“Oh,” Wedge said over the comm link, “you’ve gotta be kidding me!”
Luke banked his X-wing where Wedge flew above the base’s atmosphere. His Ace Squadron followed in tracking a series of gray blobs falling from the clouds, punching holes in the sky.
Luke flicked on his comm so he could speak with his entire squadron. “Stay calm. These are the last TIE fighters left in existence. The Empire aerial squads are done for once we ground these fighters. Are you all ready to do that? Because your Ace Leader is ready!”
“Ace One is ready,” Wedge said determinedly.
“Ace Two is ready,” Reena said.
“Ace Three is ready,” Kosa said.
“Ace Four is ready,” Juno said.
“Ace Five is ready,” Nein said.
Luke watched his pilots rattle off their callsign and declare they were prepared to fight. When the final member said their callsign, the TIE fighters finally broke through the atmosphere and banked towards their X-wings.
“Form a V, then break to attack,” Luke commanded. “Let’s do it!”
There were signals of affirmative, and Luke lead the attack, the point of the V. They fanned out accordingly behind him, on his left and right sides diagonally.
The TIE fighters were in range, and the other pilots switched on their targeting computers. Luke fell headfirst into the Force energy crackling around him dangerously, lighting up the fight through an invisible veil.
Despite the chaos, Luke was as calm as a breeze, allowing his eyes to fall shut, using the Force to guide his hands and his mind.
The targets were thunder clouds in an array of salient skies, and Luke pulled the trigger.
Bolts sailed across the air, his team’s turrets synchronizing with his own. The V fanned out from the edge inwards, X-wings curving in a beautiful arc as TIE fighters exploded in front of them. They banked away in perfect angles, taking out the fighters in one fell swoop.
“Holy kriff!” Wedge laughed over the comm system. “I didn’t think that would work!”
Luke heard more laughs of relief and delight over the comms. He allowed himself a smile and said cockily, “let’s get to base so we can receive our medals.”
There was roaring laughter as Ace Squadron prepared to descend from the upper atmosphere.
Leia wasn’t used to waiting. The only reason she took to her menial tasks on base was to make other people wait for her instead. It was her motivation to become a General for the New New Republic.
But Mon decided to have her fetch her brother from orbit to have a meeting that could probably wait in hindsight. Whatever.
When Leia reached the hanger, Ace Squadron had docked, their cockpits opening to a smattering of applause from flight officers. As always, Luke tore off his helmet and blushed, still unused to the attention that being a Jedi Commander brought.
A figure broke through a sea of orange and white, Luke descending his step ladder as Artoo popped out of his socket. Threepio spoke to the astromech frantically, checking for injuries, and Artoo beeped to tell him to stop fussing.
Luke reached the last step, and whirled around. The figure, clad in beige and green, held out an olive-skinned hand.
Lips upturned, and Luke grasped the hand warmly, Ezra guiding him down the final step. He was grounded, and Ezra murmured something to Luke. He laughed in response, and the crowds began to disperse. Ace Squadron filed away, going wherever it is they went, leaving the couple relatively alone.
With a tan insignia shirt over her shoulder, Leia broke through their haze and tossed the shirt at Luke. He absently caught it as she said, “we have a meeting. Let’s go.”
Luke sighed, leaning over to kiss Ezra’s cheek. A form of apology, Leia guessed. Ezra blushed lightly as Luke followed Leia.
As they walked, a rush in the halls, Luke unzipped his orange flight suit, revealing his pilot’s tags and the japor snippet Ezra carved for him, the upper half hanging down his legs. He wore a light green shirt that bared his arms, and if Ezra had seen it, he would have whistled.
Luke paused against a corner and shimmied his legs out of the flight suit, black cargo pants that belonged to Ezra on his legs. They reached Luke’s quarters and he threw the flight suit inside, allowing it to puddle the floor as the door shut unceremoniously.
Luke tossed the tan shirt over his shoulders, the insignia on the right side of his chest. He left it unbuttoned, revealing his necklaces, and once again, Ezra would have whistled. Luke swiped out the knots in his bangs, his helmet hair shaggy.
They rushed into the meeting room, officers with the ranking of Commanders and above filling the room to the gills. Luke received disapproving looks for his appearance, but he snorted and stared right back.
Leia placed herself beside Mon in the center of the room. Mon proceeded to reveal that their network of spies infiltrated the final Imperial base in the galaxy.
And the clincher? It was near Tatooine, where information on its exact coordinates were waiting to be found.
As soon as they said the name of Luke’s home planet, glances were cast in his direction. Leia watched him cross his arms defensively and blatantly ignore the looks.
She knew Luke had figured out that he would be a part of this mission to retrieve the coordinates, whether he liked it or not. And he once again had to return to the dust ball he swore he would never visit again, whether he liked it or not.
Mon requested a meeting with Luke and Leia after her explanation was over. She proceeded to detail the mission that would take place in three day’s time.
When Leia learned that the Falcon and the Ghost were working together, she knew what Mon was asking that was left unsaid.
Once they retrieved the coordinates, they had to attack the final base with full force. Mon was asking to snuff out the Empire with one fell swoop at long last. Luke understood the implications too, based on the stressed set of his shoulders.
When Mon dismissed them, it was sunset, and they took their meals in the empty Falcon. The two curled up in the Falcon booth, eating in silence for a moment, absorbing the contents of the day.
“Do you think we can pull this off?” Luke asked dazedly, his gaze on his terrible ready-to-eat dinner.
Leia sighed, drinking the purified juice that was supposed to be good for them, or whatever. “I think it would be a miracle if we got out of this unscathed.”
Luke said nothing else, and the twins ate in silence until Han and Chewie returned.
Luke’s entire being ached when he shuffled into his shared quarters. His feet ached from heel to toe. His head hung low from being held up by sheer willpower. His eyes were blurred, and he had to keep blinking away exhaustion.
As the door slid closed, he felt the man shadowing his front place his hands on both shoulders. The warmth of those hands seeped through the shirt and into his skin, and Luke nearly pitched forward.
He remembered himself, and he blinked at Ezra’s face. Ezra was letting a beard grow, so his face was scruffier than usual. His black hair had also curled around his jawline, adopting a bluish tint. His cheekbone scars were nonexistent due to the facial hair, and Luke found himself realizing how it emphasized Ezra’s handsome features. And sure, Luke knew Ezra was handsome, but the beard helped him notice how lovely he looked without trying.
Luke focused on Ezra’s defined nose and peach pink lips, and murmured a tired, “hey, I’m sorry if I woke you.”
Ezra snorted. “Did I look like I was asleep?”
Luke winced, and he glanced at Ezra’s bare arms. Despite originally protesting, Ezra had since cut away shirt sleeves to show his arms off. Luke saw the action as Ezra’s way of becoming comfortable with himself. It was a joy for Luke to see after all this time.
Luke shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I need to shower. You can let go now.”
“Sure you can make it?”
Luke huffed. “Let’s see.”
Ezra lifted his hands from Luke’s shoulders and stepped out of his way. Luke shuffled carefully across the room, entering the fresher and blinking light into his eyes.
The fresher closed, and Luke gained a semblance of his wits back. He washed away the grime from his mission hours earlier, feeling infinitely better when he was scrubbed clean.
Ezra waited patiently while Luke dried his hair and changed into pajamas. His Force signature was purposefully unimposing, a calm river giving him space to breathe.
Luke shuffled out of the fresher, glaring lights showing Ezra lying on their bed, eyes closed in a form of light meditation. Luke used an invisible stick to poke Ezra’s river bed, diverging the Force stream, and Ezra half-smiled.
Luke’s body relaxed as he laid down. Ezra opened his eyes and turned on his side, blinking over at Luke. Ezra made to ask about what was on his mind, but thought better of it.
Instead, Ezra scooted closer to Luke, situating them under the sheets. Dual lamps lit their vision as the others were waved off with a hand flick from Ezra. Luke turned on his side and Ezra shared his pillow, almost cross-eyed with how close Ezra was to him.
Ezra became a still lake in the Force, a serenity overcoming him that Luke was just getting used to seeing. His hand curved around Luke’s cheek, and something told Luke to breathe deeply, the weight of the day fading from his mind.
His Force signature sank into the lake as intensely as a dead weight, wading in the calm waters and adapting to the new environment. Luke imagined he was in the Lake Country, swimming in the lake and allowing his legs to float up, breaking the surface. He used the Force to hold himself up, his hair dipping into the warm water.
The lake became a sauna, soothing his muscles and various aches. Luke breathed deeply, in and out. The sensations soothed him in a state between wakefulness and sleep.
A hand on his cheek was replaced by lips pressed against his forehead. Luke’s mouth quirked upwards on instinct, his eyes fluttering open, back to reality.
“Thank you,” Luke murmured.
The lamplight cast Ezra’s face in a bronze glow. His eyes danced, and he smiled in kind. “Sleep,” he said, the word tugging Luke down, sinking him into the mattress and coaxing him under.
Luke’s smile twinged as he closed his eyes again, wrapped in a blanket of safety and warmth as he fell unconscious beside Ezra.
The Ghost wasn’t the same to Ezra anymore.
When he walked inside, prepared to stay there on their mission to Tatooine, he realized how much he truly changed.
Meeting Luke Skywalker wasn’t supposed to erase and recompose his entire chemical makeup. But in hindsight, Ezra should have known that meeting another Force sensitive his age after the war would transform him.
All it took was glimpsing a pale blonde man clad in black Jedi robes across from the hanger. All it took was for Leia to cause Luke’s head to turn, weary but glittering blue eyes settling on him, for Ezra to halt and reconfigure his entire being. All it took was for Luke to smile upon hearing Leia’s words, that he wasn’t the only Jedi left after all, for Ezra to fall harder than he ever had before.
Ezra was caught in Luke’s orbit ever since, torn between two worlds that were finally, over a year later, beginning to align. It was a tumultuous road, but Ezra’s family had accepted Luke’s permanent presence in his life. Kanan was impressed by Luke’s wisdom and raw skill, Hera decided to be a comforting parental presence, Zeb begrudgingly found Luke’s quips amusing, and Sabine adored Luke so much that Ezra was worried she would steal him away, sexual preferences aside.
But nonetheless, the Ghost was not Ezra’s home anymore. Ezra’s home had become a person, and he wouldn’t apologize for the monumental change.
Ezra set down his bags in his old bunk, blushing when he remembered Luke sleeping there with him once, — when the Ghost critically judged his every move — but Luke still had it in him to show affection.
There was a knock on the open door, Sabine leaning against the frame coyly. “Did you see it yet?”
Ezra turned around, brows furrowed. “What?”
Sabine nudged her head to the opposite wall, and Ezra followed the motion, clutching his chest when he saw it.
He blew out excess air through his mouth, eyes bugging out of his head. “What the kriff.”
Sabine grinned. “Don’t you like it?”
Ezra’s mind computed the painting of Luke’s serene face on his wall. His shoulders had the details of his yellow bomber jacket, and Sabine captured every iota of Luke’s face correctly. His salient eyes shined as if in thought, head tilted at an angle as if focused on the sky. His hair was blonde-brown depending on how the light hit it, and Sabine defined his wavy hair and fluffy bangs exactly right. Sabine hadn’t even missed the smattering of freckles across his nose, only seen when the sun was at its brightest. She painted the moles on his face, his dimples, the crinkles of his eyes when he squinted, the crooked angle of his shy smile, his shifting skin tone, the soft scar on his chin. And she placed a halo over his hair like a crown, clearly for kicks, accentuating a semicircular ring of orange-yellow paint meant to symbolize the sunrise behind Luke’s face.
Ezra almost thought this painting of Luke was real. That Luke was there with him, smiling at the sky, tangible and touchable.
Ezra wanted to splay out his hand and stick his arm through a portal, where Luke was real and he could trace his thumb across Luke’s dimples, listen to his golden laugh as he kissed his freckles.
But Ezra crossed his arms and shot Sabine a look. “How long did it take you to paint my boyfriend?! In my room?!”
Sabine only smirked, and said confidently, “I know you love it.”
Ezra sighed, dropping his head so that he couldn’t see the silent laughter in Sabine’s eyes. “Fine. I do. Go away now.”
Sabine pushed off the doorframe, leaving Ezra alone.
Ezra allowed himself a moment to stare at the wall mural, and decided that Luke maybe shouldn’t see it. Only if Sabine brought it up first. Because Luke would love it just a little too much.
Luke tinkered while the Falcon was in orbit, fixing everything in the long list that Han accumulated. They didn’t immediately need fixing, but Luke found himself bored. And when he was bored, he did strange things, like build an AI or engineer a droid from scratch or create new toys slash weapons for Artoo to wield in a bind.
He finished Han’s list, though, within an hour into their half-day’s journey to Tatooine. When Luke crossed that final item off the list, Leia merely quirked an eyebrow in surprise and continued painting her nails.
Luke convinced Artoo to stop playing holochess with Threepio and pried open his innards. Artoo acquiesced when Luke promised him an oil bath when they returned from their mission.
By hour three, Luke fixed Artoo’s rocket thrusters and added a coterie of weapons onto a single knife hilt for Artoo’s claw. The astromech whirred in delight upon waking and hearing Luke’s explanation for what the knife could do.
It was then that Luke heard Chewbacca’s telltale yowl as he sat in the pilot’s seat. Han stepped out of the cockpit, glancing at Leia painting flowers on her nails, then at Luke handing Artoo a dangerous weapon.
Han’s eyes widened. “What in the Corellian hells did I miss?”
Leia barely looked at Han as she replied, “he finished everything on the list, so he made a murder weapon for Artoo to destroy us all.”
Han began to visibly sweat, staring alarmedly at the astromech as he wheeled away joyfully. He stepped back as Artoo moved in search of Threepio.
When Artoo was gone, Han addressed Luke worriedly. “I wish you weren’t a genius. Kriff. I never thought I’d be scared of a droid.”
Leia chuckled at him, and Luke grinned innocently as he rose from his kneeled position.
Kanan fell against the mat, Ezra taking both of their lightsabers and crossing them over his neck.
Kanan breathed, and Ezra pushed away from him, shutting off both lightsabers. Green and blue light was extinguished with a whoosh, and Ezra hooked both blades to his belt.
If Ezra were a teenager under Kanan’s tutelage again, and he beat his Master at sparring, he would have thrown up his fists and howled in victory.
Instead, Ezra threw his elation into the nearest Force receptacle. Before he offered Kanan a hand, he said pointedly, “it would seem that for once,” he bit back a smile, “I’m not the one who’s distracted.”
He heard applause from Zeb and Sabine.
Ezra’s eyes slid towards the doorframe as Zeb’s hulking form slipped inside the training room, Sabine grinning from the sidelines. It took all of Ezra’s willpower not to beam at his accomplishment.
He held out his hand to Kanan, which his former Master grasped to get to his feet. Ezra straightened his posture and heard Kanan exhale to regain his breath.
“And lo,” Sabine declared, “the apprentice becomes the Master!”
“What’s goin’ on, Kanan?” Ezra asked, ignoring watching eyes. “What’s on your mind?”
When Ezra crossed his arms, Kanan deflated, knowing he couldn’t get out of this one.
He replied, “nothing you should worry about.”
“Uh oh,” Ezra frowned, “guess what? I’m worried now.”
He heard Zeb and Sabine file away, like they always did during one of their ‘Jedi talks.’
Kanan huffed and murmured, “you don’t need me anymore. I don’t know what to do if you don’t need me.”
Ezra sighed deeply, disheartened at seeing his Master’s Force signature dampened so noticeably. “Kanan,” he said, “I’ve told you before: I’ll always need you.” He arched an eyebrow. “But I think I know what this is about.”
Kanan studied Ezra confusedly, and Ezra placed a hand on his shoulder.
Ezra said, “be with Hera. I know you’re already with her, but be there for her.”
Kanan’s eyes widened, seemingly realizing how far Ezra had come with reading Force sensitives, no matter how much he concealed his feelings.
Kanan said, “it’s up to you now to lead the future. You and Luke both.”
Ezra smiled thoughtfully and inclined his head, removing his hand from Kanan’s shoulder.
Kanan eyed him suspiciously. “But you already knew that. Somehow.”
“Ah,” Ezra grinned, “it was Luke who had the vision.”
Kanan looked ready to question Ezra incessantly, but decided to let it drop. In a quick hand motion, he used the Force to unclip the blue lightsaber on Ezra’s belt, calling his stolen lightsaber to his palm.
“Let’s go again,” Kanan said.
Ezra unclipped his own lightsaber.
Green and blue lightsabers crossed between the twins, lighting up their grimaces.
“You’ve been practicing,” Luke breathed, pushing away from Leia.
She twirled the hilt of the blue lightsaber as Luke angled his own blade. They restarted, stepping back and pushing forward again. Luke tried to sideswipe Leia, but she bent low, blocking the easy pass.
They paused, and Luke asked, “what changed? You used to hate so much as holding a lightsaber.”
Leia circled him, huffing a breath and leaping, the Force taking her an inch off the ground. She attacked with a ferocity that normally was restrained to Leia’s storm of a Force signature, but Luke blocked the assault in a sharp movement covering his chest.
When this failed, Leia blew a section of hair out of her eyes and replied, “I figured I shouldn’t fight it anymore. It won’t stop me from being able to do this.”
Leia twirled her lightsaber in a series of arcs, and Luke blocked each intense blow before the heat of the blade burned his skin.
“And besides,” Leia said cockily, reminding Luke of himself and of Han, “you boys tend to get yourselves in trouble a lot.”
Luke smiled, his form of agreement, then created an attack of his own. He leapt and spun as if he were a blaster bolt, intending to strike Leia’s side and duck low. But Leia anticipated the attack, and she blocked accordingly.
Luke righted himself, and Leia smiled.
“Did you forget you taught me that one?” Leia teased. “It almost got Ezra.”
Luke shut off his lightsaber in pure puzzlement, Leia following suit, a knowing grin on her face.
“You spar with Ezra?”
Leia hummed, flipping the lightsaber hilt between her fingers. “Just once, when you were on Tatooine and he had insomnia.”
“Oh,” Luke frowned concernedly, “okay.”
“He can’t sleep without you near. Isn’t that cute?” Leia cooed.
Luke snorted. “So that move got him?”
“He nearly lost his balance and fell, yeah.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Luke said mischievously.
The Falcon landed near an old farm in the middle of nowhere on Tatooine an hour before the Ghost.
When the Ghost ramp retracted and the crew saw the domed farm surrounded by moisture vaporators, Ezra realized where he was.
Ezra’s combat boots sunk into the shifting sands. Twin suns lowered on the horizon, casting the atmosphere in blood orange light. He walked forward, sensing silent footsteps follow him, their lack of chatter choking the air. A light breeze swept through Ezra’s hair, and he learned how Luke’s Force signature came into being. He was merely mimicking the environment where he grew up.
A rectangular hole in the sand revealed steps that went underground, leading them to the entrance of the beige igloo.
The door swung open, Han taking in the Ghost crew and stepping back, allowing them inside the dome. “Good job finding this place,” he remarked to Hera.
Ezra stepped past the threshold, soaking in the domed walls and worn furniture and disarray about the living space.
“So this is it,” Ezra said gravely, “huh?”
He caught the edge of Han’s fallen smile as he replied, “sure is.”
Ezra glided towards a broken holo screen, a palm-sized circular device on the stand. He picked it up and flicked on the holo, revealing a photo of a teenage Luke with his aunt and uncle, who were executed by firing squad just outside the dome.
Ezra sensed frowns as Kanan, Hera, Sabine, and Zeb looked over his shoulder at the holo. They realized that this was Luke’s home, and reacted viscerally by bristling.
He shut off the holo and set it back by the broken holo screen. The disarray was because something bad happened in this house. The Force tapped his shoulder and reconfirmed what he already knew.
It must have been the stormtroopers that were to blame for the broken and misplaced objects.
But Kanan realized it for the first time, and his eyes were blown wide at the onslaught of information. Hera noticed his alarm and placed a hand on his shoulder. Kanan relaxed beneath her gentle touch, but his expression showed clear concern on Luke’s behalf.
An archway that Ezra hadn’t noticed on the right side of the room revealed Leia. She had changed into beige clothing, clearly meant to blend with the desert sands.
“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t sense you arrive.” Leia focused on her husband. “Han, Luke needs you outside.”
Han slipped past Leia in the archway, disappearing through a door that Ezra couldn’t visualize from his vantage point.
Leia saw the Ghost crew’s frowns, and said, “I know. I was upset the first time I came here too.”
“How can he,” Sabine asked sadly, “come back here if this is where-” she stopped herself.
“He’s made peace with it,” Leia replied. “He’s stronger than he looks.”
She shifted her feet as they absorbed this, and her gaze switched over to Ezra. Leia nudged her head, and Ezra crossed the room, sweeping past her wordlessly.
Behind the archway was an expansive kitchen and eating space. Doors branched all around, and Ezra realized how the small dome was really quite massive, since parts were underground.
Past the kitchen was another archway, leading to an underground space unprotected by a dome roof. He looked up, and guessed they were several feet below ground. Moisture vaporators acted as spires in the skyline, and pipes snaked up the walls. Doors and storage containers were built into the sturdy sand walls, creating a structure that supported two levels.
This was the most interesting farm Ezra had certainly ever seen. Not that he had ever seen a moisture farm before.
A man made of sunlight was in the center of the underground farmland, twisting valves on a large moisture vaporator. The spicket spat out water as he filled buckets, whistling a tune that Ezra recognized as the theme song to Triangle of Love.
Luke was clad entirely in white, wearing a long tunic and leggings with matching combat boots and a utility belt. Sand-colored cloth was wrapped around his lower arms and hands, meant to protect his tanned skin from harsh sunlight. His hair glowed gold, and his entire aura shone exceptionally bright.
He was dazzling, and he had no idea.
Luke bent down and shut off the spicket once the bucket was full. Han appeared from the second level, stepping down the ladder and picking up the bucket of water. Luke replaced it with another bucket by his boots, and allowed the water to flow again.
Han saw Ezra approach them hesitantly, and he told Luke as much. Han swept past him with a bucket of water, entering the kitchen.
Luke’s profile settled on him, and he smiled as Ezra drew nearer. “Is this too strange for you, babe?”
At the term of endearment that Ezra secretly loved but pretended he hated, he said haughtily, “I’m perfectly fine. Perfectly fine.”
Luke narrowed his eyes, observing Ezra fully once he shut off the water again. He clearly sensed something of Ezra’s true feelings in this moment, because he smirked.
“Is this outfit to your liking?” He teased.
“You,” Ezra emphasized, smoothing out the gauzy cloth on Luke’s arms, “are always to my liking.”
Luke threw his head back and laughed. “You flirt! You’re ridiculous, Ez!”
Ezra’s eyes shined as he grinned. “You’re absolutely right.” He brought his hands down Luke’s arms, clasping his palms. Luke was caught in a trap, and Ezra murmured, “it’s great to see you like this, farmboy.”
Luke hooded his gaze with his lashes, his freckles especially prominent in the sunlight. “Then you’ll like it when I start cooking.”
Ezra blinked incredulously. “You can cook?! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
Luke chuckled softly, salient eyes on his. “I can cook what I grow, yes.” He rolled his eyes. “Of course I can.”
“Why do you let the mess hall cooks do everything?”
“Because they can handle it,” Luke said with a shrug. “And I never really thought about it before.”
Ezra hummed in understanding, and squeezed his hands before letting go. He bent down and picked up the bucket of water, to Luke’s obvious delight.
“So,” he asked, “what’s for dinner?”
Leia observed from the counter stool as Han, wearing an apron, washed desert vegetables under the sink. On the counter, Luke stirred boiling broth, in the process of making soup from scratch.
She smirked. Oh, these were her boys. Her adorable kitchen boys.
Han and Luke liked to play it cool, but both men were incredible cooks. The Ghost crew would be in for a surprise.
Smells started to emanate from the kitchen into the living space, and the green-skinned Twi’lek stepped through the archway to investigate.
Her bright eyes absorbed the contents of the kitchen. Han delicately washing greens. Luke studying the bubbling pot of broth. Leia across the counter, arranging the ingredients absently, having nothing to do since Ezra already set the table.
To Leia’s surprise, Hera chimed, “can I help with anything?”
Both men swiveled their heads in her direction, neither adopting puzzled expressions like Leia.
Han flicked off the sink and said, “you can skin and chop vegetables.” He turned towards Luke, glancing over his shoulder for confirmation. “Right?”
Luke checked the temperature of the broth and said, “right.”
Hera synchronized herself with both men, finding a space near Luke, Han handing her a peeler and a small knife. Hera gratefully began her task, and Leia watched Han and Luke slot back into their own assignments.
It was easy. Almost too easy to be true.
Finally, the Falcon and the Ghost crews were at peace with one another. It was an event long overdue, in Leia’s opinion.
Artoo suddenly wheeled into the kitchen from the farmland, Chopper appearing after spending time guarding both starships. Artoo beeped, and an inner radio that definitely wasn’t a part of Artoo’s programming hours earlier blasted music.
Luke burst out laughing, causing Han to grin at the astromech.
“Having fun with your new radio, Artoo?” Luke prompted the droid.
Artoo beeped in the affirmative, turning up the volume and causing Luke to laugh even more.
Leia beamed as Luke’s melodious laugh resulted in Ezra’s body forming the kitchen archway. Hera noticed Ezra’s grin and stifled a giggle, sharing a knowing look with Leia.
The entire contents of the house decided to enter the kitchen space. Kanan eyed Hera as she giggled with Leia, Artoo playing raucous music with Chopper emitting binary curses. Zeb and Chewie said something to each other, and Sabine decided to sit on the stool next to Leia. Threepio told Artoo to shut off the music, but the astromech refused vehemently.
A light on the stove blinked, and Luke said to Han, “spices.”
Without looking, Han tossed a shaker of spice behind him, Luke catching it easily.
Han gaped and whirled around, since Luke hadn’t turned around to catch it either. Luke shook spice into the broth and turned around too, stifling a cackle.
“Holy shit!” They exclaimed in unison, high fiving like idiots.
Leia rolled her eyes fondly. They were her idiots. Her idiotic twin brother and her idiotic husband.
She caught Ezra still leaning against the archway, his cheek pressed to the sand-colored stone in a dreamlike state, beard scratching the surface.
Leia’s laugh was a bomb, nearly toppling her over the stool. Hera and Sabine observed her curiously, and followed her eyeline.
Ezra had not moved, and Sabine cackled, Hera putting a hand over her mouth to stifle giggles. This resulted in Kanan and Zeb noticing too, and they snickered.
Luke had since returned to adding spices to the pot, but something in the Force alerted him to Ezra’s staring.
Luke did the unexpected. He straightened his posture, faced Ezra, and held out his hands. He clapped them together loudly, and Ezra blinked, bristling intensely at being caught.
Luke merely turned on his heel and continued stirring the broth. Ezra blushed so profusely that the entire contents of the kitchen, with the exception of Luke, laughed at him.
Ah, camaraderie. Leia loved it.
Dressed in ample clothing obscuring their faces and bodies, Luke and Han entered the Mos Eisley Cantina.
The spy meant to sell them the coordinates told them to meet there, and when they saw the location, Luke and Han recoiled.
“Oh,” Han and Luke said, once again in unison, “you’ve gotta be kidding me!”
No one knew what they were talking about, so Luke explained sheepishly, “we got into a shootout there.”
Leia’s brows shot up the furthest, Ezra far too pleased and turned on by the information. She ignored him and realized neither man had mentioned this before.
They skipped past the details, and Han said, “we have to go in disguises.”
Luke nodded, and when Leia mentioned someone else going in, he refuted with, “we know the ins and outs.”
Leia sighed and allowed the duo to enter the cantina. In broad daylight the next day, they stepped through the cantina threshold.
The entrance wall showed pictures of criminals and banned beings from entering the establishment. With bandannas on their faces, Han and Luke shared a look when they studied their pictures on the wall.
“I’m flattered,” Han remarked, Luke snorting and tightening the bandanna over his mouth.
The Mos Eisley Cantina had not changed a bit since their shootout a decade earlier. Luke could swear that the same sentient beings that were there all that time ago were still in the bar, as if only a blip had passed.
“Can you say freaky?” Han muttered.
Luke hummed in agreement, then found the man they were looking for in the corner booth. He commented to Han lowly, “guy’s pulling a Han Solo.”
Han rolled his eyes and lead the way towards the humanoid man.
When the sound of blaster fire was long gone and Luke flew the landspeeder back to his farm, Han said, “let’s not tell anyone about the second shootout.”
Luke’s hand left the wheel to stick out a pinky finger. Han snorted but interlocked their pinkies together.
“Deal,” Luke said over the wind.
After Ezra gleaned all the information he could about Luke’s childhood present in the dome, Leia sensed him perch beside her.
Leia thought sitting on the dome roof would hide her adequately enough, but she didn’t mind Ezra’s company while they waited.
The horizon was blurry in the excess heat wave, so Leia stopped squinting to catch sight of the maroon landspeeder.
Ezra said nothing for a long moment, and it unnerved Leia more than she thought it would. It was rare to see Ezra at a loss for words.
He managed a soft, “if we get out of this and succeed, I’m marrying your brother.”
Leia blinked at Ezra’s profile. His knees were up to his chest for balance, his chin resting there. His gaze was on the horizon, but from what Leia could see of his expression, it was clearer than ever. The sun cast him in bronze light, his wavy hair and beard shading him in copper. His regulation orange pants ballooned across the sandy dome and black boots, his sleeveless white shirt loose around his shoulders. His eyes were a deep blue, reminding Leia of an ocean, the feeling of wisdom that she was used to seeing in Kanan’s aura.
Seeing it in Ezra was a strange but welcome transformation. Ezra changed a lot in such a short period of time. Leia felt like only a second had passed since she met Ezra Bridger and sensed a storm in him similar to her own. That storm had shifted into serene water, and Leia knew it was her brother that tamed him. Leia was still working on her own storm.
All that Ezra had done to better himself was not only for him, but for Luke too. With that thought, Leia knew that Luke was safe by his side. They were meant to meet and love one another.
Leia realized she hadn’t spoken, and Ezra faced her more fully, his eyes wider than normal.
Leia alleviated his worry by simply saying, “good.”
Ezra cracked a wry grin, turning back to the horizon. His spine straightened. “They’re coming.”
Leia swiveled her head and saw a maroon blur getting closer by the second. She found herself leaning forward eagerly, two figures becoming clear as she heard the hum of the landspeeder engine.
Footsteps were heard below the dome entrance, and Sabine stuck her head upwards. She surveyed the duo on the roof and asked curiously, “how’d you get up there?”
“The Force,” Ezra and Leia said in unison, glancing at each other and snickering.
Sabine mock pouted. “No fair.”
The engine whirred and cut out abruptly. Three heads shot towards the landspeeder as it was grounded. Luke slipped out of the driver’s seat, and Leia wondered how he convinced Han to take the passenger’s seat.
They pulled off their excess clothing as they walked, and Han squinted his eyes to observe Leia on the roof. “Need help gettin’ down?”
Leia shook her head and used the Force to break her descent down the dome and to the sand. Han raised an eyebrow at the graceful movement and held back a whistle.
What a man.
Meanwhile, Luke tilted his head up at Ezra, confused and curious. Ezra smiled down at him sheepishly and slid down the wall. He purposefully allowed Luke to box him in, holding his shoulders as he dropped himself to the ground carefully. The two locked eyes briefly, then Luke stepped back, remembering himself before Ezra could distract him.
Sabine made a pronounced snort. “What an astounding difference.”
She descended the stairs and opened the door to the dome. The couples followed, Leia leading them inside.
Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Chewie, and the droids were already gathered in the sitting room. They leaned forward, at attention, when they sat in various spots around the room. Leia was in the middle, near Hera and Han. Luke was on her opposite side, next to Ezra and Kanan.
Leia glanced pointedly at Luke, and Han placed the holo in the center of a table. He flicked it on and showed the coordinates on a familiar planet.
“Dantooine,” Leia said.
Artoo blasted his radio the next day, when the Falcon crew was sequestered in hyperspace, the Ghost not far behind them.
The group was quite melancholy after their short break on Tatooine, dreading what perils Dantooine would bring.
Deciding to pierce through the tension, Artoo played Luke’s favorite song.
With Han and Chewbacca in the cockpit, Leia rose to her feet and offered a hand to Luke in the booth. His hand slipped into hers, and he stood.
Leia guided him into a twirl, and he laughed softly. Luke’s hand touched her shoulder, and she lead him in a sweeping ballroom dance, completely uncharacteristic for an upbeat song.
Somehow, that made it more fun.
They used up the floor space, moving together in a wide circle. Leia finished the move by dipping Luke. He laughed harder and his head hung in midair, and Leia wished Ezra were here to see him like this.
No matter. He would see eventually.
Luke leveled his head with Leia’s, and she twirled him again. In an unexpected move, Luke used the Force to lift stray objects as if they were in zero gravity. Luke acted as a balloon, buoying in the air as they danced, looking more carefree than she had ever seen him.
The objects floated all around them like hanging lightbulbs, and Leia used the Force to twirl them. Luke laughed at the change, and Artoo beeped as Leia sent him a half-inch off the ground.
As the song crescendoed, the Force sent floating objects back down. They did another twirl and spin, and they broke apart.
Artoo bounced on his wheels and beeped happily in lieu of applause, turning the radio off.
The twins smiled matching smiles.
Ezra gasped loudly, curled up in his bunk, a datapad in his lap and a blanket around his shoulders. “Jaden’s back!”
He heard a screech of joy on the other end of his comm link, which emitted Luke’s surprise from Ezra’s pillow.
“Bye bye, Trevor!” Luke exclaimed happily.
“Our favorite soap opera is back with us again,” Ezra murmured, watching the credits roll on the latest episode of Triangle of Love.
“Kira needs to seriously get it together and stop messing around with Moira,” Luke said.
“We’ve said it before. Let’s say it again.”
“Moira’s trouble,” they said in unison.
“If only Kira could hear us,” Luke mused.
“I’m sure if you told them that the famous Luke Skywalker watches the show,” Ezra said cheekily, “they’ll do whatever you say.”
Luke scoffed. “I doubt it. It’s a nice thought, though.”
Ezra glanced at the time. “It’s getting late in the night cycle. What are you wearing?”
Luke snorted. “Shut up. Our ships are close by. Go to sleep.”
Ezra sighed loudly. “Fine! Let’s be responsible adults, I guess.”
“Good night, Ez,” Luke murmured, Ezra able to tell that he was lying on his own pillow.
Ezra played with the comm in his palm and said, “good night, Luke.”
They switched off their comms, and Ezra heard something behind his bedroom door. He raised an eyebrow, flicked the door open with the Force, and found Hera lingering concernedly.
Hera, uncaring she was caught, said, “it’s late. We have a big mission tomorrow.”
“I know,” Ezra said softly. “I’m goin’ to sleep.”
Hera stepped inside the room, thankfully not focusing on the Luke mural decorating his wall. She folded her arms and checked over him on the top bunk, tilting her head up. She saw the datapad and asked, “what were you watching?”
Ezra shrugged nonchalantly. “A show.”
“What is it?” Hera asked.
“You’ll make fun of me, and I can’t have that.”
Hera smiled amusedly. “What’s it called?”
“Promise not to tell anyone?”
Ezra knew she was good on her word. He replied quietly, “Triangle of Love.”
Hera’s eyes sparkled, and Ezra sighed.
“I shouldn’t have told you,” Ezra decided. “I’ve made a grave mistake.”
Hera half-smiled. “I won’t tell.”
To get the attention away from him, Ezra set aside his datapad and asked, “how are you and Kanan?”
Hera blinked at the abrupt topic change. “Kanan said...something strange to me earlier.”
“And what’s that?”
“He said,” Hera paused, “that his future had changed.”
Ezra grinned. “Did he now?”
Hera stood on tiptoes, trying and failing to reach his level on the top bunk. “What do you know?” She demanded.
“He’s being romantic,” Ezra said with a little laugh. “He thought his future was to find more Jedi and teach them. It’s not anymore.”
He purposefully stopped talking, allowing Hera to fill in the blank herself.
A moment passed, and Hera flushed. “It’s with me?”
Ezra hummed in affirmation, leaning over the bunk to see Hera better. “I’ll take care of the whole future Jedi thing. Okay?”
Hera wanted to ask him more questions, but she lowered herself back to the ground. Her motherly instincts took over, and her green-skinned hand brushed against his beard.
“Get some sleep now,” Hera murmured.
Ezra hummed, and Hera shut off the lights when she left.
When they reached the rendezvous point in the lush jungles of Dantooine, a dozen miles from the Imperial base, another small ship was waiting for them.
On their separate starships, Luke and Sabine recognized it and told their teams to stand down.
The Falcon and the Ghost landed near the unknown ship, wondering whose vessel it could possibly be that wouldn’t cause alarm.
Luke and Sabine descended their respective starship ramps, and the figure who owned the ship made herself known.
Black hair, goggles on a pilot’s hat, smuggler clothes, sparkling eyes, and a cocksure grin came to meet the two envoys.
“So,” Doctor Aphra asked, “are we ready to party?”
Sabine beamed at her. “You brought explosives, didn’t you?”
Aphra placed a loving hand on her ship’s hull. “Enough weapons to set this jungle on fire.”
Stuck in the middle, Luke watched Sabine and Aphra give each other heart eyes. He smirked and rolled his eyes.
Ezra nudged Kanan from behind the tree trunk. “You’re hogging the binoculars.”
Kanan nudged him back. “You’re not going to like what you see,” he warned.
Ezra held out a hand, and Kanan plopped the binoculars in his palm.
He placed them in front of his eyes. More stormtroopers and officers were outside the base than they were expecting.
But what Ezra was concerned about was the monstrous crates and cattle prods that Imperials were using to herd animal species from across the galaxy into cages.
It took a dozen officers to prevent a tibidee from flying away in its crate, Ezra recalling its cry from ages ago. Ezra paled considerably when he saw a purrgil among the caged animals.
However, when Ezra pulled the binoculars away from his face, he said determinedly, “we have an edge.”
Kanan’s eyes slid to Ezra’s expression, and said, “their escape can be a distraction.”
“And my lovely flying friends can take us back to our ships,” Ezra added.
Expecting Kanan to protest, Ezra was surprised when he inclined his head in assent.
“These bucket heads need better suits,” Sabine said through the stormtrooper vocoder. She was clearly uncomfortable fitting inside a clone outfit meant for men.
“They’re not so nice in the crotch area either,” Han remarked, wiggling in his armored pants.
“Aw,” Aphra mocked, “are your little swimmers hurtin’?”
Han shot her a look and popped on the helmet. “Easy for you to say. You don’t gotta wear one of these.”
Doctor Aphra smiled, arming her twin blasters strapped to her belt. “Where’s our furry friend?”
Chewbacca yowled as he appeared with Zeb. The Lasat had locked the Wookiee’s wrists in binders.
“Chewie doesn’t like this,” Zeb translated gruffly.
“None of us do, Chewie,” Han said through the emotionless vocoder. “It’s the Death Star all over again. It’s bullshit.”
Sabine looked between Han and Chewbacca. “This is the same plan as the Death Star infiltration?”
Han shrugged, but the armored plates on his shoulders didn’t show it. “More or less. Luke did it with us last time.”
“I have a hard time placing him there,” Aphra murmured dazedly.
“Me too,” Zeb agreed.
Hera burst into their encampment among the broken tree line. “Zeb, let’s bounce. Your sniper awaits.”
Zeb said, completely serious, “I don’t see what bouncing has to do with anything, but I’ll come.” He set his harsh green eyes on the group in their gear and mumbled, “good luck.”
“Oh, this is positively the maddest plan we’ve ever had,” Threepio said worriedly. “We’re all doomed.”
Artoo beeped at him to be quiet, the twins kneeling behind a fallen tree.
Leia pointed a finger towards the base’s back entrance. “There. That door opens and closes rather often.”
“At a rate of every five to seven minutes,” Luke added.
Leia narrowed her eyes at her brother.
Luke smiled sheepishly. “I counted seconds. And I also saw a roof hatch.”
Leia shook her head in disbelief, her eyes widening as animal crates were shuttled through the back door. It acted as a cargo hold for an insurmountable amount of unnameable animal species.
“Ezra’s not going to like this,” Luke commented. “Not that I do either.”
Leia’s eyes widened as an idea sparked in her head. “You said that Force sensitives can control animals.”
Luke nodded in understanding. “Ezra’s probably thought the same thing. You should let him do it.”
“Release them,” Leia asked, “or control them?”
“Both,” Luke replied. “Besides, he’s got a gift for it.”
“Controlling animals?” Leia asked incredulously.
Luke nodded, studying a massive gray-skinned animal with wings cry in protest behind bars.
“Every Force sensitive is gifted in specific areas,” Luke said with a shrug. “You’ll learn yours someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Leia glanced at the lightsaber hilt clipped beside her blaster on her belt. It always brought conflict to her mind to think about how this was her father’s lightsaber. But since the resources to make lightsabers were extremely limited, Leia had to do with a handed-down old relic.
This might be the first time she fights with a lightsaber in actual combat. Thankfully, Luke would be there as an extra shield should something go wrong. Leia didn’t expect anything to go awry, but she couldn’t be too careful.
Luke flicked on the encrypted comm link they shared. “Did you see it?”
“Yeah,” Ezra huffed. “Are we in agreement?”
Luke placed the comm in front of Leia, the microphone switch held by his thumb. “General?” He prompted.
“Yes,” Leia replied.
The moon was incredibly close to the atmosphere. If Leia looked close enough, she could see patterns etched across the moon’s surface. She could see the chemical makeup in the lunar sand. She could see craters and signs of life on farmland.
With the massive moon as a backdrop on the Imperial base in a starless sky, Leia turned on each comm channel one-by-one.
As Luke checked over Artoo and Threepio’s systems, Leia sat in the moss beside a fallen tree trunk and flicked on channel one. “Check in.”
“I’m bored as fuck,” Ezra said.
She heard Kanan sigh deeply. “Ezra. For kriff’s sake. I shouldn’t have Knighted you.”
Leia switched to channel two. “Check in.”
“Your husband and I are getting along wonderfully,” Aphra said dryly.
Chewbacca yowled, and Han said, “everything’s fine, Leia.”
“I’m taking care of it,” Sabine said sweetly.
“Thank you,” Leia said. She switched to channel three. “Check in.”
“My trigger finger is starting to cramp,” Zeb complained. “When are they on the move?”
“In a few minutes, Zeb. Hang on,” Leia said. She flicked to channel four. “Check in.”
“I’m completely fine, General,” Hera said, sounding shockingly relaxed from her sniper perch. “Is Zeb throwing a fit?”
“I wouldn’t say a fit,” Leia said, “but he’s impatient.”
“That’s Zeb,” Hera said. “I’m ready when you are.”
“Fantastic. Just a few minutes.” Leia switched to channel five, which was static, meant to be her group’s comm system. The static was a good sign, and she turned off the miniature switch board. She made sure the wire connected to her comm link, which was strapped to her utility belt.
Leia heard the telltale series of clicks that meant Luke had reconnected both droid’s control boards. They were ready to go, with no issues in their engineering detected.
“Master Luke,” Threepio asked quietly, his golden eyes blinking eerily bright in the luminescent jungle, “correct me if I am wrong, but have we not already done this mission before?”
Artoo’s dome shook in exasperation, and Luke murmured, “we have, but this time, it’s going to be permanent.”
Threepio wanted to pose a wordy follow-up question, but Artoo’s boop silenced him.
Luke stood at full height, and Leia righted herself as well. Luke was surprisingly well-camouflaged in their matching green ponchos, and she nearly missed the shadow of his glittering eyes. The moon cast a glow on his skin, and Leia found his gaze again.
“Are we ready?” Luke asked.
In answer, Leia switched to channel two of her comm system. “All channels are prepared. Begin your task.”
“Okie dokie,” Aphra chimed.
Doctor Aphra strolled up to the night guards at the back entrance of the Imperial base. She whistled as she placed one hand between Chewbacca’s binders, tugging him along.
The Wookiee growled to make it look like he was mistreated, but Han noticed that Aphra was being purposefully gentle. That was probably for the best.
Han and Sabine shuffled in their stormtrooper armor, flanking the smuggler and the false prisoner in close quarters.
Aphra grinned, nothing amiss in her expression. “Hey boys! How’s your shift goin’? Good?”
A tiny sound came from Sabine’s vocoder, and Han knew she was stifling a laugh. He sent her a concerned look, then pretended to look afraid of Chewbacca’s haggard appearance.
When the guards didn’t answer, looking between each other confusedly, Aphra stood on her tiptoes. She got on the stormtroopers’ level.
“Hello?” Aphra tilted her head to the side. “I’m here to be rewarded for the capture of the most ruthless Wookiee that ever came outta Kashyyyk. Can I be let in or what?”
“You aren’t on the schedule,” the left stormtrooper said.
Sabine decided to put on a deep voice and answer, “I already checked her identification. She is a friend to our cause.”
As if needing to back her up, Han nodded his bucket helmet in agreement.
The stormtrooper on the right begrudgingly opened the cargo entrance.
Aphra smiled and chirped, “thanks, boys. May our glorious Empire rise once again.”
Han winced, but neither stormtrooper was alarmed by the sentiment. He refrained from sighing in relief as Aphra escorted them inside.
Ezra secured the code breaker onto the roof hatch, surveying the moonlit sky worriedly.
Kanan dropped to his knees beside the hatch, having finished a sweep. “We’re clear.”
Ezra started the code breaker, four digit numbers flashing by quicker than the blink of an eye. While the pocket-sized machine worked, Ezra remembered that the hatch wheel had to be turned at an exact angle to open without arousing suspicion.
He placed his ear to the hatch, grabbing the wheel and turning it slowly. He heard click after click over the still air. He moved the wheel almost halfway when he heard two audible clicks rather than a single click. He quickly reverted the wheel back to its original state.
“One hundred and sixty-five degrees,” Ezra said.
Kanan turned on the comm and relayed the information to every channel except Han’s. Their group couldn’t afford any distractions as they entered the base.
The code breaker beeped, having completed the four-digit code. The hatch moved up an inch, ready for the wheel to be turned.
Ezra pocketed the device, knowing this part of the hatch would remain open. He secured his gloves and slowly rested both on the wheel. An ear trained to the hatch, he turned the wheel one hundred and sixty-five degrees.
He heard two clicks, and the hatch loosened. Kanan grasped a handhold at the base of the hatch, and used the Force to strengthen his tug.
The hatch opened, and Hera’s voice was on the comm. “Neither of you better get stuck in there.”
Ezra smiled at the veiled threat, and Kanan said softly, “we’ll be careful.”
With the cargo doors remaining open, it was too easy for the twins and the droids to slip inside.
Threepio and Artoo were regular droids, a part of the Imperial machine. They provided ample distraction for Luke and Leia to stealthily make their way around the base.
When they entered the hallways, Han’s voice was on Leia’s comm. “The security room is ours. We’ll pave the way.”
On command, a door to their right was keyed open. Luke took point, Leia checking behind them for guards. Since it was night, whatever guards that hadn’t already been knocked out hardly covered the cavernous base. They were on skeleton crew, and they remained quiet so they wouldn’t wake the rest of the officers. If this went their way, they would be awakened by bomb alarms blaring, which would take them into the waiting arms of police vessels.
“Guards around the corner,” Han said curtly. “Only two.”
Once they reached the corner, Luke and Leia flattened against the wall.
Luke’s voice was suddenly in Leia’s head. “Ready to test your mind trick?”
Leia inclined her head, and Luke went left. She went right, faced with a stormtrooper around the corner.
“Sleep,” she heard Luke say, pressing two fingers to the helmet, a stormtrooper dropping at his feet.
Leia waved two fingers in front of the other trooper’s helmet. “Your shift is over. Go to your quarters and sleep.”
She could feel her Force suggestion taking to the air, shaky but effective.
The vocoder said, “my shift is over. I’ll go to my quarters and sleep.”
The stormtrooper went in the direction they came from, and Luke laughed, cutting it off abruptly. “Not bad, sis.”
“Show-off,” Han muttered in the comm. “A left followed by a right.”
Luke guided Leia forward, moving soundlessly as doors unlocked as they went.
“We’re just around the corner,” Han said. “The ladies took out the rest of the guards before Chewie could so much as raise a paw.”
They rounded a corner, and a final door was keyed open.
Sabine stuck her head out, beaming with her helmet under her arm. “Sup, twins. Ya look cute!”
Luke and Leia stepped inside the security room, Aphra’s gaze training on them. “They do look cute when they match!” She smiled at Sabine as she keyed the door closed.
Han looked over his shoulder as Chewbacca growled a greeting. His eyes widened when he recognized their green ponchos from Endor.
He cleared his throat and said, “Ezra and Kanan are on the way. They broke through the hatch.”
“It’s time to get to work,” Sabine said, Aphra handing her a pack filled to the brim with bomb charges.
Aphra gleefully unzipped the bag and set it near the control board. She distributed charges among each member, with Han and Chewbacca elected to hold down the fort in the security room.
Ezra trained the stun blaster on two stormtroopers behind a corner. Kanan glanced over Ezra’s head and sighed.
Ezra aimed the barrel, closed one eye, focused intently, and fired perfect shots at two bucket heads. They crumpled to the floor without a sound, and Ezra raised the blaster barrel upwards.
“So uncivilized,” Kanan muttered under his breath.
Ezra smiled over his shoulder. “Feel free to ignite your saber and set off alarms.”
Kanan said nothing, and Ezra lead them down the hallway. Ezra hid a grin when he realized Kanan couldn’t refute the argument.
“Two more to the right,” Kanan said, sensing signatures in the Force.
Ezra leaned against the corner and spotted them a few feet away. He aimed and fired two more stun shots, hitting their targets.
They travelled down the hallway, and a familiar Force signature had Ezra beaming from ear-to-ear.
Luke rounded the left corner in front of him, carrying bomb charges, and halted in surprise.
Ezra holstered his blaster and waved. “Hey, love.”
Luke decided to narrow his eyes, irked that Ezra teased him with an intimate nickname. Ezra didn’t miss the blush in Luke’s cheeks, though.
Ezra ignored Kanan’s bristle as Luke reached him and tossed a bomb charge. Ezra caught it against his chest and grinned wider.
“The security room is two lefts and a right,” Luke said curtly. “You’re late.”
Ezra’s eyes sparkled, and he switched to Huttese. “Is that so? Seems like I’m right on time.”
Luke scoffed. “Shut up and go.”
“Love you too, Luke,” Ezra chirped in Basic.
Luke rolled his eyes and went in the direction they came, setting bomb charges beside every sliding door.
“Yeesh,” Ezra snorted amusedly, “he’s in Jedi mode already.” He waved a dismissive hand. “Oh well.”
Kanan, in any other situation, would pipe up and tell Ezra to follow Luke’s example. When he didn’t, and Ezra distracted them by walking, Ezra put it to the back of his mind.
“How we doin’, sweetheart?” Han asked through the comm’s private channel.
Leia breathed evenly, setting up the final bomb charge in her bag. She only had to mind trick two other stormtroopers on her long journey.
She raised the comm to her lips. “I’m all set.”
“I meant emotionally,” Han said, “but okay.”
Leia’s mouth curved upwards in an amused smirk. “Fine. Just tired. What about you, honey?”
Han inhaled sharply at the term, which Leia usually reserved for the bedroom. He replied measuredly, “I’m tired too, I guess. I wanted to check on you, is all.”
“That’s sweet of you,” Leia said genuinely. “Now how’s everyone else with the charges?”
“Ezra and Kanan stopped by to get the rest,” Han said. “Sabine and Aphra are on the way back, and Luke is almost done.”
“Slackers,” Leia snorted. “How are Chewie and the droids?”
“They’re sitting tight,” Han replied, “but Artoo is gettin’ antsy.”
“He’ll get his turn,” Leia said. “I’m on the way back now.”
“I await your return, my love,” Han joked.
Leia rolled her eyes and switched off the comm, starting towards the security room.
When setting the final bomb charge resulted in alarms, Ezra hissed, “kriff!”
“We were seen,” Kanan exhaled.
Ezra huffed and said, “let’s move.”
They broke into a jog down adjacent hallways. Ezra honed in on Luke’s Force signature, Kanan trusting him enough to follow.
The security room door opened, Luke rounding the opposite corner as Han rushed outside with his blaster ready to fire.
“Cool it, Han!” Luke exclaimed, stopping in his run abruptly to clap Han’s shoulder.
Ezra and Kanan stopped a foot short from them. Sabine and Aphra entered the hallway with bomb controllers and blasters in hand.
“Are we all set?” Sabine asked frantically, Chewbacca yowling as he stormed into the hall.
“Wait,” Han breathed, “where’s Leia?”
Luke went as pale as a sheet, his lip wobbling. “She’s in trouble.”
Before fear could set in, Leia’s Force signature buffeted them like a powerful windstorm, nearly sweeping them off their feet.
Luke’s head snapped towards the hall where he came from, the hum of a lightsaber cutting through the alarm sounds.
Ezra gaped as Leia came into view, swinging a blue lightsaber in the fastest arcs he had ever seen performed, sending blaster fire back towards stormtroopers. Based on the sounds Ezra heard, she was hitting those stormtroopers where it hurt most, and they crumpled uselessly onto the durasteel floor.
Leia spun as she ran down the hallway, covering her back with the blade, her poncho narrowly singed with a stray bolt.
“Twin bro?” Leia made a gesture at him. “Little help here?”
As Leia spun midway to face a dozen troopers blasting at them, everyone aimed their respective weapons. Sabine, Aphra, and Han flattened against walls and shot back, knocking down at least half of them. Chewbacca fired his crossbow, an arrow lodging into another stormtrooper. Kanan and Ezra ignited their lightsabers, protecting their shooters from blaster fire.
And Luke ignited a lightsaber beside his sister, the twins adopting the exact same stance as they blocked the front of the group.
In his peripherals, Ezra saw Luke charge forward, eating up the distance between the remaining four troopers. He used the Force to propel left and gained momentum, pushing his boot off the wall at an angle to fly at them.
With a gracefulness that Ezra struggled to achieve, Luke backflipped in midair, his lightsaber sending every blaster bolt back at their targets. The four stormtroopers collapsed with smoke coming out of their chest plates.
Luke landed perfectly on his feet, twirling the lightsaber hilt between his fingers as Leia did, huffing out a breath he had been holding.
Before Ezra could do something inappropriate like box Luke against a wall and make out with him dizzyingly, the alarms were suddenly shut down. The blaring noise was cut short, the red lights back to their normal white.
The door slid open, and Artoo wheeled out while beeping excitedly in binary, the master switch from the security room in his rotator claw. Beneath the claw was a small buzzsaw, which Artoo used to slice open the control box and extrapolate the switch board.
Alongside the buzzsaw, though, was a blade containing so many miniature weapons that Ezra found himself gaping.
“What the kriff?” Ezra said to no one in particular.
Ezra focused on Artoo’s binary response, and his wide eyes swiveled towards Luke.
“You made Artoo the craziest multipurpose weapon ever?!” The end of Ezra’s incredulous question came out a little squeaky, but Luke merely smiled shyly.
“I was bored on the journey to Tatooine,” Luke said with a shrug. “Came in handy, I guess.”
Artoo beeped that it did indeed come in handy, expressing how grateful he was to have such a weapon. Luke was a tad sheepish at the praise.
Ezra couldn’t contain his grin and the heart eyes attached to them. “You’re magnificent.”
Luke heard the ‘I love you’ in Ezra’s tone, and he blinked to contain himself. Ezra could tell his boyfriend was practically melting inside.
Artoo’s rapid binary cut through the moment, and Luke said curtly, “Artoo is going to use the master switch to guide us to the back entrance.” He addressed Sabine and Aphra. “Have the bomb controllers?”
They held up the twin devices.
“It’s important that we don’t split up,” Leia cut in authoritatively. As the highest ranking officer, every member of their group listened. “And since half of us have lightsabers, stormtroopers shouldn’t be an issue.” Leia noticed a missing member, and asked Artoo, “is Threepio hiding right now?”
Artoo beeped in the affirmative, and used the master switch to open the security room door. He beeped something offensive to the protocol droid inside, and Threepio shuffled out of the room.
“By the stars, Artoo,” Threepio said, “if I get blasted to bits again, it’s going to be all your fault!”
Chewbacca growled something in Shyriiwook about having to carry Threepio, and Ezra made a note to ask about it. Sounded hilarious.
Leia continued, “I sense more troopers, so our job is to protect Artoo while we move. Okay?”
There were nods in agreement.
“Let’s move,” Leia said.
“I’m so bored,” Zeb said through the comm.
Hera sighed and flicked on her own channel. “Cramping up yet?”
“Yes,” Zeb admitted.
There was static, followed by the sight of officers outside rushing the back entrance.
“Uh oh,” Zeb said. “Looks like an escape.”
Hera trained her sniper lens at the back entrance as it opened, shocked to see crates containing animals inside. Even from her limited night vision, she could see shifting scared creatures and hear little cries of pain.
Zeb growled, “our boy better free those.”
Hera grimaced. “He will. I know he will.”
“Look,” Zeb said sharply, “to the left!”
Hera trained her lens to the left, and glimpsed two figures clad in black unlatching a massive crate. She caught their faces in a blur and murmured, “there they are.”
Ezra and Kanan unlatched the security devices, a side of the crate lifting open. A reptile the size of two landspeeders crept out of it, unsure and on alert.
Ezra beamed at the creature, and heard him mouth to Kanan, “a krayt dragon!”
The reptile, in a truly baffling act, bowed its head in front of Ezra. He smiled, lightly touching the scaly head, Kanan spellbound by Ezra’s natural ability to set such dangerous creatures at ease.
“Hera,” Zeb said dangerously.
Several stormtroopers were prepared to fire at the Jedi, and she fired on instinct. One, two, three, while Zeb got four, five, six.
Hera exhaled slowly, taming the sudden heat burning in her chest. That was a close one.
She realigned the sniper lens and saw that the krayt dragon had curved its massive tail over Ezra, as if wanting to protect him. Kanan, in turn, had ignited his lightsaber in time to guard them both.
Movement to the right diverted Hera’s attention. She curtly told Zeb to keep an eye on the left side while she aimed right.
Chewbacca was currently tossing around troopers as if they were weightless, and Zeb remarked, “I want in on that fight.”
Hera rolled her eyes and spotted Han, Sabine, and Aphra forming a triangle of blaster fire to protect Artoo and Threepio. Artoo, though, was getting some of his own hits in, much to Threepio’s frantic worry.
“Ah,” Zeb said, “karabast.”
The cargo entrance revealed the twins fighting alongside each other, their lightsabers beating back intense blaster fire. They had somehow gotten most of the stormtroopers away from the crates, but Luke and Leia were the battered shields preventing any more infiltrations.
Hera had to admit: she didn’t expect Luke and Leia to be as powerful as Kanan and Ezra claimed. But they all proved her wrong.
Luke proceeded to suspend a barrage of blaster bolts in midair. Before Hera could gape, Leia pushed her palms forward and sent the bolts back from where they came.
“Holy kriff,” Zeb said, catching the same sight.
“How are Kanan and Ezra doing?” Hera cut in.
“Nearly every animal is out and running,” Zeb said. “Two more big ones left, and if they are what I think they are…”
“What?” Hera swiveled her lens to the crates in question, and noticed a familiar eye.
“A purrgil and a tibidee,” Zeb confirmed. “Presumably our getaway rides.”
Hera sighed. “I’m going to ride a space whale. Really?”
Zeb chuckled amusedly. “Might be fun.”
Hera scoffed. “I hope you fall off.”
“Thank you,” Zeb said, understanding her sarcasm for once.
“By the stars,” Ezra gasped, “Kanan, look!”
A small crate had been left unopened, and he beamed when he saw what was inside.
A Loth-cat crept out of its confinement, big eyes and ears trained entirely on Ezra. It recognized its own kind, and Ezra grinned.
“Oh, karabast,” Kanan sighed exasperatedly, “you’re going to keep it, aren’t you?”
“Dunno,” Ezra murmured, “maybe.” He held out a hand and cooed, “come here, sweetheart.”
The Loth-cat purred against Ezra’s hand, and he laughed delightedly.
“You’re comin’ with me,” Ezra decided.
“Artoo!” Luke called out. “Get this door shut!”
Artoo beeped from afar, a blaster bolt narrowly missing his dome. His claw fiddled with the master switch, and after a long moment of battling, the back entrance was closed.
Luke took a breath, Leia matting stray hairs down to her braids. The twins shut off their lightsabers and whirled around, catching their breath.
Blasters and lightsabers were lowered and turned off. Everyone looked at each other and sighed in relief.
A sudden screech followed by a massive winged creature stretching its wings had half of them jumping, the other Force-sensitive half amazed.
Eyes brighter than lightbulbs and a moth-like gray head bowed to Ezra, his hand splayed along its slit nose. Ezra laughed as if the creature were no bigger than a fly, its wings flapping as if greeting him.
The sound of a deep sea whale freed from its cage, floating an inch off the ground, acquired Luke’s attention next.
Kanan was commanding a purrgil, and Luke hadn’t even thought they were real!
As Kanan Force jumped onto the timid creature, Luke found himself drawn to its shyness.
Before he knew it, he was touching near the purrgil’s eye, which closed at the light press of his palm. He probably looked like a child seeing a new planet for the first time, but Luke didn’t tone down his wonderment.
Luke smiled brightly, and the purrgil nudged his Force signature. He refrained from gasping.
“You’re lovely,” Luke cooed, “aren’t you?”
The soft moment was broken when Hera and Zeb walked into the secured cargo hold, snipers across their shoulders.
“Hey,” Ezra chirped, “pick an animal, everyone!”
Luke glanced over at Ezra, who was now perched on the tibidee’s head, the creature practically cooing.
A small ball of fluff caught Luke’s eye, and he blinked.
The Loth-cat used its Force abilities to leap onto the tibidee, curling in Ezra’s lap and purring.
Luke crossed the room and tilted his head up. “Ezra,” he said pointedly, “why do you have a Loth-cat?”
Ezra smiled innocently. “Why wouldn’t I have a Loth-cat, Luke?”
Luke shrugged. “That’s a good point.”
He Force jumped onto the tibidee, which hardly flinched when another Jedi settled behind Ezra.
The Loth-cat bristled, and tiptoed from Ezra’s lap to climb onto Luke’s instead. Luke murmured, “hello, dear.” He began to pet its head, stroking its fur with his fingers in rhythmic movements.
And just like that, the Loth-cat had forgotten about Ezra and was his alone. Luke grinned, and Ezra was too preoccupied to make a smart remark.
Luke glanced over at the purrgil, and saw that everyone except Sabine and Aphra could fit on its back.
Luke helped the two women onto the tibidee, noticing that Aphra had paled a little. Sabine held her hand discreetly, calming her, and Luke chose not to comment on it.
The purrgil and tibidee took to the air, and Luke couldn’t stop laughing at the rush of adrenaline.
When they were far enough away, Sabine and Aphra pressed the bomb controllers.
Ezra perched in the copilot’s seat as Hera got the Ghost airborne. Fire and smoke was still raging in the jungle, the sun rising overhead. The Imperial base was nothing but ash and rubble, Ezra was sure. The amount of bombs made it impossible for any structures to survive.
Flashing lights on freighters sent by Mon had taken all the Imperials that escaped onto the starships. They were arrested and to be placed in holding facilities throughout the New New Republic’s bases.
The last remnants of the Empire were finally extinguished, over a year after Luke single-handedly brought an end to their leaders.
Hera flew the Ghost through the clouds on Dantooine, taking them away from the upper atmosphere. Empty space and random dotted stars soon followed the image, and Ezra noted that he couldn’t even tell that anything was amiss on the planet from so high up.
Aphra’s ship went to hyperspace first, followed by the Falcon and the Ghost.
When they were safely nestled in hyperspeed, outer space a vortex around them, Hera set the freighter on autopilot. She rose from her chair and patted his shoulder. Ezra’s gaze met hers confusedly.
“Come on,” she said, nudging her head.
Ezra left the chair and followed her out of the cockpit. The rest of the Ghost crew had gathered in the booth. Sabine and Zeb were just as perplexed as him.
Kanan and Hera shared a look, and Ezra obediently sat beside Sabine at the booth.
“What’s this about?” Zeb asked the couple, who stood beside each other, visibly hesitant.
Kanan studied Hera, and she addressed the family. Ezra didn’t miss her blush and intense worry.
“Kanan and I,” Hera announced, “are thinking about having a child.”
After the words set in, the couple was faced with three megawatt grins.
Sabine squealed, and the action was so unlike her that Ezra and Zeb chuckled. “Really?!”
She shot up and threw herself at them. Kanan and Hera smiled as they encompassed her, and Ezra stood up too.
Ezra added himself to the hug, and Hera grinned as he said, “it’s about time! You’ll make great parents!”
“Definitely! You raised us!” Sabine exclaimed. “How hard can it be after us, right?”
“Sabine’s got a point,” Zeb said, his hulking frame gathering them all in the strangest group hug ever. “Nothing could faze you both. I’m glad you’re doing this.”
“Calm down,” Hera chuckled, “I said we were considering it!”
“We already made the decision for you,” Ezra said. “You’re going to make a child that Sabine and I will coddle endlessly.”
“That’s right,” Sabine chimed.
“Um, Luke,” Han asked, “can you get that cat off the control board?”
Luke swiveled in the copilot’s chair, smiling at the Loth-cat toying with danger. He fiddled with the ball of thread he created by tearing apart excess fabric from one of his old tunics.
He replied nonchalantly, “maybe if you say please.”
Han was steaming with barely-controlled rage, but his voice was calm. “Please?”
Luke whistled, and the Loth-cat’s huge eyes were on him. He twined a piece of thread around his middle finger and swung around the ball. He brought the strip of fabric up and down, the ball twirling in a metronome.
The Loth-cat leapt from the control board to Luke’s lap, sniffing the ball of thread and pawing it. Luke chuckled at the Loth-cat’s curiosity and used his other hand to scratch behind her ear.
Leia stepped into the cockpit and raised an eyebrow at Luke. “Gonna keep her?”
“You know me,” Luke replied in the affirmative. “I’m stuck on a name. I have three in mind.”
Leia dropped into the seat behind him. “What are they?”
Luke studied the swirling vortex of hyperspace as he listed, “Beatrice, Margaret, and Elizabeth.”
“Sure Ezra doesn’t want to name her?” Leia asked pointedly. “He did find her, after all.”
“He’s terrible at names,” Luke said. “He named the tibidee Speedy.”
Leia wrinkled her nose. “Gross. Well,” she thought over the names, “I like Elizabeth. What about you, Han?”
Han messed around with the control board. “I don’t really care, Leia.”
“Han,” Leia said in her General voice.
Han sighed. “Beatrice, I guess.”
Luke and Leia shook their heads. “No.”
“Goes to show what I know,” Han muttered.
“I like Elizabeth,” Luke decided. “Her name is Elizabeth now. There.”
Leia and Han crashed on their bed in the Falcon, giggling like children after drinking enough alcohol to put lesser beings to sleep.
When the three vessels returned to base, a party was thrown in their honor. It was a blur to Leia, but what she remembered was drunkenly dancing with Han all night.
Leia rolled on her side and studied Han’s handsome profile. “Hey.”
Han’s cheek turned so it sank against the pillow, mirroring her pose. His hazel eyes were dazed, but clear enough to make his adoration for her apparent. “Hey.”
“We’re finally free,” Leia allowed herself to grin, “can you believe it?”
“No,” Han said honestly, glancing down nervously and blushing shyly. “We’ve never been free. Not since before we met.”
The prospect was so open and terrifying that Leia laughed brightly. “Now what, huh?”
Han blushed harder, the fleeting thought causing Leia’s eyes to widen. Instead of bringing up the unsaid words, though, he said, “we can do anything we want. But we can think about that tomorrow.”
Leia acquiesced, kissing Han’s cheek. She pulled the covers over them and said, “good night.”
The simple kiss had Han leaning towards her again, brushing their lips together. The sudden rush of affection had Leia smiling as he nudged away.
Han turned out the light and murmured, “good night.”
Luke and Ezra regained their breath, lying on their backs and calming their heartbeats.
Ezra exhaled, “it’s never felt that good before.”
In an impulsive move, Luke straddled Ezra’s thighs, causing him to groan at the quick adjustment. Now that Luke was looking down at Ezra, he felt an immense feeling of power overcome him. He was careful not to drown in it.
Luke narrowed his eyes, Ezra’s gaze roving over him. “Are you saying we’ve gotten better at making love?”
Ezra hummed. “Perhaps that is what I’m saying.”
Luke absently cupped Ezra’s cheek, fingers caressing facial hair. “You know,” he mused, “I didn’t think I’d like the beard, but it’s growing on me.”
Ezra laughed, so rich and deep that the sound took the express route to Luke’s heart. He wanted to hear that laugh as much as possible.
“I didn’t think I’d like it either,” Ezra admitted, “but that makes me feel better, love.”
Ezra’s finger beckoned, and Luke laid himself fully on top of Ezra, closing the distance between their lips. Ezra’s beard tickled Luke’s cheek, and he smiled in delight.
When Luke pulled back, Ezra’s long lashes fluttering against his cheekbones, he forgot to breathe.
Ezra’s sapphire eyes met his, and his voice was like honey. “Marry me.”
Luke blinked rapidly. Before he could think too much, he blurted, “isn’t it too soon?”
Ezra shook his head. “Not to me. What about you?”
Luke thought for a moment. His vision ten years in the future made him think that their timeline was vast. That perhaps they waited a few years before getting married.
But their time together as a romantic couple, barely surpassing a year, felt like longer. They had gone through so much in so little time. They made peace with themselves in the process. They had a strong connection through the Force that couldn’t be explained, bolstered by their natural chemistry and deep love for one another.
Luke found himself answering, “not to me either.”
“Then marry me,” Ezra murmured. “What do you say?” He tilted so his nose rested on Luke’s cheek, and he breathed, “will you make me the happiest person in the galaxy? Will you marry me, Luke Skywalker?”
Luke turned his head away so that Ezra’s lips dragged against his jawline, away from his face. He used his elbows to push himself up, noticing how Ezra hooded his gaze with his lashes.
Ezra Bridger was nervous!
Luke teased, “must I?”
Ezra cracked an amused grin, his wisp of fear extinguishing in the span of a second. “You must. You’re stuck with me, remember?”
Luke chuckled. “Well, if I must, then I must.”
Luke lowered himself so their foreheads bumped together. Ezra waited, gaze flickering across Luke’s face.
“Ezra Bridger,” Luke said, “I will marry you.”
Ezra’s arms twined around Luke’s sides, and Luke lost himself in Ezra’s embrace. They kissed like it would be their last, when it was hardly their first.
The drawn-out moment was broken by a soft meow, followed by a scratch at the door.
Luke eased away, Ezra whining as he used the Force to levitate his boxers. Luke gave Ezra a parting kiss as he slipped on the boxers.
He glided towards the door and keyed it open. Their Loth-cat was there, waiting sweetly and patiently.
“Elizabeth,” Luke cooed, “come on.”
The Loth-cat slinked into the room, the door sliding behind her. Luke guided her to the bed, and she leapt at the foot of it, curling into a ball.
Luke slid under the covers, Ezra murmuring, “her name is Elizabeth?”
Luke beamed. “Sure is.”
Ezra shrugged, and used the Force to shut off the lights. “Good night, fiancé.”
Luke kissed Ezra quickly. “Good night, babe.”