"It's hard to wake up from a nightmare if you aren't even asleep."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
One moment Ezra was dreaming of running through the Lothal's fields at night, and the next one he felt himself being yanked back. He was endlessly falling backwards through the darkness of space, seeing the stars pulling away from him. The very core of his been was filled with a sense of dread and mortal peril. He felt he was going to... cease to be. His mind was racing in panic... his friends... Kanan! They wouldn't know what happened to him. He instinctively reached out with the Force using all his strength, straining his very soul.
"AAH!" Ezra's body jolted to the floor, entangled in bed-sheets and surrounded in darkness. He was panting and trembling with a lingering sense of apprehension. His heart was still beating desperately. Breathe, he thought, calm yourself, it was just a dream. He was disoriented as he pulled the sheet over his head. "I'm-... I'm sorry Zeb, I didn't mean to wake you..." but there was no complaining, no groans or questions, only silence in the room. “Zeb?” Ezra called again. Something was wrong. Besides the chilling silence something else was wrong. It was like he... he couldn't feel the Force fully.
Confused, Ezra looked around as his eyes focused and adapted to the lack of light around him. A realization hit him. He was not in the Ghost. He scrambled up in a hurry, hitting a table and making a stormtrooper helmet fall at his feet. He held his breath and his heart skipped a beat... He recognized this place. It was his old room in the Tower. The tower in Lothal.
"No, it can't be," he whispered in disbelief. He had been in the Ghost. He was sure of it. He tried to retrace his steps from the last day. They had saved the scientists after Saw had left them to deal with the Kyber crystal going off. They had dropped the scientist on a secure location and had just gone into hyperspace. Hera had told them it would be hours before arriving back to Yavin so everyone should just try to catch up some sleep while they could. They had all agreed. And then...
... he woke up here. Had something happened on the way back? Nothing made sense. He massaged his forehead trying to calm himself and just think, but he was startled when his fingers touched his hair... his hair was longer.
His hair was longer. That didn't just happened. He rushed to the small refresher and turned on the lights while looking at the mirror. Yes his hair was longer... not as long as he used to have it but-...
His eyes widened. The scars on his cheek were gone. His trembling fingers traced the area where they should've been. His scars were gone. The scars he had gotten when...
-Where is Kanan? Where is everyone!?-
“Kanan? Hera? Sabine! ZEB!? CHOPPER?” Ezra almost fumbled out of the refresher trying to reach for the light switch because the place was cluttered. He didn't remember leaving so much stuff behind. He turned the lights on of the rest of the room, revealing a very lived in room. His first collection of helmets were still here but they should have been in the Ghost... there were also several other helmets he never remembered getting. His old trunk was open and full of clothes, a couple of boots his current size were close to the bed, the table had a few unopened rations and a couple of credits in it. The place was clearly being occupied. He ran outside and gripped the railing. A strong wind with hit his face.
Even if it was night, Ezra could see the dark clouds of smog from the factories illuminated by the lights of the city. He glanced around the tower in shock. Beyond the highways, the fields burned. There was nothing else. No Phantom, no Ghost. Nothing.
"No. No...this is all wrong" Ezra whispered trembling. "I need to... I need to find them. They... they must be on the city..." he tried to convince himself. He couldn’t feel them through the Force but he wasn’t able to use the Force like that either. Maybe it was a drug? Maybe he was sick?
He went back in to his room, grabbing the boots and a shirt. He hurried down, almost tripping on the stairs. Once he reached the bottom of the tower he found a modded speeder bike parked just outside. Ezra stopped cold. He recognized this model. Before he had joined the Rebels he had wanted to get one like that, either stolen or bought, to get around more easily... but then he didn't, settling for a far more common model when doing their missions. He pushed the thought aside and took it anyway. He had no time to waste. The sooner he found out what happened the better.
Ezra headed into the city, taking great lengths to stay out of sight of patrols. He hadn't heard of Azadi in a while so he didn’t know the current location of the Lothal cell, but he might one of his contacts, learn of what was going on and get a message across back to Yavin.
Ezra left the bike hidden in an alley and walked tense through the streets, checking over his shoulder every now and then. He tried to relax and look casual but as soon as he turned around the corner he bumped into a whole squad of troopers. He froze on his spot. It was in that moment he realized he didn't have neither a blaster nor his lightsaber with him.
The troopers were discussing their shifts and one of them turned to Ezra.
"Move along. This street is blocked until morning," the trooper motioned to Ezra to turn back somewhat annoyed. Ezra slowly nodded hoping he wouldn’t recognize him and stepped away. Once he was at some distance he sighed in relief. Even if they had gotten a good look at him, they hadn't even cared.
-Good, that means I can look around without worry. Maybe these are new troops… and I don’t see any posters with my face on it-
He kept walking on the opposite direction hoping to see a familiar face or a sign from Azadi's group. He arrived to the main avenue that lead directly to the Imperial Base. A rising anxiety surged on his chest. Before he knew it he was walking towards the base until he almost reached the restricted landing areas. He looked over, taking the sight of the TIE fighters lined up and ground units moving around. Then he saw him.
"Kallus" Ezra’s eyes widened with a sense of hope. But... why was Kallus here? He was going to get discovered in the middle of the base! Everyone knew him! Ezra carefully crossed into the facility and stopped a few steps behind Alexandr making sure no one else was watching them.
"Hey, Kallus," Ezra whispered tensing. The man turned around, raising an eyebrow curiously at him. He looked extremely tired and worn out. He was wearing his old ISB uniform and haircut.
"This is restricted area, citizen. Leave-..."
"Kallus, what's going on?" Ezra asked him completely confused.
"*Agent* Kallus" Kallus said stressing the word. He did a double take, clearly wondering if he was supposed to know him.
"C’mon, stop the act. I’m… I was worried ok? What are you doing here? Why are we here?" Ezra was almost begging him for an answer.
"You are clearly confused. Are you drunk, young man?" Kallus frowned.
"I...what? No. Wh-"
"It's... It's me. Ezra. Ezra Bridger," he said a hint of desperation. If this was some kind of joke he had enough. Why didn’t he recognize him? Even with the longer hair...
Kallus looked on his datapad. "Uhm, a few misdemeanors, vagrancy... Listen, I don't have time for this,” Kallus sighed, his expression became darker. “If you don’t leave I'll have you arrested immediately. If you want to turn around your life and become a productive member of the Empire…” he made a small pause as if he was trying to convince he was saying the truth “...we are still looking for able bodies for our ground troops. Now if you excuse me, I have more pressing matter to attend"
"Ah... here he comes," Kallus said looking up at the incoming ship. Ezra followed his gaze and saw… and Inquisitor ship.
"No," Ezra whispered in terror. Kallus didn’t hear him, but noticed he was still behind him.
"Do I need to call in the troopers then?"
But Ezra wasn’t hearing him. He was panicking. The Inquisitors were supposed to be gone, RIGHT? He-... he couldn’t fight an Inquisitor alone not without weapons, not without his lightsaber, not without the Force. He ran.
Kallus looked at him go and gave a small chuckle. Yeah, the Inquisitors had that effect on people. He braced himself to welcome this one in Lothal.
At first Ezra didn’t know where he was running to. He needed to put as much space between him and the Inquisitor as possible, but then, he started to slow down, realizing he had ran towards his old house. Only that… the house was there. Unburnt.
“It can’t be,” he said, trying to breathe but after a few second of his mind going blank and just being overwhelmed by everything, the tears started to fall down. “Kanan... I don’t get it. I don’t…” he sobbed quietly, covering his mouth attempting to not raise anymore attention to himself. He couldn’t handle this anymore. He made his way back to his bike and returned to the tower.
Maybe this was a bad dream. Maybe he just needed to go back and sleep it off. Maybe Kallus was right and he was drugged or something. He somehow managed to sleep… but when dawn came Ezra soon realized he was trapped in a life that was a complete nightmare.
All I'm going to say is that there is a whole world of hurt waiting for Ezra... but I like him too much not to give him a happy ending. Things will get better... but not now. Not in a while.
"Some nightmares don't end when we open our eyes."
Ezra stared at the ceiling of the room. He couldn't even will himself to get out of bed. Everything was wrong. He was still here. In this place. His old place. The crew was nowhere to be found. Kallus didn't recognize him. There were inquisitors on Lothal. His old home was still standing. He didn't have his weapons. He could barely feel the Force.
His breathing became erratic, his heartbeat increased.
-No. No. Don't. Just breathe...- he ordered himself to calm down. He couldn't do a lot about most of the other stuff but if there was one thing he could count on, it was the Force. Trust the Force, right?
Ezra sat cross legged on the bed and cleared his mind. He tried to reach out into the Force but he could barely brush it. It was as if he couldn't "stretch". Soon he found himself sweating from the strain and decided to stop. The Force was there alright... he was the problem.
"Uggh... I don't get it!" he fell back to the bed in defeat. Maybe he had hit his head and was hallucinating all of this? After a while his stomach growled and he finally got up and went over the table. He grabbed one ration knowing that he needed to keep himself fed... Hera would have told him to eat.
He then spotted a damaged pamphlet below the rest of the rations. It was half crumpled but the rations on top seemed to have smoothed it a little. It looked like ‘ he ’ had placed it like that on purpose. Ezra took it and read it curiously.
Are you looking for new opportunities?
Do you want a new life?
Join the glory of the Empire!
A secure job! Excellent benefits!
Contact your closest-
Ezra crumpled the paper in anger and threw it to the corner of the room. No. It couldn't be. He couldn't have been considering joining. No way.
With renewed energy he started to practically turn the whole room upside down, looking for clues of his situation, why he was here.
Yes, this was definitely HIS room. The clothes were his size and he even found his older clothes on the bottom of the trunk. He couldn't find any weapons, except for a single small knife he took and hid on his belt. No comm or datapad either. He found a secret stash of credits inside a vent he used to hide important stuff when he was young... not much, just enough for the month.
By the time he ended searching, it seemed like a tornado had gone inside the tower. Ezra sighed still not happy with the results.
"No comms..." he whispered. He needed to contact Azadi, contact Yavin, Hera… Kanan. His heart winced.
He decided to return to the city again to try to find someone who might help him, while staying clear of the Imperial base. He took the bike, his bike , a bike he couldn’t remember ever getting and headed straight to Old Jo's only to find it closed down. When asking around, people gave them funny looks and avoided the conversation, walking more quickly to leave him behind.
"Karabast," he cursed and kept cruising through the city. Listening to the rest of people in the rundown market and overhearing the troops he realized the Imperial presence was too heavy, both in the ground and in orbit.
-Wait a minute. Kallus… When Kallus was here, when he was Fulcrum, he sent his messages from my tower but there wasn't any transmitter there right now- Ezra suddenly remembered. -Oh, that's right. I had taken my parent's broadcaster to the tower back when we were still operating here. Maybe is still in the house...?-
He gulped. He didn't think he was ready to return to the house but it seemed like he had no other choice. He needed to check if it was still there. He parked outside and entered when no one was looking. The house was untouched... but older and dustier than he remembered. He moved the couch and climbed down.
His heart skipped a beat. The holodisk with his photo was there, just like that first time. It was like he in fact had never came here with Sabine and the others. His lips made a fine line and pushed down his worry.
-Don't think about it, just take the transmitter and go-
The device was bulky and likely broken, from what he could remember. It would need repairs. He disconnected it and took all the cables and parts he assumed might be important, slipping the holodisk safely onto his pocket to check later, and loaded everything to the bike.
Once back in the tower he confirmed the transmitter was broken. He might not be as skilled with electronics as Sabine but he believed he could fix this himself. It would only require more time and a few tools and spare parts. He used part of the money to buy them but that left him dangerously low on money.
-It doesn’t matter, once I contact them, things will be alright-
After a few days Ezra finally finished with the transmitter and didn’t waste anymore time. He set the frequency codes of the Ghost.
“Specter 6 here. Specter 1 are you there? Specter 2?” Silence. He tried again. “Specter 6 here…”
Ezra spent an hour trying to reach them. Maybe they were outside the Ghost and didn’t have their comms with them. Ezra changed the codes, this time for the Phantom, and got the same results.
The codes to the Fleet. Nothing.
The codes to Yavin. Nothing.
He was sweating cold. He was sure he wasn’t being jammed in this channel. He tried the Fulcrum codes. Ahsoka and Kallus had used several codes when transmitting so it took him a while to remember them correctly and go through each one. He had spent already a whole day without sleeping, just trying to contact anyone.
“By the light of Lothal’s moons… Please… is anybody there? Can anybody hear me?” Ezra said completely tired. Silence. He left the mic on the table and dropped into the chair. That was the last frequency. He gritted his teeth as an emotion of hopelessness invaded him. There was no one out there… or at least they wouldn’t-
“Who is this?” a digitally distorted voice came through startling Ezra. He fumbled to grab the mic again.
“HELLO? It’s Ezra! Ezra Bridger!” he said throwing all secrecy and code names to the side. “I’m in Lothal! I’ve been trying to contact you guys! I can’t find Azadi and-” he heard a soft click, the connection dropped from the other end. Panic . “Hello? HELLO? Please. PLEASE. Answer me.”
But whoever had been, didn’t respond again. Ezra was on his own… without knowing what had happened to the others. He pushed down the feeling of anxiety and dried the sudden wetness from his eyes with the back of his hand. Ezra needed to get out of here. If he couldn’t reach them, he needed to find them himself.
With so little money left, he decided to check for a small job around the space port. Luckily for him, he found a hauling cargo opportunity. They wanted young and able bodies... for some reason droids were being restricted in the area. Besides the credits, Ezra was interested on seeing if he could steal one of these ships to escape, but he soon found out most of these ships were bulky, defenseless and slow freighters. He would never make it to orbit before he got shot down.
After a few days like that he started to get desperate. On his spare time he meditated with the Force making some progress with his ability to connect but was like his whole body and mind had forgotten how to connect. He was starting from zero… no, it was worse than when he started. He also knew he could not push himself too much or there could be dire consequences, specially with the state of mind he was in. He might slip with the darkside and he couldn't take that chance.
From the space port, Ezra also watched the Inquisitor ship coming and going to the imperial base from afar.
-Don’t worry. As long as I don’t show off… I don’t think they even know I’m here- he kept reminding himself trying to keep the apprehension at bay. He felt powerless, unable to face them or escape.
A couple of weeks later, as he was heading to the space port to start his shift, he notices the hangars closed.
“What’chu doing here, kid?” Ezra’s boss said, an older woman with short gray hair.
“I… I came to work?” Ezra said confused. Had he missed an announcement or something? To be honest he hadn’t exactly paid much attention other than the types of ships arriving.
“Nuh-uh, I’m not paying double today, just go to the parade like the rest,” she dismissed him. “I might be old, but I can handle one day on my own.”
Ezra’s blood ran cold. He remembered now. It was Empire Day. He had just turned 18.
“Go and have some fun while you are still young!” the Captain laughed and left him outside the hangar. Ezra stood there looking at the doors for several minutes, then he walked back with a blank expression on his face. The people he crossed were not exactly happy but knew they needed a distraction from their lives and crowed the main streets for whatever entertainment it was being offered. Somehow he found himself standing outside a bar. He entered. The place was bustling, but it was like Ezra couldn’t hear them.
The woman attending the bar watched him approach and stare at the bottles on the back.
“Looking for something in particular?” she raised an eyebrow realizing he wasn’t not entirely there.
“No, I just-...” he trailed off.
“Here,” she served him a golden liquid in a small glass. “Seems like you need this, love.”
Ezra slowly grabbed it and stared at it. He gulped it in one go.
“That’s the spirit!” the woman reached to pat him in the back and served him another one.
Ezra wasn’t sure how long he was there or how much he drank. Trying to numb his loneliness? No. He knew this wouldn’t work. In fact it was having the opposite effect. It brought memories of his friends to the surface. He missed them. He missed so much. But the missed Kanan the most. His smile, his presence, his care. Ezra's heart ached.
“What am I doing? Kanan...” he held back a sob. He didn’t know if Kanan was ok. He had to be ok, right? He had to be. He wouldn’t like you are doing this. You know better than this. He heard in the back of his head. He nodded to no one in particular, just left enough credits to cover for his drinks and left the bar.
He was unsure of how he managed to get back to the tower on his own, simply waking up on his bed late at night. It was still a few hours before dawn. Everything was still dark. He sighed deeply. Luckily Ezra's head wasn't hurting so much so he left his bed and simply started cleaning around the room not wanting to go back to sleep again. He had neglected doing chores until now… It was the last thing on his mind but now he needed to keep himself busy without wondering too much about what happened to his friends. He picked his helmets from the floor and placed them back on a low shelf and then...
He heard the unmistakable sound of lightsabers igniting behind him by the entrance.
-The inquisitors!- was the first thing that came to his mind.
Instincts kicked in. He threw two of the helmets back and rolled away from the door. The helmets got slashed mid air before ever hitting its target, two bright white blades moved through the darkness. Ezra's eyes widened.
“ Ahsoka ” he breathed in disbelief. She looked older, worn out and hardened.
"Who are you?” she pointed at him with one of her lightsabers. “Speak!" she demanded glaring.
"The impact and pain from a nightmare can be greater than any given blow."
Ahsoka had her white lightsabers pointing at Ezra.
“Ahsoka... you- you are alive!” Ezra couldn’t believe his eyes, he slowly got up shaking. She rose her lightsabers menacingly, but Ezra didn’t care. Ahsoka was here. Somehow she was alive! His eyes filled with tears of happiness. He stepped closer to hug her and a surprised Ahsoka had to turn off the lightsabers just in time before Ezra would impale himself on them. Ezra simply hugged her for a few seconds before she awkwardly reacted pushing him away.
“I said, who are you!?” she kept him at arm’s length. It was at that moment Ezra realized she didn’t knew who he was either.
“No, not you too, please,” he begged. Ahsoka narrowed her eyes. This guy certainly seemed to know her and she could feel that both his initial relief seeing her alive and his current pain were real. His soul was full of turmoil. “It’s me… Ezra. Ezra Bridger. You know me. You must.”
“What are you talking about?” she still couldn’t believe him. She activated her sabers again to demonstrate she wasn’t playing around. “Who gave you the Fulcrum frequency codes? Are you an Inquisitor?”
“What? No! No, I'm not an Inquisitor,” he raised his hands to show her he meant no harm. “Why... why don't you remember me? Please, just... just tell me the others are fine,” he pleaded.
“Hera, Sabine, Zeb, Chopper... Kanan... please. Just tell me they are fine,” Ezra was getting desperate again. A shadow of pain crossed over Ahsoka’s face at Ezra’s words.
“Where have you heard of those names?” she asked, still suspicious of him.
“Ahsoka... I'm... I'm Kanan's padawan. We've been helping the Rebellion for years now,” Ezra tried to explain. Ashoka blinked surprised then frowned in confusion.
“Hera never said anything about Kanan Jarrus getting a Padawan,” she shook her head.
“What...? Please, you have to believe me,” Ezra said. Ahsoka gazed at his desperate blue eyes, full of hurt... and lowered her lightsabers.
“You are convinced of this.”
“What else do I have to say for you to believe me? Hera gave me the fleet codes. You and Kallus gave us the Fulcrum codes. Please, just... just let me talk to them. I don’t know why everything is so wrong. Kanan will help figure this out. I know he will.”
“I don’t understand this either. You did have my personal codes. But even if what you say is true… You can’t speak with them…” she said with sadness, looking at the floor.
“W-what? Why?” Ezra’s voice trembled.
“The last time I had contact with the Specters was just before a mission 4 years ago. Hera had let me know they had a tip about some slave wookiees…”
“Wait... The ones from-?... Vizago gave them the tip, right? That's when we met! That time! I tried to steal their crates and I had to stick along for the ride. I-”
“She never mentioned anyone else. She said everything had gone without a hitch,” Ahsoka shook her head.
“It seems like it was a trap. They were caught. Sabine Wren was taken to Mandalore and executed for treason. The others... all I know is that they might have executed them on the spot… I never heard of them again.”
“What are you-?” he choked the words in shock. “No. No! You are wrong! We escaped! We escaped that ship! We were going to get caught but Hera sent me to warn them and-...” he grew silent and his eyes went wide with horror. He looked around the room, felt the holodisk of his parents still on his pocket. Like he had never met them.
“Oh no... no. I wasn't there. No. Oh God no,” his body had started trembling, tears filled his eyes and Ezra brought his hands up grabbing at his hair.
“Hey, Ezra, right?” Ahsoka noticed he was starting to lose it. “Ezra, you need to calm down.”
“How... this can't-... they can't be dead. No. No,” he doubled as if the idea was physically hurting him. He shut his eyes close and reached into the Force like he had never done before in his current state. “Kanan? PLEASE! WHERE ARE YOU?... KANAN!” he screamed into the Force with all his power but he didn’t found Kanan’s warmth… he found only coldness. Ezra gave out a painful cry as if his heart had just been stabbed with a freezing blade. He almost fell back but Ahsoka managed to keep him from hitting himself in the floor. He was exhausted, completely drained. He had used all his strength to reach into the Force like that. He sobbed weakly.
“I was supposed to be there…! I was supposed to save them. I did. I know I did,” Ezra assured Ahoska, as she held him up. She allowed him to cry in her shoulder. Somehow, even if she didn’t know him, his feelings were real. His feelings for the defunct Ghost crew were real. A Force-sensitive who was in clear need of her right now.
“Breathe,” she whispered patting him in the back. After a few minutes, Ezra was still sobbing but his heartbeat had stabilized. He just felt so lost. They were gone, all of them. What was he supposed to do now?
Ahsoka narrowed her eyes looking at the door.
“We need to move,” she said. Ezra looked up confused. He could barely think straight, but he forced through the haze of his pain to focus on what Ahsoka was saying. “I've been trying to hide my presence as much as I could, but I think by you reaching into the Force like that... you might have attracted some attention,” Ahsoka explained to him once he confirmed he was actually listening to her.
“The Inquisitor,” Ezra whispered with worry looking at the door and to the city in the distance. “I-I don't have my lightsaber... I-...” he was useless in a fight. He could barely do anything. He had just placed Ahsoka in danger. Why? WHY?
“Come,” Ahsoka extended her hand and grabbed his arm. She guided him outside, down the tower and into her small ship. They didn’t take to orbit and instead, Ahsoka flew low away from the city. The trip was all a blur to Ezra... like if this was happening to someone else. It couldn’t be him. This couldn’t be real.
But it was.
He came back to his full senses a few hours later. Ahsoka was taking them away into the spire mountains to hide. Ezra was sitting in the cockpit, his head against the window, seeing everything pass below him. He tried to take a deep breath but his chest hurt from crying this long.
“We will wait a bit here,” Ahsoka pointed at a small clearing and landed. The silence between was tense. She clearly wanted to understand and help Ezra but was still at a loss as much as him.
“We never met. They died because we never met here… But I met them. I lived with them until now...”
“Wouldn't it be possible you imagined everything?”
“No. I lived it. It was real,” he said defensively and starting to get frustrated. But at least he finally had someone who could hear him and, perhaps, help him. “It was as real as you sitting here. I know the codes, right? I mean... I know stuff I could only learn from them. Stuff no one else knows…”
“You were surprised I was alive,” she countered.
“Yes… some stuff is different from what I lived because I never met them… Kanan, you and I had gone to Malachor to investigate how to stop the Inquisitors. We lost you there… you stayed back to stop a Sith Lord and allow us to escape,” he said looking down in shame.
“Malachor? The Sith planet of the old stories?” she blinked a little surprised. “And did you find what you were looking for?”
“Yes… but no. It was all wrong. It made things worse… I…” he remembered Kanan getting blinded and shook his head. They had gone past that. Kanan had assured him he didn’t blame him for that. “There was a terrible weapon and a Sith holocron there. They were nothing but trouble,” he said bitterly from experience.
“And… how did you find out about that?”
“Oh, the Jedi Temple here in Lothal. We contacted-...” he trailed off. The Temple. Yoda.
“There’s a Temple here?” Ashoka asked curiously.
“YES!” he exclaimed suddenly excited. Maybe they could contact Yoda! “The Jedi Temple here in Lothal. Even though I managed to find it on my own, Kanan had its location in his Holocron, that’s how-... Wait,” his blood ran cold. “Kanan’s Holocron. It must have been on the Ghost when they were caught…” Ezra gritted his teeth in anger. “Karabast if they found the Holocron on the ship they might know of the Temple.”
Something nudged Ezra in the back of his mind.
“I know the coordinates. Can you take us there? Please?” Ezra asked with pleading eyes. Ahsoka’s lips made a fine line.
“Listen. I can’t stay here in Lothal for long. I need to return to the Rebel Cell in Garel soon…” she explained. “I’ll take you there… but you will have to decide what you want to do then.”
“Alright…” Ezra nodded. “Thank you.”
Ahsoka placed the coordinates Ezra gave her into the autopilot and they were heading North in no time. A few hours later they saw the lone rock in front of them.
“This is it,” Ezra got off the ship and felt the chilled air. He rubbed his arms for warmth but it was no use. He shook his head. “I’ll need your help. A master and apprentice are needed to open the Temple.”
Ahsoka made a face… she certainly didn’t like that idea.
“I’m not a Jedi,” she shook her head.
“I know… but… you are the only one who can help. Please.”
Ashoka looked around at the endless fields. Dark clouds and shadows gathered on the horizon. She sighed. Was this all a plot of the Force?
“Very well,” she sighed and stepped into the circle with Ezra.
Ezra really, really hoped this could work. He remembered his powers were a lot more developed when he came here the first time than how he was now, so he was taking a big risk, especially because he still felt exhausted from his earlier outburst. They both raised their arms and concentrated. The temple seemed to greet them the same way like the first time. It turned around and showed them the first entrance. It wouldn’t budge for the second one.
Ezra sighed in relief. This should be enough. They entered the first area… and Ezra was expecting to see the old corpses he remembered but it was all clear.
“Huh,” Ezra raised an eyebrow.
“Is something wrong?” Ahsoka asked looking with interest at the engravings on the walls of the larger area.
“Not exactly, but-” when Ezra turned around, he was already in the space full of stars. He gasped. The Temple had taken him directly here? There had been several trials during his first time here… perhaps the Temple knew he had already passed them? A ray of hope shone on his heart.
“H-hello?” he called into the stars. He suddenly realized this place was like the one on the last dream he had before he woke up here, but before he could follow on that thought he heard a familiar voice.
“Mmmh… suffering great loss you are?” a whisper echoed around Ezra.
“Indeed, yes. Met me before, you have. Yet, know you I don’t. Mmmh... mysterious this is...”
“I know! Things are all wrong! I had seen you here before. I had passed my first trials. I was with Kanan and the others helping the Rebellion, but now… it’s like I never knew them! They are... they are dead" he was holding back his tears. "Why? Do you know what is happening to me? How can I make things as they were? Make it all right! Please!”
“As they are, things are. Your right, someone’s wrong might be. But yes… more light your life had. Here, almost triumphed the darkness has…”
“So you are saying… I can’t go back? I... can’t fix things?” Ezra’s shoulder dropped, tears had started to stream down his cheeks almost without realizing.
“Many things changed or restored cannot be… yet nothing is impossible for the Force. Connected to this place you are… but improve your sight you must to see if answers are within.”
Ezra nodded and dried his tears. “I… I think I understand. I need to train. Last time I contacted you here I could even see you, but I right now I can barely hear you. Is like... I stopped training a muscle... it atrophied.”
“Hmm-mm, good. A start that is.”
“There’s one thing though. It seems like Ahsoka and the Rebels are still fighting. The Inquisitors are here too… If I’m staying here, I need a way to protect myself. I don’t want to be a burden to Ahsoka or anyone...I’ll help her, I'll help them for as long as I can.”
“Learned well you have,” Yoda hummed with approval.
“Yes…” Ezra said feeling his heart wince at the memory of Kanan.
“Mmh… still, great is your loss. Beware of the darkness or consume you it will. Selflessness is the path to the light… remember well”
“I will,” Ezra nodded and saw a gleam above him. A familiar blue light. Ezra reached up and slowly grabbed it and smiled sadly. He took it close to his heart. It was the only thing he had that was the same as his life used to be. The blue kyber crystal he had acquired when he came with Kanan.
-Kanan- he thought, his heart wincing in pain and feeling his eyes well up.
When he opened his eyes, he was back with Ahsoka.
“So?” Ahsoka raised an eyebrow looking back from the engravings of wolves in the walls.
“Huh…” Ezra looked around and dried his tears. “I’m back.”
“What? You never left,” she frowned confused.
“No, I just did. Look…” he said showing the crystal at the palm of his hand.
“Oh...” she smiled and gave a small chuckle seemingly satisfied. “A Jedi Temple alright. They have tricks. You never know what to expect.”
“Did you learn anything then?”
“I know what I have to do,” Ezra said with a little more resolve than before. His voice was still shaking from all crying but he was holding together better than he expected. Didn’t change the fact he felt like someone had just ripped his heart out. “I need to get better with the Force. I think I’m too weak to do anything right now. I’ll stay with you and try to help the Rebellion as much as I can until then… if that’s ok with you,” he said tentatively.
This was so sudden. Ahsoka could see something was afoot here with the Force. It wasn’t like she could turn him away as if it was nothing. She sighed.
“Alright. It will be weird to have you around. I’ve gotten used to working alone mostly but… I believe you. You need me… and if you said things were better where you come from then perhaps our Rebellion needs you too more than I can imagine,” she nodded.
Ezra was feeling just a little bit better when they exited the Temple. The rock turned back, hiding itself in the ground, just like that time long ago… on his other life. Ezra sighed, keeping the Kyber over his heart but then… he caught movement in the corner of his eyes. He looked at the fields… the grass moving with the rising wind of a coming storm. And for a moment, Ezra could have sworn he saw a dark beast’s yellow eyes staring back at him but, in a blink, it was gone. Ezra felt a chill down his spine.
“Hey,” Ahsoka touched his shoulder and his whole body jolted.
“Whoa, are you ok?”
“I…” he looked back. “I think I saw something.”
Ahsoka frowned checking the horizon seeing nothing, and closed her eyes. She shrugged. “I don’t feel anyone there. It must have been some animal. C’mon, let’s go,” she patted him on the shoulder and motioned him into the ship.
Ezra gulped and got inside with hurry. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something had just been hunting him. Searching for him. Wanting to kill him. Destroy him. Something that made him clutch at his heart and want to leave Lothal immediately.
"Who says that dreams and nightmares are not as real as the here and now?"
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“What’s the last thing you remember?” Ahsoka asked Ezra while they took to orbit. Her small ship had a cargo ID in rule and didn’t have any problems crossing the tight security with several Imperial ships.
“I… We were returning to the base. To Yavin,” Ezra explained staring blankly at the stars.
“Yavin, huh?” Ahsoka’s eyes lit up with interest. “We have prospected the area before but we were still thinking on our options. Most of the others cells refuse to work together.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Ezra remembered there hadn’t been any transmission from his part or… “Wait. What about Mon Mothma? Is she still alive?”
“Oh… She got captured a while back when she left the Senate,” Ahsoka bit her lower lip. That had been a morale blow for everyone. They hadn’t gotten to her on time. Ezra sunk on his seat. Something in the back of his mind told him that maybe if his parents hadn’t heard the transmission they might be still alive in prison, but Azadi was also missing and… he couldn’t sense them. Just like the Ghost crew… all he could feel was either a void or coldness. They had died. He closed his eyes as a few tears rolled down his cheeks, but he hurried to dried them.
“Just before returning to base, we had saved a few engineers and destroyed a huge kyber crystal. Gerrera wanted to-”
“Saw Gerrera?” Ahsoka frowned. “You were working with Saw Gerrera??” she said with disgust and anger.
“A couple of times… we didn’t part in the best terms,” he said a little nervous. “Why?”
Ashoka was scowling looking ahead. “We lost Lothal because of him.”
“After the Ghost Crew disappeared, no other group took their place… things went downhill pretty quick,” Ahsoka explained and took a deep breath. “When they opened that TIE fighter factory in Lothal... a lot of people didn’t have another option and started to work there. Then, it seems Gerrera caught wind they were doing some kind of secret project there and… he used a service droid to blow the fuel depot… on rush hour.”
Ezra’s jaw dropped. “How many dea-?”
“Several hundred workers died. Thousands were injured. He said that whoever was helping the Empire in any way deserved to go down with them. The people of Lothal lost all trust on the Rebels… Several sympathizers were arrested snitched by locals. They didn’t like the Empire but at least they wouldn’t blow their own, they said.”
A ball of anger started to grow on Ezra’s throat. That’s why they were contracting people instead of droids to do menial tasks at the port. He regretted not looking up further when he was back there.
“Gerrera was… not good… but we had managed to talk to him out of doing a bunch of stuff before,” Ezra said in low voice. “But yeah… he was certainly going on that direction”.
The travel through hyperspace to Garel was short. Surprisingly, Garel didn’t seem too different from what Ezra remembered from his early time here. Ahsoka took Ezra to present him to Sato as Jedi-in-training and left it at that. Seeing Sato was… a shock too. His eyes didn’t have that passion he used to have working for the Rebellion. He looked sad and somewhat bitter.
-Oh no...Mart.- Ezra thought. Mart must have been either killed or taken prisoner over Mykapo. -Dammit...the rest of my friends… Zare, his sister, Jai...- they were gone. Even if he was visible upset he shook Sato’s hand and promised to do whatever it was possible to help them. Ahsoka and him obviously left out the issue of Ezra coming from another reality… no one else needed to know.
“If Ahsoka vouches for you, then I can’t turn you down. If you are going to stay here you will need some new ID and papers for Garel,” Sato said giving him a curious look. “Please, go to this address with our contact. Give her this code…”
Ezra went on his own, while Ahsoka and Sato discussed the state of Lothal, explaining what she had seen and the increased security. Ezra knew the streets on this city so he had no problem to find the house with the contact. He knocked once, then thrice, then once, just as he was told. The door opened a little and he could see a woman peering through.
“I need help with a poem. I heard you are a good writer,” Ezra said the secret password too. These Rebels were really suspicious and paranoid, always looking over their shoulder, and he couldn’t blame them. The woman huffed and nodded.
“Fine, fine, I can help,” she said with some reluctance and opened the door. Ezra gasped recognizing her.
“Maketh Tua,” he whispered in disbelief. Tua’s face was washed with fear and pulled him inside quickly and looking outside worriedly hoping no one had heard him.
“Don’t go saying that in the open! I’m not Maketh Tua. My name is Rita Zante. Alright??” she pointed at him shaking with fear. “How do you know me? Have they put a hit on my head? Have you seen wanted posters or something?”
“Oh… no. I… I used to live in Lothal,” he tried to find the right explanation. “I lived in Lothal all my life until recently.”
“Ah… I see,” she straightened up regaining a little of her composure. “I see. Alright… that explains that. You almost killed me from the impression… just… don’t go saying my old name around. Ok, if you come for Lothal making your fake ID will be easier for me… just sit there.”
Ezra sat watching her go through some info on her datapad and comparing it to a stack of papers she had in a desk. Maketh Tua was alive here. She had not been killed when trying to defect when they were being chased by Vader. Ezra remembered Yoda’s words:
Your right, someone’s wrong might be.
If he made things ‘right’ it would mean Ahsoka, Sato and Tua would be gone. Who knows how many other people would be affected. He shook his head.
-Just focus on the problem at hand. Helping the Rebellion. I’m still too weak to do anything about it so there’s no point on worrying on...consequences.-
After an hour or so, Ezra had the best fake ID he’d ever seen. For all intents and purposes he was now a citizen of Garel. He was also given a tiny private room in an apartment building instead of a shared one on their “base”. It was sad to see this Rebellion so far behind of his own. That night, in the privacy of his room, he cried silently, letting all his pain and sadness out. He knew he couldn’t keep it all in or it would lead him closer to the darkside. Holding at the pillow, he sobbed for his friends and he sobbed for Kanan. He cried for how alone he felt and how much he missed him. But he needed to keep going… even if it hurt. And with that, his new life with the Rebellion started from scratch.
During the following days, Ezra would make small ‘milk runs’, help with scouting, spying and all the normal things he could do without the aid of the Force. On the days Ahsoka returned from some secret meeting or mission they would train and meditate together. As soon as he finished his lightsaber (this time with a regular hilt but with his old blue crystal) he started sparring with Ahsoka seriously. Her training style was very different from Kanan’s, making much more aggressive and dangerous approaches. It was harder than what he remembered, or maybe he was just too far behind? She would push his physical and mental limits with the Force. In any case, Ahsoka was impressed. While his connection with the Force was slowly recovering, luckily, his memories for his fighting techniques were almost untouched.
His nights were restless and every day he would wake up feeling worried and alone. His heart ached, but all he could remember from his dreams was a thick darkness and a sense of hopelessness.
-No, I can’t give in. Kanan wouldn’t want me to...- and that gave him just enough warmth to keep going.
One day, Ezra had been tasked on delivering a package to a group on another city in Garel. He took a bike and headed out by himself. He didn’t expect any trouble… but he also never expected to get his life turned around more than already was.
He was driving down the highway, no other transport on sight, when he heard it. He pressed the brakes so fast he almost thrown ahead from the inertia. He looked around and up almost desperately until he saw it.
The Ghost flew overhead.
A chill ran down his spine. He was frozen in shock. Even though it was repainted, he could have recognize the sound of the engines anywhere, in this reality or back home. Then, after a second he accelerated chasing it. It was also heading towards the same city, but it was going much faster and quickly left him behind. He reached into the Force, trying to feel if he recognized who was flying it but it was a stranger. A ball of anger started to form on his stomach. Someone had taken the Ghost for themselves. He rushed through the gates of the city and the streets to the spaceport as fast as he could, but by the time he found the right landing pad, the ship was already leaving.
“NO!” Ezra cursed watching it go. He turned around and saw a bunch Troopers looking at him. They were moving some cargo around. Ezra became very still.
“Do you have a problem?” one of the troopers asked, suspicious of him.
“Oh… sorry. I just… I just saw that ship and… I had never seen a VCX-100 modded like that. Wow! I mean, it was a VCX-100 right? I wished I could see it more closely!” Ezra laughed nervously and looking sheepish.
“Yeah, a VCX-100,” the trooper wasn't totally convinced. “You can’t stay here while we load our cargo to the transport. Now scram,” the trooper motioned him to get back.
“Yeah! Sorry! Sorry, sir!” Ezra turned around, his smile immediately disappearing from his face as soon as he was out of sight from them. He went to ask around the port about details on the Ghost, always under the pretense of being a fanatic of modded ships. He even used a few terms he had heard from Hera and Sabine to sound knowledgeable. All he learned was what he feared…
The Ghost, it seemed, was propriety of the Empire right now. With some more coaxing, he also learned the ship used to make deliveries from Lothal and a few other systems to this port. They said it should be heading for Lothal right now.
Cursing in low voice he delivered the package he was meant to and went back to Ahsoka immediately. She had just left from a talk with Sato when he arrived to their ‘base’.
“We need to talk,” he didn’t even wait for a hello, pulling her aside. He explained everything what he saw and learned. “We need to get the Ghost back”
“Ezra…” she wasn't sure of his idea.
“No, no you don’t get it. If I remember correctly the Holocron AND Kanan’s lightsaber could be still there, hidden away in a secret compartment.”
“The holocron that you said had the coordinates to the Temple on Lothal?” Ahsoka blinked with worry.
“YES! Besides… I have seen what other ships this Rebel cell has in the fleet. They couldn’t hold a candle to the Ghost,” Ezra said with sadness. “Hera would never want the Ghost on Imperial hands. She would have wanted the Rebellion to use it for our cause.”
Ahsoka sighed and nodded. “You are right. Let’s get it back.”
They flew to Lothal that same day, wasting no time. They went into the city taking care to avoid the patrols and went to the edge of the Imperial base. They saw the Ghost on one of the landing pads.
“We can use it to flee. If any ship is capable crossing the blockade while being chased, it's the Ghost,” Ezra said with resolution.
They both headed stealthily towards the ship… but midway, Ezra stopped in his place, a chill ran down his spine. The Force was trying to tell him something. Trying to catch his attention.
“I…” he blinked in confusion, unable to explain what he was feeling.
“HEY!” someone yelled behind him. A Storm Trooper had glimpsed them, attracting the attention of his peers and raised their blasters.
“Dammit!” Ezra barely had time to throw himself to the side to avoid being shot. Ahsoka also took cover, trying not to take her lightsabers out and reveal themselves as Jedi.
Somewhere inside the base, Kallus was tensily reporting to the Inquisitor, who had seemingly lost interest on their talk. Something had caught his attention, but with the mask on, Kallus couldn’t tell exactly what. He dared not to ask because from the moment the new Inquisitor had arrived on Lothal Kallus could feel a great hatred towards his persona from him. Kallus didn’t want to give this man any excuse to cut his head off. At that moment, his comm activated.
“SIR! We got intruders on the west landing port. Seems like they trying to steal a VCX-100 freighter!”
Kallus blinked. He knew that ship. Before he could say anything, the Inquisitor raised from his seat, igniting his red lightsaber.
“I'll deal will them. Send all available troops to stall them,” the Inquisitor ordered him.
“What-?” Kallus started but the blade came suddenly dangerously close to his throat. He stiffened.
“Do it,” it was the last warning. Kallus felt a chill down his spine. Pure hatred.
“As you wish.”
Ezra was returning fire when he noticed the growing number of Troopers showing up between them and the Ghost… And then they saw a red glow coming out of the doors of the base from their right. An inquisitor was running towards them.
“We will have to fight,” Ahsoka took her lightsabers. “We need to get to the Ghost, NOW.”
“I'll handle the Inquisitor,” Ezra said suddenly realizing their situation.
“I can't block all those blasters without better Force reflexes, you know that. My fighting technique is the best thing I have right now. I can hold the Inquisitor back while you clear off a path.”
She gritted her teeth. He was right.
“Don't get killed,” she nodded and stood in the open deflecting blast after blast towards the troopers, knocking them out.
Ezra needed to buy time and not get beheaded while doing it. Yes, his lightsaber technique was mostly intact... but not having his full Force proficiency back was going to be a problem as many of the forms required almost supernatural precision and timing to pull off.
“Stick to the basics. Mix it up,” he murmured under his breath. This wasn't an Inquisitor he had met before so he had no idea of his fighting style. He had a feeling of apprehension on his stomach as he ran towards the Inquisitor.
-Yeah, this is dangerous, but there is no other way!- he told himself trying to dismiss the emotion. Ezra went all out with an aggressive approach, combining Form 1 and Form 2, surprising the Inquisitor who immediately fell back to a defensive style. Ezra was glad. It seemed the Inquisitor had not expected someone like him to be able to bring that into a fight. This was risky, but Ezra was almost sure he would be able to go toe with toe with an Inquisitor with a similar level. He knew he needed to dictate the terms of the fight and not give him one moment of respite... and yet...
Something was wrong.
The more he fought, the more the feeling of apprehension grew on him. Now that he had a better connection with the Force he could feel the alarms in the back of his mind. He needed to stop. He needed to get away. The Inquisitor sensed his hesitation and countered back. Ezra had suddenly lost the upper hand on their duel. In a desperate risky move, Ezra blocked then swirled around, rising his lightsaber, vertically slashing off the mask from the Inquisitors face. The inquisitor had jumped back just in time avoiding getting his face slashed too.
The mask fell. The Inquisitor turned to Ezra ready for more. Ezra saw him and his eyes went wide with horror as his whole body reeled back on a state of shock.
NO. IT CAN'T BE.
Ahsoka felt his fear through the Force, making her look back with worry.
Ezra couldn't speak. He couldn't move. He couldn't breathe.
It was Kanan. Short hair. Tattoo marks on his face. Bright yellow eyes… Ezra's lightsaber fell from his hand and he didn't even notice.
“I can feel your despair. The dread…” Kanan narrowed his eyes with an evil pleased smirk.
“EZRA!” the scream urged him into action but it seemed so far away and he couldn't look back. He could only see and hear HIM, approaching with the red lightsaber.
“Kanan,” Ezra managed to say. His voice was trembling, his body barely holding up. The name made the Inquisitor stop in his tracks and frown, perhaps surprised to hear the name again.
“...Wrong. Tenth Brother,” he shook his head.
“...No…” tears started falling from Ezra's eyes. He felt the world around him collapsing, the core of his being cracking under despair.
“Strange. You are not afraid of dying. What is it then?” Kanan asked curiously but Ezra just looked at him helplessly. “No matter... it ends here.”
“Snap out of it!” Ahsoka yelled running to him and felt a surge in the Force just like that day in the tower.
“NO!” Ezra cried out just as Kanan raised the lightsaber to strike him. Ezra released a huge Force push sending Kanan flying back in surprise. Ezra collapsed in the floor like last time but Ahsoka was there the next second.
“Stand up! We're leaving!” she picked his lightsaber and grabbed him by the wrist pulling him up. She had finished with the troopers blocking them from the Ghost but soon more would follow.
“No... Kanan!” Ezra weakley resisted.
“I can't fight him and defend you at the same time!”
“Kanan!” he was out of himself but Ahsoka was stronger.
“I have to-” he pleaded.
“He's an inquisitor now!” she was almost dragging him away.
“NO!” he cried out in despair, just as he caught glimpse of Kanan standing up with murderous hatred in his eyes. And that sight made something inside Ezra break and he let himself be guided into the Ghost without another word.
I want to thank Backtothe80scolors on tumblr for doing an amazing commission of Inquisitor Kanan for this chapter. Check it out!
She's an amazing artist from Brazil!
I hope you are enjoying the story so far! Thank you so much for reading. If you like it please leave a comment! :)
"He wondered if sanity had completely forsaken him in a land where nightmares and reality existed side-by-side."
Everything was wrong.
Ezra stumbled into the Ghost's cargo area. Ahsoka had left him there as she ran to the cockpit.
Ezra's legs gave out and he fell to his knees. His heartbeat was erratic and he could feel it hammering on his ears. He couldn't breathe. An oppressing overwhelming despair was drowning him. He barely felt the ship shaking as it took off. He stumbled forward, supporting himself on the walls, blindingly moving towards the cabins. Everywhere he turned to look hurted him. Everything was different in a way Hera would have completely disapproved of. He somehow managed to get to Kanan's room, which also was decorated differently. Ezra's body was trembling as he approached the bed and kneeled. His shivering hand opened the secret compartment and...
Kanan's lightsaber and the holocron rolled into the view.
Ezra covered his mouth with his hands, choking back a sorrowful sob.
He failed him.
He was supposed to be there for him.
Ezra snapped out of it and gasped at the strong urging through the Force.
"EZRA! THE TURRETS! NOW!" Ahsoka's voice ordered through the comms.
He tried to swallow but he couldn't, and forced himself up and out of Kanan's room. Ahsoka needed him right now.
"I'm... I'm coming," he said as loudly as he could but came out barely as a strained whisper.
He sat himself in the turret and... he couldn't remember the rest. He couldn't remember how many TIE fighters he shot down or if he actually hit any. He just allowed instinct and the Force to take over until he noticed the stars and the blue lights of hyperspace. He stared in silence for a second, his hands still tightly gripping the controls of the turret.
Ezra slowly returned to the main corridor where Ahsoka was already waiting for him with a worried look on her face. She said nothing, just staring at him for a long moment. She bit her lip, grabbed a first aid kit on the wall and approached him.
“Let me see….” She gently grabbed his right hand and looked at his arm. Ezra frowned confused until he realized a shot had grassed him and had burned a part of his sleeve. On any other circumstance the pain would have bothered him, but not now... The way he was emotionally hurting was numbing, overwhelming, crushing. This wound was nothing compared to it. He wordlessly stared at the floor as Ahsoka cleaned the wound.
Tears welled in his eyes and he shook his head. The image of Kanan’s yellow eyes wouldn’t leave his mind.
“He wouldn't fall... he would never join the darkside... not Kanan. Not him. He was... he was better than me. He wouldn't be tempted…” Ezra sobbed in denial.
“…” Ahsoka said nothing else as she finished curing his arm, but then Ezra’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
“... You said he was dead,” he said, feeling slightly betrayed.
“I thought he was,” Ahsoka said with honesty. Ezra’s lips trembled.
“M-maybe Hera and others are alive too,” Ezra looked up to her with hope.
“Ezra,” Ahsoka said gently but firmly.
“Maybe they are-”
“Ezra... they are gone,” she shook her head. And she was right. Ezra hadn’t even considered until now that the coldness he had felt when reaching out looking for Kanan had been in fact the darkside in his heart instead of his death. The others absences didn’t feel like that. He gritted his teeth trying his best not to break down again.
“I have to save him!”
“He doesn't need saving. He made a choice by joining the Darkside,” she said sadly, trying to make him see reality. “You cannot save someone who doesn’t want saving.”
“NO! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! I know the pull! He was there for me when I needed him the most! He brought me back into the light! I have to-!”
“How? How do you expect to save him?” Ahsoka asked, her eyes hardening. “Talking? Changing his mind? He is something else. He just tried to murder you just like any other Inquisitor would. Ezra, he doesn't know you. This is not the same Kanan you met!”
“He was. He still can be,” he said turning to her. He was not crying anymore. “I'll reach to him. I'll show him.”
Ahsoka’s mouth opened in disbelief realizing what he intended. “You want to get into his head to show him?? Ezra, What you want to attempt is dangerous. He can overpower you and you will be vulnerable instead! You barely have control of your powers.”
“You saw what I did back there... that's what I was! That's how I used to be until I woke up here! I- I just need practice again!”
“You need to let him go. Getting too attached is not the Jedi way,” she carefully warned him, placing her hand on his good shoulder.
“I would gladly give up being a Jedi if that means I can save him,” he glared stepping away from her, but then… his expression softened filled with sadness and looked down, all his anger suddenly gone. “But I know that’s not what Kanan would want,” he bit his lip, tears streaming down his cheeks again. “I know… I know I would have to let him go. I know that’s what he would want. But I’m not ready to do that. I’m not ready to let go. Not yet.”
Ezra looked up at her with pleading eyes. “Ahsoka, please, I have to do this. I have to do this or I’ll never forgive myself for not helping him and wondering if I ever could.”
Ahsoka was silently looking at him with worried eyes. She felt her own heart hurting… as if this was too familiar.
“... Even if you show him the man he was, the man he can be, he might still refuse you and attempt to kill you,” she reminded him.
“I know,” he nodded with understanding and a determined look in his bright blue eyes.
She sighed in defeat.
“Were you this frustrating with him too?”
“All the time,” he said with a bittersweet smile.
“Fine... we will practice. But if this doesn’t work out (and you don’t get killed in the process)… you will move on,” she looked at him intently.
“I will,” he said. Or at least he would try.
“I see. You did well on reporting the presence of the Apprentice immediately,” the Grand Inquisitor said turning from the window looking down at the base’s courtyard.
“I do as you command,” the Inquisitor, the Tenth Brother, the man who used to call himself Kanan Jarrus said almost mechanically. He was kneeling in front of him.
“Now, why would two Jedi want to steal a simple light freighter?” The Grand Inquisitor questioned with interest and was amused at the ripple of concern from his minion.
“I don't know, my Lord.”
The Grand Inquisitor calmly ignited his lightsaber and placed it close to the Tenth Brother’s face. “You dare to lie to me? You know this ship,” he said coldly.
“I thought it was destroyed,” the Tenth Brother said with honesty. “If these two Jedi are working for the Rebellion, it might have an emotional value for them… for what it represents. Perhaps recovering it was to boost their morale?” he offered. There was no way anyone else alive had known about his stuff, so he honestly didn't know what other reason they would have to steal the Ghost. He had assumed the holocron had been destroyed with the Ghost so he never mentioned it to the Grand Inquisitor either.
“Perhaps,” the Grand Inquisitor narrowed his eyes. “The Rebels have been eradicated on most sectors. Tell me, who is this young man?”
“The young man,” he hated to repeat himself. He would have to punish him later, but now it was not the time. “I saw the security holos and read the reports. The closest troopers heard him say the name of a dead man as he was dragged away by the Apprentice.”
“I don't who he is. I had never seen him before,” Tenth Brother said tensing, his tone and expression hardening. The Grand Inquisitor stared at him for a few seconds and nodded.
“I believe you. Yet, you failed to stop them. You were defeated so easily,” he sighed in disappointment.
“That was-” the Tenth Brother tried to object but the Grand Inquisitor slapped him. The Grand Inquisitor felt a surge of fury on the Tenth Brother but he knew he couldn’t fight him.
“You let your guard down and he got you beaten in a swift move… tsk tsk. You couldn't do anything about it. You are weak. Pathetic. And here I thought you might have some potential.” He shook his head but grinned showing his sharp teeth. “You know why I sent you here in the first place.”
“To test me,” the Tenth Brother seethed. The Grand Inquisitor nodded and leaned closer to him to whisper something.
“Tell me... Do you want to kill him? The urge must be strong.”
“And yet, you are forbidden to strike him. Good,” the Grand Inquisitor chuckled and moved away. “Use that hatred. Embrace it and channel it to destroy the Jedi. This is your first test, and so far it is not going well for you.”
“I won't fail you.”
“You better not. So far you have been worthless. I will send the others to search in the neighboring systems. These Jedi shouldn’t be too far away. Stay here. If they have some kind of sentimentality with this ship and that old name… they might return to Lothal. Wait for them and catch them. Do you understand?”
“Yes, My Lord,” the Tenth Brother bowed his head and the Grand Inquisitor left the room.
This was quite the turn of events. The Apprentice and an unknown Jedi had been sighted in Lothal. Lord Vader would want them to focus on finding her. The Grand Inquisitor saw Agent Kallus on the way out and gave him an evil smirk. The human looked pale and doing his best to keep his composure now. The Grand Inquisitor knew why. Four years ago, Kallus’ trap for the Rebels had costed the lives of the Lasat and the Twi’lek. He had sent the Mando girl back to his planet for trial only to learn later she had been executed at arrival. In response, Clan Wren had risen up without any support from other clans and were completely obliterated. The Grand Inquisitor had informed all this to Kanan as he tortured him and saw with extreme pleasure how the last of his will was snuffed out. He wanted to die, but this was not to be. He didn’t deserve to be freed of this torture. This was his fault. Bringing him to Lothal again served to fuel the self-hatred. The Grand Inquisitor wondered if Agent Kallus would ever sleep again now that he recognized the Tenth Brother’s previous identity and gave a small chuckle as he left for his ship.
After getting rid of anything that might have help to track the ship, Ahsoka and Ezra decided to stay low and train on the ship while things calmed down. Ahsoka knew that they would be hunted so she didn’t want to risk attracting any attention back to Garel.
“Alright,” Ahsoka sighed and sat cross-legged in front of Ezra. “I guess we should start with what you want to show him. I don't think he will ever expect a strong mental intrusion but you need to show him something that he won’t be able to counter easily. Something that takes him completely by surprise.”
Ezra nodded and his eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
“Hera,” Ezra nodded with a sad smile. “He loved her. I don’t know much of his time before… but I know Hera was the one who pulled him back into the fight. I can only imagine that losing her was the reason he-...” Ezra couldn’t finish the sentence. He felt his own heart wincing in pain.
“Hn, I understand. It’s a good choice,” Ahsoka offered a small smile. “They were close. He might not have a link with you, but perhaps reminding him of his bond with her might stir something within.”
“Yes, maybe he still has a bond to those memories. He came immediately when we were trying to get the Ghost,” Ezra said hopefully.
“But… he might have thought the ship was destroyed just like I did and now just wanted the Holocron inside,” Ahsoka said pointing out the possibility.
“...Maybe, yeah…” Ezra said with sadness.
“You need to hope for the best but… prepare for the worst,” Ahsoka reminded him touching his shoulder.
“I know,” Ezra looked down, avoiding her eyes. She sighed.
“We will start easy. Clear your mind and try to bring forth a memory of Hera. Once you have master that clarity, the next step would be to try to show it to me without me having to rummage through your mind. Ready?”
“Ready,” Ezra said with resolution.
Weeks passed. Every morning Ezra would wake up with tears on his eyes, barely rested, a pressure on his chest and heart. He couldn’t remember the dream… the nightmare. It all blurred with reality. Ezra could only get the feeling he had been calling to him.
Ezra managed to improve greatly his Force abilities. His mind was focused like he had never done before. He could now prompt the images of his memories to Ahsoka with enough clarity. The last week of training had been to improve against her mental defenses. He needed to be strong enough to bypass them but not so forceful to hurt her mind. Ezra needed to be careful with that.
“We have a problem,” Ahsoka said one day looking over at their plans. “We can’t use the Ghost to return to Lothal to search for him. Even if we change the identification codes, he knows the ship too well. You identified it just by hearing the engines so we have to assume he will do the same. We will need to find a fast ship with enough firepower to break through the blockade if when we have to leave or get discovered.”
“A fast ship with enough firepower?” Ezra blinked realizing something. He had completely forgotten about it until now. “I… I think I know where to get one.”
“We have limited resources, so we will have to steal it,” Ahsoka said crossing her arms a little concerned.
“No. I don’t think we need to steal it. It should be right there for the taking,” Ezra smiled for the first time in weeks. “The Gauntlet. The Nightbrother.”
“Maul’s ship?” she breathed in disbelief. “You know where it is?”
“Yeah… I got it after he-…” he cleared his throat. He didn’t know if Obi Wan was alive here, but he better not lead anyone back. He had the feeling that even here he wouldn’t want to get found out. “When I acquired it, we checked the nav records. The ship had been left on an abandoned base all the while Maul had been stuck in Malachor.”
“He was in Malachor too?”
“Yeah… he was the main reason everything went wrong-... but never mind that,” he shook his head. The least he wanted to do was set a foot on Malachor ever again. “The Inquisitors were hunting him there. If we are lucky, they dealt with him already or… at the very least he’s still stuck there. We should definitely check if the ship is still at that base and just make sure he never gets it back,” he said with a smirk.
“I can get behind that,” Ahsoka smiled back.
Luck smiled them too.
The base was almost completely abandoned, sans a few old security droids. The Gauntlet was not in the best conditions, but Ahsoka was sure they could fix it up in a few days. When that was done, they were ready for their plan. The stealth capabilities of the ship allowed them to slip past the blockade easily and landed away from the city. Ahsoka programmed the ship to come for them at the touch of a button of her comm. Whether they succeeded on bringing Kanan back or not, they would need to run to escape.
“Hide your presence as best as you can,” Ahsoka reminded Ezra, but he had already started to minimize his ripple in the Force. They approached the base and were a little surprised they found Kanan really fast. He was walking around in the open around the perimeter.
“It’s a trap,” Ahsoka whispered. “Somehow they hoped we would come back.”
“It doesn’t matter. He won’t expect what’s coming,” Ezra pressed. He couldn’t turn back now.
“Alright, we will follow the plan,” Ahsoka said. “They will likely have more troopers on the lookout, so I’ll cover you,” she said and left to the opposite side of the courtyard to create a distraction. Ezra waited anxiously. His hands were sweating, shaking. His heart was beating so fast and he could hear it on his ears. He could barely-
Ezra heard the blasters shots some distance away. Ahsoka was up. He peeked behind the crates he was using and immediately saw Kanan igniting his red lightsaber and turning to where the sound was heard.
This was it.
Ezra came out of hiding and called to him.
The man glared back and narrowed his eyes. Ezra’s whole body tensed and he felt sick. He had in fact improved so much with the force that now he could easily sense the self-hate and the pain on him. Kanan was destroying himself. He held back a sob in his throat.
“You won’t get away from me this time. I’ll have your head,” the Tenth Brother said with gritted teeth. He half expected the young Jedi to bring up his lightsaber but just like last time, he just stared at him with that helpless expression that bothered him so much. Then, he simply closed his eyes and relaxed while a few tears rolled down. The Inquisitor rushed. “Fine. I’ll just kill-”
Hera looks back with concern. “Kanan?”
“What-?” the Tenth Brother froze in complete bewilderment at the image in his mind.
“Kanan, please,” Hera stops Kanan in the corridor of the Ghost and looks at him intently. She’s worried about something.
His lips trembled. An illusion. IT HAD TO BE AN ILLUSION. He was messing with his head! He attempted to pull up his mental walls, to cut the mental link, but the Jedi had already been expecting that and countered it with more images.
Hera, Sabine, Zeb and even Chopper gather around for a meal in the Ghost with Kanan. They laugh and smile. Hera leans on Kanan’s side. He casually places his arm around her shoulders pulling her closer.
“NO!” the Tenth Brother screamed bringing up his hands to his head trying not to feel, not to feel THIS.
Sabine, older, a woman on her own right, hugging him deciding to stay in Mandalore to help her family. She wouldn’t had come this far without him.
Zeb and him having a laugh, watching each other’s backs during a fight.
Lies. ALL LIES. They had to be illusions! No. This wasn’t real. NONE OF IT!
“Oh no,” Ahsoka’s voice could be heard in the distance. “Ezra! EZRA! WATCH OUT!”
Ezra slipped out just enough of his trance to be more aware of his surroundings and gasped as he saw a red lighstaber swirling towards his face. He leaned back just in time… and just like before, it singed his left cheek. A flare of the memory flashed through his mind, unleashing a flood of images that he was still showing to Kanan.
“NO!” Kanan reached for him as he fell being struck by the Inquisitor on the catwalk.
“I want to be the Jedi you see in me.”
“You’re always there when I need you the most.”
“It’s over now,” he holds him.
“I’ve got you. Go ahead. Let go.”
“I’ll always come back.”
He hugged him in the darkness of the cave.
It all happened in the blink of an eye. Both of them fell back stunned by the sudden emotional overload and mental strain. At Kanan’s side, two dark figures approached. The other Inquisitors had been in the base too.
“Tsk… get up,” the Seventh Sister scoffed at the Tenth Brother who was still holding his head in pain trying to clear his mind from the images. He grunted and got up, rage in his eyes and the lightsaber on his hand.
“We gotta go. Ezra,” Ahsoka was already over Ezra in a defensive position as he started to get up. “You promised,” Ahsoka reminded him.
Ezra’s heart was breaking. “Yes,” he barely managed to say and it felt like a stab on his chest. He was too weak to fight, he knew they would try to kill them. Ahsoka called the ship with the comm just as the three Inquisitors attacked her. He held her ground and kept them off Ezra until the ship appeared.
“Now!” she shouted and Ezra, who had finally regained a little more of his strength, pushed them back long enough to jump into the open ramp of the gauntlet.
The Tenth Brother noticed how the Jedi looked back one last time at him. Some kind of hope in his eyes.
“I know what it's like to lose someone close and not have anyone.”
His own words. His voice. But he had never said that. This time he managed to shut down the mental link. He saw the tears on the Jedi’s blue eyes as he looked away in pain and disappeared into the ship.
“These nightmares wrap their evil hands around my soul at night, they try to pull me deep within a world that's ruled by fright. These dark thoughts may follow me but they'll never win the fight. I'll escape the looming shadows with the help of dawn's first light.” - Christy Ann Martine
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He had the dream again.
He was being surrounded by tendrils of darkness that grabbed at him, keeping him in place. They dragged him down... submerging him into the cold abyss below. There was no escape. He had stopped fighting a long time ago. The darkness extinguished his light. Consumed him. Smothered him. He just let the dream run its course. Resisting only created more pain and despair.
But things had recently started to change. It had begun after the first time he felt the presence of the other force user in Lothal. It had reached for him. That night, when he had the dream, there was a strange echo in the distance... almost a whisper. He had dismissed it.
Then, after their confrontation for the Ghost, the whisper had a face. The young Jedi. There he was, in the distance, on his knees, wailing his name. His old name. The second name he had given up. He knew he needed to kill the young Jedi... and yet he couldn't help but wonder why was he so upset for him, a complete stranger. He had never seen him before. Who was he? Why was he here? In the end, he dismissed the thoughts again. In truth it didn't matter... it wouldn't change the course of the dream, nothing could. He was submerged in darkness and he was lost.
After that mental intrusion, he was apprehensive. Whatever illusion and falsehood he had tried to implant within his mind had threw him back into a state of inner turmoil. It had seemed so real. They had felt so real. Those experiences-... but he knew they were lies. All of them. He had never lived that. And yet… the feelings and memories of the past life he had carefully buried away were prompted back to life.
But the darkness would drown those feelings. He didn't resist it.
He glared back. The Jedi was still far, but he could hear him much clearly now.
"Kanan listen to me! You need to fight"
He didn't answer. It was so annoying.
"What would Hera say??"
Rage flared on his chest.
"Don't you dare say her name!"
"Kanan, please! She wouldn't want this! None of them!"
"YOU-!!" the darkness started to strangle him, disapproving of his bout of emotion, reminding him there was no escape. He surrendered back.
"Kanan!" the Jedi called in desperation. "NO! NO! You are not like this!" he ran towards him.
What did he know? He didn’t know what he had done. He had abandoned Billaba. He had abandoned the Order. He had failed Hera. He was a coward. A failure. Pathetic. Weak. He was never meant to have them. That was clear. Suffering, self hate, that's all there was left for him.
He suddenly felt an embracing warmth crept through him.
Startled, he glanced back again. From far away, the Jedi was trying to wade through the sluggish darkness, his hand outstretched sending him that sensation through the Force. It dispelled the coldness on his chest.
"Kanan," the dark tendrils started to grab at him too. "You are not alone."
He looked at him baffled. What was he on to?
"I'll save you. I'll get you out of here. I swear!"
The darkness started to submerge him too, but he seemed oblivious to it.
"You are getting dragged down," he simply warned.
"Kanan!" At no point the Jedi had stopped providing him with the warmth of the Force. A reminder of care, acceptance, affection. He was closer now. The tendrils reached for his throat.
"Are you... insane? If you do that you won't be able to fight it off," why was he sacrificing himself for him? A stranger?
"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you! I'M SORRY!" he pleaded for his forgiveness and offered a sad smile. "But I'm here now, Kanan."
"Why do you care!?" he bit out loud defensively.
"I won't give up...! I won't give you up!" he pushed forward.
"Stop," it was going to be too late for him. He had nothing to do with him! He didn't need to go through this! He needed to... he needed to stop trying to save him and save himself! He needed all his strength for that. "I SAID STOP!"
By sheer will alone, the Jedi kept walking with tears in his eyes. He would soon be consumed by desperation too. Why? What was his name again? Flashes went through his mind... the illusions. The fight with the ex-Jedi Ahsoka. His name... his name!
"EZRA! STOP!" he roared with everything he had.
Ezra froze in place, seemingly too shocked after hearing his name. Ezra eyes widened and then he gave him the most warm of smiles, stunning him in turn.
"Kanan," he whispered softly with tears of happiness on his eyes. He was so close now. He could almost reach him. Touch him.
It made him want to-...
He woke up.
Ezra awoke on his bed, tears filled his eyes. Had it been just a dream? Had he actually managed to contact him? His hand felt empty, almost hurting from the idea of reaching for Kanan. It had been just two days since their fight but these emotions still felt so raw, clawing at his chest. He had promised Ahsoka he would let go, that he would stop trying to save Kanan, and he was trying…
There was a knock on the door of his cabin. They were still on the Nightbrother.
“Come in,” Ezra sighed and sat on the bed quickly drying his tears. The door opened and Ahsoka offered him a small smile from where she was standing.
“Hey, just checking how were you holding up,” she asked softly. She had given him space from the moment they fled and he had been by himself on his room and hadn’t come out since then. Ezra gave a tired shrug.
“Can’t say I feel fine,” he said looking down. He felt physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. He felt lost.
“I know this is hard,” she also looked to the floor. “You haven’t eaten anything since before we left. Will you come eat something with me?”
Ezra thought for a second and finally nodded, taking a deep breath before standing up and following Ahsoka outside. They ate in silence, Ezra barely having any appetite but forced himself to finish the nutrition bar.
“Ezra,” Ahsoka finally spoke up. “We will be staying low for a while. Then we will come back to Garel and resume helping the Rebellion.”
Ezra simply nodded.
Next thing he knew, they were coming back to get the Ghost from a small asteroid field where they had left it hidden. The Nightbrother would have turned quite a few heads around if they went to other planets on it. They arrived to a backwater colony in the edge of the Outer Rim that the Empire didn’t even cared for yet and waited.
Kanan walked through the empty corridors of the Imperial base in Lothal, but noticed the presence behind him. He growled in low voice and looked back.
“How’s your pretty head?” the Seventh Sister came out of the shadows from around the corner.
“None of your business.”
“Oh, but it is… aren’t we all in this mission together?” she said slowly approaching, like a predator ready to strike with a smirk on her face.
“I’m fine,” he said. He knew she was plotting something. He needed to keep his guard up.
“Tsk, tsk, you are like an open book, Tenth Brother,” she chuckled. “So easy to read. You are having restless nights.”
Kanan didn’t answer. He just stared at her with hate. That pleased her.
“Mmmh… I could make things so much easier for you, you know ,” she was now in front of him a knowing smile on her lips. Kanan sneered.
“Not interested,” he said stepping away from her.
“What a pity,” she sighed a little too dramatically. “I guess I’m not green enough for you.”
Red lightsabers flared to life. Hers met his, red light cackling between them. The Seventh Sister grinned widely. “Oh, did I hit a nerve?”
He was going to kill her. He was going drive this damn lightsaber through her heart even if-
“ENOUGH,” the voice of the Grand Inquisitor ordered from behind. They both immediately broke away and turned off their lightsabers. Kanan was seething with rage. How did she know? How could she possibly know about his past with Hera? Had the Grand Inquisitor told the others about them? Or was she right and they could read him so easily? He was having trouble staying calm, fists clenched at his sides. The Grand Inquisitor only gave the Seventh Sister a slight disapproving glance but turned to him instead. “Tenth Brother, come with me.”
“Yes, My Lord,” he followed him at a private office.
“I have read the reports. Theirs and yours,” the Inquisitor said with a neutral tone, but there was a hint of interest in there. “They said you were subject to a mental attack, and you say they used illusions to confuse you. But what is clear now, what I feel from you… this turmoil, this is not an illusion. I sense conflict,” his voice was icy cold. Kanan tensed. He couldn’t deny that the images on his head reminded him of his old life. There was no room for such sentiments as an Inquisitor. “The only reason you are not dead at my feet yet is because you choose right. You fought the Apprentice and the Jedi instead of giving in to their pathetic lies.”
Kanan relaxed just a bit, but the Inquisitor continued.
“We must destroy the Apprentice and capture the young man to learn how he was doing these false memories. This is a very useful skill we could use. BUT... you are clearly no match for them. The others will handle them.”
“My Lord! I can-”
“Do not make me regret my choice of not ending you were you stand, Tenth Brother,” he warned showing his pointy teeth and waved him away. “Dismissed.”
Kanan left, making his way out of the base, his mind was racing. He needed to do something. He needed to find them first. Otherwise he would likely never be able to access that information. He was too low on the pecking order of the Inquisitors. He needed to know how the Jedi had done that, how could he do something so real without meeting the rest of the crew...
He had to focus on finding them. Suddenly, Kanan felt someone in front of him in the corridor stopping cold. He looked up and saw Agent Kallus who had frozen on his place realizing he was coming his way. Anger filled Kanan’s chest, but then… he got an idea. Kanan walked towards him and turned on the lightsaber. Surprise and fear filled Kallus’s face and his hand went for his blaster but Kanan pulled it away with the Force.
“No, you won’t,” Kanan said and pushed Kallus to the wall.
This is it, Kallus thought, this is how it finally ends. Kallus closed his eyes waiting for the red blade to strike, but felt the heat of the laser close to his face instead.
“The ship was supposed to be destroyed. Scrapped. Why was it here?”
Kallus opened his eyes surprised, for a moment, too shocked to answer the question.
“Answer me, you know damn well what I’m talking about,” Kanan demanded and Kallus finally spoke.
“I don’t know,” Kallus said and Kanan growled in frustration, pushing the lightsaber closer. “Wait! Wati! The orders I gave to destroy it were clear, I even got the report confirming it was done. If it is still here… someone must have forged the reports down the line and kept the ship instead. If it was being used as a cargo ship for the Empire… maybe someone posing as a third party contractor would use it to boost their numbers.”
“Then, you better start working fast figuring out who it was, Mister ISB Agent, because I need a list of every port that ship landed on before it was stolen,” Kanan said coldly. “And if you mention this the Grand Inquisitor, or any of the others…”
“I know…” Kallus said looking down.
Ezra and Ahsoka returned to Garel about a week later. Sato was relieved to see them because there was much work to do. Even then, Ahsoka convinced Sato to give Ezra milk-run missions for the moment. He was trying his best, but it was clear his mind and heart were still affected by the incident. Ahsoka let him keep the Ghost to make the deliveries while she took the Nightbrother for her own mission.
By now, Ezra had cleared out most of the Ghost, leaving it austere, just like Kanan’s quarters once where. He knew he could never recover their missing things but he prefered to see the ship empty looking than with other people’s stuff. Perhaps he could, in time, make it actually his own, but he would start from zero. He loaded the cargo area with the supplies Sato had given him and took off. It was weird to be the one piloting the ship all alone. The trips was as boring as he could imagine without the crew at his side... without Kanan. He still felt his hands craving to reach him, hold him like he had done once in that cave and tell him everything would be alright… but he couldn’t. He couldn’t. A wave of sadness overwhelmed him.
“Shit,” he whispered and tried to breathe. In and out. Calm yourself. Find your center. By the time he had done it, the ship came out of hyperspace and arrived to the planet where he was supposed to deliver the supplies. He straightened and prepared himself to land on the local space port, grabbing a coat because it was a little chilly outside. He pushed the cargo on a cart out of the Ghost and towards the address Sato had told him. Luckily for him, this was a merchant town so no one paid much attention to him walking around for a while, trying to find the right warehouse. An old woman finally waved at him, told him the password and received the supplies from him. That was easy enough, Ezra gave a tired chuckle and started making his way back but the streets were a mess and he must have turned the wrong way on a different street because he didn’t recognize the stores.
“Karabast,” he muttered under his breath. The last thing he needed was getting lost on another planet as nightfall approached. He tried to determine which way was which but then… a small sad smile crept on his face. He raised a finger and started…
“Loth-rat, loth-cat, loth-wolf run, pick a path and all is done,” he finished the rhyme and sighed, staring at the street he picked. “Alright,” he made his way over there but then realized the rotation on his planet were very short because in less than a few minutes it was starting to get dark. Ezra picked up the pace. He needed to hurry, he thought, but then, he felt a hand janking him out of the main street into a dark alley. His hand automatically moved to his lightsaber but he felt a hand grabbing his wrist, and something pressing at his throat. He looked up and saw Kanan’s face.
“Move and you die,” he whispered pressing the end of his lightsaber turned off under Ezra’s jaw, sending a chill down his spine.
“Kanan,” Ezra breathed, his eyes wide in disbelief. He was here. He was really here.
“Who the hell are you?” he gritted his teeth in anger.
“I’m… Ezra. Ezra Bridger,” he could barely speak. He was trembling but not because he was afraid he would kill him, but afraid that he wouldn’t say the right things to help him.
“How do you…” Ezra could see the turmoil behind Kanan's eyes, the confusion, the frustration. “Did Ahsoka teach you how to make those illusions? That’s not a Jedi ability that we know of.”
“They are not illusions,” Ezra swallowed with some trouble, feeling the lightsaber still on his throat.
“The others are dead. These images are not real, they can’t be,” Kanan countered frowning.
“They are real for me. I didn’t make them up. Those are my memories. Of our time together. Of the Ghost. Of us,” Ezra closed his eyes trying to calm himself. His heart was beating so fast.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Kanan scowled, he was losing his patience.
“I just know that I had a life with you. With them. We met one day when you were stealing some food and weapon crates in Lothal. Then I helped you free the wookies… and I joined the crew,” Ezra said, his eyes pleading for him to believe him and saw that Kanan realized that was the day everything had gone wrong. Ezra’s voice started to break. “I can’t explain what happened. I swear… I just… I woke up one day and you were gone. Everyone was gone. I was back in Lothal, like the rest of my life with you and the Ghost never happened.”
“Do you think I’ll be so naive to believe something like that?”
“I knew about the holocron, didn’t I? And your lightsaber,” Ezra pointed out desperately and made Kanan second guess. He knew as a matter of fact that no one should have known about it. Ezra could see and feel a growing question behind his eyes. Ezra knew he couldn’t stop now. “Everything I know is because of you. I lived it, Kanan. I swear to you. Everything you saw, all I showed you, was real. They were alive. We were all together,” he smiled but he hadn’t noticed when his tears started to roll down his cheeks. “I don’t know how to make things as they were. That’s why… I couldn’t turn my back on you when I found you. I wanted to help you. To reach you. You don’t have to be this,” Ezra looked down to the black suit.
“And what else would I be?” Kanan scoffed.
“A Jedi Knight,” Ezra whispered with fondness, a smile on his lips. Kanan’s heart skipped a beat and was shook by the statement.
“I never was,” Kanan denied it, mostly to himself. The thought was ridiculous. How could he ever be… how could he ever compare to Billaba and the other Masters after all his failures. But in the images Ezra had showed him, he saw himself reaching understanding, wisdom and ability. No… No. It must be a trick.
“But you became. You still can,” Ezra reassured him in earnest. His body was practically trembling with emotion, with hope and affection. “You don’t have to do this alone. Kanan… you don’t-”
“I don’t need you,” Kana bitted out, pushing him back to the wall, as Ezra had unconsciously started to lean forward to him. Ezra felt the words like a dagger in his heart. It hurted him so much but he still forced a smile through his tears.
“That’s… ok,” he nodded. “I understand you don’t need me... but you don’t need them either.” That was the goal here, Ezra reminded himself. He needed to take Kanan out of there, out of their hands. He was destroying himself there. “Hera, she wouldn’t have wanted you to suffer like this. Or Sabine or Zeb, not even Chopper. Please…”
“You don’t know what you-” Kanan’s rage increased by the mention of his lost family, but then Ezra noticed with shock something flying towards them.
“DOWN!” he warned pulling Kanan down with him. It all happened in the blink of an eye.
Kanan had told him he would kill him if he moved. Kanan should have ignited the lightsaber as he promised. He should have killed him… but he couldn’t. Ezra knew it would have meant his death but did it anyway. To save him. The fact stirred an old overwhelming emotion in Kanan. Of being cared for… of being-...
The red lightsaber hit the wall with sparks, right where their heads would have been.
“You missed, again,” the Seventh Sister glared at the Eight Brother.
“Tch,” he sneered and called back his lightsaber.
Ezra immediately took out his lightsaber and stood on a defensive pose. Kanan had instinctively rolled to the side away from Ezra, away from this feeling.
“Hmm… he’s pretty. And look, such passion,” the Seventh Sister said with clear delight. “The Darkside could be very strong in you if you let it.”
“What are you doing here?” Kanan demanded.
“We ask the same to you, Tenth Brother,” the Eight Brother said with a mocking laugh.
“It seems like someone disobeyed the Grand Inquisitor. He said we would handle this…” the Seventh Sister pointed at Ezra.
“I’m bringing him back myself,” Kanan growled through gritted teeth. Ezra’s lips made a fine line. He might be able to handle two Inquisitors and flee, but if Kanan turned him in… his hands gripped his lightsaber.
The Seventh Sister smirked. “Oh, but you won’t.”
“Allowing you into our ranks was clearly a mistake,” the Eight Brother said to Kanan but started approaching Ezra instead.
“The Grand Inquisitor won’t be surprised when he learns you died trying to accomplish this secret mission of yours, just like the failure you are,” she lunged forward to Kanan.
Ezra tried to move to help him, but the Eight Brother blocked him off.
“You’ll fight with me,” he said and jumped acrobatically to attack. But Ezra already knew what he was trying to do. He dodged and rolled, blocking his attack from behind, remembering well enough his style, and used all his strength on a Force push when he jumped again, throwing the Eight Brother against a wall. Ezra looked at Kanan who was rapidly losing ground against the Seventh Sister. The two were too far away already. Ezra could tell Kanan’s self-doubt and insecurities were dragging him down and his rage was blinding him. The Seventh Sister, much more attuned to the use of hate with the darkside, found an opening and grinned, slashing in half his red lightsaber and leaving him defenseless.
“I’m going to savor this,” she said smiling widely and raised her lightsaber.
“NO!” Ezra reached with one hand at his coat, at threw Kanan’s blue lightsaber at him, while with the other hand he sent to her mind the image of Maul getting her head in Malachor. She hesitated completely caught off guard by the mental intrusion.
“What-” she stuttered, giving Kanan just enough time to catch the lightsaber, ignite it and cut her in half with a swift move. The shock in her face was almost the same as Kanan’s realizing what he had just done as the pure blue light illuminated the dark alley. Her body fell with a tud and silence filled the area. He was stunned, still looking at his blue lightsaber, the lightsaber he thought it was forever lost, as Ezra’s words rang on his ears.
A Jedi Knight .
“Kanan…” Ezra said softly behind him, startling him. Kanan turned around pointing the lightsaber at him and stepped back. “Kanan, it’s ok, it’s just me…” Ezra turned off his lightsaber and rose his hands, noticing that Kanan was overwhelmed by the fact that he was holding such an important thing… something that symbolized everything he had left behind. Then, they heard a beep to their side.
“You won’t get away with this,” the Eight Brother said slowly standing up, having touched a button on his wrist, likely sending an emergency signal somewhere. Kanan gripped the lightsaber tightly and walked towards him. He had to die. He had to kill him or-... Ezra placed a hand over his chest stopping him from advancing, his face full of concern. Kanan was going to brush his hand away in anger, but Ezra turned to the Inquisitor and threw him with the Force against other wall, knocking him out cold for good this time.
“Kanan, let’s go,” Ezra pleaded softly looking up to him. Ezra knew he couldn't let him get closer to the darkside in his state of turmoil…
Kanan knew that if he stayed, he would have to kill the Eight Brother, and even if he brought Ezra to him, there would be many questions he couldn’t answer for the Grand Inquisitor. He would surely get killed. If he went with Ezra instead… he felt a pit in his stomach… he would have to face his past, he would have to come to terms with his failure, open the old wounds, to feel again… and he wasn't sure what was worse at this point. But he found he couldn’t let go of the lightsaber on his hand. “You don’t have to do this alone,” Ezra said gently, reminding him he was there for him, and tried to channel warmth and reassurance with the Force to Kanan, but this finally made Kanan react, brushing his hand off his chest and close off the link to him. It was too overwhelming.
“Don't. I’ll go,” Kanan said frowning. “But this doesn’t mean I’m joining the Rebels. Am I clear? I’m just… getting away from them. They’ll hunt me down after this.”
Kanan could barely believe the sheer joy and happiness that irradiated off from Ezra. “Ok…!” he nodded beaming. He dried off his tears. “Let’s go… this way,” Ezra said, and he suddenly could tell the path back to the Ghost without problem. The way was clear in his mind. Even if the road was dangerous, at least for now, Ezra didn’t feel lost anymore.
Kanan is definitely not out of the darkside yet, but this could be the first step...
“During the day, memories could be held at bay, but at night, dreams became the devil's own accomplices.”
“We gotta hurry,” Ezra said quickly making his way through the dark streets with Kanan close behind. They had left the Eight Brother several blocks behind them.
“They’ll be looking for us,” Kanan indicated. Just as they were going to turn around the corner, Ezra heard the unmistakable boots of stormtroopers and stopped just in time. They both took cover while a squadron passed them in a hurry. They heard one of the troopers talking through his comms.
“Human male, tall, black suit. Dangerous, extreme precautions and use-...” he was too far away to hear the rest.
“I think they are looking for you,” Ezra whispered back. “You kind of stand out like that,” he pointed at his Inquisitor clothes. Kanan knew he could dispatch a number of troopers but not before calling for reinforcements. They needed to keep a low profile until they got to a ship. He growled.
“Tsk… give me your coat,” Kanan said starting to take off the top of his suit. Ezra nodded and took of the coat. It was chilly, but he could manage with all the adrenaline in his veins… but then his blood ran cold. Kanan’s chest and back were covered by painful scars. Ezra felt his heart wince and his eyes well up. “The coat,” Kanan repeated frowning.
“Here,” Ezra nodded looked away in sadness handing him over the coat. Luckily for them, Ezra had picked a larger than normal coat so it fit Kanan just right. “Ok… this way,” Ezra motioned him to follow and took him through an alternate route back to the space port.
“Over there,” Ezra pointed at the landing pad where the Ghost was located, and he noticed how Kanan slowed down and stopped. It was like he could not take another step. His whole body was tense. Ezra could feel a wave of shame and uncertainty from him. “It’s ok Kanan…” Ezra tried to encourage him with the Force but he reacted and closed the link.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to-...”
“Let’s just get out of here. The troopers haven’t come this way yet,” Kanan said with gritted teeth. They moved up the ramp and… Ezra could see how difficult it was for Kanan to even enter the ship. It took every bit of his will to keep moving and once he was in the cargo hold it became too much. A flood of memories. Of voices. Of their smiles. They were gone. All of them. He couldn’t breathe. This was a mistake. He should have never came back. What was he-
“Hey,” Ezra stepped in front of him, snapping him out of it. Kanan looked down at his calming yet intense blue eyes. “Breathe,” Ezra reminded him, and this time Kanan didn’t stop the link. For some reason Ezra’s presence was… grounding. He swallowed and looked away indicating he was fine. “I’m going to get us out of here, alright?” Ezra said and rushed to the cockpit.It was just a matter of time before troopers started to come. He quickly took the Ghost to orbit and entered Hyperspace as soon as possible. He sighed in relief. They were safe. They should be safe. He left the cockpit and saw Kanan in the hallway, looking at the doors of the cabins.
Ezra cleared his throat. “Most of the old stuff is gone... They even got rid of Sabine’s paints on her room. I’m sorry,” he apologized and Kanan closed his eyes tensing at the mention of Sabine’s art.
“It was not here when we stole the Ghost. I don’t know, sorry…”
“Maybe that’s what they reported being scrapped instead of the Ghost,” Kanan whispered in low voice gritting his teeth. He opened his eyes with new found resolution and went into his old room. He kneeled in front of the bunk and...
“Is not there…” Ezra said in soft voice from behind, at the door.
“Give it to me,” Kanan demanded turning back to face Ezra.
“It’s mine. Give it back,” he pressed, starting to lose his patience.
Ezra sighed and nodded. “Ok, hold on,” he went to his room and came back with the Jedi Holocron in his hand. “Go on. Try it,” he slowly handed it over. Kanan grabbed it, his hand trembling slightly when he touched it. The idea of ever finding it again had been just hopeless until now. He closed his eyes and concentrated.
The Holocron would not yield. It refused to open to him. Of course… he was unworthy. Tainted by the darkside. It would never again reveal its knowledge. Why did he even entertained the idea of being a Jedi just now? Just because he killed one of the Inquisitors? Of course another Inquisitor could do just that… it meant nothing. He meant nothing. The Light had forsaken him. There was only pain and hatred for him in darkness. He-
Ha was startled by a hand over his. For a second he was about to pull away but...
“Breathe,” whispered Ezra in a calming voice and closed his eyes. Kanan was hesitant but closed his eyes too and tried again. This time he could feel the warmth on his hands, reassuring, safe… an inner forgotten glow.
The corners started to turn, but as soon as Kanan noticed it, he lost his concentration and the Holocron stopped.
“Dammit,” Kanan cursed and frowned.
“Hey don’t worry. You’ll do it. I know you will,” Ezra said softly encouraging him. Ezra suddenly felt peaceful, a warmth in his chest and across his face. He felt whole.
-He still can use the Light, he’s not completely gone. There’s hope...- Ezra could feel his chest bursting with happiness. He cleared his throat trying not to smile too much.
“I’ll see if there’s something else you can wear beside the coat,” Ezra said looking down to his clothes. “Oh, and I need to tell Ahsoka you are with me,” he remembered looking back at the cockpit.
“No, don’t,” Kanan grabbed Ezra's arm stopping him in place. Noticing he was doing it too tightly, he loosened his grip a little.
“Kanan,” Ezra said in low voice. “I need to report back.”
“You don’t get it do you?” Kanan shook his head. “Right now we are all targets. But specially her. If we are together it will be easier to find us.”
“I have to,” Ezra said worriedly. “She will come looking after me if I don’t report and… you don’t want her to show up angry, do you?”
Kanan made a fine line with his lips. He had a point there.
“I suppose not…” he rolled his eyes and sighed.
Ezra went to look for some other clothes Kanan could use but only found one long sleeved shirt about his size… better than nothing, he guessed. He returned to Kanan on his cabin and handed it over.
“That’s all I have for the moment,” Ezra said half apologizing, but Kanan didn’t seem to mind. He took the coat off and… Ezra couldn’t help but stare. All those scars. All that pain. All that suffering. His hands twitched, feeling the sudden urge to reach and help him, protect him. But all that was already done.
“You say those were your memories. That you lived them,” Kanan said as he started to change, startling Ezra slightly.
“Yes,” Ezra said looking down. A pause.
“Everyone was fine?” Kanan asked again.
“Yes… but, I don’t remember anything from this life from the moment I was supposed to meet you. The day you stole the crates and then went to liberate the wookies,” all that was still a mystery to Ezra. “That day… did you notice anything weird?”
“I don’t want to think about that day,” Kanan said with finality finishing changing and sat on the bunk watching the Holocron in his hand with conflicted yellow eyes.
“I understand,” Ezra nodded and after a while of being in silence he retired leaving Kanan alone. It was time to contact Ahsoka.
“Oh boy…” he breathed and prepared the encrypted transmission. “Ahsoka?”
“Hey, how did it go?”
“Well, I delivered the supplies without a hitch but… I found Kanan and brought him with me,” he said quickly, hoping to just get over with it as soon as possible.
“We were jumped by the other Inquisitors and-...”
“Are you hurt?”
“No, we managed to escape.”
“Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT bring him back to the base.”
“I wasn’t going to,” Ezra frowned. “Relax.”
“Stay where you are. I’m coming. He tries anything-”
“He won’t…” Ezra said feeling a little frustrated.
“Ezra, please. Don’t let your guard down.”
“Don’t worry, Ahsoka. He’s not with them anymore. He killed an Inquisitor.”
“That doesn’t change a lot. Believe me.”
“Fine, I’ll stay here,” Ezra sent her the coordinates. “Just… take it easy when you arrive. He’s… he’s been through a lot.”
“We all have. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”
Ezra sank on the pilot’s chair sighing deeply. Ahsoka’s reaction was to be expected… he just hoped they wouldn’t fight. He returned to check on Kanan and found him on the old common area, looking at the only original thing left, the boot with the dejarik table.
Kanan took a deep breath and turned to Ezra. “Let’s say I partially believe this crazy explanation of yours. You say you know me. You knew us.”
“Yes. As I said, you taught me everything I know. I was your padawan,” Ezra stated.
“You said I was a Jedi Knight,” Kanan massaged his temple, still finding the thought to be unbelievable.
“That can’t be right. The Order is gone. Who Knighted me then?” Kanan asked frustrated.
“The Force…” Ezra said with a warm fond smile and Kanan’s heart skipped a beat at his words. He stared dumbfounded at Ezra. The Force itself had deemed him worthy to be knighted? That… that just wasn’t him. He had to be wrong… but Ezra seemed so convinced...
“What about the others? What about Hera? What had happened to them on… on your life, your version,” Kanan inquired.
“They were fine when I was there. Hera was an integral part of the Rebellion, and I’m almost sure it was just a matter of time before she was made a General,” Ezra said and Kanan’s lips twitched trying his best not to show emotion... not to show weakness. “Zeb found he was not the last Lasat; there’s a hidden planet with plenty of survivors. Sabine… we had just returned from Mandalore after helping her recover her father and assisting on creating a resistance with the other Clans to repel the Empire there. Chopper… eh, Chopper is Chopper. Everyone was ok when I went to sleep and then… I woke up here,” Ezra wasn’t sure how many times he had explained by now, how many times he had gone through it on his head, and still made no sense.
“I think you might be hallucinating the whole deal, maybe some Force Vision,” Kanan said, dismissing what Ezra had just said.
“Listen, I also lived all of this,” Kanan pulled down the collar of the shirt to show Ezra again some of the scars. “And it was real. Painfully real. I assume Ahsoka went through her own things too, just as every other person you have met did. Wouldn’t be more logical to think the Force messed with your perception?”
“Kanan, no, I-...”
“That you never lived any of that, but it showed you a vision of what could have been?”
“No,” Ezra said with clear conviction in his eyes. “They were alive. I could feel it.”
“But you can’t make it right. You can’t fix this,” Kanan shook his head and now he sounded tired. Tired of fighting, tired of looking for some impossible hope...
“I might. I just don’t know how yet,” Ezra said trying to reassure him.
“And when would that be?” Kanan crossed his arms.
“I need to… open myself to the Force more. The Force will show me the way. I’m sure of it. Nothing is impossible in the Force,” Ezra said in earnest, his eyes were bright with hope. It felt like it had been a lifetime since Kanan had seen that sense of purpose on someone’s eyes.
“A Jedi alright…” Kanan sighed with a tired chuckled.
“Still a long way…” Ezra shook his head.
“You are closer than you think.”
A few hours later, Ahsoka showed up in the Nightbrother and docked with the Ghost. The door opened and she was received by Ezra, Kanan standing on the other side, leaned against the wall crossing his arms.
“Ezra,” Ahsoka greeted him completely serious, her face unreadable.
“Hey!” Ezra awkwardly waved at her and motioned her inside. Her eyes locked on Kanan’s. They both scowled but said nothing.
“Why don’t we all sit down…?” Ezra suggested smiling nervously at both of them.
“I’m fine,” Kanan shrugged, still scowling.
“Me too,” Ahsoka narrowed her eyes and simply stepped further into the ship. “What exactly happened?”
Ezra sighed and told her the story of how things went back during his delivery mission. Ahsoka was still suspicious of Kanan, but seeing Ezra so happy she decided to at least give him the benefit of the doubt...
“Alright, I assume you ditched anything that could help to track you down,” she said raising an eyebrow.
“I did,” Kanan nodded rolling his eyes as it was obvious.
“See? Everything will be ok,” Ezra said cheerfully.
“I still don’t want him anywhere near the base yet, Ezra,” Ahsoka said crossing her arms unconvinced.
“Good, because I don’t want to,” Kanan said straightening. “I told him, I don’t want any part of your Rebellion.”
Ezra swallowed… he remembered Kanan had been open on his reserves about joining the larger Rebellion even in his other life. He would definitely try to avoid it here.
“In fact…” Kanan continued. “If you care so much about this Rebellion, YOU will leave it,” motioned to Ahsoka.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ahsoka frowned at him, anger rising in her voice.
“As I said, you two have a glowing target on your head for Lord Vader and the Emperor. The longer you stick around your Rebel friends…” Kanan trailed off.
“We will attract their attention to the base,” Ezra breathed with worry.
“Specially you,” Kanan tilted his head at Ahsoka. “I don’t know what you did to him, but Vader wants you dead.”
Ahsoka felt a chill but couldn’t explain it.
“In my other life…” Ezra said very concerned. “Somehow the Inquisitors kept finding us. We never knew how they were doing that.”
“It’s the Emperor and his dark power,” Kanan explained.
“How?” Ahsoka asked with interest.
“We are just Inquisitors. We are not allowed access to that knowledge. We just know that he does.”
“We ARE just Inquisitors?” she noted his choice of words and Kanan grunted.
“Listen, you being here with us is already a big risk.”
“How many are there? Inquisitors?” Ahsoka pressed.
“Active? Seven,” Kanan shrugged. “Plus the Grand Inquisitor. Plus Darth Vader. Plus the Emperor. Plus a whole new generation of youngsters just waiting to take our place.”
Ezra’s eyes looked up with worry. “Alora… Pypey…” his heart winced with the memory. He was so tense he didn’t realize he ‘broadcasted’ the image of the memory to them, making them gasp.
Kanan defending them, holding the Inquisitors with Ezra against the odds to keep them from taking the babies. Ahsoka arriving and saving them. Working together. Smiling.
“I’m sorry,” Ezra apologized closing off the Force link. “I’m sorry. I just…”
“It’s ok Ezra…” Ahsoka said taking a deep breath. The experience had slightly stunned her. It was still weird to see herself working closely with them… but it felt right. Even Kanan, while somewhat shaken by the vision, was conflicted. He had seen himself fighting for those kids and fully trusting Ahsoka.
“Back then we had to leave for a while for the sake for the Rebellion, to protect them,” Ezra said with sadness. “We tried to find power to destroy the Inquisitors, but that just made things worse.”
“What are you saying?” Ahsoka raised an eyebrow.
“Kanan is right. If we stay, we put them at risk. This Rebellion isn’t even half of what it was back there… if they find them now…” Ezra bit his lip and looked down. “I’m sorry Ahsoka. This is my fault.”
“No. I knew the risks of facing the Inquisitors,” Ahsoka sighed.
“If you want to keep your base safe, then I’d say you need to move it from Garel as soon as possible,” Kanan rolled his eyes. Ahsoka and Ezra looked up at him surprised. “And no, he didn’t tell me the base was there. I found out on my own. I intimidated Agent Kallus to investigate what spaceports had the Ghost visited before you tried to steal it. I assumed you must have seen the ship in one of them… that’s how I tracked you down.”
“Then it’s just a matter of time before someone gets the same idea or Agent Kallus talks. We need to evacuate. But where?” Ahsoka frowned and bit her lip.
“I can give you a list of bases you can use…” Ezra said thinking on their options. “Dantooine, Yavin, Atollon…”
-Bendu,- Ezra thought. -Maybe I should take Kanan to Bendu to find balance... But thinking it better, with his current attitude… no, that might not be the best idea. Bendu also didn’t want war on his planet either…-
“No, wait, forget about Atollon,” Ezra hurried to say shaking his head. “Also, without a consolidated Rebel force I don’t think you can get anywhere else... You really need Mon Mothma.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Ahsoka nodded.
“So... this actually means we are lying low?” Kanan finally seemed to agree with this.
“For the moment,” Ahsoka clarified. “But we should still stay in touch. Meet each other in a couple of weeks?” she said but while she hoped Kanan would go his own way, Ezra wanted to stay with him, that was clear as day. He had already gone to stand by his side, an aura of happiness and confidence practically radiating from him.
“That sounds good,” Ezra said nodding.
“Anything happens you know how to contact me,” Ahsoka said coming close to Ezra and giving him a hug.
“We will be fine,” Ezra nodded beaming at her.
Ahsoka smiled at Ezra. “Alright, be safe,” Ahsoka said and left to the docking tunnel. She gave Kanan a last quick glance... a silent warning. A threat. Hurt him and I’ll personally hunt you down. Kanan tensed but said nothing else.
Kanan wasn’t sure of sticking with Ezra would be the best choice for his survival. Ezra obviously wanted to help him and make sure he was safe but… there was more to it. Something Kanan wasn’t sure yet and part of him told him he just couldn’t handle it.
Kanan sighed once Ahsoka’s ship disengaged feeling more relaxed now that the ex-Jedi was gone. An alliance. That’s all what this was going to be. It wasn’t like he would allow things to get further than that. He wasn’t 'that man'. Kanan turned to Ezra to say something but found Ezra already giving him a smile full of fondness and warmth, blue eyes filled with joy. The words never formed on Kanan’s lips, instead making him swallow and look away… He headed back at the cockpit.
An alliance. That’s all this was going to be.
“Love is the most beautiful of dreams and the worst of nightmares.”
After Ahsoka left, Kanan and Ezra went to the cockpit of the Ghost. Ezra waited a moment to see if Kanan wanted to take the pilot’s seat but he took his old seat.
Ezra sighed and moved to take the controls of the ship.
“Alright, we need to lay low…” Ezra said softly pondering their options. “Where do you want to go?
“Wherever,” Kanan shrugged but then shook his head. “Wait, no... I would say Wild Space. But we need to find another ship. Even there could be a notice for the Ghost on most civilized space ports.”
Ezra nodded in silence then smiled. “What about the Escape?”
Kanan did a double take at Ezra in disbelief. “He told you about the Escape?”
“You took me to find it,” Ezra chuckled.
“Of course he did,” Kanan rolled his eyes and massaged his temple. “That... might work. We can travel linked and use the Escape for landing.”
-Besides,- Kanan thought -I could leave. Take the Escape and just leave... but not yet. No. Not yet.- He looked at Ezra briefly, who looked quiet content with their plan.
They quickly headed to Moraga to look for the ship, and as they approached, Kanan noticed Ezra became tense.
Ezra looked at him worriedly. “I guess… You’ll see...” he said with sadness.
They made their way to Morfizo’s house, the Moragaan who had been hiding the ship for him before. There, Kanan quickly learned one of his oldest friends had been arrest by the Empire and executed.
“We had sent word for help,” the widow looked down in sadness as she led them. It had been years, she had to move on for the sake of her children.
“I'm sorry. We never got the message. Kanan was also taken prisoner,” Ezra explained because Kanan had become dead silent. Someone else had died because of his inability to help them. Someone who counted on him…
“I’m so glad you made it out, Kanan,” Morfizia smiled and took his hand in sympathy. Kanan tensed and looked away. “I know surviving is difficult,” she nodded and moved towards the hidden garage where the ship was.
The Escape was mostly intact although a little rusty. That was ok for them. Ezra on the other hand took the time while Kanan checked on the ship to help Morfizia around her house and with her children. He wanted to do something for them, and ease some of their worries.
Kanan scowled. Ezra was too good. Too warm. It would come bite him. How could he be so kind? Didn't he realize the dilemma they were in? The Empire was hunting them, and Kanan knew exactly at what lengths they would go. He shouldn't be caring for others like that. If he wanted to survive he needed to steel his heart.
After securing the ship, Kanan decided to get the tattoos on his face removed. Luckily for him, during his early years in Moraga he knew exactly where to go to get them off without questions asked.
Now that Ezra had a much clearer look at his face, he couldn’t help but stare in amazement.
“You look so much younger,” Ezra said taking in the image.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Kanan scowled.
“I mean, without the beard,” Ezra smiled pointing at his jaw.
Kanan remembered that in the memories Ezra had showed him, the other him had grown a beard. “Ah yes. I think it was the other way around. He looked way too old with that beard,” he scoffed slightly annoyed.
They left soon after for a little planet at the edge of Wild Space, but as they were traveling through hyperspace Kanan decided speak with Ezra.
“You should go your own way,” Kanan said looking straight ahead to the lights of the hyperspace.
“Why?” Ezra raised an eyebrow a little worried.
“I told you. They will be more likely to find us.”
“Kanan, all I know is… that my way and my place is with you,” Ezra said softly with a warm smile. Kanan felt something slightly painful in his chest. “Besides, if they send the other Inquisitors and they find you... they will kill you.”
“I won't have a chance,” Kanan snorted as if it was obvious. “You think I'm that weak?”
“No. I know how strong you are,” Ezra looked at him intently and Kanan felt again that strange feeling filling his chest. “You just need time to get there. I did too. But we don’t have a chance on an uneven fight. When I woke up here I was actually losing my power. It was worse than when I started learning from you. And you were so much better than me. You'll get better, I'm sure of it.”
Kanan looked away. Ezra didn't know what he was talking about.
When they arrived to that system in Wild Space, they left the Ghost hidden on a moon and took the Escape to land as planned. They arrived to an agrarian planet called Ramak posing as refugees from a war torn world. The pay to work in the fields was little but as they were using the Escape as their sleeping quarters, money was not quite an issue for them... at least for now.
A few weeks passed, Ezra realized had been in ‘this life’ for months now. He could barely believe it. While he had slowly accepted his new situation and the absence of his friends pained him, he was just so happy that at least Kanan was alive and with him now.
On the other hand, things were confusing for Kanan. After being surrounded by darkness and pain for the last few years, Ezra was like a beacon of warmth. A small star giving off a welcoming soft light. He had never felt something like that from the other Jedi at the Temple, and obviously not the Sith or the Inquisitors.
Even with his back to Ezra, he could tell when Ezra was looking at him because... he glowed. His Light became stronger. Why? How was that possible? What was this light? This warmth? Kanan couldn't begin to understand it… or didn’t want to accept what it was. The only thing he knew for sure was that his presence was… so accepting. It was so strange to find this kindness so suddenly after suffering for so long. After giving up. After feeling he was worth nothing to anyone. After feeling he didn’t deserve any gentleness or... This had to be a dream. This couldn’t be real. But deep down he knew he wanted it to be.
After their hard work in the fields, Ezra would prompt him to spar away from prying eyes. At first Kanan had reacted several times out of instinct with lethal moves… but slowly, Ezra managed to show him he had really nothing to fear from him during their training. Ezra wanted to help him improve. He didn’t want to hurt him. He was safe. Safe.
Ezra could feel the change on Kanan, his conflict, his struggle to let his guard down. The worry that the Inquisitors would find them and he wouldn’t be strong enough to face them. It was so similar to what Kanan had gone through on his other life. Ezra wanted nothing more to help him. To find a way to heal his soul and mind through the Force. He just hoped that his current support would be enough. He wished he could… Ezra wasn’t sure of what. He wished something… something regarding Kanan. But all he could understand right now for sure was that being close and helping him would have to be enough.
Sometime later, Kanan finally gathered the courage to ask something else when they were going to sit to meditate.
“Can you show me...?” Kanan left the question open. He couldn’t find it in himself to finish it.
“Hera?” Ezra looked at him with a sad smile.
Kanan simply nodded averting his eyes. He didn’t want to appear weak. But he had initially wanted to just… see her again. Even if it was in that other life.
“Of course,” Ezra sat cross legged. Both of them closed their eyes, and, as Ezra concentrated on the right memories, he spoke again softly. “You told me once that we are never alone in the Force. We connect to every living thing in the universe. But for that, you have to be willing to-”
“To let my guard down,” Kanan said with a chuckle. That had been one of Master Billaba’s lessons. He sighed simply accepting it and nodded to Ezra. He had been holding this wall up the entire time… holding to his pain, but now he was tired and Ezra’s light was soothing and welcoming. He couldn’t find it in himself to deny him any longer.
Ezra called out the memories he could show him.
Hera and them infiltrating a factory. Part of their everyday lives on the Ghost. Kanan and Hera weren’t overly affective in public but there were always those little sweet moments where Ezra caught them giving each other a look, a hug, a knowing smile.
Ezra sensed Kanan’s heartache and he wanted nothing more to reach for him, but also suddenly felt him willing to see the others. Ezra slowly ‘moved’ his memories to the rest of the crew. Zeb joking about the mission while he punched a stormtrooper. Sabine finishing one of her many paintings in the walls of her room. Chopper going around the Ghost complaining he had to do everything.
“Everything was better there,” Kanan said with melancholy.
“Well... not everything,” Ezra replied with a hint of sadness and regret, slowly finishing the connection. “You... you lost your eyesight.”
“A small sacrifice if it meant they would still be alive. I would take it in an instant,” Kanan said calmly, confident.
Ezra sighed, his heart hurting for him. Kanan slowly looked up, feeling strangely peaceful. He hadn't experience this serenity since...
“Kanan... your eyes” Ezra gasped in shock.
“What?” Kanan blinked in confusion.
Ezra's own eyes welled up. “Your eyes. They are back to normal. They are not yellow anymore...” he said filled with emotion.
Kanan stared at him in disbelief. He had no way to check them but he felt different. Something had changed within him. A realization.
Ezra couldn't help himself and hugged him, with tears in his eyes. His whole body trembling with happiness. It was overwhelming for Kanan. The waves of affection, of joy, of warmth through the Force. Brightness. Pure light. Ezra hastily stepped back.
“Sorry, I just-” he dried his tears apologizing for the hug. “I'm just so happy for you!” He could barely control his emotions, he was practically trembling, his chest bursting with... something. Something that made him want to hug him again, his hands aching, yearning for the touch, to show him his support, to make him happy in some way, but he knew Kanan wasn't used anymore to these shows of affection. And it took every bit of his will to keep his distance.
Kanan was stunned looking at him.
“Do you want to try the Holocron again?”
Kanan was still processing everything that he had just felt. “No.”
“Ok, no rush…” Ezra smiled drying his tears and there was a small beep on his wrist’s comm. “Oh. I almost forgot, I’m supposed to check in with Ahsoka again. I’ll be right back. Ok?”
“Yeah,” Kanan was still in a daze by everything that had just happened.
Ezra went back to the Escape and used the encrypted channel they had set up to talk with Ahsoka. Her holo-image appeared in the console.
“Ezra, how are you doing over there?”
“Ahsoka, you won't believe this. Kanan's eyes are normal again. They are not yellow anymore!” Ezra practically blurted out in excitement.
“Oh. Wow,” Ahsoka blinked in surprise. “That's definitely a good sign. That means he's not holding to the darkside or... Uh... Ezra, are you ok?” she said raising an eyebrow noticing just how happy he was. Up until now she had never seen him with this much joy.
“Yeah! I'm great! Why wouldn't I be ok? This is…” he was getting flushed but he couldn’t understand why.
“I'm just so kriffing excited, hahaha! Sorry…”
“Right,” Ahsoka gave him a sympathetic smile. She could tell there was something else but didn’t want to say anything.
Ezra took a deep breath. “Ok, ok... I'm good now,” He chuckled, still obviously filled with joy. “How's everything on your end?”
“Actually pretty good. I've located the prison where they are holding Mon Mothma. We might be able to break her out,” she said. Things were starting to turn around.
“Oh! I'll help. We'll help rescue her,” Ezra said effusively.
“No. You both were right. We would attract too much attention even if two of us went to break her out… let alone three. Besides, don’t you think is still a little rushed to ask him to assist with this? He really didn’t want to do anything with the Rebellion… and even if he’s not completely in the darkside I don’t think it might be wise to push him on this.”
“Yeah. I just… I think I got ahead of myself,” Ezra sighed. He wasn't thinking straight. He felt he could take on anything. That they could take on anything.
“Listen, we are still gathering information. We need to plan this minusciusly so everything goes perfect. I’ll tell you what… let’s meet in a week, we will talk then. See if he is up to do it by then.”
“Yeah, maybe he might be willing to help,” Ezra scratched the back of his head nodding.
“I’ll send you the coordinates to a safe place and we will meet there,” Ahsoka nodded. “Take care.”
“You too Ahsoka.”
During the following days Kanan became more quiet. He was not avoiding Ezra, but he was pensive during their work or their training. He would glance at him sometimes and Ezra would feel... happy. Yeah, happy. That was the only way he could explain it.
Kanan allowed him to get closer. He didn't keep his distance anymore, and Ezra seemed to thrive with the contact. Ezra would touch his shoulder, a gentle pull on his arm and even cupped his hands when they tried to open the Holocron in meditation.
The Holocron's corners turned several times, but still didn't fully open.
"It's ok... we will get there," Ezra encouraged him, worrying Kanan would feel frustrated because of this result but... He was actually alright. Kanan had come to calmly accept he still needed some work. He knew he was improving because of Ezra. Because he...
Kanan stopped himself from going down that line of thought. No. He must be misreading him. How could anyone...?
-No. Don't even think about it- Kanan admonished himself. It was not like he was deserving or worthy.
The day to meet up with Ahsoka finally came up. She sent the secret coordinates and they set out to the meeting spot she had picked. It was an old abandoned outpost on somewhere at the edge of the Outer Rim. They brought both the Ghost and the Escape this time. They arrived a little earlier than expected and decided to kill some time by sparring again in the cargo hold of the Ghost.
Their lightsabers clashed.
Somehow this was different from all the other times they had sparred in the last few days. Even though they were using the training setting, Ezra was not holding back. He pushed Kanan to his limits showing him what he was truly capable of.
The minutes passed and the fight continued. They were panting, exhausted, but for some reason they didn’t want to stop.
Their lightsabers joined, forming a cross. Through their clashing light, their eyes locked. They stared into each others eyes. Ezra felt lost in them, taking his breath away. A powerful emotion was growing in his chest. Ezra could swear he could hear his own heart beating loudly, drowning any other sound. It was only them here. Him. Kanan.
Kanan in turn was speechless, his lips slightly parted, completely taken away by the sky that were Ezra's eyes. Eyes full of yearning, of affection… of adoration… of…
A sudden terrible realization hit Kanan. Strength left him. His hold on the lightsaber wavered, turning it off, accidentally leaving him with no defense. Ezra gave a small gasp and turned off his lightsaber just in time before it struck Kanan's face, and he stumbled forward into Kanan’s arms by the sudden loss of support.
“Whoa! That was close! We better be more careful. I don't want to be the one leaving you blind!” Ezra said partially joking. Ezra couldn’t help but enjoy the closeness. It reminded him of that time in the cave in Atollon. Warmth filled his cheeks at the happy memory. He looked up smiling at Kanan.
Kanan was looking down at him, conflict in his eyes. Pain . Ezra became very still. His smile frozen. Ezra's hands unconsciously tightened his grip on Kanan's shirt.
“Kanan? What is it?”
Kanan’s expression hardened in silence.
“Kanan?” He repeated more softly almost as a whisper, his voice slightly trembling with a worried anxious smile. Something was wrong. Ezra could feel it in his chest.
Kanan gently placed his hands on Ezra's shoulders and slowly pushed him away at arm's length. Ezra stared at him confused.
“I'm not him,” Kanan looked away with a pained frown.
“I'm not the man you loved.”
Ezra was momentarily stunned trying to process what he had just said. A rising panic grew in his throat. He shook his head.
“W-what are you talking about? N-no! I didn’t-...! It wasn’t like that-!” he stuttered laughing nervously, his face turning completely red. “We were just-,” he took a step forward trying to explain and Kanan gave a step back. It hurt him. Somehow, that action made Ezra’s heart hurt. The distance between became painful. Ezra froze in place in shock. What… what was happening?
“You admired him. Being with him made you want to be better... to do the right thing. He would lift your soul. He was your light in the darkness, a beacon that showed you the way when you would feel lost,” Kanan explained softly, a tint of sadness on his voice and with each word Ezra’s eyes became larger in realization of his own feelings. Ezra’s lips trembled. “I know you loved him because... that's the way Hera made me feel.”
Kanan saw the helpless look on Ezra's face. His mind was blank facing the truth...
“I'm not him. I'm not the man you loved,” Kanan said and Ezra felt something crumbling inside him, tears ran down his face but he stood there in shocked silence.
“I'm not him…” Kanan repeated, more to himself than for Ezra. “This was a mistake…” He whispered looking away and turned to the ramp to leave the Ghost.
Ezra tried to call out to him, to reach for him, but the name died on his lips. He could form no words, no sound. He could not breathe. He could not move.
He loved Kanan.
Kanan left him.
Ezra's legs gave out and he fell on his knees. He held himself by the midriff feeling he was breaking. His heart was being ripped apart. And still no sound came from his throat even if his mouth was contorted into a painful scream.
Kanan walked quickly to the Escape looking at the ground. He felt Ezra’s despair and pain behind him, almost making him stop… but he had to get out of here. He had to leave. He couldn’t stay. He wasn’t him . He would only…
“What did you do?” Ahsoka’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. She had just arrived to meet them and they had not noticed her presence. She was glaring at him, quickly approaching, demanding for an answer. Ezra’s anguish was hitting them like a wave. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?”
Kanan attempted to simply walk past her, but she grabbed his arm forcefully. She wouldn’t let him go without an answer. His lips made a fine a line scowling at her.
“I told him the truth. The sooner he accepts it, the sooner he can let go. The sooner he can move on from chasing shadows,” he declared pulling his arm free and kept walking to the Escape. Ahsoka made no move to stop him and instead rushed to the Ghost.
She found Ezra kneeling over, his head practically touching the ground as his tears ran down and he fought to draw breath, fought to cry out.
“Ezra! Ezra!” Ahsoka crouched at his side worried looking for obvious wounds but… it was not something physical.
They both sensed Kanan’s presence leaving.
Ezra’s body stilled in horror.
“KANAN!” Ezra finally yelled, calling him in desperation, begging. But he was gone. He wailed in pain. Why did it hurt so much?
“Ezra… what happened? Please,” Ahsoka wanted to help him… but didn’t know how.
“I love him!” It was the only thing he managed to cry out in sorrow.
Ahsoka’s eyes went wide realizing the situation and she wrapped her arms around Ezra, trying to give him some support.
“I LOVE HIM!” Ezra buried his face on her shoulder, his whole body shaking because the sobs wouldn’t stop.
~ Priscilla Ahn
But life is never what it seems
I find the message in my dreams
It's like a faded memory whispering secrets just for me
So I cry in the night
For something I found in my heart
There's a star in the sky guiding me home in the dark
If you call out my name, I know I'll see you again
I'll remember I am not alone
I'll remember I am not alone
Ezra wasn’t sure for how long had he been crying, but Ahsoka was with him through all of it. After the sobs finally quiet down and allowed him to finally take deep breaths to calm himself with the Force, Ezra sat against the wall of the cargo area of the Ghost with Ahsoka sitting at his side. His heart was still hurting as if an invisible hand was tightening around his lungs, his heart, his stomach.
Ahsoka placed an arm around his shoulders and rubbed his arm. There wasn’t much she could do be there for him.
Ezra finally spoke… his voice was hoarse from the crying.“It feels like I lost him all over again. It… it hurts so much…” he held himself, pulling his legs and knees closer.
“It’s ok, Ezra… you will be fine,” she encouraged him softly.
“What... what I am supposed to do now?” his voice was trembling and tears resurfaced again. “...I love him… what should I do?”
“What you think is right...”
“But he doesn’t-...” he couldn’t finish the sentence and bit his lip. Kanan had said it. It was a mistake. He didn’t want him… but the thought of being on his own right now seemed like the worst idea. He wasn’t well. This wasn’t a matter of skill or training. It was a matter of his mental and emotional well-being. He turned to Ahsoka. “Can I... Can I go back with you? I mean... no, nevermind-” he shook his head. “We can't go back. They would find us.”
“Hey, if you need me, we can go back together. Alright?” Ahsoka rubbed his back and Ezra smiled weakly.
“Thank you,” Ezra nodded and straightened a little. “I guess... I guess I'm glad this didn't happen with... the others. In my other life…”
“Why?” she asked gently.
“I don't think I would have been able to look at Hera in the eyes ever again,” his shoulders dropped. “I would never think of getting in between them. Besides is not like he would... he would ever,” he looked down. “... love me. Not like that. Not here, not there.”
“As long as he would be happy,” Ezra smiled, drying his tears but he was using all his will to hold back another sob. After he calmed a little, he nodded. “Now here… at least he’s not an Inquisitor anymore. He’s safe. He will be safe. That’s all that matters.”
Ahsoka could tell Ezra would have wanted to go after him but if Kanan didn’t want anything to do with him… Ezra wouldn’t force it. He would respect his decision. Love always complicated things like this, Ahsoka sighed. She would have to take off his mind from all this, but she wondered if such a thing was possible. Whether this Kanan was his old Master or not, she couldn’t deny there had been a strong deep bond in the Force between them… and breaking such bonds wasn’t always easy… or painless. Non-attachment. At least that’s what Ezra was trying.
“C'mon. It's time to go,” Ahsoka helped him up and guided him into the cockpit.
Weeks passed and Ezra had been assisting Ahsoka on her Fulcrum responsibilities with the Rebellion. They kept moving with the Nightbrother and the Ghost, staying not for long on the same spot while planning Mon Mothma’s rescue. During the day, Ezra was quiet but focused on their missions, managing his loss of Kanan fairly well, but at night... on his room... Ahsoka could feel his sadness, his loneliness.
That night repeated the same pattern. Ezra unconsciously reached for him on his dream as he had done before. He found himself walking across the empty grasslands of Lothal… there were no stars, no moons shining in the sky. Everything was dark and cold. He kept searching. Ezra finally found something different. A wall. Ezra could not see the end of this wall from either side. He was completely cut off from the other side. From Kanan.
Ezra ran his hands over the cold stone, gently pushing against, trying to reach him, but it was no use. He placed his forehead against the stone and cried.
Kanan had closed off to the Force like he had done many years ago until Gorse. He had found his way to a backwater planet full of unsavory people in the edge of the Outer Rim. Here, the Empire had a loose presence and no one wanted to attract the attention of the authorities. The perfect place for pirates, drug dealers, warlords, mercenaries, murderers… him.
He stared at the bottom on his empty glass with a distant look. He was here again. Sitting in a shady run-down bar, drinking like there was no tomorrow. He had returned to this low point of his life. But there would be no Hera this time to pull him out of the pit and push him forward. No Ghost. No Specters. No Ezra.
His grip on the glass tightened.
“Another one,” he called at the female Zabrak attending behind the bar.
“You sure pal?” she gave him a stern look. “You still got credits for that?”
Kanan growled and placed a pair of credits on the counter.
“Sure then! Another one it is…” she said. “ I know your kind, so just a word of advice: don’t go wrecking the place. I just fixed it up,” she warned.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Kanan murmured and the woman scoffed but still filled his glass.
He quickly finished his drink. He was finally starting to get drunk. While he hadn’t drunk that much while they trained him… or more like tortured him to become an Inquisitor, he had developed a resistance to intoxicating substances. It didn’t mean they didn’t affect his body, but his mind became much more difficult to knock down. He was already running out of money but he didn’t care anymore.
“Hello there,” Kanan felt a hand on his shoulder and he jolted, immediately turning to face an attack but… it was a woman, a sultry pantoran that was also startled by his reaction. “Hey, easy, not trying anything you don’t want to...”
He took a long look at her but then shook his head and returned his attention to the glass on the counter.
“You really look like someone who needs company…” she leaned closer to him, pressing her body on his side. She was warm. Soft. Kanan instinctively flinched away.
The woman seemed disappointed. This one was actually handsome, unlike the usual patrons that came by. She even thought she had gotten lucky. “Alright… no hard feelings. I’ll leave you to your drink then.” She pulled away with a sigh.
Coldness. He was left with coldness. He didn’t want to feel cold anymore.
“Wait,” Kanan called standing up from his seat and turned to her.
The pantoran blinked surprised and a little hopeful. “Are you interested then?”
He closed off the space between them and pulled her against him, giving her a rough and forceful kiss. She gasped with a smile. She could deal with rough.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be good to you,” she whispered and looked around. “Got somewhere else we can hang out?” she asked softly… sensually.
Kanan nodded with eyes closed. The Escape. There wasn’t much space but that would do.
As soon as they stepped into the ship and the ramp closed they had their hands on each other, kissing. She hurried to open up her shirt, allowing him easy access to her bare shoulders and breasts. He closed his eyes and kissed her neck making her shiver in delight. She hurried to remove his shirt stroking his chest, his arms, his back… lowering her hands to his hips and pressed her body against his without breaking the kiss.
Kanan’s hands couldn’t get enough of her. He explored her body, her soft skin, her curves. He carefully raised his hand to her head... looking to caress the lekku that weren’t there.
He stepped back in bewilderment. “No.”
The woman looked up in confusion. Had she done something wrong?
“What is it, love?” she asked. The way she said it echoed in Kanan’s ear like that familiar ‘luv’.
His stomach turned. He must have looked bad because she tried to rub his arm but he pulled away. He looked down in a combination of shock, despair and anger… realization.
“Out,” he growled.
She frowned, her lips tightly pressed together. “But what about-?” she started to complain but Kanan grabbed the last of his credits and pushed them against her.
“OUT,” he ordered through clenched teeth.
She hurried to close down her blouse and didn’t even say another word as she left.
Kanan was repulsed by himself. He grabbed a bottle by the bunk but it was empty. That’s why he had gone to the bar in the first place. He yelled in frustration and threw the bottle, shattering it on the ramp. He was tired but he didn’t want to sleep. That’s when things got worse.
He had nightmares. Of the Inquisitors training him-... no, torturing him to become one of them again. Of Lord Vader killing him and somehow bringing him back to suffer more. Of Hera being killed calling out his name desperately. Of the ghosts of the crew haunting him, blaming him for their demise.
This night was a new nightmare. He was again with the pantoran in the ship, but Hera arrived with a shocked and sorrowful expression.
“Kanan… You changed me for her?”
“Hera, no, NO,” Kanan said desperately. “NEVER.”
“How could you?” she said in disbelief… and Kanan saw hatred in her eyes… and that felt worse than any of the torture that the Inquisitors had ever done. She turned away to leave without another word.
“No, HERA!” he shouted, begged, trying to go after her but in her place Depa Billaba appeared. He froze. She remained silent for a moment, clearly judging him.
“Is this why I died for, Caleb?” Depa said with clear disappointment. “So you could shame the Jedi like this…?”
“NO!” Kanan gasped, jolting awake. His heart was racing, his whole body sweating cold. The world was spinning. He felt disoriented. Ashamed. How could you?
He sees the lightsaber tuck away under his pillow... He stared at it. He could end it. It would be quick. But suddenly, Ezra's worried look show up in his mind.
Kanan clenches his teeth, his fists. A need rising on his chest. He remembers their last moments together. Ezra in his arms like he was holding a warm soothing star. Smiling at him.
His hands, his chest, his arms ached for that warmth.
He doesn't love 'you', a dark version of his own voice said in his head. Look at you. How could he love you? How could anyone love you again after what you have become? That other person... that person is not you. He adored the other Kanan... Ezra was just confused. That's all. You are nothing. You are tainted by the darkside. You would only hurt him.
And that thought is what breaks him.
He cries alone, surrounded only by coldness and despair.
Somewhere very far far away, Ezra stared at the stars out of the cockpit of the Ghost, feeling a knot on his throat.
A few days later, Ezra and Ahsoka met with the small Rebel fleet in a secret location in deep space. They needed to clear some details about plan to rescue Mon Mothma from prison. Ezra was fidgety, hoping their presence there wouldn’t attract the attention of the Inquisitors. This was too dangerous.
Ezra greeted Sato with a smile and then gasped when he saw Bail Organa in the flesh stepping into the conference room… followed by Leia. His eyes grew large.
“Leia,” he whispered in disbelief. Ahsoka watched the girl with a curious look too. This was the first time she had actually seen her in person, but there was something so familiar about her.
“Thank you for coming, Senator,” Sato said with a small smile.
“We couldn’t leave this to chance, could we? There’s a lot at stake here,” Bail said looking at everyone present. “The citizens know Senator Mon Mothma was unjustly arrested. Being such a public figure has been the one thing keeping them from outright executing her, but I fear they are waiting for the people to forget about her and then…” he sighed shaking his head.
“We must strike quickly and move Senator Mon Mothma to a safe location,” Leia spoke up with a clear voice and full of confidence. Ezra was so glad… she was still her. Perhaps a little more hardened by the war but it was her. Snarky... and yet respectful. Inspiring.
As the meeting went showing the diagrams of the prison and their security measures, Leia noticed Ezra was staring at her. She had heard the rumors that he was also a young Jedi in training with Fulcrum. She frowned realizing he wouldn’t stop staring at her. Oh no, it was another one of those. She had expected the Jedi to be above such things but then… she caught a glimpse of something else in his expression. Of someone that has lost everything he loves reminiscing of the days where things were simpler… happier... and he finally looks away leaving those thoughts behind, focusing on the task at hand. Leia’s eyes softened. Maybe she was wrong.
After the plan was done, Leia approached Ezra.
“They say you are a Jedi,” Leia looked at him from head to toe slightly unconvinced.
“Yes,” Ezra said with a small smile and then added hurriedly. “Uh-…I mean, yes, your highness.”
“Leia is fine,” she waved dismissing the protocol. “I thought she was the only one left,” she tilted her head towards Ahsoka.
“I believe there were others… some died, some are in hiding,” Ezra said with sadness. Kenobi, Kanan… how many others had left their lives behind.
“Where have you been all this time then?”
“I honestly don’t know. Lothal I guess,” Ezra said not entirely sure, as he didn’t have the memories of the last 4 years when this life diverged from the one he lived.
“That was a very vague answer,” Leia grimaced.
“It’s the best I can offer,” Ezra shook his head and sighed tired. He truly didn’t understand it either. He had stopped trying to figure it out.
“I wish we could have more Jedi on our side,” Leia said looking at her father, Ahsoka and Sato talking on the other side of the room. “This needs to go perfect or else… we will lose her. The Empire says they treat their political prisoners humanely but...”
“They will kill her… I know,” Ezra nodded absently. Leia felt a heavy loss on his eyes. His family perhaps?
“I’m sorry,” Leia offered more gently this time.
“Don’t be, is not your fault,” Ezra shook his head. Even here, his parents were gone… and there was work to be done. “You are still doing what you are meant to be doing… that’s good.”
She frowned. “What’s that?”
“Giving people hope,” Ezra smiled.
“I thought giving hope was the job of the Jedi,” she raised an eyebrow and smirked.
“Yeah, you might actually put me out of business soon,” Ezra shrugged and both of them chuckled. He remembered their previous meeting in his other life. He could not believe how immature he had been at the time. And now...
How ironic. Just like when he lost his parents she was here encouraging him and focusing on the Rebellion. One of the few constants he had found so far, helping people, giving them hope that things could change for the better. Yes, that was what the Jedi were for.
But what if things refused to change? What if people didn’t want his help? There was nothing he could do then. He clenched his teeth, feeling again that knot on his throat. A sob trying to make his way up.
He called his name into the Force… but there was only silence in return.
Just as Ezra was getting ready for the mission he caught glimpse of Ahsoka talking with Organa’s R2 unit with a fond and nostalgic smile. She caressed the top and sighed.
“Alright, let’s go,” Ahsoka waved to Ezra.
“You think he can make it ok?” Ezra looked at the old unit moving towards their ship.
“Oh, R2 can do it just fine,” Ahsoka smirked giving the droid a wink. The droid beeped something along the lines of ‘you have no idea’.
R2-D2 would infiltrate with the other security droids. The Imperials had a very bad habit of dismissing and underestimating droids. Ezra had only seen him work a few times before but this was a tremendously high-risk mission. He would have given anything to have Chopper at his side, but he figured that if Ahsoka vouched for the little droid, he had nothing to worry about.
They took him to a base in a planet in a nearby system where the Imperials would get their supplies and R2 rolled along with a few other droids to the cargo bay that was being guarded by two stormtroopers. Ezra and Ahsoka looked at him disappear inside with relief. Everything was going according to plan.
Once there, R2 would be able to hack the security and allow their team to approach without being detected by the radar. The Nightbrother, the Ghost and another rebel ship landed nearby and their team moved under the cover of night. They quickly made their way to the side of a large prison at the edge of a cliff. The teams split once inside and Ezra went to the security room to neutralize the guards there. R2 was already waiting for him outside the door and opened it for him. With a swift wave of his hand, he slammed the officers against a wall, knocking them out cold. They didn’t even know what hit them.
“Clear, I’m in,” Ezra called on his comm and saw how Ahsoka and the other team took different routes. Things were quiet for a few minutes but then, obviously, the shooting began and could be heard on the distance even from this room. A few seconds later, the alarm sounded off.
“I GOT HER,” Ahsoka called on her comm.
“I’ll meet you outside!” Ezra hurried to the large open patio, arriving just in time with the rest of the team. Ezra took out a remote control and called in the Ghost and the other ships. The team threw gas canisters around them, filling the area with smoke. The troopers couldn’t see what they were shooting at and the Rebels could also barely tell what was going on, but Ezra and Ahsoka did. They closed their eyes and placed themselves around their comrades and what Ezra could imagine was Mon Mothma. She was weak. They needed to get her out as quickly as possible. Ezra and Ahsoka managed to deflect all the blasters shots that could have reached the team, and just then, their ships arrived above.
“GO!” Ezra gestured at Ahsoka. She nodded and grabbed the frail woman in her arms and jumped into the Nightbrother’s ramp. The other rebels quickly jumped into their ship and provided covering fire to Ahsoka to escape. Ezra smiled relieved and also got quickly into the Ghost. Things were starting to get heated down there!
Ezra rushed to the controls and took off immediately. The Ghost was taking heavy fire. It made him clench his teeth.
“Let’s get out of here!” one of the rebels shouted on the comms and Ezra agreed. They punched it to the max, flying as fast as they could out of the planet with TIE fighters close behind. Once in orbit, they all went into Hyperspace on different directions. They needed to make sure they couldn't be traced.
Once in hyperspace, Ezra finally breathed and sank on the pilot’s seat. That had been close. Too close. He checked the Ghost’s systems and saw there had been some damage on the shields. He would have to fix that once he got to his safe spot.
The plan was to lay low once they escaped. Ahsoka would be the only one heading directly back to Sato to safely deliver Mon Mothma.
Ezra arrived to a small rainy planet with great oceans with a few fishing towns. The humid climate had never set well with him, but this would have to do for the moment. He grabbed a poncho and headed out to the old shanty town. The Empire had come and gone from this place, taking most of the high-value natural resources and leaving the locals just barely scraping by.
Ezra walked silently through the streets and no one paid him no mind. He imagined how this place would have been in better days. He was supposed to head to get a room and stay there until further notice but he walked past the old run down inn. On other circumstances he would have been running for shelter from the cold rain, but now… it didn’t bother him as much.
Suddenly, Ezra sensed a presence. He looked up in disbelief and his heart skipped a beat.
Kanan was there in front of him, wearing a cloak, looking down, avoiding his eyes. Kanan looks completely disarrayed. Defeated. At the very edge whatever he is. Ezra’s lips trembled at the realization and he dared not to move. He feared that this was just an illusion that would be dispelled in the blink of an eye. That Kanan would disappear again. Ezra wasn’t sure if he could handle it another time.
Kanan kept his eyes down, the rain coming down on him… but he slowly opened his mouth as if he was gathering the strength to speak. “I know… I know I’m not him,” Kanan started and Ezra held his breath, trying to keep his whole body from shaking. “I know you are not her. But I....” Kanan paused as his voice strained.
“I need help.”
In the blink of an eye, Ezra closed the distance between them to embrace him. Ezra nodded, pressing his head against his shoulder as if he was trying to put him back together, keeping him from breaking.
“Kanan,” Ezra says the name so softly and full of love. “It’s ok… I’m here.”
Kanan could barely breathe. His whole body started trembling by the contact. His mental walls crumbled and he opened himself to the Force. He felt the warmth of Ezra’s affection and love flooding him. He gasped in surprise and also held Ezra back like his life depended on it. He felt himself being washed over by... unconditional love.
"You are not alone," Ezra whispered close to his ear, reassuring him.
Those words broke him and he sobbed silently, weakly. Ezra held him tighter keeping him up, rubbing Kanan’s back, his own face wet with tears and rain.
After a while, they slowly pulled back and looked at each other eyes. Force… his eyes were like the sky, Kanan sighed.
“Are you feeling better?” Ezra held Kanan’s hands together, trying to rub some warmth. They were already soaked by the rain.
“Yes,” he smiled weakly… this coldness was nothing compared to what he had lived through. He felt warm through the Force. He could see Ezra’s soft smile and blushing at their closeness. But then Kana’s face turned serious, concerned, worried. He swallowed nervously. “I… I don’t know if I can… give you what you want,” Kanan confessed. After what had happened with the Pantoran he wasn’t sure he could ever be intimate with anyone anytime soon... he wanted Ezra to know that. Being this close was already taking everything he had.
Ezra blinked confused but then his face turned completely red. “You don’t have to give me anything!” he shook his head effusively and held Kanan’s hands tighter. “I just want you to be alright. That’s all.”
Kanan nodded and pulled Ezra again for another hug… but he knew better. This... whatever they were going to be, couldn’t be just one way. It wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be healthy. He needed to relearn to give… to allow himself to be loved, to be vulnerable after so long.
For the moment, this closeness, this hug, this embrace, he could give.
“I'm not saying that love always takes you to heaven. Your life can become a nightmare. But that said, it is worth taking the risk.” - Paulo Coelho
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The image of a thin woman appeared in the holoprojector. Her eyes were sunken, her skin was pale and the tell tales of bruises decorated the little bits of her neck that showed from the collar of her tunic and on her hands. She started to talk with a pained but resolute expression.
“I am Senator Mon Mothma. I’m doing this transmission on all open channels to testify what just happened to me. I have lived in the flesh the abuse and tyranny of the Empire. They have lied to all of you to instill fear... to cripple our freedom in this so called "safety". I have been stomped and imprisoned because I have dared to speak the truth. No longer we will bend our knee and turn our eyes away. We cannot allow their injustices to carry on. We must make a stand. For those who are too weak to defend themselves... for those who have died along the way. Rise. Rebel. We will stand together as allies. We will not rest until we bring an end to the Empire and restore everything the Republic stood for.”
The transmission ended.
Ezra input the secret codes for the encrypted communication channel to report in with Ahsoka. The image of the female Togruta appeared on his holoprojector.
“Ahsoka…” he nodded to the woman.
“Ezra, I'm so glad you made it too. Did you hear the message?” Ahsoka looked full of energy, even hopeful.
“Yeah. Mon Mothma sounded even more resolute now than when I met her before…” he said with a smile but it didn’t last long and sighed with sadness. “She knows the pain of being on the Empire’s hands. You don’t think she would join with Guerrera now, right?”
“No. Not at all. She has experienced torture. She won’t allow those kinds of excess on her watch...” Ahsoka assured him.
“Good,” he said more calmly. He glanced to the side, to the door of the cockpit, knowing Kanan was waiting for him.
“Ezra?” Ahsoka looked at him with curiosity.
“…” Ezra remained silent but calm, without fear or shame. He couldn’t help but let a warm smile show through his lips.
“You found him,” Ahsoka whispered in disbelief. She was always so perceptive, Ezra chuckled internally.
Ezra shook his head. “He found me,” his eyes had a light Ahsoka thought he had lost and realized Kanan was staying with him this time.
She opened her mouth but it took a second to find her voice. “Have you two done... anything?”
Ezra’s face blushed and he straightened on his seat. “No.”
“Is he going to be your…?” she trailed off.
“We are still trying to figure that out,“ Ezra cleared off his throat. Ahsoka sighed.
“Ok… What’s your plan?”
“I’m not sure,” he also sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “But... I already helped the Rebellion. Now... I will help him.”
“Hn…” Ahsoka gave him an understanding nod. “You know, Mon Mothma wanted to meet you.”
“I guess we will have to leave that for another time,” Ezra nodded. “That message should make a difference.”
“Yes. It also means the Inquisitors will be on our heels. I’ll stay clear off the Rebel base. And if you two are going to be flying together… then...”
“We will keep a low profile, yes,” Ezra promised.
“Stay safe. And-…” she added hastily but was interrupted by him.
“I’ll contact you if anything happens,” Ezra said faking being bored by her protectiveness… but he was so grateful for her support.
“Then I’ll come and find you,” Ahsoka chuckled.
“I know you will,” he smiled.
“May the Force be with you…” Ahsoka said with a grin.
The Force was with him. With them. He couldn’t explain it, but he could feel their connection, their bond growing stronger as days passed. Even then, they kept sleeping in their separate cabins.
Just as Ezra had told Ahsoka, they hadn’t done anything. Kanan was simply too wary of any kind of intimacy beyond a hug. Kanan felt… alive when he held Ezra in his arms, like he could face anything if he was at his side… like he could be better. He wished he could do more than that but he knew Ezra wasn’t a balm to feel better, and the idea of a repeat of that night with the pantoran terrified him… the idea that it would remind him of Hera. In any case, Ezra always asked if he could touch him before hugging him, careful of the emotional conflict it could cause Kanan.
They spent most of those first days meditating, trying to find balance to the turmoil on Kanan’s soul. They would sit cross legged in front of each other and hold their hands, allowing Ezra to help him guide him into a calmer state of mind.
That’s what Ezra became for him. A bright beacon of warm acceptance guiding his way. They started again working with the Holocron too... And just as Kanan had expected, a lot of the progress he had achieved from their time before was gone because this relapse into the darkness and self-hate.
“Don’t worry,” Ezra assured him again, like last time. “You will get there.”
Kanan nodded sighing. “You lost your connection to the Force when you woke up here, right?”
“Yes…” Ezra said and couldn’t hold back a sad smile. It all seemed so long ago. “I woke up in the tower. I was so confused. I had a life here… one I never lived,” he sighed.
Kanan frowned. “What can you tell me about… your other self? The one that was living this life before you woke up here?”
“I… I don’t know exactly. Well, no, I think I have a good idea now…” Ezra corrected himself accepting something he hadn’t wanted to until now. “I believe… my other self was thinking on joining the Empire.”
Ezra nodded. “I found a flyer about the benefits you could get if you joined as a trooper,” Ezra sighed. “I think I was getting desperate enough to consider it.”
Kanan offered him a sad smile. “We might have met at the base, you know.”
Ezra looked up in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“They wanted us to supervise the new recruits too… instill some fear in them to make sure they would fall in line,” Kanan chuckled softly feeling that life was a bad dream now, but then he noticed Ezra had grown very still, his eyes became large.
“We would still have met…?” Ezra whispered slightly surprised at the implication. Were they destined to meet then? Would the Force guide them sooner or later to each other? One way or another…? He would find him. It was him. It was always him. He could suddenly almost feel it in the Force. Ezra locked eyes with Kanan and he could feel a growing feeling in chest. A need to reach for him… hold him. Touch him. Be together… kiss him...
Kanan looked away with nervousness feelings his emotions through the Force.
“I’m sorry,” Ezra apologized blinking, feeling a little ashamed for feeling like this when he knew Kanan wasn’t ready for something like that.
“No, you didn’t do anything-...” Kanan shook his head and grabbed his hand. He could do that. He could caress the back of Ezra’s hand without problem. “How… how would you be then? If I met you then?”
Ezra frowned. “Well… he must have been alone all this time. Without you or the crew… I guess he would be thinking only on himself? He would have had trouble opening up to people and trusting them. Afraid to bond… afraid to care.”
“Sounds familiar,” he said sadly.
Ezra held back the sudden urge to kiss him, and instead gave Kanan's hand a gentle squeeze.
Just as Ezra had promised Ahsoka, they laid low… for a while. But it wasn’t long before they decided to start some small work.
Kanan had never wanted to join the larger war in the first place. Neither here nor there. He had always wanted to help in other ways… especially directly with the people that needed it the most. In a way, it had been what the Clone Wars had taught him. The Jedi had lost their way by fighting battles in a war they were never supposed to be part of. He had been initially blinded by the awe of fighting alongside of Billaba and his clone friends… but even his Billaba had made her doubts on their role very clear before Caleb Dume’s whole world came crashing down around him.
Now, Kanan didn’t want to make the same mistakes again. Also… the further they were from the agents of the Empire, the better. Ezra and him would go to Wild Space planets offering protection from pirates to small cargo ships moving much needed supplies to their worlds. The Empire didn’t care and even the Rebellion would forget about these people.
And with every smile they got… every thanks, every child with a ration in their hand, Kanan started to feel a little piece of his broken soul being restored. And he would slowly spend more and more time with Ezra… feeling more comfortable and at ease with his physical closeness. But Kanan could obviously see this also meant Ezra became hopeful of… more. He could see Ezra trying to pretend he was fine like that, but it was clear he was holding back so much.
Kanan's insecurity kept him wondering if he was even capable of giving anymore.
Kanan's nights had become calmer, dreamless. But that night was different. The nightmare was a surprise. Kanan usually felt the darkness, the coldness, as a shiver down his spine, but this time it came out of nowhere...
He was sparring with Ezra... but it was more like a dance. He was daring to openly return Ezra’s warm smile. He felt his heart filling with excitement. When they stopped, Ezra was already holding him tightly. Kanan realized he would let nothing bad happen to Ezra. Nothing would separate them from now on, he promised himself but then he felt movement behind him. Kanan turned, lightsaber in hand, ready to confront whatever danger had come to attack them. They would regret ever daring to-
“Kanan,” Hera’s voice came from beyond, from the darkness. Kanan was completely taken back. She stepped into the light. Her face was full of concern. “What are you doing?”
Kanan’s hand trembled turning off the lightsaber. He remembered his dream with the Pantoran, how Hera had looked at him with disgust and-
“No, please. Hera-,” Kanan pleaded to her. He couldn’t go through this again. “This isn’t like that-” he assured her. Not Ezra. Ezra was… warmth and goodness. Hera needed to understand that. “Hera, please, just let me explain-”
“You are going to get him killed,” she said with worry.
Kanan was speechless for a second at that, but he blinked in surprise when he heard a lightsaber igniting and noticed the red light behind him. He slowly turned his head, his eyes growing large with horror as he saw the red blade of Vader showing through Ezra’s chest. Ezra looked down in shock, also caught unaware. Ezra couldn’t quite process what was happening and looked up back at Kanan with tears in his eyes trying to say something, but the words never left his lips.
Kanan’s scream of desperation filled the darkness around them.
Ezra jolted awake on his cabin, feeling the sudden turmoil coming from Kanan on his room. It was a wave of despair that made Ezra grit his teeth and made his chest hurt. Kanan was suffering, filled with desperation of being unable to wake up from whatever nightmare he was having.
Ezra leapt out of the bunk and rushed to Kanan’s room.
“Kanan?” he asked and banged on the door. No answer. The wave of despair intensified. Ezra waved his hand, bypassing the lock and opened the door, quickly moving to Kanan, he sweating cold and mumbling a plead in his bed.
“Kanan, wake up,” Ezra touched his arm.
Kanan’s body jolted at the touch. “NO!” he shouted startled, lifting up his arm releasing a powerful Force push that sent Ezra and everything else around him across the room. Ezra hit the wall and fell to the floor.
Kanan’s frightened eyes finally opened, and he realized just what he had done. Ezra was in the floor… unmoving.
“No…” Kanan breathed shaking. “Oh no. No. No.”
What have you done?
He rushed to his side in desperation. “Ezra! Ezra!?” Kanan reached down almost afraid to touch him, to hurt him even more, but managed to carefully turn him around.
“Ouch…” Ezra’s body stirred and slowly sit up, massaging the back of his head. Kanan was kneeling in front of him, trembling, half fearing he had wounded him, half fearing he would be mad at him… scared of him.
Of course. This is what you do. You'll hurt him. Get him killed. He will see what a terrible person you are. He will leave you.
Ezra grunted and massaged his head a little but finally looked up at him with a worried face. “Kanan, are you ok?”
Those words completely disarm him. Kanan could only stare at him in shock. He had just sent him across the room. He was dangerous. He was tainted by the darkside. But all Ezra cared for was… knowing if he was ok. Ezra kept giving and giving, not worried about himself… and Kanan felt something crumbling inside of him. The doubts he had were replaced with a single wish... the wish of doing anything Ezra needed to be happy. Give him what he had been longing for.
Kanan leaned forward and kissed him. Ezra gasped in surprise but returned the kiss immediately. Kanan pulled him into an embrace deepening the kiss. Ezra became lightheaded, feeling their connection becoming overwhelming.
Kanan pulled back slightly. Both of them gasped between breaths. Kanan was… fine. He didn’t feel the anxiety coming back. Not like when kissing with the Pantoran. She had remind him of Hera, but Ezra was something completely different. They realized he could actually do this…
Kanan smiled and Ezra didn’t wait and kissed him again. Ezra was eager and threw his arms around his neck. It was as if he had been starving for his touch. Kanan’s hand caressed his back and embraced him. No one had held him like this, let alone kissed him before. Kanan only slept with pants so he was already shirtless. Ezra felt like he was burning and the only cure were Kanan’s lips. Oh stars… Kanan was kissing him like he was the last precious thing in the universe, and then moved his mouth to Ezra’s neck and… he couldn’t hold back a moan. They practically stumbled back into the bed. Ezra took off his shirt quickly, his chest was moving up and down.
Ezra’s body was reacting like it had never before and then, he felt Kanan moving gently moving over him. And it suddenly dawned on Ezra what might happen next. He gasped silently, tensing slightly.
Kanan was very perceptive and stopped his kisses noticing Ezra’s change.
“Ezra?” Kanan whispered softly.
“M-mmh?” Ezra gulped.
“Nothing,” Ezra offered him a nervous smile.
Kanan frowned and didn't move for a second, searching in Ezra's eyes the real answer. “Are you… afraid?” Kanan retracted slightly, worrying he had scared him.
“No! No,” Ezra shook his head, trying to pull him back down to him. “I’m… just excited. T-that’s all!”
But Kanan didn’t budge, finally realizing through the Force the reason. “You have never done this before with a male.” Ezra became very still and his face turned bright red. It was more than that. “You have never done this before... with anyone .”
Ezra gulped frozen in place.
Kanan slowly moved off Ezra and laid by his side.
"No, wait, I want to. I really want to,” Ezra assured Kanan trying to gently pull him back.
“I know but… we might have gone a little too fast there," Kanan said caressing Ezra's arm. "Besides, I thought you had already…” Kanan trailed off.
To say Kanan had had some experience with sex around the galaxy at 18 was an understatement. He had experimented and enjoyed himself with all kinds of people and races, settling down on females, but he had more than a couple of encounters with males and other sexes. Ezra had been putting his life in the line since 14 so he had assumed Ezra would have tried to enjoy what life could offer at least with other people in the Rebellion… perhaps other recruits at least. But now that Kanan actually thought about it, it was a ridiculous idea. Ezra would not do something like this with someone he just met. Of course, not. Only with someone special to him.
“I’m telling you. I want this…” Ezra said slightly embarrassed and bit his lip. "I-I... want you to feel good..."
Kanan gave him a warm smile, caressing Ezra's cheek. “Right now, you have already done more than that,” he whispered softly and sighed, relishing the contact. “You just showed me… I can love again.”
Ezra’s eyes grew large and filled with tears. Had he heard right? Kanan loved him? Kanan loved him back! He kissed Kanan again, but this kiss was soft… gentle and a slightly salty with tears of joy.
“Are you sure you don't want to do it?” Ezra asked again nervously.
Kanan placed his foreheads together. “I'm sure. If we do this… I don’t want you to have doubts. I don’t want you to be afraid.”
“So... uhm... Can we practice, then?” Ezra whispered hopefully. He couldn’t deny his body was still too excited. Maybe he wasn’t ready for full on sex but… he definitely had an urge. He kissed Kanan and this time he bit on his lip lightly. He was sure Kanan would pick up his need through the Force.
Kanan drew a sharp breath. “Practice?” he cleared his throat. “Yeah… alright. I think… that sounds good.”
Ezra beamed a smile and kissed him more passionately. Kanan was also certainly aroused but he was much more grounded, more focused.
“Do whatever you feel comfortable with,” Kanan whispered to his ear and Ezra got shivers. He pulled a away slightly to watch Kanan’s body, his bare chest… muscled… and scarred.
Ezra kissed every scar on his chest, in his neck, as if trying to heal those bad memories away. Kanan felt his heart filling with light, kindness, love… Kanan kissed his forehead, and ran his fingers through Ezra’s dark hair.
Ezra became a little bolder and pressed his hip against Kanan’s, bringing out a surprised sigh from his lips. They could feel each other clearly through the fabric of their pants and Ezra felt like an electric current went through his body.
“Oh…” Ezra moaned softly. Kanan felt the heat and his heartbeat increasing exponentially. Kanan kissed him more sensually this time and Ezra picked up the rhythm and movement quickly. He really was very good learning on the fly.
Ezra couldn’t take it any more and gently took Kanan hand, giving it small kisses and then, took it down, over his bulge.
“Please…” Ezra asked him.
Kanan felt the pleading, not only physically but also through the Force. All of Ezra needed his touch. He nodded and deepened the kiss as he grabbed him. Ezra gasped in delight and he returned the motion on Kanan. After a few more heartbeats, they quickly got rid of the rest of their clothes without even saying a word.
They stroke each other and kissed each other. They went one like that, feeling the heat reach its peak.
“Oh Kanan… Kanan-!…” Ezra moaned, bucked into Kanan's hand and his toes curled.
Something happened… Kanan had been close to orgasm but not there yet, but suddenly, he was right on his climax too, as if Ezra had pulled him along with the Force, making his sensations his own as if they were one. He moaned in surprise at his release. He had never felt anything like that before.
They were left breathless.
Kanan blinked in disbelief. He had never been with a Force User before. Was that what happened between Force Users when they made love? Or maybe… it was just Ezra… because he loved him. He decided that was the answer.
They stared at each other, recovering in the sensation. Ezra sniffled a little, a few tears of joy in his eyes, barely believing they had shared this moment. He was so happy. Happier he had been in so long.
Kanan held him close, and Ezra rested his head in his chest, enjoying the sound of Kanan’s heart and quickly falling asleep.
Kanan looked down at Ezra sleeping peacefully and lightly kissed his head.
He loved him. He would protect him. No matter what. He promised himself would not lose him. He would do anything to ensure Ezra’s happiness and well-being. Anything.
He pushed aside the worries from his nightmare, the warmth and light of Ezra’s soul was enough to let him forget and sleep again.
Every person in Lothal knew there hadn’t been Loth-wolves in the planet for over a hundred years and yet… for the last few months there had been sightings of a terrifying large dark shadow lurking on the grasslands. And that night… That night, there was a howl... a howl that filled with fear the hearts of anyone who heard it.
I'm sorry for the delay. I was very busy and many things happened irl that kept me from writing. I intend to continue even if it takes me more than usual. Thank you for you support.
☆☆Please leave a comment!☆☆
“It's when you feed your nightmares, that they become horrible dreams.”
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It had been just a few days since Ezra had started to sleep in Kanan’s bunk and he had taken to heart the idea of preparing himself for actually doing it together. He had a pretty good idea but he hadn’t watched too much of... anything. Back when he lived with the crew, privacy was a complete luxury as they shared pretty much all spaces with everyone. It wasn’t like he could also access the holonet whenever he was curious because Hera and Chopper monitored their signals to ensure nothing came up that might raise some flags and give them away…
He had resented it at first, but slowly, Kanan had taught him to meditate to handle his urges. Exercise and training also helped but now… Now it was completely different. He had all the time and freedom in the world but what he was finding wasn’t of his liking.
Ezra closed the third holovid in a row with an exasperated sigh. His... research... wasn’t working as he hoped. Sadly the results were... very raunchy. And it was badly acted. He was having second hand embarrassment with some of those lines and it simply didn’t feel real. They were just… doing it because it was their job. It's not the same, Ezra thought scoffing and closing the fourth video. It was not the same. The emotion between them was real. The warmth in his soul that tugged them together. The soft way kanan kissed him, his lips on his neck... Ezra almost unconsciously brushed his fingers over his slightly parted lips and the heat spread over his body quickly.
His heart was beating faster. He felt electricity...
He could meditate it away. But... he didn’t want to.
Ezra walked the cargo area with a purpose. Kanan had gone to meditate there. Meditating in his cabin together had suddenly stopped working because the bed was too inviting and kept distracting their focus after their encounter.
Kanan heard Ezra's soft steps arriving above him in the walkway and looked up. Even if Ezra didn't say anything, Kanan read something in his eyes. He felt a wordless request through the Force, full with yearning...
Kanan wasn't afraid of that feeling anymore. He welcomed it. He slowly stood up and smiled, making Ezra felt like he was melting. How could a single smile do that to him? Ezra didn't realize how he came down to the cargo area but he was already in front of Kanan, pulling him down for a kiss. His whole body was now screaming Kanan's name. Begging for his touch. His smile. The way he hummed and moaned softly into his mouth. Ezra felt he was burning away.
Before they knew it, they had quickly got rid of their clothes and Ezra had somehow pushed Kanan against the wall. He couldn't keep his hands off Kanan and continued kissing him desperately. Kanan held the back of Ezra's head, breaking away only to kiss his neck, just as he was feeling through the Force Ezra's need, and bit it slightly, making him moan loudly. Ezra pressed against Kanan's hips, feeling against each other, and making Kanan shudder. Kanan couldn't help but lower his hands behind Ezra's back, caressing his rear to keep him in place. Feeling Kanan's hands there made Ezra gasp into their passionate kissing and unleashed a wildfire within. What if... what if they just do it? Ezra questioned himself. He wasn't sure if he would like it but right now they were here already. He wanted more. He wanted to give more. Do more. Give him more than just touching. Maybe-
Kanan's hands returned to his back, slowing down the kissing, and lovingly caressing Ezra’s cheek and jawline, whispering to his ear.
“I like this,” Kanan assured him. He had felt Ezra's mind was running wild and wanted to remind him he didn't need to do anything else.
Ezra gazed at him as if he was enthralled by his eyes, lost at words but still managed to nod, taking a deep breath trying to find his center. This was good, he repeated the mantra in his head. There wasn’t a need for more… but being with Kanan was all he wanted in his mind right now.
Ezra then decided to explore Kanan's body too, promising he would take his time to learn what else he liked.
It wasn't long before they both reached their climax. Kanan had been ready for this, unlike last time when it had been like a wave suddenly crashing against him by surprise, but now, he had worked through it, riding it at the same time as Ezra.
They moaned their names together. Ezra buried his face on Kanan’s neck, panting and regaining his bearings. Kanan sighed with one last kiss to his lips and forehead and then...
They started to laugh.
Practice was good.
And just like with fighting, Ezra was a fast learner. He felt more than a little bit more confident than before. His resolve had strengthened and both of them could tell the day was drawing closer.
Ezra wanted it to be perfect. They would prepare. They would get some stuff first. He obviously still had a few questions right now...
As they were dressing back up, Ezra finally asked.
“What if... I don't enjoy it?”
Kanan looked at him as it was obvious. “We stop.”
Ezra became silent, but slightly preoccupied. Then what?
Sensing this Kanan caressed the side of his arm. “We could try it the other way around,” Kanan offered with a chuckle. The words surprised Ezra, on one hand because as time passed he could hear the other Kanan’s softness, the way the spoke becoming more alike, blooming into existence, as if he had been asleep inside for far too long. This Kanan was becoming a little bit more like his Kanan. On the other hand, it also surprised him because… he hadn’t expected he would agree to it.
“You on top,” Kanan shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal.
“I-... I mean, you don't mind?” Ezra stuttered. Kanan had just recently managed to handle being intimate and in close contact with him. Ezra assumed doing that would require more… vulnerability?
“No, I don’t mind,” Kanan reassured looking at him with a smile. How could he be so lucky to have Ezra? Kanan had promised himself before and intended to keep his promise… his promise to make Ezra happy in anyway possible. “I'm up for it,” he repeated. “I have done it with males a few times before and I guess I could handle it better it is comes down to that.”
“But it wasn't your thing,” Ezra felt a knot in his stomach. “You preferred girls.”
Kanan gently pulled him into a tight embrace and sighed kissing his shoulders. “It was a long time ago. A long, long time ago,” he whispered to Ezra’s hear, making him shiver and kissing back. “It wasn't anything like... this. Besides… I trust you.”
Ezra’s cheeks were burning red with happiness just as much as is heart was with love.
Ezra cleared his throat and nodded. “Alright. I would still want to try it first because well...” Ezra his voice acquired a fuller tone, one that took Kanan by surprise. “I want to... please you.”
This time it was Kanan the one who blushed and gulped. He looked down at Ezra’s blue eyes, deep like an ocean of desire, and his body betrayed him. A mischievous smile appeared on Ezra’s face feeling Kanan react, being very proud of his work.
“You already do,” Kanan said, barely able to find his own voice, only for his lips to be sealed again with Ezra’s.
They had been sleeping in the bunk for a couple of days now. Even though it was small somewhat small, they didn’t even care. Kanan had no problem of sleeping on his side, holding Ezra against him. Ezra couldn’t help but feel so happy when he went to sleep and awoke on Kanan’s arms. To be held, loved, wanted, trusted… Just being like this was an intoxicating drug he couldn’t get enough off.
Kanan’s nightmares had decreased dramatically but he still had them. Kanan would jolt awake, panting and trying to make sure Ezra was unharmed and desperately holding him even closer.
“I’m ok. I’m alright”, Ezra assured Kanan trying to soothe him.
“I love you. I won’t let anything hurt you”, Kanan promised Ezra as soon as he could keep his voice even. In a way, Ezra’s hear grew fuller by his protective words, but something in the back of his mind was concerned about... attachments. Ezra himself couldn’t believe he was thinking that. After everything they had gone through, everyone they had lost... it was only normal to feel this way, he repeated in his head. They just wanted the best for each other.
They had been living like this, in this lovely dream for about a week until Ezra had his own nightmare.
Ezra opened his eyes and immediately realized he was in the grasslands of Lothal.
The cold wind blew gave him chills.
He felt his heartbeat accelerate with an uneasy feeling that rapidly grew to an overwhelming dread. He looked around trying to find Kanan.
“Kanan?” he called, but when he turned, he was in front of the Lothal Jedi Temple. Ezra gasped in shock. It looked broken and dark... ominous. “Where-?”
Suddenly, a huge excavator passed him on his right and he jumped back startled in disbelief.
A huge drill brushed him on his left. He stepped out of the way in complete beldirwement.
Next, Storm Troopers started to walk past him, regular, scout, death troopers… There were also engineers and workers. And a sinister thin man in dark robes. Ezra frowned staring at them, trying to understand what was going on. They couldn’t see him. What was this about?
They started to point the drill at the entrance, and arranged powerful lasers.
“Wait...” his voice trembled as he realized what they intended to do. This was wrong.He could feel a ball of fear working his way up on his throat, terrifying him. Something terrible would happen if they continued with this, the Force warned him. “WAIT!” Ezra screamed desperately trying to make them stop…
And he woke up.
He was shaking. Trembling. Kanan was trying to keep him from trashing about.
“Ezra, Ezra, listen to me,” Kanan asked him with concern. “It’s alright. You were having a nightmare.”
Ezra blinked now more aware of his surrounding, calming down hearing Kanan’s voice and hugged him.
After a pause regaining his center, Ezra explained. “I just had... it was a vision! Of the temple. The Jedi Temple,” he said gulping.
Kanan frowned. Ezra had mention it to Kanan a few times before too.
“What about it?” he asked carefully.
“The Empire found it. They... they are bringing machines to break in. Excavators...drills, mining equipment. I…” Ezra sat up at the edge of the bed looking back at Kanan with pleading eyes.
“…” Kanan remained silent and sat with crossed legs. He knew what Ezra was asking but...
“Kanan we need to go back to Lothal and stop them,” Ezra begged placing his hand on his knee.
Kanan tensed, not by the touch but for what Ezra was saying. “No. It is too dangerous,” he shook his head.
“Kanan,” Ezra pressed.
“The other Inquisitors can be there,” Kanan countered with a hint of frustration and worry. “Vader can be there.”
They were far from ready to face a threat like that. But Ezra continued.
“Kanan, the temple called to me. It needs me. I got this vision for a reason. Something terrible will happen if they get in there,” Ezra tried to make him understand the severity. “Kanan, please,” Ezra grabbed his hand.
Kanan stared at it with sadness… pain.
“I... I can't lose you. Not you…” Kanan confessed. If it was up to him, they would have left to Wild Space days ago. Away from the Empire. Away from anyone who would attempt to hurt them.
“I know. I don't want to lose you either,” Ezra brought Kanan’s hand to his lips, kissing it gently. “But I need to do this.”
Kanan’s shoulders dropped. Deep down, he knew he was right. Ezra had to… answer this call… whatever it was. “Alright... we will go,” Kanan sighed. “Put if things look to bad…”
“We leave,” Ezra assured him with a nod. He had said the truth. He didn’t want to lose him either but he needed to at least try to stop them. He needed to do… something. He was sure the Force would show him the way in the end.
They started getting ready but Kanan stopped while checking the Ghosts systems.
“Wait, we can't take the Ghost. It's been already identified by the Empire. They will be in the look out for it.”
“Alright, then the Escape can do the trick and it is quick enough. We still haven’t had a run in with them in it,” Ezra said thoughtfully and Kanan nodded.
“We still need identification codes. The blockade will require cargo permits and all personnel to identify themselves,” Kanan reminded him.
Ezra smirked. “I know someone who might be able to help.”
They were walking through the streets of the capital of Garel. Ezra approached the familiar door and knocked.
“Hello. I heard you are a good writer. I need help with a poem,” he called and waited.
The door opened a little and he could see Tua’s frown. “Are you joking? Your ‘friends’ left Garel a while ago. The place is crawling with troopers,” she whispered through gritted teeth.
“I know, but please. Just this once,” Ezra gave his best pleading expression. “You are the best after all.”
Tua narrowed her eyes and scoffed. “...Fine.” She opened the door and ushered them inside.
Kanan was very interested looking around Tua's place.
Ezra explained the situation. “We need a ship cargo permit to Lothal and identifications for him.”
Tua grimaced and sighed. “At least you already have yours... The thing is... the Empire has started to use more biometrics along with the identifications. I'll need to tweak his original entry. You haven't gotten identified by the Empire recently, right?” she eyed Kanan with suspicion.
“Not exactly. I don't think it is on the Empire's normal database anyway.”
“Mhh....” she grunted not very convinced and opened a portable terminal and brought up a biometric sensor. “Alright, let’s see.”
“It this safe? They won't be able to trace us back?” Ezra asked a little more worried for Kanan’s safety.
“Of course it is safe, it's an offline copy of a database from a few years ago. I wouldn't be doing it otherwise,” she said a little offended. “I need to cross reference this biometric ID first so I can patch it. Just… just place the finger there,” she said a little exasperated already.
Kanan nodded and placed his finger in the scanner, taking a drop of his blood for analizys.
The terminal started processing the information.
“Alright. Now it will look for a match. I have the local systems first, then it checks for core worlds for matching. The process time depends on where you are from.”
Kanan grimaced. “Oh. Well, I'm from Coruscant so that's definitely going to take-”
The three of them looked back at the terminal in surprise.
“Huh,” Tua walked and checked the info it had found. “An exact match, from Lothal.”
“Excuse me?” Ezra was taken back, while Kanan stared at her still in surprise.
“Caleb Dume, Lothal,” Tua looked up to him.
The name gave Kanan chills.
“That’s not his-” Ezra started but Kanan placed a hand on his shoulder.
“That is my name. My original name,” he gulped.
“You are from Lothal?” Ezra blinked in disbelief. He now remembered Kanan had in fact changed his name after the purge but he had never asked him what it was. But to learn he was also from Lothal…?
“I didn't know,” Kanan said with all honesty. “I... I never knew my parents. I was in Coruscant for as long as I…”
But Tua was getting impatient and just moved to her other terminal “Well, this makes things easier for me. Let's see.”
Ezra and Kanan stared at each other… both of them from Lothal.
Not long after, they had the permits in hand.
“Thank you,” Ezra said.
“Yeah, well, this is it. No more favors,” the woman waved dismissing them and showing them the way out.
“We understand. Thank you,” Kanan nodded and left.
They walked in silence in the way back to the Escape.
I would still have met you.
They had talked about that before. How they would have still found each other if Ezra had become a trooper here and met his Inquisitor self. Ezra held his hand as they walked.
They got a shipment of meiroloons and then they were off to Lothal.
The identification codes from Tua were perfect. Everything was in order and they crossed the bloquade without further problems.
As they entered the atmosphere they started to head to north.
Kanan glanced at Ezra. “What are the coordinates of the Temple?”
Ezra did a double take at Kanan but then remembered, of course, he didn't know. He hadn’t actually opened the holocron yet. Ezra smiled, and went to retrieve the holocron from their things.
Ezra offered it up to Kanan. “The coordinates are here…”
“What?” Kanan looked at him in shock. “The coordinates to this temple are in the holocron?”
“Yep,” Ezra gave him a happy smile. He was sure Kanan would be able to open it now, with a little help… but noticed he was frowning at some kind of realization. “What is it?”
“As an Inquisitor, our duty was not only to find Jedi. We were meant to look for ancient artifacts and temples,” he started, his mouth going dry. “The Jedi Archives had the exact location, or a very good guess, of where they were located. But there was nothing in the Archives about anything in Lothal.”
“...so?” Ezra asked raising an eyebrow, still not seeing the problem. It was best for them that way. He remembered Kanan had mention it before the first time they went looking for it. He assumed the temple might be watched by the Empire… but there was no one around.
Kanan continued. “I'm from Lothal. And the Holocron of my Master had the coordinates to a temple in Lothal.”
It finally hit Ezra. “You think... she meant to bring you here one day?
Kanan's mind raced. “Maybe. Yes,” he gulped, trying to make sense of everything.
“But why? What do you think it means?”
“I don't know. But…” Kanan said with honesty. “Lothal. We kept coming back to Lothal. For supplies, to refuel, for milk runs. We always picked it when it was a choice... I picked it when it was a choice.”
“It called to you?”
Kanan paused, closing his eyes, looking back, beyond the happy and painful memories, focusing on when they first arrived. “Yes.”
“Does it call to you now?” Ezra asked softly, grabbing his hand.
“…” Kanan looked away. He wasn’t sure. He wanted to leave. But he knew Ezra needed to do this. Maybe he was just afraid.
“Will you try it?” Ezra offered the holocron again.
Kanan looked at him with a small warm smile and nodded. “With you.”
Ezra beamed in joy and they closed their eyes to concentrate.
Even if Kanan's mind was full of conflict and doubts... he focused on this feeling. The remembered Ezra's blue eyes, his smile, his laugh, his presence... his love.
The Holocron opened, blooming like a flower, projecting a map around them. They opened their eyes and looked at the blue lights.
Ezra hadn't noticed how beautiful this really was. He kissed kanan excited that he had finally achieved opening it.
“You did it!”
“Barely,” Kanan chuckled. “With your help.”
Ezra hugged him. He was so happy.
Ezra looked around and pointed at the marked place. “Alright. There it is.”
Kanan nodded and turned to the control pannel but suddenly hesitated to input the coordinates.
He got a chill down his spine as something dark whispered in the back of his mind.
If he goes there... if they go there... he will lose Ezra.
The fear entered his heart like a cold dagger that paralyzed him.
“Kanan?” Ezra’s warm voice brought him out of daze. Ezra looked at him with worry and could see the fear in his eyes. Ezra leaned on Kanan’s back trying to reassure him.
“I'll be fine. If things look too bad... we will leave and try another way,” Ezra promised him.
Kanan nodded, took a deep breath and typed the coordinates.
They landed a few kilometers away and took their bikes to approach. They couldn't risk the ship getting detected and raising the alarm.
But when they reached the place Ezra stared in disbelief.
There was no one there. The Temple was there, in perfect state, just like the first time he had seen it.
“I... I don't understand. They were here. I saw them,” Ezra assured Kanan.
“Maybe a vision of the future?” Kanan said, but he couldn’t deny he was a little relieved it could be nothing.
“No. It was the now, the present,” Ezra said sure of it and walked closer to examinate the rock itself. Kanan followed close behind but suddenly felt a shiver as he approached.
Something was wrong. Danger. Fear. Loss. He stopped.
“There's nothing here. We should leave,” Kanan pressed, hoping they could get away as quickly as possible.
“Wait, I know!” Ezra gasped with a smile. “I might be able to communicate with Master Yoda now! Maybe he knows something. I have regained my Force abilities so…”
“Ezra-” Kanan looked back at the bikes.
“Please. The Temple can only be opened by a Master and an Apprentice,” Ezra grabbed his hand leading him to the circle on the ground.
“I'm not... We are not that, not here,” Kanan remind him. “And... I'm not a Jedi.” Not a Jedi in the right way anyway, the way he had been taught at the Order, he thought looking down at Ezra holding his hand.
“You know you are,” Ezra said with a lovely grin. Ezra believed in him so much. But was he really a Jedi? He loved Ezra. Kanan never had a problem loving Hera because he didn’t considered a full fledged Jedi at the time. But now…
“Look. I still managed to open it with Ahsoka. And she also said she was not a Jedi. We can do this,” Ezra encouraged him. Kanan’s shoulders dropped a little in defeat. How could he say no to him? His excuses were running out. “Alright,” he said stepping into the circle with him.
“We do it, together,” Ezra said full of determination and excitement. Kanan’s heart swelled. Ezra was just so bright.
They closed their eyes and rose one hand towards the Temple, asking it for permision to enter. Just like with the holocron, Kanan focused on this warm feeling, his hand holding Ezra's... but his doubts and fears were there, growing again. The temple started to turn.
“See? It's working!” Ezra praised. The temple girated, passing the first door. “Okay, seems like we will get the second door like-…”
But the structure stopped, revealing a... hole. Some kind of entrance to a natural tunnel. It was more like a crack in the rock.
Ezra stared for a second. “This is new,” he said in low voice and whispered. “New problem, new door.”
“Did I say that?” Kanan looked at him with a sad smile. “I was just thinking it.”
“Yes,” Ezra whispered. He wasn’t as resolved like before. The unknown was waiting for him. He took a deep breath and motioned Kanan to follow him. “Let's go.”
They walked through the winding tunnels for a while. They looked natural for most of the way, but the walls, ceiling and floor started to show signs of carvings, as if some ancient people had attempted to build further ahead. They moved silently, unsure of what they would find, until they reached a huge chamber through an archway. This one was clearly constructed like a huge dome with slabs of stone as walls and smooth floors, covered full of strange ancient patterns that looked like constellations. They walked to the center, where a few symbols inside of circles laid. Ezra looked around with interest, trying to understand why they were here or the meaning of the symbols, until he noticed Kanan was not moving.
Kanan was holding his breath with a frown of fear in his face.
“What-?” Ezra turned to look on the same direction.
He saw it.
A huge black wolf with bright yellow eyes. It stared at them with a low growl that sent shivers down Ezra's back. It was so dark he could have passed for a shadow.
Ezra gasped realizing the type of wolf it was.
“Is that an animal from around here?”
“It used to be. No one has seen a loth-wolf from more than a hundred years,” Ezra explained without his eyes leaving the animal… but this wasn't right. Ezra could feel this creature was... The Darkside was strong in it. It made his skin crawl. He had never sensed an animal attuned to the darkside like this... they were always either attuned to the light or even the bendu. This was completely-...
“KILL,” the wolf spoke.
Ezra and Kanan’s eyes widened.
“Did your loth-wolves used to speak?”
“No,” Ezra said feeling his mouth go dry.
The wolf gave a step forward, growling, showing his teeth, the fur of his back bristled.
“We leave. Now,” Kanan said.
“Yeah,” Ezra was more than happy to oblige.
But before they could turn around, the wolf rose it's head up and gave a frightening howl, but it howled a word... a name.
Kanan and Ezra froze. His name. How did this creature knew his name? Kanan felt the wolf stare penetrating directly into his very soul... the familiar chill of fear and darkness sweeping into his heart and there the creature found-
It leaped. At Ezra.
Ezra hadn't expected it. Kanan was too shocked to react. The wolf moved at lightning speed, tackling Ezra to the ground, several meters away from Kanan and clawed at him with his big paws. Ezra gave out a scream of pain.
“NO!” Kanan yelled back, suddenly filled with rage at the creature hurting Ezra and terror that he would kill him. He used that to push with the Force as far away as possible, getting him off Ezra. The wolf was thrown against the dome’s walls and Kanan rushed to Ezra with lightsaber already in hand.
“Ezra! EZRA!” he reached down, trying to make sure he was alive.
Ezra stood shakily up, bringing up his lightsaber too. His shirt and chest had a huge mark of the wolf’s claw with some blood but thankfully it was only superficial. Ezra looked up at the creature and held his breath.
“Is it… getting larger?” Ezra asked in disbelief.
Kanan blinked confused and looked at the wolf carefully. It was indeed somewhat larger than before. It rose up from the ground, sneering at them… almost as if it was mocking them.
Kanan and Ezra attempted to step to the tunnel they came from but the wolf was too fast and interposed between them and the exit. It attacked again.
They tried to defend with their lightsabers, but the creature simply dodged them with chilling unnatural grace. Ezra pushed the jaws away from Kanan’s face with the Force. “Watch out!”
The wolf attempted then to bite Ezra’s arm. Kanan gritted his teeth and let out another big Force push sending him away… and the creature grew larger this time too. Kanan stared in shock. He looked down at his hand in disbelief. The wolf was chuckling evilly.
“DUME,” it repeated and Kanan’s eyes grew larger in realization of what was happening.
It was him.
This thing was connected to him. In some way. Becoming stronger, bigger with his fear and anger… it was feeding off his darkside.
“KILL,” the wolf salivated craving for prey… looking at Ezra. Kanan felt panic raise up his chest and the wolf grew delighted.
Kanan remembered Hera’s words in his dream.
You are going to get him killed.
This was it. This was the reason.
And Kanan understood what he had to do.
Ezra gulped seeing the wolf moving away from the entrance, almost as if he was trying to dare them to try it.
“How can we defeat it?” Ezra asked starting to feel trapped.
“We can’t,” Kanan said and he looked around as the wolf continued to circle them. Kanan noticed the exit was now clear. Good. He waited until the wolf was on the other side. “Alright, he’s on the opposite side. We run to that tunnel over there. We can make it. It’s narrow enough so we will defend with the lightsabers from the front. It won’t be able to attack us from the side. Ok?”
“Are… are you sure? It’s too quick...” Ezra frowned but Kanan was already pushing him towards the exit.
“Le’t go. I’ll be right behind you,” Kanan said and alarms went off in Ezra’s head… but there was no time to react, to complain. He ran feeling the creature springing into action... Ezra looked back to make sure Kanan was running behind him. Then he felt a force push sending him forward into the tunnel. Ezra barely managed to cushion his fall with the Force and stumbled forward even more. He turned back only to see Kanan throwing his lightstaber to the top of the archway slashing the stone and collapsing it. The exit was blocked. The wolf won’t be able to reach Ezra, even though Kanan was trapped with him.
“No, NO! KANAN!” Ezra screamed with tears in his eyes through a crack and he tried to move the rocks, trying to reach him back. “NO!”
The wolf was furious. It snarled and leapt forward with open jaws to Kanan’s head. Kanan closed his eyes. He was not afraid. Ezra cried and begged.
There was a sudden flash.
Out of nowhere a white wolf leapt and grabbed the black wolf from the neck just when it was about to reach Kanan. The tunnels were filled with a painful howl, and they started to fight to the death. Kanan was surprised but reacted at Ezra calling to him.
Kanan approached the crack. Ezra reached through it to him. “Please,” Ezra begged him, but Kanan, just gave his hand a kiss and grabbed his lightsaber in the ground.
“I won’t. Not without you.”
“Leave,” his tone was soft but firm. He didn’t wait for more and turned to join the wolves.
“KANAN!” Ezra desperately called.
The White Wolf immediately noticed Kanan and wordlessly started to coordinate his attacks with him, flanking the dark one. Kanan's resolve was clear. He was not afraid anymore. Saving Ezra from himself could mean to lose him. He might not leave this place but he accepted it. The dark wolf became weaker but it fought back with a snarl and bit the white’s neck. Blood ran and stained the floor.
You’ll lose him if you stay.
I’ll let you go.
Kanan heard the familiar voice in his heart. The voice that kept him tied and drowning in the darkside for so long… this time it promises everything he wants… the only thing he wants.
Kanan lunged forward. The dark wolf was unable to dodge this time, as he was biting the other one. The lightsaber found its heart and the dark one yelped. It’s body fell to the floor but instead of remaining there… it started to dissipate, like smoke... like a bad dream.
The white wolf howls in victory and then sits to rest and slowly licks its own wounds. Kanan looked at him like it was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.
Kanan turned around and saw that Ezra had just managed to cut parts of the rock and finally was able to slip back in. He ran to him with tears in his eyes.
“Why did you do that?”
Kanan frowned at Ezra’s claw marks, they had opened a little more because of trying to squeeze through the rock. “Your wounds.”
“Why did you do that!?” Ezra pressed exasperatedly at Kanan’s sudden calmness after he had just faced death.
Kanan looked at him with a knowing smile. “You know why,” he nodded. “I'm a Jedi.”
Ezra was speechless for a second and then gave a small sob against his chest, both happy and scared for what this would mean. He held him and kissed him deeply.
Kanan had accepted it fully. Embracing it and understanding what might happen next.
The symbols under their feet glowed… the light expanding into the rest of the runes and images.
Ezra blinked. “What is it? What's going on?” was the only thing Ezra was able to say when suddenly they were engulfed by a bright flash and… everything around them changed.
They were not in the domed cave anymore… there were only stars here… stars and… mirrors? Ezra was still holding Kanan afraid to let go and fall into the abyss but… there was a floor here even if they couldn’t actually see it. They saw the white wolf was here too.
“What is this place?” Ezra said and tentatively stepped away from Kanan to check these mirrors. Endless lines of mirrors.
“Do not touch anything,” Kanan reminded him. “We don’t know what they do.”
Ezra nodded. “Well, they are mirrors…” he shrugged, but when Kanan stepped to his side, they realized they could only see their own reflection. “Wait… I can only see myself.”
They moved to check the rest and suddenly noticed some of the reflections had slight diferences… In some they could not see themselves. In some they looked completely different. In some Kanan still even had his Inquisitor look. He frowned.
The white wolf pulled at Ezra’s sleeve lightly. “What’s it? You want to show me one?” Ezra asked the wolf and followed him to a mirror further down.
There were strange ripples on the surface of this one…
Ezra looked inside but saw no one. “This one is one of those mirrors I’m not in.”
“That's because... this is where you are from…” Kanan said looking at his own reflection there. He had seen himself in Ezra’s memories and recognized him immediately. The wounds on his eyes, the beard, the clothes...
The wolf spoke softly. “Return. Restore.”
Ezra held his breath in shock. Kanan understood now why he had felt he would lose Ezra.
“No.” Ezra hugged him as if he was terrified.
“Ezra,” Kanan held him back whispering his name to his ear.
“No. I-...I can't. KANAN. Please!” Ezra sobbed into his neck, holding him for dear life.
“I won't make you. But you know you have to do this. You have to make things right,” Kanan caressed the back of his head. “The Temple there...that’s the one that called to you. It needs you.”
“No...! Please,” Ezra pleaded with his whole body shaking.
“This is not your place. You are meant to fight and win. You won't be able to do that here. Not the way you want,” Kanan looked down to his crying eyes. He knew that deep down Ezra had still wanted to fight the Empire head on like he had done before, but as things were here, that was almost impossible and it would take much longer because of how the Rebellion had been affected here.
“But...You won't... he won't love me,” Ezra cried feeling his heart breaking. “He doesn't love me! He will never-...!”
Kanan felt a knot in his throat but found his center and shook his head. “You know that's not true. He might not love you like *this*, but you have shown me how much he cares about you, loves you in other ways. He needs you too. They need you.”
“You need me! I... need you...” Ezra said holding him tighter.
Kanan’s lip trembled. “Yes. I need you... I love you but... I have to let you go.”
Ezra gave a sorrowful wail, letting all his pain out.
“This is what you have to do,” Kanan said trying to soothe him… his words carried wisdom and understanding, just like his own Kanan would have told him. They were the same, Ezra realized. He couldn’t run away from this. He knew in his heart that he needed it to see this through.
He finally calmed down and looked back at the mirror. The Wolf was waiting.
Ezra reached for Kanan’s face and kissed him deeply, hoping it would never end.
“I'll always remember you,” Ezra whispered touching their foreheads together and slowly stepped back.
“You saved me. You saved my soul, my heart. Now you'll save them again,” Kanan said and stepped back, allowing him space. “Be happy with them… if you can.” That was his only request. Ezra’s happiness. Ezra now wasn’t sure if such a thing was possible. Not without him.
They didn’t say anything else, because they knew it was too tempting to stay.
Ezra closed his eyes and slowly reached forward to the portal. The closer it came, the surface glowed and swirled like a vortex. When his fingers finally touched it…
He was falling. The wolf was gone. Kanan was gone. There were only stars. He got the sudden urge to reach back to Kanan. Return. But he didn’t. He knew he shouldn’t.
He closed his eyes full of tears and continued to fall through the stars.
He's going back. How will Ezra handle it?
This was a very long chapter!
☆☆Please leave a comment! Thank you!☆☆
“When you wake up from a nightmare, the reality comforts you. When you wake up from the best dream ever, reality is a burden, a slap-in-the-face reminder that you could feel this, you could have this, but you don’t and you won’t.”
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"AAH!" Ezra screamed as he hit the floor with a loud thud. He was entangled in sheets and the place was in darkness. Where was he? Was he back at the tower? Again?? No. No, he couldn’t do this again.
“Ugh, would you mind? I'm trying to sleep here,” a familiar gruff voice in the bunk grunted annoyed.
“Z-Zeb?” Ezra’s voice trembled with hope and his eyes went wide. “Is th-that you?”
“Why wouldn't I be-...?” Zeb turned over frowning looking at him from the bunk and his eyes lingered on the young Jedi for a second as he noticed his expression. “Wait-…”
“You are alive…!” Ezra said through relieved tears and a smile throwing himself to hug him.
Zeb gasped but then smiled. “I'll be damned! It’s really YOU!”
The door suddenly opened and Sabine was standing there in her sleeping top and shorts. “What's all that screaming? Is he trying to escape again? Do I need to punch him?”
“Sabine!” Ezra exclaimed in joy and practically jumped to hug her too but she stopped him at arm's length completely confused. But then she saw those eyes...
“Ezra?” Sabine whispered in disbelief and then laughed in excitement pulling him for a hug. “EZRA! EZRA IS BACK TO HIS OLD SELF!” Sabine yelled for everyone else to hear.
The door to Kanan’s room opened and he rushed out turning around to face them. Ezra gasped seeing him. Kanan reached out instinctively with the Force. His warm presence washed over Ezra, bringing happy tears to his eyes… an embrace through the Force even before he arrived to him.
“Kanan-!” Ezra stepped forward but... he froze. No, he’s not-... The smile disappeared from his face replaced with dread and a hint of panic. He cut the Force link and placed a mental barrier shutting Kanan out immediately from sensing his mind and heart. Kanan was taken back in complete shock at that. It was equivalent of shoving him away… pushing his heart, his soul away.
There’s pain and confusion in Kanan’s face but he quickly kept it in control. There must be a good reason for this, Kanan thought. Ezra, for his part, felt his heart being ripped apart. He had just hurt Kanan. But he couldn’t risk Kanan sensing what was in his heart, what he felt, what it meant... Ezra couldn’t even dare to go and hug him. Tell him how much he loved him. He can’t. It might just break him.
The others seemed to notice them reacting weirdly, but forgot quickly as Hera finally climbed the ladder as fast as she could, and at the same time, Chopper came out of the cockpit waving his mechanical arms in excitement.
Ezra bit his lip.
He turned around and saw her rushing closer.
“Did I hear right? Is he normal again?” Hera reached out to grab him by the shoulders, she wanted to make sure too.
“Yes! Or at least I think so!” Sabine nodded.
“Oh stars! Let me look at you,” Hera gently cupped his face, looking for something in his eyes.
“Hera... I…I’m sorry,” Ezra whispered with a pained expression and slightly glanced away. How could he face her? Seeing her made him think he was betraying her for having feelings for Kanan. It was not like he could control who he had fallen in love. Hera’s eyes grew large with a few happy tears.
“It's you... you finally remember us,” she pulled him into an embrace. “You are the real Ezra.”
Chopper poked at his leg, as if trying to make sure he was indeed Ezra.
“The... real Ezra?” Ezra frowned.
Zeb laughed. “If falling from the bed was what he needed I would have hit him over the head sooner, but you didn't let me…” he threw his hands up and chuckled.
Kanan had become very still trying to process what had just happened but as the others happily came closer to Ezra, he smiled and tried to approach again… simply to stand closer, maybe pat him on the shoulder...
“W-what do you mean the real Ezra?” Ezra repeated and started to shift to the side, to put the others between him and Kanan as soon as he realized he was approaching again. His nerves were a wreck, his hands were sweating.
Kanan stopped. Even though Ezra had placed the mental walls, the fear was almost palpable. Was he… was he scared of him? Kanan tensed at the possibility but remained quiet, giving Ezra all the space he needed.
“You don’t remember again?” Sabine groaned.
“You've been acting weird for... months,” Hera said, and looked at him over. “We checked your health but you nothing was wrong… you just…”
“You didn't remember us,” Zeb said concerned.
“You woke up one day and tried to steal the Phantom… the only reason we managed to get you was because it seemed like you also forgot how to pilot properly,” Sabine shook her head.
“You also didn't know how to use or connect with the Force,” Kanan added sadly.
“It was like if…” Hera tried to find a way to explain but Ezra did it for her.
“Like if I never met you back in Lothal,” Ezra said with sadness.
“Yeah,” Sabine nodded a little worried but tried to lighten up the talk with a joke. “You were kind of a bit of annoying jerk, too. I'm just so glad you are back to your old self.”
“It wasn't me,” Ezra continued with a grave realization. “I wasn't here. I was where he's from. I-...” That meant the other Ezra would likely be returned to the other Kanan. If what they said was right... then that was the last thing that Kanan needed. He would be faced with a version of him that didn't know him and likely would be mean to him. That Kanan had given him up only to be returned… that . After all he suffered… all he would continue to suffer. Alone.
Ezra felt a knot, a buildup of tears in his throat, the world was crashing down on him. He couldn’t-
“Ezra, breathe,” Kanan gently held his shoulders trying to calm him. As soon as Ezra was distressed Kanan had immediately sprung into action trying to help him. His very first impulse.
Ezra raised his hands trying to keep Kanan from touching him, and stepped back but he was already against the wall. Kanan let go, still at a loss for why Ezra was acting like this. The others looked at him worriedly too.
“Ezra…” Kanan whispered almost a pleading to let him help.
“I just need...fresh air... I need-... Hera, please, can we land? Please,” Ezra felt the anxiety of being this close to Kanan was going to be too much.
“Yes, I think so,” Hera nodded and motioned Chopper to follow her quickly to the cockpit. “I think there’s a planet nearby.”
“Ezra… what’s wrong?” Kanan asked. The thought that Ezra was suffering and he didn’t know why was… horrible.
“Nothing. Kanan, please. I… I just need a moment,” Ezra excused himself and went to the refresher.
“Of course,” Kanan let him go.
They landed not much later on the first habitable planet Hera could find in their route. Ezra practically stormed out the Ghost, followed closely by Sabine and Zeb... and Kanan some distance behind. Were they worried he was trying to escape like his other self had done? He wasn't sure. His head was a mess. He looked around… it was sunset where they had landed...and the stars where starting to show up. Ezra took a deep breath.
He never thought being in the Ghost would make him feel like that. But now, out here, he wasn’t feeling like he was trapped anymore. He just needed to clear his mind, that was all, he tried to convince himself.
“You want to stay the night out here?” Zeb asked patting his back.
“I... Yes, thank you,” Ezra nodded and gave him half a smile.
Zeb made a small campfire and Hera passed a meiroloon to everyone. They sat in silence for a while around the fire. Ezra looked down at the fruit with sad eyes.
Kanan was the first to speak. “You said you were not here.”
Ezra bit his lower lip. His voice. Stars... it was the same. They were same and yet-... Ezra held back the tears.
“I... woke up one day back at my tower in Lothal, after our run-in with Gerrera and the Kyber Crystal. I looked everywhere for you but I didn't find you.”
“Yes. That day. The next day after that mission was when you woke up different,” Sabine nodded. “Well, he woke up here. He said he had never seen us before.”
Ezra nodded back. “That's because, he had never met you in that life…” he said looking down sadly and made a pause trying to gather the strength to say what was next. “We never met… and that’s why you got killed and captured during the wookiee rescue.”
“What do you mean?” Zeb frowned.
Understanding flashed through Hera’s face. “I... I sent Ezra to warn you it was a trap. If he hadn't been there…”
Everyone got chills. And Ezra nodded slowly.
“Chopper, Hera and Zeb got killed…” Ezra continued talking looking down. “Sabine was captured and sent to Mandalore for trial but…”
“Oh no,” Sabine sat straighter. “They would have executed me for being a traitor back then.”
Kanan was very still. “What about me?” he asked softly.
Ezra opened his mouth but no words came out at first. He willed himself to answer. “They captured you and they…” Ezra’s lip trembled. “They… they made you an Inquisitor.”
“THEY WHAT,” the others exclaimed at unison. Kanan was speechless… in complete shock and slightly horrified at the thought.
“Kanan? Pfft! No way! He would never join them,” Zeb crossed his arms. “He’s just too good!”
But Kanan pressed his lips together. It didn’t matter how good you were. He remembered the torture he had been put through by the Grand Inquisitor. He had managed to withstand the worst of it because he knew the others were alive and safe. He had saved them. If the others had been killed like Ezra said, the despair would have been greater and breaking him would have been a lot easier.
“How did you learn of all that?” Hera asked in disbelief. “You said you didn’t find us.”
“I found Ahsoka, she was still alive and working as a Fulcrum there.”
“... Because she never went to Malachor,” Kanan whispered realizing that implication.
“Yes...” Ezra sighed. “Things were… bad for the Rebels. There had been no transmission. No consolidated alliances... I helped the Rebellion there, as much as I could, and then I found you...” He said to Kanan but his voice became strained.
“Karabast,” Zeb scratched the back of his head.
Kanan was silent for a second. “Did you have to kill me?”
“What!? NO! I'd never-!” Ezra stuttered in horror. The thought made him sick. He had feared it would come to that if he had kept attacking them but… even then he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it. “No. You... you left them after a while.”
“How did you come back here then? Interchange places? Bodies?” Sabine tried to change the subject. They also didn’t like the idea of Kanan turned into an Inquisitor.
“Minds. I didn’t have my scar there…” although he had gotten later in a similar way. “And I think it was the Temple... the Jedi Temple called me back.”
Exactly. That was the reason he was here. That much was clear.
“I think the Empire was doing something to the Temple and somehow that affected me. But now, the whole place is in danger. We need to get back to Lothal. They are going to start drilling… pry it open. Kanan-” Ezra looked at him with urgency, but he couldn’t say more. It was like he simply couldn’t even see him without his chest feeling like it was ripping.
“I understand... but we have to prepare,” Kanan nodded.
Hera patted Ezra in the shoulder. “We are actually in the middle of a mission. We need to deliver very important supplies and then we can start checking our options with. It's that ok?”
“Yes. That's ok...” He wouldn’t deny help for people who needed, especially if they had already promised it.
“It will give you some time to wind down, settle back,” Hera added with a smile.
“Yes... thank you.”
“So... how was Lothal back there? The other Ezra said he couldn't wait to leave it,” Zeb quipped with curiosity.
“Lothal was completely under Empire occupation. We lost it to them thanks to Gerrera,” Ezra said.
“Guerrera?? What do you mean?” Sabine scowled. After he had abandoned them she had a personal issue with him.
“He blew up the fuel depots with maintenance robots when there were workers there and killed hundreds… the citizen turned on whatever Rebel sympathizers were there…”
Sabine grimaced. “Well... why am I not surprised? The idea of blowing it up is not bad actually. Sans the casualties of course. The Imperials always underestimate the droids… it could be done when it’s safe.”
“At night?” Ezra asked.
“Yeah. Those tanks are not easily replaced,” Sabine nodded trying to make some calculations.
Ezra half smiled. At least some good would come out of this.
Kanan spent the time mostly in silence, listening to Ezra and his experience. The others would ask about the state of that world, the Rebellion, and the differences compared to this one. They were surprised to hear Tua and Sato were also alive… but Kanan was perceptive enough to notice Ezra was avoiding talking about more about his other persona… the Inquisitor. He couldn’t see his expression, but he knew he tensed every time the questions approached that issue and Ezra would change the subject. After a while Ezra said he was tired and the others agreed it was time to sleep.
Zeb brought out a couple of bedrolls for him Sabine and Ezra, and Kanan simply nodded and got up to leave, as Ezra looked away. He covered himself with a blanket, tense, nervous. He didn’t say anything else to him. He couldn’t. He had got used to his warm embrace at night as he whispered good night to his ear. Ezra gritted his teeth holding back his tears. There would be no more of that...
Kanan returned to the Ghost with Hera as she rechecked her flight schedule and made some adjustments to their current plans.
“I’ll tell them we got a small problem and will arrive later… they won’t be happy,” she commented offhandedly to Kanan.
Kanan simply nodded.
“Are you ok, luv?” Hera asked and he gave a tired chuckle and shook his head. “I thought you would be happy Ezra is back.”
“I thought so too. I just…”
“What is wrong?”
Kanan’s mouth made a thin line. “Something is not right… different…”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s... not the same,” he glanced to the direction Ezra would be outside.
“Do you think this is not our Ezra after all?” Hera tensed. Maybe yet another version? A very similar one?
“No. It is him, but...” Kanan struggled to find the right words. “He’s changed. Like he became a different person. Our bond is different too… I can’t explain it.” The bond of Master and Apprentice they had shared until all this happened was gone… at least on Ezra’s end… but with the mental walls in place, it was impossible to tell anything else.
Hera left her reports and moved to hold and caress his face gently.
Kanan continued. “I had never felt anything like that. When I reached out at first, he felt so happy Hera, like I had never felt him before, and suddenly… he remembered something and he blocked me out. Completely. He had never-”
“He did that before, after the accident,” Hera tried to find a way to calm him. “He closed off too, right?”
“No, not like this. Ezra was angry at himself. He wanted to prove he could protect us on his own. This… this is different. It’s like something terrible happened and he doesn’t want me know,” Kana’s hands twitched in worry.
Hera tilted her head. “Now that you mention it... I know you can’t see his expressions but when I held him… I saw pain in his eyes. I had seen that before, when you two came back after finding out about his parents. Like… he lost someone but at the same time…”
Hera couldn’t quite place it. She had seen...Shame? Guilt? He blamed himself of something.
“I think he’s scared of me,” Kanan confessed with sadness.
“What? Why would he be?”
“He has been avoiding talking about that version of me. If I was an Inquisitor there… maybe I hurt him? Maybe… he saw me hurt others?” Kanan voice strained.
“That’s nonsense Kanan, and you know it. “
“We don’t really know. If… if I fell... I don’t want to imagine what I might have done. What the darkside drove me to do,” his hands were now fists of worry. Hera held them.
“Still. He knows you. Here, our Kanan. He knows you are not like that.”
“I wish I could talk to him. I wish… he would talk to me…” Why does it hurt like this? This rejection...
Hera rested her head on his chest. “The other Ezra was also trying to keep his distance from everyone too. He didn’t seem to like you being too close either... He got nervous and defensive around you.”
Kanan caressed her lekku. “I guess all this time I was able to handle Ezra being like that because he couldn’t remember what we had lived through… it was understandable he would remain distant. But now, Ezra remembers me and he still pushes me away…”
“And it hurts,” Hera said softly in an understanding tone.
He nodded feeling a knot on his throat. He had wanted to hold him. Show his affection. But it was the last thing Ezra wanted from him. A few tears fell from his eyes.
Hera knew Kanan had been the one who had suffered the most of the team for the last few months. She gently brought Kanan’s head down to her and she kissed him trying to soothe his mind, his heart. She hadn’t seen Kanan this saddened for a long time, and now that the Ghost was empty perhaps she could actually give him some sort of solace. She embraced the Jedi, her body warm and welcoming, and Kanan simply allowed himself to be loved by her.
Ezra woke up early in the morning, as Chopper rolled and bumped into them to announce it was time to leave. They couldn’t stay longer in this planet. Ezra blinked and rubbed his eyes, still not completely believing he was back home. He was back with his family… that at least brought a relieved sigh from his chest.
“M’rning…” Zeb said as he stretched. Ezra nodded back and started to pick up their things, Sabine helped him out with the bedroll and approached him.
“Hey, I know we kinda said that already… but I’m glad you are back.”
“Me too,” Ezra said but there was sadness in his smile.
Sabine noticed it but decided to touch a different subject. “You know, maybe we were exaggerating a little about the other Ezra.”
“Hmm? How so?” He asked raising an eyebrow.
“Well, he was certainly a pain at first. But he was, you know, learning to behave. I guess it took a lot longer than you did the first time around,” Sabine shrugged.
Ezra frowned remembering how immature he had been back then. “Was… was he inappropriate with you?”
“Nah. Nothing a punch wouldn’t solve,” she chuckled.
“Oh,” Ezra grimaced. “Sorry.”
“It’s ok. As I said, he was getting better. A little,” she chuckled.
“I see,” Ezra looked down, not sure how to take that. Maybe the other one wasn’t as lost as he thought?
“I suppose you were getting used to back there, right?” Sabine asked him.
“A little,” he replied with a sad shrug.
“So... if you showed up here… where would he show up there? Not surrounded by troopers I hope.”
Ezra looked at Sabine with slight confusion. Was she worried about him?
“He…” Ezra pondered for a second. He should be back at the Temple with Kanan. They had the Escape close by and might be able to leave. “He should be fine. He should be safe. Why do ask?”
“Hey, he might have been an annoying version of you that didn’t want to fight in the war but... he was still you, or… like a lost twin brother, family,” Sabine said crossing her arms a little frustrated. “This is really confusing.”
“*Sigh*… Tell me about it...”
“Less talk, more carrying,” Zeb shoved them playfully towards the things in the ground.
“He’s right,” Kanan said from the entrance of the ship, smiling warmly. “People are counting on these supplies. We will deliver them and then we will go to Lothal.” He looked... lively... and he carried himself with confidence. Even if the beard certainly made him look aged there was an air of hope and reassurance about him.
Ezra stared at him, breathless, but then Ezra’s eyes widened noticing that was how his Kanan would feel after they would spend the night together. It meant...
Ezra’s face contorted in pain and stopped the thought right there. He picked up the rest of his things and walked past Kanan without facing him, getting back into the ship, only giving him a strained “hey”.
Kanan stood there clearly disconcerted, his shoulders dropped slightly feeling his heart wince. Ezra had now redoubled his mental walls. Kanan was left speechless. He had hoped that after a good night’s sleep perhaps Ezra would open up and reconnect. It looked like he was wrong.
Sabine suddenly stormed after Ezra, leaving the rest of her things behind.
“HEY!” Zeb complained.
Kanan reached to grab her arm. “Sabine- It’s ok…”
“No,” she let go of his arm and followed Ezra to his shared room.
He turned around startled at her. “Sabine-…? What. Wait,” he stuttered as she then practically pulled him and shoved him to her room and closed the door.
“Ok, I don’t know what the problem is but it needs to stop,” she said almost growling crossing her arms.
“What are you-?”
“You and Kanan!” she whispered through gritted teeth motioning to the closed door.
“W-what-?” Ezra gasped in panic. She shouldn’t know…
“You are completely dismissing him! He doesn’t deserve getting the cold shoulder!”
Ezra was partially relieved but also felt regret. “No. I just-”
“Ezra, Kanan was the one who took the brunt of your change, you know. He was there trying to help you- him, help him remember, never lost hope you would return to your old self and now you are treating him like you don’t want to have anything to do with him.”
Ezra clenched his fists almost as if he was in pain. “No, that’s not it…”
“I… I can’t say,” Ezra looked away.
“Alright. Don’t say it then… but please, you have to stop that.”
“I wish I could. I never meant to hurt him. That’s the last thing-” Ezra’s voice broke a little and Sabine noticed the tears appearing in his eyes. Kriff, this was bad then. It was affecting Ezra too.
She sighed, maybe she had been to harsh with him. “Look, all I’m saying is… just try to avoid him less. We still got at least a day before we head for Lothal and we need to make that plan… with everyone. If you are avoiding him it’s going to be difficult.”
“I understand. I’ll try…”
“You can talk to me, you know,” Sabine punched him in the arm.
“Thank you but… I think I need to figure this out on my own.”
Kanan, Hera and Ezra saw them leaving the cabin. They were already waiting on the common area to discuss their plan.
Hera explained Rebel Command was not exactly too happy about them dropping off after finishing the current mission but they had agreed to allow them to go. For Ezra it was not a matter of permission but of duty to go to Lothal and check on the Temple. Ezra also wanted to know if there was anything else he could do for Lothal… and Sabine was positive they might be able to blow up the fuel depot with a few mouse droids like they had talked about the day before. Ezra also tried his best to interact with Kanan normally, asking him his input and advice, even though every time he smiled, Ezra felt a knot forming in his throat.
“The blockade it’s going to be a problem,” Hera crossed her arms looking at the info they had from their last report.
“We could still, you know… try to sneak in as a cargo ship,” Zeb offered.
“False IDs?” Sabine hummed and raised an eyebrow.
Ezra gasped remembering Tua and her IDs… and Kanan’s link to Lothal. He turned to the man, who almost immediately realized something was going on.
“Ezra?” Kanan asked
Ezra felt Kanan needed to know that but the prospect of talking to him alone was too much. No. He needed to tell him. He couldn’t put his own issues in between Kanan and the truth… at least *that* truth.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” Ezra motioned him away, leaving the others to continue planning.
They stepped aside.
“What is it?”
When I was over there… we also got you a false ID.
Not surprising, Kana thought, but there was more to it.
“The IDs back there needed to have a biometric signature and when we checked yours…” he trailed off...
“Turns out, you were born in Lothal.”
“I…” Kanan was taken back. Lothal?
A small smile formed in Kanan’s lips. “We are-”
“From the same planet. Yes,” Ezra didn’t want to dwell on it anymore.
“But then my Master’s Holocron… It can’t be a coincidence...”
Ezra looked away. There it was... he was sure Kanan was thinking about how it might have been their destiny to meet, but that was the last thing Ezra needed to hear right now... just like the other Kanan had told him. “We should get back.”
“Ezra, wait… there’s something I need to tell you,” Kanan raised his hand but didn’t dare to touch him.
“Y-yes?” Ezra tensed.
Kanan’s expression softened and even if he could not see him, he looked at him. “I… I missed you,” Kanan said with all his heart. Ezra felt his own resolve weaken. He just wanted to let the mental wall crumble, let him feel his affection back and just tell him yes, I missed you, I missed you too and I love you-. Keep it together, Ezra scolded himself gritting his teeth. Kanan continued. “I can’t start to imagine how being in that world affected you, but I…”
Kanan shook his head in concern like he was preparing himself for a big blow. “Did he hurt you?”
“...what?” Ezra did a double-take.
“Did I hurt you? I was an inquisitor there,” Kanan repeated softly.
“N-no…” Ezra bit his lower lip. The other Kanan had rejected him at first breaking his heart, and then he had pushed him with the Force so it had been an accident but that’s not what he was asking.
Kanan didn’t need to read the Force to realize there was something Ezra was keeping from him. “Ezra. I just need you to know that… I’m not him.”
I’m not the man you loved.
The memory of those words echoed in Ezra’s mind, hitting him like a dagger to his chest. He looked at the floor, his lip trembling but instead of breaking down like he had done the first time he heard that, Ezra simply closed his eyes, withstanding the pain and nodded.
“Ezra…?” Kanan frowned feeling the sadness in his voice. This was completely opposite reaction he expected. Why this kept happening? Every time he tried to get close, it just made Ezra feel farther. Wasn’t he a bad person there? Then why did Ezra avoided talking about him?
Ezra shook his head and cleared his throat, remembering what Sabine had asked of him. He tried to talk more normally with Kanan. “I’m sorry... for everything. I’m just worried,” he tried to justify himself, trying to find a good excuse. “That Kanan was in a bad place but he was getting better and now… I just worry,” Ezra shrugged glancing away. It hurt so much.
“Can I assume you were the one who helped me… helped him, right?” Kanan tried to smile and also ease Ezra’s worries. “I think they are going to be ok over there then.”
“What gives you that impression...?” Ezra asked, taking a deep breath, doing his best to be calm.
“That Ezra was improving too… with the Force and with the others.”
“Yeah, Sabine mentioned that… but still...”
Kanan’s face turned a serious and sighed. “But that’s not all, is it…?” Kanan said. He couldn’t just ignore Ezra’s silent suffering. “Your mental walls are still in place. You are keeping something else from me. But you don’t have to fear me, or hide from me. I’ll stay out of your mind. I won’t pry, I promise.”
“Kanan…” Ezra shook his head. He couldn't. He would slip.
“It’s eating you, Ezra. Whatever it is… you have trapped it with you behind that wall,” Kanan pressed.
“I’ll be ok. It’s for the best. The best for everyone,” Ezra shook his head.
“Not for you…”
Ezra looked at him with longing eyes. Kanan cared so much. Stars… why did he have to make everything so hard?
“Just let it go Kanan… please,” Ezra asked gently. “Please.”
Kanan nodded, accepting Ezra’s wishes. “Just remember, I’ll always be here for you.”
“Thank you…” Ezra said with a sad smile.
“Well then…” Kanan sighed, he didn’t want to press Ezra anymore. “We better go back. We still have a plan to make and a temple to save.”
Yes. Ezra agreed. His mind had to focus on that.
A few hours later, they delivered their cargo and were finishing the last details of their plan. At first they had thought on getting the IDs as a cargo ship, or getting someone to smuggle them down to the city, but then the idea was scrapped. The temple was the priority at the moment, so landing on the spaceport wasn’t ideal.
“The Nightbrother has stealth capabilities. We might be able to bypass the blockade if we run dark and then land directly over there?” Sabine pointed at the holo-diagram showing their possible route.
“Entering the atmosphere flying blind? No systems?” Zeb wasn’t so convinced.
“It can be done,” Hera said as a matter of fact with a confident smirk. “It’s not the Ghost but I can manage.”
“Still, if we are going to check on that fuel depot later, it would be best if we also go already disguised,” Ezra nodded.
“I’ll contact Rex and Kallus and tell them to bring the Nightbrother to a meeting point…” Hera announced and with that done they all went to sleep to make sure they were rested for the big mission.
Ezra opened his eyes and, even through the darkness, he realized the room was different. He held his breath.
No. It couldn’t be.
Was he back?
The door opened. Kanan was standing there. The contrast of light and shadow kept Ezra from discerning which Kanan it was…
Ezra was afraid to say anything, afraid to mess it all up. And then Kanan walked to him, and Ezra simply reached for him, his body moving on its own. Kanan held him closer and kissed him deeply… lovingly. Ezra cried tears of happiness, returning the kiss, throwing all pretense away. He wanted to love him. Right here, right now. He didn’t want to waste another second, another breath not shared with him. He desperately pulled Kanan with him over the bed. He wanted to feel all of him.
Ezra came to a sudden realization through the Force. Kanan was Kanan. It didn’t matter what version. His soul was the same. And he was here with him.
I love you. I love you. I love you. Ezra whispered over and over with closed eyes as they kissed, each time he said it, more earnest than the last. It had been only a day and somehow keeping those words from his lips had already started to kill something inside of him... a light dimming under the oppressive darkness and despair. All Ezra knew was that he would give himself over this very moment with no regrets, no doubts. He was ready to make love to him. Ezra smiled feeling Kanan move over him and when he opened his eyes…
Kanan was not there.
Ezra was in his bunk, Zeb was soundly sleeping below.
It had been a dream.
Ezra didn’t move. He simply stared at the ceiling. He stared as tears started to pool in his eyes, blurring the world with pain and loneliness.
I’m never going to be with him.
I’ll never be able to say those words to him.
He brought up a hand in time to cover his mouth as a sob escaped his lips.
He turned to his side, holding his knees close to his chest and silently wept.
Lots of angst this chapter.
☆☆Please, i would love to read your comments!☆☆
"Lately I've been having nightmares, where I'm cut into so many pieces that there isn't enough of me to be put back together."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kanan had been worried all the previous day and that feeling carried on to his sleep. Even his usual mediation hadn’t worked as well to keep himself calm. He was dreaming of finding an answer as to why Ezra had been distant, going through the day's events and conversations, when suddenly he felt Ezra’s warm presence slowly reaching for him. Kanan gasped awake. Ezra’s walls had briefly come down. But then… a wave of despair and sadness from him hit Kanan. He stood up, ready to go look for Ezra to his room and just as quick, the barrier was back up again. Kanan gritted his teeth. Ezra had slipped, perhaps for being too tired… but Ezra was awake now and shielding his mind again.
Kanan stood in front of the door slightly disconcerted… his whole being had reacted immediately, ready to go and find out what Ezra needed… he didn’t even question it. He couldn’t force Ezra to open up… let alone pry his mind. He would respect Ezra’s wishes to stay back. But the more time it passed the more Kanan felt he was missing something, that he was failing to understand the problem.
But… He couldn’t dwell on it, at least not right now. The mission was tomorrow and they needed to stop the Imperials from doing whatever they wanted to do to the Jedi Temple. Ezra had not gone into the specifics of what had happened on that Temple but Kanan understood one thing. The Sith must not be allowed to tap into any of it.
He took a deep breath and returned to his bed even though he still felt the lingering feeling of Ezra’s presence against his own… almost like that time in the cave of Atollon, but it was different somehow. And to Kanan’s mild surprise, his arms felt strangely empty as he drifted back to sleep.
The next day they all woke up and Kanan thought he couldn’t be more confused.
Ezra had always had this intense light in him, an inner fire blazed with passion in everything he did. He gave himself completely to his ideals… that's why he had been close to falling to the darkside more than once. That flame had turned scorching hot, desperate to find a way to keep the people he cared about safe. But now...
His light was dimmer... Weakened. Wounded.
As if something had put out what once had been a flame filled with hope.
It had turned into a flickering candle, struggling to stay alive.
Kanan tensed. It was so wrong. He felt a pit in his stomach. Ezra was supposed to feel so bright.
The others couldn’t notice this through the Force, but they could tell something was missing in Ezra’s eyes. He looked tired, and was extremely quiet with an almost blank expression… completely unlike him.
Kanan had to approach him, he just had to.
“Ezra…” Kanan whispered when the others had finished breakfast and moved back to the cockpit.
Ezra tensed, the candle flickered dangerously low. “Yes?”
Kanan hesitated. If him calling his name was doing this to him was it was to talk to him at all… “What’s… wrong?”
“I just had a bad dream. I didn’t sleep too much. That’s all,” Ezra shrugged as he placed his plate in the sink. “But don’t worry, I’m fine for the mission. We better get ready, Hera said Rex and Kallus are about to arrive.”
“Yes,” Kanan sighed.
Just as Ezra had said, a few minutes later, the Nightbrother came out hyperspace on their coordinates and the Ghost connected with it.
The door hatch opened and Kallus appeared, smiling widely at seeing Zeb.
“Hey!” Zeb grinned happily. Rex passed them and patted Zeb on the way in to look for Hera.
Kallus approached Zeb looking behind him. “So, is it true? Ezra’s back to his old self?”
“Yeah, it was some Force stuff problem or something,” Zeb scratched the back of his head.
Kallus raised an eyebrow. “Kanan said he wasn’t sure if it was that.”
“HIGH level Force stuff,” Zeb shrugged.
Sabine approached the old veteran. “Rex, did you bring what I asked?”
“Most of it, yeah. AP-5 wasn’t too happy about us taking that crate of explosives,” he said, knocking on a small crate.
“They will thank us later,” Sabine smiled and placed her helmet on.
Hera turned to Rex before going into the Nightbrother. “Take care of her,” she said, gesturing to the Ghost in general.
“Will do!” Rex chuckled.
At this moment, Ezra finally showed up with his stuff and greeted Rex and Kallus but quickly followed Hera into the Nightbrother.
“He still seems… off,” Kallus noted to Zeb with some concern.
“He's been through a lot,” Zeb sighed and Kallus nodded in understanding as also Kanan passed them
“Good luck,” Kallus said with a warm smile before the hatch closed again and the ships separated...
A few hours later, the Nightbrother appeared over Lothal. Hera immediately turned all systems off and the group saw the 7th fleet blockade in front of them.
“Alright, running dark,” Hera said and glanced to Chopper. “Your turn, Chopper, I know, I know, we will turn you on as soon as we break through the atmosphere, I promise,” she said as the droid complained about having to be disconnected.
“Did I mention this makes me nervous?” Zeb looked at the dozens of ships in front of them.
“Yeah, you did,” Sabine poked his side. They stared at the large Star Destroyer with a symbol painted underneath… the Chimaera. It loomed behind the rest of the fleet in a defensive position. In the vanguard, there was one Interdictor Star Destroyer. No ship would be able to leave the system without its permission. But that’s not what worried Ezra the most...
“Oh no…” Ezra looked at the planet. It was almost as bad as he had seen it back there. He felt a knot in his throat.
“Let me know if it feels we are in danger,” Hera said as they drifted silently.
“We will,” Kanan assured her, his focus was reaching outward.
“Nice and easy…” Hera whispered to herself as she moved the stick, only activating the small thrusters to correct their trajectory.
“Uh… They are turning this way,” Zeb pointed at one of the Star Destroyers.
“Easy,” Ezra shook his head. He had also closed his eyes and was also sensing danger. They were still safe.
But the Star Destroyer kept turning on their direction.
This time Sabine spoke a little more worried than she would like. “Guys?”
“It’s ok,” Kanan said placing a hand on Hera’s shoulder to reassurance.
“They are charging their weapons,” Zeb tensed seeing the canons move in position.
Hera’s hands tensed on the controls ready to turn the systems on and run but Ezra also whispered. “Easy…”
“Unidentified ship, stop right there,” they heard over the comms and Sabine was already taking off her seatbelt to run to the turrets but Kanan pointed somewhere outside the port view.
A light had just flared to life. Engines of a larger ship painted black.
“It’s not us they are after,” Hera breathed in relief.
“Seems like they are smugglers,” Ezra opened his eyes to see the ship, just as they accelerated and tried to flee, only for the turbolasers to make it blow up in just one shot. The ship broke apart and some of the debris drifted to them.
“They were smugglers,” Kanan sighed.
Hera nodded and started veering the ship along with the debris. “Alright, I’ll drift with the wreckage towards the planet. Make sure everyone is strapped in. This is going to be a bumpy ride!”
'Bumpy ride' was putting it lightly. Ezra was surprised the Nightbrother had survived the reentry with all its systems off, but this was Hera after all.
“We crossed the atmosphere. Turn Chopper on,” she ordered as she activated the systems back up. Chopper waved his little arms around a little annoyed and hurried to help Hera correct and stabilize the ship’s systems.
After a few heartbeats, everything went smoothly.
“We did it…” Zeb sighed and seemed to sink in his seat in relief.
Kanan smiled. “Alright, I’ll input the coordinates,” Kanan stopped. He suddenly felt a chill… this is dangerous. Things won’t be the same ever again after this. The bond he had with Ezra won’t return… not like what they used to have. But their duty is to the Temple… he can’t let his personal feelings get in the way. This is larger than both of them.
Ezra’s eyes grew wide as he remembered something like this happening when he came with the other Kanan to the Temple… he had hesitated.
But then Kanan steeled himself and gave the coordinates. “Ok, let’s go…”
As they approached the place, Kanan touched Hera’s arm and pointed in another direction.
“Wait… land there, behind those rock hills. We should make our way in bikes so we can scout first.”
Ezra tensed, AGAIN. The same as before. The same spot Kanan had chosen… it was strategically sound, that’s all, Ezra thought to himself.
Hera flew over the rock hills and found the perfect spot to land.
“We are clear.”
“Alright. I’ll get the bikes ready,” Ezra said getting up quickly.
As Zeb helped get things ready, Sabine decided to dye her hair black and Ezra left outside as soon as the ramp opened. Kanan stayed behind unsure of what to do about that. Ezra continued to avoid him… and after this recent hunch... Did this mean their bond as Master and Apprentice was over? Maybe he was supposed to accept this change. Change with him? With Ezra? He wasn’t sure. Even then, he felt calmer now that he was in Lothal. He felt so much attuned to the Force… Ezra had told him he was from this planet... Could be that the reason for this feeling?
He closed his eyes and tried to find further guidance and insight in the Force, but he only felt *change*. Kanan sighed. He had gone through a similar struggle when he had wished his life had stayed the same when he was with Billaba and his clone friends. He remembered her words, just before his life was turned upside down.
But remember, Caleb, the universe is far from static. You must not grow too attached, too fond, too in love with life as it is now. Those emotions are valuable and should not be suppressed... but you must learn to rule them, padawan, lest they rule you.
He could hear her almost too clearly in his mind. And she was right. Him approaching Ezra as his Master was not going to work anymore. That was the past… and if he truly wished to help Ezra some way, perhaps it would be best to change along with him.
He scratched his beard and smiled… perhaps he would start with that then. He moved to his room and shaved his beard. He decided to do away with the hair but after a second thought, he decided to knock on Sabine’s door.
The door opened and her eyes went wide seeing him without a beard. “OH MY G-” she covered her mouth.
“I’m sorry. Wow… You look… so young.”
“Can you help me with the hair?” Kanan showed her the knife.
“You are taking this disguise thing very seriously,” she raised an eyebrow.
“You could say that,” Kanan half shrugged, half-smiled.
She motioned him inside her room and pulled a chair so he could sit as she worked. “I’m glad you came to me first. I don’t think Hera would have liked you doing your hair without help.”
“I guess,” he chuckled.
Ezra was checking everything was in order with their bikes and also his weapons. He took his blaster, looking at the energy cell and then took out his lightsaber. It was weird to have it back. He had come accustomed to the other one, too.
“Alright, I think I’m ready,” Kanan’s voice came from the ramp.
Ezra turned and looked up. His heart skipped a beat and he held his breath.
The lightsaber fell from his hand. No. He was imagining this. He must be hallucinating. Kanan… that Kanan was here?
“Whoa,” Zeb said impressed.
“Shocking, huh?” Sabine showed up behind Kanan.
“Tell me about it. You don’t look like a relic anymore,” Zeb joked.
“Don’t let Rex hear you,” Kanan chuckled and felt Hera’s hand slowly turning him around to get a better look.
“Mmmh, Can’t say it’s my favorite, but I guess I can get used to it,” she smirked.
Kanan turned to Ezra with a hopeful warm smile. It took Ezra every shred of will he had to not just bolt to his arms at that smile.
Kanan felt Ezra was shook and his mental shield wavered. And for a second he got a glimpse, an image of a memory in his mind… of himself, his other self, short hair and no beard just like this, taking off the top of a black inquisitor suit… his chest and back full of scars.
Ezra gasped at his slip and reinforced his walls, immediately turning away from Kanan as if nothing had happened. His trembling hand reached down for the lightsaber and clipped it back to his belt.
Kanan frowned sadly. Maybe he had made a mistake… If he had known this was the look that affected Ezra he wouldn’t have done it. At least one thing was clear… the reason Ezra was like this was indeed him.
“Alright, I’ll stay here and make sure the Nightbrother is ready if we need to run,” Hera waved at them as they got on their bikes. “May the Force be with you.”
It wasn’t long when they saw the rock temple in the distance… and the Empire there. They had a camp, several big drills, machinery, a dozen troopers and workers.
“Whoa, hold on,” Ezra raised a hand, signaled everyone to stop.
“Here,” Kanan gestured them to get off their back and move behind some natural rocks for cover.
Zeb took his binoculars out and checked. “They are... drilling into the rock. Taking it apart?” He passed it to Ezra to check.
“That’s the first door… the mid entrance is down, on the other side,” Ezra pointed out.
“Mid entrance?” Kanan frowned confused.
“The entrance to the chamber I used to return here is not really a door. Looks like tunnel, more like a crack…” Ezra explained.
“Hidden in plain sight…” Kanan nodded understanding.
“They seem to want to dig down, too,” Sabine said concerned. “You think they know? What do we do then?”
“Whether they know or not… We can’t let them have what it’s inside, at all,” Ezra said completely convinced.
At that moment, Kanan turned to the Temple like the rest. He couldn’t see… he shouldn’t be able to see but he noticed something… “Wait… I… I see it.”
“What?” They all turned to him confused.
Kanan swallowed feeling his mouth go dry. He could see… something. “Lines… forming a pattern, some kind of drawing on the rock below.”
“How?” Zeb was completely shocked.
Ezra’s brow furrowed and looked at the Temple intently. The only time Kanan had seen anything was him… during the light of the Holocrons. “A drawing made with the Force?”
“I don’t know. Maybe...” Kanan conceded.
Sabine shook her head. “Ok, nevermind that. Can you tell me what the drawing looks like?”
Kanan took a deep breath to calm himself. He couldn’t deny this was… surprising. “People. Humanoid figures if I can guess. I can’t tell more from here but… They are connected to the main circle,” Kanan pointed beyond them, in the middle of the Imperial camp.
“We would stand there and use the Force to ask the Temple to open…” Ezra explained to Sabine and Zeb. Just at that moment, they heard the drills whirring up and start breaking part of the rock by the main entrance.
They all gritted their teeth, but Ezra and Kanan especially. They felt in their bones this was wrong. They had to be stopped.
“We could blow up the drills,” Zeb offered.
“They will send more,” Sabine shook her head.
After a moment of silence, Kanan spoke. “Remember, Ryloth? Hera’s house?”
They all looked at each other at the implication. “You mean, to blow up the Temple?” Sabine asked surprised but had to agreed. They had to deny it to the Empire in any way they could. “I mean… we can try… but I don’t think I have enough explosives for that.”
At that moment, Ezra and Kanan had the feeling someone else was watching them, and for Ezra it was a familiar feeling. He looked back in shock.
“Maybe… we don’t need to,” he whispered and stood up, taking care to stay out of sight of the camp. The others looked back and saw something they hadn’t expected at all.
“Wait-... What’s that? A wolf?” Sabine gasped surprised.
A big white wolf was sitting watching them not far from them, between larger rocks that hid him away from the camp too.
Ezra’s lip trembled.
“Ezra?” Kanan asked noticing a surge of emotion in him.
“Come,” Ezra motioned as he took his bike and slowly made his way over to the wolf. The others followed him too.
They hid on the other rocks and watched as Ezra approached the animal with a nostalgic. He raised his hand to touch its head and it allowed him to softly caress his fur. He looked at the bite marks from his fight before and they were almost gone. It was the same wolf. Somehow, it was here too. It had traveled here...
“Ezra, do you know this wolf?” Kanan asked.
“I do,” Ezra said absorbed by the sight. He slowly placed his arms around the wolf neck in a hug. He needed this. He whispered, only for the wolf to hear. “Is he ok? Kanan is… with the other me, right?” Ezra looked at the eyes of the wolf and he seemed to give a slight nod. A small sad smile decorated Ezra’s face. “I see…” he nodded back. “He will protect him, I know that. I'll protect him here, I promise.”
Ezra slowly stepped back with a heavy sigh and the wolf stared at him before looking at Kanan. “DUME.”
Kanan was taken back.
“It talks!” Zeb practically jumped back and Sabine hushed him.
“He knows me,” Kanan whispered in disbelief. “Does he come from... the other world?”
“I think he knew you even before that,” Ezra smiled weakly. “It’s complicated…”
The wolf moved to Kanan and he didn’t flinch, allowing the creature to get closer. The wolf glanced back at Ezra and then offered his head to Kanan. He placed his hand respectfully over his head...
“He’s connected to the Force…” Kanan whispered.
“And to you,” Ezra couldn’t help but come closer to pat the wolf along with Kanan, and for a moment he wished he could stay like this, enjoying this together.
“WHOA! DOWN!” Zeb suddenly warned them looking up at the sky and ducked behind the rocks. They all crouched, even the wolf, although he didn’t seem surprised.
“Is that-!?” Sabine looked at the approaching ship above… a transport from the Seventh Fleet. The ship landed at the border of the Imperial camp and a figure came down. Even from this distance, it was clear who it was...
“THRAWN?” they all gasped in unison.
“What is he doing here?” Sabine growled.
Zeb looked back at where they used to be. “You know, if we had stayed over there, Thrawn would have seen us from above.”
“Almost as if the wolf wanted us to move here to be out of sight…” Kanan smiled and Ezra.
“Likely,” Ezra nodded.
“You are lucky I upgraded my sensors,” Sabine pointed her helmet antenna on the direction of Thrawn, as a group of Death Troopers and a man in a black robe approached the Grand Admiral.
“-pleasure is mine,” they heard Thrawn’s voice from the sensor.
“That’s him,” Ezra whispered.
“Still, I’m surprised you are here Grand Admiral,” another voice said, the man in the black robes, it seemed. “This project was ordered to have the utmost secrecy by the Emperor.”
“And that’s why I came to ensure this. I can provide my troops to reinforce your perimeter,” Thrawn said looking around and for a moment his eyes lingered where they were. Ezra tensed. He couldn’t have seen them, right? They were too far away. Thrawn turned back at the man as if nothing had happened.
“I can assure you Grand Admiral, that won’t be necessary. We have the most loyal servants, picked by the Emperor himself. If you were not given the direct order to be here, I’m afraid you must leave.”
“I see. Even then, there are still ways I might be of service. My insight on the native’s artwork might let me to decipher the information you seek. If you allow me to analyze the art of the Temple, destroying the structure won’t be necessary.”
"It pains me to say this, but I’ll have to make due with my own means. The Emperor’s word is absolute."
"The one thing the Emperor’s requires of you, Grand Admiral, is to make sure our cargo leaves and reaches Coruscant safely."
"Very well. I deeply apologize for the interruption."
"No harm done, Grand Admiral."
Thrawn turned, the little smile disappearing from his face as soon as Hydan could not see his face.
"Thrawn is not very happy about that," Ezra pointed as the Admiral left, but Sabine made a silent gesture as the conversation in the ground hadn't stopped. A man, likely an assistant, approached Hydan.
"Minister Hayden, wouldn’t be preferable to show the Grand Admiral the artwork we have found. If the rumors are true and he is a genius with art…"
"Fool. They are no rumors. If he sees them… he will likely decipher everything. But the Emperor has been questioning Thrawn’s loyalty for a time now...that’s why he will not allow him anywhere near this information. Can you imagine if he discovers something we don’t and decides to keep part of those meanings to himself? This is why we must give the Emperor our complete loyalty. Those who do will be rewarded with a part of his immense power. Those who are doubted will get nothing but scorn."
"Wow… Thrawn’s loyalty is in question?" Ezra looked at the ship leaving with a frown.
"Well, it’s good that they didn’t show it to him… or let him leave more troops. That gives us more time to plan."
Zeb looked around them. "Wait. The wolf is gone. When did it-...?"
"Never mind. We got a job to do," Ezra shook his head. They needed to focus on this now...
"IF you can see the lines... they must be very important," Sabine turned to Kanan.
"They are connected to the circle, as I said."
"And we used that circle to rise the temple up," Ezra reminded them.
"What if you bury it instead?" Zen offered.
"Mmh… No, they would keep digging," Ezra frowned and looked at the drills. Something like that wouldn’t stop them.
Just then… they glimpsed something white moving from the edge of the camp.
"Wait... what is that wolf doing!?" Zeb pointed. It stealthily walked to the drill where the workers were moving slates of cut stone from the temple. They jumped back startled in fear when they saw the wolf just a few meters from them. The wolf took this opportunity to pick up one of the stones in its jaw and ran back. The workers finally managed to wave at the troopers for help.
Ezra and the others saw how the troopers gave chase after the wolf, following it around the temple… but the wolf never showed up on the other side. Ezra could see the troopers were confused… the wolf was supposed to be right in front of them but now it was gone!
"It disappeared!" Zeb said barely believing it himself… but then they heard rustling behind them. The wolf was there.
"WHOA!" Ezra almost fell back too from the surprise. The wolf seemed tired and it dropped the stone it had stolen from its mouth
"Oh wow…" Sabine's eyes grew large. She immediately noticed the drawings of hands in the stone and started examining it.
"Can you see this?" Ezra asked Kanan.
"Yes." Kanan nodded and touched it gently concentrating. Ezra remembered one of his first lessons… let the stone talk its story… "I feel it. We could... move the temple away…"
"What?" They were all confused.
Kanan struggled to explain. "It won't be *here* anymore."
"I suppose that's good enough," Zeb said shrugging.
Ezra nodded too. "I understand... How?"
Kanan pointed back at the base of the temple. "The drawings in the bottom are... related," then he pointed at the drawing in the stone… the open hand and the fist. "This one opens a way... this one denies it. This one is the one we should use," he touched the fist.
"They do seem to have found out about that drawing, too," Sabine looked worriedly at the excavators… it was too much of a coincidence.
"How can we get there before them?" Zeb grunted slightly frustrated.
"The circle. We can rise the temple and reach it but…" Kanan suggested.
"That will leave it exposed to the Empire too. We will need to do this fast," Ezra bit his lip.
"Ok. So you two get to the circle. Rise the temple…" Sabine was starting to see the plan. "Then we need a distraction so you can get to the Temple drawings and use that sign."
"We will need to get out of there quickly afterwards… it’s going to get very hot in there,” Zeb growled.
"Hera will pick us up," Kanan smiled.
"Ok… Let’s do it." Ezra said looking at the temple.
“What is the hold-up?” Minister Hydan walked towards the workers talking with the Storm Trooper.
“My apologies, Minister Hydan, it’s nothing,” the Storm Trooper tried to explain. “There was an animal bothering the workers, sir. That’s all.”
“An animal? What kind of animal?” Hydan narrowed his eyes, but before they could say anything else, there was an explosion in the distance.
The Death Trooper with Hydan pointed at all the Troopers there. “Squadron, move!”
“Mmmh…” Hydan murmured looking around him. This was too much of a coincidence… could it be…?
Ezra and Kanan saw the guards moving towards the sound of the explosion, leaving the area of the activation circle alone. The Jedi came out of their hiding place and stepped into it.
“Are you ready? As Master and Apprentice…” Kanan nodded and raised a hand but noticed Ezra hesitated for a second.
Ezra’s mouth made a fine line and gulped. "Yes…"
Kanan lowered his hand for a bit. That was all the confirmation Kanan needed. "You do not see me as your Master anymore," there was sadness and resignation in his voice.
"Kanan-, that’s not-..." Ezra stuttered.
"It’s ok. We gotta do this," Kanan said with and understanding smile. “Do you think you can make it?”
Ezra looked down and nodded. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened himself to the Force. For this he had to drop his mental walls too so he put his mind on blank, focusing solely on the Temple, on stopping the Empire.
Please. You brought me back for this. Let me finish it , he pleaded to the Temple as he extended his hand…
The Temple answered and it started to turn.
“What… what is going on?” Hydan looked at rumbling ground.
“Sir! The Temple! It’s raising!” one of the workers pointed behind him.
Hydan narrowed his eyes… just as he thought. “You, with me!” He told a trooper and ran as fast as he could to the activation circle. He saw the two men standing with their hands pointing at the temple. “There! The Jedi! Shoot them!”
“Not so fast!” They heard a voice and a crate came flying, knocking the trooper as she was raising her blaster. Zeb had thrown the crate from behind them. Hydan hurried to duck away.
The Temple kept turning, more than it had never before, until the mural was exposed.
For a moment, everyone stopped fighting, looking in awe at the image there.
“STOP THEM!” Hydan’s voice brought everyone back to the present, and the blaster shots started going in every direction. Ezra and Kanan took out their lightsabers and blocked them.
“GO!” Kanan shouted, going to the left, and Ezra started running and dodging shots from the right, splitting the focus of their attackers. This allowed Zeb and Sabine to start dispatching some of the other troopers.
The workers immediately got out of Ezra’s and Kanan’s way and they reached the mural fairly quickly.
“The closed hand… that hand. Can you reach it?” Kanan looked up pointing at the Son.
“Yes! I can-! I just need-” Ezra saw an empty crate and quickly started to move it to be able to reach the hand.
“I’ll cover you,” Kanan said.
Ezra used the force to finish moving the crate in place and got up as the blaster shots around him were deflected by Kanan flawlessly back at the troopers and knocking them out.
Ezra’s heart was beating so fast. He looked at the mural’s eyes and the hand. He placed his hand, and then made it a fist… and then they heard a whisper coming from the stone itself.
If you close it… you won’t ever get back.
Ezra gasped, and a dark fear gripped at his heart.
“Ezra?” Kanan turned to him in worry, not completely understanding the voice or what it meant for Ezra...
Ezra closed his eyes and a few tears came down. “I know,” he whispered, placing back his fist and letting the Force flow through him, channeling it as he had never done before. He felt himself falling back… the light leaving him.
“Ezra!” Kanan caught him before he hit the ground but had to return quickly to deflect the shots.
“Ezra is down!” Sabine exclaimed over the comm, having seen everything from her position. The figure of the Son moved, and so did the Father… and everything started to vibrate.
“No! The temple! Get them!” Hydan shouted but the group of troopers closer to him was suddenly blown up.
“WHA-!” Hydan exclaimed and looked up seeing a ship arriving.
“Need a ride?” Hera said through the comms to the Specters.
“Quick! Zeb! Take Ezra!” Kanan ordered as he continued to protect him. Ezra was too heavy now to be carried by him.
“On it!” Zeb grabbed Ezra effortlessly and jumped into the open ramp. There was a light surging behind them, from the Temple. Every sense of danger that Kanan had told him to get out there fast. He waited until Sabine got there with her jetpack and was the last to get inside.
“GO!” he called to Hear with urgency.
He turned to face the Temple one last time as the ramp closed.
He had seen this light before. It was the same light from when the Holocrons had fused. A dangerous light. The Temple and everything around it disappeared consumed by its brilliance...
“Ezra?” Kanan called to him and Ezra slowly came back to his senses. It had been hours...
“Where? Who-?” Ezra struggled to open his eyes and sit. Was this his dream again? No, please...
“You got knocked out when you used the symbol,” Kanan explained helping him up.
Ezra gasped. “The temple! What happened to it?” Ezra grabbed Kanan’s shirt.
“It’s gone,” Kanan said.
"Oh," Ezra stared at him and for a moment he was glad Kanan couldn’t tell the pain in his eyes. “I see. Good. I-…” but his voice disappeared. He couldn’t talk anymore. He was trying to build up his mental walls again. He was just glad Kanan wasn’t trying to actively read him… just as he had promised. But even then, it was quite obvious how much this was affecting him.
“You are torn. It pains you.”
“…” Ezra opened his mouth but again, nothing came out. No explanation. No way to rationalize it.
“You didn’t want to do it and yet…” Kanan’s voice was soothing and warm. Understanding.
Ezra wanted so much to reach for him. He felt so cold. So alone.
“You won’t say why. And I won’t pressure you with that. But if not as a Master… then let me be here for you as a friend,” Kanan pleaded trying to find something, anything to reconnect with him. “You know I’ll always be there for you.”
Ezra looked down in silence at those words and nodded slowly, and a small sob escaped his lips remembering what the other Kanan had said.
He might not love you like *this*, but you have shown me how much he cares about you, loves you in other ways.
And he was right. Ezra sobbed silently. Kanan slowly held him against his chest and he cried harder...
After a while, when he was done, Kanan could tell Ezra’s pain had transformed into a quiet resignation. Kanan grimaced with worry.
“Thank you,” Ezra whispered and tried to smile but found himself almost physically unable to do so.
Ezra slowly pulled away from his arms and now Kanan was the one feeling a knot on his throat… Ezra’s light felt dimmer. Numbed. As if so little of him was left. Ezra stood to leave to return with the others in the main area of the Nightbrother... and Kanan suddenly reached for his hand but stopped himself before he touched it.
Ezra never noticed it and left the room.
Kanan sat there in silence for a long while. With the Temple issue resolved… now they would have to focus on Sabine’s plan with the Fuel Depot. And then… then he only wished Ezra would smile again… and part of him tried to ignore the emptiness of his hands and arms once more.
Sorry for the delay! I was on vacation and couldn't update. I hope you liked it!
☆☆☆ [ Please leave a comment! They mean a lot to me! ]☆☆☆
"Sleep with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and you shall give your nightmares fodder on which to feed."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The crew was silent for most of the way. The disappearance of the Temple along with all the Imperial camp had left them slightly shaken. They were flying low, avoiding most radars and taking advantage of the stealth capabilities of the ship. But even then they needed to find a safe spot to land and hide soon.
“That light…” Zeb finally said loud enough for the rest to hear. “It was like the one with Maul and the holocrons…”
“Yeah,” Ezra nodded looking down at his hands. The Temple was gone to only the Force knew where. He would never return. Even if he hadn’t actually expected to return… he could always hope. But not now. Not ever.
This is how it is, Ezra thought looking at the dying fields of his world through the window of the cockpit. I promised I would protect them. That’s what I’m going to do. My family. My planet. Kanan…
Ezra glanced briefly at the older Jedi. Kanan had also been silent, with a conflictive look on his face. Ezra’s heart winced but he took a deep breath.
“So now what?” Ezra asked.
“Well-” Sabine started but was interrupted by a beep from the ship’s console.
Hera checked the signal and her eyes grew large. “A transmission on one of our encrypted channels,” she hurried to patch it through.
“Specters? Azadi here,” a familiar deep voice greeted them.
“Azadi! We are glad to hear you,” Hera smiled surprised, turning to the others.
“How did you know we were back on Lothal? We were just about to start looking for you after we finished a mission up here,” Sabine asked curiously.
“Well, the Imperials have just increased their security, and I intercepted some chatter saying there was an incident at some Temple… so I assumed it had to be you,” Azadi chuckled with approval. “I’m sending you coordinates for a safe spot you can land, better hurry before they catch you in the air.”
“Understood. Heading to your meeting point,” Hera corrected the course and it wasn’t long before she landed the Nightbrother safely away among some small mountains and hills. The ramp opened and Azadi was already waiting for them outside with a couple of local rebels.
“I was starting to wonder if you would ever be able to come back,” Azadi smiled with some relief.
“I would have done it sooner… I’m sorry,” Ezra said with some guilt, but Azadi patted him in the shoulder.
One of the rebels with Azadi waved at Ezra. “Hey, I hope you remember me,” the young man told him.
“Huh?” Ezra looked at him trying to place his face. He was familiar but...
“Aw c’mon. It’s me! Jai! Jai Kell!” he scoffed jokingly.
“Jai, you have changed, I could barely recognize you,” Ezra said and Sabine also joined them with interest.
“Look who’s talking,” Jai chuckled and punched him on the arm… but then his face became serious looking at the horizon, at the few grasslands that were left intact in this region. “So, you saw.”
“Yes…” Ezra nodded sadly… the state of their world was terrible. “Given the circumstances, I’m glad you guys are still safe.”
Jai shrugged and saw Kanan slowly making his way out of the ship in silence, giving them some space to talk while he went with Hera and Azadi. Jai noticed Kanan would turn his head lightly on their direction, Ezra’s direction to be more precise, with sadness and concern. Jai had spent these past few years getting a lot more perceptive on people’s motives, always on the lookout for trouble since joining the Rebellion. They had told him the Inquisitor might have taken him away like with Zare’s sister because maybe he had the Force like Ezra and the other Jedi. He wasn’t too sure about that but it was in moments like these when he got a weird feeling. Something was going on here but he just couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He shook his head, leaving those thoughts behind, they needed to focus on trying to make things right… or at least better for their people.
“I’m not sure what can we do, Ezra… things are really bad now… everyone is afraid. They even are joining the Empire because most people don’t see a way out,” Jai sighed and shook his head with frustration. “I don’t see it either…”
“Don’t worry. We have a plan,” Ezra assured him.
Azadi walked to them and patted them both on the shoulder. “Ok, let’s hear it then.”
“Mmmmh…” Azadi nodded looking at the small holo-diagram Sabine was showing them. “Good plan. You will need several droids to carry the explosives. One for each tank, just to make sure. I don’t think one will be enough. Many things can go wrong.”
“Yes, I was thinking the same,” Sabine agreed and changed the image for a map of the factory and a list of droids that were allowed inside. She pointed at one designation. “Mouse droids would be perfect… they are small and everyone pays them no mind.”
Zeb grinned widely. “We could block their entrances and catch them there, you would have to be quick tho, before they send a distress signal.”
“How do you know?” Hera looked at him with interest. Zeb wasn’t really their tech-savvy member.
“Uh... Uhm... Kallus told me. That's how he used to eavesdrop on Thrawn,” Zeb’s ear dropped a little and moved nervously for a moment.
“There is one problem though. Once we explode it... Thrawn will be on our heels,” Kanan said crossing his arms. It wasn’t like he minded getting chased by the full force of the 7th Fleet but now they had to take Azadi, his group and how it would affect the people in Lothal in consideration.
Ezra frowned, suddenly realizing something. “Wait… Remember what that shady guy from the Temple said? Thrawn was supposed to make sure the cargo from the Temple arrived safely to Coruscant…”
“We destroyed the Temple right under his nose before that,” Sabine said with delight.
“So... if the Factory was to be destroyed too…” Ezra added tentatively.
“That won't look good on the Emperor's eyes,” Hera said with approval.
“He might actually lose the fleet and perhaps even get demoted,” Sabine said with hope. Her face lit up. Ruining Thrawn’s day and even his career was her dream.
Azadi half-smiled. “Well, with Thrawn gone, that might be good in the short term but… Pryce will remain and continue giving us trouble...”
“But without the factory… and without the Temple, there shouldn’t be much else Imperials are interested in Lothal,” Ezra pressed, feeling he was nearing to the best solution to their predicament. “Right?”
Azadi didn’t want to get his hopes up but he couldn’t help but see the potential...“I mean, the doonium mines are pretty much empty by now. They are stripping the surface resources just to keep the factory going, that’s why they are burning the fields… so… yeah,” he conceded and for a moment Ezra felt like he could actually smile… like things would turn out ok for once but then Azadi continued. “Except…” Azadi grimaced. Ezra felt his shoulders drop in anticipation. “The Empire will keep a heavy imperial presence as long as we are here to fight them.”
“Which means…” Ezra swallowed, feeling a new kind of pain in his chest. “That as long as we remain here, we will endanger the people of Lothal.”
They all fell silent for a moment, looking at the ground.
Kanan sighed. “Sometimes... the best way to save something is letting it go,” Kanan said softly. Ezra looked up to him with a pained expression. It was as if the Force was speaking the truth through Kanan and Ezra knew that all too well.
“I understand,” Ezra said, mostly to himself and for the Force, feeling strange threads of destiny subtly rearranging themselves. How? He didn’t know. But it would hurt him. It always did. He took a deep breath accepting his fate to protect them… if leaving was the path he needed to take to keep the people of Lothal safe, so be it… “Once we blew up the factory… we will run.”
Everyone was slightly surprised by his reaction. Ezra had always been the one ready to fight the Empire head-on… but he was wiser now. Jai was still actually a little shocked. This wasn’t at all the Ezra he remembered, and somehow he could almost feel something had happened to him that made him cautious about this. He wasn’t abandoning Lothal or giving up on them. He simply understood that stepping away might be the only way to improve things and keeping everyone alive at the same time. Jai thought Ezra would rage or complain in frustration but... Ezra had truly grown the most of all of them… but was also the saddest of them. What had truly happened to him?
Sabine was actually the one who wasn’t too keen on leaving just like that. They had helped her get Mandalore up in arms and uniting the clans, she was still willing to try something else.
“Wait, I had this idea for a while now…” she started, placing her hand on Ezra’s shoulder. “We could get rid of the command center on one sweep. We could try that… It would require lots of coordination but… if we get them all inside and blow it up-”
Ezra shook his head. “No. Not like that.”
Sabine was taken back for a moment. Their last mission together before the whole 'exchanging bodies' incident had been the communications tower they ended up blowing up. They had initially agreed with Gerrera on that one. Sure, they later had a problem with leaving the scientist but this wasn’t like that. Ezra had always been happy to help her blow up some Imperials. “It’s the Empire, Ezra.”
Ezra’s mouth made a fine line. “I... I don't want to kill them if I don't have to. The other me was getting desperate enough to consider joining them,” he attempted to explain what he was feeling from experience. “How many others would think they have no choice. I have no problem shooting back in defense but that is going too far… besides…”
The memory of the black wolf appeared on his mind. "Kill." He heard the cold voice in the back of his mind. Kanan felt a chill, his full attention on Ezra’s presence. He wouldn't go down that path. There would always be casualties but he needed to try going for the one with less killing... for both sides. There was a resolution in Ezra that Kanan had never felt before. It had taken him years to understand this about the nature of the Force but Ezra had learned it in his time gone… but at what cost? His bright light? His happiness?
“No,” Ezra said to Sabine. “How we choose to fight is just as important as what we fight for.”
Sabine half grimaced but nodded in understanding. She had also chosen to not inverse the Duchess power to destroy the Imperials completely back in Mandalore… in hindsight, she shouldn’t be doing this right now.
“You are right,” she said with a sigh.
Hera looked back at the ship with slight concern in her face. “I think there should be enough room in the Nightbrother for everyone here,” she said doing some quick calculations on the space available on the ship. “I’ll contact Rex and Kallus so they stay ready too… we will have to start working on how to cross the blockade in one piece.”
“Alright…” Azadi said looking at the rest. “You will have to use the sewers to get into the city while we get everything ready over here. Good luck.”
The team moved quickly through the sewer system. Azadi had given a map to Sabine and Chopper so they wouldn’t get lost and told them about the Rebel symbols on the walls too. They were already on their disguises so they didn’t have to worry about changing clothes to go undercover.
Jai arrived at the ladder that was supposed to be the exit. “Ok, this should be the one.”
“Old Jho’s bar?” Ezra said slightly glad to be back in a familiar place.
“Yep. We gotta be careful, ensure there are no Storm Troopers outside first.”
They listened closely and they were able to hear a heated exchange not too far away outside. It was Jho… and some other people.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Ezra whispered as a shiver ran down his spine. Jho was in trouble, but if they left now, the secret way would be discovered. They couldn’t risk it.
“WELL, WE WILL SEE ABOUT THAT. YOU WILL REGRET THIS!” someone shouted in anger and they could hear stomping following out of the bar. Ezra could feel Jho remained in the bar so he was able to breathe again… whoever they were, they had left… for the moment. Ezra and Jai opened the hatch and startled Jho.
“Is that you, Ezra?” the Ithorian did a double-take at the young man.
“Jho! Yes! It’s me. The others are here too,” he motioned the rest up. “Are you ok?”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle but-...What happened to you?” Jho said doing the Ithoran equivalent of narrowing his eyes in concern. He had known Ezra for a long time even before he joined the Rebels and there was something different about him.
“Many things,” Ezra limited to say with a sad smile.
“Too many,” Jho said understanding.
“What were they here for?” Kanan asked.
“Well, it’s no secret I don’t like them…” Jho said shrugging, but he was actually tense.
Sabine grimaced. “They sounded very angry. They will be back for questioning… maybe even arrest you.”
Jho was going to say he didn’t mind spending a few days detained like always... but Ezra suddenly felt a heavy feeling in his chest.
“Jai, take him back with Azadi, please,” Ezra requested him with worry. “He can’t stay here…”
“Uh… ok, I can do that,” Jai nodded.
“Ezra, I want to keep helping,” Jho complained.
“You have done so already,” Ezra assured him. Again, Jho was surprised. Ezra had always been the one needing help, but now… he was the one making the hard choices. "We still need you... we will leave after this. Come with us to Yavin."
Jho considered this for a second and nodded.
“Alright… I’ll grab some stuff and go… I trust you,” he nodded and quickly moved to get a small pack and credits. As soon as they were gone and the hatch was closed, Ezra and the others quickly made their way out of there, just to find a squad of Storm Troopers and a man who looked familiar to Ezra leading them… some kind of smug pilot.
“Hey, where is the owner of this bar?” he demanded looking beyond them.
“Beats me,” Kanan was the one with quick thinking. "He left all the patrons waiting. Not paying for this service. Let's find somewhere else to drink,” he waved the others to follow him out.
The man groaned in frustration and turned to the troopers. “You, check the place and the surrounding area. He might have made a run for it. And you…” he glared at Kanan and the rest. “Remember the curfew starts in a few hours.”
“Of course, sir,” Kanan nodded continued on his way.
They had to move fast before the curfew was in effect. Getting this close to the factory was already dangerous and suspicious as it was...
“Chopper, do the honors,” Sabine said pointing at the little service entrance the mouse droids used to come and go from building to building at the factory.
Chopper beeped with glee and ‘casually’ rolled closer to the entrance… and just when the first droid came to try to enter the building, he zapped it, stopping it in its tracks.
Sabine quickly approached them after making sure there was no one around and turned it upside down connecting a data stick to reprogram it. The mouse droid was now in stand by mode, awaiting her instructions. “Good… we now just need a couple more.”
Ezra and Kanan helped by keeping people from approaching their way with the mind trick.
“You should stay home tonight, not get close to the factory,” Kanan waved to a pair of young men that had been drinking and wanted to take a shortcut too close to the factory.
“You think you saw something suspicious at the market, better check every crate there,” Ezra waved his hand to a lone trooper out in patrol. The trooper repeated the suggestion and strutted the other way.
Ezra was starting to get nervous... until Sabine finally signaled them, everything was ready.
“They are loaded,” Sabine said. “We better move away…”
They walked a few blocks leaving the droids behind waiting for a new command and she took out her datapad.
“Here goes nothing…”
Pryce was overseeing the empty factory with the new manager.
“I want everyone to take double shifts,” she said glancing at the machinery and leaving the main building to the courtyard. The manager tried to keep her expression neutral but it was clear she had a problem with that order.
“Ma'am, but…” she tried to explain herself, freezing in her place when Pryce glared at her. “W-We have met all the quotas set by Grand Admiral Thrawn... we have had no more accidents or workers losses either,” she offered a datapad with the latest productivity and efficiency report. "See? Everyone is working diligently.”
“You think?” Pryce raised an eyebrow and scoffed. “I believe we can do better than that.”
“They- they might slip, ma'am. The Grand Admiral said this pace was acceptable.”
Thrawn, Thrawn, Thrawn. This was getting on her nerves. If it wasn’t for her, Thrawn wouldn’t have had a chance when it came to politics... sure the other boy, what was his name? Vanto had assisted them early one but now he had to rely solely on her. The man might have been a tactical genius in battle but he was completely naive thinking he could do things ‘right’. And now the people here respected him more than her? It was so annoying.
“Are you disobeying my orders?”
“N-no...! Not at all,” the woman paled.
“We must have the prototype ready before the deadline and test it. Thrawn doesn’t understand, but I do," she shoved the report back to the manager. "This is what the Emperor and other investors would like to see of the TIE Defender. He will thank me later,” Pryce said with complete confidence and a smirk on her face.
The assistant’s lips made a fine line, she was starting to sweat cold. She swallowed and did a last-ditch effort. “What if... instead of double shifts we increase the workload by 30%. Would that be enough, ma’am?” She didn’t want the workers to fail and look like saboteurs… she hoped Thrawn would realize it wasn’t their fault if it happened, but Pryce wouldn’t accept her own mistakes. She would surely blame them.
Pryce rolled her cold blue eyes. “Fine,” she finally conceded. "Increase the workload by 30%. And it must be perfect," but then as she was halfway out in the courtyard, something caught her attention. “What is that droid doing?"
“That droid... and that one?” Pryce noticed another one quickly passing by.
“Ma'am? Uh, that's a service droid-”
“I know that, you-...” Pryce growled but took a deep breath and massaged her temples. She was surrounded by idiots. “Service droids are not supposed to be active during this time in this area.”
“Oh, that’s right,” the assistant looked around finally noticing it was pretty strange.
“Of course I'm right,” she moved towards the droid. “Droid, stop!” She ordered it but it didn’t follow her orders. She narrowed her eyes. Someone might have tampered with it. “Call security.”
“...Uh?? …Y-Yes, ma'am,” the woman stuttered and fumbled taking her comm out and staying behind.
Pryce groaned and went herself to try to catch up with one of the droids. She will have her fired tomorrow and sent *somewhere*... She wouldn’t let anything getting in her way. Nothing would drag her down to achieve her goals, even the stupidity of the people around her. She finally managed to grab one of the droids. “Come here you little-…” she said raising it up from the floor even though it was pretty heavy. Wait, they shouldn’t be this heavy, she thought. It was definitely carrying something. And just then, she realized where she was standing:
The middle of the factory’s fuel depot.
The sky lit up and a thunderous sound filled the night.
Kanan had felt the explosion a second before it happened. His heartbeat skipped and he instinctively covered Sabine and Ezra even though they were out of harm's way. They felt the expansion wave and several windows in the vicinity shattered.
Ezra felt Kanan at his side and froze. He didn’t know how to react. He felt relieved… like something had been averted. Of course it did, he thought. The plan went well but he couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to hold Kanan in relief. Like… this could have gone completely wrong but it didn’t… and yet…their problems had just started. They needed to get out of there fast. He stepped away from Kanan, pushing that conflicted emotion down.
“There you go,” Sabine said proud of her work.
“I hope there were no casualties,” Ezra nodded.
“I think there were,” Kanan said with a neutral face.
“Uh-oh,” Zeb grimaced in worry.
Kanan shrugged. “Well, I think it was someone who we are not going to miss a lot,” he offered although he wasn’t entirely sure. He knew it had been someone who had wished them harm. “In any case, we need to move, Thrawn will surely start looking around.”
They entered another sewer entrance and this time they had to move stealthily because now it had Imperial probe droids patrolling them… likely an immediate order from Thrawn. Luckily, they already knew the way and managed to avoid them without raising any alarm.
They arrived at their secret hideout first thing in the morning.
“How did it go?” Hera received them with hopeful eyes.
“Good,” Kanan said, and felt like a whole world of possibilities had opened in front of him. Paths he hadn’t felt before.
Ezra was too overwhelmed by everything. He was just glad they were all alive… even Old Jho. He thanked the Force silently, and looked at Kanan receiving a hug from Hera. Kanan was also relieved about something he couldn't quite place. Ezra nodded glad that Kanan was happy with Hera. They just needed to leave now... and things would be alright.
Hera made a drawing on the ground of the positions of the fleet when they had arrived to Lothal.
“Ok...The Indertictor is the problem. No ship will be able to jump with that thing there,” she pointed at the drawing of the ship and made a circle of the area it affected.
Sabine crossed her arms. “Last time we dealt with those we had help from my people but they won't be able to come to blow it up... and even if we have the Nightbrother we don't have the firepower to make enough damage on the generator’s surface. The next best thing would be to disable it from the inside… but...”
“The spike feedback overload,” Ezra whispered, as the thought pop up in his mind.
“What?” they all turned to him.
“Remember when those sleemos hijacked Chopper remotely?”
“Yes, of course we remember,” Hera frowned and Chopper cursed in droid. Hera tapped the top of Chopper's head to calm him down.
“I think the feedback overload destroyed their ship, right?”
“That's right. I suppose the Inderticor is a larger ship and the damage wouldn’t be that much... but it should mess up with most of their systems… at least the generator for sure,” Sabine smiled.
“We will need a spike… Oh, come on, Chopper,” Zeb looked down at the droid covering the compartment where he carried his spike and tried to flee. Zeb grabbed him. “We will get you a new one, I’ll even pay for it.”
Hera shook her head. “There’s still one problem. There is no way we can get on that ship without getting detected and blown up first,” she said. She was the best pilot but even her would have no chance against the whole fleet for that long on her own.
At that moment, Kanan and Ezra felt a familiar presence showing up close by.
“Maybe there is a way…” Ezra murmured and walked away to everyone’s confusion and they noticed the wolf had returned and was sitting at the edge of the camp, waiting expectantly for Ezra.
“The... wolf? How does it keep doing that??” Zeb said nervously looking at him. They all walked behind Ezra. Azadi was at a loss seeing a loth-wolf and kept his distance.
Ezra approached it carefully. “Can you take us there? Into the ship?” He asked slowly, pointing up to the night sky. The wolf looked at the stars for a long moment. Everyone held their breath. Then the wolf gruffed at Ezra and stood up.
“I think he can,” Ezra said turning to them. “But it will be a one-way trip. It won't be able to get us out of there,” Ezra explained what the wolf was trying to convey. He was getting better at it.
“We could do like we did with Kallus. Pick you up from an escape pod,” Zeb suggested.
“If we are clear enough,” Hera added. She wasn’t so convinced about this plan. “But with the Interdictor down, we can call Rex and Kallus with the Ghost for assistance. I don't think the Rebellion will send anyone else tho…”
The plan was still too risky… but Ezra was ready.
“I'll do it,” he said with resolve. He was aware and accepted the risk.
“No,” Kanan gave a step forward. “We’ll do it. Together.”
Ezra stared at Kanan for a brief moment and his mouth made a fine line. He nodded. “Alright.”
“I'll let Rex know to stand ready. Once the Indectictor generator is offline we will take off from here and try to get you.”
“Oh, well, that explains it…” Rex chuckled when Hera reported what had happened at the factory.
“What do you mean?” she raised an eyebrow looking at Azadi.
“Governor Pryce was the one who croaked at the explosion,” Rex said and Azadi couldn’t help to give a sigh of relief.
“It's pretty much a scandal,” Kallus added. “There’s, of course, no official acceptance of a Rebel attack… they say it was an industrial accident, but several other Admirals are already blaming Thrawn for it,” Kallus said and Hera could almost see the smile on his face. “Thrawn losing the Governor AND the Factory? I wish I could have been there to see his face. Even a slight twitch...”
“That only means Thrawn won't stop until he finds us, we need to move now…” Hera ordered.
“Don’t worry, we will have your backs.”
Ezra mounted the wolf and looked at Kanan. “Are you ready?” he asked.
“Yes,” Kanan said and was about to get behind Ezra, but then Hera hurried to them.
“Luv, wait a second,” she smiled. She reached Kanan’s face and pulled him into a quick kiss. “For luck.”
Kanan gave her a small smile. Ezra looked away doing his best to keep a straight face. He was not jealous. He still felt like he had betrayed Hera for feeling like this. But this pain was his own to carry. The wolf glanced back at Ezra curiously and then to Kanan.
“Come back, alive,” Hera whispered punched him softly on the chin. Kanan chuckled and nodded, finally mounting the wolf behind Ezra.
Feeling Kanan’s warmth so close, Ezra took a deep calming breath, keeping his emotions in check.
“Let’s go,” Kanan patted him on the shoulder. Ezra leaned forward to whisper to the wolf.
“Take us there… please,” he asked. The wolf moved his ears around as if trying to locate something invisible and started to walk away… then it ran into the grasslands.
“May the Force be with you!” Hera said, while Sabine and the other waved at them... and that was the last thing they heard as suddenly the world around them shifted into darkness and stars.
I apologize again for the wait. But I have good news! I have the next chapter ready. It was supposed to be a single chapter but it got too long! xP I'll upload the rest next week.
Well, we crossed the Fuel Depot threshold and Kanan is alive (*happy dance*). When I watched Iron Squadron I didn't like it at first, but then it got me thinking that Mart's experience with having to leave his world would come around again for Ezra. I thought that was the whole point of that episode... to set up the idea, foreshadowing the fate of Lothal. I had seen an interview with Dave where he said something like "sometimes the good guys not always win" and how they handle that is also important. I thought for sure they would have to leave Lothal... I thought that was going to be what Ezra would have to learn to "let go". Just like Mart... he could either make a stand likely risking the team's lives or understand that he couldn't always win (as much as he wanted) and it was better to leave to fight another day. It disappointed me when they decided to blow up everyone just like Gerrera would have done. Even Sabine had decided against an action that would kill all the Imperials in the vicinity on Heroes of Mandalore, so I was shocked when their plan was to kill all the Imperials in Lothal without any means of escape. I hope I was able to give a good alternative with this story...
Now... they just need to escape Lothal. But that shouldn't be too hard, right? ...right??
♥♥♥ Please, leave a comment and let me know what you think! ♥♥♥
"Worst nightmares can also appear with your eyes open."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ezra felt like the wolf was running upwards, but at the same time it wasn’t the wolf. He was being carried by some kind of powerful flow of light and darkness. Kanan was there with him carried along. Suddenly there was a flash and they were thrown into hard cold durasteel floor.
Ezra was completely disoriented for a couple of seconds… and he realized there were two troopers looking in confusion… like they couldn’t believe what had just happened. Before they could say anything, Ezra used the Force to throw them away against the wall and knocked them out.
“Are we in the right place...?” Kanan asked, also regaining his balance.
Ezra looked around. “Yes…” he blinked in disbelief. “In fact he left us exactly at the generator chamber…”
The wolf knew exactly where they needed to be. He wasn’t around so Ezra assumed that’s why he couldn’t bring them back. His domain was limited to the planet...
“Quick then,” Kanan took out the spike and handed it to Ezra. He knew that soon more troopers would come as soon as the spike started to do its job. He prepared his lightsaber and faced the only exit.
“Hope this works,” Ezra murmured under his breath.
“It will,” Kanan smiled at him and he felt Ezra wanting to smile back but he couldn’t. Kanan promised himself that when this was over, he would talk with Ezra about… he wasn’t sure of what… all he could feel was that Ezra had given up something… and his happiness with it.
Energy started to cackle from the spike as it received information from a frequency Sabine had set up before they left.
“We might want to stand back,” Ezra motioned Kanan as the energy discharge increased. Sabine had purposely increased the intensity to make sure it affected the larger ship’s system. The panels started to short circuit around them and so did the main consoles. The normal lights went out and the emergency lights turned on all across the ship.
“It worked… maybe too well. It's disabling the ship,” Ezra said in shock.
“Grand Admiral, there is a problem on the Interdictor,” Karyn Faro turned to Thrawn. She had been at the sensor console’s side and saw the data arrive and suddenly get cut off.
Thrawn narrowed his eyes. “The ship is under attack,” he said calmly but walking to the port view to have a visual of the vessel. “It has been boarded.”
“Our sensors didn't pick up anything approaching…” she was trying to think how they would do it. Also, she could barely believe how calm the Grand Admiral was after all the pressure he had been through these past few days.
“Commodore Faro, prepare all ships for battle. The Rebels will attempt to leave the planet. Contact the Interdictor on open channels and order all able troopers to the generator room. Whoever is there must be captured. Alive, if possible,” he added.
“Yes, sir,” Faro nodded.
Just like Ezra and Kanan had expected, storm troopers started to appear and blocking the way out of the generator’s room. But they hadn’t expected it to be this many…
“Guys, we are on the way, get to those escaped pods!” Ezra and Kanan heard Hera on their comms but couldn’t reply because they needed to block all the blaster fire coming at them.
As soon as she broke through the atmosphere, Hera gasped and maneuvered out of the way of several turbo lasers. She cursed on Twi’lek and Sabine knew they were in trouble. A swarm of TIE fighters greeted them immediately after.
“Too many!” Zeb shouted from the turret with a hint of panic.
Even with the Nightbrother’s speed, they would not make it to the Interdictor. Suddenly a few TIE’s exploded behind them.
“Do you require assistance?” a robotic voice was heard on their comms.
“THAT VOICE-!” Zeb couldn’t believe it. It was Kalani! One of the Separatist droids they had encountered.
“We got some extra help!” Rex voice said.
“Grand Admiral! We got several ships coming out of hyperspace.”
“Rebellion reinforcements?” Thrawn turned with a slight frown on his face. Faro was also confused. As far as they knew, the Rebellion didn't have enough ships to spare on a single planet like Lothal.
“None are the identified as Rebellion ships, except for-” the officer looked at her screen in shock, just as the Ghost and the Phantom crossed in front of the port view at full speed.
“That’s Ketsu!” Sabine cheered recognizing her friend’s ship.
“Hello Bean, missed me?”
“We took the liberty of inviting a few people to the party,” Kallus announced. “Friends you made along the way.”
“Mart here!” He was flying the Phantom.
“Kalani here,” the droid signaled from two ships.
"Hondo, is here! I couldn't stay behind while you take all the glory... and the good ex-Agent Kallus said there would be some reward too? Yes?"
Rex cleared his throat.
There were three distinctive roars from three other ships.
“Was that a wookiee??” Zeb blinked and almost missed his shot to a TIE.
“Yes! The wookiees you helped escape… They were not too happy with me at first, but I told them you needed their help,” Kallus explained.
“Wait…” Hera frowned recognizing the remaining ship. “Gerrera! What are you doing here!?” she yelled.
“I heard you guys blew up the Fuel Depot. Nice one! You got them where it hurts. I had an idea like that a long time ago…”
“We know!” Hera, Zeb and Sabine exclaimed in disapproval.
“I got wind you were leaving and I suppose you could use some help.”
“UGH! Fine!” Hera evaded another round of turbo lasers barely.
“Hacking communications,” Kalani announced to them.
“Sir, all our comms are down. They hijacked our transmissions. I-I don't recognize this code,” another officer told Thrawn.
Thrawn walked to him, seeing the code displayed on the screen. “That is CIS code. Bring Senior Engineer Rudan, he's a veteran from the Clone Wars,” he ordered.
“Use analog short-range communications and signal the ships visually to coordinate the attack,” Thrawn continued talking calmly but he was narrowing his eyes at the new ships.
“Communications are yours. Do you wish to send a message to the planet?” Kalani asked, and Ezra finally had a chance to reach to answer.
“Yes! Please, let me talk to them,” Ezra asked just as more troopers showed up, but Kanan covered him and gave him a nod. Ezra started talking. “People of Lothal. We know you have suffered. You have kept your head down for too long... perhaps you have even joined the ranks of the Empire. This message is for you... I know you are scared and maybe you do not agree with them but you think there is no other choice to keep the people you love safe. But there is another way. This is your people. We have suffered with you.”
“Leave them before you lose yourself into that desperation and regret it forever. Don't waste your life making others suffer or ignore those who are suffering. Don't be part of that system. This is my wish for you. For my people. I know there’s a future for us. One where we are all free… And that decision is in every one of us-” the rest was cut off.
“Communications are back in our control, sir!”
“What's the status on the Interdictor,” Thrawn asked looking back at the ship drifting.
“The Interdictor's systems have failed one by one. The ship is going down!”
“Guys, where are you?” Hera asked with a hint of desperation in her voice. Even with their assistance, things were not good.
“Looking for an escape pod!” Ezra said as they got just enough time to bolt into a side hallway and they both ran.
But just then, they arrived at another crossing, with troopers from all sides. Ezra and Kanan waved their lightsabers, blocking the first barrage but even they couldn't block two shots at the same time. Ezra blocked the one to his head, and realized he wouldn't be able to block the one to his back... But Kanan stepped to the side to cover him and got hit instead on the side.
“NO!” Ezra yelled feeling Kanan’s pain through the Force. Kanan managed deflect another shot as he stumbled back but this one hit the belt with grenades of a storm trooper and there was a large explosion that sent them all flying against a wall. When Ezra opened his eyes there was fire everywhere. He moved to Kanan at his side.
“Ugh... I'm ok,” he tried to sit up but the pain on his side made him wince.
“No, you are not,” Ezra bit his lip seeing part of the charred shirt and an ugly wound. Ezra checked for his comm but it was nowhere to be seen and the one on his wrist was busted by the explosion… he had no way to tell the others Kanan was hurt. Alarms suddenly went off and felt explosions continuing somewhere on the level before them. “The ship is not going to make it. We need to get out of here.”
Ezra helped him up and used the smoke as a cover to flee through the dark corridors as more troopers came… there seemed no end to them.
Thrawn observed the battle calmly in front of the great port view of the Chimaera’s bridge.
“Interesting…” he murmured with a small smile. “Commodore, what can you tell me of their pattern of attack?”
Faro glanced at the battle raging outside and stepped at his side. He tended to do this, ask his subordinates for their opinion. Faro stared at the fighting briefly and frowned.
“It is not an attack, sir. They are defending the Mandalorian ship. I believe is the one we encountered over Atollon.”
“Good,” he said satisfied with her answer. “And what is its purpose?”
Faro blinked. She had just noticed something was not adding up. The last time, the ship had come from hyperspace to disable their interdictor, but the ship had been attacked before this one showed up...
“We are not sure when it arrived in Lothal. It must have slipped under the radar. It wasn't used on an attack to the factory either,” she started to recount the facts. “It was the only ship to come out from the planet. It must be the Rebel cell from Lothal using it to flee. Hera Syndulla must have come to provide assistance on their retreat as the Ghost is here too.”
“Partially correct, I'm afraid,” he nodded and locked his red glowing eyes on the Nightbrother. “The Ghost is not being piloted by General Syndulla. The flight pattern and maneuvers indicate a veteran of the Clone Wars, likely the clone known as Rex. Syndulla, on the other hand, is piloting the Mandalorian ship,” he explained and Faro was impressed at how easy he analyzed the battle. He gestured towards the ship. “Do you see the turns it takes? The pilot is habituated to a larger ship. Syndulla, without a doubt.”
“Oh,” Faro nodded as she now started to realize he was right. She still had questions. “I don't understand one thing, sir,” she asked and Thrawn tilted his head lightly acknowledging he was listening to her as his eyes continued to follow Syndulla. “What are they waiting for? Not like I want them to get away but they should already have a chance to jump. What else do they want?”
“Their comrades, of course,” he said with a sigh. “Look at the Interdictor. What do you see?”
She focused on the ship with concern. “It's going to explode soon. All systems have failed. We lost contact with the bridge soon after the first explosion…” Faro said scowling. Another loss… but it was all the Jedi at their tricks. It was the only blind spot for the Grand Admiral.
“And yet... not one escape pod has been launched.”
She was taken back for a second realizing he was right again. Her eyes grew large.
“Sir... that means-!”
He turned to her and nodded but gave her a calming smile. “Fear not, Commodore. Order the fighters to continue pressing the Rebels away from the Interdictor and prepare my personal transport.”
“What are we waiting for?” Gerrera asked also starting to get worried.
“Ezra and Kanan haven't left the Interdictor,” Hera growled. She didn’t want to give him any explanations.
“This is getting too hot…” he said.
“Give them some time!”
But he was right and she hated that. She had tried to contact them several times again without any response. They must be busy. They are finding an escape pod, that’s all. They were fine. They had to be fine.
Somehow Ezra finally found a row of escape pods.
Kanan was using all his focus to reduce the pain on his side and be able to walk as fast as they could towards the pods. He was pale and struggled to breathe but was still awake... he was weak.
They got inside one quickly and Ezra carefully left Kanan sitting in the front seat as he started to flip some switches but… nothing happened. Ezra looked at the control panels and... his blood ran cold.
“What's the matter?” Kanan said gritting his teeth.
“The system is fried. The spike worked too well,” Ezra stood back for a second, reality setting in. “The manual override it's outside.”
Kanan swallowed. “Oh.”
That meant one thing.
Ezra stared at the control panels and nodded to himself. He looked at a side panel and took out the emergency beacon, and started inputting some codes.
“Ok... keep working on that. I’ll tell you if we get company-” Kanan attempted to stand up but Ezra realized what he was about to do and gently pushed him back down in the chair.
“No. No. It's ok, Kanan. It’s ok,” Ezra’s voice was soft… almost a whisper. “You don't have to do it again. Don't worry.”
“I was just-”
“I know what you want to do… what you always do…” Ezra said. Kanan bit his lip. Yes, he had wanted to activate the manual override from outside, but Ezra had immediately picked up on this. But what left Kanan speechless was that Ezra grabbed his hand. For the first time since his return, he wasn’t avoiding him. “Please, just… just listen to me.”
And Kanan couldn’t do anything else. Ezra’s voice was warm and soothing. It almost made him forget about the pain.
“Kanan… I believe the Force brought us together. That my place was with you... in one way or another,” Ezra looked down at his hand, his lip trembled slightly. “You've become the most important person in my life.”
Kanan felt his breath caught in his throat. Why was he telling him this now? Something was building up in his chest, but he also sensed something… something terrible about to happen.
“This is my choice. My decision,” Ezra whispered giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
“Ezra?” his voice was barely audible. What did he mean? Kanan’s mind and thoughts were becoming hazy... he was growing weaker.
“I'm sorry,” tears ran down Ezra’s face and he let his hand go. Before Kanan could react, Ezra had left the pod.
“Ezra?” He finally found the strength to say the name louder and tried to reach for him, pushing through the pain. The pain didn’t matter. He needed to reach Ezra. Ezra needed him. But the hatched closed before he could get to him.
No, Kanan breathed. His hand was shaking. Not like this. He leaned against the door.
“EZRA!” He pleaded and banged the door hard with his fist… where did he get the energy to do it? “EZRA! OPEN THE DOOR! PLEASE!”
“She's waiting for you,” Ezra said with a reassuring tone but Kanan could feel Ezra’s tears.
Kanan focused all his Force senses on Ezra, trying to reach him. And he felt… he didn’t understand what he felt. The wave of affection overwhelmed him. It stunned him. What-?
He heard Ezra moving the leveler outside.
“No. Don't do it. We can-” Kanan couldn’t think of anything else to say… he felt his body going limp. He wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer. He placed his hand against the window. “Ezra… please, don’t,” he begged. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He was the one who was supposed to protect him.
Ezra stared at the hand for a second and slowly placed his own over Kanan’s, his resolve wavered. He wanted to stay with him so much. If Kanan was asking him to stay… maybe… They remained silent for a brief moment and Kanan felt a sliver of hope... but there was movement in the distance… the troopers approached.
Ezra was calm and nodded to himself. He had accepted this. To save Kanan, he needed to let him go.
“I love you,” Ezra said not only with his voice but with the Force, and Kanan felt him smile for the first time since his return. A real smile. The world stopped for Kanan. He felt Ezra’s light grow to a beautiful fearless flame that embraced him briefly. He could almost see him. “Goodbye.”
Ezra ignited his lightsaber and slashed at the external panel, just as the troopers started to shoot at him and he turned to deflect the fire and defend the pod. The energy activated the system with a short-circuit.
“NO!” Kanan shouted, using every bit of his remaining strength to keep the pod in place, to reach back with the Force. To hold Ezra’s hand again. To bring him with him… or to stay. But it was useless. The pod was launched, making the space between them grow and making it unbearable. He sobbed once but soon collapsed blacking out.
A laser grazed the side of the Nightbrother and Hera gritted her teeth. She might be the best pilot but she would have given anything to be flying the Ghost in this situation. She was far more familiar with her precious baby than with this one. She knew all the tricks and how much she could push the ship.
Another shot got them on the tail.
“KRIFF-!” she cursed and she looked at the radar, making sure the other were still flying. It was chaos… The TIEs were quickly adapting to their different flying patterns. That had been their only advantage so far. In fact, they were being pushed away from the Interdictor, almost like a wall. They could barely see the ship of the rest of the fleet on the other side.
At that moment, Hera saw Gerrera’s ship get hit close to the cockpit and a fire started inside. By a miracle, it didn’t outright blow up and, the next thing she knew, it was jumping away from the battle.
“Gerrera was shot, he’s gone!” Sabine confirmed. Dammit, she hated that guy, but he had at least come to help out of his own free will.
Chopper was frantically moving from console to console trying to keep the system working as it was being battered down. The rest of their little squadron started to get more and more shots… their shields dwindled.
“Where are they!? We will be next if-!” Rex said but then they heard Ketsu yell.
“WAIT! I have a visual on an escape pod!” Ketsu locked it on her radar and shared the coordinates with everyone. “Short-range signal matches the Fulcrum frequency!”
“It's them!” Zeb cheered in relief.
“WHERE?” Hera was now sweating cold. She needed to get to them. She needed to save them and get out of there.
“...Wait. No other escape pods?” Sabine asked frowning looking at the ship. Explosions were now starting to be noticeable across the surface. It was clearly going to go off, and yet… only one escape pod? “The ship seems-” she was cut short as their ship was shot again on the tail.
“FOCUS! WE GOT ONE ON OUR SIX!” Hera ordered her. She needed Sabine and Zeb to keep the TIE’s off her to make this maneuver. The other ships converged to provide covering fire to clear off a path. Going at thousands of meters per second, catching the 3 meter pod was something not even droids would try to attempt… something only Hera Syndulla could pull off.
“C'mon!! C'MON!” Hera clenched her teeth pushing the engine to the limits. The whole thing vibrated. She saw the pod floating in space. The Nightbrother zoomed in almost a collision course towards it. She flipped open the hangar doors in the last second and rolled the ship, practically scooping it. “I GOT THEM! GO GO GO! EVERYONE RETREAT NOW!”
All the ships started their evasive maneuvers and flashes started to go off as they left to hyperspace.
The last thing Hera saw was a swarm of TIEs trying to catch them and, beyond, the Interdictor silently drifting and imploding over itself. She didn’t wait another second and punched it.
The stars became lines and soon she was greeted by the swirling blue lights of hyperspace. She dropped back on her seat. She had been holding her breath.
“We did it…” she gasped. Her hands were shaking and she held them to her chest. “Thank the Force.”
Zeb hurried to the cargo area where the pod was. He was clapping and laughing in relief. “That was close!”
Sabine patted Hera on the shoulder and went back there too. “HEY! GOOD JOB YOU TWO!” Sabine grinned and walked towards the pod waiting for Ezra and Kanan to come out. Maybe now Ezra would open more? Maybe she could help him with whatever problem he had? They had time now...
But nothing happened.
The pod remained silent.
“Uh...Why haven't they...-?” Zeb blinked confused but then he became very still. “Is that... a lightsaber mark on the panel? From... the outside?”
“What...?” Sabine frowned and noticed something else on the window. A handprint with some blood. She gasped and hurried to climb to get to the window of the hatch. Zeb was at her side in an instant.
She looked inside. “KANAN IS HURT!” she immediately shouted seeing his form in the floor. Zeb didn’t wait for any directions. He hurried to open the hatch.
Hera had practically stumbled out of the cockpit after hearing that. “WHAT?” she reached for an emergency kit on the wall and ran to them... and she finally saw him.
Kanan was on the floor. Unconscious. Pale. Barely breathing. A blaster wound on his side. His face, his eyes still wet from tears.
Hera was shaken. She was only able to give Sabine the medkit. She had seen worse happen to other people, and she had always been able to stand and push forward in all kinds of crises but right now… Kanan had never been this badly injured. Not even back in Kaller. Sabine’s eyes were full of tears but her Mandalorian instincts made her continue to function almost mechanically. Zeb kep Kanan’s head in place and helped Sabine to stabilize him. Hera’s mind scolded herself. Snap out of it! They need you right now… they-...
“He’s… he’s gonna make it,” Sabine stuttered. “If we get back to Yavin, he’s going to make it. But we need to get there now,” Sabine finished patching him but her hands were shaking.
Hera’s eyes moved around the interior of the pod and she felt as if she was thrown into a gelid sea. “Where is… Where’s Ezra?” her voice trembled.
They all looked at each other as it started to dawn on them what had just happened.
“This was the only pod,” Sabine remembered, her lips trembled. “The ship’s systems must have... failed. Even the pods. Ezra… Ezra must have activated it from… from…” she couldn’t bring herself to finish, looking at the scorch marks of the lightsaber. She covered her mouth feeling a wave of horror hit her.
Zeb’s arms dropped to his sides in despair.
“Ezra... stayed behind… on the ship,” Hera’s voice broke. The image of the Interdictor silently drifting down and imploding over Lothal replayed in Hera’s mind. “Oh no… No… Oh Kanan… Oh no,” she fell to her knees at Kanan’s side and cried over his chest… she cried for Ezra and she cried for what this would do to Kanan.
“Ezra!” Kana woke up with a jolt. His whole body hurt and he felt numb at the same time. Where was he? What was happening? He must have been drugged up because he couldn’t focus on using the Force to feel his surroundings but he felt a warm hand holding his. For a moment he thought of Ezra… his words echoed in his mind like he had heard them on a dream...
It's ok, Kanan. It’s ok...
But Kanan almost immediately realized this was not Ezra’s hand.
“Yes. I'm here, Luv. It's me,” she covered his hand with both of hers. “You are safe. We are back on Yavin.”
She was right. This was their medbay. He recognized the slight smell of medication and bacta floating in the air.
“H-Hera... How's-... Where's Ezra?” Kanan tried to sit but he was still too weak. Was Ezra in another bed close by? He was still disoriented and unfocused. He just needed to make sure he was safe and then… and then... He felt his hand aching. Aching to reach him. “Is he ok?”
Kanan felt Hera’s hands twitch over his own. She remained silent for a second. It sent shivers down his spine.
“Kanan…” she started, her voice had become so soft. “Ezra… he… he wasn't with you in the escape pod…”
You've become the most important person in my life.
Things slowly started to come back to him. The gentle push. His hands together. The waves of affection. His tears.
“Kanan…we didn't know…” she tried to explain, but by his expression full of pain, he understood what that meant.
This is my choice. My decision
“I... lost him,” Kanan whispered, his hands shaking, his body trembling. “Hera... I lost him... I-”
I love you.
A sob escaped his lips and then another and another as Hera held him and grieved along with him.
I want you to know... it is darkest before dawn. Don't lose hope.
They got already a lot of unexpected help this chapter... perhaps the trend continues. I'm sending you all a big hug. Hang in there!
Don't forget to comment to let me know what you think!
"I wish I could wake up. Before the dream finishes me."
It had been a day. The longest day of his life. He could only compare it to the day he had lost the Jedi Order and Billaba. But it was different.
It was Ezra.
Kanan clenched his jaw as if he was in pain. Only Hera’s arms seemed to soothe him momentarily. They had been sleeping on his bunk, body against body, her skin soft and warmth. She caressed his head resting against her chest.
Once it was clear Kanan was out of immediate danger the medics had asked if they could make use of his bed on the medbay. Hera had tried to request a bit more time in the recovery section for him to heal better but Kanan immediately agreed to clear out. Someone else needed it more than him, he said. Hera sighed and nodded. Even if he was grieving, he was still a Jedi at heart… selfless.
Kanan would have to spend a few weeks resting. He was barely able to move. Hera couldn’t help but remember this mirrored the time Kanan had been blinded… but she could tell this could be potentially worse, both physically and emotionally.
Sabine had been working nonstop fixing the damage to the rest of the ships, and only stopped when Hera ordered her to get some rest. Hera would have to keep an eye on her, she thought.
Zeb was mostly quiet, patting Chopper who would wander into their room and give electric sighs at the absence of Ezra. Zeb had lost most of his people already so he wasn't a stranger to this pain… again.
There was only a small light in all of this… Now that Lothal had no Governor, elections had been called. Hera was sure whoever won was going to be just a puppet for the Empire, but Ryder had told Hera he had a hunch they would lack Pryce’s ambition. No one wanted to be responsible for Lothal now… because there had been a surprising outcome they hadn’t expected.
Also, Ezra’s sacrifice hadn’t been in vain. Beyond allowing them to escape and saving Kanan his last speech to the planet had worked. Ever since their escape a week ago, there had been a spike in the number of deserters from the ranks of the Empire of Lothal… some had left altogether trying to just stay clear of the fight, while others had actually joined the Rebellion.
There was a soft beep from Hera’s comm on the nightstand beside the bunk. She frowned and looked behind her, biting her lip.
“You need to answer that,” Kanan said softly and caressed her arm before moving to the side to allow her to sit up at the edge of the bed.
Hera sighed nodding and grabbed the comm. She had hoped they would give her a couple of days more to look after Kanan… but the war didn’t wait for anybody. Especially now.
Kanan’s thoughts drifted to the events of that day and he didn’t hear what Hera was talking with the Rebel command. He swallowed, his body tensing. It was happening again, and again. He couldn’t help but relive that terrible moment as if he was missing something. He had been too weak and his memory was hazy but… he remembered how he felt.
Hera sighed and her shoulders dropped.
“You need to go to a meeting with the rest of command,” Kanan said taking a deep calming breath.
“I thought you weren’t listening,” Hera looked back down at him.
“I wasn’t,” he shook his head. He could feel her reluctance to leave him alone. “Go.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’ll be…” Kanan wanted to say he would be ok but that wasn’t true. He wasn’t ok. “I can handle it.”
She hated to do this… but she had to do it. They were counting on her. She grabbed Kanan’s hand on her own gently.
“I’ll tell Zeb to stay here. Sabine is helping Rex fixing the ships with Chopper,” she said but suddenly, he felt his hand tense up, his lips trembled slightly. She blinked worried. “What is it, luv?”
“I’m… I’m sorry,” Kanan took a moment to take another deep breath. “It’s just...Ezra held my hand like this before he…”
Hera remained quiet allowing him to talk if he wanted… whatever he felt he needed right now. Kanan hadn’t actually said how everything had transpired and it seemed he was finally somewhat ready to share it with her...
“He held my hand like this and he told me... I was the most important person in his life,” Kanan ‘looked’ at where their hands were. “That he loved me…” he whispered distant, as if he was not entirely there.
Of course Ezra loved him. He loved his family. He was already going to go on that mission on his own to save them but Kanan had insisted on coming along. Kanan felt he had failed him even if Ezra had said it had been his choice…
The pain was clawing at him. At his heart. He tried to keep the emotion in line… tried to keep it from devouring him. He remembered Billaba’s words: Those emotions are valuable and should not be suppressed... but you must learn to rule them, lest they rule you. Strangely, this time he couldn’t hear it in her voice… it hadn’t come from the Force but from his own.
He didn’t notice Hera’s change in mood, and, obviously, not her expression. Her mouth slowly opened as the realization dawned on her, the words echoing in her mind.
He told me I was the most important person in his life. That he loved me.
She wouldn’t have thought twice about the meaning of the words before… but she remembered the moment Ezra had returned… how he had looked away in shame from her, how he looked at Kanan and how he avoided him so hard.
He loved Kanan?
Had Ezra actually loved Kanan that way? She gasped as the need to cry built up her throat.
“I’m sorry. Did I upset you?” Kanan apologized as he finally sensed the sudden wave of sadness and emotion on Hera.
“No. Not you, luv. I just-… remembered something,” she gave his hand a small squeeze and hurried to get dressed. Kanan simply nodded imagining she had remembered some other talk she had with Ezra, too.
Hera left the cabin and she leaned back against the wall of the hallway in disbelief. How could she have missed it? Many times Kanan had been impressed at her because, even if she wasn’t a Jedi, she could read people almost as if she had the Force, sometimes even better. But this… she was too blinded by their old image of Ezra to see what was happening to him.
“Oh Ezra…” she whispered covering her mouth and drowning a sob. All the time he had been back here he had kept his distance from the one he loved and some more. He had suffered silently, ridden with guilt, and then given up everything to save them, save Kanan. He loved him. Had she known, she would have told him it was ok to feel that way… there was nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps she would have even encouraged him to confess. She knew life in war could be too short… but…
She couldn’t tell Kanan right now. It would destroy him.
No, Ezra’s loss was still too fresh. The pain was too raw. She already had more than a few days to process it and realizing this, it was breaking her heart all over again. What would it do to Kanan??
She would have to find the time later. Perhaps Kanan would realize on his own once he had more of a chance to process over what happened. The pain must be overwhelming and he was focusing on handling that first. But if he didn’t realize soon... Hera knew she couldn’t wait too long either. To wait for him to accept the loss and then tell him about what she thought might have been Ezra’s true feelings might backfire.
Kanan deserved to know. He needed to know. Soon, she promised. She took a deep breath drying her tears and left to the meeting.
Kanan spent a few hours resting, laying back on his bunk. He still felt the wound… both physical and emotional. The silence was only broken by the sound of his breathing. He felt… empty. Lacking. Anxious. A choking knot was forming on his throat again.
He hadn’t felt like this since... ever. Losing Billaba had felt completely different. That had been final. Definitive. Back then it was more like ‘what am I supposed to do now’, rather than… ‘it’s not over yet’. Like he still had something to do… and every moment he spent here was a moment he was wasting.
But what? What could he do? Ezra was-…
He swallowed, his heart feeling as if it was being torn. No. Something in his mind refused to even think of the word. Don’t you dare.
But he couldn’t stay like this.
He had spent 6 months in depression because of the loss of his sight and he had nearly lost Ezra that time, too.
He wouldn’t fall. He would live. For him. He had to. He owed Ezra that much. Even if it hurt.
He wondered if this was how the other Kanan had felt. Ezra had said they had killed everyone and tortured him to become an Inquisitor… he could understand now how his counterpart might have thought in a similar but self-destructive way… While he wanted to keep living for Ezra, the other one might have kept on living as a punishment for his failure…
Kanan shook his head. He slowly sat himself up in the bed and took a meditating position. He needed to do something with this pain and this was the only positive thing he could think of.
Perhaps… Perhaps he could say goodbye… perhaps he could feel Ezra in the Force one last time. He had been too weak to reach out… but he needed to try.
He breathed evenly, slowly drifting into a trance.
When one returned to the Force, their personalities were supposed to meld with the rest of the cosmic Force… like rain on the sea. But Ezra had said he felt his parents briefly after they died… so Kanan wondered if he would be able to do the same. He knew the chances were slim… it was a long shot, especially because it had been about a week since then, but he couldn’t give up hope just yet. One last time.
He focused and remembered how Ezra’s presence felt before he sent him away in the escape pod. How his light had become like a phoenix, growing and embracing him before he-
There was light in the darkness.
He saw Ezra, actually SAW him, as he was now, a young adult, not the teen he had last seen climbing the Sith Temple in Malachor... but he was also lying unconscious and weak on some kind of medical bed... Kanan gasped and was afraid that reaching for him would make the vision disappear, but he couldn’t stop himself from softly touching Ezra’s hand.
Ezra whispered calling his name and it weakly rippled through the Force.
Kanan felt it in his soul.
Time was running out.
Even if Kanan could not see the surrounding area, he knew Ezra was in danger and whatever was keeping it at bay would not last.
But most importantly, Ezra was alive.
Just like that, the connection ended, making him gasp.
He practically jumped from his meditation stance and stumbled out of the room, almost bumping into Zeb who was bringing him a tray with something to eat and drink.
“Whoa!” Zeb raised the tray to avoid a collision. “Kanan, you should be in bed. What’s wrong?”
“He's alive,” Kanan said filled with hope, finding support on Zeb to stay on his feet.
“-what?” Kallus appeared on the other side of the common hallway. It looked like he had paid a visit to the Ghost to check on Zeb and him.
“Ezra is alive,” Kanan repeated himself, just a bit more desperate this time. Ezra needed them. Needed him.
There was a moment of tense silence as Zeb tried to make sense of this and Kallus watched Zeb's reaction carefully.
“Kanan... There wasn't... there weren't any other escape pods,” Zeb swallowed. He wanted to believe it but he didn’t dare to hope.
“He's alive Zeb. I just got a vision of him. He's wounded, but alive,” Kanan assured him.
“Do you know where?” Kallus asked carefully.
“No…” Kanan said, his mouth making a fine line. “Look, I need to tell Hera. We need to find him. Time is running out.”
“Kanan,” Zeb was still unsure.
“Zeb, please… I need to tell Hera,” he calmed down, to show he wasn’t delirious or something. Zeb sighed and nodded.
“Alright, alright, let's go,” Zeb said, helping him get going.
Hera left the meeting room in a hurry. They had told her it was an emergency and Mon Mothma and Bail had allowed her to leave the meeting early.
“Kanan, what is it? Do you feel ok?” She asked extremely worried.
“He's alive,” he held her shoulders and hugged her. Hera could feel the emotion in his voice. Zeb stepped away to let them talk alone.
“...what?” she asked in disbelief.
“Ezra is alive.”
Her mouth fell open and she had trouble finding words. “Kanan…”
“Listen, I know how it sounds,” he tried to calm himself back again. “I'm not making this up in my mind. This is not me projecting my wishes. He's alive, Hera... but time is running out.”
“How do you know this?”
“I meditated, I felt his presence... I got a glimpse of him.”
“A glimpse? Did you see him…? *See* him?” Hera blinked in shock. Kanan smiled warmly and nodded. Hera smiled back with tears in her eyes, but cleared her throat. “B-but did you see where he was? Who he was with?”
“I'm not sure,” Kanan’s smile disappeared. He wished he had gotten more info from the vision, but the Force didn’t just give everything you wanted. But he had a hunch. “Imperials, most likely. That's why we need to find him fast. His time is running out… we need to go and rescue him, Hera.”
She became very still.
“I don’t think High Command can reroute efforts into finding him right now,” she looked back at the meeting room in despair. That was actually what the whole talk had been about. They had just given her a mission because there was no one else available.
“Don't you believe me?”
“I do! You know I do. But I need more than your word to convince them. More than just a vision to start with. Command will need evidence... We don't even know where Thrawn is right now. There has been no word about him since the battle,” she tried to explain. “They won’t believe the Empire has Ezra because they would have surely made an example of him already… it would be all over the news.”
Suddenly, Rex hurried to their side.
“You two need to hear this,” he said immediately moving to help support Kanan walk. They were a little surprised but followed him back to another part of the base. Kallus was also just arriving with Sabine and Zeb in tow.
“Ok, what is it?” Sabine demanded, still with a smudge of oil on her face. She was frustrated wondering why they had told them to come right away while there was still work to be done, things to be fixed. Zeb was just telling her something about Kanan but...
“Even though communications from Lothal have been in lockdown since we left, we've been monitoring other signals from neighboring systems…” Kallus started explaining. “After what Kanan just said, I decided to double-check.”
“This just came in,” Rex hurried to turn on a holo-vid. “It was broadcasted just a few hours ago on a small local news channel... one of the few still left who haven't been completely taken over by the Empire in that planet. The channel have kept their head low and don't report on either the Rebellion or the Empire. Just entertainment... shows, cultural events, sports… that sort of thing.”
Kanan frowned… what did this have to do with-?
The Holo started playing.
“T-Thank you for accepting this interview…” a young fancy woman nervously said. The other person was none other than… Thrawn. There was a collective gasp from the specters. There hadn’t been any news of Thrawn's whereabouts until this. The Chimaera was nowhere to be found since the incident in Lothal.
“No, I should thank you for the splendid work you do for the people in Fesim,” Thrawn smiled and gave a respectful bow to the interviewer.
“Y-yes. Thank you. Well, we have to say we are honored to have you here. It was a surprise to hear that you would be visiting Fesim.”
“It is no surprise. The Empire looks after its citizens. After rooting out the insurrection from Lothal we wanted to ensure the rest of the neighboring systems were safe before we depart.”
“You... are you leaving?”
Leave? Kanan felt his heart pounding on his ears. If it wasn’t for the Force, he would have passed out already.
“The troops will remain here, only my personal ship will be heading out to the next sector and then… well, I cannot disclose our destination. I hope you understand,” he said on a slightly amused tone.
“Of course!” she smiled nervously. “Should we... should we be worried for another attack?”
“Not at all. We have delivered a critical blow to these Rebels. I would even say that I know people who are now sleeping peacefully by the light of Lothal's moon, " Thrawn said and looked directly towards the camera with a tiny complicit smirk.
"Did he just-" Sabine’s eyes bucked.
"I'll be damned," Zeb stared at the image in disbelief.
"Thrawn has Ezra," Kanan breathed feeling the world spin around him.
“We will be leaving tomorrow as soon as we finish resupplying.”
“He has Ezra,” Kanan repeated. “We need to get there… as soon as he leaves Fesim.”
“It is a trap,” Rex grunted. It was clear as day for him. Kanan nodded.
Kallus grimaced. “Yes but… If the Empire wanted to make some kind of ‘deal’ to trick the Rebellion they would have sent a message through other ways…but this…” Kallus gestured to the holo-vid. “This is very lowkey. This is something he is doing on his own…”
“Will you give Kanan and I a moment, please?” Hera said with a serious concerned expression. The others left.
“Kanan,” Hera held his hands.
“I know it’s a trap,” Kanan said calmly.
“This is the most obvious trap he's ever done. He's trying to lure us out. Lure you out,” she could almost tell this was a way to get Kanan.
Kanan nodded. “Ezra is alive and Thrawn has him,” Kanan said, his voice had become soft, collected. He knew what he had to do. “We need to rescue him. He's in danger. Thrawn said it. He will be leaving tomorrow. Whatever is happening, Ezra is not going to survive after that, I just know it.”
“I want to do that, but I can't-... I can't leave right now,” Hera said, her lip trembled. She had just been given another mission in the meeting. She was the only pilot skilled enough to go into another planet and provide evac to the families of some of their agents that had been discovered. She had in fact volunteered… she had felt the need to do it. She couldn’t go back and tell them she wouldn’t go.
Kanan wasn’t angry or upset. “I understand. The Rebellion needs you... just as Ezra needs me.”
She smiled with a few tears in her eyes. “More than you know,” she reached up to caress his cheek affectionately and gave him a small kiss. Kanan could tell there was a hidden meaning behind those words and this kiss but didn’t press anymore. “Take the Phantom. It's the only ship in good condition we have right now and you know it by heart.”
“Thank you,” Kanan nodded.
“Find Ezra. Bring him home…” she gave him a hug, careful of not hurting his side. “But if you can’t, please, just stay alive. Both of you,” she took a deep breath. “Go.”
“There’s nothing here,” Zeb growled worriedly looking out the Phantom’s cockpit.
“Thrawn said he would come to this sector after Fesim,” Kanan was sitting in the copilot’s seat as Sabine was piloting.
“Well, it is not like we can trust what that blue bastard says-” Sabine said but was cut by Zeb.
“Wait, what’s that?” he pointed at something in the distance.
“It’s a civilian shuttle, a light freighter,” Sabine frowned checking her radar. “It’s just… stationary.”
“It’s a little suspicious…” Zeb glanced around again. They were expecting the Chimaera… was this the trap?
“I think it’s him…” Kanan said with a serious expression. “Let’s get closer.”
“I have a bad feeling about this…” Sabine said but complied. As they approached, she picked up a short-range signal from the ship. “Huh. It’s granting us permission to dock with it.”
“Do it,” Kanan said evenly but there was a small tension behind that calmness.
“You are in no condition to fight,” Zeb reminded him.
“I don’t think we will have to fight… but just stay alert,” Kanan conceded.
As the Phantom docked with the light freighter Sabine put her helmet on and turned to Kanan. “Can you feel him? Is Thrawn there? Ezra?”
“No. I don’t feel anyone in that ship.”
When door opened… an assassin droid was on the other side. Sabine’s hands moved fast, raising her blaster. Zeb pointed his rifle, but Kanan quickly placed his hands on them and stopped them from shooting.
“Identify yourself,” the droid ordered taking a defensive pose.
“I’m Kanan Jarrus, Jedi Knight. Zeb Orrelios, and Sabine Wren.”
“Identity confirmed,” the droid said and then a recording started to play… with Thrawn’s cold and calm voice.
“Kanan Jarrus, welcomed aboard. I apologize. I’m not able to be there to receive you for obvious safety reasons... Please, proceed into this ship alone. The ship will rendezvous with the Chimarea as soon as you are unarmed and your comrades leave this vessel. Do not attempt to track this transport. The moment it notices any device has been attached or there’s any tampering with the computer, it will lead to the immediate corruption of the coordinates and will do a random emergency jump. There’s only enough fuel to make a single jump and the communications it has are only for short-range transmissions so you would be lost without a way to reach for help. There is a suit of Stormtrooper armor of your size in a chest by the pilot’s seat. You will be required to use it until we meet face to face. Ezra Bridger’s time is running short. I suggest you haste. I await your arrival.”
“That son of a-” Sabine said something else in Mando and took her helmet off.
Kanan took off his lightsaber and handed it over to Sabine. “Take it.”
“Kanan, you can’t possibly agree to this,” she complained with a hint of desperation in her voice.
“Thrawn’s right. Ezra’s time is running short. He’s in danger.”
“Because he’s with him! Thrawn will likely kill him! Kill you both!”
“If Thrawn had wanted to kill us, this would have been the best chance to do it. Blow up this shuttle with us in it,” Kanan countered calmly. “No. I… I feel he’s the only reason Ezra’s still alive in the first place.”
Sabine bit her lip and sighed having no way to argue with that. “I guess you are right.”
“I don’t see how you can get out once you get there. Not in your state,” Zeb reminded him concerned.
“I feel we will find a way,” Kanan said giving him a small smile. Surprisingly, he wasn’t too worried about that... as if escaping was the least of their problems.
Zeb’s shoulders dropped and gave him a hug. “Be careful. Stay alive.”
“I will try my best,” he smiled and his face became a little serious. “Tell Hera-…”
“I think she knows,” Sabine gave him smirk and a last hug before stepping back into the Phantom.
Zeb and Sabine watched as the light freighter separated from the Phantom and slowly pointed to somewhere in the stars and it disappeared in a streak of light.
Kanan struggled at first to get the Stormtrooper armor in place because he was still hurting from his own wounds, but he finished just as they came out from Hyperspace. He could not *see* the ship, but he could feel thousands of human presences in the vicinity. They had arrived to the Chimaera. He couldn’t yet pinpoint Ezra’s presence, his perception was still muddled, so when the door opened, he followed the assassin droid.
He was weak and struggled to keep the pace… but the Force fueled him. He passed dozens of Imperials when suddenly...
He felt him.
He could feel him. He was so weak. So much weaker than him. Kanan had stopped midstep and almost stumbled at the realization. The droid stopped and turned to watch him… was he processing if he was trying to escape?
“Lead the way,” Kanan straightened and motioned the droid ahead, making sure no one else was suspicious of him.
The droid continued… but not towards Ezra’s location. Dammit, he cursed internally. Kanan’s hands were trembling. What was Thrawn playing here?
The door to a new chamber opened and the droid stood aside to let him enter and keep guard outside.
As Kanan entered, he noticed this was a small office… and Thrawn sitting behind a small desk. This was not his real office… at least not the one Ezra and Kallus had described to him before.
“Welcome, I’m glad you made it,” Thrawn stood up and gestured Kanan to sit in one of the chairs.
“Take me to him,” Kanan said trying not to growl.
“In time,” Thrawn sit down.
“You said there was no time,” Kanan pressed… his patience was running thin.
“First I must explain your current position,” Thrawn said motioning to sit, again. “Please, I insist. It’s clear you are in no fighting condition. You may also remove your helmet if you wish.”
Kanan sighed and sat taking off the helmet. “What do you want?”
Thrawn seemed to be slightly surprised for a second by Kanan’s new look but continued talking normally. “I’ll be as direct as possible. My people require your assistance.”
“Excuse me?” Kanan was taken back.
“Your actions in Lothal have affected my standing in the Empire. I can no longer fulfill my mission as I intended. I have lost the use I had to the Emperor… and now he seeks to use me to likely invade and conquer my people.”
“Oh, so *now* you care what the Empire does,” Kanan couldn’t hold back a snort. But Thrawn’s expression remained unmoved.
“I always did. But justice wasn’t my mission. Survival of the Galaxy was,” Thrawn explained and Kanan frowned in confusing. “I was sent to the Empire in search of an alliance. Beyond Wild Space, even beyond the Unknown Regions, enemies approach us… they are worse than the Empire. My people have kept them at bay… so far. But one of them has slipped and even reached us briefly. I just had to deal with them, but it is clear the threat will only grow from now own.”
“I didn’t hear anything about an invasion...” Kanan said.
“You wouldn’t. It was officially reported as just a pirate raid. They have been attacking my people and now with the new orders from the Emperor I must make a choice. I'll have to leave but they still require help... Force help to be specific.”
Kanan became very still. “Why would we help you?”
“Because Jedi do not turn their backs on people in need,” Thrawn smiled slightly amused at the thought.
Kanan couldn’t deny he hated when amoral people like Thrawn used them like this. “It seems like you were able to handle them… Why not just defect? As far as I know no one knows exactly where you came from… not even the Emperor.”
“Yes, we managed to stop them this time, but they seem to be able to influence minds… some kind of brainwashing. I fear it might even be a type of Force power… one my people might not be able to defend against… unlike you,” Thrawn nodded to Kanan.
“Don’t you have Lord Vader and the Inquisitors for that?” Kanan scoffed.
Thrawn face became stern. “Lord Vader does not think this enemy, the Grysk, are a threat… Besides, the Emperor’s interest on my people has shifted from allies to potential servants…”
Kanan wanted to say ‘what did you expect’ but he knew better than that. He could blame Thrawn all he wanted to but he was right… as far as he knew no one deserved to be brainwashed into servitude or abused like the Empire did… He would do his best to help people in need.
Kanan sighed and massaged his temple. “Why is Ezra still so weak?”
“I haven’t given him full medical attention,” Thrawn said with a straight face.
“you-WHAT,” Kanan’s blood boiled for a second before taking a deep breath again to keep himself from punching or throwing Thrawn with the Force.
“I apologize. I couldn’t risk him fully recovering. If he did… tell me, what would Bridger do if he woke up here?”
Kanan calmed down and sighed. “He would try to escape. Take over the ship or…”
“Neutralize it. Yes. Even in a weakened state, a Jedi is a great danger to my crew. I have kept him stable and sedated at a restringed area of the Chimaera so far, only accessible to the medical and security droids. I brought you here because you are the only one who would be willing to listen to my proposition, and the only one Bridger would listen to.”
“Why keep him hidden away?” Kanan frowned.
“For the same reason you are wearing that suit. No one must know you are here, or I will be forced to either execute you or hand you over to Lord Vader. That is not part of my plan but I’m also aware Bridger might not make it if he doesn’t receive full medical soon… You must convince him to collaborate peacefully.”
“And if I talk to him and we refuse?”
Thrawn’s cold eyes stared at him. “I hope you would reconsider. I have one more thing that might convince you to cooperate but I rather not use it.”
“And that is?” Kanan asked curiously with distrust.
Thrawn remained silent for a second gauging if he should say it and nodded.
Kanan’s whole body tensed with a sense of panic. HOW? How did he found out their base location? AGAIN?
Thrawn was proud of himself noticing Kanan’s reaction. His suspicion was correct.
“Ever since the Battle of Atollon I have been investigating ancient Force art…sith and jedi art… attempting to understand it’s mysteries through them. The actual teachings are forbidden to anyone but Lord Vader and the Emperor, but pictures and old archeological data still exist. That is how I discovered there was an abandoned temple in one of the jungle moons of Yavin… large enough to serve as a base. I looked at the hyperspace escape angles of the Rebel fleets over the past year. Many coincide with it. It’s a strategically sound option for a base.”
“You-” Kanan’s hands formed fists trying to contain his alarm. Thrawn knew where the others were… everyone could be killed if he-
“I have given instructions of sharing this encrypted information with the Emperor if I was harmed or if I don’t check in every hour until you have agreed to my offer.”
“You really don’t give us any other option,” Kanan scoffed.
“You can always choose NOT to help my people. But it will not only doom you and your friends… it would eventually doom the rest of the Galaxy if we do not stop those enemies first. This is just a precaution. Will you speak with Bridger then?”
Kanan grimaced at him but sighed.
“Take me to him.”
Thrawn took Kanan to the restricted area. Just as he had said, only medical and security droids were allowed here. Even before the door to the room opened, he could feel him on the other side. In fact, he could almost see him. The vision he had before was allowing him to picture Ezra as he was now. He immediately moved to his side, taking off the helmet and quickly removing the gloves. For some reason he needed to hold his hand…
“Ezra,” Kanan whispered, gently grabbing his hand and letting the name ripple through the Force. Even if he was sedated, Kanan felt something stirring in Ezra.
Kanan grimaced. He was so cold… hurt. How could they leave him like that? He swallowed trying to keep his cool. In a way Thrawn was right. If Ezra had recovered it would have been mayhem here… he would have likely get himself shot or captured and sent to Vader… perhaps even turned him into an Inquisitor like they had done with him on the other world.
“I’ll talk to him. Heal him, NOW,” Kanan turned to Thrawn with a frown.
“Very well,” Thrawn motioned the medical droid to perform a full treatment.
As the droid worked, Kanan stepped back reluctantly.
“How did he made it out of the ship alive?”
Thrawn smiled. “We noticed the escape pods were not working early on. I headed into the Interdictor on my personal transport to evacuate the survivors. It is the same civilian transport you arrived in.”
“It didn’t register as an Imperial ship in our radars...” Kanan said slightly surprised. From what he understood it had been completely chaotic out there.
“Indeed,” Thrawn’s smirk would be bothering if Kanan wasn’t so worried for Ezra right now. “The Rebels were too focused on repelling our attack to notice it. On our last trip… just before the ship imploded, Bridger arrived wounded in full stormtrooper armor helped by another trooper who was unaware he was a Rebel. I recognized the ruse right away and I stunned him. That other trooper is the only one who has any knowledge of his presence aboard the Chimaera. He’s loyal to me and has sworn to secrecy.”
“You really think he won’t talk?”
“He won’t,” Thrawn limited to say and started to walk away. “I’ll leave you here. Do not attempt to leave the room. I’ll return when Bridger’s fully awake and you have explained the situation to him.”
And just like that, Thrawn left them alone.
Kanan had removed the rest of the armor. The last thing he needed was Ezra confusing him with a Stormtrooper when he woke up. Just then, Kanan heard Ezra struggling. Kanan frowned… it was still too early for that. The droid had told him it would be a couple of hours before Ezra was in any condition to wake up, but then Kanan realized what was happening. Ezra felt he was in danger and was instinctively forcing himself to recover faster and wake up with the Force. That was not ideal… not in his state.
“...mmgrh… gh…” Ezra grumbled and Kanan was immediately at his side, sitting at the edge and grabbed his hand.
“Ezra,” he whispered softly. Ezra’s hand twitched and he half-opened his eyes.
Kanan felt Ezra tensing up, but not in fear, but with hope.
“...Ka...nan?” Ezra said barely audibly, struggling to keep his eyes open… sedation was still in effect.
“Yeah. It’s me,” Kanan smiled at him warmly.
Ezra frowned. “You… ok?” the last time he had seen him, Kanan was the one wounded.
Kanan felt a knot on his throat. Even now Ezra was worried about his well-being.
“I’m fine,” Kanan nodded squeezing Ezra’s hand and feeling Ezra come to another realization.
“You... came back... for me…” Ezra’s voice trembled with happiness.
“I told you I’ll always come back,” Kanan said softly, opening himself to him in the Force.
Ezra felt him and started weakly sobbing with joy embracing the bond and trying to pull Kanan’s shirt closer, desperately trying to reach him but he had no strength left.
“Hey, easy, don’t push yourself,” Kanan leaned closer to Ezra’s face noticing needed something from him. “You want to tell me something?”
Soft lips on his own.
Kanan froze in surprise.
A kiss. Ezra was kissing him. It was soft and warm, yet passionate. So eager. Full of happiness and relief. Ezra’s light flared again hitting Kanan with a wave of overwhelming joy through their bond... but, just as quickly, Ezra fainted back into the bed completely spent. He was unconscious again but the main difference with before was that, even if Ezra was exhausted and tears were running down his cheeks, he now had a peaceful smile on his face.
Kanan stood there, completely still, his heart pounding in his chest.
Ezra kissed him.
"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ezra kissed him.
The fact continued to reverberate in Kanan’s head… just as the lingering warmth in his lips. Kanan slowly sat back straight, careful not to disrupt Ezra’s rest.
Ezra kissed him.
It hadn’t been an accident either. There had been purpose and longing and joy in his action.
Ezra kissed him.
Kanan took a deep breath trying to calm the sudden chaos of his mind and the beating of his heart.
Why-? How-? Since when did he-? Kanan’s mind was trying to process what had just happened. For some reason, the image of Billaba discreetly chuckling when he used to bother the other Masters with his incessant questions came to Kanan's mind-eye. He couldn’t help but smile a little at that.
The memory of her words seemed to spring forward from beyond.
Tell me, what’s in your heart?
His breath caught in his throat and he swallowed. He ‘glanced’ to his side, to Ezra, feeling his calming presence. He realized Ezra was now actually resting, filled with serenity… after the kiss, after his light had reignited… just like that moment before he sent him away in the escape pod when he said-
I love you.
He felt the world spin and then, one by one, all the memories fell into place since the moment Ezra had returned...
“Kanan-!” Ezra stepped forward but... he froze. The smile disappeared from his face replaced with dread and a hint of panic. He cut the Force link and placed a mental barrier shutting Kanan out immediately from sensing his mind and heart.
“It’s eating you, Ezra. Whatever it is… you have trapped it with you behind that wall,” Kanan pressed.
“I’ll be ok. It’s for the best. The best for everyone,” Ezra shook his head.
"You do not see me as your Master anymore," there was sadness and resignation in his voice.
"Kanan-, that’s not-..." Ezra stuttered.
Kanan slowly held him against his chest and Ezra cried harder...
Ezra grabbed his hand. "Please, just... just listen to me."
“You've become the most important person in my life.”
“She's waiting for you.”
“I love you.”
He felt Ezra’s light grow to a beautiful fearless flame that embraced him briefly. He could almost see him.
Soft lips on his own.
Kanan covered his mouth in disbelief.
Ezra loved him.
How had he missed it? His preconceptions of Ezra feelings must have-, well, blinded him. He had noticed a complete shift of their bond but with the mental walls up Kanan couldn’t know why and it had never crossed his mind it was because of this. That Ezra loved him like this. He was keeping his distance… saying quiet. He wouldn’t say anything even if he wanted… even if he needed… for him. For them.
" The Rebellion needs you... just as Ezra needs me.”
Hera smiled with a few tears in her eyes. “More than you know.”
Hera. Kanan frowned confused. She knew? She must have. He rubbed his face. This was too much to process so suddenly. He couldn't think straight. In a way, he was glad Ezra had immediately fallen back unconscious and he had a chance to try to figure out his thoughts. If this had happened when Ezra was fully awake, Kanan wasn't sure how he would have reacted.
His first response might have been likely to step back in shock. It might have hurt Ezra... That's not-...
That's not what he wanted.
What do I want? Kanan asked himself, his soul, his heart. He sighed deeply.
He wanted Ezra alive. Safe. His light to return to that embracing brightness he had felt before...
I love you.
His hand twitched. But could he return those feelings? Was he capable of leaving the image he had of Ezra behind? Their bond had already changed since the very moment he returned. Kanan had felt different, too. He wasn’t sure if this was enough... but then... he hadn't pulled away from the kiss either. That kiss... it was a kiss of someone who knew how to kiss. Of someone who missed his lips.
It dawned on Kanan that this might have started even before. There... on the other side. On that other world...
Had Ezra fallen in love with...?
Kanan's lips pressed tightly together, his whole body tensed in worry, but he took a deep breath and shook his head. Was he just a little... jealous? He chuckled tiredly. He knew he shouldn't be possessive or jealous. But jealous of himself, of all things? Yeah, this was all very complicated.
Without their past together... he supposed things would go easier between them. But what worried Kanan was that he had been an Inquisitor over there. He wondered what might have happened. Had he... taken advantage of Ezra like that? Manipulated his feelings for him in some way?
Did he hurt you?
Kanan had asked it... and Ezra had hesitated for a second. That made his blood run cold. He clenched his teeth pushing the thought aside and focused on the now, keeping his thoughts from going down that path.
I love you.
He did. Ezra had practically gave up his life for him. Those words and actions didn't come from a misguided heart. He was now remembering the memory through a different light, as if a veil had lifted revealing the truth… the reason Ezra’s light had flared to life once again. For him. Kanan felt his chest start to swell with a warm feeling… an emotion familiar to him but he hadn’t acknowledged it before.
They would have to talk about this. They must, but... right now, it wasn’t a good time. Ezra needed to heal, and then... they needed to figure out if they would accept Thrawn's offer and how to stay alive. Survive first, he thought with a tired chuckle. At least he knew the reason of their turmoil now and maybe he could handle it better.
I believe the Force brought us together.
Kanan sighed, a little calmer now. However this turned out, he couldn’t deny that he believed the same, too.
Ezra was happy. He had the most wonderful dream. Part of him didn’t want to wake up. It was Kanan… he had kissed him. He was here with him. Ezra was filled with joy. He wished he could stay here for a little while longer to hold him, kiss him… love him… but…
But it didn’t matter what he wished.
It was just a dream, out of his reach. He had to accept it. Kanan wasn’t there… Ezra would never return to that life and things here would never be like that. He… where was he? He could feel he wasn’t in the Ghost. Was he in yet another world? Another nightmarish version of his life? What now?
He was weak but there was still an urging from the Force in the back of his mind to wake up. To push through the haze. His body hurt. Why? He had a vague recollection of… Fire? Stumbling through the hallways of an Imperial ship? Someone helping him up? Red eyes that looked right through him in the darkness… Thrawn-
That made Ezra’s eyes finally open but the light of the room blinded him. His eyes were too sensitive. He attempted to move, to get out of there as quickly as possible, but two hands gently pushed him back into the bed and kept him from reincorporating. Ezra struggled for a fraction of a second as he reached into the Force to push away this person only to realize… it was Kanan’s warm presence.
Ezra stopped, completely bewildered. No, it couldn’t be. He was-…
“Kanan?” Ezra whispered blinking, and, slowly, Kanan’s face came into focus. He was sitting at the side of the bed… just like in his dream. No. Ezra’s face slowly filled with panic… it hadn’t been a dream. He had… he had kissed Kanan. Oh no. No, no, no, no! He had kissed Kanan! And… What would he think of him now?? Was he disgusted? Would he push him away-?
Kanan frowned noticing the sudden spike of anxiety.
“Ezra,” Kanan spoke, his voice was calming and clear but held a warning beneath it. “We are on the Chimaera,” he said informing him. That made Ezra’s eyes grow larger as reality finally hit him, his nerves were replaced by his survival instincts.
“That’s right. I was captured,” Ezra’s voice was a whisper looking at his surroundings. “By Thrawn,” he swallowed with worry. “He... He captured you too? Are the others ok?”
Kanan smiled and it made Ezra’s chest fill with light. “The others are fine. You saved us… saved me,” he made a small pause. “I turned in myself to Thrawn to find you.”
“You didn’t have to-...!”
“Of course I did.” It hadn’t even been a question for him.
“We…” Ezra stuttered a little and gulped. “We gotta get out of here,” he tried to sit up but a sharp pain ran through his shoulder.
Kanan again pushed him gently back. “Before you do anything rash you need to heal and... I need to tell you something else,” Kanan started. “Thrawn has a proposition for us…”
“A proposition?” Ezra frowned again.
“You are not going to like it,” Kanan sighed.
Kanan couldn’t see it, but he knew Ezra was scowling with a clearly displeased expression. He had explained everything Thrawn had told him… his offering, his warning… and his threat.
“I can't even throw him against a wall, can't I?” Ezra crossed his arms upset.
“Nope,” Kanan gave a small chuckle and that seemed to bring a tiny smile on Ezra’s lips… but the smile turned into a sad grimace.
“I'm... sorry,” Ezra said looking down. “You got captured because of me… now you got dragged into all of this...”
“No. This is not your fault,” Kanan shook his head, his voice fuller. “This is my choice. My decision,” Kanan echoed Ezra’s own words. Ezra felt suddenly overwhelmed by emotion and a few tears ran down his cheeks. Kanan felt the impulse of placing his hand over Ezra’s but fought it. He didn’t want to complicate things right now.
“But…” Ezra’s voice trembled and his shoulders dropped a little. “You deserve to be back with them... with Hera.”
Kanan felt a knot on his throat. Ezra continued to think not on his own happiness but ensure others had theirs. “I'm where I'm supposed to be,” Kanan whispered with a warm smile.
Ezra looked up in surprise, and felt his cheeks redden but shook his head, trying to convince himself he was reading too much into it. Ezra nodded trying to accept it for what it was… and dried his eyes with the back of his hand.
“So... we leave? With Thrawn?” Ezra said coming back at the problem at hand.
Kanan took a deep breath. “It will keep him off the Empire and keep the others safe too…”
Ezra nodded with a serious look in his eyes. It also meant, he would have to live with this secret in his heart along Kanan until… until they came back, IF they came back at all. Maybe it would pass. He doubt it but… his friends needed him, the Rebellion needed it. “Alright, I understand… I will do it.”
A while later Thrawn had returned to the room on his own. Kanan was sure then that there must be some sort of security camera around here… which meant Thrawn might have seen the kiss. Kanan worried for a second he would use that new knowledge to his advantage, taunting them, but when he entered the room, Thrawn simply gave him a neutral glance before going right to business.
“Bridger, Jarrus,” he gave them a slight nod to greet them. Ezra was sitting with some effort as he was still weak. “Have you reached a decision?”
There was a moment of silence until Ezra finally talked.
“We will go,” Kanan said straight to the point.
Ezra sat up straighter, glaring at Thrawn. “We will meet with your people… but if they are anything like the Empire... if they hurt others, forget it,” Ezra said trying to make clear what their conditions were to Thrawn.
Thrawn gave Ezra a small smirk. “Chiss are strict, but I believe you will find the Ascendancy to your liking,” he tilted his head with slight amusement.
“We will see about that,” Ezra grimaced and crossed his arms.
“So what's your plan to leave? We are not in the Outer Rims anymore, are we?” Kanan said frowning.
“Exactly. We are just entering the Unknown Regions territory,” Thrawn nodded. “The area we are crossing is a mostly peaceful sector... My plan is to abandon the ship during a staged attack in a few days time and fake our deaths due to a malfunctioning escape pod. That way my crew will not get represails when I defect. It will appear as if it was a terrible accident. This way, no one runs the risk of getting executed for treason.”
Ezra scoffed. “What? You care about people now?”
Thrawn narrowed his eyes at him. “They are loyal, capable and under my command. Of course I'll look after their well-being if possible.”
“You would still blow up people in the factory,” Ezra practically growled. Kanan remained quiet. That had been a very upsetting thing for Ezra… for them in general.
Thrawn remained calm, unaffected by Ezra’s anger. “A saboteur, responsible for several deaths of our personnel while they patrolled on their bikes. He was simply an enemy during wartime,” he explained logically. “That was then, this is now, Bridger.”
Ezra clenched his teeth and felt dizzy from being mad. He shouldn’t get this upset, especially in his condition. He looked away briefly taking a deep breath. Yes… it was a war. He grimaced thinking that if they had caught an Imperial right as he was sabotaging their vehicles, they would have shot first too. He hated that now… War. War had a way to mess with you… That’s why Yoda said the Jedi should have never joined in the first place. Ezra could see that now.
Feeling Ezra had calmed down, Kanan continued questioning Thrawn. “There are no maps or star-charts on the Unknown Regions. How are we traveling there?”
“Indeed, there are no maps of this area. I’m leading the ship entirely with my own knowledge of safe hyperspace lane routes… which are very few,” he smirked. “Without me providing the next set of coordinates, the Chimaera will be forced to return.”
“Then what?” Ezra said in a low voice still glaring at Thrawn.
“Admiral Ar'alani, a close acquaintance of mine, will show up and pick us up.”
“How long will that take?” Kanan crossed his arms seeing now the plan forming clearly.
“Admiral Ar'alani will have to wait to ensure no other Imperial ships are in the area to avoid being discovered... so a few days at least,” Thrawn said. He waited a moment to see if they had more questions but Kanan and Ezra remained in silence. Considering the explanation finished. Thrawn turned to leave. “Rest. Recover your strength. You will need to walk and wear armor again to leave this room when the time comes.”
“Fine,” Ezra rolled his eyes and that was the last they saw of Thrawn.
It had been a few hours since then.
The medical droid kept monitoring Ezra’s progress and injecting more medicine. Ezra begrudgingly allowed it to work but he was still worried about all this...
“Is this the right choice?” Ezra asked mostly to himself. “He's... not good.”
“Yeah, he isn’t good. But…” Kanan hesitated. Thrawn wasn’t evil either. Maybe that’s what bothered them so much? The ease of detachment Thrawn had was clearly hard for them to understand even if Kanan couldn’t feel malice on his offering. “We will see how it goes.”
“If he's not telling the truth…” Ezra trailed off, looking at the droid move to Kanan to check on him. Ezra bit his lip… of course, Kanan was still recovering too. He had been perhaps more wounded that he was but at least he had more time to actually recover than him.
“I don’t think he’s lying…” Kanan explained. Thrawn was hard to read, but Kanan could tell there was a concern. Kanan couldn’t deny that if Thrawn was worried about something then it must be very bad. He was just acting in the coldest logical way with this plan… he wasn’t driven by hate or revenge against his enemies. It was loyalty to his people. “But… he’s certainly not telling us everything.”
Ezra nodded slowly. He had felt it too. Thrawn had many other secrets. He just hoped they got the whole picture once they were out of this damned ship.
“We are going to make it back,” Kanan reassured him.
“I hope so,” Ezra clasped his hands together tightly, almost in prayer to the Force.
Kanan’s expression softened. “Remember what I said before? I know there’s a future for us…”
“One where we are all free...” Ezra looked down, a sad smile adorning his lips. Of course he remembered. He would always remember.
They would return one day. Together. It was a promise.
Ezra bit his lip, his hands tensing.
“Kanan, I…” Ezra started but his voice died out on his lips. Something held him back. Kanan placed a hand on his shoulder, encouraging him to lay back down.
“Sleep. You need to recover…”
Ezra fidgeted a little with his hands but finally nodded. He turned to his side and fell asleep faster than any of them expected. His body and the Force knew he would need all his strength soon.
Kanan had been sitting in the closest chair…resting... meditating… thinking... feeling. He could sense Ezra had fallen into a restorative trance while sleeping. It wasn’t bacta but it was better than nothing. The medicine was already making its effect anyway, but the Force would boost even that. And… Kanan could still almost see him. Ezra’s face mostly relaxed although he carried a small frown, the concern of their future and what Kanan assumed was the question about the kiss. But he was handling it a lot better. Ezra wasn’t being consumed by his secret like before. He wasn’t trying to avoid him and keeping his distance. He was sad but much calmer. Why? Kanan wondered. What had made the difference? The kiss itself? Did he have such an effect on him?
He was thinking this when Ezra stirred slowly awake, slightly confused, looking at his surroundings again. Weird, Kanan thought, Ezra shouldn’t be under the effects of the anesthetics anymore. There was no reason for him to be confused waking up.
“Do...do you hear that?” Ezra said with a serious tone, frowning, more alert now.
Kanan paused and… listened. He heard nothing… but… he opened his senses to the Force. His body tensed.
“I do,” Kanan swallowed. Something big was close. Something outside the Chimaera. In the Hyperspace lane with them. “Is that…?”
“Yes,” Ezra said sharing a small smile with him... but it disappeared quickly realizing what might actually happen next. “Oh no… OH NO.”
They both got up immediately, Kanan helping him out of the bed and moved to the door. The Assassin Droid was there blocking the way outside.
“You are not allowed out of this room ,” it warned in its robotic voice and blocked the exit, raising its blaster. It still had instructions of keeping them inside.
“We need to talk to Thrawn!” Ezra said desperately, trying to look behind it. There was no one there. Just as Kanan had told him, this hallway was off-limits at the moment.
“It's urgent,” Kanan pressed clenching his teeth. The presence was so much clearer now… which meant they were running out of time.
“You are not allowed out of this room.”
Ezra’s nostrils flared. “Listen here you metal-”
“What is it?” Thrawn’s voice came from the droid, as if it was serving as a comm-link itself.
Ezra didn’t lose time. “Thrawn, listen to us, you need to veer the Chimaera off this hyperspace path. Now!”
“Why?” Thrawn’s voice was a whisper. They could hear people talking in the background. He must have his personal comm linked to an earpiece to avoid suspicion.
“Just-” Even Kanan was starting to lose his patience too.
“We got a feeling ok? If the ship doesn't stop now we are going to crash into-”
“Emergency drop. Now, ” they heard Thrawn command. He must have been in the bridge then.
Almost immediately, they felt the ship leaving hyperspace. Ezra tensed. Had they done it in time? For a second the droid remained silent but they could tell the transmission with Thrawn was still ongoing… but they were all quiet on the bridge. Ezra and Kanan could feel a wave of shock and confusion from the people on the ship.
“Evasive maneuvers!” Thrawn voice boomed. They could hear everyone on the bridge springing to action and they actually felt the Chimaera take a desperate turn… and suddenly everything shook. The Chimaera had hit something.
“What is that!?” Someone dared to ask out loud.
Ezra bit his lip. Purrgils. That’s what it was… a huge pod of them. He remembered Hera’s words...
The purrgil are dangerous. They wander into hyperspace lanes, crash into ships. I lost more than one friend that way.
Ezra stumbled and Kanan held him up when the ship shook again.
“SIR! Starboard has been breached!”
“Seal the affected sector. All personnel to your battle stations,” Thrawn ordered.
Ezra’s eyes widened in worry. “Thrawn, don't hurt them,” he half pleaded, half demanded. “They are just defending themselves!” Ezra could tell the creatures were enraged. The Chimaera had hit a few and now the whole pod turned against them.
“So are we,” Thrawn limited to say in a tense and low voice. Ezra was going to complain, but the Chiss continued. “The plan is in effect. Suit yourselves. Grab the access cylinder on this droid. Get to the escape pods and place the access cylinder in the terminal. It will load launch instructions and appear to blow up. Ar'alani will take more time to reach us. You must wait for us then,” he said and Ezra could barely believe what was going on. “Override Code Vanto: Permission to leave this room granted,” Thrawn said and the droid changed from his defensive pose to a neutral one.
“Wait. It will appear to blow up? Or actually blow up? Is it safe?” Kanan asked. He had meant to ask for more details on that part later.
“Should we use a seat belt then?” Ezra tried to joke.
“You must,” Thrawn said dryly. They both grimaced.
“What about you?” Ezra asked again. He was supposed to come with them, right?
“I'll get on a different escape pod. Go,” the Chiss ordered and continued to give commands to the bridge. The feed cut of as another rumble could be heard in the distance.
“So much for staging an attack,” Kanan snorted and they moved to quickly dress in the Stormtrooper uniforms.
“Well, we just saved his blue skin and his crew’s,” Ezra chuckled, although moving to dress was a little painful. “I’m going to remind him that for as long as I can.”
They couldn’t help but laugh at that. Ezra was laughing. It felt like ages since he had laughed. Even if they were in danger… it felt right. It felt similar to what they used to have. The banter, the laughs, the jokes… but it was, of course, different. Ezra knew it would never be the same as before… or the same as with the other Kanan either. But they were alive. Kanan was alive and well.
Kanan felt Ezra’s light shine for a moment with resolution and… he couldn’t help but ‘stare’ in awe. Hearing Ezra laugh after all this time made something stir inside of him as well. A strong emotion blooming in his heart.
Perhaps noticing his attention on him, Ezra cleared his throat and controlled his little outburst of emotion. He wasn’t using the mental walls anymore because he was simply too weak but… it didn’t matter. If he had kissed Kanan… there was no point in hiding anything right now, and Kanan wasn’t trying to read him anymore. “We should hurry,” Ezra said, his cheeks redding. “If I’m outside, I might be able to calm purrgil down.”
Kanan nodded slowly. They took the cylinder the droid offered and started their way to the more populated area of the ship.
They walked as quickly as possible through the ship, but it was getting too hard on Ezra to keep his back straight. His whole body was complaining in pain. Too soon to be walking around… but he pushed through. They arrived at the hallway that lead to the row of escape pods and stopped. Everyone else was rushing to their battle stations, but this area seemed barely unaffected by the purrgil attack. Kanan frowned. If they went to an escape pod right now… they might arise suspicion.
Ezra seemed to have the same concern.
“We need to make this look believable,” Kanan whispered.
“I can make it look believable,” Ezra smirked mischievously. “You don’t think Thrawn will mind if we scratch this side of the ship, right?”
“It won’t be his ship anymore,” Kanan shrugged. “But are you sure?” Kanan questioned, realizing he meant attracting the purrgils attention. “You are still weak.”
“I can manage,” Ezra took a deep and leaned against the durasteel wall for support while he concentrated. He closed his eyes and reached out to the creatures.
They were upset. This thing had bumped into them. One of the calves had panicked and ran into it. The others had reacted immediately to defend it. Now, the thing was attacking them… but… they immediately noticed Ezra’s presence. A few of them felt familiar… perhaps part of the pod Ezra had encountered years ago. Some of them moved to this side to investigate.
Careful. They are scared too. They didn’t mean to crash into you. But… I need your help. Please, bump it on this side… and a little at the top too.
Ezra tried to communicate with them. There were so many… and he was too weak. He feared they would not be able to hear him or understand him.
But they did. The largest one moved to the top of the Chimaera, around the command center, gracefully avoiding the incoming fire and slammed several tentacles against it. There was an explosion there.
“Oops,” Ezra winced. “Well, that should give Thrawn an excuse to jump into an escape pod.”
“They are coming,” Kanan said and Ezra could feel his hand on his shoulder. “Brace yourself.”
Kanan moved in front of him, protecting Ezra against the wall, just as two purrgils rammed from outside. They felt the sudden pull of decompression and Ezra regretted not moving to a safer area before doing this, but luckily the energy shield blocked the void quickly. The damage was done. There were people quickly rushing around them in panic, trying to get away from there… fire and smoke broke out.
For a moment, it was as if they were back at the Interdictor. Ezra froze with that memory. Sending Kanan away… staying to face his death. Trying to escape… trying to make his way back to them… to him.
He was brought out of those thoughts by Kanan gently grabbing his wrist. “I'm not leaving you,” he assured. “We leave together.”
Ezra looked at him, and even if he had his helmet on, he could feel his soft expression through the Force. He nodded and quickly followed him to the escape pods. A few, in fact, had already been used.
They entered and rushed to the controls. “Ok, quick!” Ezra grabbed the cylinder and placed it on the terminal. The pod immediately closed the hatch and prepared it’s systems, automatically making some calculations. They hurried to sit side by side and put the seatbelts on. Ezra was about to remove his helmet, but Kanan stopped him.
“No,” he shook his head. “Keep it on. For safety.”
He had barely said that when the pod launched.
Kanan closed his eyes to check the situation on the Chimaera. There was confusion but things were calming down.
Then, he felt the purrgils following them.
“Uh-oh...” Ezra grimaced. “They are curious-” but Ezra couldn’t finish that thought.
The explosion that Thrawn had promised, happened. They cursed out loud and gritted their teeth as the pod went whirling to a nearby planet. The only thing keeping them from being thrown around were the seatbelts.
“HE WASN'T KIDDING!” Kanan shouted.
“I HATE WHEN HE'S RIGHT!” Ezra responded back.
“The purrgil are coming to help us!” Kanan said. The creatures were now actually rushing to help them. Bless their hearts, but they would get in the way of the plan.
“KRIFF,” Ezra closed his eyes and trying to concentrate even if he was being spun around in all this chaos.
It’s ok! We are ok! Don’t worry! Leave now. I don’t want you to get hurt either. It’s ok!
The purrgils begrudgingly stopped their chase and turned back to the pod as they moved away from the Chimaera. They opened their tentacles and flashed away from the fight.
The explosion, Ezra noticed, had in fact left the pod without propulsion. They were now in course to the nearest habitable planet… But without propulsor… how were they supposed to land safely? Was Thrawn thinking they would actually survive re-entry and landing like this?
Ezra gritted his teeth and, as the pod entered through the atmosphere, he instinctively grabbed Kanan’s hand just as the ground came closer. Kanan entwined their fingers in response.
The propulsors flared to life in the last second to soften the crash, but even then, the impact knocked them out.
They are healing and finding each other in a new light. They are finally going to talk about this too...
We are approaching the end of this story. It might be one or two chapters more, depending on how long the next part gets. I'm glad you have continued to support me with your wonderful comments. Please, don't forget to leave your thoughts here, I would love to know what you think of the story so far.
“Love was just a word until I heard it from you.”
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everything was silent.
Their hands were still entwined when Kanan woke up with a sharp pain in his foot. Thankfully, he realized it wasn't broken. He had been fighting long enough to know it was just painfully sprained. He opened his eyes, but, of course, he couldn’t see anything. It was still a habit he would never get rid of. His head hurt and he struggled to concentrate on sensing his surroundings for a moment. The escape pod was on its side, leaving them slightly hanging, their seatbelts still keeping them in place.
He immediately turned to Ezra and noticed his body was limp and still. Kanan felt a shiver run down his spine... he fought the nauseous feeling starting to take hold from the pit of his stomach. Ezra couldn’t be-...
“Ezra…” he said softly and squeezed his hand gently. “Ezra?”
No response. No. Please. Kanan took his own helmet off and moved Ezra just a bit more strongly, avoiding to shake him in case he was hurt.
“Ezra? Can you hear me?” he asked again carefully removing his stormtrooper helmet and gently cupping his cheek. Kanan’s whole body was ready to jump into action to check for wounds but then, Ezra’s face twitched and he stirred grunting.
“Ugh... I hear you,” he nodded.
“Thank the Force,” Kanan breathed in relief and his heart swelled, and he suddenly wanted to kiss him in joy-... He froze for a second. Yes. He just had the urge to kiss Ezra. To share a soft joyful kiss like the one Ezra had given him before. His face warmed up briefly but he pushed past that sudden realization. This was not the time for that…
But then when? It had to be soon.
Ezra grunted again opening his eyes. “I think it was more thanks to the helmet this time,” he confessed and massaged his head. He looked up at Kanan. “Are you hurt?”
Kanan had turned serious and released his belt, dropping from the seat. “Hold on,” he turned to check Ezra again, careful not to put weight on his foot.
“Kanan, are you hurt?” Ezra pressed with concern noticing some pain through the Force.
“Sprained my ankle,” Kanan limited to say. He didn’t want to worry him for such a small thing.
“You shouldn't be-” Ezra complained trying to get his belt opened and keep Kanan from walking around hurt, but his hands seemed too weak to release the lock.
“Let me help you down,” Kanan reached to the belt and Ezra dropped into his arms.
“I’m fine, I-,” Ezra he assured Kanan and he quickly tried to stand up, because he didn’t want to add weight to Kanan’s sprained ankle, but as soon as he moved off him, his legs became weak, wobbly. Kanan barely managed to catch him again before he fell to the ground.
“You are not fine.”
Ezra couldn’t deny it. “I think I need to lie down for a minute,” he said feeling slightly nauseous. The adrenaline of the moment was over. All the energy he used to push himself out of the bed for their escape had been spent, and it was time for payback. Kanan held him up from his side and they struggled together to slowly exit the pod. They stumbled outside, falling on their knees and then lying down on the ground to catch their breaths.
“We made it,” Ezra whispered looking at what was left of the crashed escape pod.
They made it. They were alive. Maybe more than a little hurt but at least still in one piece.
They were alive, together.
They both smiled tiredly but remained silent for a few minutes, simply recovering from their ordeal.
Ezra was the first one to talk, grabbing a small pebble close to his hand. “I'll have some words with Thrawn. ‘ I’ll make it look like an explosion’ ,” he did a very accurate impression of the Chiss and snorted, weakly throwing the pebble at the general direction of the pod. “The thing actually blew up! Ugh, I can already hear what he will say…”
Kanan smirked. “What would he say?”
“ ‘But did you die?’ ” Ezra said very close to Thrawn’s voice.
They laughed a little at that but ended up wincing because their sides hurt.
“Do you think he made it out?” Ezra looked at the sky to where he assumed was still the Chimaera.
“He’s not dead, so I suppose he did,” Kanan said. He would have liked to make sure by meditating with the Force but there was something he needed to do first. He sat up and after a moment he took a deep breath and stood up again.
“Kanan, you shouldn't move,” Ezra’s voice was soft and concerned for his well being. He turned on his side with a worried expression that even though Kanan couldn’t see, he could feel it clearly.
“It will be just a moment…” Kanan reassured him as he limped carefully back into the pod to grab two things: the signal beacon and the medkit on the wall. Satisfied with this, he returned outside to Ezra’s side.
“I don't expect anything good in there,” Ezra said grimacing looking at the medkit. “Remember what Zeb said? The medkits didn't have much when they crashed in that moon. Zeb had to use the borifle as a splint on Kallus.”
Kanan smirked. “I have a hunch Thrawn would have better-stocked medkits in his ship.”
He opened the case and Ezra gasped seeing it was filled with all kinds of pills, vials, patches, bandages and even a few rations.
“He does care for his crew…” Ezra was more than surprised. Thrawn hadn’t been lying. He looked after people under his command. Maybe… they had it wrong all this time? His thoughts were interrupted by Kanan’s hand on his shoulder.
“You will have to tell me what's what…” Kanan handed him one of the vials. Ezra was confused for a second but then realized what he meant. Kanan couldn’t read the labels.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Ezra reached to the contents and started lying them between them, saying what each med was… an antibiotic, pain killers, anti-inflammatory, and a bunch of other things he wasn’t sure he was pronouncing correctly... but when he was almost done, he started to feel dizzier and the words seemed to dance in front of him. “Yeah, I think I have… vertigo… or something,” he said placing down a bottle.
“It might be a concussion,” Kanan frowned.
“Add it to the list,” Ezra massaged his eyes. Kanan reached for one of the medicines and handed it over to him.
“Take one of those,” Kanan said. “Lie back again and don’t use the Force other than to heal right now, alright?” Kanan had his fair share of concussions while working against the Empire and had a pretty good idea of what Ezra might need.
“Yeah,” Ezra said nodding and took a pill from the bottle, swallowed it and lay back on the ground. He wondered how long it would take his body to recover all his strength. Kanan looked slightly better because he had been actually treated on the Rebel medbay far longer than him. Ezra sighed looking at his side.
Kanan took a small brace from the medkit case, perfect for his foot. He also took a couple of painkillers but made a mental note to keep the use of those limited. He didn’t want to muddle his senses if the medicine gave him side effects.
“Can you sense the Chimaera?” Ezra asked him curiously, turning his attention to the sky again.
“It's too far away and I’m too weak too… but I think they will stick around a bit to count their losses and figure out what to do without Thrawn.”
“Thrawn said they would have to return to the Empire territory,” Ezra frowned looking at the bluish sky, but then reached for the beacon Kanan had left between them. He examined it with a concerned expression, checking some of the settings that were active. “The beacon is... sending some kind of encrypted signal.”
“It could be a secret signal for Thrawn's people...” Kanan offered as he finished taking care of his foot.
“Yeah, I guess,” Ezra murmured. He was far from an expert on these kinds of things. Sabine would know for sure but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a hunch. “I don't think the Empire would be able to pick up this signal… seems on a different frequency or something.”
Kanan chuckled satisfied. He had to give it to Thrawn. Now they just hoped they would only require to wait.
“What else do we have?” Ezra left the beacon with the rest of the things too.
“There are enough rations to last us a week, I think,” Kanan passed a hand over small packages and pill containers. They would certainly not go hungry. He thought that maybe they would be able to get something edible from their surroundings but… that would be trickier. He reached out briefly to his surroundings, finding it devoid of large fauna. While there was some vegetation, most of the area was rocky with a few patches of trees and bushes. “Well, at least we have everything we need for a few days here,” Kanan took a deep breath feeling exhausted from the strain of that connection.
“Kanan, you need to rest too,” Ezra looked at him with a serious face. “You told me I should rest and only use the Force to recover… I’d say the same to you.”
“I’m fine...” he tried to reassure him with a smile, but Ezra would not be so easily convinced.
“Kanan,” Ezra pleaded this time with a little more urgency. Ezra had wanted to reach for his hand but held himself back.
Kanan’s expression softened. “Alright, I’ll rest too,” he said accepting that it would be worse for both of them if he collapsed from exhaustion.
Ezra smiled in relief. Ezra remained where he was while Kanan moved to sit back, leaning against the pod and closing his eyes.
It was already sunset and starts showed up brightly above them.
After a while, Ezra assumed the medicine he had taken was already working because he didn’t feel nauseous anymore. Ezra tried to sleep to recover even faster but he couldn’t help but think about Kanan and what happened back in the Chimaera. Ezra had kissed him… accidentally. He thought it had been a dream…
And then… Kanan had been behaving as if nothing had happened. Ezra had been worried about his reaction from the moment he had returned to this reality, fearing Kanan would outright reject him if he ever found out that he had feelings for him. But so far… things were calm. In fact… things felt better than how they were initially.
He turned on his side, giving his back to Kanan. He held himself and rubbed his arms to warm himself.
It seemed like… like he didn’t mind. Maybe he will just ignore it, Ezra thought frowning with worry. Just like Sabine had turned him down but kept regarding him as someone close. Someone she would do anything else for. They were still friends… they meant a lot to each other. Maybe that’s how this would turn out? Maybe that was the way things were meant to be? Ezra loved him, but they would remain close.
Kanan for his part was taking this quiet time to analyze his feelings in depth more carefully. The kiss had certainly taken him by surprise… but all made sense now. Of course he had been confused at first. This experience had changed them and changed their bond. He had felt compelled to approach and reconnect with him in whatever terms Ezra set.
Kanan recalled the happiness of Ezra’s kiss. It had been as if he was kissing a warm joyous light full of passion and remembering now… Kanan’s lips parted slightly. He could not deny it. If it happened now, he would have kissed back.
He felt a spark on his chest igniting, but he kept in under control. He had to think on the possibility that... Ezra might have confused him with his other-self. That he was not the intended receiver of that kiss but the Other Kanan. That maybe he thought that Kanan had come for him. Which could explain Ezra's inner conflict and emotional turmoil since he got here.
When they closed the Temple, a dark voice had warned Ezra that if he did, he would never be able to cross back… and he had cried afterward. Kanan had to accept it could be like that. That Ezra was crying for that other Kanan… and he would not add to that pain if he could.
Something brought Kanan out of his contemplations… it was cold and the wind had picked up. He grimaced, realizing that this small planet might have an extreme temperature difference between night and day. They had awoken from the crash in the afternoon when it was temperate, but, now that night had fallen around them, the temperature dropped sharply. He noticed Ezra was shivering.
“Ezra, you are cold,” Kanan called out and Ezra turned to look back at him with only the light of the stars illuminating them.
“Nah, it’s not that bad,” Ezra tried to convince him but Kanan’s frown let him know he did not buy it. “Ok, ok… it might be just a bit cold,” he confessed rubbing his arms again and shook his head. “But it doesn’t matter, we can't light a fire right now… it might give us away if they actually keep an eye on this area.”
Kanan's lips made a fine line. Ezra was right. They would have to make do without a fire...
After a while, Ezra had pulled his knees to his chest for warmth as the temperature kept dropping and… Kanan had enough.
“Ezra, you are freezing. You are right on the open. Sit here,” he motioned him to sit at his side against the escape pod. The angle provided protection against the cold wind. Kanan was sure it wasn’t cold enough to snow but that didn’t mean this chill wouldn’t affect him in his weakened state.
Ezra looked at him with hesitation. Sitting right at Kanan’s side… for warmth?
“I-...” Ezra bit his lip unsure if he should.
“It’s alright,” Kanan reassured him. “The last thing we need is dealing with hypothermia.”
Ezra nodded and slowly moved closer to him, sitting to Kanan’s right. He was nervous at first wondering if Kanan would pull away to avoid being too close but… he didn’t. It was normal… as normal as they could be.
“Try to meditate,” Kanan encouraged him.
Ezra sighed and closed his eyes, clearing his mind. This was nice… being this close again. Kanan’s presence soothed him and, as soon as he relaxed breathing slowly, he fell asleep again. Kanan noticed this quickly and felt his chest hurt. Ezra’s heart, mind and body had gone through so much and he still needed to recover... Ezra had given up so much.
After a while, Ezra slowly slid to the side, his head gently resting on Kanan’s right shoulder. Kanan had a sad smile on his face, allowing him to sleep like that.
Kanan wasn’t sure how long it was before Ezra opened his eyes. Ezra held his breath realizing where he was without moving. His mind raced. In the blink of an eye he had many conflicting feelings. He worried Kanan would be upset… but, he wasn’t. They had done this before. Before their relationship changed forever. He felt this confirmed him things would remain like that then. As Ezra suspected, Kanan would keep being... a friend; someone who would be there for him.
He had promised the other Kanan he would try to be happy. His head on his shoulder. This was… as much as he could be. As he would ever be.
Kanan had remained completely still, shocked at what he was feeling. Ezra hadn’t been strong enough to hide his feelings properly behind the mental wall yet, and even if this had all gone through Ezra’s mind in a flash, it was such a strong emotion that Kanan perceived it clearly. Just being close like this was joy enough for Ezra. This small contact was enough to keep the little flickering light of his soul from being consumed by darkness. Kanan felt Ezra’s calm resignation-, no, acceptance… acceptance that there would be nothing more for him, nothing else between them… that his light would carry own on his own... alone...
Kanan shifted on his spot, making Ezra straighten in alarm.
“Ah, sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you, sorr-” Ezra stuttered apologizing but froze noticing Kanan passed his right arm around behind him, gently pulling him closer, allowing him easier access to his shoulder and chest… holding him.
“Is this... better?” Kanan whispered softly, waiting for Ezra’s reaction. Ezra couldn’t talk… he stared looking up to Kanan’s face, barely believing this was happening. He nodded slightly, afraid. Why was Kanan doing this? Ezra’s heart was pounding on his chest.
“Is this what you want?” Kanan asked, he wanted to make sure, but Ezra struggled to form the words. Kanan realized Ezra had convinced himself that it didn’t matter what he wanted… for the greater good… for the happiness of people around him, he would give up everything he ever wanted. Kanan reworded the question. “Is this what you need?”
Ezra heart caught on his throat hearing those words. What I need? To be held? By him? He felt a sob building up. His lips were trembling. He couldn’t speak so he nodded again. Kanan pulled him slightly closer and Ezra slowly rested his head back on Kanan’s shoulder, shyly placing a hand over his chest… over Kanan’s heart. Kanan, in turn, placed his hand over his… keeping it there.
Ezra’s eyes grew large. Was this-…? No. It couldn’t be. But he didn’t care anymore… Ezra needed to tell him. He needed to say the words again. I love you. Why was he struggling now? He had said it when he sacrificed himself to save him. Was it because he thought it would be the end? A farewell confession. But now, if he said it, he would have to face the possibility of being rejected. But he couldn’t live hiding his heart anymore.
“Kanan-… I-…I-” Ezra tried to speak but his voice was breaking, desperately trying to form the words as tears started to run down his cheeks.
“I love you too,” Kanan whispered with a smile.
Ezra looked up at him in shock.
...what...? His whole body was shaking. Had he just said-.... Was he imagining things? Was this a dream? Another cruel dream from where he would wake up? Ezra was barely able to process what he just heard but then, Kanan reached out to the Force, embracing him just like he had done before he saved him. Ezra gasped and reached back fully, with every fiber of his being connecting with him.
It was real.
Ezra let out a sob of relief.
And then another. And another. He was full of happiness, feeling their souls touch.
He cried into Kanan’s shirt, his neck and hugged him, overwhelmed by being able to finally holding him again without hiding his feelings. And Kanan held him back. Another sob.
Kanan was speechless too. He was holding a star…a light that became brighter with his own. Brighter than he would have ever imagined. Kanan had never truly felt anything like it on his time with the Jedi. The idea alone of a Jedi falling in love had been frowned upon, let alone two force users falling in love. United not only through experiences and the living energy around them but sharing a flame that fueled their souls to unsuspected heights. An attachment like this could be dangerous… But this was… the most beautiful light he had ever sensed. Waves of affection and a yearning for closeness. His embrace tightened to reassure Ezra.
“I’m here,” he whispered to his ear and Ezra laughed through his tears in happiness but suddenly became quiet and pulled away worriedly.
“Wait- no. Hera. I can’t- I-,” Ezra said with remorse, trying to control and douse his emotions, his light again.
“Ezra,” Kanan said, but Ezra shook his head.
“She’s… I don’t want to get between the two of you,” he said honestly.
“Ezra, it’s ok. I think it will be alright…”
Ezra frowned for a second, slightly confused. “But… wouldn’t she get mad?”
Kanan tilted his head. “Would Hera tell me she’s the only one who can be in my heart? That she’s the only one I must love?” He asked squeezing his hand a little to calm him down and encouraging him to search his feelings for the answer.
Ezra stared at him for a second. “No,” Ezra replied, surprised by his own answer. Of course not. He had assumed… she would get mad… that she would push him away. Shun him. But now, as he pictured confessing to her in his mind, he could almost see her understanding smile.
Kanan smiled still holding him. “Besides… I think she already knew.”
“What?” Ezra blinked. “But… how?”
“When she sent me to find you, she told me you needed me more than I imagined. I felt there was a hiding meaning behind that… and she was right,” Kanan smiled at him, and Ezra felt his face flush but Kanan’s face turned slightly serious. “But… there’s one thing to understand about me and Hera…”
Ezra nodded, stopping him. “I know. I know you love her. I know you will always love her. That I’m not replacing her.”
“Yes… I love you. But I love her too. Are you...ok with that?” Kanan asked hoping he would understand that. Attachments could lead to greed and jealousy.
Ezra looked at his hand on his chest for a brief moment analyzing his feelings and finally looked up to him. “I am,” he said with resolution.
Kanan beamed at him in relief and Ezra hugged him again, chuckling. But there was still much more to talk about...
“I assume this started there with… my other self,” Kanan said tentatively. Ezra pulled back a little blushing.
“Well...Not exactly,” he said sheepishly. “He made me realize what I was already feeling.”
“Oh,” Kanan’s eyebrows raised. He was still curious and a bit worried. “You avoided talking about him. You said he didn’t hurt you but…”
Ezra sat back and looked down. “He... broke my heart at first,” he cleared his throat. “He left me when he told me the truth. That I loved you. That I loved him. That he wasn’t the man I loved. That he wasn’t worthy of my love. But you were. It was still you all along.”
He was still holding Kanan’s hand, feeling their bond strengthen.
“He left… but then came back. He found me again. I helped him to find his way back to the light,” Ezra said looking back with a hint of nostalgia. It all seemed a lifetime away.
“You were together,” Kanan said.
“Yes,” Ezra whispered and nodded.
“I understand,” Kanan ran his thumb over Ezra’s hand. Then he needed to ask the next question. “Did you two…?” he trailed off.
Ezra’s face became red. “Well-…uh-... we-... not exactly. We…” Ezra stuttered trying to explain. “We-...”
Ezra blinked in surprise with his mouth open. “Yes…” That’s right. More than right. Kanan gave him an understanding smile.
“What else can you tell me?” Kanan would not pressure him to share anything else he didn’t feel comfortable with.
It dawned on Ezra he didn’t need to tell him. “I...I can show you…”
Kanan furrowed his brow. “How?”
“When I was there… we made a plan in order to break through and reach you. You were too angry at yourself because the others were killed. You were alone. I thought that if I could show you how much the rest of the crew cared about you, you would remember they would have never wanted you to suffer like that and… leave the inquisitors,” Ezra explained having Kanan’s full attention. “I shared my memories with you with the Force.”
Ezra offered his other hand to be held and sat in front of him. Kanan grabbed it and nodded to him. He was ready.
They closed their eyes and Ezra reached out with a string of events that had marked him on the other side…
Waking alone, desperately looking for the crew.
Ahsoka finding him, telling him the others had died. His cries. Crying for them. Crying for Kanan.
Receiving his crystal again in the Temple.
Trying to steal the Ghost. The Force telling him… *someone* was there.
He defended himself and the Tenth Brother’s mask fell. Kanan’s yellow eyes looked at him.
“I feel your fear.”
“Kanan!” Ezra screamed, desperately trying to reach him.
He turned to Ahsoka. “I have to do this, please!”
He was showing him the memories, but the lightsaber signed his cheek again...
Kanan found him. Pushed him against the wall.
“What would I be then?” Kanan scoffed.
“A Jedi Knight,” Ezra whispered with fondness, a smile on his lips. Kanan’s heart skipped a beat and was shook by the statement.
Escaping together. Training. Happiness. Kanan’s eyes returned to normal. Joy… a warm feeling invaded him...
Ezra was holding him, but he pushed away. “I’m not him. I’m not the man you loved…”
His heart was breaking, he couldn’t breathe. He left!
Despair. Loneliness. Fighting the darkness that reached to his heart threatening to drown him in sadness...
Cold rain. Kanan was standing there. “I know I’m not him… but I need help.”
Their first kiss.
The holocron blooming with love.
The Black Wolf attacked them.
“I’m not leaving without you!”
Kanan was not afraid and faced the Black Wolf.
Standing surrounded by stars. “I love you but I have to let you go.”
His dream of Kanan arriving and kissing him. He was ready, he had no fears no doubts. He would make love to him... but it wasn’t real. He silently cried on his side…
Ezra cut the memory hastily. He hadn’t meant to show him that. He had taken care of avoiding his most intimate encounters. Kanan had just accepted these feelings, so those visions might have been a little too much at this stage… but his emotions had overwhelmed him. He could feel more tears on his face.
“I’m sorry about that, my mind slipped-... I didn’t mean-...” Ezra retracted slightly, embarrassed, but Kanan reached up and gently couped Ezra’s face. He dried the tears on his cheeks with his thumb… Kanan’s face had tears too. Ezra stared at him feeling the energy grow between them.
Kanan leaned slowly forward and kissed him. Soft lips. Pure emotion. Love.
They parted slowly, savoring the moment.
It was light, and a flame that Ezra was holding back. A fire in his heart. Not something as simple as lust, but a deep yearning. A tender longing for his touch and embrace. And now through their bond Kanan felt it as his own.
They kissed again and Kanan pulled him into a hug, but when he moved to accommodate him better his foot hurt. Ezra gasped feeling the pain through their connection.
“Wait… it’s ok,” Ezra shook his head, touching their foreheads together. “We are not really in the best condition for this, are we?” Ezra snorted.
“Yeah,” Kanan smiled and nodded to him.
Ezra took a deep breath, feeling all the fear he had vanished and left behind only one thing.
“Kanan, I love you.”
“I love you,” Kanan said back. “I’m sorry it took me this long to realize.”
“I really can’t blame you. I wasn’t saying anything either,” Ezra whispered. They became quiet holding their hands until Kanan noticed Ezra’s hands were still shaking.
“It’s ok…” He said and brought one up to kiss it.
“I guess it’s been too many things happening on one day…” Ezra chuckled drying his tears.
Kanan sighed. “You are right. We should really get some rest,” he said and moved again, laying back but allowing Ezra to cuddle against him to stay warm.
“There’s another thing. I might need some practice first,” Kanan confessed as he held him close. The kissing was more than wonderful… but he was worried he would require a bit more time to go all the way if they actually got to that point.
In another time, that would have concerned Ezra but… he gave him an understanding nod and reached up to his lips. This time, it was a more passionate kiss. Ezra let just a sliver of his inner flame reach out to touch Kanan’s light. Kanan gasped surprised by feeling that heat across his body. The kiss had been short but enough to ignite a new fire in Kanan. Whoa. He swallowed breathless for a second. Maybe he didn't need too much practice after all.
Ezra chuckled and laid down his head on Kanan’s chest, hearing the rapid beating of his heart and he fell asleep with a serene smile on his face.
I wanted so much to write this! It took me too long and I apologize! There might be some-, *ehem*, 'practice' next chapter and then I'll likely do an extra epilogue chapter. Please leave a comment if you liked it!
"To love means to radiate with inexhaustible light."
Mature content warning.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The first rays of dawn reached Ezra’s face waking him up. His eyes opened slowly and saw he was still embraced on Kanan’s arms. He was filled with joy.
“Good morning,” Kanan said softly.
“Mrning,” Ezra said smiling and yawning. It was the first time since his return that he had actually felt rested. He straightened a little and reached up to kiss him. Kanan smiled and kissed him back slowly, gently…
Ezra sighed in delight and pulled back satisfied.
“How do you feel?” Kanan asked.
“Better. Happy,” Ezra nodded and couldn’t stop smiling. Kanan felt that smile like a beautiful light.
Then, the silence was interrupted with the sound of Ezra’s stomach rumbling. They both laughed. “Huh, I guess hungry, too,” he chuckled.
“Let’s get some of the rations then,” Kanan gestured over to the case and Ezra nodded moving off him and tried to stretch but winced with pain from his shoulder.
“Careful…” Kanan frowned gingerly touching Ezra’s shoulder in concern.
“Yeah, I forgot about that,” Ezra explained. The discomfort wasn’t too much anymore so his happiness actually made him forget about this wound. He placed his hand over Kanan’s to keep it there on his shoulder. He liked feeling the warmth of his hand.
They helped each other up and went to get some of the rations from the case.
They spend most of that day meditating and resting, interrupted only by moments when they got closer, gravitating to each other. There’s clearly a new energy between them, almost like electricity, especially when Kanan reached for his hand and kissed it, making Ezra feel like he was melting away.
Ezra sought his lips again and they made out. It goes slowly as they both know it can’t go beyond that. There’s a different type of patience Ezra needs to muster because he accepts they can’t indulge in each other… not only because they are recovering but because they need to stay alert if anyone from the Chimaera shows up. The ship is still looming somewhere out there in this system... too far away from their actual reach with the Force, but they know it's there.
Just as Kanan had thought, the temperature of this planet varied widely through the day, becoming hot by midday. They moved to sit under the shadows of some nearby trees as they waited for the worst to pass.
As they meditated, they noticed there's tension in the Force. A turning point. When something has the potential of having wide reaching consequences…
“Do you feel that?” Ezra frowned at his Kanan's with closed eyes.
“Yes,” Kanan’s expression was calm but serious. “They must be deciding what to do…”
When night came, they went to sleep together again with the protection of the pod from the wind, Ezra snuggled against him.
When Ezra woke up, he realized he had turned on his right side during the night and now Kanan was spooning him, still sleeping. Ezra could feel his calm breathing, the beating of his heart on his back. Oh stars... he wanted to push his body against Kanan's so badly and melt into his embrace but he took a deep breath to control the fire that threatened to consume him.
After a moment, he felt Kanan moving slightly, waking up.
Kanan kissed his neck gently, sending a wave of warmth all through his body. Ezra bit his lip.
“Ezra?” Kanan whispered to his ear, sending shivers down his back and making Ezra give a small silent gasp.
“...Y-yes?” His voice trembled with anticipation. If Kanan suggested doing anything right now, Ezra would say YES.
Kanan smiled. “I love you,” he whispered, kissing his cheek over his scar and pulled him closer.
Ezra was at a loss of word for a moment. He smiled and his eyes teared up, finally hiccuping a small sob. Kanan stopped and 'looked' over him a little concerned.
“Is something wrong?” Kanan said worried he had made a mistake.
Ezra turned to face him after drying a couple of tears and caressed Kanan’s cheek. “It’s ok. It's just... I'm just so happy,” he confessed, calming him, but he couldn’t help but wonder… Did he even deserve to be this happy? To feel loved like this? It was emotionally overwhelming and Kanan picked on those feelings through the Force easily.
Kanan held his hand.
“Ezra, you are allowed to be happy. You are allowed to feel loved,” Kanan reminded him… assured him… Ezra felt his heart swell as Kanan slowly leaned down and kissed him.
Ezra’s light blazed, not with the same fire as earlier but with a soothing warmth. How much he needed to hear that.
When their lips parted, Ezra was calm, serene.
They went on their day, but they were still wondering what was going on with the Chimaera. By now, they had recovered their strength enough to reach out further. It had been two days already but the Imperials were still up there. Thrawn said they would leave after a couple of days. What were they waiting for?
Ezra was impatient. The longer the Chimaera stayed, the longer it would take for Thrawn's people to find them.
Ezra looked at the sky with concern. “You don't think…” he whispered trailing off.
“...that Thrawn couldn't leave in time?” Kanan completed that train of thought, his face turning stern. Yeah, he had started to think that. Maybe he was still in there trying to find the perfect moment to leave? Biding his time? “It might be a possibility. Or... maybe... what if they don't want to leave?”
“What do you mean?” Ezra frowned.
“They might don't want to leave without making sure Thrawn is dead,” Kanan offered.
“But they would be breaking Imperial protocol…” Ezra grimaced. “Why?”
“He looks after people under his command,” Kanan gestured at the medkit.
Ezra’s shoulders dropped. “They care about him…” He whispered in disbelief realizing the problem. “They care about him enough to stay longer than necessary to try to save him.”
Now that they had said it, that truth resonated within the Force. It was definitely that reason.
Ezra sighed and groaned. “Stupid Thrawn being a good boss...ugh..."
They just had to accept they would have to wait and stay alert longer than expected.
Another day passed but that morning, just when they were stirring awake, they felt it... for a moment, the Chimaera was there, then, it wasn't. Kanan and Ezra sit up immediately noticing the absence of their presence.
The Chimaera had jumped away.
“They are gone! Finally!” Ezra cheered in relief.
It was like they had been holding their breaths. They could relax now for a few days. At least now they could set up a proper campfire… not that Ezra was complaining about sleeping on Kanan's arms but that would help them a lot.
Kanan checked over their supplies. They had food for a few more days, but water was running out. The heat had them drinking more water to stay hydrated.
“We need to get more water,” he told Ezra. “I sensed there's a stream nearby.”
“Yeah, on the other side of the hill, I sensed it too,” Ezra nodded and grabbed one of the containers but was surprised when he saw Kanan standing up grabbing the other container. “Wait. Your foot.”
Kanan tried his foot around and nodded. “I can do some walking.”
“But I can go on my own, I feel fine now,” he assured him.
“It’s better if we go together. Besides... we really need to wash,” Kanan grinned pulling slightly on his shirt.
Ezra knew he was right. They had been sweating a lot and they certainly needed to clean themselves. Even if they had removed all the armor, the black long sleeve stormtrooper shirt and pants weren’t great for this kind of climate.
At least Kanan’s foot was mostly recovered. As long as he wasn’t running he should be fine.
They hadn’t really left the pod’s crash site until now. They walked under the shadows of the trees side by side, Kanan holding his hand while Ezra’s smiled.
Not long after, they arrived at the stream. Ezra noticed that the water was clear.
“Nice! It seems like it’s clean running water,” Ezra grinned and immediately took off his boots to go into the stream. He laughed at the feel of cool water… and quickly filled the containers. Once that was done… he turned around to see Kanan had removed his shirt and was rising it at the edge of the water. Ezra stared for a moment how his skin glistened with the sun and felt his cheeks redden. Kanan then laid the shirt to dry over a large rock and proceeded to remove his ankle brace carefully. He intended to wade into the stream. Ezra had realized it wasn’t that deep… it should be about just above his waist at the highest point and the current wasn’t strong either…
Ezra left the stream approaching him.
"Are you sure about that?" Ezra pointed at his foot.
"It will be just a few minutes," Kanan chuckled.
Ezra left the water containers at the rock and was about to remove his shirt too when he noticed Kanan had become still. His hands were at the brim of his pants. He was debating on taking them off to get into the river.
They had changed hastily when donning their disguise when escaping, and they had seen each other naked before... but, obviously, the situation now was completely different.
After a second, Kanan made up his mind and removed them. He didn’t say anything else as he moved into the water to wash. Ezra couldn’t look away forma Kanan's thin and toned body.
Kanan could tell when Ezra was looking at him, because, even if Kanan couldn't see it, Ezra became bright with a powerful feeling. Ezra's natural empathetic connection with the Force amplified his emotions through their bond, making even Kanan blush.
Ezra quickly got his shirt off and washed it too, leaving it besides’ kanan’s. He then hastily took off his pants as well and tried to not look too eager to get into the water. Kanan chuckled when he arrived at his side.
Ezra was thankful the water was not too cold. It would certainly help them feel refreshed. He sighed in relief, and crouched to get himself completely submerged to wet his hair too. He couldn’t remember if there had been soap in the medkit but he would certainly check later.
He looked at Kanan's body again, taking his breath away. These past few days the tension between them had grown and now maybe they would finally get some release… He would lie if he said he didn’t enjoy the sight of the water running down Kanan’s chest, his arms, his neck. Ezra understood that this… this was Kanan’s way to tell him he was ready for some practice. Ezra's pulse increased in excitement as they finished cleaning themselves but then… Ezra noticed something… a new large scar on Kanan's body. The scar Kanan had received on his side during their escape on the Interdictor... the one he got to protect Ezra... the one that had almost taken his life.
Kanan immediately sensed the change in the air. He turned to face Ezra with concern.
Ezra didn’t immediately reply. He reached to gingerly touch the scar, stepping closer to him. It was just above the water of the stream.
"Does it still hurt?" Ezra questioned with care.
The touch sent electricity through Kanan's body, along with a flood of overwhelming affection and concern.
"No. Not now."
Kanan’s hands raised over Ezra’s arms, caressing them and moving to his shoulders, feeling the skin under his fingertips. He frowned slightly.
"This one is new too," Kanan said of the scar there on Ezra's shoulder.
"Yeah," Ezra nodded looking down. He had gotten that one after he had sent Kanan away, trying to fend off wave after wave of stormtroopers. He thought he would die. He was sure he would die. Their bodies wore the marks of their sacrifices for each other.
They felt drawn to each other and they slowly closed the space between them until their naked bodies were completely touching, sending chills down their back.
They stood like that for several heartbeats with eyes closed, just enjoying the contact… sensing each other.
“Emotion…” Ezra whispered, the words had formed without thinking, prompted directly from his heart.
“...Yet peace,” Kanan said, his own soul responding to Ezra.
Ezra opened his eyes in surprise… this was… He beamed with joy.
“Passion…” Ezra continued, his eyes glancing briefly to Kanan’s lips. Ezra’s hands moved around Kanan’s chest, holding him.
“...Yet serenity,” Kanan’s arms gently embraced him back and brought him closer...as much as he could, making him gasp.
Kanan lowered his head and Ezra slowly reached up to meet his lips in the middle. Their lights were set ablaze.
I love you.
They weren’t sure who said it, but it was true for both of them. Soon their kiss started to pick up speed. Ezra’s hands moved caressing Kanan’s back and his waist. Kanan was taken by surprise at the ease Ezra seemed to make him sigh in pleasure… which only emboldened Ezra more. He knew what to do, what he liked...
Kanan pulled his head slightly away out of breath. His mind was a haze, overwhelmed by their connection, but went right back to kiss Ezra’s neck, his jaw… making Ezra shudder and moan out loud in delight in his arms. That in turn made a Kanan’s heart beat faster in his chest.
Ezra’s hand traveled to Kanan’s chest and made his way down his navel, below the water, to his arousal and grabbed it with confidence. The touch made Kanan gasp in surprise and his mouth went searching Ezra’s lips again, with a deeper kiss.
Ezra smiled, proud of his work, and started to stroke themselves together, making Kanan sigh. Ezra reached to connect with him in the Force, feeling their lights shine brighter with each movement… each touch.
Kanan came to the realization he would do anything Ezra needed. He would give anything Ezra needed. And Ezra needed more… Ezra needed...
"Kanan," Ezra softly moaned, pleading.
Oh stars… Kanan's hands moved down exploring Ezra’s backside and he moaned in approval.
"Yes," Ezra breathed. He was gone, completely taken away by this sensation burning him away. He needed Kanan's touch. Anywhere. Everywhere. He moved his hips against Kanan. Kanan clearly understood his request, but...
Stop. Focus. A voice said to Kanan in the back of his mind. A realization. He forced himself to pull slightly away, breaking the embrace even if Ezra kept reaching, seeking another intoxicating kiss.
"Wait. We need to return," Kanan could not believe how he had managed to say those words.
"W-wha…?" Ezra mumbled, eyes half-closed as if he was still deep in a trance… waking from a wonderful dream
"We need to go back," Kanan insisted much more focused.
"W-Why?" Ezra asked with a bit of confusion snapping out of his haze. They had been doing so, so well… why stop now?
"Just-… Trust me…" Kanan held Ezra's face and kissed his forehead.
Of course he did. Ezra trusted him with his life. “Alright,” Ezra nodded and took a deep breath to calm down, trying to keep his desire under control.
Kanan grabbed Ezra’s hand leading him out of the stream… he only stopped to take the ankle brace and hastily put it back. He left their clothes behind. They wouldn’t need them right now.
Kanan wished he could run but he walked as fast as he could without hurting his foot.
Ezra let himself be led and was very curious. He wanted to know what Kanan had in mind. As soon as they arrived at their little camp, Kanan immediately embraced him back and continued right where they had left it, sealing their lips together with need and passion. Ezra smiled and immediately obliged the same attention he was giving him as before. He still didn’t know why they had returned here, but he didn’t care anymore.
Kanan’s caresses were driving him crazy as his hands returned to his backside and Ezra felt again the fire threatening to consume him. He wanted to make Kanan feel good. He felt the impulse to drop to his knees and pleasure him. He hadn’t done that before but he felt this was leading to more than just touching. He just wanted all of him… hear him moan. Ezra attempted to lower himself but Kanan kept him firmly but still gently standing against his body, his arms embracing him… almost as if he had expected him to react like that.
"Kanan… I…" Ezra breathed trying to explain what he wanted to do. "I want to-..."
Kanan slowed down his kissing to a tender caress on his neck and raised a hand towards some of the things in the opened medkit case. A small bottle flew to his hand.
Ezra raised an eyebrow with interest.
"What’s that?" Ezra asked with a little mischievous smirk. Kanan gently grabbed Ezra’s free hand and placed the small bottle there. Ezra smiled and looked down curiously to read the label. "Is this why we came back here-?"
Ezra’s eyes grew large.
“It can work in a pinch...” Kanan said, his hands had returned to Ezra’s shoulders as he explained. “If… if you want to…”
Ezra’s shocked face looked up at Kanan’s warm smile. His lip trembled, his eyes filled with tears of happiness.
"I-...I would do it even without this," Ezra assured him.
"But I wouldn’t," Kanan shook his head. "I would never hurt you," he caressed his cheek. Ezra’s heart was beating so fast...
"I thought-... I thought you wanted-… needed to practice," his voice trembled.
"This was enough," he whispered, kissing his lips. "You are enough."
Something overtook Ezra. He pushed his body against Kanan’s desperately kissing him like his life depended on it. Kanan gasped and could barely keep up, taken completely by surprise. He let himself be guided to the ground. Ezra quickly tried to pull Kanan over him.
“Please,” Ezra practically begged in need.
“I know, but…" Kanan laid down on the ground and motioned Ezra to straddle him. "Like this. Ok? You control it," Kanan explained. "You set the pace. Take your time… don't rush it.”
Ezra’s whole body flushed at those words. Kanan wanted it to be as enjoyable as it could be for his first time.
Ezra applied the gel on Kanan, sending shivers up his spine. He took a deep breath and slowly lowered himself closing his eyes to relax his whole body.
Kanan swallowed. "Stop if you feel pain. I don't want you to feel pain. I-"
Ezra leaned down and kissed him. He couldn't form words… his senses were overloaded with this new sensation… but he wanted Kanan to understand he was fine… he placed Kanan's hand on his hips, following him down.
"Breathe, relax... breathe…" Kanan said with closed eyes, as much as for Ezra as for him. He was using every bit of will to control himself…
Ezra progressed slowly, still kissing him, managing through the unfamiliar sensation. He relaxed into Kanan, whose whole body tensed as he took him in.
Ezra straightened watching his face, how Kanan's brows furrowed and he made a small groan in pleasure. Ezra was completely breathless at that sight. Kanan's hands climbed up… exploring his abdomen, his chest, his neck, his face.
It's just them. This contact. Their hearts. Their lights together. Joined.
After a moment getting used to the sensation, Ezra swallowed and tentatively rolled his hips slowly. He smiled to himself realizing he was ok, and continued like that. Now, the one that needed reassurance was Kanan. He reacted to the movement biting his lip, keeping still for Ezra.
"I'm fine…" Ezra sighed reassurance through the Force. He enjoyed this. It felt good. He liked it. He could definitely do this. His rhythm picked up. "You can move…" Ezra assured Kanan kissing him again. Kanan gladly complied. It made Ezra hum delighted. This definitely improved the experience... adding fuel to his fire, building up delicious pressure in his navel, sharing the feeling with Kanan, and Kanan doing the same through the Force… they knew what the other was feeling so clearly. Giving… that’s all they wanted, to give themselves to the other.
Kanan couldn’t help but give small moans and grunts… but it seemed he was focusing on his movements. After a while, Ezra gasped a loud moan and froze startled. He had experienced something like jolt, an overwhelming feeling that took his breath away, sending shivers throughout his body.
"What the-..." Ezra's eyes became wide and gulped. He had a good idea of what it was but he still asked. "Was that-?"
Kanan grinned and nodded. He repeated the motion with his hip, having found the right spot and angle. An amazing and intense focused sensation radiated from Ezra's pelvis, from deep within his body, his very core, and washed over him like a wave.
He arched back, face flustered.
"OH KRIFF," he blurted out in pleasure. He felt burning up.
This is it. The real thing. He had expected to feel something good like what he had experienced before but this was beyond what he had imagined.
He was feeling lightheaded as they continued to move like that. He couldn't think straight, but he pulled at Kanan's shoulder as he started to arch… to fall back.
"Kanan…" he pleaded trying to bring him to him. "Take me…"
Kanan nodded kissing him and shifted, sitting up, holding Ezra and then laid him on his back without separating. He started thrusting slowly just to make sure his angle was right too, but he gasped when Ezra moved on his own rocking against him with eagerness and moaning, holding at him with his legs. He needed him desperately. All thought process abandoned Kanan at that point, simply focusing on giving Ezra what he wanted.
"YES," Ezra moaned clinging to him.
Kanan, eyes shut, lips parted as he moaned with him between passionate kissing. His body completely took over, surrendering to the feeling. Ezra’s arms were around him, caressing his back, his head, his hips. Their breathing becomes ragged.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
"KANAN," Ezra calls to him lost in pleasure as he's brought to climax. He shares this sensation through their bond but Kanan is already there with him. They can't tell where one begins and the other ends.
They are one. Blinding light. Not only through the Force but almost physically. Like touching the warmth of the sun consumes with love and extasis. They are kissing, shuddering...and it finally ends, like a wave crashing against a beach.
The afterglow left them breathless holding to each other for dear life.
They remained like that for a while, their chests going up and down as they recovered. Ezra grinned with a few tears of happiness and laughed, kissing Kanan’s cheek.
“That was… the most amazing thing I ever felt,” Ezra breathed.
Kanan sighed in relief. “I’m glad. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”
“At all?” Ezra blinked slightly surprised.
“Well...” Kanan said, taking a deep breath. “It seems the Force bond amplified it both ways,” he explained. He might have experimented with a few males before but this was completely different on several levels… emotional, spiritual…
“Oh,” Ezra said trailing off and returning his attention to the feeling of Kanan still over him. He could barely believe they had done it and it had been so wonderful. Kanan then slowly moved off with a satisfied sigh. He finally noticed they were completely covered in sweat and their backs were slightly dirty from being on the ground.
Ezra looked down at his chest and stomach.
“Uh… seems like we will need to go back to the river after all,” Ezra chuckled.
“Yes, you are right. We left the clothes and the drinking water back there too,” Kanan pointed out with a smile. “We might be able to make a fire now, but even then, I don’t think we can sleep like this with that cold.”
“Nope, I rather not,” Ezra shook his head laughing and slowly sat up at his side with a mischievous grin. Kanan reached to gently lifted Ezra’s chin and kissed him one last time before getting up.
After cleaning themselves again and getting all their things back, they went back to the makeshift camp and built a bonfire to keep warm through the night. Even if it was not necessary to sleep so close together anymore, they did, holding each other, entwining their fingers, whispering words of love and reassurance.
Now, all they had to do was wait… wait for Thrawn and the Chiss to show up. But even then, they couldn’t deny they hoped the Chiss would take their time, letting them be alone like this for as long as possible. By now, they knew the Force was meant to lead them there… that didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy this moment… live this present, before it changed towards their destiny.
To give themselves fully to each other without holding back. And they did.
This is my gift for the holidays! Love you all! I hope you liked it! I was so happy writing this... they are finally together. ToT It was about time they got to share this with each other.
It's been really great to have your support! Please leave a comment!
"There's a future for us, one where we're all free. But it's up to us to make it happen."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Days passed while Ezra and Kanan waited calmly for Thrawn or the Chiss to show up. For some reason, they were not too worried about it, as they could feel in the Force that wouldn’t be a problem. They only kept some control of their remaining rations and tried to add a few berries and plants to their diet and tried to make a shelter to protect them against the cold wind at night, even if now they could make a camp-fire to provide for warmth. They instead spent their time either meditating or enjoying themselves.
Kanan noticed Ezra would constantly seek for his touch, his presence… his smile. He emanated a combination of passion and joy into the Force that took Kanan’s breath away. Also... Ezra kept surprising him. Ezra would start with a simple kiss or a hug and, before he knew it, Kanan would find himself lying on his back, with Ezra ready straddling his lap and a mischievous smirk on his lips…
And they laughed. Heartily.
They knew that as soon as they were rescued things would get complicated and their focus would have to change. They had to live in the now, giving each other full… and they made love as much as they could.
It was early morning a few days later when both felt something that made them turn their heads to the sky at the same time. They couldn’t pinpoint it, they couldn’t tell how many, but a large group of people had just arrived into the system.
“They are here,” Kanan whispered.
Ezra sighed, a little disappointed their time alone was over. Kanan chuckled and kissed Ezra’s forehead.
“Are we sure they are Thrawn’s people?” Ezra said leaning against Kanan’s chest, and looked at the signal beacon, making sure it was still blinking like the past few days. The signal was supposedly encrypted… or at least that’s what he thought.
“Well, you have a point there... The Empire could have sent someone else to take another look.”
“Uh… I guess it would be better if we get back into the armor,” Ezra looked at the discarded pieces.
“I suppose,” Kanan said nodding and moved to pick his armor part.
As they were suiting themselves up Ezra started to speak his mind. “If they are not with Thrawn… maybe we could hijack the ship. And go back.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Kanan shook his head, finishing putting on the boots. He didn’t need the brace anymore. “Thrawn said he would reveal the base’s location if we went back.”
“You’re right. Even if we returned quickly enough, we might not have time to evacuate and… *sigh*. Better play it safe…”
Once changed into the discarded armor, they waited patiently. A couple of hours passed until they finally noticed a ship, some kind of shuttle, that was entering the atmosphere.
“Here they come...” Kanan stood straighter, trying to get into the stormtrooper role.
They stood in the middle of the clear as the ship landed very close to them, enough for Ezra to have a good look.
“It’s definitely not Imperial… so that’s a good thing, right?” Ezra joked dryly and Kanan tilted his helmet in agreement.
The ship’s ramp opened from below. Ezra was slightly surprised when a young human male cautiously walked down the ramp with his hands up in a sign of peace. He had tanned skin and dark brown hair. His face was full of concern.
“A human?” Ezra whispered to Kanan. “He has a uniform but… it is not an Imperial one.”
There was a moment of hesitation from both parts. Kanan and Ezra had expected to make contact with other Chiss like Thrawn. Was this part of his plan? Ezra regretted not asking more about his people when he had the chance. He was starting to realize Thrawn tended to keep information close to himself until it was necessary. Sadly, the Force had ways to twist your plans around...
Finally, the young man was the first to speak. “Hello! Can you tell me who are you?”
“We are... TK-5193 and TR-3456, sir,” Kanan said saluting him. They had to play along until they had more information about who this person was.
The young man seemed to relax pretty quickly. “You are not Stormtroopers… you wouldn’t have addressed me as someone in authority… and if you were part of the Chimaera’s crew, you would know who I was.”
“Maybe we are just happy someone came along,” Ezra countered.
“I’ll give you that… but I think we know that’s not the case,” the young man gave them a knowing smile. “Are you Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger?”
They both slightly tensed. “Who’s asking?” Kanan asked.
The man nodded accepting they needed this information to trust him. “My name is Eli Vanto. I used to be an aide for Thrawn back in the Empire… I’m with the Chiss now. Are you Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger?” he asked again.
After a moment of silence, they responded at the same time. “Yes.”
Eli looked back into the ship and whispered something to someone out of sight. “Uhm… May I ask you to remove your helmets to confirm? Please?”
Ezra and Kanan faced each other. They were surprised at how polite this supposed Ex-Imperial was behaving. And they both felt he was being honest in the Force. This wasn’t a trap. They nodded and took their helmets off.
After getting a good look at them, Eli smiled. “Good,” he sighed in relief and nodded to the person still on the ship.
A moment later, that person walked out from behind him. For a second, Ezra thought it was Thrawn but it was, in fact, a woman, wearing a striking white uniform… Blue skin, red eyes, long dark blue hair.
Ezra was shocked at how similar she looked like Thrawn. But she felt… slightly different in the Force.
“Do any of you know Sy-bisti?” Eli asked.
They shook their heads. Kanan shrugged. “I know just a bit of Sy-bisti not enough to have a conversation,” Kanan confessed. He had picked up a few things during his days in the Outer Rim and Wild Space before meeting Hera but he had forgotten most of it by now.
“I’ll serve as a translator then...” Eli then motioned to the woman at his side. “This is Admiral Ar’alani of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet.”
“I can see that,” Ezra was still impressed and had a bit of anxiety around this woman. Her posture and presence certainly gave an aura of great authority that made him a bit nervous.
She spoke a few words and let Eli translate. “Where is Thrawn? Isn’t he with you?”
“We don’t know where he is. He’s not here on this planet, at least,” Ezra said. "He told us to take this escape pod… we were supposed to leave together."
“Then the other signal might be him,” Eli whispered under his breath.
“Another signal?” Kanan frowned.
“Yes. But before we answer that… Can you explain what happened? Why did the plan have to be rushed?”
“Weeell…” Ezra scratched the back of his head wondering what was the best way to explain. “We crossed a huge pod of purrgils in Hyperspace. We gave the alarm and barely managed to avoid crashing full into them, but the ship still pumped one of them, I think a young one, and they attacked the Chimaera. Thrawn told us to go ahead and he would take another pod.”
Eli blinked surprised and explained to Ar’alani. She frowned and then asked another question.
“Were you piloting the Chimaera when you gave the alarm?”
Kanan shook his head. “No. We were actually recovering from our wounds,” he said. What did that have to do with anything?
“You knew the purrgil were there?? Even if you weren’t piloting the ship yourselves??” Eli was aghast.
“Uh… well, yeah. We felt their presence,” Ezra shrugged as if it was not a big deal.
“Jedi can do that...” Eli’s eyes grew large.
“Yes,” Kanan said raising an eyebrow. While he was used to people in the Rebellion being a bit skeptical, Eli’s tone was one of awe as he gave this information to Admiral Ar’alani and, even if she wanted to look stoic, her face showed she was impressed. “Is there a problem?” Kanan asked.
“No. On the contrary… this is all good,” Eli said trying to hold back a hopeful smile.
Ezra was also starting to notice something weird from them but decided to change the subject. “So you know where Thrawn might be?” Ezra asked with curiosity.
“Well, we hope so. We are waiting for the report from the other team,” Eli sighed looking at their commlink. “When we arrived at the system we received two signals. One from here, one from another planet. We weren’t sure if you were all together but if you were actually separated, I was fearing you would not be able to speak Sy-bisti. We only have another Basic speaker so we had to split in two teams to go look on each signal. I’m glad I was the one who found you,” Eli said with some relief. “Thrawn could handle Ronan just fine but… I don’t think you would have liked him.”
“Ronan? That sounds like a name from the Empire?” Ezra frowned, feeling immediately some kind of disgust from the Force.
Eli nodded but he wasn’t too happy. “Yes, he’s someone who also came from the Empire but... he’s still quite loyal.”
“And you aren't?” Ezra questioned crossing his arms. He might have agreed to help Thrawn with the Chiss but there were more Imperials here than what he had expected.
Eli’s expression became serious. “I left. I want to help people. No matter if they are from the Empire or the Ascendancy. This is the way to do it,” he said completely convinced and that made Ezra feel a bit more at ease. Kanan for his part kept mostly quiet, focusing on the intentions of the Admiral and what he thought were other Chiss in this transport. They felt… neutral, yet difficult to read. They were doing their jobs… and as far as he could tell they didn’t hold any ill intentions towards them. At least nothing immediate. There was a certain wariness… a distrust of strangers, but that was to be expected. He assumed it would be safe to go with them.
Eli sighed. “Listen. I understand you don’t like Imperials. Ronan is fairly new to all of the Chiss too so… I would keep you being a Jedi a secret for the moment while we all get acquitanse and things calm down. He might become troublesome after that,” he explained hoping they would understand the situation. He pointed at their armors.“Just keep the charade for the moment. You are both Stormtroopers. I’m sure Thrawn will likely tell you what we will do later.”
“And *you* don’t have a problem we are Jedi?” Ezra asked just to make sure.
“No. I don’t know enough about Jedi beyond old reports of the Clone Wars when I was a kid,” Eli shrugged. “Besides, if Thrawn brought you here with him it means he trusts you can help the Chiss, so I trust you too,” Eli said nodding. It surprised Ezra how much this guy trusted Thrawn’s criteria… even as far as bringing former enemies of the Empire to work with him.
At that moment, Ar’alani’s commlink beeped and received a message. Eli smiled hearing the message.
“They found Thrawn. We will rendezvous with the Steadfast. Come,” he gestured inside, as Ar’alani turned into the ship without another word.
Ezra and Kanan followed them. Inside, there were a couple of Chiss guards also waiting for them at the entrance, making sure their Admiral was safe.
Ezra grimaced a little. “I don’t like having to hide who I am… especially if I’m supposed to help their people,” he said off-handedly as he took a seat and put his seatbelt on.
“Believe me, this is not a problem with them,” Eli again tried to reassure him. He understood it would take time before they could all fully trust each other. Ar’alani asked Eli what they were saying and then requested him to translate.
“You won’t have to hide who you are from us, but Bri’erlyr’onan poses a problem. Until we figure out how to handle it, be patient.”
“Bri’erlyr’onan?” Kanan asked.
“Ah… Brierly Ronan… sorry, that’s how the Chiss pronounce our full names,” Eli apologized sheepishly.
Just as they were on route, Ezra and Kanan were about to put their helmets on when Ar’alani asked something else again.
Eli turned to Kanan. “Jarrus, excuse me.”
“Kanan is fine,” he raised a hand to show he was ok to be on a first-name basis.
“Kanan, she’s asking about your eyes. Are you capable of moving about with the helmet? Do you require any kind of assistance?”
Kanan chuckled. “I’m more than capable of finding my way around. You don’t have to worry about that. The only thing I might need help sometimes is reading things.”
Eli and Ar’alani seemed to be impressed by this answer too. Ezra and Kanan shared a ‘look’ to each other through the Force. There was something else going on here… Thrawn had told them the Chiss needed their help with the Force but he hadn’t explained what exactly. He said some enemies might be using the Force against them but… the way they were reacting about their abilities was… off. They wordlessly agreed to stay sharp.
“Oh, ok. I’ll have to help with reading anyway… everything is written in Cheunh so,” Eli said dryly trailing off.
Ezra looked through a portview at his side and saw how they approached the Chiss ship in orbit, and saw another transport arriving at the same time.
They disembarked and saw the other group also exiting the shuttle.
And as soon as Ezra saw the blonde Imperial who he assumed was Ronan, he quickly realized why Eli said he wouldn’t like him. While Eli was wearing a black CEDF uniform like all the other Chiss, Ronan had kept his white Imperial uniform... with a cape. Oh, it’s one of those, Ezra thought and he was glad the helmet was covering his expression of disgust.
Ezra also noticed Thrawn had a broken arm on a sling. Eli’s eyes grew large in concern but waited for Ar’alani to speak first as they approached the other group.
Ar’alani spoke to Thrawn in Cheunh and called him “Mitth’raw’nuruodo”. He bowed slightly and they exchanged a few words and before Ronan became annoyed with all of the people not speaking the same language as him and eyed the stormtroopers with interest.
Thrawn glanced at Eli, giving him a slight nod as he stepped aside to allow the rest of the Chiss guards to exit the shuttle.
“Good day, Lieutenant Commander Vanto, I'm glad you found them,” Thrawn said.
Ezra and Kanan immediately felt a wave of disappointment from Eli. A kind of resignation… one Ezra had become way too familiar during the last few months. Eli’s lips had twitched slightly into a frown but returned to his professional and neutral expression quickly.
Ronan practically strode to Ezra and Kanan with a smug smile on his face. “You had some luck to get rescued. Maybe we would be able to hail an Imperial transport or even a merchant ship to return them to Imperial space.”
“These troopers are loyal to me. I would appreciate keeping them close as my personal bodyguards, if Admiral Ar’alani allows it, of course,” Thrawn turned to the Admiral and spoke in Cheunh. She narrowed her eyes but nodded. Kanan and Ezra were glaring at Thrawn for saying they would be his bodyguards. That was NOT what they signed up for… but kept quiet for the moment.
Bodyguards! The corner of Ronan’s lips turned down. It was simply upsetting how Thrawn always seemed to get his way. He scoffed under his breath, stood straighter and glanced at the stormtroopers. Well, at least, they weren’t those scary Death Troopers… and he had already seen Chiss guards in action. Regular stormtroopers like these would be like amateurs in comparison, so did it actually matter if Thrawn got a few loyals at his side? Ronan certainly preferred if humans banded together but…they didn’t seem in a rush to leave either. He finally shrugged. “I suppose we will make acquaintances soon enough. If you excuse me, I'd rather go back to my quarters.”
Ar’alani nodded and Ronan promptly left the area as she kept talking with Thrawn in Cheunh. Once he was gone and out of earshot, Ezra turned to Thrawn.
“Are you crazy? That escape pod blew up for real! You almost killed us… it almost killed you!” Ezra said pointing a finger at his broken arm.
“Apologizes. I needed it to look convincing,” Thrawn said with a small smile.
“Oh, it was convincing enough. Even the Purrgils thought we were in trouble! They tried to save us but I had to tell them to stand back,” Ezra sighed and suddenly felt tired remembering all of that.
“You… were able to communicate with the creatures?” Eli asked with the same interest as before.
“Yes,” Ezra raised an eyebrow again.
“How many powers do the Jedi have?” Eli breathed in awe.
“Everyone is different,” Kanan said as if it wasn't such a big deal.
“I see,” Eli looked down and then at Thrawn’s arm. “I’m sorry. We would have come earlier but the Chimaera remained here longer than expected.”
“Yes. They did,” Thrawn said with a certain sadness. His crew had stretched every protocol they had to try to find him and save him… Kanan and Ezra felt he was proud of them for the way they had responded and handled themselves during the crisis. But then he shook his head and turned to them.
“As promised, it is time we show you the reason you are here,” Thrawn said and told something else to Ar’alani. Her face became angry, she did not agree with him, but after a few moments of Thrawn explaining, she gave in and turned to leave.
“Come,” Thrawn gestured them to follow her too. They were accompanied by a couple of guards behind them.
“This better be worth it, Thrawn,” Ezra muttered under his breath just loud enough for him to hear.
“I believe it is. You may remove your helmet,” Thrawn nodded.
Once they got to the ship’s bridge, the Chiss officers there were clearly not happy with their presence there… especially when Ar’alani made an announcement.
There was still a general unease in the bridge.
“They do not agree with… what Thrawn wants to show you,” Eli explained.
Not so long after that, a young woman entered the bridge with a little girl in hand. Eli went to greet them with a smile. Eli took the little girl's hand to reassure her when she saw the Ezra and Kanan. Eli started explaining the situation to them.
Both the girl and the young woman looked at them in surprise. The girl finally nodded and followed Eli, holding his hand.
“Ezra, Kanan, this is Vah’nya and this one here is Un’hee,” Eli presented them with a warm smile. He seemed to be protective of them.
Ezra could tell Un'hee was scared but also… curious. There was… something different about them. They were slightly easier to read than the other Chiss and Thrawn, but Ezra couldn’t pinpoint why yet.
“Hello Un’hee,” Ezra beamed to the little girl, crouching down to her height. She stepped back startled as if she wasn’t used to other people doing that. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“He-llo,” Un'hee said shyly back to him with an accented Basic. She had picked a few words from Eli.
Kanan smiled. Ezra seemed to light up at the sight of the child. But… What exactly was this kid doing here in a military vessel? Thrawn and Ar’alani, and pretty much the whole bridge were looking at them intently, analyzing their reactions.
Eli placed his hand on Un’hee's shoulder telling her it was alright and then guided the child to the pilot seat.
“Uh… why is she-?” Ezra asked and frowned seeing this.
The girl took the controls and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath.
She activated the hyperspace switch and the ship entered the lane of blue and white lights that would take them further into the heart of the Unknown Regions.
Ezra stood right up. Kanan tensed at his side. Both of them were speechless… Un’hee was guiding the ship with the Force.
They looked at Eli and Thrawn who were gauging their reactions.
“Please, let us discuss this in a more private area. Forward Visual One should do,” Thrawn gestured with his good hand to the exit, and they all moved as quietly as they could, leaving the bridge. Eli gave one last glance at the little girl, but Vah’nya patted him in the shoulder, letting him know she would be alright.
The group arrived at what looked like an observation gallery with a convex floor-to-ceiling viewport where they could see the glowing hyperspace. There also was a long curved couch that gave the whole place the impression of being some kind of elegant lounge. But that wasn’t on Ezra’s mind right now.
“I can't believe it...” he rubbed his face barely believing what he just saw. “You have Force-sensitives? Children? Piloting your ships? Don’t you have a nav-computer to pilot through hyperspace?”
Thrawn had walked to see the hyperspace outside the great window with a serious face. “No, the Chiss don’t use nav-computers that have records of our visited planets… if the ships were to fall into enemy hands, our planets would risk invasion. This is the only way we have to protect our people...” he said somberly and then glanced back. “Miss Vah’nya here is also Force-sensitive.”
“Why don’t just let her do it instead?” Kanan questioned worriedly for the child. Something like this would be too hard for such a small child. “Someone older?”
“As I was just old, Miss Vah’nya is the one that brought us here so she needs rest,” Thrawn said and turned to them, giving his back to the lights of hyperspace outside, making a high contrast of darkness on his face, only illuminated by his glowing red eyes. "The Unknown Regions is almost impossible to traverse quickly without long calculations of shifting hyperlanes. The girls are the only ones capable to navigate them using their foresight.”
He grew silent and glanced at them sternly...
“There’s more to it,” Kanan crossed his arms waiting to hear the rest.
Eli sighed. “I’m afraid so. Vah’nya is one of the few navigators who has kept her Force foresight power despite her age. The majority of the Chiss girls lose it when they become adults. That’s the only ability they manifest.”
Ezra furrowed his brow. “But… that doesn’t happen. You don’t lose the Force like that. And just one ability? That’s not how it works-...”
“Only women?” Kanan asked.
“Mostly,” Eli clarified. “There are a few rare males but it is almost always females. They don’t know why. I have been trying to find a pattern...”
“When Thrawn contacted us to tell us he would bring you, we hoped you could help them… and protect them,” Eli said.
“Protect them? From what?” Ezra narrowed his eyes.
“From something far worse than the Empire,” Thrawn assured him.
“The Grysk,” Eli’s shoulders became tense just by mentioning them. “They attempted to steal a group of navigators months ago to pilot their own ships… and we rescued Un’hee from them recently, too. She's better now, but she won't pilot any other ship I'm not in.”
“And you said you can’t protect them? Why don’t you only hide them?” Ezra complained. The safety of these kids should come first!
“We can’t,” Thrawn said. “We need them to pilot our ships or the colonies would end up isolated. There wouldn’t be any other way to reach them. If someone were to attack them, they would be powerless, our navy wouldn’t be able to arrive in time to defend them,” Thrawn said.
Kanan grew silent. It was no surprise why Thrawn kept thinking of the Force as a weapon. It was the only way they seemed to use it… some kind of tool for survival.
“Please, you need to help us protect them,” Eli pleaded them. “What the Grysk do to their captives is… horrible,” he seemed a little shaken just to remember what Un'hee told him. “I… I promised the girls I wouldn’t let them fall in their hands again. No matter what,” Eli stressed that last part, trying to make it clear what he meant by that. “ No matter what. I promised I would-... ”
“You won’t have to,” Ezra said with an understanding but determined look on his face. He had made up his mind. It seemed like the Force had brought them where they were needed the most... these children... they might be their only chance.
Kanan nodded. “We will try to help you figure out your powers and…”
“We will do our best to protect them,” Ezra confirmed looking at Ar’alani and Vah’nya who had let them talk as they didn't know Basic yet. It was clear they would also needed to learn it.
“Thank you...” Eli said.
At that moment, Kanan noticed something through the Force… Ezra might have missed it because he was far more focused on this conversation, but Kanan could tell Thrawn was analyzing Ezra’s way of talking, carrying himself, his stance... the tone of his voice. It was clear Ezra’s whole demeanor was a far cry from the tense bundle of nerves he was the last time they had talked. Thrawn then glanced at Kanan, realizing what might happened during those days when they were alone.
Kanan’s face became serious and he stood straighter at Ezra’s side, almost in a protective way, letting Thrawn know he was aware of his scrutiny. Thrawn only slightly inclined his head in acknowledgment, too. He didn’t mean any harm, but it was impossible for Thrawn not to notice these details.
“With this said… I believe it is time to visit the medbay,” Thrawn said looking down at his arm.
“Uhmm…” Ezra moved his shoulder around, not feeling any pain anymore. “We are fine now… at least we *feel* fine. You are the one who should get that checked out,” Ezra said and was surprised he was even asking Thrawn to look after his health. A couple of weeks ago that would have been a reason to celebrate... learning what motivated people certainly made a huge difference.
“Indeed,” Thrawn said.
Eli grimaced. “I can accompany you to the med-”
“Do not worry, Lieutenant Vanto, they should still require someone to take them to their new quarters and explain the basics,” Thrawn said looking at Ezra and Kanan. “You will be given a shared cabin close to my own, which in turn will be close to the children’s rooms. That way your presence in the area won’t be as questioned by Brierly Ronan. Is that acceptable?”
Ezra looked at Kanan and he shrugged. It sounded fine.
“Yes. I think so,” Ezra accepted.
Ar’alani and Vah’nya went with Thrawn while a slightly disappointed Eli led them to their room. They arrived in an area where there were more Chiss guards that watched them closely as they passed. They finally arrived at a white door and Eli input a code. The door opened and entered to a medium sized cabin. Slightly larger than what they had back in the Ghost. It had a table, a comfortable bunk, a locker and what they could assume was a small private refresher. Eli explained how it functioned.
“You should rest. I'll come back for you in a few hours. If you need anything, just let me know,” Eli gave Ezra a comm-link to stay in touch. “There are a couple of changes of clothes in the lockers… but I advise keeping the Stormtrooper armor for the moment.”
“Yeah,” Ezra said offhandedly looking around, and his eyes fell on the warm bed. He felt suddenly so tired from remembering all the nights they slept on the ground. He could finally have some comfortable sleep… not like Kanan’s arms weren’t good enough but this would be a welcomed change.
Eli hesitated just before leaving and turned to them. “Thank you… for doing this,” Eli looked up with clear gratitude. These kids meant a lot to him. “I know it's not easy to leave everything else behind.”
Kanan nodded and patted Eli’s shoulder. "Sometimes life changes the path you were on…and you have to do what you must with that."
Eli nodded slowly. Yeah, he knew just what he meant. After all, his own life had changed forever when he met Thrawn.
Ezra smiled. “Just let us know when it’s time to eat.”
“Will do,” Eli said with a small tired chuckle and then he left.
Ezra gave a deep sigh and sat on the bed, but suddenly remembered something and got up.
“Dibs on the fresher!” he called out laughing and closed the door behind him.
“Hey!” Kanan complained jokingly. Sadly, the fresher was too small for both of them so they would actually have to take turns.
After both of them had cleaned themselves they sat together at the bed, just leaning into each other.
"You really think we can help these kids?" Ezra questioned just to reassure himself a bit.
"I think so… yes… This is too much of a coincidence to not be a new mission from the Force."
Ezra nodded and held Kanan's hand, and he brought it up to kiss and sighed. They didn't need words for this… they now had a strong open bond.
Things would be ok. They had each other. But it suddenly struck Ezra… how many other versions of himself wouldn’t?
"Ezra?" Kanan whispered sensing the turmoil in Ezra's heart.
"I’m ok. I just… I just realize how lucky I am," he said looking at their hands. His eyes became stern. "When I was in that place inside the Temple… I looked at many of those mirrors… several of them had only myself on their reflection, which would mean…"
"That I wasn't in them… I wasn't in that world," Kanan paused with a sad expression. "Perhaps I died on those."
Ezra nodded, squeezing his hand. His heart hurt for them… for himself. How many versions of him would have to do this on their own? Or how many others would never get this even if Kanan were there? How many would have never realized their feelings? Just thinking about it pained him.
Kanan passed his arm around Ezra bringing him closer to his chest. Ezra could hear the beating of Kanan's heart… it was the most beautiful and soothing sound.
"Ezra… all I can say is that… if I ever met you… it wouldn’t matter what our relationship was. If it was this or if it had stayed as master and as an apprentice," Kanan whispered. "Even if I died in those other realities… even then… I would find a way to reach back to you. A way to tell you that... I’ll always be with you in the Force."
A smile crept up Ezra's lips even though he had tears in his eyes. He felt overwhelmed by Kanan's love and light through their bond. He reached up, holding Kanan's face for a soft kiss…
I love you. He would never stop saying it, because it was true.
They felt their souls igniting with shared warmth… a selfless fire that fed the other. Ezra pulled him down to the bed with him, seeking his touch, his embrace, letting this light consume them. Their fingers entwined. Their bodies moved, trembled and shuddered together as one. Ezra quietly moaned Kanan's name as pleasure overtook him… Kanan gasped Ezra's name.
And afterward, they laid at each other's side.
They were grateful for sharing this moment together. No matter what challenges and hardships they would face, they knew that, at least in this world, in this life, at this time… this is where they were supposed to be... Together .
Thank you so much for following this story. I hope you enjoyed it. Please, leave a comment if you like it and tell me what was your favorite part! ♥(◕‿◕)♥ I would love to hear it.
Here's a last little treat from evakaname. She worked on a beautiful piece that I think is a perfect way to close the story...
♥♥♥ THANK YOU!! ♥♥♥