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Not How Your Story Ends

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Hera Syndulla was always the first one awake on her ship.

It was nearly a law of nature. No matter how crazy things got, no matter what situation the Ghost crew found themselves in, for any member to be awake and about before their Captain was nothing short of unusual to a suspicious degree.

So when Hera had traveled to the ship’s common room that particular morning to see Ezra sitting there, silently and by himself, to say that she felt concerned was most definitely an understatement.

Hera held her breath, softly digging the heels of her palms into her eyes. It was too early for whatever this was. She hadn’t even started boiling the water for her caf yet. It was all she could do to hope that Ezra’s presence wasn’t a signifier of anything too detrimental. It was certainly difficult to tell from just a glance.

It always seemed that his problems fell into the extremes. At any given time, he could either be dealing with a particularly bad bout of insomnia, or Vader’s ship could be stalled right outside their port. There was frustrating little grey area with him.

She let her legs carry her toward the table, barely containing the yawn that had been threatening an appearance since she first walked in.

As his eyes rose to meet hers and Ezra finally seemed to fully notice her presence, Hera allowed the corners of her mouth quirked upwards in a way she hoped would come off as casual rather than condescending. Her smiles always had a tendency to be associated with the latter.

"So, you going to tell me what's wrong?"

Hera never was one to bother with pleasantries. Not when they deterred her from her mission.

“What do you mean, Hera?” Ezra flushed slightly, punctuating the question with an over-the-top smile and relaxed his posture to a nearly comical degree.

Hera turned away for a moment, filling up the kettle and placing it the stovetop, for just a moment letting herself enjoy the quaint domesticity of such a small action.

“I mean that you, Ezra Bridger, are awake before 1200 hours when you don’t have to be, and truth be told, look like death warmed over.”

She set the pot to percolate and turned back towards him, her arms crossed across her breast and the weight of her back resting on the edge of the kitchenette counter in a pose that she hoped would somehow come across as both casual and intimidating at the same time.

For a second, Ezra’s expression slipped, and she could almost see him weighing the options in his head. Hera idly wondered if there were any way he’d just resign and let them both move forwards, but in her heart, she knew she couldn’t be that lucky.

Sure enough, his expression soon morphed back into what she had once lovingly nicknamed his “thieves smile”.

“What? No, I’m fine, Hera. Just had some trouble sleeping… That’s really it."

Hera was getting tired of his persistent resistance, but forced herself to remain stoic while she planned out her next move. She had tried to give the kid a chance to communicate with her honestly, and he had refused. It was a little too soon to break out the “big blasters,” but not so soon as to not consider a more confrontational approach.

Hera moved very deliberately toward Ezra, pulling her lips into a rigid line as she did.

“I don’t believe you.” With one hand planted on her hip, she used the other to take hold of Ezra's chin. She peered down at him with merciless calculation. Even through their tired glaze, flashes of fear and confusion shone across his eyes.

“You're sick, aren't you?”

Ezra's expression quickly turned sheepish and Hera knew that she had found him out. He wrenched his head from her grasp and ducked his head down, refusing to look her in the eye.

“What? No. I just… didn’t sleep well. I’m fine, though, really,” he continued to insist, pushing himself off the couch in a last-ditch effort to escape.
Hera easily beat his pace (another testament to how poorly he must have been feeling) and cut the teen off before he could reach the door.

“Oh no. You’re not getting away that easily. I know my crew, Ezra, and there is something wrong here. So spill. Or do I need to wake up Kanan and get him to make you talk?” Of course, she herself didn’t want to go that far. This was her ship, after all, and she liked to think that she could manage at least something as small as illness on her own without rushing off to fetch Kanan.

Luckily the threat incurred the desired effect.

Ezra groaned, muttering curses that she likely would have commented on if he had not then begun to stumble, nearly falling backwards onto the couch until eventually steadying himself after the apparent dizzy spell.

At that, Hera’s frustration quickly morphed into panic.

“Ezra?” Her questioning was more cautious this time. She moved in closer, ready to support him in the case that it happened again.

Although the teen still refused to meet her gaze, this time it seemed to be out of an inability to do so rather than out of purposeful evasion. Without any further hesitation, Hera decided that she'd get to the bottom of things with or without his input. She tore off one of her pilot’s gloves and pressed her hand against her charge’s cheek. The heat she detected was disconcerting.

“You feel feverish. You’re going back to bed.” Her voice was empathetic, but still carried that authority that threatened the consequences of further argument. She grabbed his shoulder and tried to guide him back towards his room.

Ezra just wrenched himself from her grip. “I feel fine, really. I was sleeping with like, twenty blankets on, that's why I'm so hot. It's nothing to worry about.”
Hera smirked. At least he still had the energy to argue. That was reassuring.

“Well, you’re persistent. I’ll give you that. But you can’t charm your way out of this one, Ezra Bridger." She pulled the leather glove back over her hand, flexing each finger around until it slipped perfectly back into place. "But if it’s nothing to worry about, then humoring me and letting me take your temperature anyways will do no harm, right?”
She didn't need to look at him to see the defeat on his face. She knew she had won this round.

“Fine, just do it,” he snapped.

Hera ignored the sass and retrieved the thermometer from the med kit. The two specters waited in tense silence until the instrument finally beeped. Retrieving it much gentler than she had distributed it, the Twi’lek woman looked at the small screen and frowned at it's readings.

“101.8. You’re definitely running a fever.”

Ezra sighed. There was no hiding from it now. The only thing he could do was accept his fate and hope his crew let him be to recover.

“Any other symptoms I should know about?” Hera turned away, replacing the thermometer in the medkit and began to search through the rest of its contents. “For instance, something that could wake up a heavy sleeper before 0430 hours?”

“Not really,” Ezra rubbed the back of his neck, trying to massage away a lingering stiffness that had been bothering him since he woke up. “I'm just tired and a little achy”.
Hera grabbed a few things from the medkit, shutting it tightly as she turned and shot him a questioning glare.

Ezra’s resolve crumbled at the weight of her stare.

“Okay, a lot achy. My head is killing me...”

The pilot’s gaze shifted to one of sympathy.

“You probably picked up a bug at one of our last stops. You should go back to bed, try to sleep it off. Do you need anything?”

Ezra shrugged. “Not unless you can magically ward off all nightmares,” he quipped, his voice quieter than usual.

“So that’s what woke you up?” she questioned softly, mindful of the boy’s aching head. Ezra didn’t need to respond, she already knew the answer. She walked back to the table and pushed a small cold pack towards him.

“Hopefully that should help with you with the fever and the pain. I know it probably doesn’t seem like the most effective option, but I’m afraid that and rest are all we can do for you here. Our med kit’s pretty barren. I’ll be sure to pick up some fever reducers once we find a safe place to dock. In the meantime, I’ll tell Zeb and Chop to leave you alone for awhile. Now try to go back to sleep if you can,” she suggested, giving him a small, but genuine smile for the first time that morning.

Ezra sighed dejectedly, muttered a quiet thanks, and then rose to exit the common room, all the while doing his best to avoid the worried gazes he was getting from the woman standing behind him.

Despite the situation, Ezra did feel quite relieved at the prospect of returning to bed. His restless night had started to take its toll on his already ailing body, and after spending years upon years on the streets without access to proper medical care, he held the firm belief that sleep was the best cure for pretty much everything.
Or least it did until he woke up hours later feeling worse than he did that morning.

Upon regaining consciousness, his body ached to the point where it felt as though he had been hit by a speeder, and barely a minute later, he was hit with a merciless wave of nausea that left him shaking on the fresher floor, dry heaving on an empty stomach; so deeply stiff and pained that he was unable to fully curl up on himself. It was absolute misery.

This time it was Kanan who had come to his aid, reaching his Padawan remarkably fast for a man without sight. Sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the ill boy, Kanan began to speak to him softly.

“Geez, Hera told me you were sick, but I didn't realize it was this bad”. He joked softly, hoping to loosen up the atmosphere a bit. Kanan didn’t need the Force to know that his Padawan was embarrassed to be so in a position so... vulnerable. Despite his growing maturity, Ezra never liked to appear weak, so he figured that downplaying the situation would be better than doting over him with worry.

His short attempt of humor went unheeded though, as Ezra responded to him seriously. “Yeah, well… that makes two of us…” he managed between gasps.

Kanan grimaced and began to rub gentle circles on the small of his Padawan's back. He was never very good at offering physical reassurance in these kinds of situations, but it was the only thing he could think to do in the moment. However, his discomfort quickly morphed into worry at the continued contact. The heat radiating from Ezra could be felt even through his several layers of clothing. Kanan may not have been a medical expert, but he was pretty sure that wasn't a good sign.

“Hey kid, when was the last time Hera checked your temperature?” he asked, attempting to get the ill youth to drink some water.

“Not since this morning, why?” he panted.

“I’d like to check it again,” he answered thoughtfully, “just to see where we're at. Think you can make it to the common room?” Kanan stood, offering a hand to his Padawan.
Ezra gave a weak grunt of affirmation and let his Master help him to his feet. As he was hauled upwards, Ezra grit his teeth and teetered slightly upon the shift of weight, but ultimately was able to stumble forwards down the halls of the Ghost with the support of the older Jedi.

Chapter Text

Hera shot a small look of sympathy towards Ezra as they waited for the thermometer to present its readings. Even if it was just a little bug, she never liked to see one of her crew members in pain. Call it what you may, they were a family, and she wanted her family to be as happy, healthy, and safe as they could possible be.

The thermometer finally gave a few shrill beeps and Hera gave a beaten look at the result.

“103.3, it's gone up quite a bit,” she explained, professionally masking her worry as she put away the instrument.

Kanan looked pensive. “Do we have any fever reducers we could give him here on the ship?” He didn't want to say anything in front of him, but he was honestly surprised the kid was as lucid as he was with a fever that high, and he definitely didn't want to think of the consequences of it continuing to elevate at its current rate.

Hera frowned. “Unfortunately, no,” the Twi'lek replied, retrieving a small juice packet from a nearby cabinet. “Med supplies are pretty sparse in this region, and I don't know of anywhere where we could get any quickly or easily without leaving the Mandalore system. Heck, I had to battle just to get a hold of Ezra’s T for this month...” She paused, seemingly weighing her options. “How do you feel?” She asked, turning to face the slightly dazed teenager.

Ezra just shrugged in return, seemingly thinking it over before answering in a hoarse voice. “I've been better, but I think I can hold out until this blows over. I've had worse on the streets without any medicine at all; I think I'll be alright.” He smiled weakly as if trying to convince her, but his drooping eyelids and flushed cheeks did just the opposite.

Hera shot a smile smile back, although it ended up more like a grimace, and handed him the juice pack.

“Well, I guess we’ll just keep an eye on that fever for now and go from there. In the meantime, make sure you stay hydrated, that may be part of the problem. And I know that food probably doesn’t seem very appetizing right now, but you also need to make sure you eat something soon. Keep up your strength,” she said, maintaining her stoicism all the while. “Hopefully your fever's just spiking right now and it will break here very soon, but just to be sure, I'm going to be checking your temperature every hour or so to see which direction it's heading. Other than the nausea, have any new symptoms been bothering you?”

Ezra shook his head slightly, grimacing as if it hurt, and looking overall just thoroughly drained.

Hera nodded. “Alright then, just rest up. You look like you could use it.”

The teen gave a small smile followed by a harsh series of coughs which he muffled into the crook of his elbow. Wincing in sympathy, the two adults helped the young man to his feet and led him back to his shared bunk, convincing him (with no shortage of argument) to take off his binder, and tucking him in almost like a child before preparing to return to their typical duties.

“Hera, can I talk to you for a moment?” the older Jedi stopped her before she turned towards the cockpit.

She spun stiffly on her heels to face him, humming a questioning response, lips pulled in a taut line and lekku trailing gracefully behind her.

“Tell me honestly,” Kanan began, breath catching slightly within his throat, “should we be worried about Ezra? It’s been at least 10 hours and his temp has only gone up. There has to be a Rebel ship nearby that could at least spare some fever reducers or something. If nothing else than for our own peace of mind.”

Hera sighed, all too aware of the points her beloved was making. “I already checked. No cells nearby have supplies to spare. The attack on Chopper Base not only wiped out most of Phoenix squadron, but caused enough injuries that the majority of the Rebellion’s medical supplies in this sector have been depleted. All that remains is being directed towards Yavin. We’re lucky to be alive all things considered, much less have the supplies we need to maintain basic functions.”

“But is this something we should be worried about?” he questioned again, his tone pushing further this time. “I can tell you’re as concerned about Ezra’s fever as I am. He hasn’t gotten sick like this in awhile,” he recollected, reminiscing upon the first year in which Ezra joined the crew, where it seemed as though the kid was ill every other week.

Hera sighed knowingly. “I know, love, but he’s tough. It’s probably just a bug that has to get worse before it can get better. Even if it’s been awhile since he’s gotten sick, Ezra always bounces back eventually. And, in reality, his fever isn’t quite dangerous yet. He’s young and fairly healthy, a fever is simply a sign that his body is properly fighting off infection. I don’t think we have to panic quite yet.”

Kanan was silent. Deep down, he could tell that even Hera herself wasn’t entirely certain of her own claims, but he tried to believe them anyways. Perhaps a part of him truly did believe her, or perhaps he just desperately wanted to believe, but either way, he didn’t put up any more of a fight despite his gut instincts.

“Alright. I trust you,” he softly submitted, “I’ll be meditating in my room. Let me know if anything changes.”

And with a small, affirmative grunt, the two parted ways for the evening.

Chapter Text

Kanan knelt on his bedroll, lost in thought. He didn’t bother with turning the lights on, it wouldn’t make a difference anyways. He focused on his breathing, purposely invoking the phrases and ideals he learned while he had been taught meditation as a youngling at the temple, attempting to slip away for a moment and center himself in the Force. But his mind was racing, unable to tear his focus away from his ill Padawan for even a moment. After all, Ezra - his Padawan, his kid - seemed to be getting sicker by the hour. How could he, in good conscience, sit here in peace while the other was suffering?

He knew he was being paranoid. He knew he should trust in Hera and trust the Force that this was just a particularly nasty strain of flu that would pass in time and that everything would eventually go back to normal. But something in the back of his mind - something almost paternal - was nagging him relentlessly that this was something not to be taken lightly.

Slowly, hesitantly, he reached out to his Padawan through their shared bond. He carefully probed for anything to substantiate the feeling of impending danger ebbing through his brain, but Ezra was simply sleeping as peaceful as possible given his circumstances, and nothing about the situation felt unnatural in any way.

So why did he feel like something was about to go horribly wrong?

Chapter Text

It had been two hours since they had sent Ezra to bed and Zeb decided it was high time to join him. He had been doing his best to avoid the kid all day (at Hera's request), but refused to give up his room for the night just cause the brat got sick.

He was just about to call it a day before Hera caught him by the arm and thrust the medkit and a tray of food towards his chest, the items almost tumbling out of his grasp before he could even understand what was happening.

Looking down at the items suddenly imposed upon him, Zeb's ears flattened against his head, growling slightly. "Wass'is for?" he grumbled, already displeased with the answer.

"Ezra," she answered simply. "I've got some things I need to take care of around the ship, so I need *you* to make sure he eats something and to check his fever again."

Zeb groaned, less than eager about the idea of playing nurse for a sniffling kid. "Why do I hafta do this?!"

Hera started walking toward the cockpit, responding without even looking back at him, "I just explained why! Now go do it before I chuck all your space waffles down the garbage compacter!"

Murmuring some less than kind words under his breath, Zeb begrudgingly accepted his position and headed back towards his shared room.

Arms full, Zeb stretched to press the release button with his foot, desperately trying to maintain his balance with all the crap he was holding. After a moment, the cabin door flew open, but before Zeb could even get back to equilibrium, he was assaulted by the sound of his bunkmate hacking out his lungs into his sheets. It was a pitiful sight, seeing the usually spirited boy looking so vulnerable and small - well, smaller that is.

As the fit continued, Zeb walked over and set the items at the foot of the bed before giving the teen a few awkward pats on the shoulder. Despite an initial flinch, Ezra surprisingly didn’t fight the touch and instead just continued to focus on his breathing.

Once he finally began to catch his breath, Zeb pushed a glass of water towards him. An offer Ezra promptly refused.

“Kid, come on," Zeb grumbled, legitimate concern lacing his voice. "‘Yer sick, ya gotta have fluids or whateve' if ya wanna get better."

But Ezra just continued to gasp and resist. “I feel sick…” he sputtered, “Feel like… gonna… throw up….” he trailed, grasping at his sheets desperately.

Zeb began to panic, having no idea what to do in this sort of situation. Looking around for an answer, he quickly retrieved a small waste bin that lay upside down on the other side of the room and thrust it into the teen’s arms.

“Here, if ya have to hurl, do it in that!” he panted, his mind still reeling. Ezra almost immediately began to retch into the bucket, bringing up very little. Zeb couldn't help but wince at the noise, his ears flattening against his head as he patiently waited for the fit to subside before offering up the water again. This time, Ezra reluctantly accepted, but only managed a few sips before collapsing back down onto his mattress in an exhausted heap.

“Hold up, kid," Zeb shook him slightly, trying to prevent him from falling back asleep so soon. "Before ya’ conk out again, Hera wanted me to check ‘yer fever an’ get ya to eat a bit. I know ‘yer prolly not in the mood fer eatin’, but ya’ know Hera'll have my hide if I don't get ya to take at least a few bites,” he stabbed, hoping the little attempt at humor landed.

The teen just whimpered affirmatively, allowing his hulking roommate to press the cold sensor of the thermometer against his burning skin without a fight.

Zeb waited in awkward silence for the tool to present its readings and then stepped back to observe the results.

“Uhhh, kid? Do you know how high yer’ fever was before?” he asked, straining to read the tiny numbers in the dim confines of their shared cabin.

Ezra coughed, squinting at his roommate with confusion. “103 something? I think?”

Zeb hummed in acknowledgement. “Yeah, it’s about the same now. Guess you just gotta keep that cold pack goin’ like Hera said." Zeb quietly set aside the medkit, grabbing the dinner tray instead. "Think you can sit up and have a few bites a’ this stew? Hera told me it was some kind a vegetable stew ‘er somethin’. I don’t know, but it’s supposed to be easy on yer’ stomach,” he explained, inching it closer to the boy's reach.

Ezra shrugged weakly and hoisted himself up against the wall of his bunk, reaching forward pathetically to receive his meal. The teen ate slowly, only managing a few bites before scrunching up his face and returning the dish to his roommate then flopping back down on his bed, exhausted from just the small amount of activity.

If Zeb wasn’t worried before, he definitely was now. The kid could usually eat almost as much as himself on an average day. Even when he wasn’t feeling one-hundred percent, he would usually at least choke down whatever meals Hera gave him. A habit, he mused, he probably picked up from all the years of near-starvation he faced on the streets. Zeb knew how it was - when you got food, you ate as much of it as you could before it disappeared. Long story short, if the kid wasn’t eating, then things must be worse than they seemed.

Either way, Zeb told himself that the job he was given was complete, and that he should just put up his gear and hit the hay himself. But something stopped him from doing so. Perhaps it was intuition, or perhaps it was just pity, but Zeb felt the need to double-check with the ill teenager before he went off to take care of himself.

“Oi, kid. You, ah… you need anything else before I go?” he asked tentatively, wondering if the kid was even still awake at this point. He received no immediate response, just the sound of labored breathing echoing throughout the tiny bunk room, followed by an almost pathetically hoarse coughing fit. Catching his breath, Ezra looked him in the eye.

“Can you get Hera?” His voice broke, causing a pang of sympathy to ripple its way through Zeb's chest. Ezra may have been nearing adulthood at this point, but his voice in that moment carried the fear and desperation of a child. Zeb felt utterly overwhelmed by the his vulnerability in that moment. Ezra was always so tough, so guarded. It felt wrong seeing him like this.

“Yeah, kid, just hold on,” he answered, eager to leave the pitiful scene behind as quickly as possible. “She’ll be right back.”

---

Zeb entered the kitchenette area to find Hera in a fit of what the crew called “stress repairs”. It made sense given their circumstances. When your career consists primarily of messing with an all-powerful dictatorship, little things like minor appliance fixes weren’t usually high on the priority list. But on the rare occasions like these in which they weren’t in any immediate mortal danger, Hera was forced to take out the nervous energy built up from their “active” lifestyle in less arduous activities, such as her current target: the mess hall faucet that had been persistently dripping for as long as any one member of the crew could remember.

Zeb almost hated to interrupt her, as he figured the task was probably helping her take her mind off this crap-shoot of a day, but remembering the desperation in Ezra’s voice, he knew he had to fulfill his promise to the kid.

Zeb cleared his throat a bit in attempt to capture his captain’s attention. The twi’lek's head quickly shot up from the sink in response before she turned to face him with wide eyes.

“I Hate ta' bother ya, but Ezra said he wants ta see ya’,” he explained cautiously, moving to place the small food tray into the dish area and return the med kit to it’s designated place.

Hera’s posture immediately stiffened. “Is there something wrong?” she questioned, gently placing down her work, her muscles taught as if she were preparing to strike.

Zeb emptied the remaining contents of the bowl into the garbage chute as he responded. “Not that I can tell. Just went to check on the kid. His fever ain’t any higher, but it ain’t any lower either. He’s not eatin’ though. I tried, but the kid’s still pretty nauseous. ‘Prolly doesn’t have much of an appetite. I’m not sure exactly why, but he asked for ya’, an’ I promised I’d send ya’ his way,” he explained, attempting to shield his captain from how worried he truly was. She had enough on her mind as it was.

The Twi’lek let out a soft sigh, muscles relaxing and shoulders dropping slightly. “Okay then. Just leave the medkit out, we’re going to need it again later,” she instructed as she put down her wrench and moved from her position at the sink and started towards the living area.

---

Hera moved quietly, opening the door to the room that her two crew mates shared and peering in, hoping not to disturb Ezra if he was resting.

"Ezra?" She kept her voice low, holding her breath for a moment as silence ensued. But before she could back out of the room under the assumption that the boy had fallen back asleep, a pair of glassy, blue eyes rose to meet her own before shutting tightly once more in pain, making her heart twist in sympathy. She quietly made her way to his bedside, mindful of any noise that could aggravate the boy’s headache, keeping her voice as low and soft as possible before speaking. “Ezra, how are you feeling?”

Ezra, who seemed to be more blanket than boy at that point, squinted up at the woman, his fever-addled mind obviously just barely hanging onto his last dredges of consciousness.

“C-cold…” he sputtered, “I c-can’t-t sleep. K-keep having…. N-night-tmares-s”. He was obviously exhausted and barely lucid.

“Do you want me to get Kanan?” she turned, unsure of what he wanted her to do and ready to fetch the older Jedi, but Ezra quickly shook his head, looking almost hurt.

“N-no. It’s nothing with t-the Force," he assured, "Plus, he’d-d probably make me m-meditate or s-something,” he quipped, letting out a soft chuckle that turned into a barking cough.

Hera grimaced, placing her palm against his forehead and cringing at the heat she felt. “I know how you feel. I must have gotten Cavern Fever at least a dozen times as a kid. It always gave me the worst dreams. My mother would always end up sitting with me all night, just talking to me and trying to keep my mind off of the nightmares.”

Ezra hummed and burrowed deeper into his blankets with a shiver. “My parents used t-to do that t-too, w-whenever I-I got sick o-or hurt.”

Hera hummed slightly, wondering if this was his way of asking for comfort. But comfort was difficult for her. Of course she loved Ezra, and wanted to offer whatever she could to him, but Emotions and comfort were Kanan’s thing. He was the Jedi. He was the one who knew Ezra better than all of them. The one who had been there during Ahsoka, and his parents, and Maul. He was the shoulder Ezra cried into.

So why in the galaxy did he want her?

Suddenly, another sharp coughing fit tore her from her deep thoughts. She looked down to see Ezra’s face contorted in pain as each convulsion tore through him, leaving him grappling for air in short gasps. Easing out of her initial panic, she gently reached out to rub the teen’s back soothingly, but while doing so, noticed something somewhat odd. Despite the continuous and harsh coughing wracking Ezra’s small frame, he was hardly arching his back at all. In fact, despite his intense shaking, his spine and neck seemed to be staying primarily straight throughout the entire fit. Even the small range of motion he was able to achieve seemed to be causing intense discomfort judging from his pained expressions.

Once the fit had subsided, Hera helped Ezra resituate himself before questioning her observation.

“Ezra, is your back bothering you?” she asked, keeping her tone quiet as she guided him to his side to further examine the issue.

Ezra moaned slightly, muscles protesting strongly from the movement. “It feels s-stiff, l-like it’s swollen-n or someth-thing. Hurts,” he admitted, in too much pain to bother with lies.

Hera’s features contorted is concerned confusion, carefully lifting up her charge’s shirt to scan for any external damage. Gently feeling over the spinal area with the tips of her fingers, she pulled away, unable to find any obvious irregularities.

“Hmmm…” she tutted to herself, unable to think of a reasonable relationship between the teen’s previous symptoms and his current complaint. “Maybe you just slept a bit wrong?”

The offer wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm, however, as Ezra only gave a weak and doubting hum in response.

Unsure of what else to do, Hera moved to leave the bunk area and gather additional supplies, but was stopped abruptly by an almost pitiful moan emitted by the boy next to her. Looking back with shock, she saw his glassy eyes contorted with a sense of sadness and betrayal, silently begging her to stay there with him.

Shocked, she shot him back a pitying look before gracefully pushing herself from the bunk and turning back to explain. “I’ll be right back, Ezra. I’m just going to grab some muscle oils if I can find them. Hopefully they’ll help a bit with your neck and back. Just try to rest in the meantime,” she cooed, wanting to offer some sort of physical reassurance but unsure of how to go about it all. Instead, she just offered a slight grimace and exited the room without another word.

---

As Hera searched through their limited supplies for what she needed, she couldn’t prevent her mind from racing. Ezra’s symptoms were getting worse by the minute and becoming less and less understandable. What kind of flu causes stiffness, or the slight stutter that she couldn’t help but notice was beginning to permeate his speech? None of it was adding up, and she was beginning to regret her initial optimism.

But perhaps most personally confusing part of all of this, she pondered, was Ezra’s almost clingy behavior towards herself. Of course, it wasn’t unusual for the sick and injured to seek out interpersonal comfort, but Ezra in those moments was never this extreme and almost always turned to Kanan.

Didn’t he?

Sure, his first year or so when the teen was almost constantly ill, she was more often than not the one he reached out to. She was the first one he came out too when he, much to his surprise, started his first period, and she was the one who helped him learn how to read in secrecy when he was too embarrassed to approach the others, but all of this was before his parents. Before Malachor. Before he finally started to truly trust his Master and seek him out in times of need. A change, she thought proudly, that she had quietly pushed him towards from the beginning.

So, the question still remained: why did he want her?

She shook her head and pushed the piling thoughts from her mind as she stumbled upon her targets. Gathering the small, nearly empty jar of muscle relaxer in her hand, she looked around and decisively grabbed the medkit to bring back with her. They would need it soon enough anyways.

Quietly making her way back over to the beds, Hera smiled slightly to see that Ezra had dozed off in the short time of her absence. Making a quick judgement call, she left the items near the foot of the bunk and left her charge to finally get some much-needed rest.

Chapter Text

Kanan awoke in the middle of the night to a disturbance in the Force; his mind consumed by a single thought:

Ezra.

His breath caught in his throat as he scrambled out of his bunk and grappled towards the door and into the hallway. He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but Ezra’s force signature was suddenly and greatly distorted, radiating fear and confusion and pain. Greater than anything, pain. Something was very wrong.

Kanan slammed his fist against the release panel, stumbling into the messy cabin and towards his trembling padawan, totally ignoring the sleeping Lasat beneath as he practically screamed for the ailing teen.

“Ezra?! Ezra, can you hear me?!” he reached for his shoulder, shaking him gently but firmly enough to make his presence known. The teen groaned very softly, but showed no other signs of waking despite Kanan’s persistent begging.

Kanan frantically tried to sense if there was some dark presence he was somehow missing - something to explain his Padawan’s sudden shift in emotions - but there was no one else on the ship besides a sleeping Lasat, an angry droid, and a weary captain.

Not knowing what else to do, Kanan ran off in search of Hera.

---

Hera hadn’t fallen asleep exactly. Falling asleep would have implied that her mind was resting for an extended period of time, and that type of peace was definitely not coming after such an eventful few weeks. Dozing would probably be a more accurate description of what she had been doing; short periods of zoning out until reality and the gravity of their situation - not only aboard The Ghost, but as members of the larger Rebellion - crashed back down upon her shoulders and stayed there, clinging to her like a frightened child and refusing to let go.

The idea made her chuckle to herself, as she quipped bitterly that she now had two children clinging to her, and she was just as ill-equipped to care for the one as she was the other. This was her reality, and it wasn’t easing up anytime soon, so, sighing deeply, she rolled over on her side and resigned to another sleepless night.

And then she heard Kanan scream Ezra’s name.

Her heart immediately clenched within her chest, eyes widening and breath hitching in fear. She bolted upright, mind racing with questions whose answers she feared. By the time Kanan burst into her room, panting and rapidly attempting to explain himself, she was already on her feet and nearly out the door.

“What happened?” she asked curtly, without looking back or slowing in the slightest. After all, Hera was never one to get distracted easily when on a mission.

Kanan gaped slightly, trying to explain the unexplainable. “I don’t know. He’s conscious but he’s not responding. Whatever it is Hera…” he paused, struggling for a somewhat delicate description, “he’s - he’s in a lot of pain, and not just physically. It’s almost like… he’s not himself. Like he’s not all here. And wherever the rest of him is - it... it isn’t pleasant”.

Hera’s heart tightened, but she kept on her brave face as she practically slammed the door release button and strode over to the shaking teenager. Totally ignoring the grumbling Lasat whose inquiries about the situation were currently falling on deaf ears, she took a deep breath and placed a gentle hand on the sleeping teen’s shoulder.

“Ezra?” she whispered, forcing herself to stay calm, not only for herself, but for her now-growing audience. “Ezra, can you wake up for me?”

“Mmmmm….” Ezra groaned, displaying his acknowledgement, but absolutely no cooperation.

“Come on, Ezra, wake up now,” she pleaded softly, “I need to check your fever, can you open your eyes for me?”

Silence persisted for several moments more before Ezra’s eyes finally cracked open, glaring at his captain with his brows furrowed in confusion before letting out a small grunt.

“...Mom?...”

It was barely audible, a tiny squeak of a voice, but it nevertheless made Hera’s blood run cold. Did he actually think...? But before she could even fully process what had happened, Ezra spoke again.

“Mom… my head hurts….” His eyes shut tightly and began uncomfortably squirming underneath his bedsheets.

Hera was frozen speechless, as was the rest of the room. How was she to respond to something like that? This boy in front of her, weak and ill, was mistaking her for a dead woman. She knew it was more than likely just the delirium of fever causing her charge’s confusion, but it couldn’t prevent the hurt that drove deeply through her being in that moment. Because Ezra, the boy she had watched grow up before her eyes, the child that she was responsible for providing for, was in his deepest moments of vulnerability reaching out for something that she simply could not supply. And it just wasn’t fair.

“Ezra, look at me,” she gently buzzed, hoping that perhaps forcing her young specter to focus on something would help bring him out of his aberration. “Look, it’s Hera. See?” Confused blue eyes returned her gaze, the boy behind them saying nothing.

“I’m gonna take your temperature again, okay?” she continued, remaining as strong and stoic as ever, now not just for the two of them, but for the Jedi that she didn’t need the Force to see was barely keeping it together. And how could she blame him when she herself was barely fighting off the sinking feeling that arose from the she stared into those fever-blurred sapphire irises? How could she possibly blame him when every heart-wrenching second that past was pushing her closer to the brink?

Ezra broke her out of her thoughts with a soft whimper, sparking a bit of hope for all those in the room. Although his eyes still stubbornly refused to open, he provided a slight groan of acceptance, or at the very least displayed no further intentions of fighting her, so, very carefully, she reached out towards him and took his temperature. Her stomach dropped at the result. 104.4. No wonder he was so out of it.

Sucking in a deep breath, Hera bustled from the room, vaguely remembering spitting out orders to attempt to rouse the boy again, all the while wondering how things had gone downhill so fast. Making her way to the kitchen area, she grabbed as many fluids as she could carry in her arms. She knew the medical attention they could provide for him aboard the Ghost was grossly inadequate to say the very least, but she was going to do whatever she was able to help until further notice, and right now her top two priorities were getting his fever down and keeping him hydrated. That, at least, she felt capable of.

Returning to the cabin area and herding the others away, she reached Ezra and offered the blurred youth one of the juice packets nested in her arms, happy to see him at least slightly more coherent than she had left him.

“Okay, Ezra, I need you to drink some of this,” she cooed softly, setting down the rest of her newly gathered supplies at the foot of the bed, mentally denoting them for later.

Ezra sluggishly looked at what was offered to him before defiantly scrunching up his face in disgust and weakly pushing it away as if he were just offered poison.

Hera tried her hardest not to appear crestfallen at his reaction and continued to insist. “Please, Ezra,” she coaxed the boy through baited breath. “Your fever is very high, I need you to drink something.” Her eyes met his own, forcing her to realize that sensible arguments weren’t getting through to him in this state and driving her to near begging. “Please, just a little… for me, Ezra.”

Tears threatening to spill from his eyes again, Ezra’s gaze met her own.

“Mom… help me…”

It was three words. Just three simple words that made Hera feel as though her world was crumbling beneath her feet. She had seen a lot. She’d seen her own soldiers cry out, killed by a danger she led them into. She had seen her family be torn apart before her very eyes. She knew how to be strong, even when it was difficult, but the pain in the voice of the teen before her - the boy she had taken in and watched grow before her very eyes into the wonderful man he was today - it was almost too much for her to bare.

“I will,” she quietly promised, voice cracking as she fought back a wave of stubborn tears, “please, just do this for me.”

Ezra gave her one last blank look, then reached out to receive the small amount of nourishment.

Hera shared a slight sigh with the rest of the room, grateful for the small victory. Supporting his shaking hands, Hera tilted the pack towards his mouth and let him take small draughts from the package.

“Good boy. That’s it. It’s going to be okay.” She whispered, knowing full well that if the boy were in his right mind, he would have objected to being treated as such a child.

Satisfied that Ezra had finally intaken some vitamins and fluids, Hera moved forwards with whatever other preliminary medical care she could provide. Without knowing what else to do, she began stripping the boy of the blanket cocoon surrounding him, much to his dismay.

“I know, love,” she placated at his weak, moaning protests, “but I’m afraid you’re getting a bit too warm for my liking”. All the while, she began racking her brain, trying to come up with a safe way to get Ezra medical care in their current situation. Without his input, Hera gently removed the top of the teen’s sleepsuit and threw it down with no heed to where it went.

Momentarily regaining her composure, Hera turned to address the other two men in the room for the first time since the incident began.

“Kanan, lay his comforter down on the floor. Zeb, help me get him down from here” she commanded, unable to care if she sounded insensitive. It was time to take charge, and the general in her was rising to the occasion.

The two men wordlessly complied, nodding tersely before transferring the sickly boy from his bunk to the cabin floor.

As she settled to her knees next to their youngest member, Hera raised her eyes for a moment to meet the gaze of the worried Jedi before her. Looking into the eyes of her lover, her heart broke at the clear panic present behind his blind gaze. She almost hated to disrupt his silent grief, knowing how taxing the entire experience must have been on him, but she knew that if they had any hope to save Ezra, they would need to take advantage of the bond he was maintaining with the boy.

She sucked in a deep breath. “Kanan, if you can, make some sort of connection with Ezra. See if you can wake him up, or at least get him coherent enough to communicate.”

Kanan nodded slightly in response, swallowing thickly before shifting slightly onto the thick blanket beneath their feet. Kneeling behind Ezra’s lying form, he placed his hand on either side of his head. With a deep inhale, he closed his eyes and entered the mind of his ailing Padawan.

Chapter Text

Kanan almost immediately gasped at the mental contact with his Padawan. It was immediately clear that whatever was plaguing Ezra was severely affecting his brain function and sense of consciousness. Ezra’s mind was now little more than a fever-riddled warzone of conflicting thoughts and sensations. In that moment, there was no way Ezra had a solid grasp on reality, and his default reaction was to panic.

Knowing that calming him down would be instrumental to treating him, Kanan went to work, trying to bring some semblance of peace and clarity to Ezra’s strained mental state. It was a difficult task, and Ezra was feeling the effects of it as well. The pain and fear was so physically straining for the already ill boy that Kanan could feel Hera at one point guiding the boy to the edge of the comforter to retch, losing the only bit of nutrients he had received in the past few hours. It was deeply disheartening and uncomfortable for both Master and Padawan, but just as Kanan was on the brink of giving up, he began to feel the steadying of his student’s erratic breathing patterns, as well as the glimmer of recognition within their bond. It wasn’t perfect, but Kanan decided to take the small victory. Looking back up, he relayed his success to their Captain.

“Hera, I think I’ve got it. If you need to talk to him, now would be the time to try.”

She gave a brief sigh of relief, put aside the cleaning rag she was forced to gather after the earlier incident and centered herself once again before taking action.

“Alright. Zeb, I need you to bring us some towels and a bucket of cold water - as cold as you can get it. There should be some ice in the freezing unit”. The Lasat huffed in affirmation and left the room without a word. Returning her attention to the boy on the ground, she carefully laid a hand on his forehead and began to speak.

“Ezra, Ezra can you hear me?” she called, internally praying to any gods she knew of for a response.

The room was entirely silent for a moment, and Hera was sure her heart was about to pound right out of her chest. But after a few seconds that felt like an eternity, a weak groan sounded throughout the cabin.

Taking hold of the small opportunity, she continued to try and keep hold of the the boy’s focus. “That’s good, Ezra. You’re doing great. You don’t have to worry about speaking if you’re not able to. Just keep focusing on my voice. Now, can you open your eyes for us, love?”

The room was silent for a moment more before a sharp whine permeated the air around them as the Padawan tried to shift on the comforter beneath him. It was truly a pitiful sight. Trying not to feel defeated quite yet, she helped Kanan still him before Zeb returned with a stack of towels and rags. Chopper, complaining about being “awoken” by Zeb when he wasn’t fully recharged yet, filed in behind with two large buckets of ice water. Ignoring the droid’s snarky comments, she gave a silent nod of thanks to the two, then began to soak the various rags into the freezing water and drape them over every inch of Ezra’s exposed skin.

Still hoping to engage the Padawan’s consciousness in some manner, she turned to her Jedi for help.

“Kanan, I’m kind of occupied right now, can you try talking to him?” she asked without tearing her attention away from the cloth she was now vigorously wringing out over a bucket.

Kanan nodded, shifting slightly to prop his student’s upper body against his own the best he could without disturbing Hera’s work. Gently, he reached out a hand and began to run it through Ezra’s hair in a manner he hoped was comforting. “Come on, Ezra,” he pleaded, “open your eyes for me”.

Silence ensued, and for a moment, as Chopper suggested “a little shock” to assist in the process. After a swift and stern scolding from Hera at the idea, Chopper left the room, warbling something about being underappreciated.

Trying once more, Kanan spoke aloud to his apprentice, but this time reaching a bit back out to his apprentice’s mind, once again successfully bringing his conciousness closure to the surface. This time, when Ezra moaned in response, his eyes cracked open ever so slightly to face the assailing voice.

Kanan smiled slightly at the sound. “That’s it, Ezra. Just focus on me.”

“K-k-k-k….” Ezra sputtered, seemingly unable to even form coherent words anymore.

Kanan looked down at him sadly. “Shhhh….” he cooed, carefully propping Ezra up even further. “Don’t speak. I’m gonna ask you some questions, okay? Just squeeze my hand so I know you understand.”

It took a moment, but Ezra eventually replied with a weak squeeze.

Kanan sighed slightly in relief. “Good, good. You’re doing great, Ezra,” Kanan encouraged softly. “Now, do you think you’ll be able to drink something if we brought it?”

This time, there was a longer pause, but eventually Kanan felt a light squeeze against his palm which he relayed to Hera with a stiff nod. Hera wordlessly stood from her work and fetched a water pouch for her youngest crew member. Getting him to drink something was priority number one for her at the moment. Seeing that the boy wasn’t able to keep down much in the last twelve or so hours, dehydration was a pressing concern, and if Ezra failed to keep down even water again, she knew that they would have to start seeking emergency care. Finally grabbing the packet and pressing it gently to her charge’s lips, she silently prayed that it would stay down and they could put the worst of his illness behind them.

But her hopes were utterly short-lived. Not even a five full minutes had passed after he drank before Ezra began to gag once again and the little progress they had made was lost. Hera soon found herself scraping together the supplies she needed for a meager IV.

“I just don’t get it. How did it get so out of hand?” Hera grieved as she stuck the small needle into Ezra’s arm without a single protest from the boy.

“Well, you said it had gone up to 104, right? That’s only a little more than it was before, right?” Zeb chimed in from the corner of the room, entirely unsure if his presence was needed or even wanted at the moment.

He immediately regretted his contribution.

Hera looked up sharply and narrowed her eyes. “Zeb... I thought you said his fever hadn’t risen last time you checked?” she spat venomously.

“It didn’t!” Zeb defended, rising his hands in a form of surrender, “He said it was 103 somethin’ before and it was 103 somethin’ when I checked.”

“103 what, Zeb?” the captain seethed, hanging the IV bag on a protruding wall hook without removing her accusing gaze from the fourth spectre.

“Ugghhhh, 103.8? I think?”

Hera nearly blew up. “Zeb! Why didn’t you tell me?! That kind of thing makes a big difference when tracking human body temperatures!”

“Well how was I supposta’ know!” he retorted, taking a step back from the near raging captain.

“I knew that and I’m not human!” she quipped before sighing and gripping the bridge of her nose in exasperation. “Ugh… You know what, Zeb? Since you’ve been just, stellar about communication during this whole ordeal, you get to be the one to start contacting the other cell leaders to find any friendly medcenters nearby. Kanan, stay here and watch over Ezra, I’m going to get Chop and fire up the nav system. Com me if his condition changes.” Zeb exited the room with his hanging slightly in shame and fear. Hera looked down and gathered up her supplies before slowly rising herself. Just before she reached the door, however, Kanan stopped her.

“Hera, wait,” he called out with a dark softness typically reserved for the most intimate moments they shared. She looked back at him, her heart pounding from the stress that seemed to finally be catching up with her. “This isn’t Zeb’s fault. You know that,” he gently mused.

Hera sighed, allowing the guilt to wash over her. “I know,” she whispered. “And you know, in all honesty, it’s not even his fever I’m worried about anymore. He can’t keep anything down, Kanan - not even water. His body can’t keep going on at this rate. This all just… couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” she muttered, wrapping her arms around her midsection and revelling in the small amount of warmth and comfort it provided.

Kanan gently shifted, repositioning his charge and moving towards Hera with a warm grace. “Don’t tempt the fates, my love,” he smiled softly, squeezing her shoulder with a firm reassurance.

Hera returned his unseeing gaze, smiling, and with refound confidence, she returned his gesture and headed towards the cockpit.

The moment she left the room, Kanan’s smile disappeared as he returned to his Padawan’s side and drew him closer to his own body, preparing to whisper to the ailing teen. “Come on, Ezra. You’ve managed to get Hera of all people riled up. I don’t know if I can keep up this strong act forever. That’s usually her job. Please, don’t make us worry like this. We need you. Keep fighting”.

Chapter Text

It was approximately 0130 hours in the morning when Hera bustled her way into the cockpit, reluctantly calling the still irritated Chopper to her side and working with him to get the navigator up and ready for wherever they needed to travel. All the while, guilt pawed at the back of her mind like an angry, attention-starved tooka. Guilt not just over the things she had said to Zeb, but surrounding the many choices she had made in the last 48 hours.

She just couldn’t help but to internally reprimand herself for not putting in more of an effort to seek treatment when Ezra had first fallen ill. Maybe if she had, they wouldn’t be in this mess. But what was bothering her most of all about the entire situation was the shame she held for letting herself become an emotional wreck in the face of emergency.

Hera was the leader, and it was her job to look at the situation from a pragmatic angle, not to trip over her thoughts just because a delusional child mistook her for a parent for a brief moment. She was the one who was supposed to offer comfort in these types of situations, she wasn’t supposed to be the one who needed comforting.

Yet here she was, letting herself fall apart in the face of emergency. It was, quite ironically, making her feel sick.

Lost in her own thoughts, she had barely noticed that Zeb had entered the cockpit, datapad in hand.

The Lasat stood in the entranceway, awkwardly shifting his weight from one foot to the other, feeling very cautious about how he chose to capture the attention of his captain after the incident in the bedroom. It wasn’t like Hera hadn’t scolded him before; Hell. the first year of the kid joining the crew consisted of pretty much non-stop reprimands for the both of them. But this was different. Because for once, the life of his little brother was on the line, and she was absolutely right. His slip up costed them precious time, and now things were looking bleaker than ever.

Once he was absolutely sure that she had a moment, Zeb gently cleared his throat, causing Hera to whip her head towards him in surprise.

“Hera, I got in contact with somma’ the other cells...” he began quietly, a slight measure of fear and shame permeating his gruff tone.

Before he could continue, however, Hera cut him off with a slight gesture of hand.

“Zeb, about what I said earlier… I’m sorry…” Her face fell as she grappled for the right words to say, the stress of the entire situations seriously impeding her diplomatic skills.

“No, yer right,” he admitted, voice low with shame. “I shoulda’ givin ya all the info I could, ‘specially considerin’ the kid’s health’s at stake. It was dumb a’me ta just assume that it was no big deal. An’ I’m sorry for that.”

Hera shot her friend a sympathetic look, sensing the deep sincerity behind his words. Making soft strides towards him, she gripped his bicep in a small gesture of solidarity before looking him dead in the eyes in an attempt to return it. “You couldn’t have known, Zeb. It’s not your fault and I shouldn’t have blown up on you like that.”

At that, Hera paused for a moment, crossing her arms tightly against her chest and sighing deeply, as if somehow all of the pain and sorrow that had been building up for the past few months could just flow out of her as easily as the air in her lungs. But it didn’t, and her dear friend could sense her pain.

“Ya know, we’re all worried about the kid,” Zeb spoke, his voice carrying an unusual softness to it. “Ya don’t have to act strong like this, it’s not healthy. For a moment, you’re allowed to just be lady who’s scared for her kid. Ya gotta feel that fear for a moment, otha’wise you won’t be able ta move forwards.”

The room was quiet for a moment, Hera slightly taken aback. Zeb was the least emotionally open member of her crew, and yet here he was, giving her the best personal advice she’d heard in a long time.

And he was correct in all ways but one.

“But he’s not my kid…” Hera muttered, her eyes downcast as she pulled her arms tighter against herself. “I’m his captain, and I shouldn’t be as distraught over the situation as I am. I’m failing you all every time I lose focus like this.” Hera lamented, unable to contain the shame she was feeling any longer, but Zeb seemed to be discontent with her explanation.

“That’s a load of bantha dung and you know it.”

Pure silence ensued this time as Hera looked up to Zeb in shock. Surely he didn’t say what she had just heard?

Seemingly sensing her confusion, Zeb continued to explain. “He might not be yer blood Hera, but you forged that kid. All of us have,” he continued. “Imagine where’d be without us, eh? Hera, if it weren’t for you convincing us all that taking in a random Loth-brat was a good idea, that kid wouldn’t be anywhere near where he is today. Hell, he might not have even lived to see today. So, in the end of it all, Hera, no, you might not be Ezra’s Ma, but you are his family. And he’s yers. So it’s okay to be sad, ‘er scared, ‘er anything else you may me feelin’, just don’t you dare say he ain’t yer kid, cause we all know that ain’t true.”

The room was deathly quiet for a moment once more. The only sounds that could be heard were the gentle hum of the Ghost’s engine, accompanied by the soft, panting patterns of Zeb’s breathing as he attempted to calm himself after the escapade.

After another moment, Hera sighed slowly, breaking the silence around them. She allowed herself to smile slightly as the boldly reassuring words of her friend washed over her like a tidal wave of pure affirmation. Because damn it all, he was right. She always tried to push it away, but deep down, she knew that she loved Ezra almost as if he were her own flesh and blood, and for the first time in a long time she had to admit to herself that she was scared. By the stars, she was scared that she was going to lose him. And didn’t she have the right to be? She wasn’t ready for that. None of them were. After all they had been through, she didn’t want this to be the way it ended. She wouldn’t let this be the end of his story. Of their story.

Hera took a deep breath, feeling better than she had in a long time. Just as Zeb said, it was as if the walls she had built around her heart in the guise of duty and autonomy had suddenly shattered, flooding her body with emotion for a brief moment before it all dissipated into the realm of acceptance. She felt her own fears, held onto them for a moment, and then let them go, ready to move forwards without the burden of repression.

And so, finally being able to truly center herself for the first time since this whole mess started, Hera Syndulla lifted her gaze to meet the strong, yet somehow gentle and understanding eyes of one of her dearest friends standing before her, and began to take charge with a newly found sense of suredness.

“Alright, Zeb. What did the other cells have to say?”

Zeb’s face became set as stone once more. “After contactin’ every possible Rebel cell in this system, it seems that there is only one viable option ‘ere,” he said in a low, graveley tone, his eyes dark.

“And…?” Hera prompted him, fear threatening to wind around her heart again like a vine snake.

“There’s--” but before Zeb could finish, a chillling yell tore through the air.

She knew that voice anywhere.

Kanan.

Chapter Text

“HERA!”

Kanan’s scream rang throughout the empty halls of the Ghost, reverberating in every chamber and corridor in a magnitude that would have sent shivers down the spine of even the most hardened sentient. In that moment, time stood still, and it felt like an eternity before Hera and Zeb exchanged a terrified glance, before sprinting to the living quarters faster than they ever had before.

As Ezra’s bunk room came in to view, Hera nearly skidded to a halt, wasting no time pressing the release button next to the door and barrelling inside with fearfully baited breath.

As soon as she entered the cramped living area, Hera gasped at what was before her. Ezra, still as death only moments before, was now seizing and shaking on the ground; his own body turned against him as he spasmed out of his control and mussed the sheets around him. All the while, Kanan hovered helplessly at his side, his mouth agape and his hands suspended above his charge - clearly wanting to help but having no knowledge or means to do so.

Hera, on the other hand, recognized his symptoms immediately and strove to take control of the situation. “Chopper, set a timer now!” she commanded, kneeling next to the seizing teen and moving any potentially hazardous objects away from him. “Kanan, I need you to step back! Nobody can touch him unless you see blood! We’re gonna have to ride this out…” The tone of her voice was as low and sad as the expression on her face.

The room was still and silent, a grim aire surrounding the haggard bunch as they looked upon their youngest member, helpless to do anything but watch from the sidelines as his terrifying fit continued.

It an excruciating minute and a half; just 90 seconds that felt like an eternity of uncertainty, but eventually Ezra’s body stilled and they were safe to offer him assistance.

Checking his vitals and finding them as strong as they possibly could have been given the circumstances, Hera breathed a short sigh of relief before barking out more orders out to the group.

“Help me get him into recovery position,” she commanded softly, scooting her body even closer to that of her trembling charge. “I need someone to re-set up his IV. I don’t care if it’s safe at this point, we need a medical transport ASAP”. Using a discarded rag, she gently wiped the saliva from his face before starting to remove his soiled clothes.

Zeb responded first, re-attaching the IV tubing before grabbing the kid a new set of clothes and a clean sheet to place underneath him. Kanan, all the while, sat against the wall breathing heavily, his unseeing eyes locked on the floor in shock.

“Hera,” he spoke, his trembling voice barely above a whisper, “what was that?”

Hera sighed deeply, her heart breaking for the man before her. “He had a seizure,” she explained solemnly, still recovering from the shock herself. “And a pretty bad one at that.”

Kanan’s breath began to steady, but he still refused to lift his head. “What could have caused it?”

“I can’t be entirely sure,” she honestly confessed, “but I’ve heard of instances of seizures occurring due to high fevers. They typically don’t cause any lasting damage. Let’s hope that’s all it was.” She finished with a sigh, her saddened eyes never leaving the slack features of the teen in front of her.

As she continued to clean the area around them, Zeb finally cut in. “I hate to interrupt,” he said, “But if we need ta’ get the kid medical attention then yer’ prolly gonna wanna hear the info I got from the other cells.”

This attracted the attention of both of the younger adults in the room, both their heads snapping forwards in anticipation and hope.

Zeb cleared his throat awkwardly. “There’s a small medical facility on Alderaan ran by a close friend of Senator Organa. They said they’ll take Rebel patients 100% off the books for a small added fee. The only catch is that with the recent Imperial crackdowns and the suspicion that the Princess has been raisin’, we ‘ave to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if things go wrong.”

Hera pondered this for a moment. “Well it’s not like we’re not used to leaving in a hurry,” she quipped, the options still being weighed in her head. “Are there no free Rebel medcenters within our system? Alderaan is on the other end of the sector and far too close to the core for comfort. Even if Alderaan has remained publicly neutral during this war, the Imperial presence is only going to go up the closer we get to Coruscant.”

“There are no Rebel bases ova’ here that are fully equipped,” he explained. “We could send a request to Senator Mothma fer reinforcements ta’ safely escort us ta’ the Alda’ranian system, but I haven’ ‘ad any luck gettin’ through ta’ ‘er, and with the time it would take ta’ get approval, an’ the time it would take ta’ avoid the increased Imperial security-”

“-It could be too late,” Kanan finished, his tone bitter and sorrowful.

Hera considered it all for a moment. “What about Yavin? I know they’re trying to hold off on disclosing the exact location of the new base until it’s fully functional, but they’ve got to have at least a semi-equipped medical unit on standby during construction, and it would be safer and faster than trying to get to Alderaan,” she queried, knowing that they would have to plan their next move very carefully if they were going to save Ezra without getting blown to pieces in the attempt.

“A good option if it were possible,” Zeb explained. “But like I said, no matte’ ‘ow many times I tried, I couldn’t get aholda’ Senator Mothma to ask, and nona’ the otha’ cells ‘ad any clue ta’ where it is”.

Hera weighed the options once again. Everything about this Alderaanian contact just seemed ill-advised, and Yavin appeared to be out of the question at the moment.

“This might sound crazy...” Hera started, an idea vaguely taking shape in the back of her mind.

“What else is new…” Zeb mumbled in the background.

“But what about Mandalore?” Hera asked, knowing full well the immediate reception wouldn’t be positive.

“Ya’ kiddin’ us, Hera?” Zeb asked incredulously. “Imp presence ‘as gone up tenfold at least since the ‘ole incident with Chopper Base. There’s no way we can get in on our own!” He huffed, amazed at her sudden lapse in judgment, even in spite of the situation.

“But we won’t be on our own,” Hera spoke matter-of-factly. “We already have people on the inside”.

“...Sabine…” Kanan mumbled in revelation, having long since moved forwards once again, cradling Ezra’s head in his lap like one would a newborn.

The room was suddenly suspended in a collective, contemplative silence for a moment, every member going over the possibilities and trying to hold on to any sense of hope they had left.

“It’s the best shot we have,” Kanan said, finally breaking their contemplation and uniting them all under the simple truth.

“Wubb Wabb WAAPP!” Chopper warbled in agreement.

Hera smiled slightly before her face set in seriousness once more. The fire in her heart reignited with the small amount of hope that came with a solid plan.

“Alright, Chopper,” she nodded, “get me a private link through to Sabine.”

Chapter Text

As the group settled back down, Chopper whirred slightly before leaning back and preparing his holoprojector for the outgoing call. A pregnant moment passed before Sabine’s image showed up before them; tired and haggard, but obviously concerned.

“Hera? It’s 0200 hours, what’s going on? Is everything alright? Are you under attack?” she rambled, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Sabine… It’s Ezra...” Hera choked out, almost guiltily.

At that, the younger girl’s eyes instantly snapped open to meet Hera’s. “What happened? What did he do this time?”

“Nothing!” Hera rushed in his defense, perhaps a bit too quickly. “Sabine…” she breathed, “Ezra’s sick. Really sick.” Her voice was low and sad in a way that Sabine had heard only a few times in the years they had known one another. The sheer weight of that tone alone was enough to drive her heart into her throat. She knew things were bad. Hera met her gaze and continued. “We don’t know what’s wrong, Sabine, and we definitely can’t help him here on the Ghost. Nothing we’ve done so far has helped. I truly hate to ask this of you in such a difficult time for your family, but is there any chance you could get us a window through the blockade to Mandalore? It doesn’t have to be much, just long enough that we could bring him to a non-Imperial medbay.” Hera’s voice finally cracked as she stared into the shocked face of her young friend, Sabine growing more fearful by the moment. “Please, Sabine,” she nearly whispered “it’s bad.”

Sabine drew in a shaky breath. “How bad?”

“He had a seizure Sabine. Grand Mal, a minute and a half long. We’re lucky he didn’t stop breathing. His temp is well above 104 at this point and he has not and is not showing any signs of improvement”.

Sabine exhaled just as shakily. “Any other symptoms?”

Hera nodded, her gaze turning downwards again. “Head and body aches, nausea, vomiting, coughing, and stiffness, particularly in his neck and back,” she described, the list already ingrained into her thoughts.

As the list went on, Sabine’s heart sunk further and further. “Hera, this is very important. Is there a rash anywhere on his body?”

“What?”

“Just check for me, Hera!” She snapped.

Hera looked down at the unconscious Ezra, unphased by the outburst and began shifting his clothing and sheets to scan his body for any abnormalities.

“Zeb, can you turn on the lights, please?” she asked, her eyes squinting in the dimness of the area, yet still trained on the task at hand. As the room suddenly erupted into illumination, it finally caught her eyes. At first, she thought it had to be a mistake - that perhaps it was just her eyes adjusting to the burst of light, because there was no way she could have missed this before. But with time, the image didn’t change, and she was left with the sight of horrible purple splotches maring her child’s skin in sickly, spotted patches that crawled up his side like some horrible, parasitic root. Hera had to suppress a gasp. “I… I don’t get it… They… these weren’t there before… How… How did I miss this...?”

“Hera…” Sabine interjected, her heart heavy for the woman before her, “It sounds like meningitis. This is bad. Really bad.”

Hera’s breathing became heavy and strained, her eyes never straying from the horrible marks across Ezra’s body. “You think I don’t know that?!” she snapped, eyes narrowing and breathing accelerated as nerves got the better of her for just a moment. Catching her breath, Hera squeezed her eyes shut and forced her torrenting heart to slow it’s rhythm. “Sorry,” she whispered, her voice much softer, “I just need to know if you can help us get him to a med center. You know how badly he needs it.”

Sabine shot her a sympathetic look. “Give me a moment.” She punctuated her request with a sad sigh, her form disappearing from view for a long moment before returning with a datapad in hand. “Alright, this is gonna be tricky, so listen carefully,” she began, a small sense of hope trailing her every word. “There’s lowered Imperial presence in our area from 0300 to 0330 hours due to a change of guard. There should be a gap big enough for you to get through at precisely 0317. I’m patching through the coordinates right now. We’ll have a medical transport waiting for you on the ground as soon as you touch down.”

At her words, Hera’s heart began to soar with hope. The situation wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot less bleak than it seemed mere moments ago.

Looking up from the datapad, Sabine had her locked in a burning gaze. “Please be safe, Hera. I can’t lose any of you.”

Hera couldn’t help but smile at the earnestness in her words. “Thank you, Sabine. Thank you so much.”

Sabine returned the smile. “See you soon.”

With that, Sabine’s image flickered into non-existence and Chopper warbled to announce the incoming coordinates. Hera sighed, relieved over the small victory. In fact, the whole haggard, sleep-deprived crew seemed to relax just a little bit at the recent news.

Taking a deep breath, Hera stood, patting Chopper’s dome and moving towards the automatic door.

“Alright, boys, keep watch over Ezra. We set course for Mandalore.”

Chapter Text

Hera sat back in the pilot’s seat, going over the information from Sabine for what had to be the hundredth time since she’d received it. Sabine was right about their window of opportunity being small - almost miniscule, but Hera knew that if any ship had a chance to get through, it was hers.

Deciding that there was nothing more that she could glean from the message, Hera shut off the holo and leaned back in her chair. It wasn’t long before she found herself yawning and rubbing the fatigue from her eyes. It had been a long past few days. Hell, it had been a long past few months. But she supposed that it was to be expected, given the circumstances. This was how life had been ever since she was a little girl. Thrawn was right about one thing that during that one mission back on Ryloth: war was all she’d ever known. And thinking back on it all, Hera couldn’t remember having a truly restful night’s sleep since her early childhood - back in those precious few years she in which she lived blissfully unaware of the atrocities and death that surrounded her and her people. Back when she was unaware and didn’t feel absolutely compelled to fight back against the tyranny that enveloped their existences. Before she lived her life fighting in the hopes that one day she and those she loved would know what peace felt like. Living in the hope that one day, they wouldn’t have to sneak through a military blockade in the wee hours of the morning just to get medical care for a sick kid. Ever since she had become aware, every second of every night was full of nightmares and anxiety, being constantly on edge and ready to jump up in a minute’s notice. A good night’s sleep was a luxury she simply couldn’t afford when they lived under the constant threat of attack. No, when you dedicate your life to fighting back, to fighting for hope, sleep just wasn’t in the cards.

Hera was ripped from her thoughts by the slight jolt of The Ghost that signified that they had come out of hyperspace. Given their trajectory, she supposed that they were now sitting just outside of Mandalore’s orbital range. It was now or never. Hera took a deep breath and gripped the controls of the Ghost with an anxious vigor. The familiar curve of the handles gave her a surge of confidence like no other. It was refreshing, given the circumstances.

Looking around, Hera noted the various landmarks Sabine had given to ensure their proper placement. Everything seemed right so far, and no Imperials seemed to be able to detect their presence. Now all there was to do was wait. Powering down as many systems as possible to keep them off the radars, Hera cautiously shifted the Ghost into idle, the ferocious roaring of her engines quieting into a gentle purr. Hopefully they would be safe there until their opportunity to move in arose.

For the next few, pain-staking minutes, she watched from a distance as the patrol ships lazily passed. One after another, they moved to dock and launch with a practiced ease. That same ease that came with every Imperial operation. Everything they did was so predictably perfect. Therein lay their weakness. They had fallen into a routine - one they felt to be so perfect that they had become lazy, sloppy. Pride always goeth before the fall. So she studied them with a calculated vigilance, taking note of any and every irregularity or blind spot she could use to their advantage when the time came.

The seconds wore down, until, finally, the sweet spot that Sabine had promised was revealed. As the patrolling TIES disbursed to change guard, their blind spots aligned for mere seconds. Hera took a deep breath, then activated the accelerator. The shift between stationary and speed was sudden and smooth as The Ghost burst forwards with a momentum that pushed her back against her seat. She kept her hands planted firmly on the controls, her eyes refusing to move anywhere but forwards. Moving faster than she possibly ever had before, she maneuvered through the slim window of opportunity that they had been gifted and headed towards the planet’s surface, looking back only to ensure that no Imperials had caught on to their trail.

Like she said, almost too easy.

Speeding through the layers of atmosphere, Hera kept her eyes peeled for any stray TIES, but Sabine’s tip had held true. They seemed to be in the clear. If the Empire ever did learn of their penetration of the defenses, hopefully it would teach them not to underestimate the capabilities of her crew.

With the immediate danger gone, Hera let out a heavy sigh of relief, reduced speed, and began their descent towards the planet’s surface, happy to see the medical transport already in sight.

However, the small amount of peace didn’t last.

It wasn’t a full minute into the descent that Zeb burst into the cockpit, fear plastered across his face and gripping the walls as if he were about to fall over.

“Hera! It’s happening again!” he all but screamed at her.

Her heart sank to her feet, her mind already knowing what he meant, but refusing to accept it. “What do you mean?!”

“‘E’s seizing, Hera! It’s bad! It sounds like ‘e’s choking!”

Hera’s heart began furiously pounding in her chest. She knew that the possibility of Ezra’s airway being blocked during a seizure was not out of the cards, but she had no way to verify the hunch herself without leaving the cockpit and subsequently letting them all plummet to their doom. Her biggest priority at the moment was getting them on the ground, but now she wasn’t certain that Ezra hold out for that long without her help.

Hera let her gaze flit between the ground and Zeb, feeling entirely unsure of what to do next. They were only minutes away from their goal, but those minutes had just become even more critical. Why did this have to happen now?

Zeb’s voice softened slightly, as if he could sense her struggle from across the room. “I already ‘ad Chop start a timer, but I’m not sure what else to do.”

Hera gulped, trying to think of how to best go forwards. She supposed the most viable option was to instruct Zeb on how to care for Ezra without causing more harm.

She sighed, giving in and hoping for the best. “Zeb, I need you to listen to me…”

But before she could continue, Kanan’s terrified voice rang through the air for the second time that day.

“No... no. NO! NO, EZRA!”

The sheer emotional weight behind those words made Hera jump in her seat.

Pulling out her com, she had to refrain from screaming into it herself. “Kanan?! What’s going on?!”

It took a moment before unit crackled to life, the panicked gasps of her lover transmitting frighteningly loud and clear.

“He stopped breathing! Hera... Hera he’s slipping away! Please, you have to help him! Please...” his last plead barely above a whisper.

Her heart clenched painfully in her chest. Ezra - their Ezra, her Ezra - was dying, and she couldn’t do a thing about it. Hera's breath came in short gasps as she desperately tried to repress the oncoming sobs.

They were so close.

Fixing her eyes firmly on the ground below, Hera attempted to compose herself. If not for herself, then for her crew. Her family. Her kid. This wasn’t over yet. There was still a chance.

“Zeb, do you know CPR?” she asked, her knuckles white under her pilot’s gloves.

The soldier seemed to catch her drift fairly quickly, straightening himself as if in some form of preparation. “I can do chest compressions,” he confirmed proudly.

“Good. Start. Now,” she commanded, “I’m gonna get us on the ground. Just try to get him breathing again.”

Zeb nodded and rushed back towards the living quarters, not that Hera saw anyways. The entirety of her focus was now on getting them onto the ground and into that medical transport. If she could just get Ezra there, then everything was going to be alright for them. The medics would get Ezra breathing and well, and everything would go back to normal. Or at least that’s what she was telling herself.

Hera let herself speed up as much as she possibly could without putting them in danger of a landing that was perhaps a bit too exciting. Every second counted now. She knew that there was only so much time the human brain could go without oxygen without sustaining irreparable damage, and their window was small. But she wasn’t going to let Ezra go through that. Not if she could help it.

As the ground continued to approach, her com crackled to life again, the voice of Zeb projecting through without bothering with pleasantries. “Hera, it’s not working!” The desperation in his voice was as clear as it was heavy. "He's still not breathing, what do we do?"

Hera didn’t respond at first. Instead, she pulled up on the controls, the ground below ever so close. Ever so taunting.

“Just keep going, Zeb,” she insisted with a lot more confidence than she felt. “I’ve almost got us to the ground. Have Chop dig through storage and see if he can find an oxygen mask in the meantime.”

If Zeb responded, she didn't hear it. This was it. They were almost there.

As she closed in on the landing zone, Hera began to plead aloud to whoever would listen. She needed that bit of reassurance.

“Please, please please please please Ezra. Please Ezra, please. Don’t let go yet. Don’t take him from us yet.”

Hera couldn't help but feel a little ridiculous. She wasn't even sure who she was directing the pleads too. But little did she know, back in the bunk area, Kanan was conducting a similar ritual for himself.

“Come on, kid. Don’t do this to us now!” he desperately whispered under his breath, trying to ignore the subtle counting and viscous swears of his friend as he repeatedly tried and failed to get their youngest mate to breath.

As soon as the landing gear grazed the ground, Hera slammed the hatch release and fled the cockpit. Jumping the last few feet between the ramp and the ground, unwilling to wait for the ramp to finish extending to take action, she was greeted by a small group of Mandalorian medics.

In the back of her mind, Hera was vaguely aware of the medics asking precursory questions, perhaps even offering pleasantries, but there was no time. She just cried out instead.

“We need a gurney! Now! Please! He’s stopped breathing!” Hera’s voice cracked as she screamed. She truly didn’t remember starting to cry, but in that moment she was painfully aware of the slow tears beginning to leak down her cheeks one by one as she watched medical workers exchanged worried glances with one another before scrambling into action. Group by group they passed her, bringing supplies upon precious supplies into her ship and her home.

Wiping the few, renegade tears from her cheeks, she swiftly gathered herself and matched pace with the med team, realizing that she was probably needed to lead them into the living quarters. Once they arrived Hera wasted no time shooing out the distraught and visibly anxious Zeb in order to make more room for the medics to do their work.

It was then that she got her first good look at Ezra since they had spoken to Sabine. Another round of tears fell helplessly from her eyes as she took it all in. His skin was frighteningly pale and his lips were beginning to develop a sickly blue tint that never meant something good in humans. It all barely seemed like Ezra. No, the sight before her was a far cry from the typical bubbly, energetic and eager Ezra that they had known and loved for years. The boy that laid there was a cruel parody of the child they had rescued from Lothal all those years ago - taunting them with a loss they weren’t ready to suffer.

She slowly backed away from the scene as the medics shuffled around him, poking and prodding and looking grim. She could hear them murmuring to one another in a lingo she didn’t quite understand.

“Continue chest compressions, get me an ambu bag ready,” one said authoritatively to another.

The next few moments moved in slow-motion, as Hera watched tool after tool be attached to her Ezra in a desperate attempt to get him to take a breath. And with every new tube or wire, she felt her chest tighten a little more.

It wasn't too long after that she found herself being guided out of the room and into the hall by a set of large, firm hands which encouraged her to sit. Lacking the energy or sense to object, she complied, landing herself right next to Kanan, who looked like his world was ending.

Neither of them said a word the entire time the medics worked. Instead, Hera just wrapped her arms around Kanan's shoulders and they let themselves rock back and forth ever so slightly. All the while, Hera pretended to ignore the quiet chant of “not again” that Kanan kept repeating under his breath.

It felt like hours had passed before she heard anything of use from the room besides them.

A young but strong voice rose above the din. “We got a pulse, signs of life. Let’s get him on oxygen and into the center stat.”

Hera was sure that she had never heard sweeter words. Kanan, who had long since gone silent, let out something between a sob and a joyous shout. It wasn’t perfect, but thank the stars and praise the Force their boy was back with them.

All hope was not lost.

And as she watched them wheel her baby away, off to an uncertain future, she couldn’t help the words that spilled from her lips.

“Oh Ezra…”

Chapter Text

From the view of any passersby, Hera would have appeared perfectly calm. She would have seemed composed - waiting patiently in the medcenter lobby like any other member of a family waiting for news on a loved one. If anything, she would have seemed a bit too calm, given the circumstances.

But Kanan knew better. He knew the signs. The way her knee was slowly rocking back and forth, casually bumping into his own on occasion. The sound of her lekkus brushing against the shirt of her flight suit as she continually fussed with their positioning. Even her slow breathing pattern was too perfect not to have been intentional and forced. All of these near-imperceptible quirks - more than likely unnoticed by anyone but him - were dead giveaways of how she was truly feeling in that moment: stressed out of her mind.

And Kanan couldn’t blame her. After all, he’d have been lying had he said that his previous attempt to be calm and control is fear hadn’t flown out the window the moment his Padawan had the first seizure. Then, when Ezra had stopped breathing entirely, Kanan had let himself descend into pure panic. It had all felt just too real. Ezra had been dying, and Kanan could feel every single second of it - the bond they shared slowly slipping from his grasp, teasing him with the loss of yet another sacred bond between Master and Padawan. He couldn’t help but feel cursed.

But then Ezra was back. Weak, but not going anywhere, and although he was holding onto their bond perhaps a bit more tightly than he had been before, Kanan was able to calm himself considerably since arriving at the medical outpost on Mandalore, recentering himself and even slipping into light meditation here and there as they waited to hear about Ezra’s condition.

But where he was becoming more hopeful about the situation, Hera seemed to grow even more worried and disbondment as time passed. He supposed it made sense, all things considering. After all, she didn’t share the same bond that he did with Ezra. So while he felt Ezra’s growing spirit and resolve not to give up, all she had seen was a boy barely clinging to life. And for all she knew, Ezra was still in that state or worse.

So, strangely enough, Kanan found himself in the position of a comforter for the second time in these past few days.

Just like in the hallway earlier, neither of them said a word. No words were needed. Instead, he just reached out and grasped her hand lightly - an invitation to let her guard down. At first, she seemed hesitant, as if she had already resigned herself to suffer in quiet and would refuse the offer of support. But it appeared that she had quickly thought better of it and let herself scooch back towards him, leaning in to rest her head against his waiting shoulder.

No thoughts were exchanged. No tears were shed. They just sat in silence - two vulnerable souls letting themselves be broken together for awhile. The future might have looked bleak and uncertain, but at least they knew they would face it together.

Another twenty minutes passed before the silence was interrupted with Sabine’s arrival, which was something akin to an emotional tornado. She burst through the doors without any of her typical, witty remarks or fanfare, looking unusually disheveled, even considering how early in the morning it was. Upon closer inspection, Hera could see that her eyes were puffy and bloodshot, and that there were subtle tear tracks maring her cheeks. She supposed someone had told her what had happened, then.
Sabine had entered with a frustrated cry on her lips, but after a few inevitable yet brief sobs, it would have seemed that she, too, had few words to say. She explained that she had been told of Ezra’s condition as she came in and that the nurses in the hall still had no updates. Solemn nods were all that were exchanged between the lot before Zeb quietly reached out his hand and welcomed her to join in on their vigil; their small chain of silence and support - of fear and hope.

The crew had sat there together for nearly an hour more before a medical droid finally came out to address them.

The moment the doors opened, the entire crew was at attention; their posture so suddenly perfect and straight that one would have assumed it to be practiced. The medical droid took little head to their behavior, however, and proceeded to address them in the same cold, mechanical tone that one would expect to hear from AP-5.

“Am I correct in assuming that you are here for patient Bridger, Ezra?” it quipped, almost mockingly.

At that remark, Zeb began to growl under his breath, looking as though he was ready to tackle the droid to the ground at any moment before Hera cut him short with a pointed look.

“Yes, we’re his primary guardians,” Hera explained, gesturing towards herself and Kanan, secretly as irritated with the situation as Zeb was. She figured for as long as they had waited, they would at least have sent out a more sympathetic informant to address them.

The droid hummed in casual acknowledgment before projecting a series of medical holos in the space between them all, flipping through them and mechanically explaining the significance of each one.

“Patient Bridger was brought into us displaying many of the symptoms associated with most bacterial forms of meningitis. In response, we’ve taken multiple scans of the patient’s cranial and spinal regions, they being the areas most often affected by this kind of illness. As you can see, the scans show significant swelling in the menangis as well as the spinal column. This all but confirms our initial assumption of bacterial meningitis, and in response we have started him on a dose of broad spectrum antibiotics. However, further testing in required to confirm the type of infection and carry on with further treatment.” The droid explained it all with an air of indifference, as if there wasn’t a life currently hanging in the balance. Hera supposed he couldn’t help it, but she was still irked. This was their family member, and this was how the doctors chose to relay information to them?

Evidently, she wasn’t alone in her annoyance.

“Are you kidding me?!” Sabine stood up very suddenly, the entire room immediately falling into silence. “We’ve been waiting for hours and that’s all you have?! I could have told you that myself! In fact, I did!! And then you come out here acting like this is no big deal!” Her voice echoed menacingly throughout the small waiting area as she paused to catch her breath. “My brother stopped breathing. Don’t you understand that?! I think we have the right to know a little bit more as to why and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again!”

At that point, Sabine was practically fuming, her chest rising and falling with such ferocity that even Zeb felt the need to intervene. Rising to his feet, he lightly gripped her arms from behind - not forcing her to sit or even to stand down, but at least implying that she not do anything too rash.

“I think what she means,” Kanan cleared his throat and interjected - not entirely happy with Sabine’s outburst, but not entirely in disagreeance either, “is that we’re just a bit confused as to why the doctor’s don’t know more yet. We haven’t even been told his prognosis,” he explained, trying his hardest to repress the underlying irritation in his voice.

The droid, however, still seemed thoroughly uninterested in the entire affair, and responded as if this was all mundane and unimportant.

“As you are no doubt aware, we are in the midst of a series of armed skirmishes. The need for medical services on Mandalore has greatly increased in the past few weeks, while the number of available medical professionals and droids such as myself have greatly diminished. We at this outpost are working at the pace we can given our limited personnel and resources. As for Patient Bridger’s current prognosis, the chances of survival with the timely administration of the proper treatments are approximately 54.6442%, with the chances of the patient suffering any long-lasting side-effects post-recovery currently being at around 67.21%. Of course, these estimates may change as further data is acquired.”

Hera was the first to speak up this time, the weight of the droid’s words really hitting her.

“So you’re saying that even if you get him the proper treatment soon, there’s still around a 50% chance that Ezra will die?” she whispered softly, willing her voice not to crack as she forced the very suggestion of Ezra’s death far from her mind.

The droid seemed annoyed at the question, as though it was so clear and obvious as to not warrant an additional explanation. “It’s actually closer to around a 45.3558% chance, but yes, that is the general idea.”

The group was deathly silent for a moment, the only sounds the could be heard being the lobby’s air vent and the gently plit of Sabine’s tears as they hit her breastplate one after the other.

The droid was the first one to break the silence. “One of you will probably wish to be with the patient while the next set of testing occurs. Even with our advanced technology, procedures such as spinal taps are reported to be very painful.”

Hera gripped Kanan’s hand a bit tighter, staring directly into his unseeing eyes.

“You should go, Kanan,” she insisted, the resolution behind her words surprising Kanan to some degree. Yes, Hera was selfless enough to pull something like this, but he figured that the fear she was displaying mere moments ago would have prevented her at least a little from being so insistent upon it.

He took a deep breath, not ready to allow her to suffer on behalf of him. As much as he wanted to be beside his Padawan during this time, he knew that Hera needed it more.

“It’s okay, Hera. I know you want to see him. Besides, I have our bond, so I won’t be totally in the dark, so to speak,” he smiled slightly, hoping that the small jab at himself would loosen the tension in the room at least a little bit and perhaps reassure her into taking his place. But her rejection of the idea was almost instantaneous.

“No, Kanan. You’ve been acting so strong for me, you should be in there with your Padawan.” Her tone was stern, almost as if she was scolding him.

The droid soon chimed in impatiently. “I need you two to decide rather quickly so we can proceed with the examination.”

“Go, Kanan,” Hera whispered assuradely, gripping his hands in her own, her lips ghosting over his ears in and almost impressively vulnerable gesture.

Kanan took a deep breath, knowing that there was no way he would win this argument. Instead, he simply rose to his feet and turned to address the crew as a whole once more before he left.

“I’ll be right back…”

And with that, Kanan followed the medical droid down the hall, disappearing from the view of the rest of the crew as he made his way deeper and deeper into the facility and closer and closer towards the boy that needed him.

Chapter Text

Foggy.

That’s the only way Ezra could describe how he’d felt for the last… God, how long had it been?

Thinking back, the last things he could clearly remember were… hands. Yes, there were hands covering him, and voices asking him questions, and above it all, pain. Excruciating pain that started in his head and travelled all the way down his back like hundreds of horrible hammers pounding together in sync. It was horrific, and he had just wanted it to end.

But then it had. Just like that, his body had went stiff and numb and he had felt no more.

Everything after that was just a blur - or at least more of a blur than it had been before. Despite this, he felt that he could definitely recall a brief period of simply... peace. As if the galaxy had just melted away leaving behind only the overwhelming senses of comfort and clarity. In the distance, he could have even sworn that he had heard his mother singing the same, sweet, traditional Lothallian lullaby she sang to him every night before she was taken. Of course, this was impossible - his mother had been dead for many years - but for that brief moment, he couldn’t deny that everything felt right.

But before he had been able to process it all, he found himself back where he started, and everything was foggy again.

But now, it seemed that the fog was starting to clear, and Ezra found himself becoming gradually more aware of his current surroundings. He could hear the faint impressions of voices around him, but he was too tired to interpret exactly what they were saying.

Feeling courageous, Ezra forced his eyes open, only to immediately close them at the sight of the harsh fluorescent lights. The pain in his head and back had returned full-force and he suddenly felt that falling back unconscious wouldn’t be so bad. Even so, he was curious enough about where he may have ended up that he braved the pain and pried his eyes back open again. It wasn’t until after his eyes adjusted - “adjusted” being used in the most liberal interpretation possible - that the sharp scent of antiseptic hit him like a freight train, causing him to wince back and recoil in pain. It was total sensory overload - and total misery.

Just as he considered giving up entirely, a sturdy and surprisingly understandable voice rose above the rest, piquing his interest.

“Doctor? I think he’s waking up!” the voice half-whispered in near panic.

Ezra didn’t recognize the person at all, which - under normal circumstances - would have been grounds for concern. But given that his head felt like it was moments away from bursting at the seams, Ezra honestly couldn’t bring himself to care. Instead, he just squinted at the harsh light up above him and let himself find silent amusement at the nervousness of those around him.

“He’s waking up?” a second voice began, older and cooler in nature than its predecessor. “Incredible! With what he’s been through, I wouldn’t have expected him to wake up for weeks, if at all…”

The last statement left Ezra a bit puzzled to say the least. What exactly had be ‘been through’? And did this doctor seriously believe that he was going to die?

...Was he going to die?

Before he could fully descend into the sudden, oncoming panic, however, the voice of the apparent doctor cut through and seemed to address him specifically.

“Son, can you hear me?” The doctor’s voice was smooth and calm, clearly influenced by years of experience.

Ezra begrudgingly forced his eyes to focus on her face, being able to faintly make out the shape of an older woman with dark hair pulled into a tight bun behind her head. Her olive skin was slightly wrinkled with age, and her eyes were sharp and scanning of him. Her calculating and intelligent gaze vaguely reminded him of Governor Pryce - something that definitely wasn’t comforting.

Gathering his strength again, Ezra tried to nod in response to her question, but found his neck to be impossibly stiff. In fact, his entire spinal column was somehow rendered entirely and inexplicably immobile. Definitely not an ideal situation.

Seeing that verbal communication was the only possibility for him, Ezra forced a weak confirmation past his throat, the entire process of which he found to be vexing. It was as if his lips and throat were no longer cooperating with his brain, and as a result, every syllable he attempted to articulate came out slow and slurred.

“Y-yesss, I c-caaann…” he stuttered weakly, his throat sore from the effort.

A broad, childish smile broke out across the doctor’s face. “Incredible!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together at her chest like a pleased child. “You are quite the strong young man! Do you know where you are?”

Ezra thought about it for a moment. “M-Med Center…?” he muttered. He was quite certain of his answer, but it was difficult to feel entirely sure of anything while his senses were under a constant barrage of stimulation and his body was rendered nearly immobile with pain.

The doctor at least looked happy with his response.

“Wonderful!” she crooned, “And your name?”

He drew in a hissing breath. “Ezzzraa ‘Ridgeer.”

At this point, he was thoroughly frustrated by the fact that his speaking skills had seemingly regressed to those of a toddler. Despite this perceived shortcoming, the doctor again seemed pleased by his answer.

“Yes!” she enthusiastically praised before setting herself again. “Alright Ezra, do you know why you’re here?”

“Nnnooo…” he groaned, wishing- not for the first time since their conversation began - that he had the capability or even the opportunity to ask a few questions of his own.

The doctor at least seemed to be - if nothing else - sympathetic of his plight. “That’s quite alright. You’re ill, dear. You have quite the nasty case of bacterial meningitis. Do you know what that is?”

Ezra had to refrain from rolling his eyes. As well as she obviously meant, he was getting quite tired of being treated like a child. “Yesss,” he sighed.

The doctor just continued to smile dopily. “You’re quite the smart boy, Ezra! Now this might sound a little scary, but you’ve had two seizures. Do you remember that?” she asked with the same, unnervingly peppy tone as before.

Now that was a bit of a shock, but Ezra supposed it made sense contextually. The stiffness, the numbness, the gaps in memory, it all fell into place with that new piece of information. But just because it made sense didn’t mean it didn’t scare him.

“I-I ttthhink I-I r-rememmberr?” he honestly admitted. After all, he was fully aware that all of his thoughts and memories up until this point he were entirely conjecture.

At this, for the first time since she began talking, the doctor became quite solemn; the smile previously plastered across her face now nowhere to be seen. She drew in a deep inhale, obviously steeling herself for something big.

“Okay, now I don’t want you to panic,” she began, somehow oblivious to the fact that saying that would only give him reason to panic in the first place, “but after your second seizure, you stopped breathing.”

What? Ezra was certain that couldn’t be true. After all, wouldn’t he remember something like dying? Wouldn’t it have been some grand, impossible experience like…

Like hearing your dead mother sing…?

The doctor continued, “I don’t expect you to remember any specifics of that experience, nor would I need to know them, so I’m not even going to ask about it. And I especially don’t mean to scare you by sharing this with you, I just think you have a right to know what’s going on and why”.

Ezra would have scoffed had he not been so stunned. She ‘didn’t mean to scare him’? Well she definitely failed there.

“On the bright side,” she continued, “you currently don’t appear to be in any great danger and you’re responding very well to my questions. We have you on some medication right now that will hopefully make you start feeling better soon, but we’re going to have to conduct a few more tests so we can figure out how to best treat you and prevent anything else drastic from happening. I know this is all a lot to take in, but did what I said make sense?”

Ezra didn’t know what to say. Sure, he understood everything said to him, but he sure as hell couldn’t wrap his mind around it.

“I h-heeard m-my mom…” he blurted out dumbly, forgoing an actual answer to the doctor’s question.

She stared back at him, obviously confused. “What was that, Ezra?”

Ezra repeated himself with resolution. “I-I heard my m-mom, she wasss sin-ging…” After seeing the doctor’s expression remain confused, possibly even a bit disappointed, Ezra decided to elaborate. “Y-youu said I-I wooulldn’t remmmemberr w-when I stopped breeea-thing, but I-I do. My m-mom wasss the-re aand s-she was singinggg”. Ezra kept his eyes firmly on the doctor at this point despite the lack of mobility in his neck. Even if it was through the corner of his eye, he wanted to see how the doctor would respond to his experience.

Very briefly, the woman’s eyes widened, showing genuine surprise and perhaps even belief, but it disappeared quicker than it came. “You must have been dreaming, silly, you’re family is in the other room waiting for you!” She kept smiling that ridiculous smile, something eerily condescending about it. As if she saw him as nothing but a particularly dull child who was telling tall tales and needed placating.

Ezra tried not to feel disheartened. “I-I want to seeee them,” he spoke as firmly as he could, trying to earn at least a shred of respect from the woman treating him.

She paused to think about it for a moment. “We can get one of the med droids to send someone in if you’re feeling up to it, does that sound good?” she asked, her tone still entirely too peppy and patronizing.

“Yesss,” he responded simply.

The doctor smiled and nodded at the droid nearest to her before turning back towards Ezra and her table of instruments. “Alright, now just relax, we’re going to start prepping for the spinal tap,” she explained without looking up from her tools.

Ezra didn’t really know what a spinal tap was, nor could he bring himself to truly care. In that moment, there were only two things he was absolutely certain of: that he had already died once, and that he wanted to see the crew before it very possibly happened again.

Chapter Text

There were many aspects of being blind that Kanan felt he had adjusted to fairly well. Even before he’d received the help of the Bendu, a childhood spent in the Jedi Temple had already somewhat prepared him not to rely solely on his physical senses, making the adjustment period much shorter for him than that of the average patient. But even with the guidance of the Force, there was a definite lack of certainty that accompanied being without sight, and that lack of certainty had made itself more prominent than ever as he followed the old 2-1b surgical droid down the winding medical hall corridors towards the examination room in which Ezra was being held.

Reaching their destination, the medical droid whirred to a stop, extending a mechanical arm to block Kanan from moving any further.

“Sir,” it chirped, sounding far more cheerful than it had the right to, “we have reached our destination. The room is on your left and the patient is straight ahead. The doctor and nurses will guide you to a seat from there.”

Kanan resisted the urge to scoff at the droid’s weak attempt at sincerity. To him, the only thing worse than a droid that didn’t understand sentience and emotions was one who pretended to. At least Chopper was forthcoming about his indifference.

Saying nothing, Kanan walked in the direction the droid had suggested, intentionally turning his sightless gaze as far away from the 2-1b as possible. There was no way in Hell he’d give that thing the hollow gratification of his thanks.

But as he took stepped foot into the examination room, Kanan’s solemn demeanor broke. For the first time in at least half a cycle, Ezra’s presence felt bright and strong. He was awake. He was conscious. He was improving.

Near Ezra, a female voice, bright and painfully sweet was rattling off questions and information at a rate that Ezra couldn’t have kept up with even if he was well. He assumed this voice belonged to the doctor, and a young one at that.

Kanan cleared his throat awkwardly, trying to get the overly-animated woman’s attention. “Am I in the right room?”

A rustle of fabric could be heard from across the room accompanied by the gentle pings of various medical instruments being hastily set on a metal tray. “Oh! Mr. Jarrus!” the woman practically squealed, grabbing him by the forearm and hurriedly pulling him forwards towards a small chair next to the bed. “Please, please, have a seat!” Her firm, calloused hand quickly enveloped his own in a short greeting before disappearing just as quickly. “My name is Doctor Freisi. We were just about to go forwards with a spinal tap. Are you familiar with this type of procedure?”

Kanan grimaced. He was trying to stay polite as possible. After all, he was unquestioningly grateful for everything the doctor was doing to help Ezra, but her general attitude about everything was simply exhausting. How could a woman be so cheery moments before literally stabbing a kid in the back? He was sure she wasn’t intentionally acting condescending, but it was mildly trying nonetheless.

“Yes, I’m familiar with spinal taps,” he explained, his stern expression unwavering as he casually tried to end the conversation so he could finally get to the side of his Padawan. “Is there anything you need me to do?”

“Well, if you’d like, you can help Ezra here onto his side while I prep the equipment!” she replied cheerfully as ever, her coat rustling loudly as she made her way to the opposite side of the room.

Kanan simply nodded, finally making his way towards Ezra.

Finding the edge of the examination table, Kanan knelt down, holding his breath. He had yet to hear Ezra speak, and he wasn’t sure what to expect. The last time he had been this close to Ezra, the kid hadn’t even been breathing. He was practically a corpse.

But now, here he was, alive and in arms reach, and he wasn’t sure what to say.

“Hey kid,” Kanan smirked, taking Ezra’s cold hand in his own, “You sick of this place yet?”

A beat of silence hung between the two of them and Kanan swore he could feel his heart beat itself into his throat.

There was a small raspy sound as Ezra inhaled. “Y-youuu haave n-noooo ideaaa,” he quirked, sharp as ever.

Kanan let out a strained chuckle, finding himself caught somewhere between relief and concern. He was beyond overjoyed to hear Ezra’s voice again, to touch his hand with his own and feel the renewed fire of his Force presence. But the way Ezra was struggling to speak was… worrisome. Kanan wasn’t dull by any means. He was painfully aware of the fact that permanent brain damage was a legitimate threat when it came to seizures on their own, let alone seizures due to meningitis, and considering how progressed the disease had become in Ezra, he knew the chances of him walking away from this completely physically unchanged were not promising. Of course, the slurred speech could just as easily be a temporary symptom - something that would fade with the illness itself - but if Kanan had learned anything in his lifetime it was that the odds were never on their side.

Kanan shook aside the thought, returning his full attention to Ezra. After all, it was his primary duty to comfort right now, not dwell on the negative.

Mustering up a smile, he spoke to Ezra again. “I’m gonna help you onto your side so the doctor can do some tests, alright?”

He could hear some of the joy fade from Ezra’s voice at the ‘back to busines’ attitude. “Allllriiiiight…” he sighed.

Kanan chuckled softly. “Don’t worry, just a few boring tests and treatments and we’ll be out of here in no time,” he grimaced at the lie, trying to move Ezra as gently as possible. This entire experience had to be awkward for him. Ezra was always the type of person who championed his independence, and to be in such a vulnerable state… He owed it to him to make as little of a deal of all this as possible.

“Alright,” the doctor announced, approaching the two of them with that same, sunshiney demeanor, “I’m going to start by injecting a numbing agent at the base of the spine, and then we’re going to insert a spinal needle connected to a three-way tap so that we can measure the fluid pressure against your spine as well as collect some samples for further testing. Are you ready?”

Kanan wanted to laugh. Here she was describing exactly how she would stab someone with a needle, and yet she was describing it all as if it were a perfectly mundane task that anyone would be familiar with. Like brushing your teeth or bathing. If she hadn’t been in a selfless and service-based industry, Kanan would have thought her a psychopath.

Kanan turned his senses back towards Ezra, who was undoubtedly staring ahead at the far wall with that cool indifference that Kanan knew he always used as a coping mechanism.

Gripping his hand lightly in his own, Kanan shifted closer to Ezra.

“Hey, I’m right here. It’ll be over soon. Don’t worry,” he assured, giving his hand a light squeeze.

Ezra smiled and squeezed back, letting his eyes drift close as he prepared himself for the numerous discomforts he was about to experience.

“Commencing spinal tap,” one of the nurses announced as the doctor brought the needle down towards the small of Ezra’s back.

Ezra’s eyes snapped shut, grasping Kanan’s hand in a death grip.
Kanan’s heart ached in sympathy. It seemed so unfair that Ezra would have to suffer more just to get the answers they needed.

Things were tensely silent for a moment, and Kanan wondered whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. It wasn’t until the doctor started hurriedly whispering to the nurses around her that he became concerned.

“This… this is… Quickly! Get me another measuring tube!” she barked, just loud enough for him to hear.

“Doctor, what’s going on?” Kanan rubbed the back of Ezra’s hand gently with his thumb, as much for his own comfort as for Ezra’s.

A beat of silence hung between them as though the doctor was debating whether or not to tell him the truth. “The pressure on his spine is immense. It’s quite literally off the charts! I’ve never seen something quite like this.” Her tone was the lowest Kanan had yet to hear it.

“Well what does that mean?” he nearly shouted.

Another beat of silence. “It means that as soon as the samples are collected, we have to prepare Ezra for emergency surgery. It is imperative that we relieve the pressure on his spine - and more importantly, his brain - immediately.”

Kanan felt as though he were drowning in thin air. Imperative?

“Or else what?” his voice wavered.

For the first time, the doctor began to sound truly clinical. “Or else we’re looking at devastating and permanent damage to the brain and central nervous systems… or worse…”

Kanan didn’t have to ask what ‘or worse’ meant.

“K-kannnan?” Ezra slurred, his cracking voice making Kanan’s heart ache terribly.

Grasping Ezra’s clammy, and suddenly far too small hand in both of his own, he brought it to his chest and squeezed it with whatever form of reassurance he could muster.

“Shhh, it’s okay, Ezra. Everything is going to be alright,” he whispered blankly, his own thoughts beginning to short-circuit.

A short whine escaped Ezra’s throat as Kanan returned his hand, drawing back into himself.

“Mr. Jarrus,” the doctor cut in, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave now. We need to move Ezra to pre-op as fast as possible.”

Kanan nodded silently. He didn’t know what to say. What could you say in that sort of situation?

Soon, Kanan felt gently hands around his biceps, gently guiding him up and towards the door, his feet moving of their own accord.

“K-kannann?” Ezra whimpered from across the room, “Comme back… I… I want you heeerre…” he muttered before falling back against his pillow, seemingly too exhausted to even put up much of a fight.

Kanan had to force tears from falling from his eyes. It broke his heart to leave Ezra while he was so vulnerable, and hearing him calling after him did nothing to help. But he knew there was nothing else he could do.

“It… It’ll be okay, Ezra!” his voice cracked as he desperately tried to keep himself together. “We’ll just be in the other room! Me and Hera and the others, we’ll be real nearby. I promise!”

And with that, Kanan was fully pulled from the room, the sound of the door closing behind them ringing in his ears.

Kanan barely remembered the walk back to the waiting room. He had really only become aware again when he felt Hera’s head fall against his shoulder.

The nurse must have explained everything.

She wasn’t crying. Neither was he. They just stood there, holding one another, just like that fateful night before Malachor. He supposed the circumstances weren’t too different either. Once again, they were standing together in limbo - holding each other against the face of uncertainty.

Kanan held his breath. They didn’t know what the future held for them, and he’d be lying if he said he was certain that no matter what, it would be alright in the end. But just for a moment, they wouldn’t let it affect them. They would hold each other up as the universe tried to tear them down.

At least for a moment, they would feel safe.

Chapter Text

“It appears to be a case of bacterial meningitis caused by the strain of bacteria known as Toli-X.”

The droid said it so casually, as if the words he spoke were something even an infant could understand. As if the implications spoke for themselves.

Hera considered herself a fairly patient person, but she swore that if she had to deal with this droid even one more time, she would personally track down it’s creator and put a blaster bolt through their foot.

“And…?” she shortly prompted, her cordialness stretched about as thin as it would go. “How does that affect things going forwards?”

The droid made a sound she could have sworn came from a place of indignancy. “Well, now that we know the exact kind of microbe we are dealing with, we can administer a more specific and more potent form of antibiotics to combat the infection. However, this will not happen until the patient is out of surgery, the status of which I have currently not been updated on.”

Sabine seemed to contemplate this for a moment. “Wait, so how was Ezra infected in the first place? Are any of us in danger of getting sick too?”

It was a good question, one Hera hadn’t even considered yet. They had all been in direct contact with Ezra for hours, sharing close quarters with him for an extended period of time. If what Ezra had was contagious, they were pretty much all screwed.

“The Toli-X bacteria is commonly transmitted to sentients through asteroid mold,” the droid replied, perking up. “A standard vaccine has been in use for many years, so most are safe from possible infection. But it would appear that the patient does not have any childhood vaccination records. As a medical assistant, I would be remiss not to inquire as to why your child has not been inoculated?”.

Hera felt heat rush to her face, a rapid stream of emotions hitting her all at once. At first all she felt was pure anger that this droid would have the audacity to criticize her abilities as a guardian, but soon that anger was drowned out with shame and sadness, as she considered the validity of his question. How could it have not crossed her mind before? Of course Ezra wouldn’t have been caught up on his vaccinations. He’d been alone from the ages of seven to fourteen. That’s seven full years without access to medical care. Seven years without vaccs. He may have been issued some of the Rebellion-standard inoculations here and there, as was standard procedure, but there was no way the Rebellion had access to his previous medical information. They wouldn’t have had any idea of what Ezra was missing in terms of preventative care, and even if they did, their resources were spread thin as it was. The occasional standard adult vaccinations were hard enough to come by, and it wasn’t as though children were common enough in the rebel forces to have a need to keep children’s med supplies them on hand.

“I’m so stupid…” Hera muttered under her breath. “I never even considered that he wouldn’t have been up to date on his vaccinations. He was always so resourceful, I just figured-”

“You couldn’t have known, Hera,” Kanan interjected, undoubtedly sensing her distress. “Either way, dwelling on it won’t make a difference now. What’s done is done, and we need to be here, in the present, to support Ezra right now”. He took her lightly by the shoulder, and looked her straight in the eyes. It never ceased to amaze her how he was able to do that so effortlessly, even after losing his sight.

Hera softly sighed, taking hold of the hand placed on her shoulder and practically bathed in the warmth and support it offered.

“You’re right,” she muttered, satisfied for the time being, even if she wasn’t quite ready to forgive herself.

The med droid took the moment of silence to add even more.

“If the patient recovers, we will administer any missing inoculations, but I must confess that the situation is still quite grim.”

All Hera could do was nod. Her words and her tears had entirely ran out, leaving her feeling hollow and drained. She latched onto the support of her crew like a lifeline. It was the only thing keeping her steady as the fear of the possible loomed over her like an impending storm.

The medical droid shifted slightly, almost as is it felt awkward being present in their grief.

“My records show that patient Bridger’s birthplace is Lothal. Are there any additional family members located there that you would like me to contact?” they offered, their tone surprisingly soft.

“No,” Sabine piped up, her voice carrying its typical authority at first before dissolving into a quiet melancholy. “We’re - we’re all he has left.”

A small beat of silence passed. “I see,” the droid buzzed, their. Although it may appear otherwise, I am truly sorry for your situation”

Hera was… surprised. She did not expect that from this droid.

“Thank you,” she said honestly.

The droid gave a short bowing gesture and took his leave, leaving the crew behind to contemplate this new information in silence.

Chapter Text

Hera didn’t remember when she fell asleep, nor did she know how much time had passed when she had awoken. All she knew was that she had a crick in her neck from falling asleep in a chair, and that Kanan was shaking her awake with an urgency that hardly ever meant anything positive.

She jolted upward, blinking the sleep from her eyes and scanning the area for an attack before gradually remembering where they were.

“Hera,” Kanan’s hand was still on her bicep, his voice half-whispered and taking on an unusually harsh tone as he continued to nudge her into alertness, “Hera, the droid is coming back.”

At that, all remaining grogginess vanished. She shook off Kanan’s grip and turned her focus toward the entrance of the lobby. Just as she had been told, the medical droid was perhaps only 50 meters away, making its way toward them, slowly but surely.

Hera could feel her heart speed up. How long had she been asleep? How long had Ezra been in surgery? Was it over now? Had something went wrong? Gods, she didn’t know what they’d do it he didn’t pull through. He was the youngest of them all, he couldn’t be the first to go.

She began to feel around, blindly searching for Kanan’s hand, needing some sense of familiarity to keep her grounded. Even so, she harbored the deep feeling that he, too, was close to breaking, perhaps even closer than she.

Caught up in her thoughts, she had barely registered that the droid had begun speaking to them.

“Hello again, family of Ezra Bridger. I have come to inform you that the patient’s surgical procedure is complete and to offer you an update on his condition.”

Even from a few feet away, she could hear Zeb start to growl faintly from the back of his throat. Out of all of them, he was the one she was most surprised hadn’t snapped yet.

“Oh, just spit it out!”

There it was.

Zeb’s voice was louder than usual. It reverberated through the room in a way that could send shivers down one’s spine. Hera figured that she would have chided him for that if she hadn’t been feeling so anxious herself.

The droid paused for a moment in apparent shock; as if even they could sense the depth of Zeb’s anger. It was a moment before the droid spoke again.

“The patient suffered a stroke during the operation.”

That was it. Her worst fears realized. Something had gone wrong and there was nothing she had done to stop it. She felt Kanan’s weight shift almost entirely onto her for a moment. She held him up the best she could. She wondered if he could feel her shaking.

The droid continued.

“His condition is temporarily stabilized, but I am sorry to report that he is in a vegetative state. His chances of awakening are high, but with that his chance of having sustained permanent brain damage is almost absolute. I am truly sorry”

She felt frozen to the spot. A stroke? Vegetative state? Those were things you heard about when talking about someone’s aging parent or grandparent, not a seventeen-year-old boy. Brain damage. What did that even entail? Would the boy who woke up - if he woke up at all - be the same Ezra they knew before? Would he be able to recognize them? Would he ever be able to live his life as he had before?

The questions were seemingly endless, and Hera was over her head in all of the grim possibilities.

“No…” She was stumbling over her words before they even passed her lips. “N-no… that’s… H-he can’t… He was fine just a few days ago… He was supposed to get better… I-I don’t understand!”

Tears began to burn at the corners of her eyelids, but she refused to cry. Not yet.

“I am truly sorry,” the droid looked at her, seemingly pitying her. She couldn’t stand it. “Meningitis is a fast-moving illness. There was little that could have been done.”

At that point, she was vaguely aware that Kanan was next to her now, taking her hand and trying to sit her down.

No. She didn’t need to sit down. She wasn’t hysterical, she was just… confused. Confused and upset and she needed to know why. Why did this happen to their Ezra? What could he possibly have done to deserve this? He was - is - such a good kid, who has already been through so much. Why in the great galaxy did whatever power that was out there decide that he deserved this too?

She pulled away from Kanan’s touch, her eyes now acutely focused on the dulled optical sensors of the droid in front of her, their cold, fixed gaze still somehow just oozing a sense of uncomfortability.

“Take me to him.” It wasn’t a request. For better or worse, she needed to see her kid with her own, two eyes. She was tired of feeling helpless. All she needed was that iota of control, that ability to see Ezra and sit with him and not have to rely on the words of someone else to know that he was okay.

“Hera…” Kanan started, his voice was so obviously inflated with hesitation and fear that she was certain she would snap at him. Lucky for him, the medical droid cut in before he could finish the thought.

“No, it’s alright,” they assured. “Please, follow me.”

There was a pause before Kanan nodded, his hesitation all too obvious as he stepped back and let her forward. She closed her eyes, convincing herself that she was ready for what came next, when she felt a soft pull on her arm.

Kanan.

His expression was as soft as ever, and Hera nearly wanted to punch him for it.

“Hera, are you sure you want to do this?”

She looked at him dead on, hoping that he would be able to at least sense her resolve, even if he couldn’t see it.

“Yes”

Both his expression and his grip held for a moment, and she knew he was calculating, reeling to see if this was the right choice. He must have either decided that she could handle it, or have figured out that he wouldn’t be able to talk her out of it, because his fingers loosened around her bicep and he let his arm fall back to his side, giving her another small nod as she walked away.

She held her head high as she followed that medical droid down the winding halls of the underground facility. No, she wasn’t hysterical. And no, she wasn’t sure she could handle seeing Ezra in the way that she was going to see him, but in her heart - whether out of some sort of greater intuition or just pure stubbornness - she knew that she had to go to him. She had to be there for Ezra, and support him, even if it didn’t end up making a difference at all. She had to sit there with him, and take his hand, and make sure that he knew that everything was going to be alright, even if she wasn’t certain of that assertion herself.

Yes, no matter what, she was going to be there for Ezra. Because that’s what a parent does for their child.

Chapter Text

Kanan leaned back in the med center chair, feeling the creak and strain of the cheap plastic beneath him as he did. The sensation was comfortable - predictable.

Five full cycles had passed with little change in Ezra’s condition. His fever had finally dropped to more manageable levels, and he had been told that the terrible rash that had taken over Ezra’s body was receding steadily. But despite any progress his immune system might have made against the infection, Ezra still showed no sign of awareness.

Things outside the room weren’t much better. Once it had become clear that things were not going to improve for Ezra any time soon, Hera had to make contact with the Rebel forces on Mandalore. It was a desperate move - one that could have easily revealed their location had the transmission fallen into the wrong hands - but ultimately necessary. They were practically sitting ducks as it was, and with every day that passed, the chance of their location being revealed only increased. And with allies sparse and enemies growing more abundant by the day, establishing some form of backup in the case of discovery was of critical importance. Luckily (and thanks in part to their connection to Sabine) forming an alliance and an escape plan went as smoothly as it possibly could have given the circumstances.

From across the room, Hera stood, her joints popping as she stretched and shuffled around the small living space, idly tidying up as she went. She’d barely spoken the last few days, and Kanan was sorely missing the sweet cadence of her voice. That voice that had first drawn him to cross her path all those years ago. The voice that held him steady.

There was only so much silence he could take.

“So…” his own voice groaned to life like a tap that had been lying dormant for too long, “Any news from Sabine and Zeb? I think I was asleep last time they stopped by.”

“You were,” her tone was dismissive, almost annoyed.

She hesitated before continuing.

“The Ghost is still safe in storage. Sabine and Zeb have been personally ensuring thorough maintenance checks and security. They’ve got some of Mandalore’s best on the job.”

“All that for our little old ship?” Kanan’s quirk was half-hearted and didn’t land.

“Apparently it’s an ‘important symbol’. Something recognizable. Something positively associated with the Rebellion. They want to make sure they ‘preserve such a valuable icon.’”

She made no apparent effort to conceal the bitterness in her voice. He could not blame her. That was their home. Her life. Referred to so mechanically. Like it was just a pawn in some sick political game.

But then again, wasn’t it?

Silence hung between them once again.

“Are his eyes still open?”

Kanan had asked it on a passing whim. He’d been told that Ezra, despite being unresponsive, had been keeping his eyes open for the better part of the day. Apparently the ability to do so was one of the distinctions between a coma and a vegetative state.

The air became as stagnant as it was before, and for a moment Kanan was concerned that she would not answer him. Maybe she’d never answer him. Perhaps this was their destiny - doomed to angry, mournful silence forever.

But then, her voice cracked, different than before. Not quite sad, but quiet, and far tamer than he had ever known it.

“Every time he blinks I think: ‘Is this it? Is he finally back?’”

It wasn’t an answer, per se. More of a confession. Something that she had been carrying for far too long on her own. Something she needed his help to bear to the finish. He knew that feeling.

“Every moment that passes is a moment too long.”

He realized that his answer was equally cryptic, but the short huff of a hum he heard back affirmed that she understood. She always understood.

“I know, it’s… stupid, but the night we found out what happened to his parents, I made a promise. To them. To myself. I promised that I would take care of him with everything I have. I promised that he wouldn’t have to face this universe alone anymore. And logically, I know that there wasn’t anything I could have done. I understand that now, I truly do. But…”

“But it’s hard to convince your heart of matters of the mind.”

She hummed.

“I understand, Hera. I really do. I’m not going to tell you what you already know. I’m not going to tell you how to feel or how to get past it. But, for all it’s worth, I think you’re doing a great job.”

This time, he could hear the smile in her voice.

“You too, love.”

The silence didn’t feel so painful after that.