It was already night when her ship reached the landing bay at Chopper Base.
A few days had passed since Malachor. Getting Maul’s ship to work with whatever she could still gather from the spaceships the inquisitors had left behind after the explosion of the temple had been tricky, but her master had taught her a lot about mechanics.
She felt a pang on her chest at that. Anakin. She heard the rumors, of course. Whispers all across the galaxy that the emperor’s second in command was in fact a fallen jedi. One that betrayed everything and everyone they stood for. And then she ran into him, as he attacked the rebel fleet. With a flying style that was painfully familiar to her, and an unforgettable force signature that was now covered in darkness.
She had known it then and there. It took some scratching and probing, but he had let her see. But she denied it. Refused to trust what the force was putting in front of her, because there was just no way. Not him. Except there was. And there was no more denying it now.
The first person waiting for her when she landed was of course, Rex. Relief washed over his features in a way she had never seen before, and he hugged her tightly, tight enough to make her wince as the wounds all over her body rubbed against his armor. Wounds Anakin had given her. She should tell Rex. Had to. He deserved to know. She opened her mouth.
Her arms wrapped themselves around him just as tightly.
Rex made sure to escort her to the medical station, where a droid quickly evaluated her. Thankfully, despite the days without any treatment none of the injuries were too serious and would all be healed soon. They had mostly come from the explosion, not the battle itself.
“You are lucky.” It pointed out, after prescribing her some painkillers for the bruises on her ribs. “The other jedi brought to my care after this mission had permanent damage” She knew exactly who the droid meant with that. They had not met each other since the clone wars, and weren’t close now, but still, it made her heart ache.
Kanan was blind. Blinded by Maul, in a coward attempt to kill him and steal Ezra for himself. That was how Sith acted. She knew that much since the clone wars. Surviving an encounter with one was extremely rare. It was why Anakin hadn’t taken her on many missions where the council thought they might be involved in.
And despite that, despite still living by the Sith code, Maul had been afraid of Vader. “I cannot defeat him alone” he had said.
It meant Anakin was incredibly more powerful than Maul, and he was. The images were still fresh on her mind. The way his now twisted and dark force signature bent itself towards her, threatening to eat her alive with pure hatred that intensified itself after each strike, so painfully different from the warm beacon of light she remembered from her teenage years.
And so different from the luring darkness that would and would not irradiate from Maul as he tried to repress it to gain Ezra’s and their trust.
There was no way for her to be fine as she was now. She was sure of it. Not after taking on all that raw dark side power face to face. No, she should be blind too, as Kanan was. Or worse.
But she was not. And the force told her luck had nothing to do with it; Vader was holding back.
Though whether it was intentional or not, Ahsoka could not tell. She drifted once more, memories flying back to the battle. Once she had been able to cut through his mask and meet his now bright yellow eye underneath, she could see the clear struggle.
I won’t leave you. Not this time.
For a brief second, he had been there. Vader was gone and Anakin was looking back at her. Scared, and regretful, and hurt, but above all, tired. It was short lived, though. Soon enough hatred pierced through, and Vader was back.
Then you will die.
It had only been a second, but it meant he was still in there somewhere. The Anakin she knew and loved, and that loved her too. He wasn’t gone, not yet. But he was faltering. Clearly losing a battle he wasn’t strong fight for much longer.
But he wouldn’t have to, she thought. She would save him. She had to.
After being cleared by the droid, she said goodnight to Rex, and headed for her quarters. She needed to sleep. Her body was practically demanding it. But first, she needed to record a message to General Organa. Bail would be eager to hear what she had to say, and this time, she was also looking for some answers. She had a feeling he would be able to oblige.
Exiting the med bay, she contoured the supplement area, towards the dorms. It wasn’t a long walk, but as several teams preferred to stay in their own ships instead of having a room assigned to them, the area was right next to a landing bay. She ended up passing by of the ghost as she walked.
It was probably the early hours of morning now, and despite the fact the access gateway was down, all lights inside and around the ship were off, indicating the phoenix squadron was fast asleep. Good. They deserved one peaceful night after everything they had lost.
She fought the urge to walk inside and check up on them, especially Ezra and Kanan. The droid’s words were still fresh on her mind. There would be time for that in the morning, she decided, taking her eyes off the ship and to the path ahead.
“Ahsoka” She turned around instinctively, hands on the lightsabers at her waist, towards the Ghost again.
She could now see a silhouette sitting on the ramp, two tall lekku waving slightly on top of their head. Hera.
“Hi, Hera.” She replied, letting her hands fall back at her sides. She walked towards her, more features becoming apparent in the darkness the closer she got.
“Welcome home, fulcrum. I’m glad to see you’re okay” She said, honesty mixed with pure tiredness. Ahsoka flashed her a sympathetic smile. Of all the people in their base, Hera would definitely be the one getting the least sleep after what happened.
“I am. Thank you. I was hoping to check up on you and the crew in the morning, but I guess I got lucky” It was Hera’s turn to smile.
“I suppose you did”
Ahsoka sat down next to her in the ramp and Ahsoka wasn’t sure just how long they remained like that for, both too lost in their own thoughts to move the conversation further. In the end, Ahsoka broke the silence.
“…How’s Kanan?” Even in complete darkness, Ahsoka could tell Hera’s features darkened.
“I don’t know. He’s not talking much. To me, or anyone else.” Ahsoka’s chest heaved again. She couldn’t even imagine what he was going through. She didn’t blame him from needing time.
“Not even Ezra?” Hera sighed. Ahsoka could swear her eyebags had increased just by her question.
“No. And Ezra blames himself for…” She stopped, unable to actually say the words. “I just thought, maybe if I understood what happened…. but he won’t tell me. And Ezra won’t either.” The last part of her sentence was barely a whisper.
“Ezra wasn’t there” Ahsoka said, gently. Hera only stared at her. “When Maul used his lightsaber to… He wasn’t there.” She clarified, hoping that that would at least bring some comfort. Ezra had not seen Maul blind his master.
“But you were” Hera added, hopefully. All Ahsoka could do was nod.
“What happened? I understand if you don’t want to tell me details but… I need to know” She added, before Ahsoka could protest. There was a plea on her eyes. One of a hopeless parent that just wanted to be able to restore her family. Ahsoka couldn’t deny her that.
“We split up to climb the sith temple faster, and me and Kanan ran into some inquisitors. We fought them, but it was clear that we were struggling. Eventually Maul showed up and helped. But once the inquisitor was gone, he turned on us. Said he would take Ezra. And then…” She let the words trail off, not too sure of how much she should say. Kanan’s trauma was something he had the right to tell when he was ready.
Hera squeezed her own eyes shut, as if she had been the one stabbed.
She didn’t say anything after that. Lost in thought, as if she could feel Kanan’s pain somehow. Though Ahsoka didn’t doubt that she could. Maybe not through the force, as she was able to, but it was clear that they shared a special bond. Why else would she be spending her nights sitting outside the ghost, unable to sleep out of worry otherwise? Suddenly, the force pulled at her.
“Where is he, Hera?” Hera opened her eyes again, and this time they were covered in sorrow.
“By the edge of the camp. Meditating.” She dragged the last word, unable to hide her resentment. Ahsoka had heard that tone before. Whenever Padmé stopped by the jedi temple after learning Anakin had been injured in battle but wasn’t allowed to visit, as he was doing some sort of jedi healing ritual she could not understand or help in.
“Meditating is the best thing for Kanan right now. It helps the jedi to find their balance again and strengthen their connection to the force. It was a way to soothe their emotions, and for him…” there was nothing more important at the moment. She didn’t need to complete the sentence. The explanation didn’t seem to soothe Hera though.
“I know. And I understand how important this is for you, it’s just… That’s all he does. Leaves early in the morning and comes back late at night, without saying a word to me or anyone else” So this is why you aren’t asleep. Ahsoka realized.
Once again Hera’s confusion and hurt flung her into the past. At times where Anakin too pushed back from Padmé and even herself, after the horrors of the war had gotten to him. Shut her off through their master-padawan connection so she wouldn’t be exposed to it and, she guessed, stopped visiting Padmé. Anakin and she had never talked to Ahsoka about it, not like this, no, but Ahsoka knew. Had known since she first escorted Padmé with Anakin. It was painfully obvious, as were Hera’s feelings for Kanan now. She wondered if she had intervened then, things could be different.
Ahsoka motioned to get up.
She couldn’t fix the past, but she could still help the future. If Kanan managed to push Hera and the others away like he was clearly trying to do in his grief, he would never fully heal or forgive himself. And then Ezra would be all alone too. As she was.
She picked up the pace, careful not to trip as she walked down the ramp.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ll bring him back.” She shot behind her shoulder. Hera smiled at her, gratitude splattered all over her face.
Using the little energy she had left to stretch her own force signature, Ahsoka felt it spread around herself, heightening her senses. She concentrated, trying to find his.
“Ahsoka?” Hera called, one last time. She looked back.
“You know it’s like, 3 in the morning, right?” Ahsoka’s voice startled him, pulling him from his thoughts. He jerked forward, reflexively putting his hands on the ground ahead to prevent himself from faceplanting. Keeping balance without any reference but the darkness was still something he had to work on. Especially with sharp movements. He had no time to be frustrated though.
“A-ahsoka?” He asked, complete disbelief in his voice. She had found him meditating by the south edge of the camp, halfway across the place the ghost was parked at. It was essentially the middle of nowhere, except for the few radars that he was using to keep the spiders away, and a few floodlights that kept the area relatively bright.
“I missed you too, Doom” She sat down next to him, brushing his shoulder so that he could tell where she was as she did so. He didn’t turn his head, but she could see the corner of his lips perking up at the nickname.
“Doom? I haven’t heard that name in years” He teased. She supposed he didn’t. He got that nickname after accidentally reflecting a light bolt on a training droid and ruining the youngling trials for the next two weeks.
“I guess not” She said, in a less happy tone. Life in the temple felt like it was a lifetime ago. And maybe it was. For all of them. The smile vanished from his lips.
“After the temple collapsed, I was knocked out. When I came to my senses, Vader was gone.” He nodded, face still turned to the horizon despite the fact his eyes were closed. From where she was, she could only see a short amount of scar tissue that had made its way to his left cheek.
“I’m glad you’re safe” He said, on a tired but relieved tone. She wondered how much time he and Hera spent together for them to be taking after each other that much.
“As am I that you and Ezra are ok” He didn’t answer.
The sky was beginning to brighten up by now. It would still be quite sometime before the sun rose, but Ahsoka could already notice the smallest of changes in the environment around them. The spiders seemed to notice too, as some had begun to give eating Kanan and her up, and began to make their way back to the tree line. Atollon was beautiful. Morai would have loved to come back. And Anakin would have hated it because of the sand.
“Kanan” She called, to make sure he was still listening. This time, he didn’t flinch.
“I talked to Hera earlier” He sighed, shrinking onto himself.
“I knew she was involved in this somehow.”
“She’s worried. She is giving you space, but she really needs you to come back.” Her mind wandered to Hera’s words about Ezra. “They all do”
The corners of his lips contorted in anguish.
“They will move on, eventually. Realize that I am the last thing they need right now” Ahsoka let her shock reverberate through the force. What? He did not react, though.
“Kanan, you are the only thing they do need right now. They need to be reassured things are still going to be okay. That you are going to be okay. Especially Ezra.” The mention of his apprentice made Kanan’s force signature darken. For the first time that day, he turned to her.
She hadn’t actually seen his wound before. Once Maul struck, it was all she could do to keep him from killing Kanan right then and there. And when she allowed herself to look at him again, he was wearing a sentinel mask.
The scar stretched itself from one side of his face to the other, thinning itself as it crossed from the left side to the right. Instead of his once bright green alive eyes, milky defeated ones stared on her direction. He kept them down, unsure of where she actually was.
“I can’t be who they need me to be. Not right now.” He relaxed his mental walls then, allowing her to sense everything. His grief, pain, fear, and how completely unbalanced in the Force he was, despite his best efforts.
The wave of sensations caught Ahsoka off guard, and her breath caught on her throat.
He brought his walls back up just as quickly as he had dropped them, tightening his force signature around himself as much as he could while still using it to stay aware of his surroundings. Leaving Ahsoka speechless.
He turned away from her again, towards what he assumed to be the forest. It was hard to tell, as the accuracy of his heightened senses dropped considerably after leaning on the force so heavily and for so long. He still wasn’t used to it, and the Force itself wasn’t used at being tugged on this much. Sometimes it allowed him to get by as if he still could see. Others, it abandoned him entirely. But he would just have to muddle through it. With a deep breath, he settled himself back on his knees, and allowed the force to course through him again, inviting him into a meditative state. Ahsoka’s hand on his prevented him from following it, though.
“They only person they need to be is yourself” She said, squeezing his hand for a few seconds, before letting go again.
He turned his head around, listening to her footsteps as she left, headed towards the base again.
It wasn’t too long before he joined her.
Months later, when Ahsoka visited the Atollon base again after a long undercover mission, she would find Kanan sparring with Ezra by the ghost, fighting better than she had ever seen him do when he still had his sight. Ezra no longer seemed to be filled with guilt and fear as Hera had described; In fact, both the jedi and Padawan seemed to be in perfect synchrony with each other and with the force. Hera watched them from a distance as she cataloged a few supply boxes, a huge smile on her lips. Ahsoka smiled, too.