Luke had memorized the wire order beforehand. He repeated it to himself as he slyly moved about the Imperial base, one of the few left in the outer rim hindering the New New Republic’s progress.
Blue to green wire. Luke flattened against a wall as stormtroopers playing dress-up got dangerously close to eyeing his form in the shadows.
Green to white wire. Luke exhaled as the troopers passed, and he flicked a security camera with the Force. It moved in the opposite direction it was meant to, and Luke dashed to the next hallway. He was almost there.
White to red wire. He reached the door, and flattened against the side as it slid open. Officers dashed past without so much as catching a glimpse of him. Luke stuck his foot in the door before it could close, and sensed no life forms inside.
Red to green wire. The door opened due to Luke’s boot jamming it, and Luke slipped inside the control room. There were troopers on the opposite side of the room, hidden behind a door guarding the energy generator.
Green to blue wire. Luke crossed the room to the control board, located in the middle of the space. He rolled up his sleeve and removed his prosthetic glove. He tapped on the invisible button stuck to his wrist and watched the panel loosen. Luke pressed the button a second time, and his false skin cloaked itself, revealing the moving parts in his prosthetic hand.
Blue to red wire. He removed the pin holding his finger ligaments together and popped open the control board. He stuck the pin back inside his hand, his fingers snapping back into operation. He allowed the false skin back on his hand and stuck the glove on again.
He observed the control board, and saw that Lando’s mission to retrieve the information was indeed correct. Lando could be a real toss-up, so he hadn’t gotten his hopes up that this would work out.
Blue to green. Green to white. White to red. Red to green. Green to blue. Blue to red.
Luke plugged in the sequence and sensed that Ezra was nearby. On the other side of the energy generator room, in fact.
Luke touched his earpiece. “I’m in. Working on the sequence now.”
“Wow,” Leia remarked from her earpiece at base, “that was faster than I was expecting. Get caught?”
Luke tapped off the microphone in the earpiece and slowly intertwined wires. Blue to green, then green to white.
A comm link buzzed to life at the control desk. “Next shift begins in thirty seconds.”
“Blast,” Luke said flatly.
White to red, then red to green.
Ezra’s voice filled his earpiece. “You hear that too?”
“Yup,” Luke sighed, touching his ear. “I’m working on it.”
Two more left. He shut off the microphone.
Green to blue, and finally, blue to red.
When the sequence was completed, the entire room locked itself. Blast doors came down to fortify all three entrances and exits.
Luke sighed. He was expecting this.
He turned on his earpiece to a private channel. “Babe,” Luke said, “you’re up.”
He could practically envision Ezra’s grin. “I’m comin’, love.”
Luke heard a great deal of commotion all around him, from every door and every side. But none of them could get inside the room yet.
Ezra’s presence soon deterred them from getting to Luke, though. Luke heard shouts and exclamations of surprise, and knew that Ezra had gone to work.
Luke said to Leia at base, “I’m shut in. Ezra’s coming.”
“Is the energy core off?” Leia asked.
“Not yet,” Luke said, hearing a telltale hum inside the generator room. “Needs a minute.”
“Do you even have a minute?”
Blasters went off at a rapid rate, and he heard Ezra’s lightsaber singing a song as he deflected each shot. He was almost there, currently in the generator room.
“Uh huh,” Luke replied.
“Fantastic. Maybe I won’t slap Lando next time I see him,” Leia said sardonically.
Luke heard yelling suddenly silenced, a single thrumming lightsaber indicating that Ezra was outside the door.
The green blade cut through the blast door, a single strategic swipe forcing the lockdown to cease. The broken door slid open, and Luke checked the time.
“You’re a little late there, Ez,” Luke teased, leaning against the control desk.
Ezra caught his breath, green kyber highlighting his olive skin for a beat. He absently shut off his lightsaber and clipped it to his belt. He wore a black stealth suit like Luke, and some sweat had percolated on his forehead. Ezra swiped it with the back of his hand and glided towards Luke.
“Sorry,” Ezra breathed, “more traffic than I was expecting.”
Luke pushed off the desk and kissed Ezra’s cheek tenderly. “Hurt?”
Ezra grinned and shook his head. “I’m all good. You?”
“Hey,” Ezra’s eyes glimmered, “that doesn’t happen often, huh?”
Luke chuckled. “You’re right.”
Ezra’s smile lingered, and he said, “the generator is powering down. Let’s check on it.”
The broken door remained open, stuck due to Ezra’s lightsaber slash. The couple stepped inside the generator room, the energy core draining. Luke watched the blue meter go down to zero, the generator shutting off most of the lights. Only a few overhead lights powered manually remained to guide the way throughout the base.
Luke sensed Imperials trying to get inside the control and generator rooms, but Luke had effectively jammed the signal.
He touched his earpiece. “The generator is down.”
Leia tapped into a third feed from base. “You’re up, Sabine.”
Sabine’s excited voice broke through the feeds. “I’m ready to blow shit up, kids. I’m coming in.”
“Force,” Ezra remarked, “she worries me, sometimes.”
Luke nudged his head. “Bring her here. She has a lot to carry.”
Ezra nodded and went out the opposite way Luke came in, the route he used to enter the base.
Luke heard shouts from the control room, and his eyes widened. He went to investigate, a hand ghosting his lightsaber hilt.
Imperials were cutting through the blast doors. They were almost inside!
“Kriff,” Luke said dully.
He held the lightsaber in his hand, spinning it around between his prosthetic fingers. The oval was almost complete, and Sabine needed as much time as possible to set the charges.
Luke clenched his jaw, lingering in the doorway, prepared to guard it.
The oval was complete, and it dropped inside the control room with a loud clang. Blaster bolts resonated as stormtroopers ducked inside the space, and Luke ignited his green lightsaber.
In a single controlled twirl, he deflected five bolts aimed at his chest. Troopers ran inside and formed a line, commanding officers shouting orders from behind the oval.
Luke held his lightsaber diagonally, taking a deep breath. On his exhale, he closed his eyes and focused on the Force’s warnings.
Shouts were drowned out, and Luke sensed another volley of bolts erupt from blasters.
He opened his eyes, and time slowed down.
He arched his lightsaber in a parabola, blaster bolts deflecting against his blade as he completed the motion. Each bolt sailed back to the shooter, singeing stormtrooper armor as they fell neatly onto the durasteel floor.
A dozen more troopers replaced them and tried to rush him, blasters blazing.
Luke concentrated, deflecting back more bolts before they could reach him. Bodies crumpled near the control panel, putting plenty of space between them.
More troopers charged, and Luke dove low, slashing at an electrical panel. There was darkness, and Luke took advantage of it, using the Force to leap.
The emergency lights flickered on, and Imperials made noises of confusion. Heads looked in every direction, unable to hear the telltale hum of a lightsaber.
Luke didn’t breathe, using one arm to hoist him on the ceiling beams. He waited several beats, officers entering the room in droves. He absently noted that Ezra and Sabine’s presence could be detected through the Force, and they were setting the charges.
Luke reached the entrance that the Imperials cut open, and he dropped to the floor soundlessly. A commanding officer shouted at his emergence, but Luke already trapped the Imperials.
Shots were fired, and Luke used the Force to propel him forward. He deflected every bolt and spun like a dancer, arching his blade to mimic his movements. He caught blurs trying to rush him, running clumsily. He threw his flesh hand out, and a burst of Force energy ricocheted three running troopers into the control board, falling unconscious upon impact.
Luke’s survival instincts kicked in, but he did not fear or despair. He dove into the Force and allowed the invisible energy to bend to his will. It was his own hurricane, his own storm to command.
He switched lightsaber forms on the flip of a coin, making him unpredictable. Every shot aimed at him was far off by the time it was fired. The Force told Luke when to move and at what angle, and he went with the flow. He wasn’t sure who was commanding whom, but what mattered was that they were working together. It was a chaotic dance, but the balance was perfect, Luke deflecting blasts back at their targets, carrying these acts out in the Light.
Luke suddenly found himself on the control desk. He strode across the empty space and realized only three Imperials were left. None of them were firing.
Luke lowered his lightsaber, realizing how terrifying he must look to them. Red light was bathing the dark room, and his green lightsaber casting a glow upon his determined expression certainly wasn’t helping.
He dropped to the ground gracefully, looking upon their masks, wishing he could see into them.
But before he could ask if they would surrender, reinforcements arrived.
And their first targets were not Luke. The three blaster bolts that rocketed towards them dug into the troopers’ backs. The three Imperials who hesitated to fire fell to the floor, lifeless as their armor clanged on the durasteel.
Luke’s eyes widened, and he threw his fear into the Force before it could manifest.
He raised his lightsaber, and breathed.
‘Control,’ Ben would say. ‘Control,’ Yoda would say.
‘Control is everything,’ Ezra always reminded himself, when he thought Luke couldn’t hear.
Bolts flew across the air, and Luke deflected them back. He fell into the Force as if trust falling into a lake, and he let the serene water douse him.
Luke could hardly comprehend the speed and grace with which he moved. He didn’t know what direction he was in, didn’t know his location in the control room, but he knew this was good. It was not the Dark, but the Light guiding him, knowing what the best course of action was to take.
He couldn’t see, not really. It was a blur, but he was not afraid. He didn’t need his sight. It was the first lesson Ben taught him when he popped that helmet on his head, the blast shield blacked out. Eyes were not a necessity.
He couldn’t hear, sounds and words garbled as if in an echo chamber. He didn’t need his ears either. The Force told him where the danger was, and he did not need to hear the blaster bolts to react. The gift of hearing was not required.
All Luke needed to do was move with the Force, and he did. He was a whirlwind of power, but not a devastating one. Not the kind of wind that destroyed thoughtlessly. He was the kind of wind that caressed a cheek, but could rattle window panes. His breeze, while blissful to blooming flowers, was still strong enough to batter them.
‘Control,’ Luke breathed into his mind. The Force answered by brushing his prosthetic arm. His lightsaber angled itself towards the oval, and directed a stray blaster bolt at the door control panel.
Luke blinked in surprise as a second blast door dropped down on the Imperials, blocking anyone else from entering the control room.
Luke exhaled in relief, and spun around quickly. He was thrown back into battle, stormtroopers still left inside the room. He twirled his lightsaber and volleyed back more blaster bolts.
The last of them dropped to the ground, and Luke felt the Force tickle his skin. Luke shut off his lightsaber and breathed, realizing how flushed and sweaty he was from the fight.
A wolf whistle sliced through the atmosphere, and Luke snapped his head towards the generator room.
Ezra leaned against the doorframe, grinning wryly and winking. Sabine was a step behind him, looking between them and snickering.
“Oh, man of my dreams,” Ezra’s cheek pressed against the metal doorframe, heart eyes glowing at Luke, “it’s time to depart.”
Luke stared at the ceiling incredulously, taking another breath to calm his heartbeat.
He leveled his gaze a moment later and said, “you could have, you know,” Luke scowled, “helped me.”
“No thanks,” Ezra said airily, pushing off the doorframe, “I prefer watching. And besides,” he added, “you totally had that.”
Luke shook his head and huffed, “you’re ridiculous.” He strode across the control room and purposefully brushed past Ezra. He asked Sabine, “how much time will we have?”
Sabine glanced at the charge controller. “Five minutes. And don’t worry, I hotwired a ride outta here.” She dropped the keys into Luke’s gloved palm. “It’s waiting outside to take us to the Phantom.”
“Fantastic.” Luke closed his palm. “Let’s get out of this hell trap.”
“I’ll take point so you can rest for a minute,” Ezra said considerately.
Luke took him up on the offer, Sabine guarding the rear. She pressed the button once they cleared the first hallway, and they broke into a purposeful sprint.
Luke heard Ezra touch his earpiece and speak a hurried update to Leia, then grasped the hilt of his lightsaber.
As they left the Imperial base in the dust, Sabine rushed them towards the humming landspeeder. It was a similar class to one he used to drive on the farm, an older model, and Luke chose to end his thoughts there.
Luke jumped into the driver’s seat, Sabine in the passenger’s seat. Ezra sat in the back, and Sabine said, “two minutes. Let’s blast!”
Luke turned the keys and rocketed away from the base, surprised at the power the landspeeder had for being so old. He chose not to question it, driving east, where the jump ship was parked five miles away. The landspeeder kicked up dirt and grass fields as he swerved past rocks and trees.
The Force alerted him to a change, and Luke glanced over his shoulder.
“Uh,” Ezra said, eyes wide, “they’re coming after us!”
“You gotta be kidding me!” Sabine whined. “These kriffin’ kriffs don’t know when to quit!”
Luke heard several landspeeders gaining on them fast, and he sighed. He focused on the landscape ahead, driving as quickly as he could.
“Wow!” Sabine beamed despite the situation. “You’re a speed demon, Luke! Keep doing that!”
Luke nodded decisively, getting into his zone. He imagined he was in his X-wing, flying a mission with Ace Squadron jabbering in his ears. That always kept him cool, calm, and collected.
Sabine unholstered her twin blasters, spinning around in the passenger’s seat. Ezra leaned away to give her room to fire. She perched her blaster barrels on the back of the seat, adopting the stance of a sniper. Her eyes peered from between the blasters, fingers on both triggers, ready to fire when the Imperials got close enough.
Ezra leaned forward and said, “your saber, Luke.”
He unclipped his lightsaber from the belt. He tossed it behind him, Ezra catching it effortlessly. He held his own lightsaber in his other hand.
Luke made it to the third mile, and sensed three landspeeders closing in on them. He yelled out to the wind, “aim for the thrusters or the blast shields!”
Sabine nodded to his side. Ezra crouched behind Luke, his back against Luke’s. Ezra knelt at a strange angle to account for gravity, and he crossed the lightsaber hilts in an X.
Twin green blades ignited, and blasters began firing out of their landspeeders. Sabine fired back, knocking a landspeeder out instantly. The stormtroopers crashed into the field, and she laughed.
Ezra deflected bolts easily with two blades, and Luke wished he had a front row seat. If Ezra could watch him struggle, it was only fair that Luke get his turn to gawk.
But it wasn’t to be. Blast it.
Luke banked left, then right, narrowly missing a volley of blaster fire. He was on mile four, and they were running out of time to lose these pesky Imperials.
Ezra seemed to sense the urgency and twirled both blades between his fingers. The small arcs resulted in the next bolts aimed at the blast shields. One landspeeder driver couldn’t see, and Sabine fired twice at the same spot to exploit the weakness. The blast shields cracked, as Luke knew they would, and the landspeeder crashed into a tree.
“One more,” Sabine called out to Luke. “On the left!”
The landspeeder was almost upon them, and Ezra crossed both lightsabers as they fired in close range. He moved quickly enough to shield Luke, who was the most at risk, and Luke was too relieved to question how Ezra was doing this so effectively.
The barrel of one of Sabine’s blasters was cocked underneath his arms as he drove, and he blinked at her. Sabine narrowed her eyes in concentration, aiming for the other driver. Luke inhaled as she nudged the barrel against his elbow. She glanced at his tense profile, and nodded.
Luke exhaled, and Sabine pulled the trigger. The bolt flew past Ezra’s lightsabers and snagged the stormtrooper’s helmet. It was a hit on the back of the head, and his hands left the wheel. Ezra deflected the last bolts at the occupants of the landspeeder, and the engine failed.
Luke sped away just before the landspeeder was grounded, the engine catching fire and sending out a smoke signal.
They breathed a collective sigh of relief. Ezra shut off both lightsabers and dropped into the back seat, taking a breath. Sabine removed the blaster from Luke’s elbow and holstered it on her leg, its twin on her other leg.
The Phantom came into range, and Luke slowly eased them into a stop.
Sabine hopped out, shading her eyes with her hand. “Damn. That’s a lot of smoke.”
Luke and Ezra turned around. Smoke was billowing into the sky. None of them had heard the bombs go off, too absorbed in the chase, but they had done their job well enough.
Luke pulled the keys from the ignition, the landspeeder shutting off, hovering an inch above the grass field. Ezra hopped out, and Luke dropped down beside him.
He tossed the keys into the front seat and said, “we should leave before we any more show up.”
Sabine bobbed her head and got the Phantom ramp to retract slowly. Ezra stepped in front of Luke and handed him his lightsaber. The metal cooled Luke’s hand, and he clipped it on his utility belt. He looked back up, and Ezra’s sapphire gaze had not left his, surveying him appreciatively.
Luke rolled his eyes and stepped away from Ezra. He heard Sabine’s boots clang against the ramp, and he wasn’t far behind, Ezra bringing up the rear.
When they were inside the jump ship, Sabine closed the ramp. Luke strapped into the pilot’s seat, Ezra dropping down behind him. Ezra touched his earpiece and explained to Leia that they were on the ship heading to base. Sabine joined them in the cockpit, sitting in the copilot’s chair. Luke ran a quick systems check and got them in the air a moment later.
Once they were out of the planet’s orbit, Sabine murmured she had to use the fresher and exited the cockpit.
Ezra switched seats, swiveling the copilot’s chair to grin at Luke. He rested his cheek against the cushioned chair, tilting his head to the side as if daydreaming.
“This was a nice way to spend our anniversary,” Ezra murmured dazedly, “don’t you think?”
Luke batted his eyelashes and swiftly charted the course back to base. He set the Phantom on autopilot and swiveled to face Ezra. He said amusedly, “better than Naboo?”
Ezra shook his head. “Let’s call this a close second.”
Before Luke could swivel his chair towards the viewport, Ezra held Luke’s hands in his. They dangled in the space between chairs.
Ezra used his thumbs to stroke Luke’s knuckles. He glanced down at their intertwined hands and truly breathed for the first time since before the mission.
After a few beats, Ezra observed Luke’s small smile and murmured, “I love you.”
Luke’s reply was breezy and effortless. “Of course you do. Why wouldn’t you?”
Ezra cracked a wry grin. He leaned forward and stole a kiss, which Luke gladly reciprocated.
Luke suddenly sensed Sabine’s return, and he swiftly grasped the wheel. He shut off the autopilot function, catching the softness in Ezra’s eyes before Sabine demanded her seat back.
“We’re on the ship. Heading back to base,” Ezra said shortly through the earpiece.
Leia exhaled a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “Two standard hours on the clock. A minute more and I’ll worry.”
“Understood. Bridger, Wren, and Skywalker are out.”
Leia shut off the comms system and observed the jump ship’s tracker leave foreign airspace. A hand touched her shoulder, and she glanced up at a concerned Han. “What is it?”
“They’re back,” Han said lowly, discreetly nudging his head towards the strategy room door.
Kanan’s Force presence came upon her suddenly. Han’s touch slipped away from her, and he left Leia to greet them.
She glided across the room and put on her best Senatorial smile. She looked at Kanan, Zeb, and Hera in turn, focusing on the Twi’lek captain of the Ghost.
“Colonel Syndulla,” Leia said, “it’s good to have you and your crew back safely. General Mothma has eagerly awaited your reports regarding the stability of the economy in wild space.”
“I’ll have them sent to her soon,” Hera said courteously. “I have to tweak my writing a bit.”
“Where’s Ezra?” Kanan asked suddenly, glancing around at nothing in particular. “I do not sense him.”
“He’s on a mission that concluded only a moment ago,” Leia said politely. “Do you think I stand around here because I like to?” She asked amusedly.
“Is Sabine here?” Zeb asked absently.
“She’s on the same mission with my brother,” Leia replied coolly. “They’ll be back very soon, I assure you. Until then, make yourselves comfortable around base.”
Leia could tell they wanted to know more, but she made her dismissal clear. The Ghost crew left the strategy room, and Leia took a breath.
After docking checks were complete, the ship ramp was opened slowly.
Sabine squinted her eyes at something across the hanger, and announced, “the Ghost is back.”
Ezra’s mouth formed into a thin line. “Bad timing again.”
Sabine hummed at him considerately, a smirk on her face. “I’m sure I can cover the storytelling for you. After all,” she glanced at Luke as he arrived beside Ezra, “it’s your anniversary.”
Ezra choked on his own spit. “How did you know?!”
“Aphra,” Luke answered dully, hanging his head low. “Guess I can’t trust her.”
Sabine beamed. “You can’t possibly think she would keep that to herself.”
Ezra pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Okay, Luke. What did we learn today?”
“Don’t trust anyone,” Luke said jokingly.
“Right,” Ezra said dryly.
Luke absently grabbed his yellow bomber jacket from a hook and stuck his arms through the sleeves. The ramp was down, and Ezra tossed his rust-colored leather jacket on as well, covering up their black stealth suits.
To their surprise, Aphra was sitting on a shipping crate dragged towards the ship. She was trying to look casual, fixing her twin blasters, but Luke and Ezra knew she was there for Sabine.
Ezra hated to admit it, but they worked well as a couple. And Luke knew from working on missions with them separately that they matched.
Sabine glided down the ramp and sidled up to Aphra. “Did you miss me that much?”
Aphra narrowed her eyes up at Sabine. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure you don’t.” Sabine winked.
Ezra descended the ramp followed by Luke, and they sensed Leia approach.
She glanced at the time and said, “two hours exactly. Good job. Any injuries?”
Ezra grinned preemptively. “Nope.”
Leia’s brow shot up. “Not even Luke?”
“Hey!” Luke laughed. “Shut up!”
“She’s got a point, though,” Ezra said.
Leia cleared her throat to stifle a giggle. She looped an arm around Luke’s and said, “I need to borrow him for a couple minutes. I’ll bring him back.”
“Um,” Ezra said, “he’s not property. And I’m sure I’ll find him.”
“Thank you,” Luke said coolly.
Leia tugged Luke forward. “Now talk to your crew,” she said to Ezra.
Ezra nodded and turned around. Aphra had since left the hanger. Sabine was talking to Hera, Kanan, and Zeb. Whatever they were saying to Sabine had her nursing a frown.
“-concerned, that’s all,” Hera murmured to her.
Sabine huffed. “Alright. Well, I’m fine. I’m doing fine. There’s no need to worry about her.”
Ezra started forward out of pure concern for Sabine. She may be an annoying sister to him, but she didn’t deserve to be interrogated, as calm as an interrogation as it looked.
“Hey,” Ezra broke in airily, “what’s up?”
“Ezra!” Hera coaxed him into a hug. “Are you hurt? Are you okay?”
Ezra withdrew abruptly. “Yes. I’m fine. Know who else is fine?” He glanced at Sabine as he said, “Sabine and Aphra are alright. I gave Aphra the ol’ intimidation tactic en route to the wedding.”
Ezra blinked at Sabine. She smiled innocently.
Ezra clarified, “Han and Leia’s wedding. Three weeks ago? It wasn’t mentioned?”
“Right.” Ezra shrugged. “They eloped. That’s all you really need to know.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway. How did your missions go?”
“Fine,” Zeb said gruffly.
“How was yours?” Kanan asked.
“Good,” Ezra replied curtly. “Yeah.”
“We can get drinks,” Zeb suggested.
“Sabine will tell you about it,” Ezra said with an apologetic smile. “I can’t tonight.”
“Have plans?” Hera asked confusedly.
“As a matter of fact,” Ezra replied, “I do.” Sabine nodded a single time, a movement visible in the corner of his eye. He said to his family, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
They let Ezra walk away, and he refused to feel bad about it. This was his one-year anniversary with Luke! It was a very important day!
As Leia and Luke exited the hanger, she said, “I’ll expect your report by tomorrow night. There was a lot of radio silences. I want to know what happened.”
Luke said shyly, “just some wrinkles. Nothing we couldn’t handle.”
Leia eyed him suspiciously, but changed the subject as they rounded a corner. “Wedge hurt himself on a flyby today.”
Luke bristled in alarm. “Is he-”
“Only a few stitches and scrapes,” Leia said calmly. “He didn’t get shrapnel in his body like you. Idiot.”
Luke snorted. “Well I’m glad. That hurt like hell.”
“Wedge is acting like he was shot, though,” Leia said amusedly. “And Nate is falling for all the bantha shit.”
Luke grinned conspiratorially. “Can we spy on them for a minute?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Leia said joyfully, leading him to a separate part of the medbay. Technically, the room Luke spent time in was the ward. The room across from it, however, was an emergency room. A window from outside the room showed what was occurring inside the small space.
Nate was sitting dutifully at Wedge’s bedside. He was the picture perfect boyfriend, replacing bloodied bandages on Wedge’s arms delicately. And while he did so, Wedge was murmuring about the experience.
“Almost dying really puts things into perspective,” Wedge said dramatically, Nate hanging onto every word. “I hope you never have to feel it.”
Nate frowned and brushed a hand across his cheek, smoothing out a bandage. His demeanor practically cooed ‘oh, poor baby.’
Luke stared at Leia, and she stared back at him.
Luke curtly strode across the hallway and rested his forehead against the wall. His shoulders shook as he laughed as silently as he could manage, a hand covering his mouth.
Leia leaned against the same wall and grinned. “A beautiful show, isn’t it? He’s been doing that for a while.”
Luke’s face flushed with laughter, and he leaned his side against the wall. His cheek pressed against the metal, and he grinned back.
“I can tell he’s having fun,” Luke said, “so I won’t ruin his moment. Even though I want to. Very badly.”
“I’ve got a camera in there,” Leia revealed. “Han is taping it.”
Luke’s eyes danced with mischief. “Oh, Leia,” he said fondly, “I definitely wanna watch that later.”
“I knew you would.”
“You and Han are a great married couple,” Luke said. “Real role models.”
“We know,” Leia sang.
Luke pushed away from the wall. “May I be dismissed for the night?”
“Do you have plans?” Leia’s eyes glimmered invasively as she tried to peer into his Force signature.
“Yes,” Luke replied shortly. He didn’t give anything away, but Leia knew from experience it had something to do with Ezra.
“Then yes,” Leia said with a smirk. “Good night, twin bro.”
“Good night, twin sis,” Luke echoed.
Luke walked away briskly before Leia could change her mind.
Ezra’s problem was that he felt too much. His emotions always got the better of him, and it led to no small amount of pain and suffering.
But now, the issue was that he didn’t feel enough.
Nothing would ever feel like enough where Luke was concerned. Ezra thought he should give more, but he already gave Luke everything.
The scented candles threatening to flicker out set Luke’s skin on fire. He was curled against Ezra, sharing his pillow. The sheets only covered his lower half, and Luke’s blonde lashes hung lazily against the hollows of his cheeks. His entire being was set alight, his Force signature radiant as he breathed softly.
He was so beautiful. Especially after they made love.
But it hurt. Ezra wished he could give more.
He could already hear Luke admonishing him. Luke’s voice in his head, breathing assurances in between kisses. Ezra allowed himself to imagine it, encompassing himself in false light.
He had to remember himself. He was Ezra Bridger. He was a skilled thief, but the most important commodity he stole was Luke Skywalker’s heart. He was once taken by the Dark Side, but the Light was more present in his aura than ever. He was stronger than he knew. He was capable of more than he thought. He was a Jedi Knight. He had a boyfriend who thought he was beautiful. He was loved.
Ezra Bridger was good enough for Luke Skywalker. He was good enough. He was good.
And he was beautiful. And he deserved happiness. And he was worth it.
Luke’s blonde lashes fluttered lazily. Salient eyes met sapphires. “You’re thinking too much,” Luke murmured.
“Maybe you should get me to stop,” Ezra suggested coyly.
Luke smirked, and with a rustle of sheets, he was slotted atop Ezra again. Warmth caressed them both as they kissed, and Ezra sighed blissfully into it, running his hands through Luke’s messy hair for the dozenth time that night.
Luke dragged his lips away a moment later, and Ezra closed his eyes, foreheads resting together. They breathed in tandem, Ezra wishing he could stay here forever.
Luke nudged his mind shields through the Force, and Ezra let them fall. Luke’s nose nuzzled Ezra’s cheek as he closed his eyes and entered his thoughts.
Ezra sank into the pillow and twirled locks of Luke’s hair between his fingers. Luke studied all that Ezra was with kindness, and Ezra surrendered himself. Luke saw his wavering thoughts, his insecurities, his manner of reminding himself that he was good. He saw the progress Ezra had made, from being a flustered mess to a self-assured light in the Force.
Luke removed his presence from Ezra’s mind, kissing Ezra’s cheekbone scars. These days, Ezra found himself forgetting the darkened scars were even there.
“I want to show you something,” Luke breathed into Ezra’s skin. “My vision from Lothal. A piece of it.”
Ezra hesitated. He almost forgot about Luke’s vision of a decade in the future. According to Luke, it showed them teaching Force sensitives in the Jedi Temple on Lothal.
“It was meant for you,” Ezra protested softly.
“And I’ve decided,” Luke pushed away, using his elbows as leverage, “I want to share it with you. I think you need to see it.”
Ezra was in no position to argue, especially since Luke was, quite literally, dominating him with his stance. Luke’s skin was ablaze, and his eyes were serene water, and his hair was the lunar sun, and he was too gorgeous and bold to refuse.
“Okay,” Ezra whispered in acquiescence.
Luke pressed two fingers to his forehead, and Ezra closed his eyes. Nothing happened for a few beats, the transference taking time.
Then, Ezra saw a future version of himself. This Ezra was unmistakably older and wiser. His hair was past his shoulders, gathered in a bun at the back of his head. A beard grew thick on his face, covering his scars. He wore classic Jedi robes dyed a burgundy color.
A smile that only meant peace was directed at vision-Luke, whose hair was also a bit longer. Luke wore black Jedi robes, and he too had changed inside. They had grown together, and only got stronger as a result. They found peace teaching future Jedi, and solace in each other.
They were inside one of the classrooms they had found in the abandoned Temple on Lothal. Luke leaned against a wooden desk as children filed out of the room. Vision-Ezra waited until they were gone to sidle up to Luke and cup his face in his hands. He leaned to kiss vision-Luke, and he heard Luke chuckle into his beard as they fell into each other.
Plenty had changed, but the way they kissed remained the same.
It was then that Ezra saw the glint of matching wedding rings on their fingers, and his heart seized beating for several seconds.
They were awesome at marriage!
As vision-Ezra tenderly pulled back from vision-Luke, he exited out of the vision. Reality inched in on him slowly, and he blinked open his eyes.
Luke’s gaze pierced through him, exuding complete seriousness. “I want you to remember that when you doubt yourself. We are a sure thing. The Force wills it.”
Ezra exhaled through his nose, and nodded.
In a quick move, he hooked his leg behind Luke’s back and flipped them over. Luke made a noise of surprise as Ezra hovered over him, pressing a kiss to his nose. Luke’s nose scrunched, and he smiled. Candles cast their renewed fiery light on Luke, and Ezra bit his lip. His boyfriend looked lovely enough to eat.
“Love,” Ezra murmured, “I showed you mine.” He bumped their foreheads together. “Are you gonna show me yours?”
Luke batted his eyelashes, and sank into the pillow. “You’re always free to look.”
Ezra brushed their lips together and turned away, closing his eyes. Luke’s mind shields crashed down thoughtlessly, and Ezra peered inside through the Force.
Luke’s mind was a tangled web of emotions. It wasn’t what Ezra was expecting, but the positives outweighed the negatives by a long shot. Where Ezra found conflict in his own self, Luke’s doubts were strings in a complex web. They were a part of him, and he didn’t hide it. He let himself simply be, and Ezra learned a valuable lesson.
He was trying to extinguish and lessen his pain, before. He was pretending his doubts didn’t exist, but they couldn’t disappear. They could dampen, but they don’t leave through magic.
Luke tended to these parts of himself as if they were scars. They would heal, but they would remain. This was what Ezra had to learn.
His Force signature backpedaled and exited Luke’s mind, not wanting to probe any further.
Ezra pressed his lips against Luke’s, and he opened his eyes, kissing back within his means.
“Thank you,” Ezra said softly.
Luke seemed to understand, as always, and whispered, “you’re welcome.”
Ezra moved down a little, tucking his head into Luke’s neck. He curled on his side as Luke cast an arm around Ezra’s neck, fingers brushing through unruly black waves.
“You were amazing today, you know,” Ezra mumbled.
Luke asked amusedly, “do you mean the sex or-”
Ezra snorted. “Stop it. You know I meant the mission.”
“I’ve never seen you move like that before,” Ezra whispered. “I wish I brought snacks to that fight.”
Luke carded his flesh fingers through Ezra’s hair. “I’d kill for desert truffles.”
Luke blinked over at him. “Never had them?”
Ezra shook his head.
“It’s the only chocolate on Tatooine that’s affordable,” Luke explained.
“Ah,” Ezra kissed Luke’s jawline, “we should get them. Pull a couple strings.”
“Maybe,” Luke murmured. He flicked his hand, using the Force to blow out the candles. “Good night, Ez.”
“Good night, Luke.”
As Luke fell into unconsciousness, Ezra vowed he would get those truffles if it killed him.
Han set the pink cocktail in front of Leia at the bar counter. “Here’s your froofy thing.”
“It’s good, you know,” Leia said, tipping back some of it. “You might even like it.”
Han scoffed, but Leia saw a glint of curiosity in his eyes. Leia smirked and held up the glass. He took it and sipped, setting it back down before Chewbacca could notice.
“So?” Leia prompted.
Han’s face flushed. “I’m making myself one.”
Leia giggled as Han ran his fingers across different alcohol bottles, choosing the ones that Leia picked out.
As he went to work, Leia blinked as Hera sat beside her.
“Colonel Syndulla,” Leia greeted curtly, hoping she was adequately masking her surprise.
“General,” Hera said, “I didn’t know I was meant to congratulate you. I just heard about your marriage.”
“Ah, that’s fine,” Leia sipped her cocktail, “it wasn’t meant to be a big thing. But thank you.”
“How is married life treating you?” Hera asked, a genuine curiosity in her eyes.
Leia remembered her romantic relationship with Kanan, which remained shrouded in mystery, even to those closest to them. “It’s good so far.”
“Can I ask,” Hera said hesitantly, “why you decided to get married?”
“Well,” Leia replied, “humanoids tend to see it as a promise to commit to one another. There really is no reason to get married, though, if you’re secure enough in a relationship.”
“I see,” Hera glanced downward, green-skinned fingers tapping on the bar counter. “What about Jedi? Do they feel inclined to marry?”
Leia realized that Hera was having an issue with Kanan, and treaded carefully. “Jedi weren’t allowed to marry, actually. They weren’t allowed to be in a relationship, period. So I can see it both ways: they can either see marriage in the way I see it, or they can see no practical need to get married because the relationship is fulfilling enough for them.”
“And in what category does your brother fall?” Hera inquired.
“He’s a bit of a romantic,” Leia said, “so he sees it the way I do. And I know Ezra does too.” She paused for a beat, then mused, “but Kanan is probably the opposite, and is completely fine just being...well, having what you two have.”
Hera pondered this, and decided, “you could be a Jedi yet.”
Leia shook her head. “I can’t be all wise and zen. Never was my strong suit.”
“Hey,” Han leaned towards Leia, sipping a pink cocktail, “can you get Chewie to stop laughing at me?”
Leia heard Chewie chortle on the opposite side of the bar, and she shot him her best parental look. Chewbacca swatted a paw in the air and calmed down.
“Thank you.” Han swiveled towards Hera. “What drink would you like?”
“I’ll take that,” Hera pointed to Han’s cocktail. “It looks good.”
“Alright,” Han set down his glass and went to work again.
Sabine slid into the barstool beside Hera. “Hey Mom figure. Hey Leia.”
“Hey,” they chimed.
“I just thought you should know,” Sabine said to Leia, “that our boys are currently romancing the shit out of each other for their anniversary.”
Leia nearly spilled her drink, and Hera bristled. “Has it really been a year since they kissed in the rain?” She asked herself incredulously. “Wow!”
“Say what now?” Sabine said flatly, staring at Leia with immense interest. Hera was peering at her in the exact same way, endlessly curious.
Leia decided to have some fun, and gleefully launched into the story of Luke and Ezra’s first kiss.
The curtain was peeled away on the fresher, Luke’s eyes widening as Ezra stepped inside.
“Um,” Luke echoed, “personal space is healthy for a relationship.”
Ezra chuckled, stepping as close to Luke as he dared in such cramped quarters. The shower spray washed down Luke’s back, and Ezra said, “we could also decide to conserve water.”
Luke snorted. “You’re so ridiculous, Ez.”
“You love me,” Ezra said.
“Debatable,” Luke quipped. He tipped his head back to wet his hair, and he was positive Ezra was gaping at him incredulously. The fact that he didn’t kick Ezra out, he supposed, was grounds enough for some shock. When his blonde hair was dyed brown, Luke said, “if you’re gonna stay, wash my hair.”
“So demanding,” Ezra teased, squeezing out shampoo from the bottle. He rubbed his hands together to create foam, and he incorporated it into Luke’s hair.
Luke closed his eyes as Ezra gently massaged his head, stifling a giggle when Ezra brushed a smattering of bubbles across his freckled cheeks.
Ezra booped Luke’s nose to indicate he was done. Luke wrinkled his nose and slowly washed out the shampoo. The scent of flowers floated between them, and Luke was reminded of the fields of Naboo, where blooms of all colors grew near the serene lake.
He heard Ezra inhale, smelling the shampoo too, and echo, “I always wondered why you smell so good.”
Luke leveled his head, water trailing down his hair and his back. He blinked away moisture from his lashes and said, “it’s contraband from Naboo.”
Luke could see an idea flash in Ezra’s gaze, but it left view before Luke could ask. “We get contraband?”
“Why am I just now hearing about this?”
Luke snorted. “Come on. We’re conserving water. Switch places.”
Ezra sighed and they sidestepped. Ezra was under the shower spray, and Luke used his same shampoo to wash Ezra’s hair. As Ezra washed his body, Luke massaged the flowery shampoo into his tangled locks.
“I’m starting to see why you shaved your head,” Luke remarked.
Ezra stilled, finished washing his body and allowing Luke to gently scrub at his inky waves. “Don’t think I will again, though.”
Luke shrugged as he booped Ezra’s nose. Ezra scrunched it and tipped back into the spray. Luke allowed himself a beat to admire Ezra’s body, and wondered how he kept it so chiseled. It was almost unreal.
Luke diverted from the thought and suggested, “you should invest in a good hairbrush.”
Ezra chuckled, leveling his gaze, his long lashes fluttering open. “You might be right.”
“I know just the person,” Luke teased.
“Me too,” Ezra murmured, brushing bangs away from his forehead. Luke absently did the same with his own bangs, which were hanging too close to his eyes. Ezra shut off the fresher, the water shutting down, drops trickling across the space in echoes.
“I don’t think we conserved water,” Luke said, “but whatever.” He inched open the curtain and stepped out of the fresher. Ezra averted his gaze as Luke dried himself. Luke tossed the same towel to Ezra, and Luke found another to wrap around his waist. Ezra dried himself, and Luke scrubbed his hair with a towel.
He stood in front of the mirror and frowned. His hair was more of a mess than usual. It’s what Luke gets for letting Ezra card his hands through it so much.
Ezra wrapped a towel around his waist and playfully bunked his hips against Luke’s to garner his attention. Luke surveyed his reflection in the mirror and handed Ezra the same head towel.
Ezra scrubbed at his own tangled hair as Luke combed knots out. He concentrated so intensely on the task that he didn’t notice Ezra looking until a moment later.
“Just let it be,” Ezra murmured, taking the comb away from Luke. “You got ‘em.”
Luke exhaled through his nose and turned on the hair dryer that Leia bought him. At the time, she made a remark about ‘such fluffy hair needing extra special care.’ He almost wanted to throw the contraption back in her face, but it surprisingly helped.
Ezra combed, and Luke dried. Ezra untangled knots, and Luke smoothed out his blonde waves.
Luke handed the hair dryer to Ezra as he set down the comb and stepped out of the room, walking to his closet. Half of his clothes needed to be washed, not leaving many options. Luke shrugged and chose black pants with a white undershirt. He decided to check on Ace Squadron later today, so he left his navy blue jumpsuit out to change into. He had to write the mission report for Leia first, so there was no need to dress for a few hours.
Ezra left the fresher and did a double take at the outfit. “If you’re coaxing me to stay in, mission accomplished, love.”
Luke flushed, and he turned away as Ezra dropped his towel, digging inside his matching closet. “I need to write, actually. So I need you to go.”
“Is that right?” Luke envisioned Ezra’s grin, even though Ezra’s back was to him. “And what if I don’t wanna go?”
“Then you have to be very patient. And quiet. And no pouting allowed.”
Ezra slipped sweatpants on and a sleeveless white tee over his head. “That doesn’t sound like much fun.”
“It’s paperwork, Ez. Besides,” Luke suggested, “you should visit the Ghost.”
Ezra turned around at last, clipping on his green kyber crystal necklace. It brought color to his muted wardrobe and glowed against his heart. “I suppose I should,” he said, not sounding very pleased about it.
Luke crossed the room in an instant. “Acceptance is a battle.”
“Perhaps it is one not meant to be won,” Ezra mused.
“Perhaps,” Luke said indecisively. “I’ve made peace with it otherwise. Because even I,” he cupped Ezra’s cheek, “will never be good enough for their son.”
As he retracted his fingers, Ezra lightly grasped his wrist to hold Luke’s hand in place. Luke stilled and met his eyes fully.
“I wish I could tell you that you’re wrong,” Ezra said sadly. “They’re set in their ways.”
“You should see them. They’re your family.” Luke stepped back, and Ezra let his hand fall. “Never forget that.”
Ezra nodded begrudgingly and forced himself to smile. “Don’t be modest in your report. You did a lot of the fighting.”
“You did a fair amount of work too.” Luke smirked. “But you are correct.” He impulsively twined his arms around Ezra’s hips, and Ezra’s bare arms guided him closer. Ezra’s head tilted up, and Luke dropped a long kiss on his lips. He sensed Ezra’s conflicts smooth out, his aura shining brighter and brighter by the second. Luke nudged away and murmured, “get outta here before I change my mind.”
Ezra’s wry grin was dazzling. “What if I want you to change it?”
Luke sighed into Ezra’s body, and they kissed again. Slow and deep. Slow and steady. Slow and sensual.
Ezra parted from Luke and breathed, “I’ll see you soon, love.”
Luke huffed, but nodded in acquiescence. He was not of sound mind to leave, but Ezra was rational enough for both of them in this moment.
A flushed Ezra, who Luke noted really didn’t want to leave, slid open the bedroom door and went anyway.
Luke exhaled deeply and dropped onto the loveseat. He numbly turned on his AI datapad and started to write.
“Leia,” a voice hissed.
She furrowed her brows and registered Ezra lingering by the hanger entrance. She halted in her brisk walk and went over to him. “What, weirdo?”
“Have you ever heard of desert truffles?”
Leia’s tone was mischievous. “He told you, huh?”
“You do know about them,” Ezra said, crossing his bare arms over his chest. Leia would be lying if she didn’t see the attraction that Luke did. “I also heard that you bring contraband into this base.”
“Han’s idea,” Leia corrected.
“Nevertheless,” Ezra said, “I think we should work together.”
“To get chocolate for Luke?” Leia’s eyebrow quirked upwards. “I gotta be honest, Ezra.” She half-smiled. “I wasn’t expecting a romantic gesture from you of all people.”
“While I’m not the type,” Ezra tilted his head to the side, “I want to know if you can do it.”
“I’m General Leia Organa-Solo,” Leia said proudly, “so you bet I can!”
Ezra grinned. “So much passion! That’s what I’m looking for!”
“I’ll get one of Han’s smuggler friends to do it,” Leia said. “I’ll get it done quickly.”
“Fantastic. Thank you.”
“Now stop delaying,” Leia said, nudging her head towards the bay doors. “I can sense Kanan eagerly awaiting your arrival.”
Ezra sighed. “Alright. I’ll see you.”
Leia decided not to ask about his hesitance. She had to look at Luke’s report, anyway.
She rounded a corner, and Ezra entered the hanger.
The Ghost crew was sitting on a circle of weapons canisters outside the entrance ramp. They were finishing whatever meal they stole from the kitchens, trying to seem like they weren’t waiting for him.
Ezra was glad Sabine saw him first, rising to her feet and smiling as she reached him. “Look at you,” she remarked, clapping his bare forearm, “all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.” Sabine wrinkled her nose. “That’s the expression, right? Zeb knew it or something.”
“Sounds like an expression,” Ezra said, “but an odd one.”
“How was last night?” Sabine waggled her eyebrows.
Ezra shocked them all by replying, “excellent, thanks.”
Hera bristled, and Ezra realized that Sabine told them it was their anniversary. No one chose to acknowledge it, though, and Ezra preferred it that way.
“So,” Ezra found an empty weapons canister and lowered himself on it, patting Chopper’s dome head absently, “did Sabine tell the story right?”
“I made sure to iterate that,” Sabine sat on her own canister, “Luke is better than you.”
Ezra shrugged. “True enough.”
He realized that Kanan hadn’t taken his eyes away from him. Ezra waved a hand in front of his face.
Kanan blinked, and Ezra asked, “you alive over here?”
Ezra heard Sabine and Hera chuckling in the background, Zeb rolling his eyes. He could practically hear Zeb thinking ‘this kid and his antics.’
Kanan focused entirely on Ezra, and he recognized the expression from when they used to train on the Ghost. When Ezra learned and grew more, Kanan would give him a look. Ezra was never sure what it meant, but he knew now.
It was pride.
“You’ve changed again,” Kanan said, surveying Ezra’s Force signature.
Ezra had been working on himself, it was true. He spent his free time meditating and looking inwardly, finding acceptance and peace with his past. He was doing all he could to be the best person he could be. Not the best Jedi. The best person.
Hera, Sabine, and Zeb grew silent, Chopper emitting a little beep. They were unsure where former Master and apprentice stood, and Ezra couldn’t blame them.
Ezra asked, “a good or bad change?”
“Good,” Kanan said easily. “I understand what you’re doing.”
Ezra blinked in surprise. But then he remembered what Kanan would do for Hera. Those two were dedicated to one another, and Kanan had the same goal as him: be the best person he could be. Not only for himself, but for Hera.
“I confess,” Kanan said, “I wish I could know more.”
‘About Luke,’ Ezra finished for Kanan in his mind.
Ezra had to admit this was wholly unexpected.
Ezra found himself saying amusedly, “that’s because you weren’t truly looking.”
He was so sage. He impressed even himself!
He smothered his smugness and absently realized that the two Jedi were receiving perplexed gazes.
Ezra waved a dismissive hand at Hera, Sabine, and Zeb. “It’s only Jedi stuff. Don’t worry ‘bout it.”
“I didn’t miss these talks,” Zeb decided.
“Anyway,” Hera chimed to Ezra, “what happened to your shirt?”
Ezra glanced at the arm holes, and how they frayed from where fabric scissors seared them. “I cut the sleeves off,” he said.
“Why?” Hera asked concernedly. “Are you okay?”
Ezra snorted. “Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Hera gestured to his shirt.
He shrugged. “What? You don’t think I have nice arms?”
Sabine gasped. “Did Luke say that?!”
“No,” Ezra said breezily.
Sabine grinned at him. “Yes he did.”
“Not in those words,” Ezra clarified.
“Ha!” Sabine cackled. “Gotcha!”
“I stopped arguing because I was bored.”
“Sure ya did.”
“Children,” Hera admonished.
Ezra and Sabine fell silent. Ezra asked about their missions, and the subject was changed.
Luke arrived at the ship hanger around midday, wearing his blue jumpsuit zipped over a white undershirt. He was greeted warmly by the majority of Ace Squadron, and he set off to repaint the racing stripes on his X-wing.
As he created a blood orange stripe on the bottom left wing, the presence of childlike giggles drew his attention away.
Juno, one of the best pilots in his squadron, was leading her daughters into the hanger. Luke recalled they were nine, seven, and five years in age. They were exact copies of their fuschia-skinned Twi’lek mother.
Luke furrowed his brows as Juno approached him with an unsure smile.
He realized it was unsure because Juno’s wife, Farrah, who he only met once and had magenta skin, guided even more children into the hanger. They were of all species, and Luke wouldn’t be surprised if every child on base was here. After all, Farrah was the only teacher.
Luke wondered if they were going on a field trip, and was about to ask when Juno approached.
“Hey, Luke,” Juno said tightly. “I hate to ask this of you, but Farrah and I have a bit of an emergency.”
Luke filled in the blanks instantly. “Yes,” he said, “I’ll watch them.”
“You will?” Juno asked hopefully. “I’ll seriously owe you one.”
“There’s no need for that,” Luke said with a kind smile. “You go ahead. I can handle three hours.”
“They all say that,” Farrah said, approaching with a dozen children, “but we’ll see soon enough if you come crying back.”
“Yes,” Luke said measuredly, “we’ll see.”
Farrah observed his determination, then glanced at Juno. “You know what? He might be able to pull it off.”
Luke smiled. “You two can go on.”
He could hear Juno sigh in relief. “Thank you.”
Juno left with Farrah, and Luke called out, “ACES!”
The fifteen children gathered together as seven pilots from Ace Squadron approached the pack.
Luke’s command was wordless. Every pilot knelt to the childrens’ eye level, and Luke sat crisscrossed near the nose of his X-wing.
“No need to be afraid,” Luke said soothingly. “Let’s circle up.”
The children formed a circle around Luke, the other pilots sitting a pace behind the children. He caught Kosa and Reena sending him teasing grins, but he ignored them.
“I’m Luke,” he introduced himself.
“Mommy’s commander?” Juno’s eldest daughter, Willow, asked.
“But Commanders should be old,” her middle daughter, Gertrude, protested.
“They don’t have to be,” Luke said. “That’s up to you.”
Something seemed to resonate with the group, children and adults alike.
“Now,” Luke said, “I want you all to say your names, okay?”
It started on his left, and introductions were made. Luke memorized names to faces, with pilots introducing themselves last.
When it was done, Luke garnered their attention once again. “I have a fun little task to do today. I was meant to do this alone, but I think you’ll like it. Wanna know what it is?”
He heard a chorus of curiosity, and Luke brought over paint buckets and brushes. Children immediately squealed and jumped to their feet.
Luke held up his hands. “Whoa there. Sit down.”
The command wasn’t forceful, but the children sat back down, if only a tad antsy.
“There are some rules,” Luke frowned, “sorry, kids. First rule,” he held up a finger, “you can only paint on the racing stripes. Know what those are?”
There were a few nods, but Luke went over to the closest wing. He traced his finger down the orange stripe, the paint mostly gone or flecked away.
“This is a racing stripe,” Luke said. “Second rule,” he held two fingers, “I’m going to assign sections. You can only paint in your section. Third rule,” he held up three fingers, “you have to use your paint wisely. I don’t want you getting messy. Fourth rule,” Luke grinned, “you can paint whatever you want in the stripe! Now come on!”
The children jumped up gleefully, and Luke supervised handing out small brushes and setting buckets near each starfighter wing. He assigned sections fairly evenly among the children, the other pilots watching in awe.
Once the children set to work, Luke said, “I’m assigning you the nose of my X-wing. Let’s go!”
Luke’s infectious positivity spurred Ace Squadron to help without protest. They perched in separate areas of the nose, each of them taking turns to check on the children in between painting.
As Kosa detailed the petals of a Shili flower, she murmured to Luke, “if only all men were like you.”
Luke paused in painting the twin sun cycle on Tatooine, finishing up a sand dune to give the image clarity. “That wouldn’t bring much diversity to the galaxy.”
Reena rolled her eyes fondly. “I hope your boyfriend falls to his knees for you every night.”
“Oh,” Luke batted his lashes, not tearing his gaze from his painting, “he did last night, actually.”
Kosa choked on air, and Reena grinned victoriously.
Luke continued painting, and the other pilots returned. Luke checked on the children, and saw some shockingly wonderful designs on each wing. This was going to be the most eclectic X-wing in the entire fleet!
Nein suddenly found Wedge’s radio and played music. The children laughed as Nein tried to dance, and Luke found himself grinning until his cheeks ached.
When was the last time he had so much fun?
It neared hour three too soon, and Luke wanted to pout that it was almost over. Juno or Farrah would come to collect the children soon, so they could go back to their assigned quarters with their parents.
The presence of Force signatures had Luke looking away from his X-wing, though.
The Ghost and Falcon crews migrated to the X-wing section of the massive base hanger. Luke had sensed their presences like little dots in his mind map when he entered the hanger, but they had been very far away.
Luke placed the finishing touches on the Tatooine sunset he painted on the nose. He stepped down from a stool and was diverted by Juno and Farrah’s reappearance.
The two Twi’leks stared up as the children stepped off the X-wing. The other pilots gathered around the Twi’lek parents as Luke safely got the children grounded.
“I don’t believe it,” Farrah said incredulously.
“I hate Luke equally as much as I admire him,” Juno said.
Luke appeared carrying their youngest daughter, Nina, in his arms. Willow and Gertrude flanked his sides, Nina surprisingly willing to let Luke hold her.
“Hey,” Luke said brightly, “everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Farrah said. “Yeah. Were they any trouble?”
Luke glanced over as the pilots gathered up the brushes and paint buckets, wrangling the children together.
“None at all,” Luke said. “They were very well-behaved.”
Juno shared a look with Farrah.
“What?” Farrah said flatly.
“Are you a child whisperer?” Juno asked genuinely.
“No,” Luke laughed, “they were wonderful!”
“I don’t believe you,” Farrah threw up her hands, “but okay. You’re stopping by the classroom whenever you can now.”
“Okay,” Luke chimed. He saw that the children were coming towards them, and he called out, “time to go home, kids!”
There were grumbles and whines and expressions of ‘I wanna stay a little longer.’
Juno observed the class incredulously and said to them, “say thank you to Luke.”
The children chimed ‘thank you Luke!’ and followed Farrah. Juno took Nina in her arms, Willow and Gertrude skipping alongside their classmates.
Luke turned back to his squadron, who gathered up all the paint and set the buckets in their proper places. Nein went to shut off Wedge’s radio and set it back by his X-wing. The remaining pilots waved their goodbyes.
Reena nudged his shoulder, a smile on her face. “Your boy’s captivated by you,” she teased.
Luke remembered he had an audience a short distance away, and he bristled. Reena chuckled, and Kosa asked, “where did all that confidence from earlier go?”
Luke cleared his throat, and took a breath to center himself. “Thanks for that, Kosa.”
Kosa smiled and left with Reena in the opposite direction.
Luke saw a cacophony of people near his X-wing. Leia, Han, Ezra, Kanan, Sabine, Hera, and Zeb. They admired the artwork that graced the wings of Luke’s starfighter.
Luke let himself take a gander. There was images and drawings of every biome, vines and forest trees and caves and flower fields and volcanoes and waterfalls and canyons and worlds of ice and barren wastelands and congested cities. There were drawings of houses and clouds and purple skies and star systems and spaceships and plants and animals from every walk of life. All contained in four racing stripes on four starfighter wings.
This was the galaxy. Fifteen children and eight pilots painted the galaxy on Luke’s X-wing.
Luke distracted himself by dragging away his step stool, the sound catching the attention of his awestruck audience.
He smiled warmly at them. “I think I have the best starfighter in the fleet now.” He asked Leia, “did I break any rules?”
Leia narrowed her eyes at the artwork, a part of her expression softening. “You kept it in the stripes. You’re good.”
“They should paint the Falcon,” Han murmured, studying the image of a city not unlike Corellia, his home planet. “They’re good.”
“And the Ghost,” Hera chimed with a smile.
“So,” Luke grasped for words, “I haven’t seen you in a while. How was your mission?”
Kanan was saddened when he realized they hadn’t seen one another in weeks. Regret was there in his eyes, and Ezra tore his gaze from Luke upon acknowledging the look. Hera and Sabine noticed too, with Zeb unsure where he stood.
“It went as well as could be expected,” Hera said. “How have you been?”
Leia and Han shared a look that Luke saw in his peripherals. They were wondering if they needed to step in, but there was no need.
Luke replied with more information than the Ghost was probably looking for in a curt conversation, but somebody here had to open up, and that person was going to be him. “Since we last spoke, I got shot clean through my stomach, healed in the medbay for weeks, and now I’m finally able to stand without falling. What about you?”
Hera blinked at his candor. She glanced over at Sabine and Ezra, who schooled their expressions into half-smiles. Ezra’s gaze alone contained multitudes of affection for Luke.
“Nothing that exciting happened with us,” Hera said, wearing the easy smile she had whenever she saw Ezra again.
“That’s too bad,” Luke said breezily. “I had always imagined you got into shootouts every day.”
“I wish,” Zeb said, amusement in his eyes.
Luke felt the atmosphere lighten, and even Kanan smiled a little. He caught Leia and Han smile too, Ezra’s gaze once again affixed to his movements. Not even Sabine chose to nudge Ezra’s shoulder and tease him for it.
Luke glanced over at his sister and one of his best friends. “You came here for something, right?”
Han revealed a holo disc in his palm.
Luke grinned mischievously. “You’re both horrible, and I love you.” His smile dashed and he said to the Ghost crew, “I’ll see you around base.”
“Uh,” Ezra held up a finger, “what did I miss?”
“I’ll explain on the way,” Luke offered.
Ezra waved goodbye to his family and followed Luke, Leia, and Han out of the hanger.
“So what’s on this tape?” Ezra asked as they rounded the corner.
“Wedge is in the infirmary right now,” Luke explained, “and he’s being super overdramatic about his scrapes to Nate.”
“And Nate is eating it up,” Leia continued, “so Han decided to record the camera footage to bask in the hilarity.”
They entered the security room, which was being watched by Chewbacca spinning around in a chair. Luke cackled at the image and said, “hey, bud. What did you do to secure this room?”
Chewie yowled something sarcastic along the lines of ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
Han stuck the disc into one of the holo screens mounted to the walls. He turned the volume up and fast forwarded to when Nate arrived to check on Wedge.
“Wedge,” Nate rushed to his bedside, “are you okay?”
“I dunno,” Wedge croaked, seeming weaker than Luke knew he was, especially with his minimal wounds. “I’m groggy.”
Nate dropped into a seat and held Wedge’s hand in both of his. “What hurts?”
Luke bit his lip to prevent from laughing. Ezra slipped his hand through Luke’s and rested his cheek on Luke’s shoulder. The sudden intimacy had Luke smiling easily, Ezra’s hair brushing his jawline.
“Everything,” Wedge murmured.
Nate frowned, full of sympathy. Wedge had him on the hook, and their relationship was still so new that both were irrationally sweet on each other.
Aphra entered and threw a roll of bandages at Nate. “Patch him up. He’ll be fine.”
Aphra strode away as unceremoniously as she appeared. Nate proceeded to dutifully wrap bandages around Wedge’s bleeding arms.
“Almost dying really puts things into perspective,” Wedge said dramatically, Nate hanging onto every word. “I hope you never have to feel it.”
Nate frowned and brushed a hand across his cheek, smoothing out a bandage. His demeanor practically cooed ‘oh, poor baby.’
Ezra chuckled softly against Luke’s skin. Luke squeezed his hand and received a side smile in return. Leia was biting her lip so hard it was a wonder she wasn’t hurting herself to stifle laughter. Han grinned amusedly at the screen, Chewbacca faring no better in regards to disguising laughter.
The couple on the footage spent the next minute giving each other heart eyes. Nate finished patching him up and murmured, “I’ll be back in a little bit. Promise.”
They kissed and Nate departed, the tape ending.
“Wow,” Luke commented. “Considering I was shot and didn’t complain once, this was hilarious.”
Chewbacca chortled, Leia and Han noticing how close to Luke that Ezra was. Neither remarked on the affection, since they showed plenty by gazing at each other from afar constantly.
“Should we see him?” Ezra muffled, picking his head up from Luke’s shoulder.
“Guess I should,” Luke said, “to be a good Commander and all.”
“Good for you,” Leia patted his shoulder. “Don’t forget dinner is in fifteen minutes.”
“Right.” Luke blinked at the time on a holo screen. “I’ll make it a short visit.”
He tugged on Ezra’s hand, since he refused to let Luke go. Ezra followed like a tether to a balloon, Luke guiding him down the hallway. The base traffic was becoming more congested at day’s end, but Luke weaved them through the crowds efficiently.
Luke peeked in the infirmary window and saw that Wedge was being checked over by Aphra. She said something to him and he nodded. The door slid open, and Aphra faced the couple.
“Come to say hi to this fool?” She asked.
Luke smiled. “Yeah. I’ll be fast.”
“Good. I’m hungry and I wanna get there before the rush.” Aphra clapped his shoulder and dashed inside the medbay across the hall.
Ezra shared a look with Luke, and they entered the infirmary. Ezra hesitantly unclasped their hands and lingered in the background.
Wedge’s voice was thin as he greeted, “hey, Luke. Took you long enough to see me.”
“I don’t condone dramatic behavior,” Luke said slyly.
Wedge’s eyes widened, and he glanced frantically at the camera. He caught Ezra’s half-smile, and he shot Luke a panicked look. “You suck, dude!”
Luke grinned. “‘Almost dying really puts things into perspective’?! Really?!” He cackled loudly.
Wedge flushed. “Let me have my fun!”
Luke rolled his eyes. “I expect Aphra’s gonna let you out soon?”
Wedge frowned, and he hung his head. “Tomorrow,” he clarified sadly.
“Then the game is over,” Luke clucked his tongue, “too bad. I wanted to eavesdrop on more of your performances.”
Wedge did a one-eighty and smiled. “I’m glad I entertain you, nerf herder.”
Luke smiled smugly. “I’ll see you in the hanger very soon.”
Ezra keyed open the infirmary door, and Luke tugged him away. Crowds were filling the halls as everyone filed into the mess hall. Luke found himself once again guiding Ezra, who seemed completely content being dragged around as an extension.
Luke noticed Leia speaking with the mess hall cooks, and caught Ezra sending her a conspiratorial glance.
He looked between the two images again, and he asked, “are you both up to something?”
Ezra’s eyes brightened, a glint in dark blue irises. “It’s a surprise.” He pulled on Luke’s hand gently. “Come on. Food first.”
After sneaking glances with Han and Ezra at the mess hall table, Leia watched their cooks come out to clear plates.
Luke furrowed his brows as a cook swept away their empty dishes. “Dessert?” He asked confusedly.
His gaze went to Leia, and she nodded.
“Huh,” Luke blinked, “why?”
Leia shrugged. “Because.”
It amazed Leia how idiotic her twin could be sometimes. Luke simply accepted the reasoning and turned to Ezra. “Is this the surprise?”
“Maybe,” Ezra said noncommittally. His sabacc face was so impressive that he betrayed nothing of their plans.
Han pitched towards Leia’s shoulder and whispered, “does he really have no idea?”
Leia whispered back, “Luke may be a genius, but he can still be naive.”
Han shrugged in agreement and straightened his posture.
The cooks arrived with small plates, a rectangular box nestled on each one. They were held together by brown ribbons, the box shining a decadent gold.
When a box was placed in front of each person, Luke frowned down at it. Leia made sure the boxes gave him no indication of what was inside. After research, she knew that desert truffles were usually sold in bright red boxes with ornamental bronze ribbons.
Leia smiled amusedly, and Ezra stifled a laugh at Luke’s perplexed face.
The cooks disappeared back into the kitchen, and Leia said, “let’s untie them on three.”
“One,” Han said with a cocksure grin.
“Two,” Leia chimed.
“Three,” Ezra finished, the four of them pulling on the ribbon.
The boxes were opened, and all eyes were on Luke.
He peered at the desert truffle perched inside the box, dusted with bitter powder, and grinned so brightly that Leia felt sunburned.
Luke directed his happiness towards Ezra. His voice was soft and delicate. “You did this for me?”
“We did this for you,” Ezra murmured, a noticeable blush already tingeing his olive-bronze cheeks.
Luke grinned at the married couple, and Leia was elated to see him so openly vibrant. “Really?”
Leia nodded, and Han explained, “I have some contacts, and it just so happened to work out with shipments.”
Luke beamed like he never had before, and he murmured, “thank you. All of you.”
Without another moment of hesitation, Luke popped the chocolate in his mouth and smiled while he chewed. Ezra tried the truffle next, his eyes widening at the taste.
“You weren’t joking,” Ezra said. “This is good!”
Han ate his truffle and made a noise of surprise. “Who knew Tatooine could have good chocolate? Wow.”
Leia thought they were overselling it, but once she chewed the truffle, it turned out they weren’t.
“Kriff,” she remarked simply.
Ezra chuckled in pure happiness. “Stop kissing me! I need to breathe!”
Luke nudged away with a dazed sigh and sat on Ezra’s legs. The lights were dimmed, and it was probably late at night, but Ezra didn’t care. The second they were alone in their room, they made out with a fever that lead with Ezra only in his boxers. His kyber crystal necklace brought green light in a mixture of yellows and oranges and pockets of darkness. Luke was left wearing the lower half of his mechanic jumpsuit and his white undershirt.
Ezra regretted asking Luke for space when his mouth formed into a pout. That was usually Ezra’s move! Luke couldn’t just steal it!
Ezra watched his pounding chest expand and collapse for a few beats, refilling his lungs with air. Luke took a breather to peel the undershirt over his head and kick away the jumpsuit, leaving him in pants.
He gaped at Luke, and his boyfriend responded with a wink. Ezra tilted his head to the side, simply admiring the lights render Luke’s skin golden.
When neither moved for a moment, Luke fell on his side, curling up against Ezra. They didn’t feel the urge to go any further, the bout of heat dissipating. All that remained were their raw emotions, and Ezra was glad to taste Luke’s tongue without desire on it.
Luke withdrew from their kiss a moment later and murmured, “thank you for being so amazing.”
“You think I’m amazing?” Ezra grinned, gaze raking across Luke’s soft eyes and button nose and pink lips. “I think you’re amazing too! What you did today with the children was awesome!”
Luke lashes fluttered as he breathed out a chuckle. “We’re both amazing, then. How about that?”
In this moment, Ezra felt equal to Luke, in a way he never had before. They shone with equal brightness. They were equally happy. They were equally in love with each other.
The revelation had Ezra whispering, “it’s a deal, love. Now kiss me.”
Luke kissed him gladly.