some water and then you should probably head to bed.” He walked over to the hatchway. “You can decide in the morning what you want to do.”
“I want to stay,” was the sleepy, but immediate, reply. Kanan looked back and saw Ezra lifting up the holocron, the smile still on his face.
It only took a few minutes for Kanan to get the cup of water. Hera and Chopper seemed to still be in the cockpit; he wondered if for once Hera was avoided him. That would be a first. He glanced at the cockpit before walking back into his cabin.
“Here’s your—” He cut himself off, letting out a deep sigh. In the minutes he had been gone, Ezra had managed to fall asleep. The boy was curled around the lightsaber and holocron, his hand resting over both objects. Running his free hand through his hair, Kanan sighed again. He placed the cup of water on one of his shelves before walking up to the bunks.
Seeing Ezra like this, it was hard to remember that this was the boy who had stolen from him, followed him around for a week, and then got caught by the Empire. The boy who had so much raw power inside him that neither of them knew what to do with. That this was the boy who brought him out of the shell he had placed around himself. Here asleep, he was just a kid, exhausted from a day that no one should ever have gone through.
Kanan crouched and reached for Ezra. He worked his hands underneath the sleeping body until he was able to scoop him up into his arms. Ezra shifted in his sleep, turning in towards Kanan’s chest. It took a moment to balance the boy properly but soon he was heading out of his cabin and making his way over to the one next to Hera’s.
As he precariously reached for the control panel for the cabin, trying not to jostle Ezra too much, he heard a weak warble behind him. Chopper had appeared in the hallway. The droid offered a string of quiet, almost gentle, beeps before rolling down the hall to whatever part of the ship he felt he was needed in. Kanan smiled as he watched Chopper disappear. “Top bunk it is, then.”
Placing Ezra on the top bunk wasn’t too hard, the boy was small enough that even climbing the short ladder with him in his arms didn’t impede Kanan much. For a moment he was worried he had woken him up, but Ezra merely murmured in his sleep and turned away from the door. The blanket Hera had given him the night before was on the ground. Kanan gently draped it over the sleeping form and then just watched.
Ezra was young. So young. It didn’t matter that at age nine he would have been considered too old to start his training, in this moment it felt like he was the youngest person in the galaxy to Kanan. He really had no idea what he was signing up for. As a padawan, he had only been privileged to a handful of month with Master Billaba, his training was limited. Did he really have anything to offer? What did he know about teaching?
It didn’t matter. He said he’d try. He had to try. He owed Ezra that much.
Once he was back in the corridor, Kanan closed his eyes and leaned against the door. The kid had the right idea; he was exhausted from the day. He wasn’t sure if he going to be able to sleep after everything, but lying down sounded pretty good. He’d just lean here for a little bit longer and than he’d head back to his cabin. Tomorrow he’d deal with everything else.
Kanan opened his eyes. Hera was standing in front of her cabin, arms crossed as she looked at him, closing her body off. She was hesitant, clearly unsure of who the man standing in her ship—home—was. Kanan couldn’t blame her for that. He only just started to figure out the answer to that himself. It was past due them both knowing.
“Hey,” he replied, pushing off against the door. He stood in the middle of the corridor and waited for her to make a move.
“We’re well outside Capital City, now,” she said, moving her gaze past him. “I don’t think we should go back there for a bit. At least by the Ghost or the Phantom.”
“Yeah, they’ll have us flagged for sure,” Kanan said. He gave a tight smile. No thanks to him. He looked Hera in the eyes and felt his smile disappear. She was so closed off, scared almost, but there was concern there in her, too. After everything he did and that she saw today, she still seemed to be able to care about him. He didn’t deserve that. “You’re probably tired, I’ll get out of your way.”
He headed for his cabin, very aware that it meant walking past her, and hoped that in the morning she would be able to still look at him. Before he could even reach for his door panel, though, Kanan felt his arm being pulled. Hera turned him around and quickly wrapped her arms around his neck. For a few seconds—or maybe minutes, he really couldn’t say—his hands hung uselessly in the air. He had completely forgotten how to function. But when she tightened her grip, bringing him in even closer, he wound his arm around her waist. He felt her rise onto her toes as he dropped his head against the crook of her neck.
Breathing in her unique smell, a mix of engine oil and earthiness, Kanan felt himself start to relax. He moved one of his hands up her back, pressing his fingers into the fabric of her orange jacket. He could remember the day she bought it, her apprehension of having to waste credits on new clothing even though her old one had one too many holes in it. He could remember when she asked his opinion on how it looked and all he could do was smile. That wasn’t the day that he had fallen in love with her, he wasn’t sure when that was, but he did know now that he was in fact in love.
Her hand moved along the back of his head, her finger burying into his short hair. It was too long now since he had last felt comforted like this. There had to have been a few conversations with Okadiah that had genuinely helped him, but for the life of him Kanan couldn’t remember now. They were probably had over too many drinks.
Kanan shifted, his hands moving absentmindedly against her and he realized that he wasn’t crying, that he couldn’t cry. Anyone during a day like this would have at some point shed tears—hell, both Hera and Ezra had—but there was nothing from him. It dawned on him that it had been years since he could last remember crying. Even when he couldn’t save Okadiah and all the others back on Gorse there had been nothing. He had felt all of it, the pain of those loses were still inside of him. But it was all trapped in there with no way of releasing it. When had he stopped being able to let that out? (Fear pressed down on him as he wondered what would make him cry now.) He pressed his face against Hera further, wishing for the first time that he could just shed a few tears, just this once.
“Thank you for not turning your back on him,” Hera whispered. She ran her fingers through his hair once, twice, before resting her hand on the back of his neck. “I know this hasn’t been easy for you.”
“It’s still early,” he murmured against her skin. He felt her shiver slightly but pushed that out of his head; now wasn’t the time to notice things like that. “I could still mess it all up.”
Pulling away, forcing him to raise his head and look her in the eye, Hera cupped his cheek. “You won’t.”
Kanan gulped. He pulled her back into the hug. It was too hard to look at her and see all the understanding she was offering him. He hadn’t been fair to her. “Hera, I am so sorry,” he said. His hand went to the back of her head, careful as to not hit against her lekku. He wrapped himself around her. Anything to make sure his words were coming through clear. He needed her to know he was sincere. “After everything I did, I can’t begin to understand how you can let me back. I’m so sorry.”
“Kanan… it’s okay.”
They stood in the corridor, between their two rooms, in each other’s arms. Time passed but Kanan easily could have stayed there all night. Even if his legs were starting to get tired, struggling to stand. Even if his whole body was shaking. And even if Hera might be the only thing keeping him mostly upright at that moment. He needed them to be together tonight.
“You need to rest,” Hera said as she pulled away. “You’re shaking, you must be beyond exhausted.” She unwrapped her arms from around him and took a step back. She smiled before turning away.
“Wait.” Kanan reached over quickly and grabbed her wrist. Which was bare. He just realized she wasn’t wearing her gloves. He slipped his hand down and entwined their fingers together. She looked back at him, a brow raised. He cleared his throat and said, “Wait. I… uh, I have some stuff I should tell you. About me. And all of this.”
She turned back to him fully. Her hand tightened around his as she nodded. “Okay. Okay, let’s go to the common room.” Hera walked past him, though she kept her hand in his. She led him down the corridor and into their common space. Chopper, having apparently taken refuge here, let out a startled beep before rolling past them out of the room. Kanan almost stopped him, figuring the droid had a right to hear all of this as well, but he gave up on that idea when Hera tugged on his hand. He sighed and followed her to the booth.
They sat in silence as he tried to figure out where to start. For the second time tonight he was going to have to bare his soul to another person. He could just come out and say that he was, in fact, a Jedi. Had been one the whole time. Surprise! But she knew that, on some level. Gorse had happened and Hera wasn’t stupid. There wasn’t a good place to start, his past was too long and filled with too much to try and make sense of it. That was the thing with what had happened to him: it didn’t make sense. It had never made sense.
Taking a deep breath in, Kanan began, “I was fourteen when the Clone Wars ended. My master and I had only been on a few missions together, had only spent a few months together, when everything happened. I had just left the temple; I was so excited to be out in the galaxy, saving it. I was too young.
“We had just set up camp for the night, having liberated a world from Separatist control. Then… the clones, they turned on us. My master and me. She had tried to warn me but it was too late. Men we had fought side by side with those months raised their blasters and fired on us. And then—” His throat closed up as he tried to find the words to keep going. He hoped than he would have just been able to just say it all in one go; to bleed out these memories that had become like bile inside of him once he started. But it wasn’t that simple, things never were with him. All of this, it was the first time he had ever said it out loud. Saying it now made it all just as fresh as it had been the night it happened.
He leaned forwards, his free hand coming up so he could rest his face in it. Hera squeezed his hand, she hadn’t let go of it when they had sat down. A reminder that he was here, now. Not in the past. He had to tell her this, even if it meant she’d end up thinking differently of him. “I ran,” he whispered. He hated saying it, even if it was the truth. He still hated himself for it. “It was all I could do. Master Billaba, she died so I could live. And all I’ve done since then has been running away from what had happened, hiding from who I used to be. Doing everything I could to try and forget who I was. Until I met you.”
Kanan smiled weakly into his hand and let out a faint laugh. “I still don’t know why I got to live instead of her, the galaxy would have been better with her in it than me...”
“Kanan,” Hera said. She moved closer to him, taking her hand out from his. He looked up at her just as she rested it on the back of his neck, her fingers moving gently against his skin. “Don’t say that.”
“This is why I was scared of Ezra. Scared for him. You don’t understand what it means to be a Jedi. It means death, now. Ezra’s like me, he’s a Force user. And a strong one. Stronger than I am. And I… I don’t want that for him. I don’t want him to have to face the kind of death I’ve seen because of it,” Kanan said. He reached up and placed his hand on top of Hera’s arm. He needed to anchor himself. “What if I let him in and he loses me like I lost everything? What if I lead him down this path and I lose him? I’m scared…”
He tightened his hold on her, breathing in deeply as he willed himself to confess. “But I can’t leave him alone. I owe the… I have to try with him. I have to try for me. I want to.”
“You have my support,” Hera replied. She smiled at him. “You’ve always had my support. You know that, right?”
“Yeah.” He turned his head, pressing his lips against the exposed skin of her wrist. “Yeah, I know.”
“I should apologize, too,” Hera said after a moment. Kanan snapped his head up, about to demand why, but swallowed his words when he saw her face. She wasn’t looking at him anymore. She was staring off into the room, as if lost in thought. Her thumb rubbed against his neck. “I shouldn’t have started to push you to tell me this, that wasn’t my place.”
He shook his head. “You had a right to know. At least the basics, at least why I act the way I do.”
“I shouldn’t have pushed you. No matter what, I should have waited for you to be ready. I’m sorry,” she said. She looked back him and smiled. “I am glad you told me, though. I’m glad you feel like you can trust me. You can.”
He looked her over before looking down. Trust. He did trust her. Kanan trusted her with his life. And now his secrets. “You know,” he said, “my name wasn’t always Kanan. I changed it when I had to go on the run. The name I was born with… it was Caleb. Caleb Dume.”
“It’s safe with me,” she whispered. Her smile wavered for a second before she moved her hand to cup his cheek. Her thumb brushed against his cheek. “Thank you for trusting me.”
“It’s the least I can do, right? I’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately.”
“But you did do the right thing today,” Hera urged.
“Did I? You’re both in so much danger because of me. The Empire knows there’s a has been Jedi running around, now.” Kanan sighed. He smiled faintly at her before averting his gaze. “It might have better if I had never run off with you on Gorse. You would have been safer, happier, if I had gone my own way.”
Hera let out an exasperated breath. “Stop. You have to stop thinking you’re the reason I’m in danger. I was on my own gathering information, moving against the Empire before I met you, remember? I dragged you into this life, into my mission. And,” she said, “you were miserable. Keeping people at a distance was destroying you. Over this past year I’ve watched you become happy. Actually happy.”
She inched over again, pressing up against him now, pushing into him. Her feet tangled up with his since there was nowhere else for them to go. He could feel the curves of her body too easily. She moved her other hand to cup his other cheek and waited for their eyes to meet. “Kanan, you weren’t meant to be alone.”
Kanan held her gaze. He was aware of every spot that they were touching, her warmth moving over him in a way he longed for everyday. His right hand moved from the table to rest on her thigh. He twisted so he could face her properly. Searching her face, he realized she meant every word that she had said. Whether he believed it or not, it was clear that she believed in him. Believed he deserved a life that was worth living.
He might not be able to fully accept himself, accept what had happened to him or whatever might happen in the future, but he could at least put his faith in Hera. He had meant it when he told himself that he’d follow her throughout the galaxy. She had found him and could see him, him, whatever that meant.
Her eyes drifted down to his lips before looking back up at him. It took him a second to realize she was starting to lean into him, one of her hands sliding from his face back into his hair. That was all the encouragement he needed. He reached for her, a hand on the back of her head, and pulled her in.
When their lips touched it felt like electricity was coursing through him. He had been with so many people in his life, both genuinely and just to make sure he got through the night, but this was new. Everything he felt for Hera was being poured into his movements. Every thought he had about her fuelled him. He grabbed at her leg, to drag her even closer, and she followed; her leg moved over both of his until she could press herself completely against him. Chest against chest. She wrapped her arm around the top of his shoulders and hummed in agreement when he parted her lips with his tongue.
Heat moved between them as they fell into a rhythm together. It was too easy to fall into it with her. This was everything Kanan had wanted for almost a year now. To be able to touch her like this. His hand on her leg started to slide upwards, ghosting up along her side. His thumb brushed against her breast and she gasped into his mouth, as if the layers of clothing between his hand and her skin didn’t exist at all. This had to be a dream; only in his dreams did Hera let her guard down around him this way.
But when he felt one of Hera’s hands tug at his shirt, untucking it from his pants, so that her skin was directly pressing against his, Kanan pulled away gasping for air. Reality was setting back in.
“Hera… I… Wait. Wait.” It was all he could push out between laboured breaths. Her breathing was just as erratic. She looked as in disarray as he felt and most definitely looked. She was searching his face, trying to figure out why he had stopped them. He looked at her still parted lips and tried to breathe in. She was too tempting, too willing, too close. Letting out a shaky breath, he said, “I… I can’t.”
This was all he wanted. And Kanan wanted it desperately. He had told himself that he had turned from the Jedi path so falling in love wasn’t a problem. He could be selfish. But when that life came crash back into his, it shifted everything. Before Lothal he would have felt fine pursuing a physical relationship with Hera, a romantic one. Now it was different. He didn’t know where his feelings for her fit in with wanting to be a Jedi. He didn’t know how he would be able to balance wanting to put her first above all else and knowing that Ezra would need him at his side, teaching and guiding him.
He wanted to be with her but it wouldn’t be fair. She deserved to be with someone who knew who they were and what they could offer. Kanan’s path changed today and left his disoriented. It wouldn’t be fair to drag her further into this mess than she already was.
No, until he knew what was happening and until Ezra was old enough to not rely on them both completely, he couldn’t pursue her. Maybe in the future, when things would hopefully make more sense, they would get a chance at this again. But for now he needed to do what was best for all of them.
Closing his eyes, Kanan rested his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” she said, running a hand over that back of his head. “You don’t have to apologize.”
“This just... it’s not the right time,” he murmured. He felt her nod. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Slowly, Hera brought him into another hug, their bodies already pressed close together. Eventually they would have to part, accepting the decision made here. It just wasn’t the right time. And it wasn’t fair that it wasn’t, not when they both wanted whatever it was that they could be. But it was for the best. For now they were going to have to continue putting everything else in front of their relationship. Kanan had no idea when they would be able to try at this but he had to hold on to hope that they would find each other again. That’s all they had; hope.
So, eventually they would have to part but for now they sat in the common room of their home, wrapped in each other's arms.
She pulled her datapad out to read the now decrypted message Hera had sent her. Ahsoka was beyond relief to find out that Kanan had managed to save Ezra and that they had both made it out of Imperial clutches unscathed. She didn’t want to lose what was possibly her last connection to her old life before she had gotten to meet him.
An hour had passed since Hera had sent the message. By now Hera and her crew would be back on the Ghost and hopefully even further away from Capital City. Whatever happened on that ship was out of her control, but she did hope that things were calmer now. The tension she had felt on it was beyond intense, as if the ship would crumble down if someone stepped in just the wrong spot.
Ahsoka quickly typed up a message to Hera. Just the essentials for now; she knew they’d be in contact frequently enough. She wrote out that she would contact again once she had a job for them, and that she’d send whatever jobs their way she could. She also asked that Hera keep her updated about Kanan and Ezra. She wanted to keep track of their progress.
“Bweeeeeeep.” Arthree’s binary speech filled the cockpit. Ahsoka smiled and glanced over at her droid.
“Yes, we can head out now.” Ahsoka said, pressing send on her message. She stored the datapad away and began to fire up the starfighter.
As the cockpit closed, Arthree asked, “Beep bweep bwoooop?”
“No, not yet. There’s still something here I want to look into. Can you fly us to the north of the planet?” Ahsoka said. She settled into her seat as she was given confirmation. She closed her eyes and felt the starfighter lift into the air. Arthree would get them to where she wanted to go. There was going to be a bit of a flight until she had to start paying attention and given actually directions as to where she wanted to go.
Her thoughts went back to Kanan and Ezra. She had to admit to herself that she was worried. Kanan was reckless, uncertain, and completely undisciplined. While perhaps in her youth Ahsoka would have run off like he had today in order to save someone, but she knew better now. She would have assumed he’d know better by now too if they had indeed come from the same upbringing. But, then again, she didn’t know anything about his upbringing and there after.
It was still a concern, though. He wasn’t acting like the Jedi that the galaxy was in desperate need of. And if Ezra was indeed a Force sensitive child like she assumed he was, than Kanan wasn’t acting like the Jedi that the boy would need.
But he had stepped up today, no matter how reckless it was. And, really, who was she to judge? She wasn’t a Jedi anymore. She had turned from that path of her own choice and accepted what that meant for her. This Kanan, his life would have been ripped away from him and would have to somehow consider himself lucky to be alive. She knew how she felt and how she had dealt with the trauma that Order 66 had left her with, she could only imagine how he had dealt with it all.
The Force brought Kanan and Ezra together, had made its move to bring Kanan out of the shadows. Ahsoka could question it all she wanted, wonder if this was really the right time, but she knew she would not find the answers that she did not necessarily need. The Force had its reasons for everything. For all of this even if it was unclear to everyone involved.
As her fighter flew gently through Lothal’s night sky, its twin moons lighting the fields below her, she wondered when she’d get to meet Kanan and Ezra. She looked forward to it. Too long she had been living her life distanced from her past. She was ready to welcome it back. She would have to be patient, however. Kanan and Ezra were not ready for her. They would be thrown off course. She had been too prominent, too involved, before she had left the order. The chances that Kanan knew her were too high. If she revealed herself now it was too likely that Kanan would want her to take over. That chances were too high. She would become an escape. And how could she blame him for that?
No, she would keep her distance. Kanan had to be the one to train Ezra even if it would take him time to fully understand that. Once they’re all ready to meet, the Force will bring them together. She had to trust in that. And trust that it was the Force keeping her away for now. Not any fears she may be possibly holding within herself.
She looked forward to what the pair had to offer the galaxy. Ahsoka had a strong feeling that it would be great things.
This chapter has it all: acceptance of responsibilities, intense hugging, ill advised make outs, Chopper being the sweetest droid out there, Force users forced to think too much.
I’m going to admit that I feel a little guilty with how frequent the past few chapter releases have been. There’s a reason and it’s not that I’m magically finished this whole fic and can just post chapter after chapter. I’m taking a sort of break over the summer from writing this.
There are a few reasons as to why.
One, I’m just burnt out. I love this story, I love writing it, I love sharing it with all of you and reading your feedback and comments. It makes my day. But ten chapters in and I don’t have the drive to work on it anymore. A part of me wishes this was the final chapter, in some ways it does feel like it should be. But I promised fifteen chapters and I have set things up in this story that need to be resolved in order for me to feel satisfied. But I can’t do it right now. I’m not going to stop writing this completely over the summer, I’m just not going to work on it every day. It’s going to be on the back burner with the heat set on low for now. While I might not want to write the next five chapters, I do very much want to give you the proper end I have planned. It’s good. I just have to find the energy to get there.
Two, and this one is embarrassing, I have not actually finished planning out the last three chapters. My bad. They’re going to be following Rise of the Old Masters and I think the main reason I haven’t been able to finish my outline is because it’s been ages since I’ve watched that episode. So I need to go back, watch that (which I’m probably going to do this week, to be honest), and then finally finish working on the outline.
Three, I’m writing a mini bang over the summer and I want to put my attention into that. It has a deadline whereas this fic does not. So it’s going to take priority.
I know this must be frustrating and if you’ve been following me on tumblr maybe not a total surprise. I have sort of been complaining about working on this a lot lately.
I am not abandoning this story. I want to finish it. But I want to do it right and if I try and push through it now it will not be good enough for me or for you guys.
Thank you for bearing with me. I try to have the mentality that I write for me first, but that’s not true. I write the ideas I have for me but I write fic in general for you guys. You have all been amazing and I have so loved talking to you about this story, sharing snippets with you all on my tumblr (or in private messages if you’ve caught me in the right mood), and just getting to see your love for something I’ve created. This is special to me and so are all of you. Thank you.
(Of course the longest chapter has the most ridiculously long author’s notes out there. My bad.)
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
His feet bounced repeatedly against the side of the booth, the rhythmic metallic banging echoed throughout the common room. It had a sort of eerie ring to it, as if the Ghost were actually haunted. Ezra was leaning against the small holotable and staring at the bare walls. He was bored.
He looked around the room before flopping down against the cushioned seat, adjusting to the curve of the booth. He had no clue where anyone was right now. Well, he had no clue where Hera and Chopper were. They had left the ship earlier to get food for everyone or supplies for the ship or maybe to try and let them on the ship have some “alone time” and he wasn’t sure if they were back yet; he had only been here a week so far, he wasn’t used to all the noises around him so he didn’t know the difference between the “someone is coming on to the ship” noise and the “oh that has always made that noise apparently, Hera doesn’t try to fix it anymore” noise. Kanan, on the other hand, he knew exactly where he was. He was sitting in his cabin, as he often did when it was just the two of them, and meditating (whatever that was). He claimed it was helping him teach but Ezra was pretty sure he was just avoiding him.
He was bored and was starting to wonder if he made a mistake coming here.
Living on the Ghost should have been just amazing; he never went hungry and he was never cold. Hera, and Kanan, made sure of that. But it was clear neither of them really knew how to live with him. They rarely had time to play, and if they did it was just holo chess which was boring now. Chopper at least would go outside and chase him around.
They were probably starting to regret taking him in. It wouldn’t be a surprise.
Ezra stared up at the ceiling then rubbed his face. He grimaced at how rough it was. He forgot he had gloves on. Hera had bought them for him the second full day he was on the ship when she noticed him sitting on his hands often enough to keep them warm. It was nice of her, and they looked really cool. But Ezra was used to how adults tried to cover up secrets. Offer nice things to hide what’s actually happening. That was why they were still on Lothal, she was being nice while she tried to figure out if she actually wanted him here. Kanan was probably encouraging the wait, or offered up the idea in the first place. They’d wait on Lothal until everyone realized this was a mistake and then he’d leave. It was just a matter of time before he wore out his welcome.
“Oh, I didn’t see you there,” Hera’s voice said from over the table, startling him. Ezra pressed his forearms into the cushion to lift himself up. Once he could look over the table he found a smiling Hera staring at his feet. She looked up at his face and her smile widened. “Have you had lunch yet?”
Ezra shook his head and pushed up more so he could be sitting upright.
“Well, why don’t we get started on that?” Hera asked. She jerked her head to the galley and walked over. Sighing, he stood up and followed her in.
Hera was pulling out something from the fridge when he came into the galley and sat down at the table. She flashed a smile at him as she began to prep whatever it was.
“What have you and Kanan been up to this morning?” she asked as she grabbed some spices from the top shelf. Ezra almost laughed as he watched her have to practically climb onto the counter to get the containers. Kanan had been the last one to cook—he made a weird spicy noodle dish for dinner the night before—and even if it had only been a week Ezra knew that when Kanan cooked everything would be out of reach in the kitchen.
Then he remembered that today had been close to awful because Kanan was avoiding him.
Hera turned to him when he didn’t answer, putting the spice container down. “Ezra?”
Shrugging, he answered, “We haven’t done anything yet. Kanan was meditating again and you had Chopper so I didn’t really do anything.”
She frowned. She looked towards the galley door before turning back to the her cooking. He watched her, wondering how she was going to scold him for not trying harder. He had tried, really he had, but it hadn’t worked yesterday at all so why would it have today? Whatever mediating was, it made it really easy for Kanan to ignore him.
“I thought he said he was going to teach you today,” Hera said. She grabbed what he now realized was meat and started cutting it up into strips.
He shrugged again but didn’t add on. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t going to believe him.
“Ezra, I can’t help if you don’t tell me what’s bothering you,” she said. He looked down at the table and listened to the sounds of her cooking. The knife against the cutting board. The stove starting up. The sizzle of the meat cooking. The smell of spices filled the air soon. “Ezra.”
Looking up, he saw that Hera had turned her attention to him, the pan behind her now ignored.
“Talk to me.”
“I…” he started. He looked down at his feet before glancing at the galley door and then up at Hera. “I think Kanan made a mistake.”
“How so?” She glanced at the pan before taking a few steps towards him. She didn’t close the distance completely, she didn’t crowd him.
He opened his mouth and closed it. He took a deep breath in and tried again but was met with the same failed attempt to explain what was wrong. He shook his head, just a little, and grabbed hold of his arm and squeezed. He blinked a few times and then looked Hera over. She didn’t seem annoyed with him or impatient. Sure, she kept glancing at the stove, but everything she was directing at him was steady. Taking in another deep breath, Ezra searched for the right words.
“I don’t understand anything he’s teaching me,” Ezra finally confessed. “Everything he tries to teach me doesn’t make any sense. I’m trying, I’m really, really, trying, but I don’t understand. And when he tries to explain it to me, it just makes everything worse and he gets frustrated. I think he was wrong about me, I don’t think I can do this.” The words all tumbled out of him, gone before he really knew what he was saying. They filled the galley and Ezra felt the weight of each and every one of them.
She wasn't going to believe him. Or maybe she would, he didn’t actually know which was worse.
He looked up at her and she frowned. But she didn’t answer right away. She turned back to the stove and started to flipped the strips of meat. When she walked back to the fridge and opened it, she sighed. Fishing out some leafy vegetable, she started to wash and prep that. “Kanan’s not wrong about you, Ezra. I can promise you that.” She tossed hunks of the greens into the pan as she spoke, her movements tight. More under her breath than for him it seemed, she added, “He’s definitely in the wrong, though.”
For the next few minutes she focused on her cooking. The stove was soon turned off and she went to the cabinets to pull out plates. She didn’t continue talking until she was sitting down at the table across from him, food set out in front of them both.
“Kanan… He’s trying, too, Ezra. This is new to him. You’re new to him, he doesn’t adjust to things all too well,” Hera said, pushing the food on her plate around. She takes a bite of food before adding, “He wants you here. This means more to him than either of us can really know.”
Ezra stared at his food, chewing what was in his mouth slowly. None of what Hera was saying really made any sense. If this was important to Kanan, why wasn’t he showing it? Chopper seemed like he wanted him around and the droid always tried to make it seem like he didn’t care about anything. If Kanan wanted him he would be here now explaining this, not Hera.
Kanan had only offered to train him because he pitied him and that was it. It had been a mistake and he obviously just felt like he could get out of it yet.
“Give him a little time, he’ll figure this out,” Hera said. She reached a hand out and cupped his elbow that was resting on the table.
He started to nod, if only because he felt like he had to, when the galley door opened. Ezra jerked quickly to look over at it, worried at who would be revealed. It was just Chopper. He rolled in, blathering away. Ezra didn’t understand him at all and he wasn’t sure he ever would; as complicated as normal binary was, Chopper seemed determined to make sure his dialect of it was the most incomprehensible. And yet, Hera understood her droid perfectly.
“What, again?” she almost whined (which wasn’t the case because someone like Hera would never whine). She dropped her face into one hand and Ezra could have sworn she counted down from ten before she looked up at him. “I have to go deal with the navi computer. Apparently, the Ghost’s computer decided to pick a fight with Chopper again and now nothing is working. We’ll keep chatting later, okay?”
Ezra nodded and watched her leave the room. When the galley closed up again, he drooped. His fork pushed his food around and he occasionally lifted some to his mouth to eat.
Sure, they’d talk later but would later happen before everything fell apart?
It was evening, much later in the day than he had planned on starting a lesson with Ezra. He had let too much of the day slip by him in his apprehensions of the task. The sun was now low in the sky, washing the ship in a red glow. The field surrounding them almost looked like it was on fire. A weird omen for how bad this lesson was going.
“Kanan, I’m bored,” Ezra said. He uncrossed his legs and fell back against the hull.
Sighing and rubbing his eyes, Kanan replied, “Ezra, this is important. You have to learn this.”
“I don’t understand why we have to meditate! It’s so boring,” he went on. He kicked a leg up into the air and it dropped loudly against the metal beneath him. “What does it have to do with being a Jedi?”
“Everything, Ezra, I’ve already told you that. You need a focused mind to be able to use the Force. You need to have control over yourself,” Kanan said for what had to be the hundredth time. How could he say the same thing over and over again and this kid still doesn’t get it?
Ezra huffed and sat back up. “I have control over myself,” he muttered.
Kanan looked him over and sighed again. Maybe he was too young to learn to meditate. Or, too old to learn. Then again, Kanan hadn’t been the biggest fan of meditating when he was young, it had been too hard to slow his mind down enough. He had had too many questions. It was only this past year that he truly appreciated what meditation could do for him, how it could help him. Maybe he needed to cut Ezra some slack.
“Okay, we’ll let it go for now. We’ll come back to it another time. Let’s give something else a shot,” he said. He reached out in front of them and picked up the holocron he had placed there when they had arrived. They hadn’t used it each time but Ezra was always eager for the Jedi relic to be brought out. It was this or bringing his lightsaber along and somehow he had a feeling Hera wouldn’t be thrilled with him teaching a nine year old how to fight with a laser sword (even if he had already been well versed with a blade by that age). At least, not on top of her ship.
Standing, Kanan held the holocron out with his palm facing up. Ezra stood as well and watched, his eyes bright with anticipation. Smirking down at him, Kanan closed his eyes and levitated the metal and glass cube. Not to open it, he just had it hang in the air in front on him. A few seconds later it dropped back in his hand.
“Your turn,” Kanan said, placing the holocron into Ezra’s hand.
The boy stared down at it before looking up again. “This is what you did to that man at the Imperial Complex, right? When you tossed him?” he asked excitedly.
“Yes, but this isn’t a fighting lesson. It’s about connecting to the Force,” Kanan explained, running his hand through his hair. “Being a Jedi, it’s not about fighting.”
“Yeah, but only because I have to. Had to. The Jedi, they were protectors. We fought in a war to protect people.” We didn’t want to fight in a war. We shouldn’t have been fighting in a war. Kanan looked out at the darkening field. The sun wasn’t gone yet, though the illusion of fire was. They were going to have to stop soon, or at least move somewhere where the was light. “Fighting isn’t always the answer.”
“But we should fight against the Empire, right? That’s what my parents said, that’s what you and Hera do,” Ezra said.
Kanan frowned and crossed his arms. “Well, yeah, we do but… Look, kid, don’t worry about that right now. We’re not going to be taking you into the fight any time soon. Let’s just stick with connecting to the Force for now.”
Ezra nodded and looked back down at the holocron.
“What you need to do is use the Force to lift it into the air, just a foot or two. See it in your head and do it,” Kanan told him. “Give it a go.”
Nodding again, Ezra closed his eyes and held the holocron out in both his hands. He stood almost completely still. Kanan watched as his eyebrows drew together in concentration. A grimace spread across his face as nothing continued to happen. Letting out a deep and frustrated breath, he opened his eyes.
“It won’t move.”
“Remember, you need to picture it. You aren’t opening it this time, this is pretty basic. Go again.”
Huffing, Ezra closed his eyes and held the holocron out again. A minute passed and he opened his eyes to glare down at the object before closing them again. This repeated a few times before a defeated groan pierced the air.
“I can’t do it!”
“You can, Ezra, you just aren’t focused enough. You have to let the Force move through you, guide you.”
“I’m trying to, I promise!”
“Do or do not, there is no try,” Kanan relayed, the words coming out before he had the chance to really even remember them. How long had it been since he had been told that lesson? How old had he been?
“What does that even mean? I thought I had to try to do things,” Ezra whined, staring up at him.
“Uh…” Kanan balked. He wasn’t going to admit that every time Master Yoda said that that most of the younglings, including himself, had been left utterly confused. “Well, right now? Right now it means you need to lift the holocron.”
Ezra opened his mouth, probably to argue, but closed it. Set in a strong frown, he closed his eyes and held the holocron out one more time. This time it shot up into the air so quickly that Kanan couldn’t follow it with his eyes. Five feet, ten feet, it just kept soaring further and further away, becoming a glint in the dissipating light. Ezra, realizing what he had done, opened his eyes and smiled. Punching his hands up into the air, he shouted, “I did it!”
And he had, but now the focus he achieved evaporated and the holocron was speeding down towards the Ghost. Kanan reached up, feeling the Force around him and slowed the holocron’s descent just in time. It landed lightly on the ship’s hull.
Looking down at Ezra, Kanan crossed his arms again. Ezra didn’t seem to notice his annoyance, smiling up at him, proud with how this went. “Kanan, I did it!” he cheered.
“Sure, but you had no control at all and you lost focus. You almost broke my holocron. You need to be focus and you need to be in control, I’ve been trying to teach you this,” Kanan said.
“I thought you said there was no trying,” Ezra replied, not taking a beat to even take in what he had been told.
“Ezra! If you don’t have control things will go wrong! This isn’t a game! Next time it might not be a holocron that breaks, you could get hurt!” Kanan could hear his voice rising, fear mixing into the reprimanding tone he was trying to hide behind.
“I’m trying! I just don’t understand what you mean!” Ezra shouted back. His eyes were brimming with tears now, his hands balled into fists. “I don’t understand any of this! I did what you asked me to do, I don’t understand why I’m in trouble!”
“Ezra…” It felt like a bucket of cold water had been dropped over him. Kanan’s hand drifted to his neck. “You’re not, you’re not in trouble. I just want you to understand this. It’s important.”
Ezra shook his head and the wiped his eyes against his sleeve.
Sighing, Kanan bent down and scooped up the holocron. “Let’s call it a day, I don’t think we’ll get anything else done at this point.” He held out the holocron and tried to smile. “Take this back inside for me? You know where it goes.”
Sheepishly, Ezra reached out and took the cube into his hands. He held it close to his chest as he made his way to the hatch back into the ship. Kanan watched him before dropping down to sit on the hull. He sighed again and stared out the sunset. A sliver of the sun was still peeking over the horizon, the moons were now high in the sky, beginning to wash the world in their silver light.
“What am I doing?” he muttered, bringing his knees up. Crossing his arms over them, Kanan buried his face away. “What am I doing?”
He didn’t know how to teach, he had barely gotten to see Master Billaba as a teacher, not really. Sure, he had had a countless number of teachers in his life, in and out of the Order, but the only one that mattered now was the one he barely spent time with. He realized why a padawanship was as long as it had been; you learn over the course of it how to pass on knowledge when it’s becomes your turn. Well, Kanan (and Caleb) had never gotten that lesson. And now that to galaxy had decided it was his time to pass on what little knowledge he possessed, he was scrambling to remember his lessons of old.
A breeze passed over him, swirling across the Ghost, a faint hiss as the grass surrounding the ship moved. He shivered, though not entirely from the chill the air was bringing now. He didn’t have to lift his head to know that the sky was dark, though not completely with the moons. He laughed bitterly to himself; there was always some light in the dark, wasn’t there? Always a little hope?
He tried to find what hope there was for him to become the teacher Ezra needed him to be but the only thoughts running around his heads were ones of running. An impulse he thought he had destroyed finally. He didn’t want to be that person anymore, the one than ran when things got too tough or too much of his past was dug up, but apparently that was still there. Waiting beneath the surface, waiting to be taken hold of again.
“What am I doing?”
Lifting his head up, he glanced over his shoulder. Hera was halfway out of the hatchway, climbing her way onto the hull. He looked ahead again, resting his chin against his arms. He listened to her footsteps as she made her way over to him. He waited for her to sit down next to him but she never did.
Instead, her hand brushed against the top of his head, fingers running through the strands of his hair. He shivered again, though in that moment he wasn’t all the cold anymore. She just stood quietly next to him, her fingers working gently.
After a while, after Kanan dropped his head back down against his arms, he felt a light tug on a handful of strands of hair. He raised his head up from the crook of his elbow again as Hera pulled at him again to look at her.
“Your hair is getting pretty long,” she pointed out before tucking a few strands behind his ear. She said this as though it were completely normal for her to do this, touch him like this. A week had passed this they had kissed and nothing else had happened between them. They had gone back to their easy demeanour around each other, friendly touches that were just that. No hints of wanting more of what had happened that night. But here she was, tugging at him, all of him, a reminder that there was something there for them to explore, if they dared.
“Hmmm,” he hummed. She went back to carding her fingers through the hair now under discussion. “It’s not as long as it was when we first met.”
“No,” she said. “But it’s not really that short anymore.”
“I should probably cut it again, soon. It’s getting in the way.”
“Don’t. I liked it longer.”
Nodding, Kanan dropped his head down again. He sat there in the intimacy of her actions and waited for her next move.
“Ezra seemed pretty upset,” she finally said. Her hand paused in its journey to the back of his head. He waited for it to start up again, wanting to anchor himself to that for the inevitable downward turn this conversation would take.
Kanan laughed. “That makes two of us.”
“I take it training didn’t go well?” she asked. She pushed down on his shoulder as she lowered herself down next to him. Her hand stayed on him, though he noticed she didn’t sit pressed against him. That easy demeanour they had.
“That would be a bit of an understatement,” he answered, giving a half shrug.
He turned his head, resting his cheek on his arms now so he could watch her. She was wearing one of his sweaters, an older one he had been prone to leaving around the Ghost when he really should be putting it away in his cabin. He guess she hadn’t wanted to go grab her jacket, wherever it was, when she decided it was time to check in on the situation out here. Maybe Ezra went to common room, tears on his cheeks, and Hera acted fast to get up here. Or, perhaps, Hera was leaving the innards of the ship and came across Ezra storming into his cabin to hide away. Whatever it was, she had rushed to get out here. He ignored that she looked good in it, the darker green somehow playing against her skin perfectly. He didn’t really feel like he deserved to notice things like that right now.
“I don’t know if I can teach him,” he whispered, the words almost getting stuck in his throat. He wanted to be honest, he didn’t want there to be secrets between them anymore, but it was still hard to admit this fear out loud.
“Did Ezra do something wrong?”
“No, not really. I just…”
“Kanan, what happened?”
Looking away, back out at the field, Kanan shook his head. Hera’s hand dropped from his shoulder but she didn’t move away. He couldn’t tell if she was pulling away or just waiting for him to reveal more. He couldn’t tell if he was doing the same thing.
“You know he wants you to teach him, right?” she asked after a few moments.
Snorting, he replied, “I’m all there is, he doesn’t know any better.”
“Fine.” Hera stood up abruptly, not using him at all to steady herself. Kanan shifted, looking up at her, frowning slightly. “If you’re going to be stubborn about this, then fine.” She turned and headed towards the hatch. She glanced back at him once, opening her mouth to most likely add on to her berating him but seemed to change her mind. A flash of sadness washed over her face before she retreated back into the ship.
Kanan groaned and flopped back, his back landing roughly against the ship’s exterior. He dropped on arm over his eyes as he listened to the wind rush across the field.
Oh wow! A chapter! Looks like we're back!
So, the plan I guess is that I'll just post a chapter once I have a chapter. This month and next month are going to be very busy with work and I just can really predict what writing will be like. I will finish this fic before the new year, I will promise you that.
Hope you enjoy the new chapter!
I post updates and snippets for upcoming chapters on my tumblr.
Imperial propaganda filled the cabin as she tightened a bolt on Chopper’s dome. That’s all the Holonet was now: fabricated stories and half truths. If it weren’t for the occasional tidbit of information she could pick up, Hera would never turn it on again. But here she was, sitting in her cabin, tinkering with Chopper and hoping that there would be something of interest to listen to today. Anything to keep her distracted from what was going on on her ship.
Another week had passed since Ezra ran into his cabin crying from how bad a Jedi lesson went. Kanan still hadn’t told her what had happened and was pulling back almost completely. He’d be around at meals and would spend an hour or two with Ezra, but otherwise he’d lock himself away in his cabin. It felt like everything was falling apart again and she didn’t have the tools to keep her new team together.
“Some leader I’m turning out to be,” she muttered and she tightened the last bolt. She put her hydrospanner down and flicked the power button on her droid. He warbled and bounced slightly as his power restored. His mechanical arms shot out as if ready to fight her. “Easy, Chop,” she laughed, patting his dome. “You know, you don’t have to do that every time you turn on.”
“Whump whump, whump waaah,” he replied. He began to roll around the tight space of her cabin. The red glow from the Imperial cog deepened the orange of his paint as he near the work table.
“Sure, because in the time I asked if you wanted some maintenance done and now, anyone could have come on board to attack you,” she said, rolling her eyes. She stood up, stretching her arms over her head, before tossing the hydrospanner onto the work table. The hologram flickered as the tool made its landing before continuing on at spewing the same rhetoric it did every day.
From outside the cabin, Hera could hear the hatchway to Kanan’s open and shut. It must be time to try and train Ezra. She took a step towards her door before steeling herself. No, he didn’t need her hovering around them. While maybe Ezra would prefer to have a buffer in case an argument started, Kanan would just see it as her interfering. Which would just lead to more arguing.
Living on the Ghost was getting harder to manage now than she thought it would have been. Hera hated when she’d find herself wishing it was just Chopper and her again, nothing complicated. Nothing keeping her up at night. Well, nothing other than the horrors the Empire committed, but at least she knew what she could do about that. She had no idea how to fix what was happening here.
She sighed. She was just getting antsy. She wanted to leave Lothal, they were pushing their luck staying here. While no Imperials had discovered them hiding out in the planet’s wilderness, it was only a matter of time before they would be discovered. But she was hesitant. She didn’t know if leaving would be the right thing for Ezra. He was so young and to be taken away from the only world he’s ever called home seemed cruel. If he didn’t have to leave, why force it? Why drag him away? So much has been taken from him and she didn’t want to add on to that list. But that didn’t change the fact that staying here was dangerous. Especially if the Empire was looking for him and Kanan, any rebel activity they would try and do would only bring more attention their way, speed up the inevitable discovery. She wasn’t even considering the option of quitting her fight which meant the fight needed to be taken elsewhere.
She knew that there was another other option: part ways. She could leave Kanan with Ezra here, just the two of them would draw less attention, especially if all they were doing was training and laying low. Leave them and get back to her cause. It would be for the best, wouldn’t it? Kanan and Ezra would fulfill the lives they were meant to have, should be having right now, and Hera would fulfill the life she was choosing to live. She could work to make sure that people like them would get to have everything they were meant to. Everything she was meant to have. It was the smart decision, leaving.
So, why wasn’t she even considering it?
“... and this is where he’s meant to be, with you.”
Hera shook her head. This was part of why she had been so adamant to avoid a relationship with Kanan, not that the idea of one had been on her mind when he first joined up with her. Moving into a more romantic light to their partnership meant decisions where harder to make. Her judgment was clouded now.
And what’s worst, you’re the one that started the shift. Started it and had no intention of stopping. Hera sighed again. It had been two weeks and there had been more than one occasion where all she wanted to do was pull Kanan aside and kiss him again. Kiss him and see what else would happen. At least Kanan was being sensible and knew it was best that they didn’t pursue this, for now. It made it easier to pretend that the spark between them had gone out.
She turned back to her cabin, pulling off the gloves she was wearing. Tucking them into the waistband of her pants, she began to tidy up her space. She knew that if she felt it till later like she’d like to, she’d never clean up. She’d just tiptoe around it that night and curse herself in the morning when the mess hadn’t magically cleaned itself up.
She eyed the hologram still playing the Holonet as she cleaned, only half listening to the broadcast.
“And remember, loyal citizens of Lothal, be proud of your future! With the Imperial Academy now welcoming in the best and brightest of your youth, the Empire will—”
“Citizens, this is Senator-in-exile Gall Trayvis.”
Hera’s head whipped up and she stared at the new projected image. “Chop, start recording this.” He chortled in response, hooking up to the console.
“I bring you more news the Empire doesn’t want you to hear.”
The image changed again and her eyes widened.
“Kanan!” she shouted and turned for the door. Once out in the hall, she called for him again and she sprinted for the common room, hoping that Kanan and Ezra were in there. That they were still on the Breathless, she stumbled into the room.
“Hera?” Kanan asked, standing up from the booth. Ezra looked up, his mouth hanging opening slightly.
“You need to come, now. You need to see this.” She tried to slow her breathing as she spoke. Kanan nodded. He made his way over to her, a hand resting on her shoulder for only a second before heading out of the room. Hera glanced at Ezra and nodded. “You can come.”
Ezra slid out of the booth and followed.
Once they were all in her cabin, Hera gestured at Chopper. “Play it.”
Doing his best imitation of a nod, Chopper started the recorded message for them.
“I bring you more news the Empire doesn’t want you to hear. One of the Republic’s greatest peacekeepers, Jedi Master Luminara Unduli, is alive. She has been imprisoned unlawfully somewhere in the Stygeon system. As citizens, we demand the Emperor produce Master Unduli and grant her a fair trial before the entire Sen—”
“—prosper here on Lothal for generations to come! They are this Empire future!”
The recording shut off, Chopper turned to face them and whistled softly in concern.
Next to her, Kanan staggered back. Hera turned and reached out to him. Her fingers brushed against his arm but she hesitated at taking hold. “Kanan?”
“What was that?” Ezra asked, coming to stand next to her.
“What’s a gall trayvis?”
Hera smiled, shaking her head. She looked down at him, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Not what, who. He’s a senator, he recently went into hiding. He speaks out against the Empire, I’ve heard of him before, though I’ve never caught one of his broadcasts before.” She turned back to Kanan, who was now leaning against the bulkhead, his head in one hand. “Kanan?
He took a deep, shaky, breath in and looked up at her. “I…”
Ezra walked forwards, closing the distance between him and his would-be teacher. He reached out and grabbed hold of Kanan’s sleeve. “What did that holo mean?”
Kanan took another breath in. “It means,” he said, his voice just hitting a whisper, “it means that there’s a Jedi—an actual Jedi—out there and alive.”
“Did you know her?” Hera found herself asking. She hadn’t asked for any details on that part of his life, still reeling from what he had revealed two weeks ago. She didn’t want to seem like she was prying, invading memories of his that he must be holding as precious.
“I met her, once. She was brave, compassionate, disciplined. She was a great Jedi Master,” Kanan said. He was staring out at the wall across from him, it wasn’t clear if he was aware who was asking him what. He seemed lost to the past. Then, he blinked and looked down at Ezra. “Actually, she’d be an excellent teacher for you.”
Kanan stood up fully again, resting his chin on his hand as he walked over to the now empty holoprojector. He missed what she saw doing so: Ezra completely deflating. Hera frowned. That didn’t make sense, even if Ezra had no real connection to the woman, finding a Jedi was exciting, it was something for even a child to celebrate. Why would this make him crumble? Unless…
She looked up at Kanan and her frown deepen. It had only been two weeks but for those two weeks he and Ezra had been butting heads. Now, at the first chance, Kanan was ready to part with the boy. It didn’t matter to Ezra if this new Jedi would be a better teacher, it mattered that Kanan seemed to not want to be his teacher.
“Hera, this was just broadcasted, right?” Kanan asked, turning back to her.
She nodded, letting the thoughts in her head fall away for now. She wasn’t going to be the one to fix this, especially if Kanan was being too stubborn to listen to her the few times she tried to assure him this is what Ezra wanted, genuinely wanted. She wasn’t going to be able to change his mind, she wasn’t sure what would at this point. “What do you want to do?”
“There’s been rumours, since the Clone Wars. Rumours that she lived. I never… I never looked into it because there was never anything concrete. There was never a specific location before. We can’t pass this up. We have to save her.”
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Hera said. She stepped over to him and rested a hand on his arm. “We’ll find her, we won’t let the Empire torment her any longer.”
She steered him to the hatchway. “Head to the cockpit, we can start planning. Ezra, you can come if you want to.” She smiled over at him and he nodded, following them out of the cabin quietly.
This was the right thing to do, saving Luminara would bring hope to the whole galaxy. Hera knew that. But watching Ezra slowly sit in on of the passenger seats in the cockpit, his gaze cast to the floor, she began to worry. It was the right thing for the galaxy, but was it the right thing for Kanan and Ezra.
He was coming with them, not to the prison itself, but with Hera in the Phantom. While her reasoning for it was sound—she didn’t want to leave him alone on the ship with just Chopper and no way of know who could find them out there—the thought of bringing Ezra so close to unknown dangers made him uneasy. He didn’t even really want Hera to be tagging along, if he was being honest. This was so far outside what they would do when going head to head with the Empire. This wasn’t picking up information or stealing the occasional crate of supplies. Infiltrating a high security prison was the closest they were willingly coming to getting themselves killed.
At least they weren’t actually doing the infiltrating with him.
Kanan smiled at Ezra before heading out of the room. He could hear the boy following behind him. He was probably trying to find something to do, he hadn’t been here for any of Hera’s jobs yet so he wouldn’t know the protocol. Not that there was much of one.
He stopped between his cabin and Hera’s, knocking on her door and calling in that the Phantom was ready for the moment they were out of hyperspace. He heard what sounded like an acknowledgement from inside and headed into his cabin. He waited for Ezra to go in first before letting the hatchway close. The boy immediately walked over to the lower bunk and plopped down onto it.
Kanan finger combed his hair as he moved around the cabin, looking for his blaster. It didn’t take long to find, there was still next to nothing in it. He strapped it to his thigh and turned towards Ezra. He was just sitting and watching but something was weigh down on him and permeating throughout the room.
“You’ve only been on the Phantom the one time right?” Kanan asked, trying to fight whatever this was that was filling the space. He ran his hand through his hair one more time.
“Well, maybe you can get Hera to show you a few tricks while you’re with her,” he said. While they waited from him to do an impossible rescue all alone. “Something to pass the time.”
Ezra didn’t even seem to notice the suggestion; he was normally pretty excited to try new things around the ship. He glanced up and asked “What’s Luminara like?”
Kanan blinked. “Uh, well, like I said, I only met her once, when I was pretty young still. Probably around your age.” He walked over to the bunks, leaning against the ladder to the top one. “She was a great Jedi Master. I remember she came to one of our classes, before the Clone Wars started, to teach us… something, I can’t remember now. She was patient, she let us ask as many questions as we had but she also made sure we all stayed focus. She was very disciplined.”
For a moment, all Kanan could see was the soft warm glow of the Coruscanti sun streaming into the Jedi Temple, the light almost blinding compared to the dimness of the cabin he knew he was still in. There was no one around him, just the memory of a life lost to him and anyone he had known. Lost from those who had yet to come and would one day wonder why they didn’t have a place in the galaxy.
Blinking the light out of his eyes and glancing down, Kanan found that Ezra was staring at the floor, lost in his own thoughts perhaps. “She was a great teacher. She will be a great teacher, for you. Master Luminara will be the teacher you’re supposed to have, that you deserve to have.” The teach I will could be able to be for you.
“Hey, this is a good thing, you should be excited,” Kanan said. He leaned forwards, trying to look at Ezra’s face, and smiled. The boy simply turned his head away, staring at the side of the cabin now. “You deserve the best training.”
He didn’t respond this time, merely started to kick his feet against the side of the bunk. It was a habit of his, Kanan had noticed, bouncing his feet against whatever he was sitting on. A nervous habit, maybe, or just something to occupy himself when there was nothing to do in the day but sit and now he couldn’t shake it. Kanan knew that there would have been days like that, where simply moving would be the day’s entertainment. He knew this because he had had those days. This time, however, it didn’t seem habitual; it was deliberate. The feet banged against the durasteel, almost hitting the drawers hard enough to force them open.
Kanan sighed and knelt down. He pushed Ezra’s feet aside for a moment and opened one of the drawers. He pulled out his lightsaber and stood up again. Staring down at it, he could feel Ezra’s eyes on him. They both knew what the last time this had been ignited was; Kanan hadn’t had the courage to start practicing with it again. He kept telling himself it could wait, that because Ezra was still so new to all of this and there was no rush to put a laser sword in his hand that there wasn’t a reason to revisit it yet. He could wait until he was ready.
Now Kanan was realizing maybe that was a mistake.
He unscrewed the emitter, attaching it to his belt at this hip while the rest hooked into the back of his belt. He suddenly felt heavier, the kyber crystal inside the weapon weighing down on him. He couldn’t remember his weapon ever feeling this heavy, but it had been closer to a decade since he had been willing to wear it. Maybe it was holding a bit of a grudge against him, could a crystal do that?
Shaking his head, he refocused on Ezra. He was now staring at the floor again, the thrill of seeing the lightsaber again now past. He was back to kicking his feet. Back to shutting down.
“What’s with you?” Kanan asked, crossing his arms. Even when they were at their worst together the past two weeks, when they argued more than learned, Ezra was still thrilled about the opportunity of becoming a Jedi. This news, the opportunity to have a proper teacher, should have made him unbearably excited. This reaction was not what he was expecting at all.
The only response was another shrug.
“You need to fix this attitude, it won’t fly with Master Luminara.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ezra muttered, sliding off the bunk. He stood, crossing his arms as well.
“It doesn’t matter, she won’t want me, either,” he said. He walked passed him, heading for the hatchway.
It took Kanan a few second to comprehend that Ezra was leaving before he turned to follow. “What?” By this point, though, Ezra was already in the corridor. “Hey! Ezra, wait!”
Standing in the corridor, Kanan watched Ezra running into the common room. Hera, who had still been in her cabin, came out to join him in watching the entrance to the common room.
“What is with him?” Kanan muttered.
Next to him, he felt Hera’s exasperation. He turned to her and found her frowning up at him. “What?”
“You’re really thick headed, you know that?”
“What did I do?”
She shook her head and brushed a hand against his arm as she made her way to the common room. “Come on, we should get going.”
Kanan watched her make her was down the corridor, trying to understand what just happened. He didn’t need this, whatever it was. Not right now. After this mission, after they had Master Luminara back from the Empire, he’d figure it all out. Right now, the mission came first. It had to if he wanted to come back from it.
He sighed and started down the corridor himself.