Actions

Work Header

Lack All Conviction

Chapter Text

Ahsoka’s lightsaber swings down to meet his in a clash of brilliant teal light, driving his blade up and to the side.  Another blow, and he’s disarmed.

He takes a step backward and calls his ‘saber to him in the same moment, but when he turns back, Ahsoka’s yellow-green shoto is at his neck.  He swallows reflexively.

She steps back, sheathing the ‘sabers.  “That’s three for me, and one for you.”

“Guess I need some practice then, huh?”  Kanan lets a grin slip out at the comment, grateful that Ahsoka smirks faintly at it as well.  He rubs the back of his neck and steps back.

“Again?”

“Yeah, just give me a minute.”

“Kanan?”  He twists around to see Ezra leaning on the railing overlooking the Ghost’s cargo bay.

“Yeah, kid?”

“When are you going to be done?”  Internally, he’s proud that the kid’s willing to ask that; even just a few weeks ago he wouldn’t have been, Kanan knows.

“Not sure.  Ahsoka?”

She shrugs.  “I’m ready to stop whenever you are, Kanan.”

“Did you need something in particular, Ezra?” he calls up, turning back around to face the kid.

“I mean...I can talk to y– you later...it’s not like you’ll be gone, so….”  The kid starts to withdraw from the overhang and Kanan curses mentally.

“No, no we can talk now.  I can stop now. If you wanna talk.”

“Al– alright.”  The kid pauses in his retreat, but doesn’t turn back around.  Kanan casts an apologetic glance at Ahsoka before turning and jogging to the ladder leading up and out of the cargo bay.  Ahsoka’s comm beeps, and he hears her answer it as he steps out onto the overhang.

He squeezes the kid’s shoulder lightly as he reaches him, and the two set off.  The quiet clink-thud of the kid’s uneven footsteps is the only sound beyond the soft thrumming of stalled engines and Kanan’s own near-silent footsteps as they traverse the Ghost.  He lets Ezra take the lead, and the boy doesn’t stop until they’ve reached the cockpit.

Ezra limps to the copilot’s seat and stops, glancing at Kanan with an unasked question in his gaze.  Kanan nods, and the boy sits.

“So, kid.  Spill.”

“I’ve been having the dreams again.”

Ah.  So that was why Ezra had woken him up from the top bunk with his screaming this week.  Twice.

“Yeah?” Kanan prods gently.  If the kid wants to elaborate, great.  If not, that’s fine too. They can take it as slow as they need.

They have as much time as they need.

Ezra takes a shuddering sigh and pushes hair out of his face, apparently uncaring as it just flops right back down.

“I...I saw him.  Again.” His voice is quiet, fragile.  It breaks Kanan’s heart. He remains silent as Ezra painfully swallows and continues.

“It...we...I was on a station, in– in a hallway.  It was dark...and– and we were the only ones there...well fir– first it was just me, and then...then I saw– saw him.  At the end of the hall. He– he took out his lightsaber, and my leg– my leg was normal, and he—“

The kid starts sobbing abruptly and Kanan immediately leans forward, folding Ezra into his arms.

“Hey, kid, it’s okay, it’s all right,” he whispers, rocking back and forth gently as he strokes the boy’s hair.  “It’s all right.”

No “it’s going to be all right,” or “you will be okay,” because he can’t promise that.  And he won’t break another promise to the kid.


Kanan scratches his lower cheek, frowning slightly in thought as he leans further over the sink.  Ezra’s visions—nightmares, he can’t acknowledge that they might turn out to be true—have only been worsening over the past few weeks.

He’s now been having them going on four weeks, and Kanan hates that he can’t do a thing about it.

It’s driving him insane.

What’s driving him more insane is the reason behind a loud knock on the refresher door that interrupts his train of thought.  Or, more rather, who.

“Kanan?”  Sabine knocks again, louder this time.  “Hera wants to talk to you. Are you in there?”

He doesn’t answer for a moment, instead running his hand over the stubble forming.  He keeps meaning to shave, but Ezra’s been up every night this week, and he’s unwilling to go back to sleep until the kid’s back asleep, too...and Ezra rarely falls back asleep.  So Kanan’s gone back to only the bare minimum in regards to self-hygiene.

There’s another loud knock.  “Kanan?”

“Yeah, comin’,” he mutters, turning the faucet on long enough to wet his hand and swipe it over his face before turning to the door, drying his eyes with the hem of his shirt.  He palms it open, dropping his shirt and glancing down at Sabine. It’s a struggle to keep his expression neutral.

“So what...what are you trying to tell me?”

“...I’m Starbird.”

“Hera wanted to se– to talk to you.”

“Alright.  Where is she?”  His voice is gruffer than he’d intended, but he doesn’t care, and Sabine doesn’t comment on it.  She steps back, gesturing for him to follow her with a jerk of her head. He listens, albeit with some reluctance.

“She’s on the bridge in Phoenix Home.

“I can get to the flagship on my own,” he remarks dryly as they leave the Ghost and step onto said flagship.  Sabine snorts.

“Sure you can.  I’m sure Commander Sato’s just handing out clearance codes to everyone these days.”

“Well he clearly gave them to you, so—“

A droid rolling by slams into Kanan’s knee and he curses, glancing down to see an astromech.  Chopper.

“Chopper, what the kri—

The droid warbles snottily, a comment about Kanan’s incessant arguing with Sabine spilling from the droid’s modulators.  Kanan simply snorts and folds his arms.

“I don’t really see why running into me helps that much.”

Chopper remains silent for a long moment before blowing the astromech equivalent of a raspberry and trundling off, still warbling to himself.  Kanan sighs, catching Sabine’s slight smirk. He doesn’t comment on it as she shakes her head and starts walking again.

Sabine enters the clearance codes for the bridge into a small keypad and steps back as the door slides open, waving Kanan through dramatically.  He rolls his eyes, stalking past her and already searching for Hera. His eyes light on the woman and the intensity of his stride lessens slightly as he approaches her.

She’s talking with Ahsoka and Sato, her back to him.  Ahsoka clears her throat as she sees him, nodding behind Hera’s shoulder.  The younger woman turns, and Kanan feels his breath catch as it always does.

As much as he tells himself he should be just as mad at her as he is at Sabine for knowing and not telling him, he can never find it in himself to be mad for long.  Not when he thinks of the quiet moments they’ve shared, of the dark nights, of the soft kisses—

“Where’s Ezra?”

“He’s still in PT,” Kanan says, noting Ahsoka’s slight confusion at the lack of his tag along as well.  “He gets out in…” he checks his wrist chrono, “just another half hour. So we gotta make this brief. What’s up?”

Sato’s gaze narrows at the lack of formality in Kanan’s response, but he can’t find it in himself to care.

Hera and Ahsoka turn back to the hologram they were discussing at his arrival, and after another long moment in which Kanan pretends not to feel his stare, Sato does, too.

“Havoc Outpost.  It’s the main base of another cell.”  Hera points to a large building on top of a cliff.  “There.”

“Okay, but what am I looking at?  Why are you telling me this?”

“There was a Jedi with them.”  Ahsoka replies before Hera can, her gaze intense as she locks gazes with him.

“Was.  So...they’re not there now?”

Ahsoka shakes her head.  “No. Not anymore.”

“I need more to go on here.”  He turns back to the hologram as Hera starts up again.

“About a week ago, they stopped answering any and all transmissions sent their way.  Sabine took a patrol unit there for recon three rotations ago, too—nothing. The base isn’t destroyed, it’s not burned, there’s just...nothing.”

“So you’re telling me this is recon from after they went on comm silence?” he asks, confused.

“Yes.”

“Okay….But why does it matter if they have a Jedi or not?”

“Because of this.”  Ahsoka takes over once more, tapping several commands in and pulling up a grainy surveillance feed.  “Watch.”

At first, there’s nothing—just an empty hall.  But then a figure enters, running toward the holocam.  Something stops them, an invisible barrier of some sort, or at least that’s what he thinks—until they begin to drag back across the floor the way they came.  Another figure appears, a tall, imposing one with armor.

His blood runs cold.

“The Inquisitor,” he breathes.

Out of the corner of his eye, he catches Ahsoka’s nod.

“You, Ezra, and Sabine have more experience fighting him than the rest of us.”  The Inquisitor reaches the other figure, their throat in his grasp. The Inquisitor says something, and then his quarry pulls out a lightsaber.  Kanan exhales sharply through his nose. So this is their Jedi.  “You know how he operates.  You’ve beaten him before, and you can do it again.”

He gives a coarse laugh as the Inquisitor easily bats the other figure’s lightsaber away, and then stops and looks up at the holocam, raising a hand.  Within moments, the feed goes staticy.

“You don’t beat the Inquisitor, Ahsoka.  You run from him.  We were lucky to get out with our lives.”  Absently, he finds himself rubbing the scar on his lower arm from that fight, and forces himself to stop.

“But still, with your help—“

He laughs again, cutting Sato off as he abruptly pushes away from the table.  “Who said I’d help? I’m here for advisement only, and only until Ezra finishes his therapy.  So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pick him up.”

He leaves the bridge without another word, and no one tries to stop him.

Chapter Text

“Come on, Ezra.  Just let go of the railing—“

“I can’t, Kanan.”  His Padawan is trembling, clutching at the railing tight enough to turn his knuckles white.  Ezra’s gaze is away from him, fixed at some point on the floor ahead. He repeats himself a moment later.  “I- I can’t.

“I know you can, kid.  Come on. You can do this.  Hold onto my arm if you need to, just don’t hold onto the railing.”

Ezra remains still, trembling for a long moment before he lets go and clutches Kanan’s arm.  He catches a rare glimpse of the boy’s face, enough to see that his eyes are squeezed tightly shut and his mouth is twisted into a grimace.

Still, as Kanan watches, the boy takes another step forward.  It’s not hard to see the silent, withheld gasp of pain as Ezra places weight on his right leg, the metal creaking slightly underneath him.

“Kanan please Kanan—“

“You’re all right.  I’m here, I’ve got you.”  The kid nods weakly, returning most of his weight to his left leg.  Kanan lets him rest for a moment before nudging him forward with a gentle squeeze.  Ezra gasps audibly this time as he takes another step, weight falling heavily onto his right leg.

“Kanan...can we– can we stop for today?”  The kid gasps as he speaks, and Kanan can feel his exhaustion, throbbing strongly through the Force.

“Do you think you can get to the blue marker there?  Just there. Then we can stop, yeah?” Ezra nods, sweat pouring down his face even as he takes another step, still clutching onto Kanan’s arm.

He loses track of how many more steps the kid takes, but eventually Ezra’s hand slams back onto the rail, on top of the blue-striped strip of spacer’s tape.

“You did it.  You did it, Ezra.  Good job kid.” Kanan continues to murmur encouragement as the kid slowly releases his arm and reattaches himself fully to the railing.  He glances up at his mentor, offering a weak smile.

“Can we...can we go back now?”

“Yeah, yeah kid.  We can go back.” Kanan helps the kid sling an arm over his shoulder as the pair stumbles away from the railing on the overhang.  “You wanna go to your bunk?”

“Ye- yeah,” he breathes, still shaking.  “Just...wanna lay down.”

Kanan nods, pausing to key open the door.  When they reach the bunk, Ezra stops and glances up.  Kanan recognizes the question before the kid can even open his mouth to ask it.

“Yeah, you can stay on my bunk for now till you’re feeling up to climbing to yours.”

“Can I...take my leg off, too?”

It’s a difficult question for him, and he suspects Ezra knows it, too, otherwise the kid likely wouldn’t have hesitated.  The medic in charge of the kid’s therapy had told Kanan it was better if he got used to wearing the prosthetic at all times.

Still, the pain in the kid’s eyes is obvious...and the medic had warned that the prosthetic might rub at his stump….

“Sure, kid.  Just- just this time, yeah?”

Ezra nods in assent, sitting on Kanan’s bunk and pulling his right leg up with a wince.  He starts unbuckling the leg, and Kanan watches in silence for a few moments before stepping forward and taking over.  They keep their silence as Kanan slides the prosthetic off, resting it next to the bunk and handing Ezra a small tub of ointment.

“Put that on, it’ll help ease the irritation.  Alright?”

“Okay,” Ezra says in a small voice, taking the ointment and unscrewing the lid before his hands still and he looks up at something beyond Kanan.  He turns.

Ahsoka stands in the doorway, arms crossed.  Her face is impassive as she nods to Kanan and he returns his attention to Ezra.

“Alright kid, comm me if you need anything, yeah?”  The kid nods and Kanan rises, squeezing his shoulder again before exiting.

He keys the door shut behind him and turns to Ahsoka, crossing his arms.  “Yeah?”

“Ezra’s leg.  You never actually told me what happened to it.”

“I...there was an...accident.”  Kanan swallows painfully, remembering the look of absolute trust in the kid’s eyes as he told him what had to be done.

Trust that he betrayed, only mere weeks later.

He still hates himself for it.

“We... I... had to amputate.  It...we didn’t have the time, or the credits, to run him to a medcenter, and a few people had been trying to come after him anyway so we figured it was safest if I was the one to do it.”  He scratches his jaw, swallowing. “So...here we are.”

Ahsoka nods thoughtfully, eyes still on Ezra’s door.  “I thought he didn’t like being drugged.”

“He wasn’t.”

“You used the Force, then?”

“For what?” he asks in confusion.  “For healing him? I’m not a Healer, Ahsoka.  I could only ease his pain.”

“No, though that would have been a wise choice had you been a Healer, Kanan.  I meant to knock him out.”

“I...wasn’t aware that the Force was capable of that.”   Kriffin’ great, you could’ve saved the kid the pain.  Great Master you are.

“It is,” is all she says in reply, her gaze finally settling on him again.  He swallows reflexively underneath it.

“I wouldn’t have trusted myself to do it, anyway, if I could.  I...no. I couldn’t have done it.” Great, now he’s rambling. Get it together, Jarrus.

Ahsoka nods.  “Regardless. He must trust you a lot.”

He casts a glance at their cabin door again, sighing with a nod.  “Yeah, I...I suppose he does.”

The kid’s eyes as he watches Kanan, shock cuffs tight on his wrists, and waits for him to make the right choice.   Knows he’ll make the right choice.

And instead, he chooses Hera.

He fails him.

He needs to stop drowning in memories.  Forcing a sigh, he clears his throat. “So.  Did you want to practice?”

Chapter Text

“He should be finished in two weeks, if he keeps up this rate of progress.”  The medic nods to where Ezra’s standing independently a few meters away, breathing shallowly through his nose as he takes another step forward with his right leg and cries out.

“And you still want me to try and wean him off the painkillers?” Kanan asks in a lowered tone.  She nods, glancing at Ezra again.

“That would be ideal, yes.  He can’t be on them his whole life, and he’ll have a prosthetic—whether it’s that one or another—the rest of his life.  He needs to adapt to the pain.”

He nods in thought.  Ezra takes another step, wincing but not crying out this time.

“And...what if he’s having a worse day with it?  Like today, or– or the other day?”

“I would still try and avoid painkillers.  I know it won’t be easy for him, Mr. Jarrus, but he has to learn to adapt to it.  You can’t be there for him all the time.”

Anger flares up at the implication that he’ll just fail Ezra again.  “Yeah? Who says I can’t?”

“I’m not saying that you’re going to choose not to be there—“

“No, that’s exactly what you’re saying.”  He walks to Ezra abruptly.  “Kid, let’s go.”

“But don’t I need to– to finish—“

“You can finish back on the Ghost. ”  He places his hand on the small of the kid’s back to support him as they leave, Kanan shooting a glare back at the medic.

They’re halfway to the Ghost when a door opens and someone backs out, bumping into Ezra.  The kid nearly loses his balance and Kanan immediately rushes forward between him and the antagonizer.

“I’m sorry, so sor—Ezra?”

Kanan glances over his shoulder.

Sabine.  Typical.

“Hi, Sab—“

“Let’s go, kid,” Kanan interrupts, glaring at her over his shoulder again and moving his hand up to Ezra’s shoulder in an attempt to steer him away.

“I want to talk to Sabine.”  Kanan stops, glances down at him.  “Earlier, she...she said she wanted to talk to me about something.”

Kanan glances between the two of them and withdraws slowly, still ready to catch Ezra if he needs to.  “If you’re okay with that.”

“I am.”  The kid nods firmly, shifting his weight back onto his left foot as he turns to Sabine.  Instead of speaking, however, the girl casts a glance at Kanan.

“I...want to talk to him alone.”

“Kanan, I’ll be fine, ” the kid adds before Kanan can even open his mouth.  Swallowing, he nods.

“I’ll go...yeah.  Okay.”

He swallows again, casting a last glance back at them before turning and walking away.

Ezra’ll be fine.  Sabine lived with you two for a year and he was fine.  He’ll be all right.

He goes to continue to the Ghost, but a comm interrupts his pace.  Sighing, he stops to answer it.

Kanan.  We need you at the bridge again.

“What, for more ‘advisement?’”

There’s a pause before Hera continues.  “Yes.  You aren’t required to go on the mission, of course, as per our original agreement, but—

“I’ll come.”  He clicks the comm off and turns around, sighing again as he makes his way back to the bridge.


“And, Kanan?  What are you thinking?”

He strokes his beard as he studies the hologram, frowning in thought.

Golden eyes narrowed, faint smirk on his face.

“Ready to die, boy?”

“What about the back hangar?”  He points to a spot on the hologram near the back.  “Have we tried that?”

“No, not yet.  It seemed more under-the-radar, too small for the Empire to notice.”

“But not enough for the rebels themselves to skip over,” he and Ahsoka say in unison, glancing at each other.

“Exactly,” Sato nods.  “The Empire would have done something about it if they were aware.”

“But if they weren’t….”  Kanan’s brow furrows as he continues to study the blue-tinged image of the base.  “We should check there first,” he says decisively. “If there’s survivors that couldn’t make it out, they’ll be there.  If not, we could still find something telling us where the rest are.”

“I’ll let Sabine know.”  Hera nods, pulling out her comm.  However, right as she’s about to speak into it, the door to the bridge opens.  Sabine and Ezra enter, the latter trying and failing to mask a wince of pain as he puts weight on the prosthetic.  Kanan moves to go to him, but Ahsoka places a hand on his arm.

“Don’t.  He’s fine, see?” she says in a soft tone.  His eyes narrow, but as he studies the pair, he realizes she’s right.  He gives a slight nod.

“Sabine,” Hera calls.  The girl approaches, Ezra lagging slightly behind.

“What is it, Hera?”

“You’re taking your unit back to Havoc Outpost.  We need you to check out the back hangar, see if there’s any survivors or clues as to what happened to them.”

“Sure,” she agrees with a shrug, meeting Kanan’s gaze uncertainly.  “Anything else?”

“Leave tomorrow; take the A-wings and the Phantom.”  Sabine nods, and turns to leave.  “And, Sabine?” She stops. “Kanan will be taking a unit alongside yours.”  He swallows at the reminder of the agreement he made not even twenty minutes ago, but Sabine simply shrugs and leaves.

Ezra remains, shifting his weight as he glances up at Kanan.

“Sabine said something about Hera wanting to talk.”

“I do,” Hera says, smiling.

“Question first.”  Kanan takes a step forward.  “Since when is Sabine leading her own unit?  That’s the second time you’ve mentioned it. She’s only—what, fifteen, sixteen?”

“It was decided we could trust her with her own unit months ago.  It was only a matter of time until she received it. She can keep them out of danger.”  Kanan hears the implication in Sato’s words easily enough—but can we trust you to do the same?

Chapter Text

Kanan marches onto the bridge as an officer enters their clearance codes and the door slides open.  Ahsoka and Sabine glance up from their conversation, but Sato and Hera continue speaking as if nothing happened.

Upon reaching their table, he slams a fist down onto it, expression furious.

“Kid, I’ll be gone for a couple of days, but then I’ll be back, yeah?”

“I know.”  Kanan jolts in surprise at the quiet statement.

“Kanan, glad you could join us,” Hera comments mildly, though he catches a flash of irritation in her eyes.

“No one told me Ezra’s going, too,” he snarls.

“Sabine said they wanted me to go.  For– for advisement, because I was with the Inquisitor longer than you were—“

“We didn’t ask him to,” she says simply.  “He told us what he remembered, and then he asked if he could come.”

“Why?!  You know he’s not up to—“

“Do I, Kanan?”  He stops at the sudden iciness of her tone.  “Do I know?  I’ve avoided asking him any questions related to that incident, and do you know why?  Because I assumed you’d already talked to him about it!  But according to him, you haven’t!

“No, kid.  You’re not– not coming.”  His voice is tight, but the irritation that flares up in Ezra’s eyes only serves to further surprise him.

“Yes, I am.

“I told him he could bring it up when—“

“When he felt like it was the right time?!  And how was he supposed to—“

Ahsoka clears her throat, and Hera draws back, gaze still simmering with quiet fury.

“Captain Syndulla, if you could take this outside—“

“Of course, Commander.”  She doesn’t look at Sato as she crosses to Kanan’s side of the holotable, grabbing his wrist and pulling him off of the bridge with her.

Ahsoka casts a sympathetic glance at him as the door slides shut, but Sabine and Sato have already returned to planning.

“—how was he supposed to bring it up when you’re here smothering him?!” Hera hisses as soon as the door shuts.  She continues to pull him down the hall until he yanks his wrist out of her grasp, shaking it with a wince.  Force, he’s forgotten how strong she is.

Smothering him?!  What do you mean, ‘smothering him?!’  I’m trying to keep him safe!

“No, you’re trying to make up for something!  I’m not sure what, maybe it’s you feeling as if you failed him—“

“It’s not feeling as if I failed him, Hera, it’s because I did!”  Her mouth opens in a silent “o” as she stops, but he’s just getting started.  “I was the reason he got kidnapped, I was the reason he lost a leg, kriff I was the reason he stayed with Dolsher longer before getting turned into the Empire like some common criminal!”  He finishes in a yell, a painful ringing in his ears that disguises the fact that he’s breathing hard for several long seconds.  Hera continues staring up at him, unflinching, though her gaze has turned softer. He looks away, finding himself unable to hold her gaze for long.  When it’s clear he won’t be speaking again anytime soon, Hera clears her throat, talking in a much softer tone as she places a hand on his arm.

“Kanan—“

Don’t.”  His low mutter is almost more of a growl than anything as he abruptly pulls his arm out of her grasp again.

“Kanan, I—“

“You’re right.  I am smothering him.”  He finds himself deflating, and glad that it’s her who’s seeing him like this, and not anyone else.  “I’ll go talk to him. I…” he sighs, “should...do something. Say something. I dunno.” He sighs again, running a hand over his face.

“When was the last time you slept more than an hour, Kanan?”

“I….”  He finds he can’t answer, which is an answer in and of itself.

“Go.  Rest. You can talk to him when you wake up.  We need you fully rested for the mission.”

Mission.

Right.

It’s always the mission with her.

“What about Ezra?” he asks with a hoarse voice.

“He’s in therapy right now, yes?”  Kanan nods tiredly. “I’ll pick him up, make sure he’s all right.  Is that okay with you?” Kanan nods again, rubbing his eye. She squeezes his arm lightly.  “Good. Now go get some rest.”


Kanan stares at the underside of Ezra’s bunk, finding himself unable to sleep.

It’s not just that the ship’s on its day-cycle still but rather that he’s still tossing his conversation with Hera around in his mind.

She’s right, he knows, deep down in the depths of his soul—maybe he’s smothering Ezra; no, he is smothering Ezra.

He remembers Depa showing him the nest of convorees on Serenno, pointing out to him the chick that kept hopping up to the edge of the nest.  It glances back at its mother before spreading its wings for the first time.

And it falls.  Spectacularly.

But Depa whispers, “Its mother still had to let it go, even if it failed, because it had to try at least once—“ and then he watches as Depa picks up the bird and returns it to its nest—“Sometimes you just have to trust that someone else will be there, even if you fail,” which he finds surprising because, it seems, it’s only ever been him and Depa and Mace against the rest of the galaxy for the longest time—

Ezra needs a chance to fly.  To fight back, the same as Sabine and Hera and Zeb and the rest of them.

And who knows, maybe the kid will see the same thing Kanan’s seen for the last eleven years, that fighting back is useless in the long run.  Maybe he just needs to experience it himself first.

Regardless, Kanan will keep him safe.

It’s not “smothering” if it ends up being the difference between his life and death...right?

To be quite honest, however, he’s not sure who’s right anymore.

Chapter Text

“You sure you’re gonna be all right, kid?”

“I’ll be fine, Kanan.”  Ezra’s tone is heavy with exasperation, but Kanan pretends not to notice, instead just squeezing his flesh knee lightly.  “Stop asking.”

“Okay, okay, I just want to make sure you won’t fall apart on us halfway through the mission.”  It’s said in a teasing tone, but he knows the meaning is clear to Ezra: If you ever feel like you can’t handle part of it or need to go, just let me know.

Ezra sighs wearily, nodding.  “I won’t,” he promises.

“Landing in two,” the pilot at the front, one of the mercenaries the cell hires occasionally named Vara Thorn, calls back.  Kanan nods in silent acknowledgement as she casts a look back at him, Ezra, and the other member of their group, a fidgety Pantoran male who seems only a few years older than Sabine.  Kanan’s seen him around on Phoenix Home, but he doesn’t have a name to match, and he’s already forgotten most of the information in the briefing beyond the actual plan for when they get inside.

“What’s your name?”

Kanan glances down at Ezra’s soft question.  The Pantoran raises an eyebrow but answers regardless.

“Sh– Shilmar, Shilmar Iggson,” he responds.  Ezra offers a slight smile. “You’re– you’re Ezra Bridger.  You’re the one who’s seen the Inquisitor.” His smile slips.

Kanan clears his throat, drawing the attention away from his Padawan as he sees Ezra starting to nervously tap his fingers on the seat.  “Kanan Jarrus.”

“Oh, r– right, you own the Ghost. ”  Kanan gives a single nod, glancing at Ezra out of the corner of his eye.

“Yeah.  Sabine was with my crew while she was...observing.”  He’s not sure what else to call it. Sabine had tried to explain to him that she had been doing something for Fulcrum, something along the lines of surveillance but not that.  He had been trying to adjust one of the Ghost ’s secondary engines (and be as loud as possible while doing it, but definitely not to drown her out) while she had been trying to talk to him about it, so he remembered little of their actual conversation.

Iggson gives a jerky nod.  “She was how– how we got a lot of the information about the Empire’s shipments.”

Before Kanan can respond, there’s a beeping from the front of the console.  The trio glances toward it as the pilot flips several switches and engages the landing gear.

“I’m coming with you three, but Karno’s got her new group and she’s staying on their ship in case we need a quick exit and can’t reach the Red Dusk in time.  They’ve been here a while already.”  Kanan nods as the ship settles with a quiet thud that reverberates deep in his bones.  Standing, he goes to help Ezra up, but the kid is already half-risen.  Ezra rises fully, along with Iggson, and after their pilot shuts down the small freighter she approaches them.

“Alright, let’s go.”  She leads them to the exit, slamming a fist against the loading ramp controls and gesturing towards the ground.  Kanan takes the lead, Ezra and Iggson following shortly behind. There’s no pain emanating from their bond, so the kid must be okay.

Kanan slows as they get further into the hangar, almost reaching for his lightsaber before hesitating and reaching for a glowrod instead.  He holds it up, illuminating the darkness surrounding them.

“They should’ve called this the bottom hangar, not the back one,” their pilot mutters under her breath.  “Looked like it was at the bottom of the whole thing from the outside.” Kanan gives an absent nod, still studying the hangar.  It’s oddly...quiet.

It’s because there’s no one here, that’s all.  You’re paranoid.

“Yeah, maybe…” he mutters, stopping near a group of crates and crouching to examine them.  Nothing about them appears to have been damaged. He sets the glowrod down, opening one of the crates.

Stacks of ration bars greet him.  He sighs, digging into the crate and pulling one out before checking the date on it.  Okay, so not expired, not yet.  And knowing Phoenix Squadron and its stinginess, they would honestly probably appreciate these, even if they’ll be in questionable condition in a few days.

“Just ration bars in this one,” he announces, standing and closing the lid.  “Might as well take it back to Home though, it’s not like Havoc Cell’s going to be using ‘em any time soon.”  He’s greeted with uncertain smiles at the comment, but merely shrugs, turning back to the crates and checking the next one.  More ration bars. And...same with the one after. Behind him, he hears the rest of the group gradually spread out.

“Found some speeder par– parts,” Iggson calls from across the hangar.  Kanan nods in distant acknowledgement, already moving onto the next group of crates.

“Might be useful.”

They spend the next hour scouring the entire hangar, meticulously cataloguing the contents of each crate in the clusters before moving onto another group.  The whole time, the hairs on the back of Kanan’s neck continue to stand up, and he can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong.

He hears an excited gasp from Ezra and turns to see the boy eagerly leaning over a crate.  He’s only on his second group from what Kanan can tell, but he’s glad the kid’s still able to even make progress with his leg how it is.

The crate muffles the kid’s voice, preventing it from echoing throughout the rest of the hangar. “Kanan, I found coaxium in this one!”

His head jerks up, and he grabs his glowrod and abandons the crate he’s currently searching through to rush over to the kid.  Out of the corner of his eye, he catches the rest of their group doing the same. “How much?”

“There’s a bunch!  Vials and vials of it!”  Ezra withdraws from the crate, grinning and holding three vials of coaxium as he leans against the side of the crate in an attempt to hide his fatigue.  It doesn’t work, at least for Kanan, and he resolves to speak to the kid about it later.

Thorn whistles appreciatively.  “If your rebellion doesn’t end up using all of that...you could get a load of credits for it.”

“Yeah,” Kanan nods.  “It’d fund us for a while.”   Us?!  What are you now, a full-blooded rebel?  You’re still leaving as soon as the kid’s okay.

“Alright, I’d say we should call it a day by now, comm your friends and see how they’re doing and then we can get off this rock.  Iggson, help me with the crates; kid, you can come too and help inventory if you want.”

“Don’t call me ‘kid,’” he mutters.  Ezra’s face scrunches up almost comically, though Kanan knows the reason behind it is anything but.  He’s still surprised Ezra even lets Kanan call him that.

Kanan pulls out his comm, flicking it to Sabine’s channel and raising it to his lips.  He watches Ezra push off from the crates of coaxium and lock the crates together, activating their small repulsorlifts and nudging them toward the ship.  Kanan clicks the comm on.

“Hey, Spectre K to Spec– Starbird.  How’s your group doing?”

He waits a moment as the channel goes staticy, watching the rest of their group load crates as Ezra stumbles up the ramp to help pull them in further.  She’ll respond in a moment. When there’s still static, he tries again.

“Spectre K to Starbird.  Status report, come in.” Again, static.

Frustrated, he comms someone else on her team.  “Spectre K to Phoenix Six. How are you doing for time?”

Karno’s line is staticy, too.

Unease squirming in his gut, he painstakingly comms all but one of the remaining members of the other group.

No response from any of them, only static.

Swallowing hard, he comms the last member.  “Spectre K to Starbird Three, status report.”

At first, there’s just silence.

The silence hitches.

He swallows.  Silence doesn’t just hitch.

But breathing does.

He waits in silence, muting his end of the comm as he listens to the other end.  If there’s someone breathing, he can barely hear them.

What he can hear, however, is a faint whimper.

He almost thinks he misheard until there’s the very much there tell-tale hiss of a lightsaber igniting.  There’s a louder whimper, barely audible over the hum of the ‘saber.  His breath catches, and he shoots a glance back at Ezra and the others.

They’ll be okay, just get them and yourself out of here before the Inquisitor finds you.

Get Ezra out of here.

But if that was Sabine ’s group member he heard...it had to be.  He has a responsibility to Hera; he promised her.

“Ready to die, boy?”

He has to get their group out.

He has to get Sabine’s group out, too.

He has to get Ezra out.

He casts another glance back at the Red Dusk.  Thorn’s disembarking to retrieve the last crate and he clears his throat, turning the comm off completely and jogging a couple of steps in her direction.  The mercenary looks up.

“Thorn, I’m checking something out really quick.  If I’m not back in half an hour...take off without me.”  He swallows roughly, catching sight of Ezra emerging from within the ship.  “I’ll find my own way back.”

Kanan?  Ezra’s curious touch on his mind is light, feather-soft.  Kanan can never help a small smile whenever he feels it.

Kid, I’ll be okay.  Don’t worry about me.  Just listen to Vara.

Ezra nods, scampering back into the ship as fast as he can with the prosthetic.  Kanan meets Thorn’s eyes again, and the woman nods, the interior lights from the ship behind her glinting off of the small horns on her head and casting them, along with the rest of her, into shadow.

He turns and walks toward the repulsorlift at the far end of the hangar, and is calling the ‘lift down when Thorn calls after him.

“Hey, Jarrus?”

He glances over his shoulder.

“May the Force be with you.”

He nods.  “Yeah. And– and with you.”  He steps onto the lift. Just because he doesn’t believe in the Force anymore doesn’t mean he can’t return her farewell.

He exhales as the lift closes and starts heading up, leaning against the back wall and rubbing his temples tiredly.  Only moments later, it reopens, depositing him onto another darkened floor. He exits warily.

He holds the glowrod down but slightly in front of him, just enough to illuminate his path as he makes his way through the shadowed halls.  Kanan’s only turned two corners when he sees it. Swallowing, he holds the glowrod up to the wall.

There, emblazoned in bright orange, is a small, hastily-painted half of a starbird.

And below it, two short words—or, rather, a word and a half—in the same hasty scrawl:

HE’S HE—

“I honestly did not expect to be seeing you again so soon, Kanan Jarrus.”

Chapter Text

Kanan whirls, shoving his lightsaber together and twisting it into one as the Inquisitor swings with a single blade toward his head.  He ducks, feeling the heat of the opposing blade nearly singeing his hair as he does so.

He ignites his ‘saber, twirling it as he rises and lunges.  The Inquisitor steps back neatly, smirking as he blocks Kanan’s next blow.

“Don’t seek to control the Force, only to control yourself and your reactions.  Let it flow through you; it will guide you. You yourself are merely the conduit.”

Ahsoka’s words become a mantra in his mind as they duel, a pace-keeping recitation that’s the only thing keeping him calm.  He ducks another blow, countering his opponent’s next move.

The Inquisitor raises an eyebrow.  “I’m impressed. You seem to have improved since our last encounter.”

Kanan gives a scoffing laugh, grunting as he blocks another blow.  “Yeah, well you haven’t.”

His opponent merely smirks, lunging forward with a violent strike that grazes Kanan’s knee.  He cries out, barely stumbling out of the way of another strike.

“But, it seems, not well enough.”  The Inquisitor attacks again, blow glancing off of Kanan’s pauldron.  He catches the Inquisitor’s next blow on his ‘saber, wincing as the heat draws closer and closer to his face as he’s pushed until his back is against the wall.  Grunting, Kanan forcibly twists and shoves the Inquisitor’s blade into the wall behind him. The blade hisses and splutters but Kanan’s already backing away, blade raised in defense as the furious Inquisitor turns.

“I’ll get the boy either way, you know,” he says in a cool voice, walking toward Kanan with the air of a tooka stalking its prey.  “I don’t need you alive to lead him to me.”

“Good, because I won’t,” he snaps back, gritting his teeth and adjusting his grip on his lightsaber.

The Inquisitor attacks again without warning, igniting the second blade on his ‘saber as he slashes viciously.  Kanan stumbles backward, wincing as the blades get uncomfortably close to his wrist. He breaks away abruptly, and the two watch each other with narrowed eyes.

“Where’s Starbird?”

“You don’t need to worry about that.  She’s well...taken care of.” The smile on the man’s face unsettles him; for all he knows, the whimpers on the comm could have been hers.  She could be in the midst of an interrogation right now.

And he can’t do anything about it.

He moves forward swiftly again, dodging the Inquisitor’s blow.  The Inquisitor strikes a second time and Kanan blocks it, following up with a riposte.

“Who has been training you?  The boy could clearly not have helped you improve this much.”  The Inquisitor strikes again, eliciting a sharp cry from Kanan as it hits home on his upper left arm.  It stings, but he shoves the pain away, biting his lip hard enough to draw blood in an effort to distract himself.

“You don’t need to know,” he growls, staggering back a step as he moves so his back is to the wall once more.  Maybe he can repeat his dodge from earlier with similar results, giving himself enough time to get out and get Sabine and her team.  “And I won’t be telling you.”

The man smirks, twirling his lightsaber absently in his hand.  “We’ll see about that.” He lunges forward again, and Kanan screams.


“But he needs help!”

“Kid, he gave us strict instructions not to return.  To leave without him. He said he’d find a way back on his own—you know he can.  He’ll be fi—”

“But I felt him hurting!”

Ezra knows tears are glistening faintly, unshed, in his eyes.

He also knows that they just might help his case.

Vara stares at him for a long moment, but it’s Shilmar who finally speaks up in his defense.

“He’s a– a Jedi kid, ma’am.  He– you’ve heard the legends of ‘em, righ– right?”

Vara nods slowly, tucking a few silvered copper strands of hair back behind her ear as she sighs.  “I didn’t need to hear the legends.  I saw them.  Was a little girl when they left.”

“So you know!  You– you know I need to go back and help him!  I can feel him; he’s in pain! ”  His voice breaks as he continues to plead.  “ Please!  You can just– just drop me off there, and then he and I—we can find our own way back.   Please.

She stares at him a moment longer before finally sighing.  “Alright. But we’re only dropping you off, okay? Someone needs to make it back to let them know what’s happened.”

“Okay.  Than– thank you.”  He jolts as she takes a step forward, squatting and placing a hand on his shoulder before pulling him into a one-armed hug.

“You’re a brave kid for wanting to do this, you know that?” she murmurs.  He nods, careful to avoid brushing up against her horns.

“I– I just want to help him.  He helped me for so long—”

“—and that’s good.  But you should take some credit yourself, kid, right?  A lot of kids in your position wouldn’t think twice about leaving to live and fight another day.”  She pulls back, holds him at arm’s length again. He swallows.

“I just...I can’t just leave him there, not while...not while he’s in pain.  And scared,” he says in a small voice. She nods in understanding, rising once more and shooting Shilmar a glance.

“I’ll go drop us and plot a route back.  Should be there quickly.”

She makes for the cockpit, Ezra finding his voice right as she leaves the room.  “Vara?” He clears his throat as she turns. “...thank you.” She only offers a small smile and dips her head slightly in acknowledgement before leaving.


“I brought you another one, but leave this one coherent, please.”  Kanan grunts as he’s manhandled into the room before being tossed to the floor, eyes squeezing shut as his injured side takes the brunt of the movement.  The Inquisitor continues in the same bored voice as he struggles to sit up. “I need him for more than questioning; he’s also bait.”

“Not even— with— the rebels,” he groans, wincing again as he scoots until his back is against the wall once more.  He shifts his wrists, trying to get a feel for how tight the binders are. “Your brilliant plan isn’t gonna work.”

“It matters not, because you’re not bait for the rebels, you’re bait for the boy.  I’ll be awaiting him in the hangar, don’t allow Jarrus to contact him.  I believe they share a bond.” The Inquisitor leaves, but Kanan’s eyes are only half-open, the pain in his side nearly making him gasp for breath.

“Ja– Jarrus…?”  His eyes open fully at the wheeze, blinking as he turns to see one of the members of Sabine’s group, one he doesn’t recognize.  He moves toward him, but something clamps down on his shoulder and wrenches it back, something else grabbing the end of his nerftail and jerking it back harshly.  He cries out, falling onto his shoulder.

A black, helmeted figure stands above him—he realizes that this is likely who the Inquisitor was addressing upon their arrival.

“Ah, so you’re Jarrus.  Such a handsome face.”  The figure’s voice is metallic, but when she reaches a hand up to press a button retracting the faceplate of the helmet, he can see nothing that tells him why her voice would sound so...droidlike.

He stops caring about that, however, when she reaches a hand out to touch his face.

He freezes, breath stopping.

And then he flinches violently away, smacking his head on the durasteel beneath him.  Breathing hard, he stares up at the Mirialan woman, lip curling slightly. “S– sorry, Imps aren’t really my type.

She laughs softly, then makes a beckoning gesture.  The grips on his shoulder and hair disappear, leaving behind a faint ache in the small of his back that dulls in comparison to the gash in his side.  He watches two seeker droids fly up to her shoulder, claws clacking loudly in the quiet.

“That’s all right, I don’t prefer scum myself.”  Her eyes rove over him as he sits up, wincing again.

“You seem a st– step below a ‘trooper, they take you out of combat just to watch some prisone—”  He’s cut off as one of her droids leaves her, latching onto his shoulder and squeezing painfully.  Hissing, he shrugs, trying to rub the droid off without success. She seems amused at both his efforts and his attempt to get under her skin.

“I hardly think Inquisitors count as ‘below ‘troopers,’” she responds with a smile.  His heart stops.

Inquisitor s?

There’s more than one?

“So you’re just– just gonna let him go and get all the glory?  While you s– sit here and watch a bunch of– a bunch of scum, as you put it so generously?”  Her smirk widens.

“There are more important things at stake here than glory, Jarrus.  Surely you understand that, being a smuggler.”  His glare of defiance falters, another lancing through his side.

How much research have they done on me?  On Ezra?

“And yes, we know about the boy’s past.”  Kriff, his shields must be weakened from the fight still.  It’s been a long time since he’s bothered keeping them up for that long after a fight; after Ezra’s escape the adrenaline had worn off quickly and he’d ended up passing out only a few minutes into their first hyperspace jump.  “No, what I want to know is this—why are you with the rebels?  And why is the boy, for that matter?”

“Kriff if I’ll tell,” he mutters, suppressing another wince at the pain in his side.  She catches it despite his best efforts.

“It’d be a shame if you were to succumb to your injuries before the boy arrived.  If you answered my questions, however….”

“He said you have to keep me coherent,” Kanan says, breath hitching.

Her smile unsettles him.  “That’s a vague word.”

Chapter Text

Ezra limps further into the abandoned hangar, glancing around uncertainly.  His glowrod bounces light off of the walls and floor, only serving to heighten both the shadows and his distrust of them.  The hangar’s silent as he walks through it and he jumps at a sound, glancing over his shoulder nervously.

The air outside the hangar is dark and empty, however, though as he watches it starts to rain.  He shivers, suddenly cold. Rain will make it difficult for Vara to get back in, especially while it’s dark like this, since she can’t use her lights for risk of detection.

He takes a shaky breath in.

This is his job.  And he can do it.

Swallowing, he limps further in, approaching the lift that Kanan had left in.

Kanan?

Nothing.

His throat tightens and he stops, breathing harder as he pushes for their bond.  It’s there, but...muted.

Barely there.

Kanan are you okay KanananswermepleaseKananple ase--

Nothing.

Nothing nothing nothing.

He grabs at his hair, hyperventilating.  Almost loses his balance. Manages to stagger to the wall, slides down it and sits, shoving his face into his knees and holding them as his body is wracked with sobs.

KananKananKananpleaseKananpleasedon’tbedeadanswermpleaseKanananswermeIcan’tdothiswithoutyouIdon’tknowwhereyouareKananplease--

The rain outside increases, and though he can barely hear it slapping against the stone above the hangar, it still seems to permeate his bones.  It sounds like footsteps.

KananKananKananKananKananKananKa—

“You won’t be seeing Jarrus again, boy.”

NO—!

There’s a scream, and his throat hurts, and he vaguely remembers standing and throwing a hand out and shoving with the Force—and then he falls.


His head’s throbbing when he wakes up, making a quiet noise of discomfort as he pushes himself onto his side, the movement making his head spin.  Blinking, he stares blankly into the hangar ahead of him.

It’s still dark, still cold, but now...now he sees a prone figure ahead of him, too.

He gets to his feet, wincing, and stumbles over to the figure, ignoring how his prosthetic chafes on his leg.  The figure’s still for the most part.

However, when he’s only a few meters away, he finds himself frozen.

Ezra swallows, fighting against the invisible hold on him.  It doesn’t break.

The figure gets to their feet, dusting themselves off, and Ezra realizes with a jolt that it’s the Inquisitor.  The man turns toward him, a cruel smirk on his face as he extends a hand and wipes something off of his mouth—blood?—with his other hand.  Without warning, Ezra begins to choke.  He scrabbles at the air around his throat as it tightens and he’s pulled forward until the Inquisitor’s hand is around it and the pressure is turned from abstract to physical.

“You should not have tried that,” the Inquisitor growls.  Ezra continues to choke, eyes wide as he claws uselessly at the grip on his throat.

“Didn’t...ask for your….’pinion…” he coughs out, black spots appearing in his vision.  The Inquisitor drops him to his knees and he coughs, trembling as he starts to try to get to his feet.  His prosthetic fails him, slipping out from underneath him, and he falls down again. The Inquisitor snorts.

He glares at Ezra down his nose, brow ridge raised.  “Pathetic.  Did your master really teach you nothing?”

Master?

The Inquisitor sees his look of utter confusion and his brow ridge only shoots higher.  “Did Jarrus teach you nothing?” he clarifies.

“Kanan’s not...Kanan doesn’t– doesn’t own me….”  He shivers under the man’s gaze, trying to gather strength in case he needs to fight back.

“I never said he did.  Regardless,” the Imperial chuckles, reaching down and easily dragging Ezra to his feet by the collar of his shirt, “you’re coming with me.”

No!” he yells, kicking out with both feet.  The prosthetic strikes the man in his shin, eliciting an oath as he drops Ezra.  The boy pushes himself backwards before beginning to scramble to his feet, still breathing hard.  The Inquisitor rises to his full height once more, turning toward Ezra with an amused sort of fury in his eyes.  He begins to approach.

“You lit—“

He shoves a hand out again, pushing the Inquisitor across the hangar as he gets fully to his feet.

He needs to get out.  Needs to find Kanan.

He makes himself turn away from the Inquisitor, makes himself limp toward the end of the hangar and ignore the phantom pains in his leg.  He makes it to the lift door before he sees the Inquisitor approaching again. Ezra turns back to the repulsorlift, pushing the button repeatedly.

“Come on come on come on…” he mutters to himself, risking another glance over his shoulder when he finally hears the lift begin to start.

“Just give in already, boy.  This game of tooka and mouse is useless, and it will end the same either way.”

The lift beeps and he turns, bolting through the doors and beginning to smack the button to close them.

They don’t close fast enough.

He’s pulled out by the Force, thrown to the floor at the Inquisitor’s feet.  He pushes himself back, trying to push away from the man, but the Imperial merely places a foot on his prosthetic and holds him down.

He screams.

The pain is more than he’d expected, almost more than when Kanan had originally amputated it.  Ezra screams louder, trying desperately to thrash away, but the Inquisitor’s already dragging him up by the front of his shirt.  Sparks flare in his eyes, and he finds himself limp in the man’s grip.

“Pathetic,” the Inquisitor says, repeating his earlier sentiment as he sneers at the teen in disgust.  “Did your master even help you build a lightsaber?

He did build one, but the Inquisitor doesn’t deserve to know that.  Just like he doesn’t need to know that it’s the same shade of blue as Kanan’s, and that Kanan suggested leaving it on the Ghost so he wouldn’t have to worry about shielding the crystal’s signature.

The Inquisitor shoves him to the ground again, Ezra finds himself too exhausted to try resisting as the man pulls out binders and clicks them shut around his wrists behind his back.  He doesn’t fight as he’s pulled to his feet and nudged forward, instead stumbling forward wearily and trying not to collapse again.

You failed him you failed him you failed him he believed in you and you failed him he gave you one job to go with Vara and then maybe you could’ve gotten Hera and Ahsoka but no instead you had to go and get yourself captured—

I’m sorry Kanan.

Chapter Text

Kanan looks up as the door slides open, still attempting to move away from the Inquisitor’s blade ahead of him in vain.  He sees the other Inquisitor and his heart sinks.

And then he sees Ezra.

Ignoring the Inquisitor’s ‘saber, now only inches from his face, he presses further against the wall and moves to the side, standing and stumbling in Ezra’s direction.  The boy’s head jerks up, eyes going wide at the sight of Kanan. The Inquisitor with Ezra ignites his ‘saber, holding it dangerously close to the kid’s neck, and he stiffens.  Kanan freezes.

“Take another step, and we’ll see how fast this can go through him, too,” the man drawls.  Swallowing, Kanan takes a step back, fury in his glare. Satisfied, the Inquisitor sheathes his ‘saber, though keeps the hilt at his side and his grip on Ezra’s shoulder tight.

The Inquisitor who’s been torturing him for the past hour steps forward, one of her droids landing lightly but painfully on his shoulder.  He hisses, trying to shrug it off, but the little robot just digs its claws in further.

“You didn’t tell me he was pretty,” the Inquisitor exclaims, retracting the face plates on her helmet again as she begins to circle Ezra and his captor.  Ezra shifts uneasily, leaning away as she stops in front of him and leers.

“Get away from him!” Kanan snarls.  She doesn’t so much as pay him a glance, instead leaning forward and reaching a hand out to grasp the kid’s chin roughly.  Ezra jerks it out of her grasp, baring his teeth and going to take a step back before the male Inquisitor tightens his grip.

“We have things to do today.  You can admire him on the way back to the Works,” the Pau’an snaps.  The woman purses her lips as she straightens, placing a hand on her hip as she studies Ezra.

“Hmm.  Alright.  May I take him, my lord?  The others are ready for transport, but I had to knock their leader out when she tried to leave early.  He’s ready as well.” She nods to Kanan and he hardens his glare further, wanting her to just hurry up and let down her guard already so he can get Ezra out of here.  Sabine and her team too if he gets the chance.

“Yes.  You should be able to handle him with his binders.”  The Pau’an nods to Ezra’s hands, now cuffed behind his back.  The boy looks down.

She switches places with the other Inquisitor, and Ezra doesn’t bother hiding his flinch as she grabs his chin again.  “We won’t have any trouble, will we, boy?” she croons.

Ezra bites her hand.

The motion’s almost too fast for him to see, and he sees the Inquisitor’s reaction almost more than the inciting incident itself.  She backhands Ezra across the mouth with her other hand, hard enough to make him lose his balance and stumble against the wall. He flinches away from her as she advances.

“You kriffing child!” she growls.  He only flinches back more, prosthetic sliding out from under him and sending him to the floor.  She raises another hand. Ezra closes his eyes and curls in on himself, and Kanan lunges forward, intending to intervene until another of the woman’s droids lands on his upper arm and wrenches it back.  Thankfully, however, she seems satisfied with Ezra’s reaction and lowers her hand with only a smirk.

“I’m glad you learn quickly.  It will make things so much simpler.”

“Get away from him,” Kanan repeats.  She casts him a brief, bored glance before returning her attention to Ezra.  She motions with a hand and one of her droids appears, nearly clipping Kanan’s cheek on its way over.  Her droid drags the kid up by the collar of his shirt, and Kanan catches a slight whimper as he’s forced to put weight on his leg.  The woman shoves Ezra ahead of her, calling her weapon to her hand and igniting it as she gestures for the boy to move. He stumbles forward, glancing over his shoulder at Kanan.

Kanan moves to follow, but a red blade in front of him stops him.  He glares up at the Inquisitor.

“You’ll follow them, soon enough.”

He’s almost surprised by how desperate he sounds as he speaks next.  “She’s going to—”

“She will not touch the boy,” the Inquisitor responds, gaze moving from Kanan to the female Inquisitor ahead of them, “unless she wishes to answer to Lord Vader as to why the boy is more traumatized than what was promised.  His being an amputee is already bad enough.”

He hates himself for appreciating the man’s cold logic, but if that’s what it takes to keep Ezra safe...or as safe as he can be, given their situation...then he supposes it’s all right.

“Your droids can hold him?”  Kanan glances up at the question, catching the woman’s nod in response.

“You do not need to worry about him, my lord.  My pets will take excellent care of him.”  The male Inquisitor nods and leaves him, turning and walking away from him to retrieve the others.  Kanan waits until both Ezra and the female Inquisitor are out of sight as well before stumbling back against the wall hard and fast enough to loosen the droids’ hold on him.  He slams himself back against the wall again, dislodging them further even as their claws dig into his skin. A third time, and one of the droids is off, clunking lifelessly to the floor as its light sputters feebly.  Kanan allows himself a small smirk, ignoring the pain in his side as he turns and slams his whole arm against the wall. The remaining droid’s furious whirring quiets as it slows, until it falls silent. It doesn’t dislodge from his arm, however, and he’s left to scrape it off against the wall again.

He staggers away from the wall, shaking his head and trying to ignore the blood that drips onto the ground as he stumbles in the same direction Ezra and the female Inquisitor went.

I’m coming, kid.  I’m coming.

Chapter Text


He narrowly manages to withhold a sigh of relief when he spots Ezra and the female Inquisitor.  She’s still prodding him ahead of her thankfully, and though her touch lingers longer than Ezra’s clearly comfortable with, it’s still better than the alternative he’s been imagining.

“Hey,” he barks.  The pair stops, turning.  The woman smiles tightly.

“Ah, Jarrus.  So kind of you to join us,” she purrs.  Ezra flinches at her voice.

“Let him go,” he orders, trying to disguise the waver in his voice.  “ Now. ”  She only chuckles, shaking her head as her grip finally leaves Ezra as she approaches Kanan.  He jerks his head at the kid, and thankfully he takes the hint, turning and stumbling away from the confrontation.  The Inquisitor casts a glance back, and Kanan takes his chance.

He kicks her.

She whirls, but not fast enough; his foot catches her in the leg and knocks her off balance.  Kanan himself stumbles back, too, leaning against the wall and breathing heavily.

“Is that all you can take?”

He shakes his head, pushing himself off of the wall as she ignites her ‘saber.  “I’m just getting started,” he growls.

She moves to lunge at him, and he turns, her ‘saber narrowly missing his arm.  Thankfully, however, it does what he was hoping for—and cuts through his binders.

He spins again, allowing himself to fall back against the wall for support as he outstretches a hand and calls his ‘saber to him from her belt.  He ignites it in time to block a blow only inches away from his face.

She growls, pushing harder against his block.  “You’ll lose, Jedi.  I hope you know that.”

He smirks innocently.  “Who, me? Because you’re wrong, I’m not a Jedi.”  He breaks off, moving along the wall away from her.

“Perhaps, perhaps not.  But what I want to know is why your fascination with the boy?  He’s clearly not strong.”  He blocks another blow from her, gasping as the force of it sends pain lancing through him.

My fascination?!   You’re the one with issues.”  She pulls back to strike again but he moves first, slashing her arm before stumbling backward.

Something latches onto his un-armored shoulder, digging into it with enough force to hurt.  He cries out, dropping his ‘saber and sheathing it in the process as he stumbles back and slams his shoulder against the durasteel.  He reaches up with his other hand in a scrabbling attempt to tear it off. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the Inquisitor’s droid.   Of course.  He should’ve been counting the things, keeping an eye on them.

She advances slowly, smirking and holding her ‘saber loosely in her hand.  She makes a gesture to the droid, and suddenly shocks are running through Kanan’s body.  He sags against the wall further, breathing even heavier than before.

The Inquisitor crouches, taking Kanan’s chin in her hand and widening her smirk as the droid’s grip tightens.  “Soon, you’ll be dead, and we’ll have all the information we need on your little insurgency. The boy will be Turned, Starbird will be executed, and everything and everyone you have ever loved will be gone.

“Then you shouldn’t have a lot to worry about,” he snarks in a weak attempt at defiance.

“Ah yes, the smuggler without care.  Trust me, we know.” Her smile unsettles him and he shifts, still trying to hide his pain.

“If you care about me so much, then why– why are you spending so much time on him?

The Inquisitor turns to face Ezra, and Kanan takes the opening, kicking out and ripping the droid off.  He summons his ‘saber and manages to jump in front of Ezra in time to block him from the Inquisitor’s strike.

“Step away from my Padawan,” he snarls.

“I think he only sees that his Master can’t even protect himself, and he’s just stepping in,” she responds, eyes flickering to Ezra over his shoulder.  Kanan can sense Ezra’s unease at her use of the word. “Such a good boy.”

Growling, Kanan pushes back against her, faltering when he senses the other Inquisitor.  He glances over his shoulder, watching as the Pau’an rounds the corner with a sneering glare on his face and a slightly dazed-looking Sabine stumbling ahead of him.

“I no longer trust your pets, ” he snarls to the female Inquisitor, nodding to Kanan.  “See what they have done. I had to settle for killing the rest of them because I had no time to get them secured thanks to your mistake.

The Force shrieks a warning and Kanan dodges just in time, the woman’s blade going right where his arm had been only moments before.  Kanan turns, eyeing Sabine. Her eyes widen in recognition and she shoves the Inquisitor’s grip on her shoulder off long enough to turn, allowing him to slash her binders before using the momentum of the blow to force his blade to continue up to the Pau’an’s shoulder.  The Inquisitor takes a short step back and neatly avoids Kanan’s attack.

But he isn’t what Kanan was aiming for.

Using the Pau’an’s moment of surprise to his advantage, Kanan outstretches a hand, calling Sabine’s blasters from the Inquisitor’s belt to his grip.  She snatches one out of the air and he catches the other, tossing it to her. “Get Ezra out of here!”

“What about you?!”  She begins firing at the female Inquisitor, ducking a bolt deflected back at her.

“I’m coming!  There’s some TIEs in one of the upper hangars I think.”  He lunges toward the Inquisitor, but his attack is blocked easily and his blade is deflected to the side.  He stumbles with the force of the block, black dots spotting his vision as he crashes into the wall.

The pinging of Sabine’s blasters are still filling his ears, however, even as he pushes himself upright and drags himself back into the fight.

“What about Ezra!?”

“He’s going, I’m trying to help you get out of here, too!  He wouldn’t leave otherwise!” Kanan sighs, rolling his eyes as he blocks a blow from the male Inquisitor and begins backing up, trusting Sabine to remember their strategy when it came to fights like this—admittedly, that had always been fights with blasters, but still.  Thankfully, she catches on immediately and moves with him.

Eventually they manage to make it to the lift.  Kanan risks a glance over his shoulder to see a determined nod from Sabine.  She shoots one more charge at the male Inquisitor and then bolts. Kanan strikes at the at the woman in an attempt to distract her.  He hears several sharp ping s before a clunk, announcing the fall of the female Inquisitor’s droid.  “Kanan! I’m ready!”

He nods, stumbling out of the way of a strike from the male Inquisitor.  As soon as he sees even the slightest opening, he bolts for the lift. Sabine’s holding it open, waving him through.  He’s nearly there when her screech catches him off guard.

Kanan!

His eyes widen as he feels a ‘saber hit home on his shoulder.  Sabine shoots at his assailant over his shoulder, and he stumbles into the repulsorlift.  She hits the door controls again and he blocks the ‘sabers, Sabine supplying him with coverfire, until the doors close.

Kanan slumps against the wall, legs trembling faintly with exhaustion.  Sabine leans against the opposite side of the lift, gaze still intent on the door.

“Sa– Sabine?” he ventures after a long moment.  The lift is still climbing, impossibly slow, and he can’t handle the silence.

She nods wearily.  “Yeah?”

“Thanks.  For– for back there.  That was...thanks.” He clears his throat, blinking before realizing his lightsaber is still ignited.  He makes the conscious decision to sheathe it, swallowing.

“Yeah.  No problem….”

The lift chimes, and the doors open.

Come on!

Kanan can’t help a small smile of relief at the sight of Ezra waving them over from the far end of the hangar, miniscule next to the pair of TIEs.  He shoves off from the wall, trying to ignore the way his breath hitches every step he takes as he and Sabine charge across the hangar. Ezra remains still when they arrive, and it takes Kanan a moment to realize that the kid’s waiting for him to choose a TIE.  He nods to the one on the right, and Ezra turns before hesitating, looking back at Kanan but not quite meeting his eyes.

“Could you, uh….”

Oh.  Kriff.  He’s left the kid’s cuffs on.  Kriff kriff kriff.  “Sorry,” he mutters, igniting his ‘saber as Ezra turns.  The blue blade sears through the binders easily, and by the time Ezra’s turned back around Sabine’s already only a few meters away with the ladder.  “Meant to do that earlier, kid, I’m sorry.”

Ezra only shrugs, leaning against the TIE’s solar array as Kanan moves to assist Sabine with the ladder.  Once it’s lined up, she goes up first, reaching a hand down to help Ezra up when she reaches the top shortly afterward.  Kanan waits until the last possible second before hurrying up and in, pulling the hatch shut behind them.

“Why haven’t they come after us already?”  Ezra’s voice is soft, barely heard above the engines as Sabine starts up the fighter.

“Tracker, probably.  Ezra? It might be in the back.”

“On it.”   He limps behind Kanan, crouching and beginning the search as Sabine brings the fighter off the ground and takes them outside the hangar.

“What about their other fighter?”

“Meant to disable it before we left, but I’m worried they’re not just playing tooka and mouse with us anymore,” Sabine mutters as Kanan leans against the back of the cockpit, watching her ease the fighter out of the atmosphere.  “Better to just get out of here while we still can.”

“Makes sense.”

“Got it!” Ezra calls triumphantly.

“Good, now just kind of yank it out.”

“And it won’t make us crash?”

“It shouldn’t.”  As Ezra returns his attention to the tracker, Kanan catches the muttered “probably” added afterward.

“Have you contacted the cell yet?”  Sabine shakes her head, nodding to the opposite side of the console.

“Be my guest.  Try the Ghost or Home ’s bridge.”  Kanan steps forward, fiddling with the unfamiliar comms unit for a moment before he manages to turn off the Imperial channels and reroute it to the Ghost.

“Spectre K to Ghost.  Havok went south, we need a rendezvous point.”  Sabine’s already managed to launch them into hyperspace and there’s still no answer, so Kanan changes to the bridge of Phoenix Home ’s channel and repeats his message.  There’s static, and then a response.

Message received, Spectre K.  Clearance codes? ”  He glances over at Sabine and she leans over the console.

“Clearance codes are five two five one eight, five two five one eight.”

Codes received, confirming now.

In the silence, he glances over at her in surprise.  “Since when have there been clearance codes to comm somebody?”

She shrugs.  “A month or two ago.  I think you were...busy.”  He nods in understanding as Ezra’s head pops up between them.

“It’s disabled.”

“Thanks, kid,” Sabine replies.

A particularly sharp pain lances through Kanan’s side and he gasps, leaning against the wall of the cockpit as he clutches at it.  Sabine casts him a worried glance.

“You okay?  That’s not from the lift.”

He nods stiffly, trying to hide the grimace at the movement.  Now that the adrenaline’s mostly worn off, his injuries are catching up with him.  “I’ll be fine.”

Codes confirmed, Spectre K.  Transmitting rendezvous coordinates now. ”  There’s a blip on the console and Sabine checks it.

“Coordinates received, Home.  Also, we have—” she pauses, shooting a glance at Ezra, who shakes his head, “—two people needing urgent medical attention.”

Copy that, Spectre K.  We’ll be ready for you. ”  The comms click off and Kanan shifts his gaze to her again.

“What happened to you?”

She grimaces.  “A ‘saber just grazed me, I’m fine.”

“Burns aren’t fine—

“It’s okay, Kanan.  I’m fine. Promise.”

He sighs, running a hand over his face and shuddering as his side starts to throb again.  Ezra takes a step closer, glancing up cautiously. Kanan nods, opening his arm on his unhurt side to Ezra.  The kid accepts the embrace, burying his face in Kanan’s chest. Kanan’s voice is soft as he brushes the boy’s dark locks back, ignoring the pain in his side because the pain he can feel in their bond is so much more vivid, so much more raw.

“I’m here, kid.  I’m here.”

Chapter Text

Kanan walks back and forth in front of the door, ignoring the way Sabine’s gaze tracks him.  Finally he senses his Padawan and stops, forcing himself to leave space between himself and the door.  It slides open, Ezra limping out with his therapist following. Sabine slips in behind them, and Kanan returns his full attention to the newly-arrived pair.

“So?”

“He’s done with his therapy.”

His shoulders sag in relief as he looks down at Ezra, pride radiating in the Force.  The kid smiles shyly up at him, and Kanan squeezes his shoulder lightly.

“Good job, kid.”  Ezra shrugs, the movement not putting him as off balance as it normally does.

“The bond helped,” he murmurs, ducking his head.  Kanan only chuckles and sends another wave of pride through the Force.

“Though he can run with it now, it’s probably still best to avoid physical activity until he loses the limp.”  Kanan nods, turning at the sound of footsteps from behind. Hera approaches, nodding to the small group. Kanan catches the medic’s tchin twitching forward in greeting subconsciously, Hera’s responding similarly.

“Is Sabine already inside?”

“Yeah,” Kanan answers, jerking a thumb back at the door.  “She went in a minute ago.”

“Thanks.”  Hera moves past him, and he’s not sure if it’s an accident or not when her fingers brush against his.

He returns his attention to the medic, who’s explaining something about the mechanisms of the prosthetic to Ezra.  The boy nods intently, gaze focused as she crouches and points to something near what makes up for his ankle joint.

“That whole area can get stiff, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on it, okay?”  He nods, and the woman smiles, rising again. “Alright, that should be it then. Have a nice day.”  She nods and Kanan smiles slightly, glancing at Ezra again.

“Thanks,” the kid says, Kanan nodding in agreement.  The woman nods in acknowledgment, and Ezra turns to lead the way back to the Ghost.

Halfway there, he stops.  “I forgot, she– she gave me this tiny wrench, and I left it back in the med bay—“

“I can go grab it, kiddo.  You wanna get some hot chocolate started?”  Ezra nods eagerly and Kanan smiles, squeezing his shoulder lightly before turning and jogging back to the med bay.  He passes several empty cots on his way to the back where Ezra’s been working on stretching independently, however the partition’s pulled halfway around a fourth one.  As he passes, he catches Sabine’s heated voice arguing with someone.

“It’s a pill, Hera!  They’re all pills, and I’m not just taking a kriffing useless pill because they think I’m too—“

Sabine.  They’re made to help you, not make it worse.  They can’t make it worse.”  Kanan hesitates just past the partition at Hera’s voice, halfway wanting to stay and listen or, better yet, ask what Sabine was even taking pills for.  As far as he knew, she didn’t have a chronic illness, or at least wasn’t taking any medication for it if so—their one main rule on the Ghost was that if you were did have something like that, you told Kanan, so he could help as best he could.  Details weren’t necessary, but he needed to be aware in case of an emergency.

Maybe...maybe it was something else.  Painkillers? No, based on her description, probably not….

The curtain of the partition slides back, metal rings clinking quietly against each other and the rod. “Kanan?” he hears a surprised voice say.

He turns, rubbing the back of his neck.  “Hera, hi...I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

She nods, smile not quite reaching her eyes.  “Yes...I thought you and Ezra had already left.”

“We did, he just said he left something, so I’m—“

“Kanan?”

Sabine appears behind Hera, brows knit together in confusion and suspicion.

“Oh.”  She disappears behind the partition again, and he’s turning to go get Ezra’s wrench so he can finally leave when Sabine speaks up again.  “Wait, how much– how much did you hear just now?”

He hesitates, but Hera’s even stare is enough to convince him not to lie.  “Just the part about meds. I wasn’t aware that you needed med—“

“Because I don’t,” she mutters, eyes flashing as she looks at Hera pointedly.  “I don’t need meds.”

Hera’s tone is firm, but placating.  “Sabine, you and I were both there when—“

Abruptly, the teen steps back within the partition and slides it closed.  Hera sighs, rubbing her temples as she approaches Kanan.

“You don’t have to tell me,” he says quickly, shaking his head.  “It’s okay.”

“No, Sabine said it’s all right to tell people—“

“—not him,” Sabine interrupts, still behind the partition.  “I meant other people.  Like Ezra.”  Hera nods, glancing over her shoulder as her lekku twitch uncertainly.

“I’m sorry about her.”

“Don’t be, it’s a personal matter.  She has a right to her privacy.” Hera nods again, brow raised.

“...Right.”

“I should get going, I told Ezra I’d be right back and I think he’s making hot chocolate too.”  He clears his throat, scuffing his foot against the floor and suppressing the wince that comes with the movement.

“Alright.  Well, if you need anything—“

“—I know.”  Kanan offers a small smile before turning back to his search.  Behind him, he hears Hera re-entering the cordoned-off area.

He returns his attention to looking for the wrench.  He finds it swiftly, pocketing it and making for the entrance of the med bay.  As he passes the partition again, he catches Hera’s quiet but firm voice.

“—tched them murdered in front of you, Sabine.  That’s not something that you get over easily.”

“I’ve done it before, I can do it again.”  The girl’s voice is made of steel, and it’s simple for Kanan to imagine her focused gaze.  “I don’t need meds to do it.”

He reaches the door, pausing and glancing back.  Deciding better of it, he palms the door open, and slips through.

Chapter Text

“Ahsoka told me about Padawan braids today.”

Kanan glances down, raising a brow at the kid beside him on the bench.  “Yeah? What’d she say?” To tell the truth, he had only heard of them; Depa and Mace had been adamant about not showing any outward signs of their past, which extended to Kanan.  And his only memories left of the Temple were dim, more like hazy blurs of emotion and color than anything.

“She said that when someone took you as a Padawan, that– that they braided your hair.  Just a part of it.” He gestures to a lock of hair on the side farthest from Kanan, kicking his flesh leg against the bench.

“Do you want one?”

Ezra shrugs.  “I dunno. Just seemed kinda cool, I guess.”

“I can give you one, if you want.  But we’d have to figure out a way to hide it when you’re off ship, or just unbraiding it each time.”

“Ahsoka mentioned that you put beads in it, too, to show what you’re learning…” he trails off.  “I don’t know how hard that’d be to take out then.”

“We could do it without the beads, maybe.  But we’d still have to be able to take it out.”  Ezra makes a face, and Kanan laughs quietly, reaching a hand out to lightly squeeze the kid’s shoulder.

Ezra flinches.  Violently.

Kanan grimaces and withdraws his hand.  He’s forgotten Ezra’s having one of his bad days, where he’s simultaneously starved for contact but also sick of it.  Normally, he just lets the kid signal him when he wants contact, and the flinch is merely an example of how much he doesn’t want that.

Kanan nods instead, clasping his hands together.

“Well, if you want to try it….I can help.  Ahsoka might be better though, she actually had one as far as I know.”  Ezra smiles nervously, bobbing his head.

“Y– yeah, I’d...I’d like that.”


Sabine approaches Ful— no, Ahsoka, she has a name now— hesitantly, swallowing hard.  The woman turns.

“Sabine,” she says, inclining her head.  “Did you need something?”

She shrugs, catching a glimpse of the hologram projected behind Ahsoka.  “If you’re busy, it can wait.” The woman casts a glance at Sato, the commander giving a short, sharp nod.

“He has this for the moment.”

“Can we go somewhere else?” she says, irritated at the way her voice quiets and wavers.  The bridge is crowded, too full of people whose faces she’s seen before...people whose faces are dead.  She shudders.

“Of course.”  Sabine turns, struggling to try to stay in—no, to stay in control, she’s not trying to be in control she is—of both the situation and her emotions.  She keys open the door, hand remaining still for just a moment too long, the keypad taking just a moment too long to register her signature.  Finally, finally it beeps, and she strides through quickly, forcing herself to breathe evenly.

You’re fine, you’re on the Home, you’re safe.

She reaches a small alcove only about ten meters from the entrance to the bridge and makes herself stop, forcing her fingers flat against her sides in an attempt to make her hands stop trembling.  When that doesn’t work, she crosses her arms across her chest, shifting her weight uneasily as she meets Ahsoka’s eyes.

“What is it, Sabine?”

“I...Iwaswonderingifyou’dliketosparwithmesometime,” she says in a rush.  Her forehead feels vaguely damp and she curls her fingers tighter around her arms, digging them into the exposed skin above her gauntlets.

“Sorry?”

“I was wondering if...if we could spar sometime, I need the practice and I know you’re busy but Ezra’s still getting used to his leg—”
“Sabine.  I’d love to.  But that’s not what’s bothering you, is it?”  She breaks eye contact, unable to meet Ahsoka’s gaze any longer.  “What about Kanan? Have you asked him?”

She doesn’t answer, only digging her fingers into her arms more.   “Look what your pitiful attempt has caused me to do to them.”

You’re not there you’re here you’re not there you’re here you’re not there you’re here you’re not here you’re there you’re not here you’re there you’re not here you’re there—

Someone grips her upper arm and she yelps, twisting away abruptly and already throwing her arms up into a defensive position, breathing hard.

Ahsoka stands in front of her, eyes wide, but more in concern than anything.  “Sabine?”

She heaves another breath, a second, a third, and then, unable to control herself any longer, bolts.

“Sabine, wait!”

She tears across the ship, stumbling through an airlock and into another ship docked with the Home, but unnoticing and uncaring of which it is, only knowing that she has to get away before—

The next thing she knows, she’s curled up in a bunk, hugging her knees and shaking as she sobs.  She tries to quiet her cries, biting her knuckle, but it doesn’t help, only serving to make her cry harder.

She hears the noises of the ship as if from far away, the faint vibrations and footsteps, barely registering.  Slowly, she comes back to herself, raising her head and brushing a strand of teal hair back as she surveys her room through blurred eyes.  She catches sight of her helmet across the room, sitting upright with its blank visor staring with a vacant gaze, taunting her.

You couldn’t save them.

She hates it.

Before she understands what’s going on, she’s off of her bunk, yelling as she grabs the helmet and throws it at the opposite wall, slumping against the wall and sinking to the floor as she stares at it hollowly.

You couldn’t save them.

She sees the blood spatter on the top of the helmet, remembers their screams, and can’t bring herself to do anything about it.

Rapid, uneven footsteps outside, a loud knock on the door.  “Sabine?” a teen’s voice calls. She doesn’t respond, only seeing the helmet, only seeing the terrified faces of her team, frozen forever in death.  She wants to throw up.

Another knock, and another call.  She ignores it, hearing only screams from those that trusted her as they’re stabbed and stabbed and she can’t do anything can’t do anything can’t do anything—

“—anan!”

A door slides open.  The other Inquisitor enters, dragging her up by the arm.

“Hold on…Hera.”

Screaming screaming screaming, blood and flashes of red covering her vision—

Arms encircle her, words whispering in a quiet voice—

No no no no no—

She tries to throw the hands off, panicking and breathing in short gasps.  The grip only tightens as she’s held against someone’s chest, and there’s moisture on her cheeks, she’s crying again as she watches them die again and again—

A woman’s comforting voice.  “—here, Sabine. I’m here.”

Chapter Text

Sabine stares at her hands, clenched tightly to the point of pain in her lap as she refuses to look up.

“Is there something you want to talk about?” the woman repeats again.  Sabine remains silent. Hera’s frustrated sigh doesn’t go unnoticed, however.

“Sabine, just talk.

“No,” she says quietly, her voice hard.  It’s the first thing she’s said in the past two hours.

“Look, you need to talk about it.  It’s clearly not helping you to keep it bottled up.”

“Captain Syndulla—”

“No, it’s fine,” Sabine says, interrupting the medic.  “She’s right.” She rises abruptly, and shrugs off Hera’s grip on her wrist as she takes a step away.  “It’s not helping me to keep it bottled up. But it’s not helping me to talk, either. So if you don’t mind, I’ll stop wasting your time.”  Her voice is somehow bitter and hollow at the same time as she continues to avoid their gazes, turning and stalking away. She feels both their gazes on her as she leaves, but she can’t seem to make herself care.

Hera catches up with her when she’s halfway back to the bunk she shares—shared—with Kay.   No.  Karno.  Detach yourself.  It’s easier.

She pulls away from the woman, swiping a hand at an eye that’s suspiciously wet.  “Sabine—”

“I don’t want to right now, Hera, okay?”  She begins to stumble on her way back as she rounds a corner and leaves Hera behind, bracing herself against the wall briefly.

You’re going into shock.  You need to—

No.  You don’t need to do anything.  You don’t deserve anything.

It’s been a month, maybe two, since her breakdown back on the Ghost.  She’s back on the Home, though per the medic’s—she refuses to use the word “therapist;” talking to someone isn’t on the same level as what Ezra went through only a few months previous—suggestion, Hera’s taken her helmet until she seems more stable, less in danger of triggering herself again with the mere sight of it.  At least she was able to convince Hera to let her keep her blasters.

She palms open her door, suddenly exhausted.  She barely makes it to the bunk before slumping onto it, burying her face in her hands without really knowing why.

Weak.  You’re weak you’re weak you’re weak.   Ahsoka doesn’t cry for weeks on end when someone dies, and no, you weren’t even crying.  You can’t even grieve properly, much less atone for anything.  Why are you trying?

She takes a shaky breath in, running her hands over her face before clasping them together and placing her chin on top, resting her elbows on her knees.  She blinks, eyes roving across the small room without purpose, eventually lighting on the pair of twin WESTARs across from her.


“Get a cell open!”

“I need a medic here, stat!”

“Losing blood!”

Sabine cracks open her door, peering out into the hall and watching as a couple of the pilots run back and forth down it, orders echoing throughout the ship.  A cell? Medic? And why would they care if a prisoner—that’s what it sounds like, at least—is losing blood?

Her cabin is between the hangar and the detention block, so she’s unsurprised when the group approaches her.  However, what does surprise her is the actual prisoner.

He’s in a bloodied TIE pilot’s uniform, seeming to be barely conscious.  There’s a large tear near his shoulder, and with a slight tremor she remembers the tear in her own bodysuit from her brief stint in the Imperial Complex on Lothal.  And what caused it. Who caused it.

There’s also a large gash on the side of his head, still bloody and big enough that she can see why they’re worried.  He’s being supported by two rebel pilots—more like half-carried, half-dragged; he barely appears to be supporting his own weight.

“We need another medic!”

The near-frantic shout makes Sabine jolt, but it’s nothing like the keening cry of panic that echoes through the ship next.

Hera!


When Wedge wakes up, it’s not to the pristine white of an Imperial medcenter, or to the fractured windscreen of his fighter with the darkness of space pressing in, but instead to the light gray walls of a ship he doesn’t recognize and a med droid off to the side.

He allows his eyes to flicker closed, forcing his breathing to even out again before the monitors catch it so that they’re unaware he’s awake until he can assess the situation.

Curiosity wins out only moments later and his eyes open once more, blinking as he stares up at the ceiling.  The heart rate monitor begins beeping more rapidly off to his right and he glances over to see the droid approaching.

“On a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you in?”

He blinks in surprise, trying to sit up until a jerk on his wrist forces him back down.  He glances to his left to see his wrist is cuffed to the bed.

“On a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you in?” the droid repeats.

“Oh, uh...a five, maybe?  Four? Not a lot. But where am I?”

“I am not authorized to tell you that.”

“Oh.”

He looks to his right, eyebrow shooting up when he realizes that his right wrist is unrestrained.

“I will be alerting Fulcrum that you are awake.  She wanted to speak with you.”

“Um...okay….”

He resigns himself to waiting quietly, gaze roving over the rest of the room as he tries to figure out where he is.  Fulcrum’s an odd name, sure, but he’s not one to judge; with a name like Antilles, he gets at least one query about who he’s related to a month.

Finally the door opens, and a tall Togruta woman walks in, raising an eyebrow as she stops at the foot of the bed.  “So you’re the one that took out my best pilot.”

“‘Took out’ is a generous term, I think…” he mumbles, suddenly uncomfortable.

“And what would you call it?”

“Uh….”

The woman smirks faintly, crossing her arms.  “Exactly.” Only then does he notice the cylinders clipped to her belt, and his eyes widen.

“You’re an Inquisitor.”

“What?  Inquisitor?  No, I’m—“

“I didn’t do anything, I swe– swear!  I didn’t know that was another vac-head, just in a different fighter—”

“I’m not an Inq—”

“I didn’t talk to her apprentice, I swear!  He just asked if—”

“Wait, stop.  Stop.” At the woman’s order his rambling comes to a halt, and he stares up at her in trembling fear.  “Okay, first off...I’m not an Inquisitor. And what ‘apprentice’ are you talking about? Inquisitors don’t have—”

“Yeah, I– I think they do.  The one on Montross, they– they said he was.”

“Wait, there was one on—

The door slides open and they both turn their attention to the figure who enters.  It’s a dark-haired boy, trembling slightly—though from fear or exhaustion, he can’t tell which—with wide eyes that barely skip over Wedge as he looks instead to the woman.  “Ahsoka,” he heaves, “Sabine– there’s– something happened. We need you.”

Chapter Text

She pulls the blanket tighter over her shoulders when Ezra walks in, curling into herself more.  He stops at the chair next to the bed, and it takes her a moment to recognize the question in his gaze.  She nods quickly and he sits, flesh leg immediately beginning to jog.

“Hey, um.  Did you, um...want to talk about what happened?”

Her gaze flicks down, and she huddles under the blanket further, trying not to focus on the question and the sensations it elicits.  She realizes she hasn’t answered his question and finally shakes her head, mumbling “no” under her breath.

“Okay.  I mean, that’s- that’s okay, I mean, if you don’t wanna talk about it.”  He swallows painfully. “I’ll, um...I’ll stop talking now. If that’s...if that’s okay with you.”  He risks a hopeful glance at her. She nods, shifting again and finally pressing her back against the wall.

They sit in silence, and she can tell Ezra wants to talk.  She clears her throat and he looks up quickly. Her throat is still hoarse, and voice still quiet when she speaks.  “If...if you want to talk, you can. I can’t promise I’ll respond, but….”
He beams.  “That’s okay.  You don’t have to, and you don’t have to listen either.”  She lets herself smile slightly, gaze flickering to the blanket again as she picks at it.

“Chopper shocked Kanan again today,” he starts.  “Apparently Kanan accidentally turned the mag locks on while he was in the cargo bay.  So he couldn’t move till he turned ‘em off and came back to get one of the crates. Oh, and Zeb sent another transmission today, too.  He said he’s getting a lot of stuff, and then he started talking about it, so Hera and Ahsoka and Sato all kicked me out because it’s classified or something like that, I don’t remember, and then….”

Only about half of what Ezra says actually registers, but she appreciates the thought behind it, and the fact that he’s not getting mad at her for being unresponsive.  She shifts occasionally, latching onto the feeling of the blanket rubbing against her fingers in a failing attempt to ground herself.

“Hey, Ezra?”

The partition’s open now.  She glances up, seeing Kanan poke his head through.  He meets her eyes. “Hey Sabine.” She nods to him. “Kid, Ahsoka wanted to talk to you about some intel, wanted your opinion on it.”

“Can I go later?  I wanna stay with Sabine right now.”  Ezra wouldn’t have dared to ask that question months ago, and even now he would normally be hesitant.

Maybe people do care about you.

Well they shouldn’t.  They’ll just be disappointed.

“Ah, sure, sure kid.  Sure.” Kanan opens his mouth as he looks at her, likely about to say something, but then seems to think better of it and just nods.  She shrugs in return and he leaves, the partition fluttering slightly after he lets it drop.

“Did they say when you could leave?” Ezra asks after a long minute of silence.  She shrugs again.

“I dunno.  They said they’d talk to Hera when she’s better at some point; I’ll probably move back to a shared bunk.  Or at least where I’m ‘under supervision,’” she mutters, rolling her eyes.

“Well then you can’t….”

“After seeing how badly this turned out, I’m not keen on trying anything again.”   At least not for a long time.

“You can always come back on the Ghost, if you want.”

She snorts.  “You actually think Kanan’d let me?”

“I mean he was pretty worried when he heard it.”

“Ezra.  He hates my guts.”

“He doesn’t hate you.”

“He does.  He wouldn’t talk to me for a solid seven, eight months!”

“Yeah but now—

“Ezra,” she says flatly.

He sighs.  “Sorry….Sorry….”

“You don’t need to apologize, just...Kanan won’t let me back on the Ghost.  Trust me.”   I wouldn’t let me back on, either.

“I just don’t know how to help.  I...I want to, but I….”

“Ezra, being here is helpful.”  She laughs bitterly.  “You’re a lot better company than that droid.  And the medics.”

“So you’ve really got someone with you all the time, huh?”  She nods, mouth twisting into a frown as she looks down again.  “Even when you’re asleep?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s...I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” she replies instantly, shaking her head but still not meeting his eyes.  “It wasn’t your fault. It’s mine.”

“Still….”

“Ezra.  It wasn’t you who chose to fire.  It was me.”

He blinks.  “Yeah, but I could’ve gotten there.  I could’ve gotten there sooner.”

“You couldn’t have.  I’m...surprised Kanan made it as it is.”  Her voice is hollow, detached, and she begins to pick at the blanket again.  “If it wasn’t for the Force, he wouldn’t have made it in time anyway.”

There’s silence for a while, and she’s not sure how much later it is when Ezra finally clears his throat.  “Hey, Sabine? You mind if I ask something?”
“Sure.  Doesn’t mean I’ll answer.”

“That’s okay.”  He falls silent again, and when he finally does speak once more, his voice is hushed.  “Um...why did you...try…?”

She gives a harsh laugh, quieting in an instant when she sees Ezra’s flinch.  “Sorry. It’s just...I don’t see the point. If I couldn’t save them….My life isn’t worth all of theirs.”

“But it is!” he says, too fast for her to cut him off.  “It is! Sabine, you– you’re the reason that I’m here, and not in the Empire...or dead in a gunship crash.  Kanan, too. You saved both of us.  And that’s not even counting the times you’ve saved us on a job or anything.  And...without you….I’d still be back there. On– on Lothal. Just waiting to be rescued, like everyone else.”  Her gaze flicks up to his before his drops to the floor. He starts jogging his leg again, and Sabine sighs heavily.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to remind you of...that.  But you’re wrong—you and Kanan wouldn’t have been in that spot in the first place.  I should’ve vetted that contact Hera was taking you to, I should’ve made sure to cover my tracks better.  I should’ve done everything better.”

“Everyone makes mistakes.  You couldn’t have helped that.”

“I could have.  I should have.”

“Sabine—“

She sighs again, eyes closing.  “Ezra, I...I don’t wanna talk about it right now.  Okay?”

“Okay,” he says softly.  She allows her eyes to open again, staring at the partition directly across from her.

“How’s Hera doing?”

“Good, she’s– she’s doing good.”  Ezra’s answer is too quick, too mechanical, and it causes her to narrow her eyes.  “She’s okay. Shaken up, and she’ll be in medbay for a while, but—“
“Ezra.  What exactly is wrong with her?”

He swallows before answering.  “Um...that TIE pilot, when she was on recon...and he was too, managed to take out her whole squadron and then they shot at each other until the Ghost came and he tried to dock with it—“

“Wait, he tried to dock with the Ghost?”  Ezra’s enthusiastic nod makes her snort.  “What’d Kanan say?”

“He had some...choice words,” Ezra says, grinning.  “Mostly along the lines of ‘kriff,’ ‘what the kriff,’ ‘kriff you,’ ‘kriff him,’ and ‘kriff the Empire.’”  She laughs again.

“Sounds like him.”

“Yeah.”

They lapse into silence again.  She tries to push away the intrusive thoughts that take the place of Ezra’s words, but the memory of the ‘troopers at the Complex fills her mind instead.  Shuddering, she closes her eyes and forces her hands to spread out on the blanket instead of clenching it tightly.

Nothing happened, and nothing will happen.  They stopped before anything happened.  You’re safe.  It wasn’t even that bad.  In fact, Ezra’s probably been through worse.

Worse.  She glances at the boy, suddenly remembering his past again.  She’s still not sure of the details, only that the male Inquisitor said that he was a slave.  And to be honest, that would explain a lot of the kid’s mannerisms….

Oh.   Oh.  She suddenly feels very awkward around him, and begins scrutinizing him to see if he appears uncomfortable in any way, shape, or form.  He doesn’t, not outwardly, but she makes herself clear her throat anyway.

“If...if you want to go, I mean...you can go.”  He blinks in surprise.

“If you want me to go, I will...but I’m okay talking to you, too….”

She bites her lip and looks down again, allowing some of the intrusive thoughts to slip in place of her previous train of thought.   You’re wasting his time.  He doesn’t need to spend it talking to you.

Out of nowhere, she feels the blaster again in her hand, jolts as she sees the door slamming open and Kanan yelling as he thrusts a hand out, and along with it, a wave of the Force—

Ezra’s comm chirps and they both glance at it.  She’s glad it breaks her out of her reprieve, though the frown that appears on Ezra’s face as he answers it lessens her relief.

“Didn’t Kanan already tell you?  I’m with Sabine right now.”

Ezra, I need you to come help me with the pilot.

“What pilot?”

The one that shot Hera.

He stills, breath catching at Ahsoka’s answer.  She stiffens as well.

When he speaks again, he’s getting up, and his voice is tight.  “Alright, I’m coming.” He glances at her, gaze apologetic. “Sorry.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“Don’t be, you have something you need to do.  I understand that. Really.” He nods, expression still regretful, and ducks out the partition, leaving her alone with her thoughts once more.

Chapter Text

“They approved her to leave the medbay, but she still needs 24-hour supervision.  And they don’t want her in one of the crew bunks because she had a breakdown when they put her in one.”

Kanan nods, mulling Hera’s unspoken request over.  “So let me get this straight. You want me to ask her back on the Ghost?

“Yes.”  The woman pauses, one lek curling uncertainly.  “If that’s okay with you.”

“Of course,” he answers without hesitation.  “Look, I know I’ve been...cold to her the past few months,” Hera snorts at the understatement, “but I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.  I don’t want her to feel like that; I don’t want anyone to feel like that.”  He smiles slightly, rubbing his thumb over the back of Hera’s ungloved hand.  “Of course she can come back to the Ghost.

Hera smiles, turning her hand over and wrapping it around his, squeezing lightly.  “Thank you.”

He nods.  “Yeah.”

“Visiting hours are ending soon, Mr. Jarrus.”  He turns to see the medical droid nearby and nods, squeezing Hera’s hand once more before rising from the cot.

“I’ll go, then.”

“Tell the kids I said hi.”

“I will.”

“Oh, and any more news from Zeb?”

He shakes his head.  “Not since the one a few weeks ago, no.  Or if there has been, I’m not cleared for it.”

She nods.  “Alright. See you tomorrow.”

Kanan smiles.  “Bye.”

He leaves the medbay, walking to the bridge.  He slides in the temporary code chip they’ve given him for the day and walks straight to the holotable Sabine, Ahsoka, and Sato are standing around.  Ahsoka glances up, smiling and nodding to him. “Kanan.”

“Hey.”  He glances at Sabine.  “Can we talk for a minute?  Privately.”

“Sure,” she says slowly, casting a glance at Sato and Ahsoka.  The former opens his mouth to object, but Ahsoka shoots him a glance that says it’s fine.

Sabine follows Kanan to a corner of the bridge.  “What’s this about?”

“I wanted to offer you your room back on the Ghost,” he says bluntly.

“Is there something prompting this decision?”  Sabine’s eyes narrow in suspicion that he hurries to correct.

“No, no, not at all.  I just...Hera told me you still need to be under supervision but they’re releasing you from medbay, so.”  He clears his throat, spreading his hands. “And she said that you didn’t really want to go back to the crew bunks on the Home.

“I don’t.  But that doesn’t mean I have to take one of your rooms.  Did Hera or Ezra put you up to this?”

“No, no.  This is all me, Sabine.  I’m serious.” He pauses as she studies him suspiciously.  “ I’m the one who wants you back, who’s asking you back.  Please.”

She watches him a moment longer before shrugging.  “Sure. Can I go back to our strategy meeting now?”

“Yeah, yeah, of course.  Don’t let me keep you.” She nods and turns, walking back.  Halfway there she calls over her shoulder.

“Thanks, Kanan.”

He smiles briefly.  “Yeah. No problem.”

He leaves.


Sabine sets her duffel down at the front of the room, sighing as she looks around.  It’s pretty much the same as she left it, minus most of her things. And her helmet.

The absence of her blasters in her holsters makes her feel vulnerable, too.

She picks up the duffel again, walking to the bunk and table at the back and starting to unpack.

There’s the quiet clunk-thud of Ezra and his prosthetic outside her door, followed by a knock.  “Come in,” she calls, pulling out her airbrush and setting it on the table.

Ezra enters, the door sliding shut behind him.  She gestures to one of the booth seats at the table and he sits.

“I’m glad you’re back,” he blurts out after several minutes of silence.  She smiles, lifting three cans of paint out at once and adding them to the growing stack.

“Me too.”  With a sly smile, she remembers the story Ezra had told her of the TIE pilot.  “Kanan tell anyone else to kriff off while I was gone?”

Ezra laughs.  “Not that I know of.  Oh yeah, they wanted you to talk to that pilot whenever you feel up to it.”

She nods.  “Alright. Thanks for the heads up.”

“No problem.”

She continues unpacking, setting her beskar’gam off to the side.  Another thing she feels vulnerable without—and one she won’t do anything about until (or unless) she feels she deserves it.  She catches Ezra watching her stack the armor, but doesn’t acknowledge him.

When she finishes unpacking, she sits back on her heels and lets out a breath in a whoosh of air.  Sabine glances over at the other teen, now absently kicking his heels against the boxes she uses for storage under the booth seats.

“I’m gonna go talk to the pilot now.  You coming?”

“Uh, y– yeah, sure.  We gotta let Ahsoka and Kanan know first.”

She nods and rises, walking to the door as he follows behind.  She keys it open and walks to the galley, where the smell of caf is strong.  Kanan leans against the back counter, eyes closed as he sips from a mug and ignores the familiar orange astromech shrieking angrily at his feet.

“Kanan?”

“Yeah, kid?”  The smuggler doesn’t open his eyes until he’s already finished speaking.  He nods to Sabine and she returns the gesture in silence. “Where’s your armor?”

“I...decided not to wear it right now.”  He nods again, likely both understanding and satisfied with her non-answer.

“Sabine and I are gonna go talk to the pilot.  You know where Ahsoka is?”

“Uh...try the bridge.  You two can use my code, should still work.”  He pushes off from the counter, ignoring the still-beeping Chopper who is now furious at being ignored.  He shoves his hand into a pocket, drawing out a small code chip and handing it to Sabine. She pockets it.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”  Kanan waves a hand in dismissal, walking back to the counter and taking another swig from his mug.  As they turn to leave, however, he speaks up again. “Take Chopper with you if you can. He’s being irritating.”

The droid shrieks loud enough that Sabine and Ezra cover their ears and Kanan nearly drops his caf.  Chopper then proceeds to explain that he is, in fact, not being irritating, but helping out.  Kanan groans and puts a hand to his forehead.

“Relieve me of this demon,” he mutters under his breath.  Ezra snorts and nods.

“Chopper, you want me to take you to see Hera?”

The droid immediately turns, trilling happily and complimenting Ezra repeatedly as the trio leaves Kanan in peace.


Ahsoka nods to the guard and he deactivates the ray shield, stepping back.  Sabine moves to enter the cell, but Ahsoka steps closer, voice dropping so only she can hear.  “Ask him about the Inquisitor.” She nods and enters, turning to see the ray shield rise again before returning her attention to the pilot.

He’s maybe only a year or two older than her, a long scratch from the crash marring the side of his face.  He watches her with careful brown eyes, gaze flicking to Ahsoka, Ezra, and the guard outside before it returns to her.

“What do you wanna know?”

She blinks in surprise.  “Did you just offer information?”

He shrugs.  “Well yeah. I’m defecting, what’d you expect me to do, withhold it?”  He gives a bitter laugh. “Just tell me what you wanna know.”

“Uh, okay...what about the Inquisitor?”

“She was on Montross.  Looking for defectors. With– with her apprentice.  They, ah...they found my friend.” He bites his lip and looks away.

“Is he…?”

“They blew up his TIE when he tried to run.  He found out they were onto him and didn’t want them to get out the names of the rest of us.  They activated the kill switch on his fighter.” The pilot laughs bitterly again, raising his cuffed hands to rake through his hair.  “He took control of the steering somehow despite that, and was gonna crash it into the Academy. So they had to shoot him down.”

“I’m...sorry, about– about your friend.”  He shrugs.

“Doesn’t matter.  He’s dead now.” His voice is detached, hollow.  “They got Hobbie too. I’m the only one who got out, and that was an accident.  But it’s over now. What else?”

“Um….”  Sabine thinks for a moment, and then comes up with her next question.  “The Inquisitor, you said she was there with her apprentice…?”

“Yeah.  Don’t know how old she was, but she was Mirialan.”  Her blood runs cold, getting only colder still at his next words.  “The apprentice was human, a boy. He couldn’t have been older than him.”  He nods to Ezra.

Chapter Text

“—oup of their people contacted us, they have intel we’ve been looking for,” Hera finishes.

Kanan nods.  “Do we have a way to know for sure?”

“Yes.”  Ahsoka steps forward as the door slides shut behind Ezra and Sabine.  “Zeb commed recently and said his group was complaining that a deal they were trying to work out with the Empire fell through because of a raid from them.”

“Well we need to go get it, then.  What do they want in return?”

“They said a dozen vials of coaxium.  Which, thanks to you and your Padawan, we have.”  Ahsoka smiles at Kanan before turning to Ezra, raising an eyebrow as the teen raises a hand.

“Wait, who has intel that we need?  And why’s Zeb making a deal with the Empire?”

Kanan immediately shoots a glance at Ahsoka, already shaking his head and mouthing, “no.”  She doesn’t seem to notice, however, and continues.

“Zeb’s mission right now is classified.  But Black Sun has the intel….”

Everything else fades out at her words.  Ezra’s world spins, and he suddenly feels hot and dizzy as there’s someone’s hand on his shoulder, clenching tightly enough to be painful, a thin voice whispering a threat into his ear as he stares at his friend’s corpse in front of him—

“Ezra!”

He jumps, breathing hard as his vision refocuses.  Kanan is on one knee in front of him, hand hovering over his shoulder without touching him.  He swallows, blinking as his eyes drop before rising to meet Kanan’s gaze again.

“I want to go.  I– I want to fight them, sir.”  His voice is full of steel as he addresses Sato, gaze locked on the man beyond Kanan.  The commander raises a brow.

“Your determination is admirable, Bridger, but we are hardly going to ‘fight’ them as you say.  They have intelligence that we are going to trade for.”

“He’s not going.”  Kanan cuts in before Sato can say another word.  “Ezra won’t be going. No.”

Hera takes a small step forward, starting to object.  “Kanan, you should at least ask him—“

“I know that he doesn’t want to go.  Right, kid?” Kanan glances down at him as his own gaze drops.

“No, I don’t, Master.”  Kanan jolts slightly and Ezra swallows.  “May I– may I go to my room, please?”

“Sure,” Kanan says, swallowing hard.  He catches a glimpse of Kanan’s unhidden shock, Hera’s lips pressed tightly together, Sato’s confusion, Ahsoka’s troubled expression, and Sabine’s concern out of the corner of his eye.  Ezra doesn’t meet any of their gazes as he exits quietly, heading off of the bridge and back to his old bunk on the Ghost.  Upon reaching it, he curls up and pulls his knees right to his chest, burying his face in them and trying to contain his sobs until he can’t anymore.


Sometime later, there’s a knock on his door.

“Come in,” he calls.

Sabine enters, the door sliding shut behind her as she walks to the bunk.  “Can I sit down?”

“Yeah,” he mutters, scooting to the corner and resting his chin on his knees.

“About earlier, um...are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Um...mind if I ask you a question?”

“Sure.  But like you– like you said that one time, I might not answer.  If– if that’s okay.”

“Of course, yeah.  Of course it is.” He offers a small nod accompanied by a weak smile that she returns.

“Alright, um...were you a slave?”  He stiffens as she rushes to continue.  “The Inquisitor, um, the one on Lothal, he said...I think you were drugged, but he said something about you being a slave.  Sorry, I know it’s kind of a personal question, you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to, but I didn’t want to assume anything and—“

“I was,” he interrupts in a quiet voice, gaze on the floor.

“Oh.”

“I haven’t been, not...not for a while.  It was a few years before we met you that Kanan...Kanan saved me.”

“Oh.”

“Why aren’t you out with the others?  On– on the mission?”

Sabine sighs, rubbing the back of her neck.  “They won’t let me out on missions. Worried I’ll take ‘unnecessary risks.’”

“Are you saying you won’t?”

She lets out a breathy laugh, running a hand through her hair.  “You’ve got a point.”

Ezra allows himself to relax slightly, shifting on the bunk.  He finally lets his legs drop off the edge, kicking against the durasteel quietly.  They sit in a comfortable silence for several more minutes before Sabine clears her throat and speaks again.

“Can I ask you another question?  You don’t have to answer this one, either.”

“Okay.”

Sabine draws in a long breath, and it’s at least another full minute before she speaks.  “Why didn’t Kanan want you going on that mission? The Black Sun one?”

An involuntary shudder ripples through Ezra’s body and he inhales sharply before speaking.  “I...when I was captured, it– the guy worked for– he worked for Black Sun,” getting tossed in the back of a ship with the others, “and he...he sold us to them.  I got sold out for a few months, but...I got– I got sold back to them eventually.”   Hands fastening the shock collar around his neck, too drugged to realize what’s going on...pushing him away from the others, shoving him to the ground when he screams for them one time too many...blood running from his nose down his chin and onto the floor from thrashing against the table he’s restrained facedown onto as the droid continues to tattoo him….

“I’m sorry.”

He blinks at Sabine’s voice but shrugs.  “It’s fine,” he mutters.

“Ezra….”

“It’s fine,” he repeats, voice hardening as he glares at the floor without realizing his fingers are clenched on the edge of his bunk tight enough that his knuckles are whitening.  “I don’t want pity.”

“I understand.”  She falls silent, and he silently thanks her, both for her continued presence after discovering what he is and her silence.

Chapter Text

 

“So why’d you take out Hera’s whole squad, then?  If you wanted to defect….”

Antilles sighs, running a hand through his hair.  He’s still in the cell, but now permitted to be uncuffed.  Sabine’s still not quite sure that’s a good idea.

“Our trainer said that they were all real ships, but manned by droids.  I explained this to your Inqu– Jed– Jedi earlier, and she said I was telling the truth.”

“Oh.”  She can confirm that with Ahsoka later.

“You weren’t always a rebel, though, were you?”

She blinks at the question.  “Uh….”

“The way you stand, it’s not like the others—not like all of them, at least.  That’s how Imperials stand. Not how the rest of them do.”

“So?”

“My question is what made you decide you had to leave?”

The Duchess.

He can’t know about the Duchess.

None of them can know about the Duchess.

She shrugs, trying to stay nonchalant as she answers.  “I just got fed up with how they were treating everyone on my homeworld, and– and elsewhere.  So I had to do something about it.”

“So you came straight here?”

She shakes her head.  “I did some undercover work for them for a while.”  No need to mention that said undercover work was with Black Sun; there’s no reason to risk that getting back to Ezra somehow.  “Then Kanan took me on his crew for about a year, and now I’m here.” She laughs softly, gaze sliding to the ground though she’s unsure why.

“Oh.”

“What about you?”

“Why I joined?”  Antilles waits for her nod and the return of her gaze before answering in full.  “I guess...I just got tired of fighting for people I never saw. And what they were teaching us—to fire on unarmed ships if our squad leader commanded it, to shoot down potential civilian ships if it was suspected they were carrying rebels, it just...it just didn’t feel right, you know?”

Sabine nods slowly, looking down again.  “Yeah,” she says in a quiet voice. “I know.”


“She can’t be back on missions, she’ll get herself killed!”  Kanan’s fuming. Sabine won’t be able to handle being back out on missions, he knows.  She’ll just keep taking risks, risks she can’t come back from. He understands why, of course; the first few months with Cham and the first few months after Ryloth were like that for him.  That doesn’t make it any less worrisome.

“Ezra’s with her.  He’ll make sure she’s okay,” Hera tries to soothe him.

“He can’t be with her all the time,” Kanan points out, leaning further over the pilot’s chair.  Hera sighs.

“Look, Kanan, I’m worried about her too.  But Command says—“

“I don’t give a kriff what Command says.  She’s not—“

“If Command says she’s going on missions, she’s going on missions.”

Kanan shoots her a glare.  “And if she decides she doesn’t want in the fight anymore?”

“Kanan, it’s Sabine.”  Hera tips her head back to look up at him, finally breaking her gaze on the malfunctioning console ahead of her.  Once again he’s reminded of just how beautiful she is, especially when she’s focused on something. “She won’t want out anytime soon.”

He holds Hera’s gaze a moment longer before dropping it, running a hand through his hair.  “Fine. But I don’t want her working alone if it can be avoided.”

“We’ll try not to let her be,” Hera reassures him.  “But with how many of our fighters Wedge took out….”

He sighs.  “I know. But...I still don’t want her alone.”

“She won’t be if we can help it, Kanan, you know that.”

“I know, I just….”  His voice breaks as he continues, “I can’t lose her, too.  I’ve already lost so many....I can’t lose you, or her, or Ezra...kriff not even Chopper….

“Kanan.”  He meets her gaze again as she stands, turning and walking around the chair to cup his chin with a hand and place the other on the back of the pilot’s seat.  He can’t help an involuntary shiver at the contact; it’s not often she goes without her gloves anymore.

“You won’t lose us.  I promise. And at this point, I don’t think you could even lose Ezra if you wanted to.”  She laughs softly, thumbing over his cheek and the stubble he still hasn’t shaved.  “You could stand to lose the beard though.  You look a lot older with it.”

He smirks in return, leaning toward her slightly.  She leans up to reach him, and their lips are nearly touching now—

The door slides open.  “Hey Kanan, do you know where Her—oh!  Uh, I'm sorry, I can um...I can go...so– sorry—“

Hera pulls back first, turning to Ezra.  Kanan turns his attention to the kid only moments later to find him blushing bright red and standing in the doorway, Chopper at his side.  The droid chortles, rocking on its axis as Kanan closes his eyes and exhales slowly. Reopening them, he sees Ezra still standing there awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.

“I guess I found Hera,” Ezra mumbles uncertainly.

“I guess you did,” Kanan remarks, eyes closing again in a weak attempt to hide his slight irritation at the interruption.  “I guess you did.”


“Sabine!”

Halfway down the corridor she turns, stopping to wait for Ezra as he catches up with her.

“Yeah?” she asks after he’s fallen into step with her.

“Hera says you can go back out on missions!”

Something in her heart leaps.  “Really?” she questions breathlessly.  Ezra nods, expression as exuberant as her own.  “Did she say when?”

“Right now, actually.  We’re en route to Garel apparently.  We need supplies. And Ahsoka said that there’s something weird in the Force telling her we need to check it out, too.”

“Are you going?”

Ezra grins.  “Yeah. I wouldn’t miss your first mission back out in a while for anything.”

Chapter Text

“Kanan and I will be going to investigate the vergence I sensed, and the rest of you will be going to get the supplies we need.  They should be in hangars four and seven.”

“And if all else fails and something happens, Ahsoka and I can get a pickup from Hera while you guys take the Phantom back.  Everyone clear on the plan?”

“Yeah,” Sabine nods, shooting another wary glance at Antilles to her left.  She has one weapon on her, an old training blaster Kanan found that’s permanently set to stun—though thankfully, she can still toggle it between “low” and “high.”  Antilles has one, too, though while his is locked to stun like hers, it can only use the “low” setting.

It eases her anxiety only slightly.

“Alright.  Comm us if something comes up,” Ahsoka says smoothly, before turning and nodding to Kanan.  The pair heads off, and Sabine catches Ezra watching Kanan with what looks like a mixture of anxiety and longing.

“Let’s get to the hangars, we’re on a timeline here!” the leader of their group calls.  Sabine turns, Ezra and Antilles with her.

“Hey, I didn’t get a chance to mention it earlier, but I like what you did with your hair.  It’s very...vibrant,” Antilles pipes up on their way through the city. They’ve split into smaller groups to better weave through the city; hers consists of the defector and Ezra along with herself.  She only shrugs in response; she still hasn’t quite figured out what he wants from her or from this rebellion, and until she does, she isn’t exactly sure how to respond to his half-hidden attempts at flirting.

“Mind on the mission, Antilles,” she mutters.

Her group, along with one of the other two, reach the first of the hangars within only a few minutes.

And, of course, said hangar is locked.

She steps forward.  “I can slice it.” Tucking a strand of the now bright-orange hair back, she pulls out a datachip and slides it into the terminal.  It overrides the password-locked system within seconds and she’s in, unlocking and opening both hangars and scrolling briefly through the feed to see if there’s anything else they should be aware of.

A piece of information stands out and she glances at it again, eyes widening.  She jerks back from the terminal in seconds, whirling to glance at Ezra.

“Comm Kanan and Ahsoka, there’s Inquisitors he—“

“On it.”  He’s already clicking his comm on, and some part of her realizes that he likely has Kanan’s channel as a pre-set.  “Spectre K, there’s Inquisit—“

A sound cuts him off, and she and Ezra recognize it at the same time.  He meets her horrified gaze and mirrors it in his own expression.

“What’s wrong?” someone from the other group calls.  She and Ezra turn as one to answer.

“They ignited their lightsabers.”


“If you do your part in catching them, maybe you’ll even get a reward later,” his master croons softly, tipping his chin up with a hand.  He stiffens, glaring defiantly at her in a failed effort to drown out the fear swelling within his chest. She laughs at the attempt and tightens her grip.  He jerks his head away, growling, but she only laughs again. “Still as fiery as ever, little one.”

“Let’s just get back to the mission, Master,” he says in a low voice, turning away and looking over the landing pad.  His master had led a false trail here without him; he had still been recuperating from their last “training” session. She had returned to the ship and retrieved him before he had a chance to run, and now here they were, standing on a rooftop and waiting for a supposed Jedi.

Something stirs in the Force below them and the apprentice shifts his attention back to the present, eyes narrowing as he tries to find what’s wrong.  Nothing, at least nothing he can see.

He feels his master’s hand creeping up to his shoulder, squeezing just enough to be uncomfortable.  He closes his eyes briefly, trying to get himself back under control before he opens them again. He can’t afford to freak out.  Not here, not now. He can still barely walk from her last punishment.

“Do you sense something, boy?” she asks softly, breath hot against his ear.  He flinches involuntarily, biting his lip as he tries to keep himself from showing further outward signs of discomfort.

“Yeah.”

“What is it?”

Her question is answered as a pair of figures enter the landing pad.  He recognizes the first one, a tall female Togruta, from the files sent to his datapad shortly before they arrived on Garel.  He doesn’t remember her name, however. The other, a male human who’s slightly taller, follows behind a few feet.

They’re barely onto the landing pad when the human stops, saying something to his companion as he pulls out a comm.

Next to him, he senses his master focusing all her attention on the pair.  He feels for his lightsaber in the Force, inhales silently, and makes his move.

His master turns, opening her mouth to give him an order only a moment too late.  Her head is severed from her body without warning, both toppling off the roof.

Below him, the two figures on the landing pad are drawing their lightsabers, though they hesitate as his master’s body falls to the duracrete in front of them.  Their gazes follow her trajectory up to him, narrowing. He keeps his own gaze even as he watches them.

“Come down here!” the man calls.  He shakes his head.

A noise calls his attention away and he looks to the landing pad entrance again as a small group bursts in.  The Force shifts without warning, and he glances back at the man. The Togruta is nowhere to be seen.

He gets a split second warning to turn before the Togruta vaults onto the rooftop with him.  He backs along the edge, swallowing thickly and suppressing a wince at the pain still present from his punishment.  Below, he catches a flash of movement as the dark-haired man heads to a drainpipe on the adjacent building. If the man makes it up here before he can get away….

“Hey, easy.”  He jumps at the voice, turning to face the Togruta woman.  She has one hand raised in a placating manner, the lightsaber it held only moments ago clipped to her belt again.  Her other ‘saber is still extended, and he watches it warily.

“Just put the ‘saber down, and we can talk.”

He shakes his head, taking another step back.

“You’re young for an Inquisitor,” she tries again.  He swallows.

The apprentice glances over his shoulder at the building behind him.  It’s close enough that he can make it. Probably. Inhaling sharply, he turns and bolts, pushing off from the raised edge of the roof and using the Force to enhance his jump as he leaps toward the other roof.  There’s a brief feeling of weightlessness as he’s suspended in the air between the buildings, a brief feeling that he won’t make it.

And as it turns out, he barely makes it, landing on his feet but swaying for a moment.  He regains his balance a minute afterward and shakes his head to clear it from the pain, glancing back.

The Togruta jumps as he watches, landing in a roll on his roof.  “Kanan!” she calls, though she doesn’t remove her gaze from the apprentice.  He swallows, adjusting his grip on his ‘saber and silently glad it hadn’t—yet at the same time, almost wishing that it had—cut his arm off.  The woman pulls one of her own sheathed ‘sabers out and ignites it, holding it in a guard position as they watch each other.

Not more than a minute passes before the man from below—Kanan, he realizes—joins them, vaulting up onto the roof and landing in a crouch.  He rises, unclipping his lightsaber and igniting it again. The apprentice swallows, returning his gaze to whom the Force tells him is the greater threat—the Togruta.

“I– I won’t hesitate to kill you,” the apprentice says, voice shaking.  He puts one hand up defensively. The other still clutches his lightsaber tightly, afraid to let it go.

“Kid, you’re okay.  You’re okay, I promise.”

“St– stay back!” he yells, turning and pointing the blade at the dark-haired man.  The man puts his hands up.

“Kid, we just wanna talk.”

“I killed her, I’ll kill– I’ll kill you too,” he threatens, choking back another breath.  He backs up until his back is to the edge of the roof once more.

This time, there’s nowhere to jump to.

“Kid—“

Something shifts in the Force, a new signature entering his awareness.  He turns, blinking as he looks at the small group still on the landing pad.

It can’t be.

“Edgehawk?!”

He sees the shot too late, unable to move as it hits him in the chest and knocks him to his side, narrowly missing falling over the edge of the roof.  The lightsaber slips from his grasp, sheathing and rolling just far enough that he can’t reach it. As he watches, helpless from the stun bolt, Kanan approaches and picks it up.

“Please– please just– just kill me,” he gasps out as the man rises, turning the apprentice’s lightsaber over in his hands.  The man shoots him a glance, eyebrow raised. “Please.”

“Why would I kill you?”

So this is it, then.  He’ll be tortured for information, information that he would hand over without a fight in a heartbeat.  But they wouldn’t believe him, and he knows that. Especially after he tried to run.

“Please, I’ll– I’ll tell you what you want, just– just don’t—“

“Kanan.”  The man turns as the Togruta woman comes closer, and the apprentice flinches involuntarily.  “We need to go, Ezra just called up that Sabine intercepted a transmission saying there are TIEs on the way.”

“Well we can’t exactly leave him here.”  Kanan gestures to the apprentice, eliciting a swallow from the teen.

“So bring him with us.”

Sighing, Kanan hands the circular ‘saber to the Togruta and picks up the apprentice with a hand supporting his back and one underneath his knees.  The younger Force-sensitive tries to suppress the whimper of fear and the violent flinch that comes with it.

They leave the roof through a fire escape, one that seems older than the Emperor himself.  With every step Kanan takes, the apprentice is convinced the entire thing will give way and deposit them to the ground.  And with every step Kanan takes, the apprentice realizes that the drop won’t be nearly far enough.

They reach the ground, and then the landing pad, after what feels like too short of a time.  Kanan carries him toward the group on the landing pad before stopping suddenly, glancing up. The apprentice follows his gaze as best as he can without being able to move his head, confused at the sudden stop.

A familiar, shrill whine from above solves his confusion relatively quickly.

Kanan carefully sets him down, drawing his lightsaber and holding it in a basic defensive position.  The apprentice is left to stare at the sky, already flinching in anticipation of the green bolts he knows the TIEs will rain down on them in moments.

However, what he isn’t expecting is the young woman with the shock of bright orange hair that steps into his field of view, cocks her blaster, and shoots a stun bolt into his face.

Chapter Text

His eyes open immediately and he inhales sharply, gaze darting around.

He can’t sense his ‘saber.

An alarm starts beeping and he turns his head enough to see the monitor it’s coming from.  Closing his eyes, he splays his hand out enough in the cuff to feel it in the Force.

He rips it from its anchor.

The beeping stops and he sighs in relief.

And then another monitor goes off.

He groans and slams his head back against the cot.

Moments later, the door opens, and he quickly sits up as much as he can with the cuffs on his wrists.

Edgehawk.

“Jai?!  What’re you—“

“Where’s my lightsaber?!”

“What?”  Edgehawk’s brows furrow.  “Your ligh—

Suddenly, the apprentice realizes what’s going on.  Swallowing, he jerks his head, gesturing for Edgehawk to approach.  The dark-haired teen does, expression only becoming more confused. “What is it?”

“I need to get my lightsaber.  And then we can get out, I’ll get out of these cuffs in a minute, and then we can steal a ship and—“

“Wait, what– what’re you talking about– Jai—“

He shakes his head, then flicks his fingers and unlocks the cuffs.  He sits up fully, rubbing his wrists. “Alright, Hawk, what's the plan?  Where are they keeping the weapons, and the sh—“

Jai!”  He blinks and looks up again.

“Yeah?”

“We’re not stealing a ship.”

He blinks again.  “Why not?” A realization hits him and his eyes widen.  “Oh.   Here, where’s your tracker, I’ll get it out for you—“

“Tracker?”

“Yeah, is it in your arm, or—oh kriff did they put one in your neck?!”  That would explain why Edgehawk hasn’t run yet, because they’re clearly giving him a lot of leash.  His hands curl into fists. He’ll kill them. He’ll kill them all, because he has nothing to fear from them.  They’ll pay for this.

They’ll pay.

“No, Jai, no they didn’t put a tracker in anywh—

“Are you worried you’ll get in trouble?  Because I can kill anyone we come across, and knock out the ‘cams.  We can be out before—“

“Jai!  I’m fine.   I’m okay, I’m safe.  And so are you.”

Oh.  Oh.   Hawk’s changed, then—to better deal with his new situation, likely.  He’s seen it before, back at the Second Place. If that’s what’s helping Hawk deal with it, he’s not going to be the one to break the fragile sense of control the other teen has.

“Okay.  Okay.” He takes in several steadying breaths, trying to seem like he’s calming himself down.  If it makes Hawk feel better, safer, more in control? He’ll do it. “Where– where am I, though?”

“Uh...I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you that yet,” Edgehawk answers, shifting his weight and rubbing his arm.  “But I ca– can promise you’re sa—“

The doors slide open without warning, and the apprentice jumps, cursing himself silently for not sensing the arrivals.  A male human with dark but graying hair and the Togruta woman from his capture enter, and he stiffens. So these are the people hurting Hawk.

“Bridger, I believe you were given strict instructions not to be alone with the Inquisitor,” the man states, tone flat.  Hawk flinches violently, giving a quick nod. Bridger. So that’s what they’re calling him these days.

“I– I’m sorry, sir.  So– sorry. I’ll go– I’ll leave now.”

“Good.”  The apprentice’s gaze narrows as he watches Dark Hair move to the side to allow Hawk to leave without so much as a backward glance.  A quick glance at the Togruta woman reveals a guarded expression, and he decides Dark Hair is the bigger threat here. The man’s attention returns to him after the door shuts behind Hawk, raising an eyebrow as he approaches.  “Tano, I apologize, I did not expect him to break out so quickly or I would have had him placed in a cell.”

“It’s fine, Commander.”  The man stops as Tano moves past him with the fluid grace only Force-sensitives have.  He watches warily, unable to resist shifting back when she reaches him and halts. The Force surrounds her, enough to make him fidget and have a desperate urge to leave.  She’s stronger with it than the Inquisitors, except for maybe the Grand Inquisitor. Then again, none of them are as strong as he is.

Except Lord Vader and the Emperor.  But he doesn’t want to think about them right now.

“What’s your name?” Tano asks, her tone too gentle.  He flinches.

“Where am I?”

“I can’t tell you that right now.  I’m sorry.” Again, her tone is too soft, gaze almost pitying as she stares at him.

Her hand is still hovering next to one of her ‘saber hilts.

“Who are you people?” he tries instead, voice rough from barely-suppressed fear.

“We aren’t going to hurt you, we just need to ask you a few questions—“

“I asked who you were.  Not whether or not you’ll hurt me.  And Edg– Bridger said I’m safe here anyway.”  Tano and the Commander exchange glances before their gazes return to him.

“What did Ezra say to you?”

So they’ve given him a full name, then.  “He said I’m safe here.”

“He’s right, you know.  You can tell us your name, it’s okay.”  He shakes his head mutely, expression still guarded as he studies her.  Tano sighs. “Well, can you tell us why you killed the other Inquisitor?  Who was she?” He still doesn’t answer, and Ahsoka continues. “We know she was one of them.  Ezra was able to identify her for us.”

His blood runs cold at that.  “How? How did he know who she was?”

She blinks in surprise at his outburst.  “He and K– his master ran into her a few months ago.”

Master.

So maybe Ahsoka and the Commander just run this place, and Hawk’s owned by someone who works for them.  He files the information away for later.

“I killed her because I could,” the apprentice finally answers, shrugging.  Out of the corner of his eye, he catches the Commander’s surprised jolt. “And she hurt me, and some– and some of the younger ones.”  He stares at Tano, hoping she understands the warning in his gaze. If you hurt him, if you have hurt him, I won’t hesitate to kill you, too.

Chapter Text

Ezra glances over his shoulder, inhaling shakily before exhaling and punching in the code Sabine had given him.  For a moment, the console stays dark, and he worries it’s going to turn red before it flashes green and admits him.  He lets out a breath he didn’t even know he was holding in a whoosh, shoulders slumping as he slips through the door.

He walks down the hall silently, swallowing and glancing over his shoulder again periodically.  He’s not supposed to be here, he knows, but he has to see Jai.  He needs to convince him that he’s safe now.

He won’t be hurt anymore.

Ezra knows who Jai was sold to.  He knows why the other boy reacts to touch so badly.  He knows why Jai doesn’t trust his word.

Jai hasn’t been safe in a long time.

But then again, have any of them?

He reaches the cell.  There’s no guard, but there is a security cam mounted on the wall opposite at an angle so that every inch of the rayshield enclosing Jai’s cell is visible.  There’s likely another inside his cell, too. He overheard a conversation between Hera and Kanan last night in which Hera explained that Sato had wanted Jai to be restrained so he wouldn’t be able to use the Force.  He hadn’t heard how, though, because their conversation had moved onto...other matters.

Sometimes he regrets listening in on them on occasion.

But if the conversation could’ve potentially mentioned Jai, then...then he had to do whatever it took to get that information.  And now, thanks to his earlier decision, he does have that information.

Jai doesn’t look up when he stops in front of the red bars of light, only cracks a slight, humorless smile.  “When am I getting out?”

“I don’t know yet.”  Jai finally looks up, smile vanishing and rendering his expression unreadable as he rises.  Ezra catches a glimpse of his wrists, cuffed behind his back, and swallows.

“Who does?”

“I’m– I’m not sure anyone does, to be honest,” he admits.

The other teen tips his head back, staring up at the ceiling unblinkingly as he speaks.  “Is there a way we can talk so they can’t hear us?” he asks, lips barely moving. Ezra shoots a glance over his shoulder again.

“Uh….”

“Please, Hawk.  Please.”

“What about signing?”

Jai shakes his head.  “No. My hands, they, ah...the cuffs.”

Ezra swallows, gaze shooting briefly to the security cam before his shoulders slump.  He steps forward, entering Sabine’s code into the keypad. For a moment, it doesn’t flash.  When it does flash green, however, he exhales slowly and moves to the rayshield as it drops.  He rushes to Jai, hesitating briefly before reaching to hug him.

The other boy stumbles back, suddenly radiating immense waves of terror as his eyes dart fearfully between Ezra’s outstretched hands.  He’s already hunching in on himself, as if expecting to be hit. The sight of him reacting this way, flinching backward and away from Ezra in a way he’s never seen from Jai before, makes his stomach clench.

As quickly as the reaction happens it stops, and Jai straightens, though he’s still breathing hard as he clears his throat.  “Uh...I don’t, ah...like physical contact.”

“S– sorry, I should’ve asked first.  Kanan just, um...he just said you hug people when you– like when you’re glad to see someone again or– or something...sorry.”

Jai blinks before he seems to realize something and nods slowly.  “Is Kanan...is he your master?”

Master?  No, no, not like that, he reminds himself.  It means teacher, too; that’s what the Inquisitors had said.  And if Jai was with them, he’s probably more used to their terminology.  “Yeah. He– he is.” The other teen swallows anxiously but offers a quick nod.

“Okay.”

They stand in silence for a few more minutes before Ezra clears his throat.  “Did you, um, need to tell me something?”

“Oh!  Oh, yeah, uh...um...can I get closer?  I just don’t want them to, um, overhear….”  Ezra nods quickly as Jai takes a step closer.

An alarm goes off.

Jai jerks back as if burned, head whipping around.  “Jai, calm down—“

“Hawk, you need to go.  You can get out, escape before they catch you—“

“It’s Ezra now,” he says, trying to distract Jai from the panic he can sense rising in the other boy’s chest.

“Ezra?”

“Yeah.”  He nods. “Not– not Edgehawk.  Ezra. Kanan named me.”

Jai eyes him for a long minute, and there’s a moment where Ezra is thrown back to their days on the streets, before everything went up in flames.

“Okay,” Jai says, and the moment is gone.

Ezra hears the whoosh of the door down the hall and turns, eyes wide as Ahsoka and Kanan barrel into view with ‘sabers drawn.  Sato and two soldiers follow only moments behind.

Jai shoulders in front of Ezra without warning, glaring at the group outside the cell.  “Stay...stay away from him,” he says hoarsely, body language defensive as he blocks Ezra from the others.

“Jai, we just want you to let Ezra through.  We won’t—“

“He– he will!”  Jai nods, shaking, to Sato.  The man’s brows shoot up in surprise.

“I would n—“

“You don’t like hi– him!  If I let– let y—“

“I’ll be fine,” Ezra murmurs.  “Please. They won’t hurt you, I promise, but you need to let me thr– through.”

“They’ll hurt you,” Jai mutters back, voice still shaking.  “They’re– they can use the Force.”

“I know, and so can—“

He hears Kanan’s words to Ahsoka when it’s already too late.  The pair sheathes their lightsabers, clipping them to their belts again as Kanan deactivates the rayshield, approaching and raising his hands in a placating gesture.  Ahsoka follows, trailing slightly behind.

“We aren’t gonna hurt you, kid, but we do ne—“

“You’re not hurting him!” Jai yells.  “I won’t le– let you!”

“Jai—“

Kanan lunges, pushing Jai to the side enough that Ezra can slip by.  “Out of the cell, kid,” he mutters, trying to block the boy’s view of Ezra.  When Jai sees what’s happening, however, he fights back and shoves roughly against Kanan.

“No, you can’t– you can’t hurt him!  You can’t—“

“Calm down, kid!  We aren’t going to!”  Kanan wrestles with him briefly, enough to get him facing away from Ezra as Ahsoka approaches.  “I don’t wanna hurt you, but if—“

Ahsoka touches Jai’s arm, intending to take over for Kanan, and the boy reacts explosively.  He jerks his head back, narrowly missing hitting Kanan’s as the smuggler moves out of the way just in time.  Ahsoka takes over as Kanan backs up, slipping out to Ezra and reactivating the rayshield as Ahsoka gets the screaming teen under control.

“Jarrus, take Bridger to his cabin.  I do not want him anywhere near the Inquisitor any longer,” Sato orders.  Ezra opens his mouth to defend Jai, but a stern gaze is enough to cow him.  “I will address your disobedience afterward.

Jai keeps screaming bloody murder, still fighting against Ahsoka as he catches sight of Ezra leaving.  The boy wants to glance over his shoulder, say goodbye again, but Sato’s implied threat is enough to keep him from doing so.

“C’mon kid, we can go make hot chocolate or something,” Kanan says in a quiet voice, squeezing his shoulder lightly.  Ezra nods and follows.

Chapter Text

Ezra sits at the table, shoulders hunched over as he clutches his still-steaming mug with both hands.  The heat scalds him, but it takes his mind off of Sato’s threat.

“You okay?” Kanan asks for the fifth time in ten minutes.  Ezra shrugs. Again.

Kanan sighs.  Again.

They return to silence.

The door opens and Ezra glances up, blinking as Sabine walks into the galley.  She looks hassled, and Ezra remembers with a jolt that it was her who had given him the codes for the detention block.  Kriff.  Look what you did now, Ezra.  She’s gonna take the fall for your stupid mistake.

“Sato wants to see all of us.”

“Alright.”  Kanan gets up, glancing at Ezra.  “You ready, kid?”

“Yeah.”  Ezra nods and rises.  Sabine turns, leading the group out.

They reach the bridge too soon.  Ezra realizes his hands are clammy and rubs them on his pants, trying to calm himself.

“Hey, what’s gotten into you?”

He glances up at Kanan, swallowing.  “Wh– what?”

“You don’t seem...I dunno.  You nervous, kid?”

“N– no.”

“Lying will just get you another lash, boy.  If I were you, I’d watch what you say to your superiors.”

“Yes.”  Kanan’s gaze softens and he beckons with a hand.  Ezra takes a step closer, and Kanan pulls him close, rubbing his shoulder.

“It’s okay, kid, it’s okay.  Nothing’s gonna happen. They just wanna talk.”

“Sato said– Sato said I was in trouble,” he says, shifting his weight as his gaze drops.

Kanan frowns.  “Not if I can help it.  C’mon, kid. I’ll be right there with you.”

“And so will I,” Sabine pipes up from nearby.  Ezra nods, swallowing and finally pulling away from Kanan.

“Alr– alright.  I’m ready,” he whispers.  Kanan smiles, and Sabine enters the clearance code.  The door opens far too soon.

Kanan moves to enter, and Ezra follows closely behind, keeping his gaze down the way he was taught.  Sabine brings up the rear, and Ezra tries to suppress the choked breath that comes when he hears the doors click shut.

You’re overreacting.  Stop overreacting. This is Sato, for Force’s sake.  You’ve dealt with him before.  So has Sabine. So has Kanan.

“Jarrus, Bridger.  And Lieutenant Commander.”  Sato nods to Sabine last, and Ezra shoots her a glance.  When did she get promoted?

Oh kriff what if your stunt with Jai lost her the promotion what if she’s about to get demoted what if—

“Why’d you call us all in here, Commander?” Kanan asks, and Ezra’s gaze darts around the room.  Hera. A couple of the other rebels. Ahsoka is nowhere to be seen.

“To discuss the Inquisitor.”  The man’s gaze settles on Ezra, and he swallows, dropping his gaze again even as Kanan’s hand squeezes his shoulder.  “Bridger, why don’t you explain to us how you came to be acquainted with the Inquisitor specifically?

“He already told you the other day.  He knew him, when they were younger.”  Kanan’s voice is tight.

“Yes, but how?

Ezra swallows, gaze still on the ground as he speaks up.  “Jai and I were on the streets together. When– when we were seven, ei– eight.  His mom died in a fire when he was younger, so...he’d been alone for a while. That’s– that’s what he said, at least.”

Sato raises an eyebrow.  “You do not believe him?”

“I– I do, sir.”  Ezra swallows again, trying to ignore the way his voice wavers as he continues.  “We...we were together for a bit later, too...he was sold to the Inquisitorius at some point, I think.  He thinks– he thinks that you’re all gonna kill him. Or torture him. He’s just scared. Don’t hur– don’t hurt him, pl– please.”

“As long as he cooperates, there will be no need to.”

The hidden threat is plain to him: So ensure he does.


“I’m not going to hurt you.”

He continues to glare silently at Tano.  Bet.

“I promise.”

“Stop reading my thoughts,” he growls, sensing the light touch on his mind.  She nods respectfully, shifting on her knees slightly. The touch retreats. He doesn’t move.

“How old were you when they took you?”

He doesn’t answer, only continuing to glare at the woman.  She raises an eyebrow after a while.

“I’m not going to hurt you if you don’t answer,” she repeats.  “Do you even know why I’m asking you, though?”

He doesn’t answer, verbally or by shaking his head.  She still continues, however, to his irritation.

“I’m asking you so we can get back at them.”

“At who?”

“The Inquisitorius.”

He offers a faint smile.  “What do you wanna know?”

Chapter Text

“Your friend’s on probation.”

Ezra blinks, glancing up from where he’s working on rewiring a part of the bulkhead.  “What?”

“Your friend’s on probation,” Sabine repeats, tone still urgent though with a hint of irritation now.  “The Inquisitor.”

“Oh.”

Sabine raises an eyebrow.  “Your friend, the Inquisitor, is on probation,” she says, enunciating each word.

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you.  I was...I guess...I’m surprised, is all.  That– that they let him out.”

“He was apparently all too willing to volunteer information about the Inquisitorius, so I think that was part of it,” she says, shrugging.  “But don’t you want to see him?”

“Yeah, yeah, I– I do.”

“Then let’s go!   I don’t have long before the next meeting.”

He smiles, then gestures to the bulkhead again.  “I need to finish this first.”

“How long will that take?”

“Uh….”  Ezra shoots a glance back at the mess of wires and sighs, running a hand through his hair.  “A while.”

“Then come see your friend, and you can finish up later.  You don’t need to do it, right?”

She has a point.  He doesn’t need to fix the wiring, it’ll hold up for a while longer.  But he also wants to get it finished and done, so he can work on other projects that need doing.  He sighs again.

“Alright.  I’ll finish it after.  Where is he?”


“And I told you, I don’t have a name.”  The apprentice is getting frustrated.  This is what, the sixth, seventh time he’s said it today?  He doesn’t have a name.  His master’s pet names for him don’t count.  Neither do either of his numbers.

“Ezra said—”

“I don’t give a karking kriff what Ezra said—I.  Don’t. Have. A. Name.  It’s as simple as that,” he snaps.

The door opens.  “Jai!”

His head whips around and his gaze softens as it falls on Ezra.  “Hey.”

“Is something wrong?  We heard shouting,” the girl behind him says.  His gaze narrows as he recognizes her and starts to rise.  “You.

“Jai, wait—”

“She kriffing shot me!   In the face!”  He stands, the cuffs on his wrists digging into the skin.  He hesitates, rethinking the decision and casting a nervous glance back at Kanan.  The man’s gaze is on Ezra, not him, and he feels a brief surge of fury again. You’ll get him out.  You will.

“Jai, slow down, let me explain—“

“She shot me!”

“Jai!” Ezra yells suddenly.  He watches Ezra, swallowing hard.  The other boy is nervous, shooting a glance full of uncertainty at Kanan.

You’re getting him in trouble.  Pull yourself together.

“Jai.  This is Sabine.  She only shot you because we thought you were an Inquisitor.”

He swallows again.  “She still shot me,” he says finally, gaze flicking to the girl.  She glares at him.

“Admittedly, you were holding an ignited lightsaber for a while, too,” Ezra points out.

The apprentice sighs, finally, and nods.  He sits again, gaze tracking the girl as the door shuts behind her and Ezra.

“Kanan, can I…?”

“Yeah.  Sure, kid.”

Ezra approaches Kanan, standing awkwardly at his master’s side.  The apprentice doesn’t bother to hide his disdain as he shoots a quick glare at Kanan before his gaze softens and shifts to Ezra.

“Why don’t you want to be called Jai anymore?”

He laughs, but it’s a hollow, bitter sound.  “Don’t you get it, Ezra? Jai died the same time Zare did.  He’s not here anymore.” Just like Hawk isn’t.   “Neither of them are.”

Ezra swallows.  “But I am, Jai, and—“

“Please, Ezra.”  He inhales deeply and closes his eyes, waiting for a full minute before exhaling and reopening them.  “Please. I’m not that person anymore.”

“But—”

“I’m not the person you knew, okay?  I’ve done...I’ve done so many things….”  He whimpers as he huddles in the corner, flinching back as his master approaches, the tip of one of her lightsaber blades dragging and sparking on the durasteel.   “I’m not– I’m not the Jai you knew.  He doesn’t exist any longer.”

“It doesn’t matt– matter, we can still—”

I’m not the same person.   I’ve killed, I’ve– I’ve done things...things neither of us ever dreamed we’d do...you want nothing to do with me.  I promise.   I’m not the same.  So stop trying to make me be.”

“Jai….”

Stop.  Please.”  He hates the expression in Ezra’s eyes, hates the pity in it, hates it hates it hates it, but he hates Kanan more.  He could never hate Ezra, no.  His eyes, maybe? Yes. But even Ezra’s pity can’t last forever.

“Alright.”

“Thank you,” he murmurs, so quiet he’s sure the other teen can’t hear it.

“Can we talk for a minute?” Ezra asks after several minutes of silence.  “Al– alone?”
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea, kid,” Kanan says slowly, eyeing the apprentice.  It takes all his self-restraint not to snarl at the look.

“Please?”

“I can ask Ahsoka, I guess.”  Kanan walks past, making sure to stay clear of the apprentice as he exits behind Sabine.  The girl watches the apprentice with the same eagle-eyed gaze as before, and it makes him shift uncomfortably.

Kanan re-enters several minutes later, already shaking his head.  “I’m sorry, kid, but she said no.”

“But—”

“You didn’t see how he was acting before you came in, kid.  He was...I’ll tell you later. Just...I think it’s best if you go for now.”

“Okay,” Ezra says, sighing.  The other teen moves to exit, shooting him a rueful glance.  Sabine follows, and the door slides shut behind them with a thud.


“How did it go with him today?”

Kanan lets out a heavy sigh in answer, running a hand through his hair as he slumps down into the copilot’s seat.  Hera approaches, handing him one of the mugs before sitting in the pilot’s chair. He sniffs it before glancing at her, raising an eyebrow.

“Hot chocolate.  Ezra made some.”

“Ah.”

Kanan downs a third of the drink in moments, relishing the scalding sensation as it rushes down his throat.  Better to focus on that than on the mess that’s Ezra’s so-called “friend.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Sure, I guess.  Might turn into more of a rant.”

Hera smiles.  “That’s okay.”

“Well...we told him he was on probation, and he was fine with that, until we told him he had to wear cuffs when he wasn’t being actively supervised or in the cell.  He got upset, made some death threats—”

“Death threats?” Hera echoes, setting her mug on the console and raising an eyebrow in concern.  “What do you mean, ‘death threats?’”

“Oh, you know.  ‘If you so much as lay a hand on Ezra again, I’ll kill you.’  Stuff like that.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”  Kanan takes another long sip from his mug.  “This is good.”

“I’ll be sure to let Ezra know,” she says, laughing.  “But continue.”

“Well, he made the death threats, then got upset when we told him we’d have to interrogate him again because of that.  Ahsoka and I have been switching off all day, and the kids dropped by a few hours ago.”

“How did that go?”

“It...could’ve gone better.”

Hera nods in sympathy.  “But it’s something, right?”

He offers a tight smile followed with a shaky sigh.  “It definitely is.” He finishes his mug and sets it on the console as Hera picks up hers again, downing the rest of the contents and following suit.  “But now I’m done for the day. And I don’t have anything else to do…” he trails off, raising an eyebrow as he looks to Hera. She smiles slightly and rises, leaning over the back of his chair as one of her lekku falls over and onto his shoulder.  He smirks, glancing up at her. “How’d it go with the pilots?”
“Oh, the usual,” she says, shrugging.  The gesture makes the fallen lek twitch slightly.  “Antilles is still stuck on Imperial formations, but we’re working on it.  I have nothing to do tonight, either,” she adds in a mild tone.

“Glad to hear it.”  He rises without warning, walking around to face her as his smirk widens.

“Should I tell Sabine to get Chopper and Ezra out first?”

“Mm, probably,” he agrees, pulling her in for a quick kiss before releasing her to comm the kids.

“How long?”

“As long as they’ll stay out.”

Chapter Text

The first time he’s allowed to walk freely (“free” being a loose term, but he hardly counts the bright-haired girl as a substantial threat; she can’t use the Force and doesn’t have the authority the Commander does), he sees Ezra’s leg.

“Can I ask?” he signs, careful to keep his hands low to avoid Sabine’s attention.  Ezra nods, inhaling deeply.

“Before...before Kanan and Sabine and the rest of us came to the Rebellion….We were back on– on Lothal for a while.”  The apprentice slows, tensing momentarily until he feels Sabine’s gaze on him, hand drifting to her blaster. He resumes his former pace again.  “Dolsher, ah, he found me. Again. And then I got away, I mean Hera– Hera helped too, she helped a lot—“

“Who’s Hera?” he interrupts.

“The Twi’lek woman who’s always in the meetings.”  The apprentice nods, and Ezra continues. “But she and Kanan had to go to town to get something, and...and they found me.  I stayed behind, and– and some of his men came, and took me and I– I got away again, but...there was an accident, with the speeders.  Kanan saved me, but my leg….We couldn’t risk going to a med center or anything, so he had to amputate it with his ‘saber.”

The apprentice nods again, then risks another question.  “Why couldn’t you? The Force?”

Ezra shakes his head.  “No, I just...it...my documentation,” he finishes lamely.  “It’s not...not official. We need to get a new set anyway, the old set got destroyed in the crash.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Sabine remains silent as they continue, and Ezra’s the one who speaks next.  “Do you wanna spar or– or something?” His real question is easy to hear. Sparring would be the only way they could talk unheard for sure, even counting the sign language they developed years ago.  He nods.

Ezra confidently leads the way to the cargo bay of the freighter.  He introduces it as the Ghost, cracking a wide smile as he glances around.  The apprentice can almost believe that he’s genuinely happy.

But no.  Peace is a lie.  He knows that now.

“You don’t have your lightsaber.”

The sentence is more a statement of fact than anything, but the apprentice nods regardless.  “I don’t.”

“Um...we might have some training staffs, I can see….”

“I have one.  I know Kanan’s got one too because we’ve practiced a couple times together,” Sabine finally pipes up from the crate she’s sitting on.  “Want me to comm him?”

“Sure,” Ezra answers.

She holds her wrist comm up to her mouth, speaking into it quietly, and the apprentice signs quickly again to Ezra while she’s occupied.

“Is he going to be okay with this?”

Ezra nods.  It does little to ease the apprentice’s worry.

Still, Kanan eventually gives permission, and Sabine leaves to grab the staffs.  The apprentice lets loose a loud sigh, leaning back against one of the crates as he looks around.

“This is the ship you live on?” he asks aloud.

“Yeah.”  A pause, and then, “You could maybe stay here, too, once...once they trust you.”

He lets loose a breathy laugh, shaking his head.  “Hate to break it to you, but they won’t. Not now, not ever.”  He shoots Ezra a glance out of the corner of his eye, signing his next words.  “I’m an Inquisitor. Sure, maybe I hated them all, but I still did what they asked.  I still treated them as if they were my masters.”

“That’s because they were.   You didn’t have a choice, Jai,” Ezra responds aloud.

The apprentice replies in sign again.  “In their eyes, I still could’ve fought back.  They don’t understand what the system does to you.  They never will.”

Ezra opens his mouth to retort but Sabine comes sliding down the ladder at that exact moment, brandishing the staffs.  “Here.” She tosses one to Ezra, who catches it easily, and approaches the apprentice to hand him his. “Don’t hurt anyone,” she says softly, gaze locking with his for a moment.  He nods in assent and she releases the staff into his grip, stepping back and retreating to her former perch.

Ezra backs away, getting into a defensive position as the other teen follows suit.  They reach a silent consensus on when to start and move forward as one, staffs blurring.

It’s over quickly.  Ezra’s lying on his back in seconds, the wind knocked out of him.  The apprentice offers a hand.

“Thanks.”

He only nods in reply to Ezra and retreats again, getting into position.

This time, they stay locked in close combat longer, the apprentice purposely dragging it out so they can talk without Sabine overhearing.

“Where are your ownership papers?”

“My what? ”  Ezra breaks off, startled, and the apprentice barely stops his attack from smacking his friend in the face in time.

“Ownership documents.  You know,” he continues after they re-engage, “what proves Kanan owns you.  I can slice them, alter them, forge different ones, whatever. I’ll get us out of here.”

Ezra only shakes his head before attacking with renewed fervor, this time knocking the apprentice down.  The apprentice smirks as he rises, shaking his head slightly to clear it.

“You got better,” he comments.

“Kanan’s a good teacher,” is all Ezra says in reply before moving to attack again.

They spar so long he’s not sure when Ezra strips his shirt off in an attempt to help with the sweat.  It doesn’t, not really, but maybe it wasn’t really for that. It just as well might have been a gesture of trust to both him and Sabine; the way he balled the sweaty garment up and threw it at the girl was enough to make her laugh but only confused the apprentice.  For all he knows, the girl’s a slave here, too, just with higher status. Maybe she’s simply adapted, just like Ezra clearly has. In any case, it doesn’t serve to alleviate the apprentice’s unease, only makes him silently wish he were alone. It’s not that he doesn’t trust Ezra enough to take his own shirt off, but the girl’s here, too, and this isn’t Ezra’s ship.  Anyone could walk in at any time. And the apprentice isn’t getting hurt again. He also doesn’t particularly trust Ezra’s judgement right now. Until he does, and until he knows for sure he can trust everyone else here—neither of which appear to be happening any time soon—he’s fine just how he is.

The apprentice hears footsteps on the terrace level above them at one point during another round of sparring and his head whips around, giving Ezra the opening he needs to knock him off his feet.  He rises quickly, watching as Kanan slides down the ladder and approaches. Ezra smiles widely as the man comes closer, relaxing his grip on the staff, but the apprentice only watches with narrowed eyes.

“Ezra, In– Ezra’s friend,” the Jedi says cordially, nodding to both of them.  The slip-up would almost be easy to miss were it not for the way Kanan’s smile seems to be more plastered on than anything at the sight of the apprentice.  He only nods.

“Do you wanna see us spar?”

Ezra’s tone is excited, almost too excited.  He sounds more like an anooba pup than an almost 17-year-old.

Kanan nods regardless.  “Of course.” He squeezes Ezra’s shoulder lightly before moving past to sit next to Sabine as Ezra takes up his ready position once more.  The apprentice settles into his own after a moment, breathing out slowly.

“Ready?”

He nods.

Ezra makes the first move, lunging forward, and the apprentice lets him get the first blow in easily.  He stumbles back, barely raising his staff in time to weakly deflect Ezra’s next strike. When he makes a third, the apprentice doesn’t stop him.  He falls with a grunt, wincing as he gets up.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he mutters, wincing again.  Better for Kanan to think he’s weak, that even Ezra can defeat him.  If it seems like he’ll punish Ezra for a display of strength like that, the apprentice can always step in there, too.  For now, it’s best if they underestimate him.

“Do you need to go to the medbay?” Ezra presses, brows knitted together in concern.  The apprentice shakes his head, only for Kanan to rise and approach.

“Let’s go just in case.  That looked like a bad fall.  No harm in getting checked out, yeah?”

He doesn’t dare argue with the Jedi while Ezra’s here and in range.  He nods silently.


“Well, you look okay...but when was the last time you had a full check-up?”

Jai immediately bristles.  “I’m okay.”

“You should probably get one in case,” Ezra says softly.  His friend shoots him a glance, a wild, fearful gaze in his eyes.

“No—“

“The kid’s got a point.  I think you should, just in case they missed anything last time,” Kanan says.  His voice is firm. Ezra can tell Jai’s heard that tone before with the way he flinches.  He wants to sign that it’ll be okay, that he doesn’t have to agree to it if he really doesn’t want to, but he’s already turning back to the medic and inhaling deeply.

“Alright.  Fine. I’ll do it.”

The medic gives him instructions and he follows them to the letter, gaze flickering fearfully to both Kanan and the medic periodically.  He avoids looking at Ezra completely.

However, when she asks him to take his shirt off, he stiffens, shaking his head wildly.  “N– no.”

“It’s only for a couple of minutes, just so—“

“I won’t,” he snaps.  His frustration and fear swell in the Force, and Kanan takes a step forward.  At the movement, Jai stiffens once more, swallowing before nodding slowly.  He pulls his shirt off slowly, avoiding everyone’s gazes and ignoring the quiet gasps.

Kanan takes half a step forward at the sight of the scars littering Jai’s chest and shoulders, fury at the ones who did this to the boy surging.  However, Ezra can tell that Jai clearly can’t feel the distinction when he flinches back, blinking and staring determinedly at the floor.

“Who gave you these?” the medic asks quietly.  Jai shrugs.

“People.”

“Do you know who?”

“Just people, okay?!  I know four of them are dead anyway!” he snaps, still glaring at the ground.  His fists clench and unclench sporadically.

“Alright,” the medic says, leaving it at that.  She continues her exam.

Chapter Text

The apprentice tries not to flinch as the medic carefully probes one of his more recent bruises, still not quite faded.  “Does this hurt?”

Without moving otherwise, he nods.  “Yes.” He just wishes she would stop touching his throat, stop reminding him of the bruises already there—

“Are you sure you can’t tell me who did this?”  She shoots a glance at Kanan. “We can talk wi—“

“It wasn’t him.  I killed her a week ago,” he interrupts, eyes flashing.  “And the others are long gone.”

“...alright.”  She finally leaves the bruise alone and he lets loose a shuddering sigh, shoulders slumping in relief.

“Can you turn around?”

He nods, sliding off the exam table and turning, trying to ignore the fact he’s more vulnerable while he can’t see them.

Hearing gasps from behind him, the apprentice resists the urge to turn, only shifting his weight.

“The, ah, tattoo on your back, whe—“

“It’s my ID,” he snaps.

“And the cog…?”

He doesn’t respond.

Kanan clears his throat.  “He was with the Empire for a while before he defected,” he offers.

The apprentice shakes his head.  “No. I got it before the Inquisitorius.  My old own– owners gave it to me.” He feels someone shift behind him, likely Ezra.

The medic makes a sound of uncertain understanding, and once more the apprentice wishes this could already be over and done with.

“Before you...defected, how often did they feed you?” she asks.  The apprentice shifts his weight again, turning to look slightly over his shoulder to see her tapping away on a datapad, likely taking notes.  He shrugs, turning back around fully.

“Every day, I think.”

“And how many meals…?”

“It depended on what I was doing.  In the Inquisitorius, usually just once or twice.  Before, two or three times, unless it was one of the rest days.”

There’s an oddly quiet pause before the medic resumes tapping away on her ‘pad, clearing her throat once more before she walks past to set it on a nearby counter.  “You know what a stethoscope is?”

“Yeah.”  He nearly adds I’m not stupid but refrains, remembering how close Kanan is to Ezra.  Anything he does right now could very well have consequences.

“Good.  I need you to take deep breaths for me.”  The cool metal touches his back as she resumes her place behind him again and he barely resists flinching, unleashing a shuddering breath.  His next breath is deeper, more even, but he can feel the unease in the room as he curls and uncurls his hand in an effort to remain calm.

“Turn around please.”

He obeys, fixing his gaze firmly on a spot to the right of Kanan’s head.  He inhales and exhales at the same rate as before, trying to ignore the way his mind is screaming for him to run, to get away before he’s hurt again.

They’ll just hurt Ezra if you do that.

Finally the medic steps back, one of her lekku twitching slightly from behind her as she removes the stethoscope.  “You can put your shirt back on.”

“Thank Force,” he mutters under his breath, nearly whirling to grab the garment and yanking it over his head.

“I just need to run a few more tests and ask you a few more questions, alright?”

He stiffens but finally nods, remembering Ezra.  “Yeah.” He can’t help but watch her closely, gaze narrowing slightly as she collects medical instruments.  He knows what they’re for, knows this is only a routine check-up that he should’ve been given a while ago, but he also knows just what else they can be used for.  The Inquisitorius taught him that well enough.

“Have you taken any drugs since the last time you had a check-up?” she asks without turning.  He blinks in surprise before shifting his weight, swallowing.

“I– ye– yeah.”

“Which ones?”

“Uhh...I didn’t get the chance to see most of the time, but skirtopanol I think, uhh….not sure about the others.  Heard someone mention a lot of it was mixed, so I’m not sure how they kept it from—“

He falls silent at the looks on their faces.  Ezra doesn’t seem surprised, but Kanan’s face is full of concern and fury in an odd mixture.  The medic, however...she looks like she’s struggling not to break her composure. And losing.

“Alright,” she finally says, with forced cheerfulness.  She turns back to the counter, though he can see her hands shaking even from behind.

She turns back around, setting her tray on the exam table behind him.  He shoots a quick glance to it, intending not to spare much attention for it.

When he sees the syringe, however, he freezes.

“Wh– what’s that for?”

“I need to run some blood tests, just in case.  To make sure the drugs are—“

“No.”  He shakes his head, starting to back away.  He catches Kanan stiffen but ignores him. “No.  I’m not– I’m not doing any blood tests.”

“I just need to make sure that your—“

“And I said no,” the apprentice snarls.

“Jai,” Kanan warns.  He shoots a wild glance at the Jedi, eyes narrowing.

“Don’t call me that,” he spits.

“Kid, then.  Just calm down—

“I’m not doing any kriffing blood tests,” he growls, shooting a glance at the door.  Kanan, the medic, and the syringe tray are all between him and it. He’s backing himself into a corner.  He’s trapped.

“Ezra, can you go outside?” Kanan calls over his shoulder.

“But I can—“

“Go outside, Ezra.  Now, ” the man orders more firmly.  The apprentice catches his wild nod before he scurries out, and an alarm goes off in his mind.

He’s going to get punished because of you he’s going to get punished because of you—

“I’m– I’m sorry,” he says suddenly, raising his hands.  “I’m sorry. I’ll do the blood test. Tests. All of them.  I’ll do– I’ll do all of them.” He shoots another glance at Kanan.  “I’m sorry.”

The Jedi watches him for a minute longer until the medic nods for him to return to the exam table.  He does so, swallowing anxiously as she turns her attention to the tray.

“Do you mind if I leave for a minute?  I need to check on Ezra.” The medic shakes her head, and Kanan exits.

Look what you’ve done now.   Ezra’s still going to get punished because of you.  Good job.


“I can calm him down, I can—“

No, Ezra!  He’s not himself right now, if he even ever is anymore.  He’s—“

“He’s just hurting!  He’s just scared and hurting and I can calm him down and—“

“I said no!

Ezra flinches back and nods hurriedly.  His gaze remains on the floor as he speaks softly, already starting to turn away.  “Oka– okay, Master.”

“Ezra—“

“May I go to my cabin?”

Kanan sighs.  “Yeah, sure kid.”

“Thanks,” he mumbles, walking away.  In the wake of Jai’s exam, the click-thump of his footsteps echo unnaturally loud on the durasteel.

He reaches the Ghost soon enough, entering silently.  However, he hesitates at the door to his room upon hearing a noise.

Having nothing better to do, Ezra decides to investigate.

He finds Sabine in the seat of the nose gun, hugging her knees tightly enough to look painful and mumbling to herself while she fails to hold in near-silent sobs.  He approaches and sits at the bottom.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” he asks after a long while.  She stops crying for long enough to shake her head mutely, sniffing.

“That’s okay,” he responds.

They sit in silence, Ezra watching the stars out the viewport while Sabine buries her head in her knees.

And for once, he thinks the silence might be okay.

Chapter Text

Rain.

The rain beats down, hard, slapping against the durasteel, and Ezra shudders involuntarily.  He wraps his arms around himself.

Get back here!

He turns to the shout, shivering again.  His teeth chatter in the bitter cold and he takes a step forward in a vain attempt to see through the fog.

Boy!  I said—“

There’s a sharp yelp before light sizzles in the distance, and Ezra blinks before trying to push through it further.  It feels like a marsh, holding his feet and pulling him down as he sludges through it.

He sees the source of the light and the yelp.

A tall figure, brandishing a lightsaber at a fallen boy surrounded by the fog.  He cowers, breathing heavily.

“Jai,” Ezra breathes.  He takes a step forward, hand outstretched.

Glass.

“Jai!” he screams, raising a fist and pounding on the glass.  “Jai please Jai let me in Jai—!”

Jai turns, suddenly hearing him.  His eyes grow wide with fear and he throws a hand out.

“No—!

Ezra shoots upright in the bunk, breathing hard.  “Kanan?” he hisses into the darkness.

No answer.

His heart stills and his breaths grow shallow.  He slides his feet off the bunk, dangling them above the floor before dropping in a crouch.  The prosthetic slides halfway out from under him and he grunts, wincing as he straightens and rubs the place it joins his leg.  He glances around the cabin, the pain having jolted him fully back to reality.

Kanan’s in Hera’s room, he remembers now.  Kriff. He has no interest in interrupting them.

But….He could go to Jai’s cell by himself….

It’d be worth any of Sato’s possible punishments to do so.

He pads out of the room, not wanting to risk shoes even for his prosthetic.  He had discovered years ago, coincidentally with Jai and Zare, that shoes made your every move so much louder.  It’s much easier to slip by unheard without them.

As he silently keys the door shut behind him and turns, he jumps.  Kanan’s standing there, face barely visible in the emergency lighting of the Ghost’ s corridor.

“Did I wake you up?  I’m so—“

The man waves a hand in dismissal.  “You’re good, Ezra. I think it might’ve just been the dream you were having.”

“It wasn’t mine.”

Kanan raises an eyebrow.  “No? Whose, then?”

“Jai’s, I think.”

“It didn’t feel like one of yours.”

Oh.  So he’d felt the nightmare, too.

“It’s Jai’s, then,” he confirms quietly.  “Where is he?”


They meet Ahsoka in front of the cell.  The boy is curled up inside the cell, facing away from them and shuddering sporadically.

“How long has he been like this?” Kanan asks in a hushed voice.

“A while,” she responds, equally quiet.  Her gaze flicks away from Kanan and his Padawan to the shuddering boy in the cell.  “He woke me up a couple of hours ago.”

“We came almost as soon as we woke up,” Kanan says.  Out of the corner of her eye, she catches him watching Jai, too.

“Can I go in to him?  I might be able to help.”

Ahsoka shakes her head before Kanan can even open his mouth to reply.  “No. He doesn’t know where he is right now; the nightmare is too intense.  I can try getting through to him, however, if you both think that would help.”

Kanan glances at Ezra, who shrugs.  “Sure.”

“Alright.”

She keys into the cell, and as she approaches the boy, Ezra clears his throat.  “Why isn’t anyone else awake?”

“I think he might have just affected the Force-sensitives.”  She falls silent, kneeling next to the metal shelf Jai shudders silently on.  Ahsoka inhales slowly, closing her eyes and reaching out with the Force.

Pain.

Bright, blinding pain.

Everything hurts.

Red red red red red red re—

Focus.

She makes herself move through the haze of dream and memory that makes up the boy’s tortured mind, trying not to wince as she feels him shudder at the presence.

I’m here to help.

It’s several excruciating moments before he finally relaxes enough that she can move through the thick tangle of emotions again, stepping carefully between his anger at her and his anger at the female Inquisitor he’d called the Seventh Sister.

When he subconsciously pulls her into the memory, there’s no warning.

Only pain pain pain fear fear fear terror “call memasterboyoryou’llregretit” burning on his back his chest his knees she wrenches his head back by the hair takes his chin jerks it up he spits at her and then he screams—

She forces herself out of the memory, shaking.  She’d known it was bad, but...knowing and actually being there are two different things.

Ahsoka forces herself onward.

“Is that food?  Kriffin’ answer me, one of you, unless you want another beating!  Where did you get that?”

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!”

“Please please please don’t nooo no no nononopleasedon’tplease—”

“Where’s Hawk?!  What are you– where is he!?  Tell me!”

“Get in there, boy, before I decide you need some more encouragement.”
“Get up.”

His mind is a maze, no, worse than a maze.  Mazes make sense at some point, at least. His mind, however, makes none.

Half the snatches of speech she catches unsettle even her, the one who survived the Slaughter of Coruscant.

And the speech isn’t even the most disturbing part.

There’s also the sounds.

Whimpering, undoubtedly the boy’s, is punctuated by random yelps and screams.  The unmistakable crackling snap of an electrowhip, followed almost immediately by the hissing whoosh of an ignited lightsaber.

More screams from the boy.

Ahsoka hears pounding feet and turns, watching as a shadow darts past, the boy shooting a glance full of terror over his shoulder.

“Get back here!”

She follows.

He skids around a corner, screeching to a halt as he enters the line of sight of a Rodian guard.  The man raises his blaster, yelling something she can’t make out, and stuns the boy before he even has a chance to turn around.

Ahsoka turns away.

She needs to calm him.  She needs to calm him now, before he starts broadcasting to the non-Force-sensitives aboard the ship.  Sighing inwardly, she begins to weave through his mind once more, pushing with the Force for him to deepen his sleep.

It takes a long, long time, but eventually, it works.

She emerges from the trance with a shaky sigh, swallowing and massaging her temples as she straightens and turns to Kanan and Ezra.

“Well?” the man asks, raising an eyebrow.

“I think he’ll be okay for a bit.  He’s sleeping more deeply now.” Ezra nods.

“Th– thanks.”

She nods in return, exiting the cell and putting the rayshield back up behind her.  She and Kanan start to walk down the hall when Ezra clears his throat from behind.

“Can I– can I stay?  Just– just outside the cell, so he wo– won’t panic when he wakes up.”

Ahsoka hesitates before nodding with a careful glance at Kanan.  “If he thinks it’s okay.”

“If Ahsoka says it’s okay, it’s okay.”

Ezra offers a wide smile, nodding hurriedly.  “Thank you.”

She smiles back.

Chapter Text

“Jai’s been doing better.”

“That’s good,” Hera murmurs, not looking up from her datapad.  It’s okay; Kanan still knows she’s paying attention to him. Just as she knows he’s paying attention to her while working on the underside of the console.

“Sato said they’re thinking of letting him leave the cells soon.”

Hera pauses in her typing before lowering the datapad, quirking a brow at him.  “Where would they move him to? Crew quarters?”

He sighs, running a hand through his hair.  “That’s...what I was going to ask you, actually.  Ezra told me he wanted him to stay in his room, if...that’s okay with you and Sabine.”  She holds his gaze for a long moment before finally shrugging, returning her attention to the datapad.

“Sure.  If you think it’s safe.”

“You’re not worried about my judgement?”

She snorts.  “Not right now, at least.  Though you’d better act quick before I change my decision.”

He cracks a smile and nods.  “Thanks. I’ll let them know.”


“Do you want the top bunk or the bottom bunk?”

The apprentice glances between the two, frowning slightly.  “I don’t care. You pick.”

Ezra sighs.  “Alright, you okay with the top?  With my leg….”

He nods quickly.  “Sure. Yeah.”

Ezra moves to a drawer nearby, pulling it out and nodding.  “This is yours, if you want it.”

“Thanks.”  The apprentice approaches, placing the folded set of clothes they gave him at Supply into it before turning back to Ezra.  “What’re we doing now?”

The other boy shrugs.  “I dunno. Whatever you want, I guess.  They didn’t tell us to do anything, so I mean.”

His eyes narrow.  “But we have to stay in our room, right?”

“No.”  Ezra shakes his head.  “We can go walk around, if you like.”

He smiles slightly.  “I– I would.”


“Where’s Jai from?”

“Lothal.”

“And how did he get those scars again?”  His Padawan is silent, and Kanan takes the hint.  “Alright then, ah...when was the last time you saw him?  Before….”

The teen swallows thickly.  “At the auction.”

“The one Chopper and I—”

“No.  The first one.”

“First….”

“Yeah, the first one,” he mutters, eyes flashing.  He’s suddenly irritable, and Kanan can feel the flicker of annoyance that surges through the bond at his apparent incompetence.  Deeper than that, however, he can feel the true cause of it.

“And why...why didn’t you stay with him?  I mean, if you’d stayed with him that far….I would think they’d try and keep you together for...efficiency.”  The words grate on his throat, his tongue, his ears, but there’s something about the whole situation that’s been bothering him since the beginning.  Something more than the obvious.

Ezra mumbles an answer, eyes flicking to the ground.

“What did you say?”

Ezra meets his gaze, but Kanan nearly regrets it; the look in the boy’s eyes is haunted, more so than he’s ever seen.  “He...he sold fast.” The kid swallows, blinking. His voice wavers when he speaks again. “They said he was pretty.”

Oh.

Oh.

“Ezra, I– I’m sorry, I didn’t know—”

He shrugs, rising from the booth behind the dejarik table.  “You couldn’t have. He doesn’t talk about it to anyone else.  And I’m not the one you need to be apologizing to. I was okay.”

He moves to grasp the boy’s arm.  “Ezra, neither of you were, you don’t need to compare yourself to him, it’s not a competition—”

Just as quickly, he jerks his arm out of Kanan’s grip, gaze still fixed on the floor.  “I know it’s not. I also know that I had it better than a lot of the others.” Before Kanan can say another word, Ezra leaves, silence in his wake.


“Are you and Kanan and Jai leaving?”

He jumps at Sabine’s question, nearly dropping the hydrospanner.  “Sor– sorry, what? What did you say?”

“I asked if you, Kanan, and Jai are leaving soon.”  She hands Ezra a bolt, and he disappears under the floor again.  “I won’t tell anyone, you know. You can trust me.”

“I know that,” he responds, voice muffled by the durasteel above and pipes surrounding him.  He shifts underneath the floor, trying to squeeze an arm between two pipes in order to reach the broken mechanism.  “But I dunno if we’re leaving or not. I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Sorry?” he asks again, head popping up as he places the old bolt on the floor.  He retreats once more.

“Why aren’t you?”

“I just don’t think Kanan really wants to, not anymore.  I mean, he and Hera are good again, I think—” Sabine snorts from above, muttering some cynical comment about an “understatement—” “and then Sato’s finally not getting on his nerves as much, and I’m settling in, and Jai’s settling in, and he trusts you again, and Chopper’s at least not mad for once—”

“And you think he doesn’t still want to protect you?”

Ezra reappears, brow furrowed.  “Of course he does.”

“That’s the whole reason he wants to go out there, laserbrain,” she snorts, giving his shoulder a gentle shove.  He cracks a half-grin before pulling himself out of the tunnels beneath, perching next to her with his legs dangling over the side.  Her voice softens as she continues. “To keep you safe.”


“Are you and Ezra and Sabine leaving?”

Kanan’s brows shoot up in surprise.  “What do you mean, leaving?” he asks Hera, craning his neck back to look up at her.  She makes a noise of disapproval and gently tilts his head down again.

“Love, I can’t work on your braid when you do that.”

“Sorry,” he apologizes with a breathy laugh.  His voice sobers as he continues. “But what do you mean by leaving?  We’re not going anywhere.”

“Aren’t you?”  He feels her fingers, ungloved for once, continue to work through his hair, and he hates doing this to her.

“No.  No, we aren’t,” he lies quietly.

You can just ask her later.  Yeah. There’s always a later.  Always.

Chapter Text

“Ezra, can you come here?”

There’s a clatter from far off, a distant, “Coming!” and then the clink-thud of Ezra's hurried footsteps as he arrives in the cockpit.  “What is it?”

Kanan inhales sharply, looking up to meet the kid’s eyes.  “I got a job.”

“Doing what?”  The boy’s eyes are shining with excitement.  Kanan swallows, glancing down as he answers.

“Smuggling.  For– for a while.”  He looks back up to meet Ezra’s gaze.  The boy appears confused, head cocking slightly in contemplation.  It hasn’t hit him yet.

“For an organization.  We...we wouldn’t be back to the rebellion for a while.”

He sees the exact moment it hits him.

“Oh.”

Kanan nods, slowly.  “Yeah. We’re getting my documentation there, too, since we...don’t have the first set anymore.”

Swallowing, he nods.  “I...can I go tell Jai?”

Kanan hesitates before nodding again.  “Yeah. Just...come back quickly.”

“Okay.”

Ezra turns and leaves, footsteps much heavier than before.

Kanan’s heart sinks.


“I’m coming with you.”

Jai stands quickly.  Too quickly. Ezra begins to shake his head, opening his mouth to speak, but Jai cuts him off.

“I’m going with you, end of discussion.  We have to stick together.” Jai’s eyes are hard, gaze uncompromising.

It hurts Ezra to tell him no.

“I have to ask Kanan, I can’t– I can’t speak for him, Jai.  And until then, I’d assume it’s a no. I’m sorry—“

“I thought you said he wasn’t your master.”

Ezra blinks in surprise.  “Wh– what?”

“You heard me.  You told me Kanan doesn’t own you.”

“He...doesn’t.”  Ezra blinks again, confused.

“Then why do you have to ask for his permission?”

“I– I….”

Jai’s making a good point.  Why is he saying he has to ask Kanan?

Does he need to?

“Sure.  You can come,” he finally says, rubbing the back of his neck.  Jai cracks a grin, the biggest one Ezra’s seen from him since they found each other again.

“Good.”


“Do you want to come with us, Chopper?”

The droid turns, chittering before rotating its chassis to roll toward Kanan.  The man raises an eyebrow as Chopper continues to beep an exhaustive list of excuses.  Finally he raises a hand, jumping in when the droid slows down.

“Okay okay, you don’t have to.  I just wanted to ask, in case you did.”

The droid tips his dome down in an imitation of a nod.  Trilling quietly, Chopper rolls forward to gently nudge Kanan’s leg.  Smiling, he reaches down to briefly pat the droid’s dome.

“Thank you, Chopper.  For all of this,” he whispers.

The droid beeps, remaining quiet otherwise for a long moment.  Kanan’s beginning to think this is oddly uncharacteristic of the droid when Chopper pulls back, beeping sharply before ramming into Kanan’s shin on his way out.

“Kriffing— Chopper! ” he yells.  The droid only unleashes a maniacal chortle before zooming around a corner and off into the hangar of the Home.

Kanan sighs.


“What do you mean?”

“I got a job offer out near Mandalore, so Ezra and I, we’re going to go—“

Mandalore?   Kanan, do you even hear yourself?  Mandalore is controlled by—“

“I’m well aware of who it’s controlled by.”  Kanan sighs, running a hand through his hair as Hera continues to stare at him in open shock.  “I got a job working for them.”

“Kanan, what in the name of the Mother has gotten into you?!  You can’t just up and leave to go work for Crimson Dawn!”

“Actually, I can.  Ezra needs to be safe from the Empire, and this is about the furthest from the Empire.  There’s nothing they can do about Crimson Dawn and we all know it.”

“You really think this is best for Ezra?” she asks, voice softening.

“Yes.”

Hera shakes her head.  “He likes it here, Kanan, you know he does.”

“He also said he’s fine with leaving, too.  I’m just trying to keep him safe.

“But Kanan—“

“You can come with us, if you want,” he interrupts before she can bring up another point.  “I know them, I’ve worked with them before. They’re okay Hera, I promise.”

“They deal in slaves, ” she hisses.  “How is Ezra going to react to that?”

“He already knows,” he says calmly.  Hera’s brows shoot up in surprise and he rushes to explain.  “I ran a big job for them before with Ezra, that’s how we got him his documentation.  He lost it on Lothal, when he was kidnapped, so I’ve been meaning to get him another set.  And don’t worry, we’ll come back to visit, I promise. I can transmit creds and intel back to the rebellion, too.”

Hera stares at him for a long moment before finally sighing, shaking her head before hugging him tightly.  “You better come visit; I don’t want it to be like before,” she mumbles into his chest.

“I know,” he says softly, stroking her back.  “I’ll visit. Ezra will, too.”

She huffs a quiet laugh, pulling back just enough to look up at him.  “I assumed that was a given.”

Kanan smiles and pulls her back to him.

“Will you ever stop running?” Hera murmurs into him again.  His hand stills briefly before continuing as he swallows hard.

“Yeah.”

This time, even he doesn’t know if it’s a lie or not.


“You’re leaving?

“Yeah, apparently.”  Ezra sighs, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms as he tries to calm the roiling storm of emotions in his gut.  “Kanan told me this morning.” He removes his hands, folding them on the dejarik table and resting his chin on them.

“As in a couple hours ago?”

“I dunno.”  He shrugs as Sabine finally sets down her airbrush and steps back, admiring her most recent creation.  “It looks great.”

“Thanks.”  She turns away from the mural to face him once more, approaching and sitting in the booth seat next to him.  He shifts to allow her more room.

“It was at least three hours ago, I know that,” she says finally.  “He and Hera have been talking for at least that long.”

“Ew, don’t.  He’s like my dad. ”  Ezra buries his face in his arms as Sabine laughs, nudging him.

“He and Hera are like my parents, too, don’t worry,” she says, still trying to suppress a lingering laugh.

“You know who your parents are, right?”

“Yeah,” she answers, laughter quickly dying off.  Ezra raises his head enough to see her glance away, mouth twisting into a grimace.

“Can I ask what happened?”

She sighs, running a hand through bright hair.  “You know how Mandalore’s run by the crime syndicates in all but name, right?”

“Yeah.”

“They let the Empire set up a school there, on the condition that they would be left alone.  My parents, ah, decided to send me there. It just...when I left, it didn’t really go over well.”  She laughs bitterly. “Some of the enforcers got involved, some of the Imps, even some of the other clans...it just didn’t...work out.  We don’t really talk anymore.”

“Oh.”

“I mean, it could be a million times worse, it’s not...it’s not like they’re dead or anything, just...it’s not a good relationship.”  Sabine sighs again.

“But it’s still bad for you.  It’s not like...you don’t have to compare it to anything or anyone else’s, yeah?  It’s bad for you, so you left it. You didn’t– you didn’t have to deal with it any longer.  It’s not a contest.”

“I was okay.”

Kanan moves to grasp his arm.  “Ezra, neither of you were, you don’t need to compare yourself to him, it’s not a competition—”

Just as quickly, he jerks his arm out of Kanan’s grip, gaze still fixed on the floor.  “I know it’s not. I also know that I had it better than a lot of the others.”

Ezra adds hypocrite to the list of words he uses to describe himself.


“Where’s Jai?  I wanted to say bye to him.”  He wanted to come with us, too.

“Uh...I’m sorry, kid, I don’t—“

“He’s in a debriefing,” Hera interrupts, arriving.  Sabine trails slightly behind.

“Ahsoka’s there too, I’m guessing?” Kanan asks.  Hera nods in reply.

“Yes.”

Ezra’s mouth twists into a slight frown.  “Oh.” He glances up at Kanan. “Can we wait until they’re out of the meeting?”

Kanan hesitates before shaking his head.  “No. We need to go now, kid; it’s a long flight and I need to be at the interview on time.”

Ezra nods, shoulders slumping slightly.  “Okay.”

Sabine takes a step forward, hesitating.  Ezra senses her intention and moves to complete the hug.

“Promise you’ll comm every day.”

“Yeah,” he replies, and they break apart.

He hugs Hera next, swallowing hard when he pulls back.

“Kanan can finish your flying lessons,” she smiles sadly.  He nods.

“Th– thanks.”

He looks between her and Sabine, swallowing again.

Only a couple of years ago, he wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with them.  He would’ve been too terrified to even look them in the eye.

Now, however….

Ezra glances up at Kanan.  “I’m ready to go.”

Kanan nods, squeezing his shoulder lightly and beginning to turn when a shriek echoes down the corridor.  The quartet turns as one to see Chopper careening around a corner, waving his manipulators wildly as he slams into Kanan’s leg.  The Jedi curses loudly, staggering back. “Chopper, what the kriff?!

The astromech rolls back, beeping shrilly about Kanan abandoning him and Hera.  Ezra watches, raising an eyebrow.

“Chopper?” he interrupts finally.  The droid halts his stream of obscenities and turns, trilling.  “Can I say goodbye to you?”

The droid warbles in the affirmative immediately, rolling forward to Ezra as the boy kneels as well as he can with his prosthetic and hugs the droid tight.

“I’m going to miss you,” he whispers.

The astromech pulls away too soon.  Ezra gets to his feet, wincing slightly at the pull on his leg.  He returns his gaze to Kanan. “I’m ready.”

Kanan nods, turning with him.  However, upon reaching the Ghost ’s ramp, he hesitates before turning and rushing back.  Ezra turns to watch as Kanan reaches Hera, says something too quiet to hear, and kisses her.

They leave soon after, and Ezra returns to his cabin as soon as they’re in hyperspace.

He passes Sabine’s mural on the way.

Chapter Text

“Wait, we’ve been here before.”

Kanan nods in confirmation as he follows Ezra toward the cargo bay.  “We have.”

“Back...a while ago, right?”

“Mhm.”  He hits the controls for the ramp and turns to call Chopper.  And then he remembers.

Chopper isn’t here.

None of them are.

Suppressing a sigh, Kanan turns back to the ramp and takes the lead as they head out into the space station.

“So who are we meeting?  You still haven’t told me.”

“My employer,” he responds, glancing down at the boy and smiling.  This is just the first step. Soon, Ezra will be safe. The Empire won’t be able to find them all the way out here.

“I thought you still had to do the interview.”

“I do.  But he said I’ll likely get it; I’m apparently one of the few who actually did the application right.”

“Oh.”

They lapse into silence as they continue through the station, Kanan keeping a careful eye on Ezra.  The boy glances around, gaze shifting minutely every half second as he absorbs everything around him and files it away for further reference.

He wants to tell Ezra that he’s safe here.  But they aren’t out of the woods yet. The kid still needs his documentation drawn up, and until then, if anyone somehow catches sight of the scars on his neck or tattooed back, he’s at risk.

Kanan will just make this quick.

They reach a lift that seems to be in a slightly more respectable area of the station.  Kanan ushers Ezra in, pressing the button for the level they need.

Ezra glances up at him as the doors shut.  “Have you met him before?”

“Who?”

“The guy you’re about to start working for.”

“Oh.  No.” He shakes his head.  “I know him by name only. Last job we worked for him was through an underling.”

“Oh.”

The lift reaches their target level and halts with a quiet ding, the scuffed doors opening to reveal a much more sophisticated level than the ones below.  He catches Ezra’s blink of surprise as they step out and into the lobby, a few other beings moving about. The pair moves further into the room as Kanan tries to remember the specific instructions on the transmission he’d received a few days prior.

He knows, both from the clothing of the beings around them and the looks the pair is receiving, that they stand out.  Kanan’s gray trousers and dark shirt, combined with a clearly-aged overcoat, isn’t exactly up to the same standard as the lavishly dressed beings around them.  The fact that Ezra’s dressed similarly, minus the overcoat, doesn’t help either.

They continue to weave through the room, Ezra now not bothering to hide his awe at the opulence of the place.  Kanan catches several questionable glances toward the teen, returning each with a hard glare.

Alright, so maybe he’ll stay on the ship next time.

“Are you lost?”

He turns at the voice to see a young human woman, looking barely older than Ezra with a tight-fitting dress.  She cocks her head, repeating her question.

“No.  We’re here to meet with Maul, about the job application,” Kanan answers in a firm tone.  “We know where we’re going, thanks.”

“His office is the other way,” she points out in a neutral tone.

Kriff.

“Alright,” he finally concedes.  “Can you show us?”

She nods, turning.  As she does so, he catches a glimpse of the brand on her forearm, and understanding dawns on him.

The crowd clears for her and her charges for the most part; she ignores the glances thrown her way.  They reach a small set of double doors at the far end of the room, blocked by a pair of Mandalorians.

“He’s here for the application,” she says.  The guards nod as one enters a code into the keypad and moves aside when the doors slide apart.  The young woman moves to enter and Kanan follows her. However, when Ezra tries to do the same, Kanan catches the sound of a pair of blasters cocking.

He turns to see Ezra flinching back in the face of both weapons, shooting a nervous glance up at Kanan.

“Let him through,” he orders.

“Lord Maul said to only allow you and your crew.  He said nothing about a slave,” a guard replies.

“Ezra’s not a slave.  He’s the crew I mentioned, my son.   I suggest you put the blasters down before I help you do so.”  It takes all his restraint not to growl outright, especially when they hesitate before lowering them.

Kanan nods at the question in Ezra’s eyes, and the boy rushes forward to join him.  The girl turns around again and leads them into the large study.

A tattooed red Zabrak sits studying a datapad at the desk at the far end, only looking up when they’re a few feet away.  “I thought I said only the captain and his crew,” he says in a low, dangerous voice.

Kanan doesn’t need to be connected with the Force to see the anxiety gnawing at the girl before them.

“Ezra is my crew,” Kanan cuts in.  The man’s gaze flickers to him briefly before returning to the woman.

“Is this true?”

She nods.  “Yes, sir.”

“You are dismissed, then.”  She exits without another word, and Kanan returns his full attention to the man before them.

“You’re Maul?” he asks.

“Yes.  Mr. Jarrus?”  Kanan nods. “Remind me of the boy’s full name again, I forget.”

“Bridger,” Ezra answers for himself, swallowing as his gaze flickers briefly up to Kanan.  “Ezra Bridger.” Maul seems mildly surprised at the boy’s forwardness but doesn’t comment further.

“You may go, Ezra.  I only require your captain for this conversation.”

“N–“

“Mr. Jarrus.”  Maul’s voice is suddenly cold, and Kanan stiffens.  “It will only be for a few minutes. If you want this job, you will listen to everything I have to say.”

Hesitating, Kanan finally concedes and nods before glancing at Ezra.  “I’ll be right out, okay?”

The teen nods, expression carefully blank.  It worries Kanan, but before he can say another word, Ezra is already nearly at the exit.  Two more Mandalorian guards enter as he leaves, the doors shutting quietly behind them. Kanan sighs, turning back to Maul.

“Sit.”  Kanan takes the chair the older man nods to, waiting in silence as the man scrolls through a datapad.  Finally he looks up.

Kanan isn’t expecting Maul’s next words.

“He’s quite a handful, is he not?”

Kanan blinks, raising an eyebrow.  “Who is?”

“The boy.  Ezra, I believe you called him?”

Kanan stills.  “What about him?”

“It says he has ‘behavioral and health issues.’  Or had, at any rate.  Have you managed to solve those?”

He swallows.  “I...I don’t understand what you mean.  Where did you—“

“We keep all our records from past transactions, Mr. Jarrus.  As a smuggler yourself, I’m sure you can understand that.”

“I—“

“He does seem to have improved, however.  According to what the records state he was like originally, at the least.  He’s more docile, certainly.”

Anger flares in his chest as he rises and takes a step forward, placing a hand on the man’s desk.  At the shifting of the guards’ weapons, however, he stands down. “Ezra isn’t docile,” he growls, gaze darkening.

Maul only shrugs, voice mild when he responds as his gaze drops back to the datapad.  “If you say so.”

Chapter Text

It’s easy enough for Ezra to gain access to the ventilation shafts.

He merely slips away after the girl who escorted them there leaves, finding his way into one of the maintenance corridors and running down it.  When he rounds a corner, nearly smacking straight into a droid, it simply says, “Maintenance is required on the east-west vents’ intersection.” It’s only too easy to slip back into his former role.  He thanks the droid, dropping his gaze and his volume, and runs off again.

The trickiest part of the whole endeavor is actually getting around in the vents.  It takes him a long while to orient himself, and even then he has to reach out for Kanan’s signature—shielded from everyone but him, like normal—to confirm he’s going the right way.

It doesn’t take long to get there once he knows where he’s going, however.  Once at his destination, he lays down just behind the grate, peering through it at the pair below.

A sneeze hits him.

He gets just enough warning to stop it from slipping out, wrinkling his nose and holding his breath.  In fact, he’s so focused on preventing the sudden noise, that he doesn’t realize that Kanan’s speaking at first.

“—re for his documentation and a job, nothing else.”

“I ask that you reconsider,” Maul’s smooth voice echoes up into the vents.  “I know you view him as...more than merely a slave, and I will do the same. I would take very good care of him, of course; he would not come to any undue ha—“

“No.  Ezra’s not for sale.  I—“

“I understand that you’re attached to him, Mr. Jarrus.  But understand that the documentation re-issuing fees are expensive.  You could simply take the loss as a gain instead.”

Silence.

The hair on the back of Ezra’s neck stands up as he breathes out shakily, sneeze forgotten.  He listens for Kanan’s response with bated breath.

There isn’t one, and Maul continues.

“It would waive the fees, of course, and then it would be one less thing to worry about, more than one, actually.  Less stress on you, and of course I would—“

He’s heard enough.  Ezra scoots back as silently as possible in the vent, shielding his signature even more and moving back until he can’t see the top of Kanan’s head anymore.  He gets to an intersection after what feels like too long and turns around, continuing to worm through the metal tunnels until he reaches another junction, this one wide enough to sit up in.

He pulls his knees right to his chest, gasping for breath as tears spring to his eyes.  At the first sniffle, his eyes widen and he bites down on his knuckle hard enough to distract himself, continuing to bite down in order to keep his sobs silent.  He rocks back and forth, trying to keep himself quiet and all too aware of the echoing quality tunnels have thanks to the mines.

No.  No. It’s not...it isn’t supposed to be like this.  He shouldn’t be... Kanan shouldn’t be...no.  It’s...no. No no no no no.   No.  He can’t– he can’t– he can’t—

No.

Kanan can’t be selling him.

But then again, Kanan didn’t say no at the end, either.


Kanan can’t even begin to articulate the fury storming through him at the moment.

The audacity the Zabrak has to have to even try and ask that, to ask if he would– if he would—

If he would sell his own son.

“I’m beginning to rethink my application,” he says in a hard, quiet tone.  Maul raises an eyebrow.

“Because of my more recent offer?  Because I do hope you know that’s all that it is, just...an offer.”

The Zabrak’s eyes gleam as he holds Kanan’s gaze, and the latter realizes that he’s trapped.

He can’t just up and leave.   They both know that.  Maul’s a tooka, and Kanan’s the mouse who was stupid and blind enough to walk right into his waiting paws.

And to drag Ezra right along with him.

If he leaves, if he leaves right here, right now, Maul has a multitude of options available.  He could simply have the guards shoot Kanan where he stands, or he could have them shoot the Ghost as soon as they leave.  And Crimson Dawn technically controls not only Mandalore, but half of the other syndicates.

And returning to the rebellion empty-handed would simply be a confirmation of everyone’s worst fears.

None of those options are accepting the horrid truth that Maul could just simply take Ezra from him, too.

However, Kanan’s fears only increase when he’s confronted with Maul’s next statement.

The man leans forward, voice dropping slightly.  “I know he has the Force, if that’s where your worry stems from.  I can help to alleviate that, too, you know. I myself have it, just as I know that you have it as well.”

Kanan’s blood runs even colder.

“Ezra doesn’t have the Force,” Kanan says quietly.

“Don’t bother lying.  I can sense it easily.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Kanan narrowly withholds a soft chuckle.  “I’m not. But I don’t want my son going with you.  He’s not property.

“Your apprentice, then.  Whatever you would like to refer to him as, though he’s clearly not your son.  I can train him. Better than you have been, clearly.  It was obvious when the boy entered the room; his shielding is easily the loosest I’ve seen from one so…‘trained.’”

Kanan shudders.

“Well he’s not for sale.  And he never will be.  Get that into your head,” he snaps.

He thinks Maul’s gaze darkens for a moment, but maybe he’s wrong; the expression is gone almost instantly.  The man holds up a hand.

“I take your hint.  Of course. My offer for training him still stands, however; if you’d like to hand his training off for even just a day.”

He holds Maul’s gaze, but doesn’t respond for a long moment.  Finally, when he’s absolutely sure he has his emotions under control, he gives a slow nod.  “Sure. I’ll think about it.”

He has no intention of thinking about it, of course, but Maul has no need to know that.

Maul offers him a rare, genuine smile.  “Shall we return to negotiations of the terms, then?”


When Kanan leaves the crime lord’s office almost forty minutes later, the girl has returned, and directs him toward Ezra.  The boy is standing at one of the windows surrounding the lobby, staring down at the scorched surface of Mandalore below. Kanan lightly brushes his shoulder after letting his awareness do the same to the boy’s mind without a reaction, and the kid jumps.

“Hi!” Ezra responds, oddly excitable.  He turns fully toward Kanan, raising a glass of red liquid.  Kanan stares at it suspiciously and, upon seeing the man’s look, Ezra explains.  “It’s just meiloorun juice. Don’t worry.”

He nods slowly.  “...I see.”

“You should try some.  Here, you can have some of mine.  They said it was on the house, since you were doing the interview and all.”

His Padawan seems oddly talkative, almost as if trying to defuse non-existent tension.  Maybe it’s simply a result of the juice. Kanan decides to roll with it.

“That’s great,” he says, smiling and squeezing the kid’s shoulder lightly.  He pretends not to notice the slight flinch, but makes a mental note to ask later.  “That’s really great. Ready to head back to the Ghost?

“Y– yep!”  He barely notices the stutter, and doesn’t want to press that at the moment, either.  Maybe the atmosphere here is too hectic for the boy. In that case, the Ghost should be a nice change of pace.

As they walk, Kanan realizes that Ezra hasn’t asked him how the rest of the meeting went.

Chapter Text

“What do you mean, ‘gone?’”

Jai laughs.  It’s a short, rough sound, reminiscent of warning yips Sabine has heard from striile back before she left the Academy.

“I mean they’re gone,” she says, suddenly hesitant.  The look in Jai’s eyes after she answers only confirms her reasons for wariness.

“No.  No, no they can’t be gone.”  His voice becomes more derisive as he speaks, shaking his head as a wild glint enters his eye.  “They can’t. You hear me? They can’t!   Ezra said– Ezra said he’d ask– he said that they wouldn’t—“

“Jai, I don’t know what Ezra said, and I don’t kriffing care to be honest, okay?!  They’re gone, and that’s what matters!”

The boy in front of her breathes heavily, chest visibly heaving.  The glint is even more prominent in his eyes now, accompanied by a quiet chuckle.  “And they didn’t think to tell me?”

“I thought you just said Ezra did—

“He said he would ask Kanan.”

“For what?

Jai scoffs.  “Permission.”

She stares at him for a long moment.  He meets her gaze, daring her to try and defuse the situation.  Finally he swallows, speaking again, the same acid present in his tone now as before.  “Then how did you find out?”

“He and Kanan told us.  The– the rest of us, I mean.  Hera, and– and Chopper– Chopper and me.”

“When.”

He’s demanding an answer, not asking a question.

“While you and Ahsoka and everyone else were in the meeting.”

His eyes darken instantly and he gives a stiff nod.  His fingers tighten into fists as he turns and stalks away.

“Jai.  Jai, wait—“ she starts, moving to reach after him.

“Don’t,” he warns.

She flinches at his tone and stops, watching as the furious boy strides off.


The apprentice ignores the waves of terror emanating from the ensign he speaks to only long enough to get his room assignment.  He only heads straight to the room, ignores the way his bags are still packed and ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and walks straight to the bunk.  He curls up on the corner of it closest to the wall, buries his head in his knees, and cries.

He’s failed.   Kanan took Ezra, Kanan took Ezra Kanan took Ezra Kanan took Ezra away and now for all he knows Ezra’s going to be sold, maybe to the same place he was and maybe Ezra’ll eventually make his way to the Inquisitors just like he did and he can still feel her fingers crawling up his back as she murmurs poison in lamblike tones before grabbing his neck, pulling his head up to face her as she digs her nails into his chin because are you damaged goods or are you an Inquisitor? and somehow he is both.

He has to get Ezra back.  To free him.

He thought, for a moment—for a single moment there, before there were even thoughts of leaving, he’d thought that Kanan had been different from the rest.  But no. Kanan isn’t.

He never was.

The apprentice swallows, forcing himself not to cry.  Crying is weak. Crying is what makes him vulnerable.

Don’t cry.  Just fight.

Find a way to free him.


“Ezra?”

Kanan hears a crash and a muffled, “I’m okay!” from the cargo bay.  Frowning to himself, he enters and peers over the balcony’s railing.

Ezra is pushing a crate away from himself, pausing to rub the sweat off his brow.  He glances around the cargo bay, and Kanan notices with a slight frown that he’s barely putting any weight on the prosthetic.  He’ll have to take a look at that.

When Ezra catches sight of Kanan he jumps, hurriedly turning back to the crates.  “I’m almost done,” he calls up, shoving the crate all the way away from him before resuming his journey with it to the opposite side of the cargo bay.  He reaches the end and walks back to the remaining crates without pausing, though Kanan can clearly see the work is taking a toll on him.

And then he coughs.

It’s a quiet, muffled noise; Ezra is clearly trying to hide it.  But it’s still enough to put Kanan on edge.

He moves to the ladder, sliding down it easily.  He turns to see Ezra working at an even faster pace now, eyes wide with an expression he doesn’t recognize.  Kanan moves toward him hesitantly. “Ezra? C’mere.”

Ezra’s hands leave the crate so fast it’s almost as if he was burned.  Hesitantly he approaches Kanan, swallowing hard. His gaze drops.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“What?  No, no, of course you didn’t Ezra, no.  You didn’t, don’t worry.”

“Oh okay.  I just thought...” Ezra trails off, scuffing his feet against the floor.  Kanan follows his gaze, catching sight of Ezra’s prosthetic again.

“How’s your prosthetic feeling?”

“It’s– it’s fine, I just—“

“You can be honest with me, Ezra.”

Swallowing again, the boy nods and sighs quietly.  “The stump is hurting a bit, and the pros– the prosthetic is getting stiff,” he admits, clearly reluctant.  Kanan nods encouragingly.

“Anything else?  Not just the prosthetic, but….”

“I’ve...been coughing again,” he says.

Oh kriff.