Of course she recognised him at once. Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi's favourite weapon of last resort, was permanently splashed across the holonews. He'd gained gravitas over the years, and time had lent maturity to his good looks and a certain urbanity to his charm. The regrettable padawan haircut had gone - but so, Sabé was saddened to realise, had the mischievous glint in his eye. That could, on the news, have been chalked up to the solemnity of his dispatches, but any comforting illusions along those lines were dispelled the first time she saw him in person. Even at a distance, it was clear that sadness had settled on his face. Sabé urgently needed to discuss refugee evacuation with him, but she found herself startlingly glad to have an excuse to speak to him, and try to find out what had happened to a Jedi she owed her planet and very possibly her life to. She’d liked the sarcastic, quick-witted young padawan - they all had - and while Padmé had mentioned Kenobi seemed tired, she hadn’t said it had got quite this bad.
Maybe Padmé hadn’t realised. They were all stretched thin these days.
Obi-Wan’s men didn’t recognise Sabé the way her colleagues had recognised him; gossip wouldn’t run wildfire through their ranks the way it had through her through the Refugee Rights and Resettlement Agency (Outer Rim Department, Savareen Sector). Sabé had never been a public figure during the Naboo Crisis, only one of Queen Amidala’s interchangeable handmaidens. Most days she preferred it that way, except when she was having difficulty getting an important story onto the news, or her foot in the door of a planetary governing body.
Or an appointment with High General Kenobi of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Sabé sighed, and played her final card. “We fought alongside each other during the Naboo Crisis. I assure you, he’ll find five minutes for me.”
Truthfully, she wasn’t certain at all that he would. There was a decade of clear water between bright-eyed Padawan Kenobi and the High General half the Republic was counting on to save them from the Separatists. The same distance between the queen’s handmaiden and Vice-Director Sabé Theodora of the Refugee Rights and Resettlement Agency felt almost impassable. And she hadn’t been to war in the meantime: only the little gods knew what time and conflict had done to Obi-Wan.
But the trooper was impressed enough to go and pass a message to someone who passed a message and to someone else who passed another message, and eventually, after half an hour of Sabé kicking her heels on the wrong side of a door, a clonetrooper with a frankly stratospheric rank badge and a heavy yellow visor appeared and saluted.
Sabé bowed her head politely, and offered him a slight smile.
“Vice-Director Theodora,” he said. None of the clones sounded exactly the same even in Sabé’s limited experience, there were always slight differences in inflection or tone, but this one had a distinct hint of Obi-Wan’s own crisp Coruscant accent. “General Kenobi says he has very limited time but would be delighted to spare some of it for you.”
“Thank you, Commander…?”
“That’s not quite what I meant,” Sabé said, too light to be dry. She’d noticed this before. Clones would give their names first to the refugees they encountered, especially to those they considered particularly vulnerable - children, the injured or the elderly. Faced with someone who had, or might be perceived to have, authority over them, they gave their numbers. It made it difficult for Sabé’s people to track down individual clones who needed thanks or a reprimand.
He didn’t appear to hesitate. “Cody, ma’am.”
“I am happy to make your acquaintance, Commander Cody, and I will be pleased to meet with General Kenobi at his convenience.” No need to make demands when they were already offering her what she wanted.
“This way, ma’am,” he said. “Your assistant..."
“I sent him away,” Sabé said. “There’s too much to do on Christophsis’s surface for both of us to be here. He’s taking over my duties as a coordinator.”
Elisha was also from Durkteel, and had Separatist sympathies he thought Sabé didn’t know about which made him profoundly uncomfortable on the Negotiator’s flagship, but that wasn’t information Commander Cody needed.
Commander Cody nodded, and ushered her through the door. She followed him through the ship, some part of her which still hadn’t laid down her weapons cataloguing the area around her, identifying threats and summing up capabilities. It was all very disciplined, she noted. Commander Cody’s extremely straight spine and textbook perfect adherence to protocol suggested that the command culture expected that. It reminded her, unexpectedly, of being a handmaiden - that discipline, wariness and attention to tiny details - but if the impression had ever been going to linger it was immediately dispelled when Commander Cody showed her into Obi-Wan Kenobi's cabin, and Sabé saw him full-face and close-up for the first time since the Crisis.
Good manners prevented her from observing that he looked like he needed to sleep for a week.
“Vice-Director Theodora,” General Kenobi said, rising and inclining his head. “Congratulations on your promotion.”
She inclined her head in return. “We spilled blood together in Theed, General Kenobi. It’s still Sabé.”
His mouth twitched. “Then it’s still Obi-Wan. At least, where that won’t compromise your standing with RRARA.”
“It’s not my standing with the agency I’m worried about,” Sabé said. “It’s the public perception of our independence.”
“I would have thought that we’ve been publicly raked over the coals enough times that your independence from us wasn’t in question.”
Sabé allowed herself a smile. “I work in the Outer Rim Department, Obi-Wan - appearances are everything, and a Core-based agency starts from a position of justified distrust.”
He nodded. “I understand. What can I do for you?”
You can get some sleep, Sabé swallowed back. She’d heard the Jedi could draw on the Force to keep themselves upright despite terrible energy deficits, but either the lighting in here was exceptionally unflattering or Obi-Wan was driving himself far too hard. “We have a full convoy ready to lift Senator Organa off-planet and empty the camps on the surface of Christophsis, but the Separatists aren’t respecting our non-combatant flags. You need to get those refugees off-planet, I need protection while getting those refugees off-planet - we should be coordinating.”
“We should,” he agreed. “Your predecessor's working style made that... challenging.”
Sabé hadn’t had a high opinion of her predecessor to begin with, and knew very well that one of the reasons she’d replaced him was that she dealt well with the Grand Army of the Republic. Eris tended to throw his weight around, which worked better on senators you had decades of dirt on than it did on clonetroopers with no known history and an increasingly deep allergy to letting Eris anywhere near their Jedi commanding officers. “I am. That’s why I’m here, Obi-Wan.”
“We’ve both seen refugee camps,” Obi-Wan said, “long before this.”
Sabé thought about Naboo, and about the little that was publicly known of Obi-Wan’s past, on Mandalore, on Melida/Daan. She had read the briefings.
“Yes,” Sabé said.
Obi-Wan smiled at her, small and tight, and she smiled back, in much the same way. He hoisted himself out of his chair. “Let me introduce you to Admiral Yularen.”
Bail Organa kept a very nice Alderaanian brandy in his quarters. Sabé was not surprised to receive an invitation, once Senator Organa had tidied himself up, called his wife and transmitted his report to the Senate. She accepted, after she and Elisha had seen the evacuated refugees settled and those who wished to stay resupplied, and she had transmitted her report to the Director of the Outer Rim Department. So did Obi-Wan, presumably once he’d finished mopping up after his former padawan.
They talked in a friendly and informal way, and Sabé and Obi-Wan referred to each other as Master Jedi and Vice-Director throughout.
The next time she saw Obi-Wan she was on Rodia and under fire.
“I’ve heard rumours,” Obi-Wan shouted, deflecting blaster bolts away from her head, “that your promotion was considered a test, Vice-Director.”
“The Savareen sector is very busy,” Sabé shouted back, which was as much an answer as it wasn’t.
Her fingers itched for a blaster and she didn’t take one up. She was a non-combatant now.
The Senate cut the budget for the Refugee Rights and Resettlement Agency, and Sabé, by implication, lost four lawyers, a promising experimental counter-malnutrition programme, and her best Huttese dialect translator. Allegedly the money went to supplying the army. Sabé had her doubts, and so did Padmé, squeezing her hand in the shelter of their elaborate skirts in silent condolence.
Padmé would move on to the next legislative battle, and the next, and the next, and she’d probably win some of them, but in the meantime, Sabé had a few billion children she had to find a way to feed.
“That dress would cause a scandal on Naboo,” Sabé said, instead of anything more relevant. She could see a droid-borne microphone from here.
“You both look lovely,” Obi-Wan said, joining them in the Senate corridor, “if you’ll allow me to say so.”
“You look like you need a rest,” Sabé replied, “if you’ll allow me to say so.” There were still deep shadows under those clear blue eyes, and every time she saw him there seemed to be more white threads hidden among the pale red of his hair.
He raised his eyebrows at her. “No rest for the wicked,” he answered, light and meaninglessly flirtatious, the same way he was with almost everyone.
He left for an urgent comm from the extremely long-suffering Commander Cody almost immediately afterwards, and Sabé looked at Padmé and found Padmé looking back. They were still so alike. Their expressions were still the almost perfect match they had trained themselves into as children.
Ridiculous, Sabé read from Padmé’s eyes, and knew Padmé was reading the same back.
“Vice-Director, ma’am,” Commander Cody said, the fourth time Sabé invented an appointment and turned up at the edge of Obi-Wan’s command centre. It seemed to be his way of saying You again.
“I know General Kenobi’s been shot and isn’t seeing visitors,” Sabé said. “You should be aware, however, that my office overlooks the building he’s quartered in, and unless I’m hallucinating, he is not resting.”
Katas, she thought they were called. And if he insisted on performing them shirtless and wavering, with bandages wrapped around one shoulder, she would turn him in to medical authorities without the slightest hesitation.
Commander Cody sighed. “Thank you for the advisory, ma’am.”
“What are you doing here?” Obi-Wan said, after the battle of Ryloth, once a few intrepid reporters had been shooed away. “This isn’t the Savareen sector.”
“I’ve been promoted again,” Sabé said. “If you want to avoid me, stay out of the Outer Rim.”
“Congratulations,” Obi-Wan said. “Director.” He sat down. “Does this mean you’ll stop tattling on me to Commander Cody?”
Sabé sat down next to him. “No,” she said, and turned her face up to the baking sun.
There was the longest silence either of them could sustain without someone coming to look for one of them.
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said, and he sounded so wrung out that something in Sabé’s heart cracked.
She slept with Obi-Wan for the first time after the Battle of Sluis Van ended in carnage.
“Jedi are not permitted attachment,” he told her, pulling the pins from her hair with dexterous fingers.
“Where in all the nine galactic hells do you think I would find the time for attachment?” Sabé enquired, hunting for the catches on his armour.
Anakin Skywalker showed Sabé the Jedi Temple, once - more because he intended to show Padmé than because he meant to show Sabé, but Sabé made convenient cover for his real interest, and in the meantime she was privileged to visit the inner sanctum most people who weren't Jedi would never see. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Full of life, and laden with history.
Sabé could see why Obi-Wan loved it so much. She left Padmé and Knight Skywalker to flirt with each other awkwardly, and asked Skywalker’s padawan leading questions until the young Togruta took her to the Hall of a Thousand Mirrors and talked to her about the war, and fighting in it - which, two-thirds of the time, meant talking about Obi-Wan.
“- but I think you know him,” Ahsoka Tano said, breaking off.
“We fought together on Naboo,” Sabé said, “when Padmé was still queen.” She dipped a hand in one of the pools. “And of course, we sometimes collaborate now.” She smiled at Tano. “You were going to tell me about your men.”
Tano's bright blue eyes lit up.
“A fifteen-year-old as a commander,” Obi-Wan remarked later, when they were alone. ”Obscene.”
“I was only just fifteen when we liberated Naboo,” Sabé reminded him. “Padmé was younger.”
“I know,” Obi-Wan said, and guided her down towards him with a lazy hand in her loose hair.
“I hope they can’t hear us outside your room,” Sabé said. “I wouldn’t want to put you in a difficult position.”
“I’m shielding,” Obi-Wan said. “No-one has any idea.”
“You’re shielding the entire galaxy,” Sabé pointed out. “Some day you’re going to run out of strength.”
“I am one with the Force,” he said sententiously, “and the Force guides me.”
Sabé hit him with a pillow.
Sabé realised she was pregnant when her clothes started fitting differently, and decided before she’d even thought about whether to keep the child or not that she wasn’t going to involve Obi-Wan more than simple kindness demanded. He was a Jedi, and not permitted attachments; she had no interest in a permanent partnership of any kind. They had both been extremely clear on this every time they met, which gave her one problem less to solve. She knew exactly who would be parenting the baby, if she chose to carry it to term.
Sabé sighed, rubbed her face with her hands, and wished briefly that her biology was suited to some of the more long-lasting forms of birth control on offer. The pills she had been taking were dependent on taking them at certain times: she was scrupulous, but she had been through so many different planetary systems lately that she couldn’t be certain that she hadn’t made a mistake at some point.
Sabé glanced at the two positive tests on her bathroom counter, and rolled her eyes at herself. Obviously she had made a mistake at some point.
She sat back and rubbed a hand over her mouth. She was due a sustained break of some kind, if she wished to avoid burning out. It wasn't usual to remain in the field as long as she had. Disciplined and analytic, she might hope that she herself was key to her department, but wasn’t foolish enough to believe she was totally indispensable. Part of her was already thinking of the best way to arrange maternity leave, and the best way to stay in touch while she was out, and who she would want to step up into her shoes, who could handle it, how to manage the transition, and how -
But a baby? What would that look like? How would it change her life?
Why am I not panicking? Sabé wondered, and idly scribbled down a list of possible reasons on her datapad. She’d always known she did want children, at least one, some day, the same way she’d always known she didn’t want a permanent or even a long-term partnership. She liked children’s company. And she did want an heir for her family’s holdings, and wasn’t particularly fond of any of her young cousins. Her mouth twisted as she thought of them, raised in luxury without any appreciation for public service, and with a degree of disdain for the Gungans who shared their planet that had caused her to scream at her aunts and uncles in the aftermath of the Battle of Theed, her skin flaying off with the aftershocks of the battles for liberation.
There was a very good reason Sabé was only really on speaking terms with her parents and about half of her extended family; a very good reason that Sabé found herself rather distant from all of them, independent, somehow differentiated. And a very good reason she knew exactly how she wouldn't raise a child.
Several of her friends had now had children. Naboo encouraged relatively early childbearing, from the age of twenty to thirty or so, and supported those who chose to give birth in maintaining their careers and education at the same time. It was normal. The only reason anyone might be surprised was that Sabé had no partner, but Sabé had served a queen and broken a military occupation before reaching the legal age of majority. She could handle a little curiosity.
She rested a hand on her not-quite-flat stomach. Here was the child she wanted, at the time she’d vaguely thought she might have one, with a father who was a remarkable man and a good person but who didn’t want, and wouldn’t press her for, anything other than her friendship.
It was worth thinking about, at the very least.
She slept on it for more than a week, and made her choice.
She told Padmé first. She didn’t know why. It just felt right. They happened to coincide on Coruscant, and they happened to have made an unrelated appointment to go walking in gardens that approximated the rolling hills of the Lake Country - there was nothing on Coruscant that reflected the craggy islands and forests of Sabé’s home - and Sabé hardly thought at all before letting the words out of her mouth.
Padmé did not stop walking, too much the seasoned politician to show her shock so openly, but she stared at Sabé with eyes slightly smaller than Sabé’s own, fought to keep a jaw slightly softer than Sabé’s from dropping with surprise.
“I thought you didn’t want,” Padmé said, then paused and started again. “You turned down every hint of a betrothal I ever even heard of.”
“I don’t know how to break this to you, Senator,” Sabé said, “but you don’t need a long-term partner to conceive.”
Padmé gave her an unimpressed look. “I’m aware, Sabé. You want to raise this child on your own, though?”
“I won’t be alone, any more than my parents were,” Sabé said. She knew Padmé could be self-reliant, and had a tendency to charge off into the distance with no more protection than Threepio, a blaster, and Anakin Skywalker accelerating in her wake, but she surely hadn’t forgotten the armies of governesses and tutors that had raised them. “I can afford help.”
“But we’re so young,” Padmé said.
Sabé considered pinching the bridge of her nose and decided that would be too obvious. She tucked her hands back into her sleeves. “On Coruscant, yes. On Naboo, no. Eirtaé entered a betrothal agreement last week. Cordé was planning a child, before she died.”
Padmé flinched. “She said.”
“And even here.” Sabé stopped to admire a particularly beautiful bush with spear-straight leaves and vibrant pink blooms; hideously poisonous, of course. “How old are the youngest Jedi padawans in the field? How old are the youngest clones? Regulations for RRARA say a head of household can be as young as thirteen.” She dropped the branch she had been holding, and wiped her fingers absently on her skirts. “None of us was older than fifteen during the Naboo Crisis. This war is making a mockery of ages of adulthood.”
Padmé was silent. Sabé sighed.
“Twenty-seven is a perfectly normal age to have a child.”
“You’re right,” Padmé said, with a rather shallow smile. “I was thinking of it in my own terms - it would be very difficult for me, at this point.” Her smile broadened and became more real. “Congratulations, Sabé.”
Sabé blinked, assimilated the information Padmé had not meant to reveal, and pointed at her. “It had better not be that idiot from the Banking Clan.”
“Good. He’s corrupt.” Sabé pushed a strand of hair behind one ear, and quirked her lips at Padmé. “And he has clammy hands.”
Padmé looked like she wanted to laugh. “Any child of yours is going to be terrifying,” she said. “I’m afraid you’ll raise another tiny little handmaiden.”
“As if you wouldn’t,” Sabé said, with a certain degree of affection. “Half of Coruscant saw you teaching Ahsoka Tano, when you had that bounty hunter after you. I’m reasonably sure she was meant to be bodyguarding you, not undergoing a political apprenticeship.”
“I,” Padmé began, and Sabé just looked at her. Padmé’s shoulders dropped a little, and she smiled. “I was doing Anakin a favour in return for him lending me Ahsoka as protection. The Council couldn’t spare a battle-ready Jedi Knight and Ahsoka is the best practical fighter of her generation, but politically, she might as well still be in the youngling classes. Padawans are supposed to receive some political and diplomatic instruction, but Anakin…”
“... is a close personal friend of Chancellor Palpatine?”
“... has no political instincts,” Padmé corrected, giving Sabé a sideways look and a couple of casual, easily dismissable gestures that indicated her belief that it was Anakin’s lack of political instincts that so endeared him to the Chancellor. Which made sense: after more than ten years of the Chancellor’s mentoring, it was likely Anakin wouldn’t notice he was being used as propaganda unless the Chancellor actually handed him a script for a holonews appearance, which Palpatine was far too experienced an operator to do.
“Obi-Wan could surely provide her with some instruction,” Sabé pointed out. “They don’t call him the Negotiator for nothing.”
“He tends to negotiate with a lightsaber in one hand and Anakin standing behind his chair,” Padmé retorted. “Ahsoka isn’t going to learn restraint, delicacy or Senate protocol from either of them.”
Sabé inclined her head. “Is she a good pupil?”
“A very quick learner.” Padmé glanced up at the fountain they were approaching, and chose the path that would keep them walking for longer. “But accustomed to being highly active, and therefore easily bored. And I think she’s a little too sincere for a long-term career in politics. But she does build friendships quickly, which is a skill many a more experienced politician would do well to study.”
They walked for another half an hour, talking mostly of old friends. Padmé, unlike most, did not have to be prompted not to ask about the baby’s other parent. Sabé thought it was probably mostly Padmé's innate tact and her knowledge of Sabé's preferences, but she wondered a little, quietly, if there wasn't something else to it.
At the exit to the park Padmé’s speeder was waiting for them; Sabé planned to take a public bus. They stopped, and Padmé turned towards Sabé and took her hands.
“I am happy for you,” she said. “I wish I could be there, when the baby is born. Tell me as soon as they’re with us. Tell me as soon as you want me to visit.”
Sabé kissed Padmé’s forehead. “I will.”
She was polite enough not to tell Obi-Wan in front of anyone who might notice any change in his demeanour. She waited until they were having a pleasant catch-up over caf, and steered the talk round to leave and travel plans. Characteristically, Obi-Wan had a great deal of travel planned, all of it necessary to (and at the mercy of) the war effort, and absolutely no leave time.
Sabé delivered her usual strong hints on the subject of burning out, and then discussed a spare day she’d tagged on to a carefully neutral academic conference in Corellia, a Life Day trip back to Xarxas to see her parents, and then her maternity leave.
“Congratulations,” Obi-Wan said, with only a slight double-blink to betray his surprise.
“My parents are pleased to hear there will be an heir for Xarxas,” Sabé said with composure. “And I’ve always wanted to be a mother.”
“I’ve heard nothing of a partnership - though I have been chasing Anakin around Geonosis for the last several months.”
Sabé shook her head. “As you know, I’ve never wanted to be a wife.”
Obi-Wan inclined his head politely. “Will you involve the father?”
Sabé pursed her lips. “We made it clear there were no long-term implications to our liaison, and it would be difficult for him to be much involved in the baby’s life. I would be open to changing that, but it’s not a discussion we’ve had.”
“I have no wish to intrude,” Obi-Wan said.
Sabé thought of her mother’s queries and her cousins’ curiosity and her uncles’ homilies, and laughed. “You don’t,” she said. “You wouldn’t.”
He smiled. “Well, my best wishes for a safe delivery, and do let me know when the baby is born.”
“I’ll send you a holo,” Sabé said. “No doubt you’ll drop it, just like everything else, but I have faith in Commander Cody’s ability to carry on scooping up your mislaid belongings.”
Obi-Wan grimaced. “Anakin keeps making fun of me for the cloaks.”
Sabé snorted involuntarily. “Possibly because you deserve it.”
When they stood to leave, Obi-Wan’s eyes fell to the slight curve of her stomach.
“You can if you like,” Sabé said gently, and nodded when he looked into her eyes.
Light and tentative, his broad, elegant hand settled on the flesh their child slept under, and Sabé felt a smile creep over her face as she watched the wonder on his.
“Can you feel them?” she asked. “In the Force.”
“No,” Obi-Wan said, staring at his hand on Sabé’s stomach. “Right now, it’s just as if your Force signature is a little brighter. You don’t really get any sense of a separate signature until a short time before birth, and then only if you’re sensitive to such things, or paying close attention to someone you know well. A child’s Force signature solidifies with their personality.”
He looked up at Sabé, and there was the strangest look in his eyes, something Sabé couldn’t parse, both sad and happy and wondering. “Call on me if you need assistance.”
“Likewise,” Sabé said warmly, “always.”
He smiled. “May the Force be with you both.”
She never saw him in person again.
The baby was a son. Sabé’s family’s estate, tucked away on a tall island in the north-west among the high cliffs that fell to the sea, was traditionally matrilineal, so this could have been considered an inconvenience. But Sabé was not old-fashioned, the estate was not entailed, and she didn’t plan to have any other children to create lawsuits over the inheritance. Her father was a little disappointed; it had been unorthodox enough for him to take Xarxas when his sister stepped aside to join the Explorers’ Guild in Wild Space, and all his choices since had been traditional. Sabé, by coming home with a child whose other parent she politely declined to name, had thrown a grenade into that particular nest of gundarks. By having a boy, and publicly declaring him her heir within days of his birth, she had danced upon the smoking remains.
Still, Sabé made it very clear in the latest stages of her pregnancy that she never planned to do anything this godsdamned unpleasant again, and that if he wanted an heir to Xarxas, he’d have to content himself with her son.
He hadn’t looked very happy with that. Sabé hoped he would like the name her mother had helped her choose, in between careful questions designed to determine the identity of the baby’s other parent, which Sabé deflected just as carefully.
“Kyrie,” Dormé said, sounding it out carefully. Kee-ree-ay. “Very pretty. It means something, of course?”
“For all you know it’s just a bundle of syllables,” Sabé retorted, watching Dormé cradle her son. All the handmaidens had been chosen in part for their close mutual resemblance; part of Sabé wondered if she looked as Dormé did now, when she held Kyrie.
“Ha,” Dormé said. “When did you ever choose something casually?”
Sabé folded her hands neatly. “It’s a traditional name from this part of Naboo. You wouldn’t recognise it, it’s not much heard outside this region.”
“It doesn’t have an accent, though it should.” Dormé mouthed the name again, lingering slightly on the final ay sound, the same as the é in Sabé, Cordé, Eirtaé, Padmé - except, of course, that Padmé’s handmaidens had changed their names to reflect hers, and this name was Kyrie’s, all his own.
“It’s old enough to predate the spelling reforms.”
“I thought you were all for modernity,” Dormé said blandly.
Sabé recognised in this a swipe at her cooperation with the Grand Army of the Republic, and refused the gambit. “I’m all in favour of spelling names correctly, regardless of whether the spelling is conventional or not.”
Dormé rocked Kyrie slightly as he opened his mouth and prepared to scream.
“It means rejoicing,” Sabé said, sitting up slightly and reaching out for Kyrie. “Kyrie - it means rejoicing.”
Dormé handed Kyrie to her very carefully, and Sabé cradled him against her chest and whispered to him until he was quiet.
“I’m not going to ask about the other parent,” Dormé observed.
“Thank you,” Sabé said dryly.
“But I will say I’m glad you had a boy,” Dormé added. “It’ll put a stop to the rumours that you had yourself cloned.”
Sabé hiccuped an involuntary giggle. “Don’t make me laugh! I have stitches.”
Dormé waved an insouciant hand. “It’s just the younger Zapalo boy. He’s still angry you refused his proposal. Eirtaé’s already put it about that he’s jealous you found him too childish to sire your heir. We’ve been envisioning a sort of game show type set-up, like that thing on the holonet Cordé used to like, the one with the tropical moon -”
“Anyone would think I organised this,” Sabé complained, grinning. “You’ll be the death of my reputation.”
Dormé shrugged and smiled mischievously like she used to before the blockade, and crossed her legs elegantly. “If you didn’t organise it, Sabé, it would be the first thing in your entire life that you didn’t plan.”
“I’m branching out,” Sabé said, tilting her head down to Kyrie’s and breathing in deeply.
“You’re happy,” Dormé said, and there was a softness in her voice.
Sabé smiled into her son’s head. “I know.”
The Clone Wars ended, the Republic fell, the Empire rose, the Jedi were slaughtered, and Padmé died all on the same day, when Kyrie was six months old.
Sabé stayed at work, hiding the rattle-trap thunder of her heart and cold sweat pearling on her back under narrow-eyed concern for the political situation, until she heard the news of Padmé’s death.
Killed by a rogue Jedi. Sabé had never heard such nonsense in her life, and she’d watched Padmé pretend to be charmed by the Trade Federation’s blandishments.
"The Jedi are traitors who have betrayed the Republic," said the clone who told her, a man Sabé didn’t know from the Coruscant Security Forces, whose wooden tone she did not recognise.
She recognised suspicion in the way he watched her, though. So she said “Padmé,” faintly, instead of any of the other things she might have said with emphasis, and allowed her nausea to be visible. “Padmé.”
“Forgive me, Commander,” Sabé said, staggering artistically into a chair and staring blankly out at the Senate instead of the smoking ruins of the Jedi Temple, where only the youngest students and the oldest Masters now remained, where they must all be dead.
She wondered who had killed Obi-Wan, and how; if it had been Cody who turned on him, or if it had been someone else who cared about him less.
And Padmé - Padmé, Padmé, Padmé - the Chancellor’s protégée but so often his obstacle? Who had really killed her, and how? Part of Sabé that had never really left off the handmaiden’s role was screaming. She should have been with her, she should have fought for her, she should have turned aside the blade, taken the blaster bolt, that was what she was for, that was why Cordé had died, and it was as much as any of them would have done -
Sabé took a great, shuddering breath, and let tears of shock roll down her cheeks. “When Padmé was Queen of Naboo, I was one of her handmaidens.” She covered her eyes. “A decoy, a bodyguard, an advisor. I fought for her when she liberated Theed, during the Naboo Crisis. She was - a sister to me. Closer than - closer than blood.” She did not have to fake the hitch in her voice, but if it hadn’t existed she would have invented it.
The clone didn’t say he understood, but Sabé felt the pressure in the room tick down slightly. She had heard the clones refer to each other as brothers, vod’e, often enough. They understood the concept of brothers and sisters in arms, and this one had accepted her story readily enough, made as it was from a piece of the truth.
“Please excuse me a moment,” she said, voice wavering. “I feel ill.”
Sabé locked herself in the bathroom, threw up, hyperventilated, and panicked for five interminable minutes. Her situation would have been melodramatic beyond laughter two days ago, but now it was real and terrifying. She was now the mother of a traitor’s secret son, heavily involved in a branch of government distrusted by the administration of the day, and strongly associated with a dead opponent of the Chancellor. Or - no, Sabé supposed. The Emperor.
She leaned her head against the cool tile of the bathroom and closed her eyes. They were dry now: Sabé had never been able to cry when she was really afraid. She would have to fix that, and show a depth of grief that made her look harmless. Otherwise she would fall under more suspicion than she was already in for, and she could not afford to do that. The Chancellor’s opponents had suffered: she didn’t want to know what would happen to the Emperor’s.
Sabé Theodora emerged from the bathroom pale and unsteady, with reddened eyes and tear tracks and shaking hands. She set back all her appointments, and requested a clone escort back to her apartment, to dress herself in the closest possible approximation of formal Nubian mourning black. She wrote at once to the Naberrie family, and to her sisters among the handmaidens, to declare her readiness to take part in the funeral rites. She bought black clothing for her baby son and painted herself with the traditional Nubian makeup never seen this close into the Core.
“There’s a no-fly zone around the Temple, ma’am,” said the clone who had given her the news, as they hurried towards Sabé’s Coruscant home. “In case any of those - in case any of the Jedi escape. I’d advise you not to leave your flat without an escort.”
“And put my son in danger?” Sabé said, inserting maternal outrage into her voice. “Certainly not.”
Ahsoka Tano had shown her the Temple, once, and they had walked past the crèche. Tano was hardly more than a girl herself, battles and sham trials be damned, but those in the crèche had been babies, toddlers, children hardly older than Kyrie.
Sabé did not clench her hands into fists. To give herself away like that would be to betray Kyrie to the fate of a hundred other Force-sensitive children, cooling slowly in their last resting place.
Sabé bowed her head, and pretended that tears had welled up once more.
The handmaidens assembled with the Naberries to walk behind the casket, and, as a courtesy, were invited to keep vigil with Padmé beforehand. Sola suggested they might like to keep watch in shifts, but the handmaidens - those of them who were left, Rabé some kind of political prisoner, Eirtaé suspiciously sick and confined to bed, Cordé dead and gone for years now - nodded politely and silently ignored her. Pooja (always strong, but a little aimless, and searching for something to latch onto) did take a strong and sudden liking to Kyrie, which allowed Sabé to hand him off to her and Sola, and take up her place with the others.
When she first saw Padmé, dressed in a flowing blue gown with her hair loose in its natural curls and sprinkled with white flowers, Sabé’s heart missed a beat.
She flicked a glance at Dormé. Did you know?
Tiny movements of Dormé’s hand told her that yes, Dormé had known, but only because she dressed Padmé, who had been too afraid to say anything.
Sabé looked at the smooth curve of her friend’s abdomen, revealed by the soft cut of the gown, and felt her heart break all over again. Fearless Padmé, afraid? Afraid to break convention? Afraid to produce an unsuitable partner? Afraid to provide a pressure point for the exploiting, in an undoubtedly dangerous situation?
You could have told me, Sabé said silently, to Padmé’s missing soul. I would have helped you.
Dormé stepped forward, pulling something from her sleeve: a carved piece of wood on plain cord. Sabé recognised it. The child Ani had given it to a girl queen on Tatooine, long years before he had become a Jedi Knight, long years before she had become a Senator. When Dormé tucked it into Padmé’s serenely folded hands Sabé felt her breath catch, quite involuntarily.
She met Dormé’s eyes, almost the same brown as hers, and did not look away.
They must have killed him before they got to her, Nalé said, with quick clever hands: but though Nalé was a sweet girl, and a competent aide, and had changed her name to match that of Padmé’s handmaidens, she was a later addition to Padmé’s staff. She had known only the poised politician. Not the girl with makeup on her face, blood on her teeth, and a planet to avenge.
She also did not know much about Anakin Skywalker, beyond the holonet image of swashbuckling power. His kindness, his love, his jealousy, and his fear - none of this ever made it onto the broadcasts.
I’ve heard it said he died in the Temple, Dormé replied, careful, guarded.
Sabé tilted her head to one side and did not move her hands. Is it true?
Dormé looked back at her, and did not reply.
So this is what it is, Sabé thought, not to be trusted any more.
She accepted the stain of it and allowed it to colour the day as she paced through Theed, veiled in black, with her son in her arms and her sisters around her. She ate the funeral meats, kept the dawn watch, knelt as Padmé was given to the cemetery among the waters. Kyrie remained unearthly quiet throughout, except when hungry, and clung to her. By the time the silent march was over he would not even play with Pooja, who he had liked very well.
Sabé held him close, where she wanted to keep him. She spent two more days with the Naberries, and then took a week at Xarxas, to see her parents, to grieve, and to clear her mind. A new day had dawned, dangerous and cold, and to survive, Sabé was going to have to lie till her lips turned silver. And as Dormé’s conduct had made plain, she was going to have to do it alone. The best kept secrets were known by few, and now that Obi-Wan was presumed dead, only she knew this one.
She watched the sea from the balcony in her room, listening to the rhythmical slap of waves against the pillars of the land-bridge, and fed Kyrie as the sun lightened the waters from ink to slate, and picked out the cliffs in pewter and jade.
She breathed deeply, and remembered the weight of a blaster and the sound of an army and Padmé’s voice, giving orders.
So be it, she thought. Let the Empire rise. I am a daughter of Naboo, and I am not done.
There wasn't much she could do, not yet. But keeping Kyrie alive would be a start.
The Displaced People's Bureau did not negotiate with hostage takers, which put Sabé in a difficult position. Possibly a more difficult position than any since that long-ago coup on Naboo, since none of the many undesirable situations she'd found herself in over the course of the intervening twenty years had involved her son, eight years old and achingly vulnerable.
Her son. Sabé remembered the curious way one of the pirates had looked at Kyrie, like she saw something Sabé needed to keep unseen, and shivered. It was one of the ranking pirates, too, someone who gave a lot of orders that were then obeyed: a well-built Tholothian woman of medium height who wore her tendrils wrapped in the same red scarves many of her crewmates favoured. If she had some gift or knew some trick to recognise Kyrie as anything other than a perfectly ordinary little boy...
Sabé gripped her spine with both hands and let her eyes unfocus long enough for one steadying breath, then focussed again. She’d need to be smart to get Kyrie out of this.
Her aides and the corvette’s crew had all been ushered away - probably to cells, but not, Sabé hoped, to uncomfortable ones. Sabé and Kyrie had been sent directly to Captain Ohnaka’s quarters, although there was no visible bedroom: this seemed to be more of a receiving room, and although Kyrie had poked around inquisitively, as children will, he had found no doors that opened.
Sabé sat down on one of the overly soft, remarkably extravagant sofas and told Kyrie to leave the cabinet of antique blasters alone. He was too careful to say he was bored, but he came and sat down opposite her and stared at her in a way that telegraphed very clearly that he was.
Sabé arched an eyebrow at him. As Padmé had predicted, she'd raised him the only way she really knew how, the way she’d been raised: as a handmaiden of Naboo. He recognised the same signals. Stay put, stay quiet, await your orders. He was still only an eight-year-old boy, but he tried, and he did very well, for a child of his age and activity levels. He had his father’s coiled energy, if not the desperate need to prove himself.
After twenty minutes, the Tholothian pirate walked in, palmed a switch on the wall to lock the door, and set a signal jammer down on the table between Sabé and Kyrie. Kyrie, who certainly didn’t recognise it but knew that it was dangerous, looked frightened.
Sabé stared at the pirate, mind oddly cool and calm. This was a test. The jammer was off. If she turned it on, that would be to imply she had a secret - and Sabé, who was hiding the son of one of the Republic’s last great generals and a Jedi who topped the kill lists, had gone to some very great lengths to make it appear that she didn’t have any secrets at all. She had once walked with a two-year-old Kyrie through the halls of the Senate, and had allowed him to toddle right up to a clone who had called himself Cody, because to snatch her son away would have been suspicious. (If there had been any sign that Cody recognised her or guessed Kyrie's identity, she didn’t know what she would have done; but there had been no flicker of awareness in his statue-still body language.) She wasn’t going to be outfaced by a miserable Outer Rim pirate.
If the other woman had a secret to share, she could start. Otherwise, Sabé wasn’t saying anything.
After several minutes, the pirate smiled, an oddly sweet expression in those cool violet eyes, and turned the jammer on.
“Can you keep a secret?” she said to Kyrie.
Kyrie looked at Sabé, who nodded very slightly. Kyrie looked back at the pirate, and nodded, equally slightly.
“Everyone here calls me Nina,” said the pirate in a light, conversational tone, sitting down on the edge of the sofa Kyrie was on, a healthy foot of space between her and Sabé’s son. Sabé’s nerves jangled unhelpfully. “My real name is Katooni, and Ahsoka Tano took me to retrieve my lightsaber crystal from Ilum.”
Sabé held her breath, in order to stop it leaving her lungs.
“And your name is Kyrie Theodora,” said the pirate to Sabé’s son, “and the Force is strong with you, isn’t it?”
Kyrie met the pirate’s eye firmly, and said: “The Force is an old superstition. I believe in science.”
He fumbled over the word superstition in a way that would have made Sabé’s elocution teacher wince, but Sabé felt a surge of both pride and grief. She held out her hands to him, and - puzzled but obedient - he climbed off his sofa and came to her. She pulled him onto her lap, and met Katooni’s eye.
Katooni, strangely enough, was smiling. “You’re going to keep him safe.”
“Is that the Force speaking through you?”
“No,” Katooni replied, and if Sabé listened, if Sabé really listened, she might be able to hear a faint undertone of Obi-Wan’s level Jedi calm in her tone. It had always been a relief, and she had missed it so much, these last years. “Just common sense.”
Sabé inclined her head.
“If he’s going to keep surviving and hiding, he’ll need to learn control,” Katooni said, matter-of-factly. “Control and shielding, as a bare minimum. Do you go to school, Kyrie?”
“I learn at home,” Kyrie replied. “Because I’m my mother’s heir and she prefers to keep me with her.”
Perfectly true, culturally appropriate, and exactly what Sabé had given Kyrie to understand. The fact that she feared his Force-sensitivity - which she’d never been certain of, but had always been aware of, like the faint scent of ozone in her nostrils - could be detected was a separate concern. It couldn't last forever, though; when he was eleven or so he would need to begin attending a formal academy of some kind. It would be younger, of course, if he were political, but to be political on the Emperor's home planet was a dangerous game, and Sabé had guided him away from any hints of interest.
She ensured his midichlorian count was never tested, kept him close, kept him unremarkable, and in three years she’d have to figure out a way to keep him safe whilst still keeping him normal.
Katooni looked at Sabé.
“Tutors,” Sabé said. “I’m too busy to teach him much myself.” The Displaced People’s Bureau was chiefly a figleaf for the Empire’s evils, and the Senate was making noises about dissolving them on the ten-year anniversary of the end of the Clone Wars since they surely wouldn’t be needed any more, but there were still things Sabé could do to help. And it would be suspicious if she stepped down now, with no obvious reason to do so.
“You teach me lots of things!” Kyrie said, loyally indignant. She ran a soothing hand over his hair, and didn’t hide her smile.
“You think I should find him a tutor to instruct him in the ways of the Force,” Sabé said.
“I think you should find him someone who can teach him how to hide in plain sight this way,” Katooni said, “the same way you teach him to hide in plain sight every other way.”
Sabé arched an eyebrow. “And who would you suggest?”
“The only person whose services I can offer is myself,” Katooni said baldly. “There must have been Jedi who escaped the Purges, but I don’t know who they are, or where to find them. They must exist, though.” She shrugged. “You have connections. You can probably do better than a youngling who didn't even really make it to padawan.”
Sabé looked at her for a long moment, and then said: “I wonder if I can do better than a woman who escaped the Empire’s might at the age of - what, fifteen?”
“Thirteen,” Katooni corrected, with a faint smile.
“Well,” Sabé said. “If you can persuade Captain Ohnaka to let you go, and pending a proper trial period, I might be willing to make you an offer of temporary employment.” She looked down at Kyrie, who was looking back at her. “What do you say, Kyrie?”
Kyrie bit his lip.
“Tell the truth,” Sabé said, gently. “Between the two of us, there is nothing to fear from the truth.”
Provided I don't tell you all of it, she added silently, as she always did, every time she said this.
“Feels right,” Kyrie mumbled, slow and guarded.
Some instinct drove Sabé to look at the Tholothian pirate, who suddenly looked strangely shaken. Sabé raised both eyebrows.
“I haven't heard the Force ring like that for a long time,” Katooni said, blinking hard. “I wonder if…” Her eyes strayed to Kyrie, and she shook her head. “Never mind.”
“Kyrie,” Sabé said, “go and look at the stars.”
Kyrie scrambled off her seat and ran to the other end of the capacious stateroom, pressing his nose against the transparisteel. Sabé went and sat down next to the pirate, and locked eyes with her. The other woman, understandably, tensed, and that part of Sabé that knew bloodshed counted the weapons Katooni wasn't admitting to. There were several of them, and none of them were lightsabers.
“I hope you understand that if you even twitch in the direction of betraying me and my son, I will kill you,” Sabé said, soft and conversational.
Impossibly, Katooni smiled. She had a solemn face, but a very ready smile for someone who lived so far outside the law she was a stranger to its rules and its protection.
“I do,” she said, “and I respect that. Even Hondo would respect that. He knows better than to get between a mother and her son.” She fell silent for a second, and then said, with far more difficulty: “It truly was just - the Force sang, for a second, and it made me wonder if I was… supposed to be here. If this is the reason I was spared.” She dipped her head and linked her hands. “I suit being a pirate. But I always wanted to grow up and teach a padawan, until -”
“Empire Day,” Sabé filled in.
There was a brief silence. Kyrie had drifted back to look at the antique blasters.
“We have a deal, then,” Sabé said calmly. “You won't betray me. And I won’t betray you.”
Katooni offered her an arm to clasp, like she was a pirate herself, and Sabé returned the grip without flinching.
“You just have to get off this ship in one piece first,” Katooni observed.
“Very true,” Sabé said dryly. “Do you think anyone else knows about my son?”
“I know they don't,” Katooni said. “If they did, I would have… changed their minds, let's say. And even if they got past me, Hondo would kill them before they could say anything. He wouldn't hand over a Jedi child to the Empire.”
Sabé’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“He knew Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Katooni said. “Liked him. Still mourns him, when he's drunk.”
Sabé did not permit her face to move. “The High General of the Galactic Army of the Republic? What exalted company your captain kept.”
“The Negotiator himself,” Katooni agreed, straight-faced. “That man got around.”
She didn’t clarify whether she meant Captain Ohnaka or Obi-Wan.
“Great skies,” Sabé said mildly, and was relieved to catch a flicker of unauthorised movement in the corner of her eye. “Kyrie Theodora! What did I tell you about the blasters?”
“What did Captain Ohnaka say?” Sabé asked two months later, looking over the young woman dressed sedately as one of the Sisters of Despoina, Kyrie’s new tutor in religious studies, philosophy and (unofficially) the Force. The red headwrap had been replaced by the lavender regalia of the Sisters and a white cap for her tendrils.
“That if I could talk my way out of the Empire and onto a pirate ship, he supposed I could talk myself into a mansion of the Naboo,” Katooni said serenely, displaying documentation that identified her as Sister Tuya, of the Kallista Moon branch of the Sisters. “Additionally, that I am an ungrateful child, a viper in his bosom, a traitor for leaving a valiant captain in his old age.”
“He also told me to write.”
“Well then,” Sabé said, dryly.
Katooni had three years. It wasn't long, and she and Sabé had considered ways to extend her employment, but all of them were too conspicuous. And Katooni could afford to draw attention about as much as Sabé could, which was to say, not at all. She had been very lucky in keeping her name off the kill lists, but that wouldn't last if the Imperial Security Bureau grew to hear of her. She had been smart to steer clear of any whispers of rebellion - in Sabé’s opinion, there was nothing in them strong enough to shield secrets like the ones the two of them were keeping, even with the association of the nine-lived Bail Organa. Katooni was better off avoiding attracting undue notice, as were Sabé and Kyrie.
So three years of a slightly unorthodox philosophy curriculum it was, then. It was fortunate that Katooni, somewhere between learning the ways of a lightsaber and joining a pirate crew, had earned excellent marks in her junior philosophy classes. It meant that Sabé didn't have to find a way to cover the philosophy lessons Kyrie was supposed to be receiving instead of learning to levitate things with his mind and hide his thoughts in labyrinths. And she found that she trusted Katooni’s judgement - and her pazaak face - better and better as the months passed. Perhaps too much; but then, Sabé hadn't realised until Katooni arrived exactly how much she'd missed being able to share the burden of secrets. As Padmé’s handmaiden she had grown accustomed to comrades, and she had never truly lost that protective network until Empire Day stripped it from her. Now Padmé was dead, her fellow handmaidens were gone - imprisoned, under house arrest, fighting for the Rebel Alliance, spying and thinking that Sabé didn't and couldn't be permitted to know - Obi-Wan was lost, and the RRARA had been defanged and turned into a decorative facade. Sabé was alone with her secrets and her Force-sensitive son.
Except that now she was not, having welcomed into her household a twenty-two-year-old philosopher pirate and secret semi-Jedi disguised as a nun who kept teaching her son how to cheat at cards.
She merely stared at Katooni, who did not look all that repentant.
“If he can hide cheating at pazaak from me, he can hide anything from the Inquisitors,” Katooni explained. “He can't yet, but he improves all the time.”
Sabé stared harder.
“Don't worry,” Kyrie assured her, nine years old and obnoxious, “I won't do it in polite company.”
“I'm your mother,” Sabé protested, vaguely indignant.
Sabé looked at Katooni, who was trying not to laugh.
“Two more years,” Katooni reminded her. “This was your idea.”
Sabé sighed deeply, and hid her smile. She'd miss Katooni when she was gone.
And she'd ask who the Inquisitors were later.
When Katooni packed up to leave, she stood on the balcony at Xarxas with Sabé and admired the deep gorge cut into the edge of the island, the sea boiling up to it, the trees curling down, clinging to the rock.
“I suppose you really can’t tell me whose son he is,” Katooni said, tendrils waving gently in the wind. “Besides yours, I mean.”
“He’s mine,” Sabé said. “That’s the only parental relationship that is legally relevant.”
“That’s not a no,” Katooni observed.
“Pirate,” Sabé tutted, and when Katooni wrote O W K in the spilled liquid of her drink on the stone balustrade, Sabé neither confirmed nor denied.
Kyrie grew up tall and strong, and he didn’t look much like his father, for which Sabé was profoundly grateful. She was even more grateful when he declared an interest in medicine, which was respectable, apolitical, and offered scope for his intelligence and compassion. It also validated her choice in sending him to the scientific academy close by, which she'd done because it was close by rather than because he had a very marked preference for the sciences, and which she still felt guilty about. Hopefully it would limit his mildly sordid tendency towards card sharping, which had become immediately apparent the moment he joined the academy and entered a pool of people who had never previously been subjected to his pirate-trained pazaak game. Sabé had pinched her nose and deliberately recalled to mind all the stupid and silly things she had done as a teenager without coming to real harm, and reminded herself that Kyrie was and remained a gentle boy who liked to fix things. It made her wonder what Obi-Wan had been like as a boy; as a grown adult, he too had always wanted to fix things, but as a younger man he'd had a definite streak of mischief. He’d always tried to present himself as a proper Jedi, but they had all heard and seen him teasing Qui-Gon mercilessly.
There was little other resemblance, at least at this stage; perhaps Kyrie would grow into one as a man. Kyrie’s dark hair and dark eyes were hers, but his jaw was longer and less square than hers, his nose longer and blunter. Everyone commented on how very much alike they were, but sometimes Sabé thanked the Force that very few people had seen Obi-Wan Kenobi smile.
He asked her about his father occasionally. She always told him she’d explain when he was older, and because she’d never broken a promise to him he believed her.
But Sabé, straight-backed, steel-spined and still well-informed years after the Displaced People’s Bureau had been dissolved, quailed when she thought of the Empire’s tightening grip. She had been accustomed to face anything with composure and a loaded blaster, where possible; but she couldn’t find a wall to put her back against to stand and fight, and she knew as well as anyone did that Naboo was closely watched. She had become an advisor to the monarchy almost the day after the dissolution of the DPB - officially because of her political experience and role as a significant landowner in the semi-autonomous northwest, and unofficially because Padmé Amidala had survived her queenship and everyone wanted to know how - and the political situation was not difficult to read. The Emperor had a special fondness for his home planet, though fortunately he rarely visited, and never set foot in the wild north-west. Equally fortunately, his preferred enforcer - Darth Vader, half a legend, with a lightsaber that reminded Sabé of the darkest days of the Clone Wars - refused point blank to land on Naboo. Sabé was grateful for that. She knew what an Inquisitor was now, and she did not need to have Darth Vader’s powers explained to her. It might be fashionable not to believe in the Force, Dark side or Light, but Sabé had no interest in following fashion where it risked her life or Kyrie’s.
Kyrie knew of the injustices of the Empire. She raised him to know, the same way she raised him to know the islands and cliffs of Xarxas, the politics and genealogies of the local Gungan population, the remembrances due to his grandparents’ memory, and the importance of finding the right moment to act. But she had also raised him like a handmaiden, the way Padmé had teased her about so long ago, and that meant he knew how to listen and not speak, even as she saw him desperate to act.
His teachers called him remarkably mature and thoughtful for his age. Unblushingly, Sabé attributed both to Sister Tuya’s beneficial philosophical influence. It wasn’t necessary for anyone but herself and Kyrie to know that Sister Tuya was in fact a pirate and a half-trained Jedi.
Thoughtful or not, he grew into a boy who wanted to help, and Sabé - knowing they were both trapped by secrets and dangers - found that she was once more too scared to cry over it. She saw herself in this gangling teenager with a breaking voice and a keen sense of justice. She saw Padmé, who had claimed the right to call him nephew before he was even born. She saw Obi-Wan willingly taking the weight of the galaxy. She even saw the child Ani, who had said with such heartbreaking confidence that the trouble with the world was that no-one helped each other.
Sabé blocked Kyrie from overt action at every turn.
When Kyrie was fifteen and on the cusp of officially specialising towards medicine they argued about it, in the discreet way they had learned to argue: all veiled words and clarifying hand signals. He had learned well from his teachers - well enough to debate Sabé into a wall at every turn, well enough to make her wonder if Obi-Wan had passed some instinct for argument down to him.
In desperation, and minutes short of informing Kyrie that she would hear no more about this until he too had thirty years of political experience to justify his demands, she fell back on one of the simplest of Katooni’s lessons, one which spoke to her personally – and which came in extremely handy now.
When you cannot do what you would, do what you can.
Kyrie opened his mouth to object loudly, and then a familiar expression of calculation came over his face and he closed it again. He rubbed a hand over his chin. (Sabé made a note to discourage him from growing a beard.) Then he replied, in careful hand sign: And what you could do was to raise me, and draw no attention?
Sabé despaired briefly and traditionally of the egotism of children, which caused even Kyrie to overlook a long career in humanitarian aid and politics which hadn’t been an unalloyed success, but certainly hadn’t been a failure either. But it was the simplest answer, so she replied: Yes.
He stared at her for several long moments. Who was my father?
Sabé raised her hands to give the usual answer, and then thought better of it. Soon, she signed.
Aloud, she said: “Come. Let’s leave this debate to one side and finish our meal. There’s a reason you’re not a politician, my son.”
She willed him to understand that there was more than just one.
Several years later, when Kyrie was rising twenty, Sabé received an invitation to dine from Bail Organa. It had not escaped Bail’s powerful mind that Sabé lived on Naboo, so it was also an invitation to stay for several weeks. Sabé stared at it for significantly longer than a four-line invitation would seem to justify; she had heard from Bail only irregularly since the dissolution of the DPB, and knew little about his current exploits, except that he was certainly a Rebel.
And here he was, talking about friends in common and the challenges of rearing precocious teenagers… All of it strictly true, and all of it quite surprising.
Sabé scrolled through her latest news briefing to find a picture of the junior senator of Alderaan, and was struck more forcibly by the sense of familiarity that had caught her eye over her morning toast. Leia Organa wore block colours and simple lines, traditional Alderaanian styles, but dress her in the dramatic hairstyles and elaborate fabrics of the Naboo, and she could pass for Padmé’s daughter.
Sabé’s heart gave an unpleasant double-thump.
Padmé had been pregnant when she died, or at least, had appeared so. She had had an unnamed but inappropriate suitor, and it had been impossible to part her from Anakin Skywalker, who had adored her.
Precocious teenagers. If Padmé had given birth immediately before she died the child would be only six months younger than Kyrie, presumably born on or around Empire Day. A quick search established that Leia Organa fit these criteria.
Sabé remembered, as her heart began to race and the feeling of a battle sweeping towards her intensified, that Bail Organa had met Kyrie as a teenager, as he started to grow into his adult bones. And that Bail Organa had been one of the very, very few people to have seen Obi-Wan Kenobi smile.
Sabé accepted the invitation, and sent a further message to Kyrie - happily engaged in his second student's rotation at the local hospital, and overjoyed to be allowed to take part in real surgeries - to invite him to join her, when his rotation was up. It was time he knew the truth.
When Sabé arrived on Alderaan Bail was not there, and Breha - though gracious as ever - was as annoyed as Sabé was. They drank cocktails and cursed amiably at men, and Breha confessed that (while she adored her husband) every now and then she felt an impulse to take her sceptre of office and brain him with it. Sabé admitted that she had always been grateful not to add a partner’s peculiarities to her own.
But Breha was tense. Sabé could see it. She dared not ask after it, especially when Leia was late returning from her diplomatic mission, especially when the holonews was suddenly full of a daring Rebel attack over Scarif that seemed curiously pointless - why throw so much blood and so many ships away on a glorified databank? - and especially when Bail returned, grim-faced and greyer than Sabé remembered.
Leia was missing. The kind of missing that came with having crossed the Empire. Sabé wondered if she should write to Kyrie to put him off: he would be here in less than two weeks. But she could not decide, and some deeper instinct led her to hold her hand and wait.
She saw little of Bail and Breha, which she expected, under the circumstances. She passed her time in sightseeing, reading, and practising building encryptions, a skill which she had never excelled in but which she had been taught as a handmaiden in training and which remained her favourite kind of puzzle. It also seemed as if it were about to become more useful than it had been in recent years.
She conversed with Bail only once, after a chance meeting in the library, where Sabé had helped herself to an entertainingly inaccurate volume on the Naboo Crisis. He looked distracted with worry, as well he might, at the unexplained disappearance of a fierce nineteen-year-old daughter who was probably the offspring of a martyred senator and a dead Jedi Knight. She rose to condole with him, but he waved her words aside almost impatiently, dark eyes a little feverish.
“We will need to have a serious conversation, soon,” he said. “There is something you deserve to know. More than one thing. Of special relevance to you, and perhaps to -”
“Are you about to put a hole in twenty years of dedicated discretion?” Sabé enquired, seeing as they were speaking plainly. “Because if so - Bail?”
Something had caught his eye in the window over her shoulder, and his face drained of blood as Sabé watched. “No,” he murmured, and then turned around and took off at a run.
Bail had never been a very dramatic man; his steady good humour and calm reason had brought him well-deserved respect. Sabé stared after him for a few seconds, then turned around to face whatever it was that had caused him to panic. She could see no approaching army, no ships in the cloudless sky, no orbital bombardment about to begin. Only a bright green light, intensifying in the distance.
Sabé reached for her datapad, and pulled up her newest encryption - the tightest, the strongest, the most original. It would probably not be enough, but it might last for long enough for Kyrie to find his way to safety. She knew on some bone-deep level that whatever that green light was capable of heralded only ever-tighter Imperial control, and a day when Kyrie would not be able to hide his paternity, or his Force-sensitivity. When there would be nowhere to hide, and even the backwater location and undisturbed respectability of Xarxas, his normal childhood and his unexceptionable career would not protect him. The truth was the only weapon left to her - to a combatant whose strength depended on apparent weakness.
Your father’s name was Obi-Wan Kenobi, she wrote. I liked him very much. I love you, Kyrie. Do what you can.
Her message did not send before Alderaan was vapourised. On the plus side, the shock was too great for her to feel any pain.
Aboard the Millennium Falcon, Obi-Wan Kenobi closed his eyes and slumped in his chair.
“There was a great disturbance in the Force,” he said, ignoring Captain Solo’s frown, when Luke asked him what was wrong. “As if a million voices cried out suddenly, and were silenced.”
He did not say that some of those voices sounded louder to he who had known them: Bail, his comrade and co-conspirator; Sabé, his lover and friend. He did not wonder aloud what had become of Sabé’s son.
When he raised his lightsaber against Darth Vader his principal regret was that he would not train Luke any further. But part of him also wished that he had met Sabé's son at least once.
The shockwaves of Alderaan drove Kyrie to his knees.
The knowledge that his mother had been killed on the planet’s surface drove him straight to the Rebel Alliance.
The remembrance celebration of Reset is a concept I came up with and have often re-used in my fic - you may have spotted it in The Edge Between the Sand and the Stars or raise a glass to the four of us.
It wasn’t difficult to sign up, once Kyrie located a recruiter’s details - easier and easier, in the aftermath of Alderaan. They carried out a background check (which found nothing), evaluated his half-finished medical qualifications, and helped him set up the paper trail that convinced the university and the cousin now acting as steward of Xarxas that Kyrie had had a mental break after losing his mother and had run off to do good works in the Outer Rim. Like all the best lies his mother had taught him, it had the benefit of being true.
Kyrie Theodora arrived on Hoth to complete his basic training and additional qualification as a field medic. The cold took a lot of getting used to, though not so much as the people; Kyrie had always known he was lucky despite his secrets, to be raised with all the rights and privileges of Xarxas behind him, but now he felt it far more. Less in the things he knew were special, and more in those he had taken for granted - knowing how to swim, for instance, and never wanting for food. A room to yourself. Changes of clothes.
The Rebel Alliance paid more in glory than in hard credits, and kept you alive rather than keeping you comfortable. Kyrie kept his mouth shut and adapted.
His new colleagues laughed at him, called him soft-handed and silver-fingered, but he could feel that none of it was mean-spirited, and he laughed along. Besides, he thought - like his mother had taught him - if they were underestimating him, they weren’t noticing the sleep suggestions he used on his patients, the subtle reinforcements to help recall a medical regime, the tricks that stole pain. Katooni had not taught him Jedi healing beyond that any padawan could use to heal a cut, dial down a headache, ease off a lightsaber burn, but that made a real difference when resources were scarce and needed to be used well. The caution drilled into him over the preceding twenty years made him wary of revealing his skills, few as they were - he used them quietly, off-handedly, without ever openly referring to them. The only person who ever noticed that he might be doing anything was his supervisor, who said it was remarkable the way he could make limited supplies go the extra mile and didn’t enquire any further. The Jedi had been gone for so long that they were the stuff of fairytales for most of the Rebellion's fighters, and nobody expected to find even half a Jedi in the medical bay on freezing, nasty Hoth.
Sometimes, watching people look at Luke Skywalker, Kyrie felt both guilty and glad at the same time that he'd managed to keep his secret. He couldn’t have coped with the weight of expectation that Luke bore so cheerfully, and he didn’t have Luke’s battle-ready talents. He was what he’d been taught to be: someone who hides in plain sight, someone who does what they can.
Not a hero. Not trying to be.
He focussed solely on his training and his work, until the day he found Luke Skywalker trying to dig painkillers out of the cabinets while Han Solo made a lot of noise nearby.
Kyrie decided the two events were not unrelated, and folded his arms. “Developed a tolerance for painkillers, Commander Skywalker?” A lot of the Rebel Alliance’s frontline troops were like that, going into battle lying between their teeth about injuries or illness, and many of them kept illicit stashes of this, that or the other.
Often, in Kyrie’s rapidly broadening experience, ‘the other’.
Commander Skywalker winced. “I was actually looking for dihypranide.”
Kyrie blinked twice in quick succession. “A sedative?” He pushed back the curtain to a treatment cubicle. “Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“It’s a Force thing,” Commander Skywalker said, looking profoundly miserable. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Kyrie took a deep breath, and found it got stuck for several long moments, while Commander Skywalker cast increasingly persecuted glances at the main medical bay and Captain Solo’s remarks became increasingly absurd.
Then Kyrie shut his eyes, thought do what you can, and called the cabinet key across three feet of empty air into his open palm. He opened his eyes. “Try me.”
Luke Skywalker was a handsome man - those finely carved features, cornflower blue eyes and golden hair would have accounted him a beauty on Naboo. But it had to be said that with his jaw hanging halfway to the floor he was not so attractive.
“You’re a Jedi,” he hissed.
Kyrie flinched, every instinct leading him to a blank, slightly puzzled, almost-untruthful denial. “No. I’m not.” He yanked meaningfully at the cubicle curtain and jerked his head. “In you go.”
Luke Skywalker practically scrambled inside. Kyrie followed him, and pulled the curtain shut.
“What’s wrong?” he said, and shushed Luke forcibly when Luke began to sputter about being a Jedi, and does anyone else know, and who taught you. “Tell me what’s wrong so I can help you.”
Luke began to look miserable again. “I was in the mess when there were a lot of people - I usually go when it’s quiet - and it’s just so loud. It makes my head hurt. I avoid large groups of people - my squadron help, Leia helps, Han and Chewie always let me crash on the Falcon when I need a break - but sometimes I can’t, and everyone just thinks so much.”
Kyrie stared, appalled. “You can’t shield.” He reached out tentatively with his mind, and found Luke’s wide open, superficially brightly coloured, and blazing with power. Ouch. “You can hardly shield at all!”
“I can’t what?”
“Who taught you?”
“Ben - Old Ben, Ben Kenobi, he lived near where -”
“Obi-Wan -” Kyrie swallowed a yelp. Katooni had idolised Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi’s Jedi, the Negotiator, the Sith-killer, the ultimate Jedi Knight; she had hoped he had survived the Purges, and now Kyrie discovered that he had, and had done a terrible job of teaching his last student anything useful. “Obi-Wan Kenobi taught you and he didn’t teach you how to shield?”
“He showed me a bit,” Skywalker said defensively. “But we mostly concentrated on combat. Who taught you? And how come no-one knows?”
“No-one knows because my mother wanted me to live,” Kyrie snapped. “Naboo is very closely watched! It’s the Emperor’s home planet!”
“And your mother raised you there?” It was Skywalker’s turn to look scandalised.
“She had balls of pure titanium,” Kyrie said fervently, knowing Sabé would not have approved the phrasing. “She freed Naboo from the Trade Federation and walked unarmed into the Clone Wars, a measly emperor wasn’t going to get her off her lands.”
“Wow,” Luke said, with what Kyrie considered to be the proper degree of respect. “So… she taught you?”
“No,” Kyrie said, and tried to summon up the memory of how he’d come to meet Katooni. It was difficult. He had been very young and very scared and overwhelmed by the noise and the obvious panic among the crew, and the glee of the pirates. “She got me a tutor.”
“Where the hell did she find -”
“Look,” Kyrie said firmly, falling back on first principles, “my mother worked miracles every day she was alive -”
“What happened to her?”
“- Alderaan happened, you tactless little flyboy,” said Kyrie, who was rapidly running out of awe for the hero of the Battle of Yavin. “I don’t know how she found my tutor. I think she was a pirate. The tutor. Not my mother. Gods, my mother was never anything that… louche.”
Luke opened his mouth and then, blessedly, shut it again.
Kyrie reached out and pulled the dihypranide from the cupboard, and measured out a single dose. “Get that down you and go to sleep. I’ll come and find you in six hours and start teaching you how to shield.”
“Thank you,” Luke said, with very sincere gratitude, and knocked back the pills.
Kyrie yanked back the curtain. “No need to thank me, just doing my job. Captain Solo! I know you’re out there.”
“I got pineapple problems,” announced Captain Solo, whose ingenuity had apparently exhausted itself. “I’m tryin’ to deal with -”
“You got a friend who needs taking back to his quarters,” Kyrie said sternly, channeling his mother when people were trying to avoid quartering refugees properly. “Stop taking up my colleagues’ time with fictitious pineapples and help Commander Skywalker.”
“Sure, doc,” Captain Solo said, hurrying forward to seize Luke fraternally by the shoulders and help him out.
Kyrie was left with a staring medbay. He wondered if they were impressed or curious or both. He propped his hands on his hips and sighed theatrically. “They’re just kids, really.”
“You’re just a kid, Kyrie,” said one of the senior doctors, plainly in the ‘curious’ category. “You’re what - twenty-one?”
Kyrie shrugged. “I just copy my mother. She used to build refugee camps. The Emperor himself wouldn’t have liked to pick a fight.” He picked up a clipboard almost at random, trying to ignore the way the back of his neck prickled, and ran a practised eye down it. “Is this for today’s supply run? Where are the carts?”
He went to find Luke Skywalker at the promised time, and found him bright-eyed, awake, and full of questions.
“Where are you from? Who’s your mother? Was she a Jedi? Who trained you?”
“Naboo, her name was Sabé Theodora, she wasn’t a Jedi, and she called herself Sister Tuya but she definitely wasn’t a nun.” Kyrie locked the door. “Now. Sister Tuya taught me to meditate, levitate a few things, a little of the combat arts, but only enough to complement the self-defence training I was already receiving. Mostly she taught me philosophy and advanced shielding. What did Obi-Wan Kenobi teach you?”
“How to use a lightsaber,” Luke said, looking faintly defensive. “And how to reach the Force.”
With some effort, Kyrie kept his mouth from dropping open. “You’re swimming in the Force. You literally glow. How could you not reach the -”
“I didn’t know the Force was real until last year,” Luke explained. “My uncle didn’t want me to learn. He was afraid I’d run off and get myself killed, like my father.”
“Young Jedi were taken to be trained as small children,” Kyrie said. “Your father definitely didn’t run off on purpose.”
Luke leaned forward eagerly. “Do you know anything about him? My father?”
“Anakin Skywalker?” Kyrie shook his head. “You mean Anakin Skywalker, right? Nothing more than anyone old enough to have lived through the Clone Wars as an adult could tell you. My mother must have known him, because he was there during the Naboo Crisis, and she was a handmaiden to the queen of the time. But she didn’t talk about him. You don’t talk about the Jedi, Luke, not in Imperial-controlled space. Even if there’s no-one who wears an Imperial uniform in earshot, there’s someone with something to gain from handing you in.”
“That’s depressing,” Luke said.
“And yet,” Kyrie said, obscurely irritated, “I live.” He sighed, and rubbed his hands over his face. “Promise you won’t tell anyone about me.”
“Why? You could help people! You could -”
“I am helping people, Luke,” Kyrie snapped. “That’s why I’m a doctor. Well, that’s why I’m a medic, and I will be a doctor. And I can use the Force to help there, and it works. We don’t all have to fly X-wings and wave lightsabers around to make a difference!”
Luke looked at his feet, silenced.
“And besides,” Kyrie said, more softly. “I promised my mother. And she’s dead, and she lived just to keep me safe, so really, the least I can do is keep my promises.”
Luke nodded. “I understand. I won’t tell anyone.” He hesitated. “Do you know who your father was?”
Kyrie shook his head. “He was almost certainly a Jedi, but apart from that, I don’t know. My mother was going to tell me, but then she died. It was enough of a secret that I can’t just go looking. There’s no discreet way to do it.”
Luke managed a faint smile. “Discretion is important, huh.”
“You listened to the Force and blew up a planet-killing battle station,” Kyrie said. “That ship has sailed.”
Luke very nearly laughed. There was a long pause.
“Want to try my lightsaber?” Luke said.
“I would like to,” Kyrie said. “But just for a minute or two. Then I’m going to start teaching you how to shield.”
“How long will it take?” Luke asked, digging through his belongings. Kyrie spotted the lightsaber, and called it; to his surprise, the lightsaber wouldn’t budge, and he accidentally grabbed a spare hydrospanner. Luke looked at him quizzically, and he flushed and put it down.
“Well, I had three years,” Kyrie said. “The basics won’t take that long, though. It’ll probably only take a week or so for you to be able to reliably quieten people down in your head.”
“Uh, good,” Luke said. “What comes after the basics?”
Kyrie smiled. The expression felt kind of strange and stiff. “I’m going to teach you how to cheat at pazaak like pirates do.”
“What?” said Luke.
Given that Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker were joined at the hip, Kyrie was surprised and impressed that they got all the way through basic meditation and the rudiments of shielding before she barged in. Rogue Squadron were under the impression that Kyrie was some kind of shrink helping Luke deal with the aftermath of being a teenager who had killed a million people in self-defence and kept being praised for it, and therefore kept a stolid silence about Kyrie’s regular visits. Kyrie was too used to keeping his mouth shut, too reserved, to have made close friends who would be curious among the medics; if they noticed his comings and goings, they just assumed he had some kind of doomed crush. The Force alone knew what Captain Solo thought. Kyrie hadn’t asked and didn’t want to.
Princess Leia, however, walked straight in to Luke’s room and said: “Oh, excuse me - I didn’t realise you were teaching Luke. Sorry.” Then she looked a little closer, as the door closed behind her. “Why have you got a pazaak deck out?”
“Because I’m teaching him how to cheat at pazaak without anyone noticing, your highness,” Kyrie said, as politely as he could, rising to greet her in a mannerly fashion. “Why do you ask?”
“I thought you were teaching him Teräs Käsi,” Princess Leia said, as she nodded absent-mindedly at him to sit back down. “It’s the kind of mental and physical discipline that’s very useful whether you’re strong with the Force or not - I had a nursemaid who taught it to me.”
Kyrie assimilated this information carefully, and then, with extreme caution, reached out and touched Princess Leia’s mind. Her shields were tougher than beskar iron - the kind of thing you only got from exceptional natural talent and a guarded disposition, or years of discipline. He couldn’t even tell for sure whether she was Force-sensitive or not. Whether she had the Force or not, whatever she’d learned had done her a great deal of good. If she didn’t have the Force, Bail and Breha Organa had been very careful parents to have her taught Teräs Käsi; if she did, they had been both well-prepared and reckless. Leia Organa had been the junior senator for Alderaan, which meant she had spent a not-inconsiderable period of time parading around directly beneath the Emperor and Darth Vader’s nose. Teräs Käsi or no Teräs Käsi, she was lucky to be alive.
Kyrie suppressed a brief stab of envy. “Well, this isn’t Teräs Käsi. I don’t know what that is. This is just a method of cheating at cards my old tutor taught me, but it’s good for clearing your mind, and helping you hide what you’re thinking. As I’m sure you know, Princess -”
“-Commander, pazaak depends much more heavily on bluffing than sabacc. So if Luke can hide what he’s thinking from me - I’ve been playing since I was a child - he can hide it from anyone. And that skill can be generalised so what he’s thinking isn’t written all over his face.”
Leia Organa had famously beautiful eyes. Equally famously, they could stare right through you and nail your brain to the icy wall behind. Kyrie was experiencing this right now.
“You have the Force,” she said.
“Playing cards well isn’t particularly mystical, ma’am,” Kyrie said, with faint, well-hidden amusement.
“It’s a secret,” Luke said, almost simultaneously.
Princess Leia - Commander Organa - looked from Kyrie to Luke and back again, mouth twitching.
Kyrie let out a sigh. “If you’d grown up on Naboo you’d have been handed over to the Inquisitors before you could say cheese,” he told Luke, and then addressed Commander Organa. “It is a secret. I was partly trained but I have no combat skills. I use the Force to heal. I don’t talk about it, ever. That’s how my mother kept me alive.”
Commander Organa looked him dead in the eye. “And you’re asking me to keep this secret from Command.”
“No, ma’am,” Kyrie said, keeping his spine straight and his head steady. “I’m saying that there’s no relevant information to pass on.”
“He’s useless with a lightsaber,” Luke agreed, helpfully. “And he can’t fly. It’s almost impressive how badly he flies.”
“Some of us are just happier in-atmosphere, Luke,” Kyrie said, watching Commander Organa.
She maintained eye contact with him as she settled down to sit cross-legged next to him. “It’s true, Command would love to hear of another Jedi. Are you a Jedi?”
“No,” Kyrie said, perfectly truthfully. He followed the Code Katooni had taught him, to some extent and the best of his ability (three years of philosophical training had not helped him get to the bottom of the bit about attachment, and Katooni had confessed that she was increasingly sure she didn’t understand that part either). But he wasn’t Temple-raised, and he didn’t think he would join the Jedi Order if Obi-Wan Kenobi himself held out a hand and said come, join us. He was the heir to Xarxas, and a medic, and a Rebel, and that was enough to be going on with.
“Do you know of any Jedi?”
“No,” Kyrie said, equally truthfully. Katooni had refused the label, saying she hadn’t even really made it to padawan, and had survived by disavowing the Order, so she had no right to claim it.
“Well then.” Commander Organa reached out and shuffled the deck with an expert hand, dealing out cards. “Let’s teach Luke to play pazaak.”
It turned out she had an excellent game face.
Kyrie next saw Commander Organa at the collective memorial for Alderaan and the dead of the Rebel Alliance. Technically, he saw her slightly beforehand, when she appeared outside the medics’ quarters with a dolly cart, an enormous holoprojector, and a determined expression.
“Whatever it is, Commander, please let me get the muck out from under my fingernails first,” Kyrie said, quailing internally.
“Have you been in surgery for weeks?” Commander Organa enquired, eyeing his scrubs, liberally splattered with blood and bacta.
“Not weeks,” Kyrie said. “But I wish people wouldn’t pick fights with wampas.” Although his relationship with the Force remained unknown, his little tricks to ease bleeding and his deceptively light touch with anaesthesia did not, and he was beginning to find himself in demand. The Surgeon General had even offered to sponsor him a place to finish his degree at the medical university in Hanna City, provided both the Rebel Alliance and the Chandrilan system survived the war.
“Who picks a fight with -”
“Idiots, Commander.” Kyrie ducked into the fresher and washed and changed as fast as he could. “Idiots pick fights with wampas. How can I help you?”
Commander Organa’s already stubborn jaw hardened. “Today is the anniversary.”
Kyrie took a deep breath, forced an exhale, and found his inhale got stuck. He ran his fingers through his hair, on end as a result of the surgical cap and rough sonic cleansing, and found that his hands were trembling.
“Did you forget?” Commander Organa said, curiously.
“I - no,” Kyrie said. His voice had gone rather thready; he stopped and took in a deep breath again, held it, pushed it out, took in another, and forced himself to speak levelly. “I’ve just been running my shifts. They don’t line up with the days of the week. I must have lost track of the date.” Guilt washed over him, cruel and sharp. He closed his eyes and thought of his mother, imagined her staring into the light with her arms folded and her head high the way she did in his nightmares, and felt his own head fall at the thought that he had forgotten to mark her death, as if the most important thing that had ever happened to him could ever be set aside. He had very deliberately set aside a sum of money large enough to scandalise his aunts for the year’s mourning rituals, but those were taking place at Xarxas on the island shore, among the rookeries and the forests that trailed down to the sea, and he was here, and he had forgotten -
Commander Organa had very small hands, but she also had a grip that would shame a vice. Kyrie opened his eyes and found that she was grasping one of his wrists very tightly.
“Luke said you would help,” she said, “but I forgot to ask why. I thought it was just because you're friends. You’re not Alderaanian, or I’d know.”
“My mother died on Alderaan,” Kyrie said. “She was visiting friends.” He blinked. “Actually, she was visiting your parents. She knew your father, from when she used to run the Displaced People’s Bureau.”
“Displaced - hmm.” Commander Organa frowned, clearly trying to remember this obscure government institution.
“It was dissolved when I was a child,” Kyrie explained. “The Senate agreed that the refugee crises of the Clone Wars had been resolved.” He smoothed his hair back into some semblance of order. “They didn’t care about the crises they were creating. Mother was spitting mad - or she would have been if she’d ever done anything so unladylike as spit. She always said she knew it was just a figleaf, but even a figleaf grants some shade.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Commander Organa said, surprisingly gently for a woman made chiefly out of steel, ice, and a very sharp tongue. “Was she your only family?”
Kyrie nodded. Tears threatened: he stuffed them back into the box they belonged in. “I had no siblings. She never married my father, or even told me who he was.” He bit his lip and inhaled through his nose, then smiled determinedly at Commander Organa. “The Rebel Alliance is my family now.”
Commander Organa dipped her head, and they stood there for a few long minutes until a rather mixed working party came past, manhandling new parts for the radar screens, and they had to get the cart out the way. When the working party had gone, swearing at each other in their various languages, Kyrie and Commander Organa were still silent.
Eventually, Kyrie licked his lips and spoke. “I had this philosophy tutor who always told me to do what I can, when I can’t do what I’d like to,” he said. “I’d like to burn the Empire down, but I can’t. So what can I do for you?”
Commander Organa’s eyes lit up. “I’m organising a kind of remembrance thing. A celebration. I’m calling it Reset.” She kicked the holoprojector. “This will project an image of Alderaan, and people can leave things around it, tokens, you know, like a funeral shrine -” on Naboo they had statues, not shrines, and leaving anything but flowers around them was tasteless, but Kyrie took her point - “and we’re going to have a massive brazier to keep people warm. And then we’re going to have a party. Captain Solo is fixing the brazier and Rogue Squadron are helping Catering right now, so if you would help with the holoprojector, that would be good.”
“Of course,” Kyrie said, relieved it was something so simple, and put his shoulder to the cart.
He hadn’t been sure whether it was going to work, but Commander Organa had a great deal of charisma and an eye for a public occasion. The hangar was packed, the floor around the projector littered with trinkets and memorials, everyone still and silent as Commander Organa gave a brief speech of remembrance and named her dead, and as those around her spoke up, naming generals of the fallen Republic, betrayed Jedi, princes of the Mon Calamari, politicians of the long-gone Senate.
And then there was a painful long second’s silence that made Kyrie feel slightly, sympathetically nauseous, and from the floor of Alliance rabble Luke Skywalker’s clear voice piped up: “Beru Whitesun Lars.” His voice caught slightly, self-consciously, but he carried on. “Owen Lars. Old Ben. Biggs Darklighter.”
The pilots followed his lead, and the memorials gathered momentum; by the time they reached Kyrie there was no doubt that people would keep talking. He called out his mother’s name, and lapsed gratefully into silence as the woman next to him - a slight, wiry, eagle-faced woman in pilot orange, who wore a mountain amber lucky charm around her neck - named what sounded like half an extended family. The voices swept on past her, around the room, until they returned to Commander Organa.
“Didn’t know you had family on Alderaan,” said the woman, very quietly.
“My mother. She was only visiting.” Kyrie closed his eyes and breathed deeply. His mother had taught him better than to collapse like this.
“You were close?”
“She was all the family I had.” Kyrie swallowed hard and stared ahead of him as Commander Organa named the crew of Rogue One, without whom none of us would be here to remember, may their memory live forever, plus some other things Kyrie just couldn’t catch. His hearing had gone underwater. “But I’m luckier than many.”
“We could all say that.” The woman bumped his shoulder with hers. “I’m Limia.”
“In my case it’s true.” Kyrie found a smile for her. “Kyrie. I'm sorry about your family. Did you lose everyone?”
“Pretty much.” Limia looked at the floor, and then glanced back at him with a faint answering smile like the flat of a knife blade. "Thanks."
Not far away Commander Organa tossed a light into the brazier and stepped smartly backwards as it went up in a sheet of flame. From the acid look she shot Captain Solo, that hadn’t been wholly intentional.
Kyrie was dividing his attention between trying to get through to the makeshift bar for the drinks, and giving brisk but compassionate advice to a Nautolan with a mucosal problem, when someone from the command centre tapped him on the shoulder and said Mon Mothma would like to speak to him, when convenient. Kyrie decided that all protocol and practice suggested that “when convenient” was now, and followed the unknown in their taupe tunic to the room nearby where various dignitaries were standing around making a strained-looking Commander Organa share in their grief and reminiscences.
“Lieutenant Theodora,” Mon Mothma said, gliding over to him and fixing him with the ice-blue stare that had personally defied the Emperor, repeatedly, to his shrivelled face. “I understand you’re a medic.”
Kyrie saluted. It probably wasn’t proper military protocol, but then – rank notwithstanding – he was a doctor, not a soldier. “Yes, ma’am.”
“We met when you were very young,” she said. “Your mother brought you to the Senate, to meet Senator Amidala. I was sorry to hear of her death just now; I didn’t realise she was on Alderaan.”
Kyrie bowed his head. “She was visiting Viceroy Organa, ma’am. They were friends, dating back to the Clone Wars.”
“I recall. But I didn’t realise they’d remained close.”
I have no idea why Bail Organa asked my mother to tea, Kyrie thought. Hold a séance, why don’t you. Ma’am.
Outwardly, he simply inclined his head and waited.
“There must have been a reason,” Mon Mothma observed. “Your mother and Bail were both very skilled political operators.” She shook her head gently. “If only we had access to his notes.”
Kyrie thought that if revealing his status as Force-sensitive led to more of this, he would cheerfully lie for the rest of his days.
Mon Mothma smiled at him. “I am sorry for your loss. You look very much like her, you know. Colouring, features, and -” a faint cloud crossed her face, and she stared a little harder - “Yes, and expressions, too.”
Kyrie knew very well that his expressions did not resemble his mother’s. He elected not to call attention to whatever Mon Mothma had noticed.
“Thank you, ma’am. I’m glad to know she’s remembered.”
He was extremely grateful when both he and Commander Organa escaped: Captain Solo was waiting outside with a hipflask, which he passed to Commander Organa, and which she passed straight to Kyrie, after a long swallow that made her cough. Unsurprising. Only a small sip made Kyrie’s eyes water, but the burning was a relief, a distraction, and the alcohol hit his blood like release after the uncomfortable interview with more ranking members of the Alliance than he’d ever encountered in one room. He heard Commander Organa let out a relieved sigh just like his own.
“Let’s dance, princess,” Captain Solo said.
Commander Organa drew breath for a really satisfying yell, and Kyrie hurried on ahead to get back to the party.
Kyrie still wasn’t very close to anyone, with the possible exception of Luke. It didn’t bother him much; he had his friends, and was very accustomed to being solitary. His mother had never really encouraged him to form very strong bonds outside the family circle, though she’d been supportive of his friendships and welcoming to his classmates. They’d been a team, even when they were annoyed at each other, and now that she was gone Kyrie found himself as self-sufficient as she’d always wanted him to be. He had friends among the pilots, knew many of the more accident-prone Pathfinders by name, and enjoyed an easy working relationship with the other medics, but in grief or in trouble he turned to no-one but himself. Once or twice he overheard half-conversations or thoughts about how quiet he was; everyone just seemed to assume he was shy, or perhaps - being Nubian - a snob.
Kyrie had worked out long ago he couldn’t use the Force to affect people’s opinion of him without feeling slimy. He ignored the less flattering insinuations. But he couldn’t ignore the fact that, after nearly a year helping Luke learn to shield and control his relationship with the Force, Rogue Squadron had noticed the beneficial effects on their commander and decided to credit Kyrie, and had therefore adopted him into the general pilot circle.
Kyrie found himself involved in a lot more drinking sessions and elaborate pranks than he knew what to do with, and learned a lot more about hyperspace-capable craft than was surely necessary, but being so determinedly dragged into a social circle felt warming. Guiltily, he basked in it, and used the time to prescribe Wedge sensibly dosed sleeping pills instead of alcohol, get Dak off the stims, listen to Luke talk about Biggs or Shara chat about Kes. Sometimes people would even ask for his advice. Limia, who turned out to fly bombers, had detailed questions for him about hearing damage. Kyrie stumbled to give her all the answers she wanted.
One day she sat down in front of him and threw down a pack of cards. “Hear you’re good at pazaak.”
“I’m not bad,” he said carefully.
She smiled, razor sharp, a dare.
“Okay,” Kyrie said. “I’m pretty good.”
Limia shrugged elaborately. “Well, if that’s all…” She got up, and reached for her cards.
He put his hand down on top of them before she could, heart racing for no good reason. “Wait. Best of three?”
Best of three turned into best of nine and a draw when the gathering broke up unexpectedly due to someone high-ranking from Accounting bursting in, shrieking about the impossibility of running a remote insurance fraud scheme in the Corellian system while pilots were living it up in the next tunnel.
“You’re better than I am,” Limia said, and narrowed her eyes. “But I count cards better.”
Kyrie found himself grinning. “Next time, let’s play sabacc.”
Her only reply was her dare-you smile. Kyrie found he wanted to answer the challenge.
“Do I have to play with Limia to learn to shield properly?” Luke asked, when Kyrie was in the middle of teaching him how to hide one thought under several others.
“No,” Kyrie said absently. “Not at this stage. You’re not good enough; she’d have the shirt off your back.”
“I thought that was your end goal,” Luke said, deceptively demurely. “I mean, one of these days one of you is going to get bored and suggest strip sabacc -”
Kyrie focussed very hard and managed to yank on Luke’s blanket forcefully enough to wrench the other man off his bed.
“Concentrate, padawan,” he said, while Luke was still yelping and cursing. “This might save your life one day.”
“The pilots are gossiping about us,” he told Limia, with resignation.
“I know,” Limia said, cutting her cards and shuffling them. She had won a cheap deck off a Pathfinder purely so that she and Kyrie could experiment with different ways of marking them without ruining their own decks. Her squadron leader had tried reprimanding her, but (she told Kyrie) Limia had pointed out that both she and Kyrie knew that they were cheating when they played with each other, and that it wasn’t as if they were gambling with anyone else. They did occasionally play with other people, but only after swearing bloodthirsty oaths not to use any of their little tricks. The Surgeon General himself had put Kyrie on notice that card-sharping would get him busted all the way back down to Medical Assistant, which Kyrie had taken as something of an insult.
He’d been taught by Katooni, alias Sister Tuya, alias Nina Ohnaka - pirate, thief and last living padawan survivor of the Jedi Purges. He wasn’t going to get caught.
“Pilots are always gossiping about something,” Limia continued, handing the cards to Kyrie so he could deal.
“They must be almost as bad as medics.” Kyrie let his eyes flicker down to the cards, watching out for his marks, and deliberately loaded the hands in his favour. He couldn’t see the cards up Limia’s sleeves, but he knew they were there. “Does it bother you?”
“I can think of thirty better things to bother me. Does it bother you?”
Kyrie smiled at her. “Likewise.”
“Likewise,” she scoffed, mimicking his voice. “You’re so Core. You’ll cut yourself on that accent if you aren’t careful.”
“Naboo is mid-Rim,” he protested. “You’re the one from Alderaan.”
“Yes, but some of us didn’t grow up in Coruscant.”
“I didn’t either. My mother hated Imperial Centre. My accent is just… from school.” Kyrie took stock of his hand, and waited for Limia to play her first cards. “Where did you grow up?”
“Tiny village. In the mountains, far from anything. In Ciudad Alderá they called us the Semi-Autonomous Region, but that’s bullshit, everyone else just says Llóna.” Limia laid down her first cards: a strong gambit, riskily so if she didn’t have those aces up her sleeve. She grinned at Kyrie like she was daring him to call her on it. “My town was so high up the air was like ice and you’d feel like you were flying. Tourists sometimes fell off the cliffs thinking they were. You?”
“By the sea and the cliffs, in the northwest.” Kyrie laid down a deceptively feeble response which would give him the space to set up a trap later. “It’s full of storms and sharks, but most of them won’t hurt you if you know what you’re doing. It’s about as wild as Naboo gets.”
“Not very, then.”
Kyrie shrugged. “Naboo likes to pretend it’s mannered, but the blood isn’t far beneath the surface. Remember the Naboo Crisis ended because a fourteen-year-old was willing to fight a war… and none of the adults tried to stop her.”
“That is messed up, but I can’t remember what the Naboo Crisis is.” Limia squinted at her hand, then placed her cards. Kyrie cursed internally as his trap got a lot harder to execute. “Focussed more on geography and economics than history. Never actually did any proper galactic history, I don’t think.”
“I did more sciences, but it’s impossible not to know about the Naboo Crisis if you grew up there. Mother told me it changed everything.” Kyrie set down a trick card from his pocket. “You told me all your family were on Alderaan.”
Limia nodded. “Except for my uncle. He came to the Alliance with me. He died…. A bit over a year ago.”
“I’m sorry,” Kyrie said quietly.
Limia nodded again, shortly. “It was very fast. Equipment malfunction.”
“What was his name?”
“Bail, like the viceroy. He was llonés, and he was good to us when he was viceroy, so there are – were – a lot of men and boys under thirty called Bail.”
“You were close in age?”
“He was the youngest, my mother was the oldest.” Limia laid down a set of cards that ruined Kyrie’s intended trap once and for all. “He was good. There’s just not a lot of room for error in the air.”
“But that’s why you like it, isn’t it,” Kyrie said, with a sudden flash of inspiration that made Limia look at him sideways. He shrugged awkwardly, trying not to flush. “It’s precise. You’re very precise.”
“Thank you,” Limia said. “I think.”
He cast around for a change of subject, and landed on Limia’s necklace, peeking out from the collar zip of the blue fleece she was wearing. “Is that a lucky charm?”
Limia glanced down. “It’s a prayer stem. So yeah.”
“Lucky charm sort of… understates it, then. Sorry.”
Limia waved him off impatiently. “Luck is just an answered prayer.” She tugged at her necklace and peered down at it. “My dad gave it to me when I left. Llóna’s full of mountain amber, it’s not special.” She fell silent for a second. “Or it didn’t used to be.”
Kyrie cursed himself. He watched Limia’s face carefully as the emotions chased across it, and then eventually she shrugged her shoulders impatiently.
“I don’t think about it, I just wear it.” She glared at him. “If you’ve been using this to distract me –“
“I wouldn’t,” Kyrie said quickly. “Not with something like that.”
“If you were playing to win,” Limia said, “you would.” She was still toying with her necklace, rubbing her thumb over its pattern.
“Probably,” Kyrie admitted. “But you’re not going to kill me if I lose, so…”
Limia’s eyes flicked up from her cards, and she smirked at him. “Who says?”
Wedge Antilles chose this moment to wander over. “Having fun?” he asked, in a voice full of insinuations.
He was leaning on Kyrie’s chair. Kyrie contemplated shoving it sideways and accidentally-on-purpose punching him in the dick with it. It was unfair and ungentlemanly, but he felt Katooni (whose lessons had also included the proper conduct for every possible venue from a dive on Florrum to the casino palaces of Canto Bight) would approve.
“Yeah,” Limia said, smiling dangerously. “Want me to cut you in? We play for keeps, though. Just so you know.”
“Uh,” Wedge said.
“We’d understand,” Kyrie said solemnly. “If you felt it was too big a risk. It’s okay to stick to kilaak until you get the basics down.”
“You two are horrifying,” Wedge complained, and wandered away rather faster than he’d wandered over.
“I wonder how fast we could beat him,” Limia said, looking after him. “Working together.”
“Probably very quickly, but we don’t have any signals.” Kyrie tapped his hand of cards on the table. “We could make some up. For purely theoretical purposes.”
“Purely theoretical,” Limia echoed, and that dangerous smile came back. “Could be fun.”
“Sabacc, pazaak, or both?” Kyrie asked.
“Both,” Limia said. “Obviously. You never know which game you’re going to sit down to with two Moffs and a smuggler round the table and a shipment of coaxium at stake.”
“The sad thing is I think someone’s actually done that,” Kyrie said absently, mentally sketching out a system they could use.
He lost the current game badly, but he sent her a full plan of signals for both games, and she sent back so many laughing faces that he felt like he’d won anyway.
“You know,” Limia said one evening, on the edge of a party where they were sitting next to each other on a table shoved against the wall, drinking moonshine out of disposable cups, “the thing about you, Kyrie.”
“The thing about me what,” said Kyrie, hoping that the objects in his peripheral vision were floating because he was drunk and not because he was levitating them. He couldn’t turn his head and look. Firstly it would draw attention. Secondly it would mean looking away from Limia’s eyes, which were brown in most lights, but currently looked very golden: someone had lit the ice cavern up with bioluminescent fungus.
“Is I could wait literally forever before finding out if you fancy me or not.” Limia reached out and stroked his overly-long hair behind one ear with one slightly clumsy hand. “We’re at war, you well-bred Nubian moron. We don’t have time to hang around doing minuets. Can I kiss you?”
“Obviously I fancy you,” Kyrie said, completely dazed. “What’s a minuet? Of course you can kiss me.”
Limia leaned in a few more inches and pressed her mouth to his instead of answering. Kyrie opened his mouth when she slid her tongue against the seam of his lips, and pulled her onto his lap with his hands on her waist. It felt like holding quicksilver; she was fever-hot and fierce, and Kyrie hoped he felt like passing out because he was running out of oxygen rather than because he’d drunk too much.
They broke away to breathe, foreheads pressed against each other’s. Both their drinks had been spilled; Kyrie’s was basically gone.
“It’s a kind of dance,” Limia said, almost laughing. “A minuet.” She ran her fingers through the short ponytail keeping half his hair in check and pulled the tie out.
“I know,” Kyrie said. “It’s too long. I should cut it.”
“Mm,” Limia said. “If you like.” She curled her fingers into his loose hair and tugged experimentally.
Kyrie made a noise he wasn’t expecting, and was very thankful the music was so loud.
Limia laughed properly this time, but not to tease him. She leaned forward and pressed her face into the junction between his neck and his shoulder, and stayed there for several long minutes.
Kyrie closed his eyes and rested his chin against her head, and slid a soothing hand up her back. Limia hummed in contentment, a softer noise than he’d ever expected to hear from her, and he smiled.
“Come on,” he said, gently manoeuvring her off the table. “You need water and sleep.”
He brought her painkillers and caf in the morning, and watched her eyes light up.
The Battle of Hoth was the most organised shitshow Kyrie hoped never to see again. Between the speed of the retreat, the heavy casualties, the damage to various ships’ hyperdrives and the early evacuation of medical staff Kyrie totally lost track of Limia and all his other non-medic friends. He pieced their stories back together, bit by bit, at the rendezvous point, where they learned that Luke had disappeared off the radar screens in his X-wing, that Commander Organa had been evacuated by Captain Solo but had then vanished, that millions of credits’ worth of materiel and significant manpower losses had been sustained.
Kyrie threw up his breakfast in response to the scale of terror he could feel radiating off half the Alliance and went to meditate in the quietest corner he could find, to try and restore some equilibrium in his own shaken mind. This lasted until an orderly almost literally fell over him and said the Surgeon General wanted him to check the pilots for undeclared injuries.
“There are hundreds of pilots,” Kyrie said, rubbing his eyes. “Did he get more specific than that?”
“No,” said the orderly. “Just, you know.” She waggled her fingers and lekku. “Do your magic.”
“Observation isn’t magic,” Kyrie said pedantically, levering himself off the floor.
He found Limia among the pilots, at least. He'd almost completed his rounds, listening out with all his senses for pain, and had sent fifteen protesting people off to the medbay for further attention when he finally ran into her, and let out an involuntary gasp of her name. Limia dragged him off into an offshoot corridor and tilted her head up to be kissed; Kyrie held her close and buried his face in her hair, breathing in the scent of fuel and sweat, listening to her heartbeat and the spark of the Living Force that danced inside her. This close he couldn’t avoid knowing that she was feeling both furiously stubborn and very frightened, and that she was trying not to think about the young uncle who had signed up with her and had died over Yavin, not from enemy action but from a routine flaw. Kyrie didn’t know quite what: in her head Limia was using the exact words, which were Alderaanian. That in itself was familiar to him, and obscurely calming. She preferred Alderaanian over Basic, and scrupulously maintained an accent other Alderaanians said was purposely difficult, an Alderaanian of the distant mountains. Limia always smiled like one of the more vicious sea creatures at home when people said that, wickedly pleased.
She wasn’t really thinking about the burns on her hands, but Kyrie caught the edge of pain in her mind and tracked it to its source.
“Limia,” he said, taking her hands in his and turning them palm-up so he could see the fresh welts. “How did you do this?”
“Accident,” Limia shrugged. “Leave it, it’s not worth the bacta.”
Kyrie hesitated, but then thought of everything that was terrible and how easily he could fix this at least, and threw caution to the winds. “What if I could fix it without bacta?”
Limia’s eyebrows twitched. “Cheating at cards -”
“This isn’t cheating at cards,” Kyrie said impatiently, though the two of them had raised that to an art form that might make even Hondo Ohnaka take off his hat to them. “This is a secret. I want you to know.”
He did, suddenly. He wanted someone to know. Someone had almost always known, someone besides him, and it had always been a relief, to know that he could let that part of himself exist somewhere without fear. But his mother was gone, Katooni was Force knew where, and both Luke and Commander Organa had vanished.
Limia narrowed her eyes, suspicious as ever. “Why is it a secret?”
“Because it always has been,” Kyrie said, trying not to plead, “because it’s not safe, and because I can help more people this way.”
“Okay,” Limia said slowly. “Okay. Show me.”
Kyrie bowed his head over her palms, closed her eyes, and reached for the Force, then reached out for Limia’s burned hands. It was simple, in theory. He’d done it to himself before, but that was his own flesh, and to other people, but there he’d only… helped things along. Still, the skin knew the way it should be; the damaged layers remembered their old shape, and wanted to be whole again. He followed them.
When Kyrie opened his eyes the burns were little more than fading pink, and Limia was flexing her hands, astonishment written plainly on her sharp, expressive face.
“La Fuerza,” Limia whispered. “Tienes…” She shook her head. “Mierda.”
“I only understood the bit of that that meant ‘shit’,” Kyrie said.
“I really have to teach you more Alderaanian,” Limia said. “You have the Force. You’re a Jedi?”
“No, I’m not,” Kyrie said. “I’m not like Luke. I just know a few things, enough to help people, sometimes. It makes the difference in surgery, though.”
“So when you spend all that time with Luke, you’re not really teaching him to cheat at pazaak…”
“Well, I am,” Kyrie said. “Sort of. I’m teaching him to cheat and hide the fact he’s cheating in the Force.”
“That is filthy,” Limia said, looking almost impressed. “There are places in the galaxy where that will get you torn apart by rancors.”
“Well, we’re not in Canto Bight, are we? And you do get away with it if you’re good enough. I mean, the point is to escape the Empire’s Inquisitors, but if you can beat a high-class casino bouncer you’re pretty much halfway there. Luke could probably do it at this point. I definitely could.” Kyrie glanced around, painfully aware that they would soon be missed. “Look, I’ll tell you more later. Everything you want to know. Just don’t tell anyone. My mother lived and died keeping this secret - I can’t break her word for her.”
“Idiot,” Limia said fondly, and kissed him again. “Can’t fool me, Kyrie. If you thought I’d say anything, you wouldn’t have told me.”
Kyrie laughed helplessly. It wasn’t as it if wasn’t true.
When they left the corridor, Wedge Antilles caught sight of them and opened his mouth.
“Are you concussed?” Kyrie said suspiciously, before he could say anything. “You’re always concussed.” He grabbed Wedge by the arm and forced him to recite the answers to all the classic questions, while peering into his eyes.
“I’m not always concussed!” Wedge said indignantly.
“Maybe that’s just the only time you turn up to the medbay,” Limia said.
“I thought your hands were burned,” Wedge said to Limia. “Why aren’t you being dragged off by an angry medic?”
Limia displayed her slightly pinkened hands. “They’re not as bad as they looked. See? They’ve gone down.”
“Which isn’t going to get you out of a trip to the medbay,” Kyrie said briskly. “Off you go.”
Limia shot him a mischievous grin and a terrible failure of a salute, and sauntered off.
“I’ve got to ask,” Wedge began.
Kyrie pointed a pencil torch directly at his eye. “I think you’ll find you don’t.”
When Luke came back - upright, traumatised, one-handed, and smelling suspiciously strongly of swamp - the Surgeon General funnelled him directly toward Kyrie.
“Sir, I am not rated for prosthetic fittings,” Kyrie said, petrified by responsibility. Luke was a dork, but he was a dork the entire Alliance was depending on.
“No, but you are the best at Jedi,” the Surgeon General said, “and Nima is on the Padmé Amidala right now, it’ll take two hours to get her over here. You know Skywalker. I want you to calm him down and get him back on an even keel, so when Nima gets round to fitting the prosthetic, Skywalker will be ready to cope.”
“Yessir,” Kyrie said, and added: “Technically speaking I’ve only dealt with one Jedi.”
“This may come as a surprise to you, Major Theodora,” the Surgeon General said, extremely dryly, “but there are in fact several Jedi hidden among the ranks of the Alliance. It’s just that Commander Skywalker is the most powerful and obvious.”
“I am very surprised to hear it,” Kyrie said, straight-faced. He had treated a couple of people for minor injuries, and recognised the Force’s thumbprint on them, but he’d kept quiet about it and hoped they would keep quiet about him.
“This is, of course, top secret,” the Surgeon General continued, “except to the anaesthetists, for whom it is important professional information.”
“I didn’t know that, sir,” Kyrie said. He had actually made a study of which anaesthetics worked on Luke and which he was virulently allergic to, because they made everything in his head get very loud and turned every sensation into a torment. But that was because Luke now came into the medbay and asked for Kyrie, rather than just for medical attention.
The Surgeon General gave him a very fishy look. “Get out, major.”
Kyrie got out.
Luke looked pretty awful, besides the arm cradled to his chest: unusually pale and very determined, eyes burning like gas flames, jaw tense. Commander Organa was hanging around him in their usual way, only about six inches closer than usual. They were both very silent, but still seemed to be communicating.
Kyrie wondered once more if Commander Organa might be Force-sensitive. Since it wasn’t medically relevant, he persuaded her to sit on the end of Luke’s bed while he talked to Luke.
“You smell like swamp,” Kyrie said, passing Luke a dose of painkillers and pretending to be confident that he would take them. “Swamp and burning. What happened here?”
“I was called to a planet named…” Luke shook himself. “That’s classified. I was called to receive more training from a Jedi. A very old Jedi.”
“And he lived in a swamp.”
“He lived in a swamp and his food was nasty. Your mom wouldn’t have liked him.”
“Probably not, but then she was Nubian, and I hear we’re all snobs. Did he help?”
“Yes.” Luke hesitated. “But not as much as I think he hoped. I had to leave early.” He looked down the bed, and Commander Organa laid a hand on his ankle. She always suppressed her emotions into calm unless she was enjoying the release of a good solid yell at Captain Solo; still, Kyrie could feel muffled horror, sadness and anger. “Someone trapped Han and Leia in great danger and tortured them, knowing I would feel it. It was a trap.”
“Darth Vader,” Luke said wearily. “Keep it to yourself, but Darth Vader.”
Kyrie found he had stopped breathing. He put down his tools and very consciously started again. “And that’s how you came to lose your hand?”
Luke nodded wretchedly.
“O all ye little gods and fishes of the deep,” Kyrie said, with quiet emphasis. “You picked a fight with Darth Vader.”
“I have to - neutralise him, Kyrie,” Luke said miserably. “Or this war will never end.”
“Yes, but you could just - bomb him from orbit, or something!”
“That’s Limia. X-wings don’t work like that.”
Kyrie breathed carefully. “Idiot,” he said, a little affectionately, after a while. “No wonder you look terrible. We’ll worry about killing off the torment of the galaxy later. For now, let’s get you cleaned and checked out and sleeping. Nima won’t fit you a prosthetic until the morning at the very earliest.”
Luke managed a brief smile.
He was weaker than he looked, though he had developed additional muscle on his shoulders and back since Kyrie had last treated him. It was most likely the left over shock of having a limb cauterised off with a lightsaber: Commander Organa, Chewbacca and the merchant baron of dubious loyalties they had scooped up along the way had done a good job of treating the initial emergency, but Luke was still shaky and unsteady. He needed to get clean, have a good meal, and sleep. Kyrie bandaged up his arm, stuffed him full of prophylactic medication for any vile disorder that swamp might have harboured, and helped him wash; Commander Organa cut up his food for him and stayed with him stubbornly until he fell asleep, and then reluctantly got up to go to her debriefing.
Kyrie stopped her with a soft cough. “How are you managing? Luke said they tortured you.”
Commander Organa looked down at her feet. “It wasn’t the worst I’ve had. Mostly they made me listen to - listen to Han.”
“And they’ve kept Han?”
Commander Organa closed her eyes. “They sealed him in carbonite and sold him to Jabba the Hutt.”
Kyrie let out a low whistle. “I’m sorry.” He paused. “Do you have physical injuries you need my help with?”
Commander Organa shook her head.
“Do you want a sedative?”
“All the common ones make me hallucinate.”
Kyrie rubbed his chin. “Have you ever tried a sleep suggestion?”
Commander Organa blinked at him.
“It’s a Force trick. Dreamless sleep. My tutor mostly used it for escaping from jail cells, I think, but I use it to make painkillers and sedatives go a bit further.”
Commander Organa managed a faint smile. “That sounds good.”
“Right.” Kyrie reached for his datapad. “I’ll requisition the room next to Luke’s for you, and a hoverbed for Chewbacca, so none of you will be far away. And if they take more than an hour debriefing you, I will come and break you out.”
Commander Organa nearly laughed. “Are you willing to fight General Draven for me?”
“With my bare hands and a pair of forceps,” Kyrie promised. “Medic’s privilege.”
Commander Organa smiled at him wearily, and Kyrie understood why Han Solo had so comprehensively lost his heart. He too would follow that much relentless courage through planetary systems to death and glory. “You’re a great medic, Kyrie. But you’re going to be a wonderful doctor, one day. Somewhere with a nice peaceful practice and no lightsaber amputations.”
“I live in hope,” Kyrie said gently, and shepherded her off to face her fate. Or at the very least, Intelligence.
True to his promise, he rescued her an hour in, using his poshest voice, a great deal of bluster, and a superfluous hoverchair, plus Limia, who unleashed C-3P0 on a roomful of intelligence analysts who weren’t expecting him.
“Terribly sorry, medically urgent, Commander Organa requires immediate attention,” Kyrie said, slipping easily into hurried, professional Core tones. “Aftermath of torture, very difficult to predict on an individual level, I’m afraid -”
“Major Theodora,” said Mon Mothma, emerging from the shadows of the interview room like an albino shark from the depths, deceptively slow and calm.
Kyrie saluted. “Ma’am, I am very sorry to inconvenience you and General Draven, but it really is my considered medical opinion -”
“I know it is,” Mon Mothma said, and there was laughter bubbling under in her voice. “Your mother taught you well. You sound sincere. I was just thinking, Surgeon Major, that sometimes I believe I know who your other parent is.”
Kyrie busied himself strapping Commander Organa in, and meeting no-one’s eyes. “If that’s so, ma’am, then you are the only person in the galaxy who does.”
“If I’m right, he’d be proud,” Mon Mothma said. “Annoyed, but proud.”
“Ma’am,” Kyrie said.
“If everyone’s quite finished -” General Draven snarled.
Limia set the fire alarm off, and Kyrie whisked Commander Organa out of the room.
“That went well,” Limia said, appearing by his side. “See you in the foredeck mess in forty-five?”
“Yes,” Kyrie said, smiling. “Thanks, sweetheart.”
She kissed him on the cheek as she went past, and he caught and squeezed her hand.
“I’m glad you two are happy,” Commander Organa said very softly, as they reached the room Kyrie had got for her. Chewbacca had elected to remain with Luke, as the most damaged and the most unpredictable.
“We are,” Kyrie said.
“Hold onto it.”
Commander Organa had claimed not to be physically injured, though Kyrie had offered her painkillers and she had not turned them down. He checked his datapad and stared out at the stars while she used the fresher and changed into sleeping clothes, and then sat down on a chair next to the bed while she made herself comfortable.
“What do I have to do?”
“Technically, nothing,” Kyrie said. “But if you can think of a place that makes you happy, that will help me shield you from bad dreams.”
Commander Organa closed her eyes and visibly thought of something, a little line lodged between her eyes. Kyrie laid his hand on her forehead and gently picked up the image she had in her mind: elaborate gardens, with a fountain and high white walls, balconies on one side and mountains in the distance. He wove that into her thoughts, making a shield from dreams of pain and red lightsabers and a man wearing black metal and a heavy cloak who hissed with every breath, and then he told her to sleep.
When he refocused and pulled his hand away, she was already sleeping. He got up very quietly and sneaked out of the room, leaving a note that Commander Organa should be left to sleep until she woke by herself, and found his way down to the foredeck mess.
Limia was waiting for him at the entrance. “Problem solved?”
“I helped her sleep. She’ll be all right.”
Limia’s mouth turned crooked. “I could use that trick sometimes.”
He touched her lower back lightly as they joined the queue for food. “Any time. Just ask.”
“Where did you learn it?”
“My tutor. I had these really lurid nightmares as a kid.” After he’d started using the Force regularly, but he could clarify that later. Along with the content of the nightmares - a heavily tattooed red-skinned zabrak, a double-bladed red lightsaber, a bald woman with grey skin and a sneer full of sharp teeth, constant battles, falling from a great height, a persistent feeling of loss and betrayal.
“Show me later,” Limia said. “I could use some proper sleep.”
Kyrie shook off old memories and leaned into her touch. “Sure.”
Later, Kyrie would say he remembered very little of the Battle of Endor: only a lot more casualties than they’d been led to expect and a great deal of rushing around. Condensed panic, he’d say.
Limia simply rendered her remarks unfit for the ears of historians by saying that whichever shitheel managed to cloak that fleet until the Rebels were out and vulnerable should have their genitalia torn to pieces with red hot pincers. (“It’s a traditional threat, alma mía - I’m just translating directly.”)
The only bit Kyrie really recalled was the part where the second Death Star blew up, and the enormous loss of life knocked him flat. Then there was a lot of joyous cheering, and a lot of shouting from the medics as another wave of casualties came in, and then Kyrie was completely lost in the controlled, disciplined rush of the medical bay.
All things considered, he wasn’t feeling his best when Limia found him and escorted him to her quarters. She led a squadron now, so had her own fresher and a slightly larger cabin; she had also got hold of the change of clothes he kept in his locker at the medbay.
“Why am I doing this?” Kyrie asked forlornly, dressing.
Limia kissed his cheek and steered him out of the room. “Because there’s only one place to be tonight.”
Limia had the security clearance, and access to a craft, to get down onto the surface of the forest moon. Kyrie slept all the way, and, when they hit the ground, allowed Limia to tow him towards the lights and music of a wooden town occupied by about fifty percent weaponised teddy bears and about fifty percent Rebels. Commander Organa appeared, hair loose and eyes bright, and - disconcertingly - hugged them both.
“Go and find Luke, Kyrie,” Commander Organa said. “He’ll want to talk to you.”
“Right,” Kyrie said, endeavouring not to sway. “Where?”
“Look for the pyre.”
“Little gods,” Kyrie sighed. “If he’s burned his last remaining flesh hand off, Commander -”
Commander Organa and Limia both laughed. “Just go.”
He did indeed find Luke standing over the dying embers of a fire, prodding them as various bits of metal and plastic twisted in the heat.
“What are you doing?”
“This is Darth Vader’s death pyre,” Luke said, far too calmly. “He came back to the Light in the end.”
Kyrie stared at him, and began a concerned comment, but was interrupted by a yawn.
“Right,” he said, eventually. “Okay, then.”
Luke laughed. “Darth Vader was a slave, Kyrie. In the end, all I had to do was make him believe he could still break his chains.”
Kyrie rubbed his eyes. “I’ve spent the past seven hours manning a medbay under attack, but I still have a lot of questions about that.”
Luke clapped him on the shoulder. “Never mind.”
“As your doctor,” Kyrie said seriously, “it is my professional opinion that you should go away, have a drink, and leave these nasty mortal remains alone so the forest can eat them.”
There was a brief pause. “The Naboo don’t practise cremation, do they.”
“Burial, mostly. Sea-burial, in the northwest, which is where I’m from. The Gungans kind of do both at the same time, in these sort of… trenches? Trenches. I’m not a geologist, Luke.”
“No. I know you’re not.” Luke slung an arm around his shoulders. “Kyrie?”
“If I told you I knew who your father was…”
Kyrie was too tired to do anything other than think about it, and too tired to come up with very much.
“I’d say,” he said eventually, “that I’m not ready to know right now. Ask me again in the morning.” Pause. “I hope he’d have liked me.”
For some reason, Luke looked into the middle distance. “Oh, I think he would.”
Kyrie looked in the same direction just as Luke turned to answer a call from the town, and found himself staring at a blue-tinged, insubstantial man of medium height, white-haired, dressed in long, layered robes, and smiling mischievously. He had a nose rather like Kyrie’s.
“Luke,” Kyrie said, alarmed, and blinked.
“Yes?” Luke said.
The man was gone. “Nothing,” said Kyrie.
“Right,” Luke said, and helped Kyrie get back to Limia, who was sitting next to her squadron with a Kyrie-sized space at her side. Her pilots were talking amongst themselves; she herself was leaning against a door jamb with a wooden cup of something alcoholic in one hand, and when Luke helped Kyrie sit down next to her she smiled up at him and wrapped one arm firmly around Kyrie.
He leaned into her, exhausted.
“What do you want to do,” she said, “now the war is over?”
“Finish my degree,” Kyrie said. “Go home. Live a normal life. You?”
Limia hesitated imperceptibly. “I don’t know,” she said at last. “I still want to be a pilot. Maybe I don’t have to fly bombers. But I don’t know… I don’t know where to go.” She looked down at her drink, and swished it in the cup. “Alderaan is gone.”
“But Naboo is not,” Kyrie said, and nuzzled his cheek against hers. “My home is yours. Come and swear all over it and track engine oil into it and make it your own.”
Limia laughed, and said something too fast and warm for Kyrie to translate.
“I said I love you,” Limia said, kissing his temple and then his mouth with lips that stung with Ewok moonshine. “You idiot.”
Luke prodded Kyrie awake in the morning; Kyrie swiped at him, rolled over, and in doing so discovered that Limia was already up and that he had an awful hangover.
“Morning,” Luke grinned.
“Fuck off, Skywalker,” Kyrie mumbled, dragging a makeshift pillow over his head. Luke wrestled it away from him.
“Wakey wakey. You have to report to the Surgeon General in two hours’ time.”
Kyrie, suddenly realising that he was technically absent without leave from his post and that if the sun had risen on Endor he should probably be getting ready to go on duty, rocketed to his feet. “Shit!” His head spiked with agony, and he groaned, rubbing his eyes. “Ugh. Little gods. Have you seen Limia?”
“With the shuttle she came in, looking for a medical kit.” Luke hesitated. “Last night, I told you I know who your father is, and you said I should ask you again in the morning.”
“Luke,” Kyrie said. “I’m late for work, I have a splitting headache, I want to throw up, and my mouth feels like something died in it. Is now really the time?”
“Fair,” Luke said. “I’ll remind you.”
“I know you will,” Kyrie said, with something that was almost affectionate in his voice. “I’ll let you know when I want to ask.”
He thought about it when the hangover faded, and decided he didn’t want to know yet. The war wasn’t over, and he was needed. He couldn’t afford to chase off after the memory of a man who was almost certainly dead. And he had family, anyway; he had his mother, and he had Limia, and an assortment of cousins and uncles and aunts, if that was what he wanted. The Alliance was full of people who had far less.
“When the war’s over,” he said to Luke. “I’ll think about it when the war’s over.”
“Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face,” Limia said, when he told her about it. “Just because I don’t have any family left –“
Limia had given a DNA sample to the Alderaanian Family Reunification Project, and had come up almost totally blank, except for a couple of distant cousins who she had never met on Alderaan and whose relations to herself she had reconstructed with difficulty. She corresponded with them very infrequently. One was a Pathfinder, and the other one lived on an Imperial-affiliated world and was very hesitant indeed about anything that might be construed as agreeing with the Rebel Alliance.
She did not count them as family. She had been very clear that family was who you broke bread with. Commander Organa had nodded at that with half-unconscious agreement.
“I have family,” Kyrie said, before this depressing theme could develop any further. “I have all the family I need.”
“You’re a romantic, Kyrie. I thought medics were supposed to be practical.”
“Like I can’t be both,” Kyrie said, and laughed when she flicked water at him from her plastic cup.
When Mas Amedda surrendered the Empire and the Alliance finally took Coruscant, Kyrie had boots on the ground too fast for a non-combatant. Few of the Alliance’s members actually knew Coruscant, save for various members of Intelligence who mostly spent their time on the lower levels, General Organa, and Mon Mothma. The latter two had spent most of their time under an oppressive degree of surveillance and foiling assassination plots, which made getting to know the place tricky. The Empire’s grip on Imperial Centre had been stiflingly tight, and correspondingly difficult to infiltrate.
Kyrie, however, not merely knew Coruscant – his mother had taken him there often as a child – but actually owned property there. His mother had maintained a flat there from the days of her promotion to Director of the Outer Rim Department of the old Refugee Rights and Resettlement Agency, and though she had rented it out to a junior senator after the dissolution of the Displaced Peoples’ Bureau, it was still Theodora property. It had temporarily been distrained after she died on the surface of Alderaan, because that made her a suspected Rebel, but Sabé Theodora had played her cards well and she retained excellent lawyers in the service of her estate. Kyrie had started receiving the rent again well before the Battle of Hoth, and an official Imperial apology for the ‘administrative error’ had been forwarded to him at Echo Base. He had gone to the trouble of printing it onto flimsi purely so that he could tack it to a dartboard and give it to the pilots to amuse themselves with.
Several years after that dartboard had gone to the wampa’s grave with the rest of Echo Base, Kyrie found himself reintroducing himself to the concierge who had known him as a boy, walking through his mother’s front door, and making space for the Alliance’s political operation on the ground. He insisted on keeping a bedroom for Limia and himself, though.
“Is it like what it was when you were a child?” Limia said dubiously, looking around the fashionably minimalistic decoration, grey-toned décor of the flat.
“No,” Kyrie said. “It was colourful, then.” He rapped the window-glass and listened to it ring. “They’ve upgraded Mother’s blaster-proof glass, though, so I’ll forgive them for their bad taste.”
“You’re so Nubian sometimes,” Limia sighed, and got a bunch of bored bomber pilots with nothing to blow up to come in with lighter, brighter colours of paint and make the place look a bit less Imperial grey.
General Organa sent for portraits of her father and of Padmé Amidala, and other members of the Delegation of Two Thousand that had been the Rebel Alliance’s genesis. Kyrie dug a good holo of his mother out of a back cupboard, but it blinked and flickered with the damage of the years; after Luke dragged him on a highly unpleasant trip to the desecrated Jedi Temple, they both broke out the Corellian brandy and Luke took a screwdriver and a soldering iron to the holoprojector’s damaged base.
“War’s over,” Luke said, picking through the fine wiring. “Do you want to know about your father?”
Kyrie thought of the dried blood that would never be scrubbed away, the lightsaber burns on walls, the ruined children’s dormitory they had stumbled into by accident, and the overwhelming pressure of pain and terror and betrayal. His stomach rolled, and Kyrie chalked it up to nausea rather than brandy.
“Not yet,” he said. “I don’t want to find out he died… there.” He didn’t have to explain to Luke what he meant by that. “At least you know that much.”
He thought over the last few sentences and winced.
“Yeah,” Luke said sarcastically. “At least I know that much.”
He fixed the holoprojector, though, good as new, and set it up in the corner nearest Padmé Amidala’s portrait. They had been sworn sisters in life; his mother had mourned Padmé like her own blood. Kyrie was confident that Sabé would not have wanted to be separated from her queen in death, any more than she would have wanted to be separated from Kyrie.
Senator Mothma – bidding fair to become Chancellor Mothma, though in Kyrie’s place he would have chosen some more neutral title, like President – arrived unexpectedly back from a late-night sitting in the Provisional Senate just as Luke and Kyrie were admiring Luke’s handiwork. She moved very quietly, and neither of them was paying attention to the Force, so it was General Organa banging the front door on her way in that actually made the pair of them jump and turn.
Senator Mothma looked like a phantom dressed all in her usual white, but – transfixed in the doorway – she was staring at Luke, Kyrie, the holo and the portrait as if they were the ghosts.
“I beg your pardon, senator,” Kyrie said, with the graceful manners Sabé had worked so hard to teach him.
“I had forgotten how much you look like your mother,” Senator Mothma said, as if she hadn’t heard him.
Kyrie got the strong impression that she wasn’t only talking to him.
The ceremony that welcomed the Heroes of Naboo home to Theed was long, hot, and extremely uncomfortable. Kyrie plastered a smile on his face and coped; Limia simply scowled, and managed to look serious and heroic.
It was an enormous relief, to Kyrie at least, when they reached Xarxas. He barely managed to stay polite through the goggling curiosity of the uncles and aunts and cousins waiting for them (have you really been fighting for the Alliance all this time? where did you get that scar? are we crowding you? who is this woman?) and was indecently cheerful when ushering them off to the guest wing where they'd probably been eating their heads off for weeks.
Limia, hanging back by a pillar, looked like he'd caught her off balance. "Where are you going?"
"We are going to eat by the sea." Kyrie raided the kitchens for food and the cupboards for a picnic blanket, then dragged Limia down to the shore, to the relatively secluded beach Kyrie and his mother had shared with all the locals they weren't related to. There was a Gungan family down there now, and they laughed when Kyrie stripped his shirt off, threw himself headfirst into the waves and didn’t come up till he felt clean again.
"I thought you were going to drown," Limia yelled at him. She looked like she was wavering between delight and fear.
"Him? Never," said the Gungan matron tolerantly, in the familiar, sharper accent of the northwest. "He'se been playing here since he'se the size of a tadpole."
"Everyone learns to swim around here," Kyrie said, paddling back to shore. "I'll teach you. We can get you a costume tomorrow, if you like."
"I like the sea," Limia agreed, sitting down on a natural jetty next to a small Gungan child playing in the rock pools, dangling her feet in the water. "Only seen it once, but I like the sea."
"Youse only seen the sea once?" The matron was shocked. "Wherese you from?"
"The mountains," Limia said, fingering the amber necklace she still wore every day with every outfit, and let out a startled noise when the tadpole she was sitting next to poked her lightly. "What? Oh."
The child had offered her a tiny net to join in with the rockpooling, scooping shells out of the sand and water. Limia hesitated for a moment, then accepted the net, smiling. "Thank you."
Eventually, the Gungan family left to have dinner at home, with many good wishes and congratulations; Kyrie answered in his stumbling Gungan, and Limia wished the tadpole she had been rockpooling with a good evening in Alderaanian. Kyrie wasn't surprised, but it did make him smile when the tadpole answered in the same language, pronouncing the words carefully and with very little accent.
"Do you like clams?" he said, when they were gone.
"I have no idea," Limia said. "What the hell's a clam?"
They established that Limia was not allergic to seafood, and Kyrie showed her where to find the clams, and how to get the sand out of them and cook them over a small fire. The sun was sinking rapidly towards the sea when they sat down on the beach to eat, backs pressed against a rock cushioned with a spare blanket.
"This is... a lot," Limia said slowly. "This house. Your cousins. This... everything."
"It is," Kyrie said.
There was a long silence. "I'm not," Limia said eventually, and then stopped, and tried again: "Your family..."
"You are my family," Kyrie said, and she huffed a laugh and rested her head against his shoulder. "I'm very serious. They've never liked my branch of the family and we ignore them. If my mother was still alive they wouldn't dare come within a mile of the place."
"I'm a kid from the back end of beyond on a dead planet, Kyrie, and this is basically a castle by the sea, and the Naboo are - well, look, I saw the way they looked at me in the capital. You can't idealise your way out of that one."
"You're a war hero with the ear of the New Senate's Defence Minister," Kyrie said. "I'm just a humble medical student, a couple of years behind on my degree. And the northwest isn't Theed; we're a lot saner. I think you'll find I can idealise my way right out of this."
There was a long silence; Kyrie felt tense, but Limia was still soft and relaxed in his arms.
"Think of it this way," Kyrie said. "You have exactly as much of a family and home behind you as Princess Leia does."
Limia let out a wild crack of laughter and elbowed him; he recoiled, but grinned.
"That's horrible," Limia said. "But true. Makes me feel bad for Han."
"Did you see the latest holo about them?" Kyrie said, and put on his sappiest voice. "Hey. D'you think a princess - and a guy like me -"
They both snorted helplessly.
"No," Limia said firmly, shaking her head. "Bullshit. I refuse to believe he said that." She sat up and leaned forward. "Did we finish the clams?"
He knew the subject wasn't closed; knew that, in a way, it never would be. But when he got back from politely inviting all his extraneous relations to take their leave the next morning, he found Limia waiting for him with a swimming costume and a very determined expression, and later he saw the forms for a long-stay visa lying around. He thought, in time, they might find a way to work around it.
In the meantime, they had at least two years of his medical school and her lecturing at the defence college in Hanna City for the two of them to see what they looked like at peace.
It was long years after the Battle of Endor that Kyrie and Limia trusted the political situation enough to consider a child; Limia had, in her sideways, gradual way, decided she wanted a child, and Kyrie had always liked children. They always seemed like hope to him, even when they were badly fed or nauseous or sobbing, and he had to persuade them that vaccinations weren’t murder.
They were living on Naboo at the time, at Xarxas, the only place on Naboo where straightforward Limia really felt comfortable, and a place that gave Kyrie a bone-deep sense of safety. They'd married mere months before. It was traditional to exchange vows and mingle blood down by the sea; it lacked the elaborateness or finesse of Nubian traditions as they were known to the galaxy, but Kyrie thought of the blood oaths that handmaidens swore, of the child queens and kings whose closest advisors were designed to die for them at need, and thought it was truer than the Festival of Light or the water dances. He also thought that the need to plan around the tides meant for a brisker ceremony, which he approved of.
"I was thinking," Limia said, uncharacteristically shy, as the autumn they had married in melted into winter. "We want kids. At least one kid. Maybe two. So I should probably take my contraceptive out."
"Mmrgh," said Kyrie, half asleep, and rolled onto his side and buried his face in her pale brown hair. "Say the word. I'll make it happen."
"Wish-giver," Limia teased, and pulled his head down to hers for a leisurely kiss that went nowhere.
Later the next afternoon, while it was gearing up to storm outside, Limia announced her plan to do some swimming practice and showed him the bandage of a freshly removed contraceptive as she removed her shirt.
“I should probably talk to Luke,” Kyrie said, running his thumb over the gauze and trying to keep his brain on a sensible track instead of constructing ridiculous possibilities. “Find out who my father is. Get a medical history, just to be sure. We’ll probably both need a gene workup –“
“Tomorrow,” Limia said firmly, changing into her swimming costume. “Stop worrying about things that don’t exist yet.”
“You can’t get that wet! I know it’s tiny, but it is technically a surgical wound.”
“It’ll be fine,” Limia said.
“At least let me put some sealant film on it,” Kyrie complained.
She stood still long enough for him to wrap the bandage over with film and seal the edges, and then marched purposefully downstairs in the direction of the heated pool in the basement. Kyrie waited only long enough to send a quick message to Luke, wherever in the galaxy he was, and then hurried down to join her.
Luke, Limia and I want to try for kids, and I need that answer. Whenever you’re free. Kyrie.
To Kyrie’s considerable surprise, Luke arrived before the results of the gene work-ups he had insisted on did.
“Joder,” Limia said mildly, watching Luke manoeuvre his small craft carefully down onto the space he was being waved into. “I didn’t invite him. Did you?”
“I asked him to tell me who my father was,” Kyrie said, scratching his head. “I didn’t think that meant a visit.”
“Maybe your father was someone important?” Limia guessed. “Or maybe you’re the secret third Skywalker. I mean, where there was one –“
Kyrie shuddered. “No, thank you. I don’t want to have to take fraternal responsibility for Luke. He’s trouble.”
“Is that your official medical opinion?” Limia teased.
He pulled a face at her, and she laughed and kissed him.
They welcomed Luke with dinner on the beach, since Luke had suffered enough in the way of official feasts lately and neither Limia nor Kyrie felt like anything fancy. It was quiet – a few of the local kids, Gungan and human, had been playing there, but they’d cleared off when the sun started to set – and the only thing Kyrie could sense in the immediate vicinity, besides the warmth of the fire and clipper fish feeding in the path of the moon, was the two steady heartbeats of the two people he knew best in the world. It was late-autumn chilly, but not uncomfortably so, and the fire was blazing with heat.
“How did you find out who my father is?” Kyrie asked, unpacking the basket of plates and food by way of displacement activity.
“He told me,” Luke said.
Kyrie dropped the cutlery in the sand, and Limia dropped a skewer full of fish into the fire. Cursing fluidly in Alderaanian, she heaved it out again.
“My father’s alive?” Kyrie said.
Luke looked uncharacteristically shifty. “Well, not as such.”
Kyrie rinsed the cutlery off and laid it down on the picnic blanket. “Explain yourself.”
“Your father became a Force ghost after he died,” Luke said carefully. “I learned a lot from him.”
“Spit it out,” Limia said acidly.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Luke said hurriedly. “Your father’s name was Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
“What,” Kyrie nearly squeaked, sitting down hard on the sand.
“What, like the Jedi?” Limia said. “The famous one? High General something or other back in the day? Wow. That can’t have been safe at all.”
“Uh, yeah,” Luke said. “Him. Apparently he was friends with Sabé during the war, and, uh –“
“Okay, that’s enough,” Limia said, raising her hands. “She was a terrifying badass with balls of beskar iron, but she’s still my mother-in-law.”
Kyrie felt his mouth opening and closing like a fish, his eyes widened too far for blinking. Luke frowned at him as if worried, and Limia leaned over to shake his shoulder gently.
“Kyrie, cariño –“
“She could have been killed,” Kyrie said in a voice made of thread. His mind was spinning in neat circles. “It was bad enough she had a son with a Jedi. But not just any Jedi, the Jedi’s Jedi, the Sith-killer, the only man who ever faced Darth Maul and lived. If she’d made just one mis-step – even if she hadn’t made a mistake – if anyone had guessed who I was, she would have died.”
“They would have murdered her. They would have taken me for an Inquisitor and turned me to the Dark Side and burned everyone who ever remembered her. Little gods. Little gods and fishes of the deep, how did she do it?”
“I have no idea,” Limia said, sitting down next to him and drawing his head down onto her shoulder very gently. “I hope our kids are that brave.”
Kyrie made a noise halfway between a sob and a drain unblocking, and closed his eyes and leaned into her arms.
“He’s around,” Luke said softly. “As a ghost, still. You could talk to him if you wanted. You’re strong enough with the Force.”
Kyrie let out a small hysterical sound. His mind was still going in circles. His mother must have been so scared. So scared. That iron-eyed, blade-graceful guardian of his childhood, facing down the galaxy to keep him alive – she must have been petrified the entire time. He’d always known that raising him had been risky, but now it seemed he’d underestimated the danger by a factor of five to ten.
Even in a distant corner of Naboo, the Empire’s progress in wiping out the Jedi was reported on, and their kill lists were known. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s name had always been at the very top.
“Maybe later,” Limia said, with unusual tact.
“I can show you how it’s done,” Luke said.
“Turn the fish over,” Limia told him, meaning shut up. “It’s burning.”
They ate a very quiet dinner and went to bed early. Kyrie did not draw the shutters in their room, preferring to let the moon spill in. He stood there by the balcony, watching. In the distance, a whale of some kind breached, trailing its tail fins behind it.
Limia came up beside him, and slid her arm around his waist.
“She must have been so afraid,” Kyrie said.
“Probably,” Limia said. “But she won the long game. You lived. The Empire died. And our children will not live in fear.”
Kyrie let out a breath, and stared out into the night.
“We give our loved ones to the sea,” he said. “And their voices come back to us on the waves before dawn. I never got to bury her, though, so I don’t know if it works this way.”
“You’re forgetting your dad is currently a ghost,” Limia said, eminently practical. “If she doesn’t already know the good news, he can make sure to tell her. Got to be some upsides to all this Force nonsense.”
It was that which made Kyrie laugh at last.
“Come on,” Limia said. “Let’s go to bed. I’m freezing.”
Their daughter was on the way within three months, and Kyrie went quietly out of his mind.
"I don't know how to be a parent," he said, petrified, to the continental administrator.
"Nobody ever does," retorted Pooja Naberrie. "Could you please refocus your mind on to fishing permits?"
That calmed him down for a while, and then, when Limia was eight months pregnant, he touched her stomach and was shocked to feel a nebulous but definite presence reaching back.
"Please tell me," Limia said, sitting up with great difficulty purely so she could deliver a more forceful judgemental stare, "there's a reason you yelped and fell backwards over a chair."
"Our baby is Force-sensitive," Kyrie said, picking himself and the chair up off the floor.
Limia flopped onto her back and frowned at the ceiling. "Is it normal to know at this point?"
"Not the foggiest," Kyrie said, clinging on to his sanity by his fingernails. "I could call Luke and ask."
"You'd get an answer," Limia agreed. "But knowing Luke, it would be either a stuffed toy or useless."
"Hey," Kyrie protested automatically, on his friend's behalf.
"You were there when Ben was born," Limia reminded him mercilessly. "You said Luke was useless."
Kyrie admitted the fact of this. Luke had actually fainted, which Kyrie charitably blamed on the shock of Ben entering the world screaming in the Force as well as in everyone's eardrums, and which Leia had been much less polite about. "I'll try and get hold of Katooni," he said, after several minutes' concentrated thought.
"She taught me everything I know about the Force," Kyrie said. "And everything I know about cheating at pazaak."
Katooni arrived in time to help with the birth, which was lucky, because the baby was confused, panicked, and extremely loud. Katooni, though useless with the actual medical bits, could soothe the child's tantrum in the Force far more effectively than Kyrie could.
"Sea-born," Kyrie remarked, looking at the waves lapping at the edges of the birthing room he'd bet his last credit his practical mother hadn't used. (After years of being based in Xarxas Limia was still fascinated by the sea, and she had liked the room the moment she saw its view.)
"Is that lucky?" Limia asked, plainly floating on painkillers and endorphins.
"Very," Kyrie said, checking the baby girl's life signs, length and weight and swaddling her with a practiced hand before laying her gently in his wife's arms. "It means she wasn’t born to drown."
"Good," Limia said rather dopily, an unaccustomed softness in her face. "I want to give her a name like the sea."
"You choose," Kyrie said. He'd already talked to Limia about the only thing he wanted from a name: the same é sound that had marked his name and his mother's, to carry on that memory of service and love, to leave the mark of the brave secretive woman who had died on Alderaan on her granddaughter's life.
"Mar," Limia said. "Mar, that means - sea, that means sea, in Alderaanian." She smiled up at Kyrie. "Maré. There."
"Perfect," Kyrie said, heart melting.
He sat with his wife and daughter until Maré needed to be fed, and then Limia fell asleep. Kyrie carefully lifted Maré from her arms, and carried the baby to bed, where a nurse would watch over her while she slept, at least for the first few weeks.
Maré peed on him almost immediately, her small round-cheeked face soft and content.
Kyrie could have sworn, but he was too tired. He just sighed instead.
"Welcome to fatherhood," Katooni said, helping him with dry clothes and a soapy washcloth. "Your mother would have been proud."
"Do you think so?" Kyrie said, surprised.
Katooni nodded. "Overjoyed."
"I don’t know if you knew my father,” Kyrie said carefully, wrapping Maré in clean clothing and laying her down. "Did you know him?"
"I might have done," Katooni said. "I knew many Jedi Knights, and there's always been a familiarity to your Force presence that suggests that, whoever your father was, I did know him. But your mother would never tell me who it was, forget confirming my guesses."
“I considered laying a bet on it somewhere,” Katooni admitted. “But it was far too big a risk. Did she tell you in the end?”
“No,” Kyrie said. “Luke did. It turns out – my father was a friend of my mother’s, and they were lovers, not partners.”
“That fits with your average Jedi,” Katooni said, folding her arms. “Official attachments such as marriage, or indeed children, were frowned upon. Master Skywalker fucked up there. Although Master Koon – anyway, you were saying.”
Kyrie blinked at her, then shook his head and carried on. “My father survived the Purges and – actually ended up training Luke, although – Look, it’s a long story.”
“I’m dying of suspense,” Katooni said gravely.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Kyrie said, nearly choking on the words. Nobody knew but Limia and Luke – though Chancellor Mothma had almost definitely guessed – and the remnants of his childhood of secrecy still bound him. “My father was Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Katooni stared at him for several minutes, her mouth hanging open, and then sat down hard on a rocking chair which nearly flung her into the wall behind with the force of her own momentum.
“That was one of my guesses,” she said, sounding stunned, “but I thought it was – way too dangerous to be true.”
“Well,” Kyrie murmured. “It’s, uh. It’s true.”
“Have you met him?” Katooni said eagerly, barely modulating her voice to avoid waking the baby. “Is he alive?”
“No,” Kyrie said, a little regretfully. “He died on the first Death Star, rescuing Leia Organa. Darth Vader killed him. But, er, Luke tells me he’s also a ghost, so…”
“Ghosts are a kids’ story,” Katooni said sceptically.
“So are Jedi Knights and vengeful princesses and good triumphing over evil,” Kyrie said. “And yet here we are.” He looked down at his daughter when she made a tiny noise, panicked in case she woke, but she smacked her lips again and quieted.
“True.” Katooni shook her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. “How did Sabé do it?”
"She was careful," Kyrie said, stroking Maré's little round stomach.
"Of course," Katooni said. "That's why you're still alive."
She got up and joined him at the cradle; stared down into Maré’s face and touched his daughter’s cheek with one work-rough beige finger. “We endure,” she said, very quietly. “The Light Side continues to work, whatever the darkness the galaxy falls into, whatever the fate of the Jedi Order.”
“Have you met Luke Skywalker yet?” Kyrie asked.
“Yes,” Katooni said. “He takes after his father. Hondo likes him more, though.”
“That old rascal is still alive?”
“And kicking,” Katooni said, with one of her sweet smiles. “Mostly kicking.”
Kyrie went back to Limia. Katooni stayed, to watch over Maré.
Katooni left before dawn two weeks later, the better to catch the window for take-off (Kyrie didn’t ask how she’d got onto the planet, and wasn’t told). Both Maré and Limia were asleep, after a wakeful night, and Kyrie likewise went back to bed until Maré began to stir around dawn. He got up then, hastily, before Maré could really wake up, and took her into his arms and went to the windows to watch the tide go out.
Maré wriggled and burbled in her sleep; he gave her the end of his little finger to chew on, and she quietened.
He wondered if his mother had felt this way, in the short window between his birth and the rise of the Empire, when his father’s identity and Kyrie’s own talents were a political risk rather than a threat to life and limb. Like the future was just within her grasp, and the world was full of potential.
He wished he could ask her.
The journey down the Corellian Trade Spine should have been a straightforward one. Their ultimate goal was the Tatooine Free System, and they were carrying a small horde of medical, educational and engineering specialists who had been promised to beef up some of the outlying planets’ infrastructure. Limia was captaining the ship, a handsome quadjumper far more salubrious than anything any of them had used since before the Battle of Hoth; himself in charge of the doctors, planning his clinics, apportioning resources. They’d stay for a year, and then move on, take Maré back to Naboo so they could all go home: Limia to take up a position in the Naboo Defence Force, Maré to go to school for the first time, Kyrie to do something he hadn’t yet identified.
It should have been fine. Their first clue that it wasn’t came with a determined pursuit by three shabby, Imperial-looking corvettes that wouldn’t answer hails, and that Limia couldn’t seem to lose. They ran off course for twenty standard hours, trying to shake the corvettes, and Limia’s mouth grew thinner and thinner, her temper shorter and shorter. Eventually she took the decision to load the non-combatants into escape pods and engage their pursuers, who still wouldn’t identify themselves, but kept playing Imperial marches and triumphal music whenever they were hailed.
Kyrie tucked Maré into a pod with Hason, a cheerful and bloodthirsty Trandoshan who was her favourite of the engineers, and promised he would be back for her soon.
‘’n Mamá?” Maré asked, peering over his shoulder.
“She’s flying the ship, my love.” Kyrie kissed her forehead and smoothed her hair back.
Maré’s lower lip wobbled. “Daddy.”
"I know, sweetheart," he said, calling on everything he'd ever learned about keeping his face calm and friendly, and his Force presence relaxed. "I know."
He kissed her again, then handed her firmly to Hason and sealed the pod. He nodded at Hason through the tiny window, watched the Trandoshan nod back, and then left the bay, returning to the bridge.
Limia had a pair of small hard lines between her eyebrows and creases around her eyes, just as she had done during the war.
"You could have gone with the others," she said abruptly.
He smiled at her. "I don’t have to be a non-combatant," he reminded her, and waggled his fingers. Several small objects lifted from their places. "Maybe I can get this over with faster. Or maybe I can get them to go easier on you, and we'll get out of here faster."
Limia let out a deep sigh, and reached for his hand, cradling it against her cheek. With the other, she reached out and flicked the comm switches to begin hailing the Imperial ships.
"This is Captain Limia Flemín of the Jedha Crystal," she said, once more, yet again. "This is a purely diplomatic mission and your manoeuvres are hostile. Identify yourselves."
There was a crackle of response, and Limia's hand tightened on Kyrie's.
"This is Captain Hux of the Imperial ship Loyalty," came the response, too sneering to be called a snarl, but its close cousin nonetheless. "No courtesy is due to Rebel scum. Prepare to be boarded."
Limia leant back and closed her eyes for a second; Kyrie kissed the top of her head. Then she leant forward, and flicked the comm on to transmit again. "The Rebel Alliance liberated the galaxy. Die mad about it, cabrón de mierda."
She swung the Jedha Crystal round abruptly, the escape pods began to fall from the ship, and the two engineers she had stationed on the smaller guns began firing. Kyrie, thrown against the side of the cockpit, groped his way into a seat.
"Have I mentioned?" he shouted, over the yells of the crew and the racket of battle. "My mother would have loved you."
"I bet I would have liked her too," Limia yelled back. "Now shut up, cariño. We can’t do much here, but I can buy our daughter some time."
Kyrie strapped himself in tightly, and wished he knew how to wield a lightsaber like Luke could, like the heroes in the old stories of the Clone Wars could. Like his father had.
Kyrie closed his eyes and prayed. The Force heard him sometimes. Why not today?
Kyrie never found out why not, but the Imperials boarded nonetheless: too thin and mad with the loss of their unnecessary war, Palpatine's tools more than a decade after his death.
You want to leave us alone, he thought, as hard as he possibly could, drawing on the memory of every successful mind trick he'd ever pulled off. You want to go away and mind your own business.
"Stop staring," snarled a human dressed in perfect Imperial uniform save for the unfaded bloodstains, and hit Kyrie hard with the butt of a blaster rifle.
Kyrie fell to one side, dizzy. They're too lost for it to work, he thought, appalled, and felt his vision turn to grey from the inside out.
Do what you can, said Katooni's voice inside his head, calm and immovable.
Stay alive, said his mother, cool and pragmatic.
Trust in the Force, said a voice Kyrie recognised from old holonet clips he’d dug up, Coruscant crisp and mannered.
Maré, Kyrie thought. Maré, Maré, Maré.
He could hear Limia snarling. He tried to rise to calm her, and found that he could not. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he slumped into unconsciousness.
There was no ransom for former fighters of the Rebel Alliance. Kyrie remembered plenty of pleasant young men and women destined for Imperial service, and was stunned at the degradation of the people who now swarmed the ship. He hid his shock, he flattered himself, as well as his mother would have done, and played the mild-mannered doctor, the man for whom do no harm was an unshakeable rule. But these ragged, hungry people in their starched grey uniforms with their hard eyes were the very worst of the Empire. They didn’t care for distinctions between combatant and not, didn’t care for reason, and weren’t vulnerable to the suggestions that Kyrie tried to implant. Knowing the captain’s identity, they beat Limia to within an inch of her life, refused to allow Kyrie to give more than the most basic medical aid, and made her a hostage to everyone’s good behaviour, which made Kyrie nervous. The passenger complement had been about forty percent former Rebel by volume; a solid eighty percent of those remaining onboard had fought for the Alliance.
It was enough to make him grateful that Maré, wherever in the Western Reaches she was, was not on the ship. He could stand the threat to his wife, a battle-tested adult, better than he could have stood the threat to his Force-sensitive and therefore additionally valuable four-year-old.
The inevitable revolt came, and Kyrie took a gut wound that would have killed him had the Tatooine System Defence not found them at the second missed check-in, had Limia not found her way past broken fingers and broken teeth to fly a little faster than anyone else could have. They had months of recovery ahead of them, though, and the retrieval of their child and the other non-combatant passengers was urgent, so they were forced to leave it to others, piecing together half-remembered coordinates, descriptions, and the make and capabilities of the escape pod they had put her in to provide as much information as they could between surgeries and bacta sessions.
No lead ever turned to reality. Kyrie wondered if this was what his mother had felt like, living out the Empire with a martyred best friend and a Force-sensitive son and nowhere to turn. He wondered if there was any way the Force would lead him back to Maré. He wondered if there was any way to undo what had been done.
“You’re not very practical, are you,” Limia said, Limia who was too used to losing family to be surprised as well as bereaved, but she set her defensiveness aside and went out to the sea with him on each of Maré’s birthdays. It was usually raining; she would stay with him as long as she could cope with the weather, and then return indoors to the dry.
That first birthday Kyrie stayed out while the tide rose and the lightning flashed, and the rain soaked his clothes to his bones. He felt blank and nerveless, fixed in place, and his eyes filled with rain as much as they did with tears. He was too frozen even to startle when a bluish figure took shape and form in front of him: Obi-Wan Kenobi, looking old beyond his years, dressed in full Jedi robes trailing in a sea which couldn’t get them wet.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” Kyrie shouted over the storm.
“I don’t want you to die like this,” Kenobi said in reply, quiet and reasonable and yet still perfectly audible.
“Where were you when the Imperials came for us?” Kyrie screamed, staggering to his feet with his hands in fists. “Where were you when they nearly killed me – when they beat Limia – when we had to send Maré away? Why are you here?”
“You are my blood,” Kenobi said, very simply. “I am always with you. For your mother’s sake and your own.”
“You didn’t lift a fucking finger to help me!” Kyrie howled. “All that power you have, everything you know, everything you can do, and it’s all useless! You are useless to me!”
“I am sorry, Kyrie.”
Kenobi looked very sad, and some distant part of Kyrie recognised he was being unfair; but the larger part of him needed someone to feel pain like he felt pain right now, so he drew his breath in for more.
“You stand here, telling me you’re sorry, telling me you don’t want me to die like this, like it matters! Like any of this fucking well matters! I’ve lost my daughter! I don’t even know if I get to keep my marriage! Everything hurts, everything will always hurt, and my daughter is gone!”
Kenobi moved a few paces closer. “If I knew where she was –“
“Fucking find out!” Kyrie yelled, turning on him. “Don’t sit there wringing your hands! I’m not sitting there wringing my hands, and I was shot in the stomach three months ago! Stop wasting my time with what if and just – just – do something! If you mean anything of what you’ve said, if I mean anything to you – do something!”
The sea was lapping up around Kyrie’s ankles. He felt suddenly that his feet were wet and cold and that the rest of him was not much better, and he growled in exasperation.
“I know you suffered,” he said roughly, “basically your whole life. But don’t come to me and cry over this when you never raised a hand to help me or your granddaughter. Don’t you dare. You don’t have the right.”
“I will try,” Kenobi said, his years and losses written across his face. “But bear in mind that it will be difficult to find her, and it may not be possible to determine where she is. Even if I do identify her location, I may not be able to return without losing track of her. She is only a child, and though she is strong, she has little training as yet.”
“Of course,” Kyrie said. “She’s fo-” He choked, and felt tears well up. “Five. She’s only five.”
Kenobi nodded, his eyes gentle.
“Do something,” Kyrie said. “That’s all I’m asking. Do what you can.”
“I will,” Kenobi said, and Kyrie believed him. “Just promise me one thing.”
“Go indoors.” Kenobi lifted his head and looked up the cliff at the house. “Limia has just realised you never came in. She is worried.”
“Mierda,” Kyrie hissed, and hurried towards the door. “Okay, fine. But -”
He looked round as he let himself in, and saw that there was no ghost: only the moonlight on the water.
Limia found him climbing the steps to the main house, very slowly and very grumpily. “You look half drowned,” she said, handing him an enormous towel. “What the hell have you been doing?”
“Shouting at my father,” Kyrie said crossly.
“The ghost?” Limia said. Her eyes narrowed, and she planted her hands on her hips. “And how did that work out for you?”
“Honestly,” Kyrie said, “it was very frustrating.” He toed his shoes off carefully – he still couldn’t bend down without discomfort – and wrapped himself in the towel. “He must have been an extremely annoying man in life.”
“Clearly you take after him,” Limia said.
“I’m sorry,” Kyrie said.
Limia shook her head, and held her arms open to him. He drew her close, and breathed into her hair.
“And now all my clothes are wet,” she grumbled.
“I’m sorry about that too.”
“Never mind,” she said, and buried her face in his chest. “Never mind.”
The storm raged around Xarxas throughout the night, and the morning dawned clear. There were no footprints on the beach where Obi-Wan Kenobi had stood with his son, not even above the high tide mark, and Kyrie wondered if he had only dreamed it all.
Months later, he ran into Leia Organa in the Senate, where Limia was due to give evidence to an investigatory committee on the Imperial remnant attack they had experienced. He stopped and spoke to her. “Still no news of Ben?”
Leia shook her head. She looked pinched about the mouth, and more tired than she had been since Cloud City. “None. It’s like both he and Luke vanished into thin air. I’d say they had vanished into thin air if the Second Temple hadn’t been flattened at the same time. No news of Maré?”
Kyrie caught Leia’s eye, and they held each other’s gaze. “It’s pretty terrible, isn’t it?”
“Beyond words,” Leia said. “But at least you and Limia know what Han and I mean when we say that.” She let out a sigh. “Han’s working his way through the Western Reaches with Lando. We think Ben might have been taken into the Unknown Regions. He told me to say he’ll look for Maré too, wherever he goes.”
“Thanks,” Kyrie said, knowing the words were totally inadequate.
Leia waved them off. “Where’s your wife? She’s supposed to be testifying.”
“She hates the Senate,” Kyrie said. “I think she might be hiding in the toilets.”
“I wish I could hide in the toilets,” Leia muttered, and forged forward into the ladies’ conveniences to retrieve her recalcitrant witness.
The committee went fine. Limia testified. Kyrie was called from the floor to testify. The committee deliberated half the night and voted to investigate with caution (separate dissents by Senators Organa and Vaspar noted for the records). Kyrie got the news over dinner in a profanity-laced message from Leia and a news alert from his commlink. He showed Limia both.
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Limia said pessimistically. She flung down her fork with a sigh. “I don’t like Corellia. Everyone here thinks they’re more interesting than the rest of the galaxy.”
“Me neither, but letting them have the Senate for this rotation is absurdly politically valuable.”
“It’s bullshit, but we’ll have to live with it.” Kyrie intercepted a censorious glance from someone he’d cheerfully bet had never set foot on a battlefield, and smiled back with all his teeth exposed. Durians tended to take that as a threat. This one was meant to.
“Let’s go home,” Limia said. “I know we’re not booked to leave yet, but let’s go home. I’ve had it with this system.”
“We can change our tickets,” Kyrie said. “Go somewhere else. See another piece of the galaxy.”
Limia stared at her plate. “We always said we’d do that with Maré.”
“So we’ll know exactly where to take her when we get her back,” Kyrie said, and was grateful when a terse smile caught at Limia’s mouth. “Why not?”
“Why not,” Limia echoed.
They got on a shuttle for Tinnel IV the following afternoon, and planet-hopped for the next two weeks until they picked up their original return flight on Eufornis Major, sightseeing like the pair of normal tourists they were trying to be, and pretending to themselves that they weren’t leaving Maré’s name at every sanctuary, every singing wall, every prayer wheel.
She was still alive: they had to believe, even as each new attempt to find her and Hason died in the cavernous Western Reaches, that she was still alive, and one of them would find her one day.
As it happened, a search party did land on Jakku, but it landed on a different continent entirely to the one where Niima Outpost staked a claim on the sand. All the probabilities they had to hand suggested that there was a small chance Maré and Hason’s unpiloted escape pod had landed here, and they duly scoured the area for them, and found nothing.
Meanwhile, the scavenger Unkar Plutt called Rey developed an irritating habit of running after every quadjumper with class four engines that landed at Niima Outpost, screaming at them to come back. Since the Trandoshan who had shared an escape pod with her had died of the desert heat before Rey had been found, there was no-one to explain this peculiar behaviour besides Rey, who persisted in the delusion that if she just chased hard enough her family would reappear. She also talked constantly about her grandfather, who appeared to be some kind of illusion or imaginary friend, but at least she shut up about him when ordered to do so, and she would not stop running after the ships.
Plutt put a stop to that behavior, too. Rey was too profitable to die in an accident.
Years later Poe Dameron brought a stormtrooper defector and a hell of a story back to D’Qar. He also brought a name that raised questions with Leia, and she took the first opportunity possible to get Chewbacca by himself and get a reliable description of the girl, considering Finn too much in love and Han too distracted.
“Medium height, pale-skinned human from the Western Reaches, about twenty Standard, no family, slim but tough, dark hair, definitely a Jedi,” Leia repeated, slowly, in Basic. “And you’re sure she answered to Rey? Not Maré?”
Chewbacca pointed out that if she wanted him to check whether strange young women answered to the names of missing girls, she should have primed him with the names in advance. Affectionately, Leia told him to fuck off.
“It might be true,” she said, thoughtfully, then shook off useless speculation and drew herself up. “Well. If it is, we can worry about it after defeating Starkiller.”
One thing at a time, Chewbacca yowled.
Caught by surprise, Leia laughed. “Yes,” she said. “Time to do what we can.”