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luminous beings are we

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"Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter." -  Yoda

..

Kimberly Hart is alone before she even realizes it.

Her Master gunned down before she can even turn her head.

Master Zordon. A general of the Grand Army of the Republic. Commander of the 176th Attack Battalion. Nothing more than a body.

Her brother. Her mentor.

Shot down by his own men.

Kimberly is eighteen years old, two months away from her Trials of Knighthood. Or, rather, two months away from her trials being waived for her continued courage during the siege of Taarq. For serving side-by-side with her Master for the past four years. For always--

From the High Council saying, Kimberly Hart, by the rite of the Council, by the will of the Force--

And now here she is--hiding and cowering and staring at what used to be her Master. What remains of him. The clone who shot him stands with his blaster pointed to the ground, one hand up towards his helmet--pressed into it, as if receiving orders. She’s seen the movement a hundred times in the past four years.

Commander Zlato. Fierce. Dependent. Dead-eye.

The word loyal no longer applies.

He drops his hand. Looks around. Zordon’s cloak is smouldering still. The Eltarian man she’d met when she was six, who taught her to construct her lightsabre. Who sat in, sometimes, on Force training. Who smiled at her, always. Who greeted her warmly when she was assigned to him.

Who said, Kimberly, it would appear you are to be my apprentice, four years ago when and she’d been so nervous. So terrified.

Not unlike now.

His death is the start of something, but she’s not sure what.

Because all she can think about is how terrified she is. How the Force is pulsing at her fingertips, her lightsabre slipping down her fingers as she waits in the hot sun, in the shadows, in the dirt.

She waits for something she is certain is coming.

Waits to be shot down like her master.

She is their next target and she is frightened. She is young and small and her master's body is bleeding into the sand. She is so small, so weak. Her weapon is in her hand.

The fighting around them -- the endless fighting -- stops at once. It's silent for a moment. And the silence is deafening.

She is Kimberly Hart, apprentice. Not yet a Jedi Knight. And she never will be.

Zordon had been looking at her. She’d felt him in her mind, calling out to her.

Kimberly, run!

Energy trembled through her chest, biting up her neck as she sliced through a B-2 Battle Droid, cutting him into the ground.

He called to her, tried to send her away and she’d run after him instead. Run after him straight to her demise. Straight down the path he hadn’t wanted her to wander down.

And yet--

She is Kimberly Hart, a Jedi still, deciding that today is not going to be the day she dies.

The thing the 176th Attack Battalion never considered when purging the battlefield of her brothers and sisters: there is no emotion, there is peace.

And it’s a lie she’s been repeating like a mantra since she was old enough to form words.

It’s a lie she stops telling herself right then and there.

Kimberly Hart runs.

She sheds her cloak and ducks through the shadows, slides under blaster hail and doesn’t stop moving until she’s clear of them all.

Until it’s too lucky that she got away.

Taarq is not big. Mostly dirt. Mostly hot sun and cities built underground to escape the heat. She finds the closest city, the closest ally, and she sheds her robe in the dirty street, tucks them into the gutter and finds the closest bar that’s open despite the hour. Despite the battle waging not ten miles east.

Her comm-link buzzes when she enters, faintly beeping under her tunic and she pulls it out in a dark, empty corner. A few people at the bar look at her, blank eyes and curious expressions.

This is Chancellor Palpatine, the voice says and Kimberly is frightened. It’s a bone-deep, easy fear. The sort of fear that’s rooted in absolute uncertainty. I am pleased to inform you that the Clone War has come to an end. All Jedi are urged to return to Coruscant at once. The battle is over.

But--

That’s not right.

(It’s awful. She wants to find a ship. Wants to go home . See Zordon smiling easily in that terribly serious way he does. Wants to scream, what is happening, what is happening, what is happening --but there’s a twist in her stomach. Something isn’t right.

Commander Zlato shot down her master. Commander Zlato would have shot her down too.

If she hadn’t run.

She’s noticeable. Terribly. If her clothes don’t give her away, then the bulge of her lightsabre at her hip, then her braid does.)

In the bathroom, she cuts her hair to her chin, braid and all.

The Council, she decides, will forgive her this rebellion when she returns to them. Master Yoda will commend her for her bravery. Will knight her in the High Council’s chambers.

She won’t need the braid anymore anyway. She leaves her hair in the sink.

.

The clones storm the city the very next morning, before either sun can rise over the filthy buildings. Kimberly hides herself amongst frightened families, amongst people whispering in confusion.

The clones, they’d thought, had been trying to help them. To keep the city from being seized.

Now, they are the ones doing the seizing.

She’s trembling as Commander Zlato walks past, his mask turning, eyes working furiously under his visor. He is looking for her, she is certain. And he’ll find her.

He doesn’t, though.

Not then. He walks right past and only when he’s commanded for everyone to return to their homes does Kimberly realize she won’t be dying today, either.

In the hustle, she disappears--slides back into the alley where she hid her clothes and tucks herself into the vent of the closest housing unit. Listens to a mother tell her children that they’re going to be fine.

Everything is alright.

.

I regret to report that both our Jedi Order and the Republic have fallen with the dark shadow of the Empire rising to take their place .

This is how she is woken up.

She is Kimberly Hart in the streets, in the trash, with her knees drawn to her chest. Her comm-link--a gift from Zordon two years ago, before she’d been flown to the front line of Taarq to protect its inhabitants from the Separatists--is pressed to her ear.

It’s Master Kenobi. She’d have known without him ever saying his name. His voice, soothing.

She can imagine his face.

Do not return to the Temple, he says and here is Kimberly, even more frightened than during that last message. A stark contrast to the harshness of the Chancellor’s voice.

In time a new hope will emerge. May the Force be with you, always.

The line goes dead and Kimberly stops planning her escape, her return to the Temple. She stops worrying about punishment for cutting her braid, for leaving Zordon lying in the dirt.

In ten seconds, everything she has built her life around--that has built itself around her --is completely gone.

She looks out past the lip of the alley, to the civilians walking around the street.

Her hands shake. She has nowhere to go.

Zordon always spoke of balance. Of it being the key.

And she's still fighting, but it's different now. She's fighting herself and no one else. Fighting herself to keep going, to not give up.

Kimberly is scared.

.

She sleeps on the streets until she’s dirty enough that no one looks at her. No one pays her any mind.

People throw scraps sometimes. Mothers with dirty children toss worthless credit chips her way.

A week in, a street vendor says what she already felt the day her Master fell.

The Jedi tried to kill him, he says and Kimberly stops hearing all of it at once.

Hears only fragments.

Galactic Empire, do you--

And, Some great purge, I guess.

And, Disbanded the entire Council in Coruscant.

The man he’s talking to, the one Kimberly can hardly see from where she’s standing, from where she’s trembling--trying to maintain her balance--says, Don’t be stupid . The entire Council? There’s too many of them .

But, There were .

.

Time passes. Kimberly isn’t sure how much.

She only knows that it’s evening when they meet--a sun beginning to set in the sky, the sound of troopers moving down the street in droves, heading for the bars between orders from whomever is in charge now. Kimberly isn’t sure.

“Hey,” a voice says and Kimberly doesn’t look up from where she’s seated on the ground, waiting for someone to shoo her away. Enough people to throw looks her way. Enough parents to tug their children to the other side of the street as they mumble about, dirty bums, and the like.

“I’m really sorry,” she manages somehow, though her voice cracks, either from strain or from something else. Some emotion. Something worse than peace, but greater somehow.

She shuffles to her feet.

“For what?” the voice asks and when Kimberly allows herself a glance at its owner, finally.

A girl is standing above her, shifting nervously. She’s young. Not much older than Kimberly, but her mouth is set in a hard line that Kimberly has only ever seen on someone much further along in years. She has a blaster on her hip and her clothes hang baggily, several sizes too big, but crisp. Clean.

As if freshly laundered. Her jacket a piercing yellow that brings the fire of her lightsabre to mind immediately.

“Don’t leave,” the girl says. “I was just...I was gonna…” Her hands flail about. She’s not sure what she was going to do, but then they fly to the bag at her side and she rifles around in it for a moment before tugging out something green, wrapped poorly in a cloth. “I was gonna say you look hungry.”

She holds out the food--if that’s what it is--and Kimberly eyes it warily, jerks her head over to look at a clone by the pub just across the street. He’s not watching her and his blaster is slung across his back.

She’ll have time to outrun him if she has to.

“It’s magenge,” the girl says, looking embarrassed. “It’s...Well, it’s not great, but it’s the only thing that hustling Verpine over there had for sale.”

She jerks her head towards a booth across the way where Kimberly sees the insectoid watching them. He throws a crude hand gesture at the girl, who rolls her eyes and looks away.

“He’s scum,” the girl says. “But his harvesters know what they’re doing. That stuff can come out of the asteroid tasting way worse than that.”

There’s an energy buzzing between them. Kimberly feels it in the back of her head, swelling in her chest. Radiating off this girl and for a moment, she’s frightened again. Frightened of the blaster on the girl’s hip and her own lightsaber, tucked into the back of her trousers. Too far to grab quickly.

“You know how to say anything other than sorry or what?”

Her hands tremble. She takes the food. It tastes earthy, dirty, but the aftertaste is sweet and it’s been three days since that last vendor gave her so much as a half-rotten mundi.

The girl smiles and only once the food is gone, does she throw out a hand for Kimberly to shake. “I’m Trini, by the way. I saw you sulking yesterday morning when I got in. Or...Actually, my friend, Zack, saw you sulking. You okay? Seems like you’re pretty down on your luck.”

Kimberly is silent. She doesn’t take Trini’s hand.

And then, she realizes it. Hears it pulsing in her head and Zordon’s voice--

Kimberly, run!

“I’m fine,” she says, because she is. Remembers saying it enough whenever Zordon would ask--if the blood ever got to her, if the sound of mothers screaming for their children whenever the droids would storm the city.

Trini rolls her eyes. “Yeah, you seem fine.”

There’s a singing between them. She’s felt it before

( young and cold and afraid and trying to hunt down the kyber crystal that wanted her the most, to shape it into something deadly for her hand to hold)

but it’s stronger then and she doesn’t know why. She’s half-certain it’s coming from this girl and she’s terrified of her open, honest eyes, because Kimberly can’t read her . This girl could want her dead.

She could be working for Zlato.

“I have to go,” she says and she disappears into the shadows--absolute and dark, the light searing from jagged points through the rooftops where the sky spills in--of the alley, ducking and hiding until she can’t hear the girl calling out for her anymore.

Until it sounds like nothing but the bustle of the street.

.

She does not sleep. Thinks of the girl--of Trini, bathed in sunlight and offering her an easy smile.

Here is a truth she has always been taught from years of metal faces, slicing them into the dirt: name your enemies and you’ll only ever lose.

.

But Trini returns the next day. Waits at the end of the alley with something better than the mossy green snack from before. There’s a canteen of water in her hand, clean and bright and Kimberly can’t resist it. Lets it burst to life against the dry emptiness of her mouth.

“You ran,” Trini says and it’s not a question. “Any reason why?”

She says it like someone seasoned against running, herself. Like she understands.

Kimberly wants to run again. She wants to plunge deeper and deeper into the heart of the city, where the dark can hide her.

She doesn’t.

“You’re scared of me, aren’t you?”

(What she does not say: I saw my Master fall to his bloody knees and cook alive under a storm of blaster hail and I ran. I didn’t stay. I saw him die and here I am waiting to meet him somewhere else. Do you understand why I ran now? I am scared; I was taught not to be, but I am and you would be scared to--)

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Trini tells her and her eyes are soft.

Kimberly believes her. Something inside her clicks into place. Some missing cog shifting to the right spot. Finally.

“What's your name?”

She stops--freezes. Because her name is always associated with something else--with Zordon’s or padawan or anything that could give her away.

But Trini’s soft eyes, her slight, careful smile. Her hands wringing, as if she longs to reach out and touch Kimberly.

“Kimberly,” she says finally, and Trini smiles.

“Are you sleeping out here?”she asks next, a kindness. Concern tinging the edge.

Kimberly nods. “Yes.”

“Do you have a family? Are they here?”

She doesn’t have a family. She did, maybe, for the past seventeen, almost eighteen years. If that’s what you call ten-thousand emotionally distant brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, that are connected by some unknown energy.

The answer is, “No,” and Trini doesn’t seem surprised by this.

But she does sigh. Long and heavy. And then she says, “Get your stuff.”

Kimberly frowns. “What?” She’s certain she missed some sort of conversational segue that must have led to Trini’s last order.

“Do you have anything?”

She thinks of her tattered robe hidden in the alley. She doesn’t. She shakes her head.

Trini nods. “Okay,” she says. “Follow me.”

.

The cargo skiff parked outside the city walls looks like it’s seen better days, but Kimberly feels relief in her chest. Tries to drown it out. Tries to focus.

Balance, she thinks, but it doesn’t work.

There’s a boy standing beside it, leaned into it beside the door. His arms are crossed.

“Is that--?” he asks, frowning like it doesn’t come easily to him.

“She needs a ride,” Trini says and Kimberly hand is shaking. 

This, apparently, requires more discussion than simplicity will allow.

Kimberly waits outside the ship. Stands very still and watches the movement up ahead in town. Closes her eyes and tries to focus on the troops beyond the walls.

Zordon falling to his knees.

Kimberly, run!

“Trini, come on. Your dad will kill us!”

The boy is loud. His voice, frightened. Kimberly has half a mind to give up on this. To thank Trini for the food and the consideration. She’d grown used to people helping her, to people listening to her Master and recognizing the robes and the braid. Looking at her with respect.

But if you go long enough without something, eventually you begin to forget.

Her time as a vagabond has left her raw. She doesn’t expect aid anymore.

“No, he won’t. If he were here, he’d do the same thing. But he’s not here, Zack,” Trini butts in. “In case you haven’t noticed. And she’s nice, okay? She doesn’t have anyone and she was...she was sleeping in the streets, Zack. It’s not safe here. Not with those troops crawling through the city. And I think...I don’t know. I’ve got this... feeling about her.”

“You and your feelings!” Zack yells. “Face it, Trini. She’s pretty and that’s the only reason you want to help her. You want to be her savior or whatever and reap the benefits.”

Kimberly frowns and presses her palms into her thighs. Now is not the time to get distracted by pesky thoughts. Throwaway comments.

Now is the time to leave.

“We’re giving her a ride,” Trini says. “It’s my ship and that’s final.”

“But your dad--”

“--will get it all explained to him as soon as we’re home. I got the chak-root from his guy. I’m not taking us out of our way. I…”

It would seem she doesn’t need to leave after all.

She wonders at the ease of the whole thing, the way her hand is shaking. Wonders if she’s manipulating this, the way she saw Master Zordon do once a year ago, on Dantooine. Two thugs. Scum, like the Verpine in the market. The one Trini had glared at.

“Zack,” the boy says in the ship, with a hand thrown out Kimberly’s way.

Kimberly takes it, shakes it. Says, “Thank you,” so only Trini can hear as Zack heads towards the controls, plops down in the seat like it was made for him--all worn leather and faded red stripes on the back of it.

“My mom said to help people who need it if you can,” Trini says. “I can.”

Kimberly’s chest is light. She feels it empty and fill and lift with an emotion she’s never felt before. An emotion that no amount of concentration, it would seem, can quite tamp down.

.

There’s a checkpoint--three hulking starships that once belonged to the Republic on guard just beyond the planet’s atmosphere.

Zack talks to them over the intercom, explains where they’re going, and throws a wink at Kimberly as he says, “Just passing through.”

There’s hesitation on the other end. Kimberly wonders if there’s anywhere for her to hide in case they insist on searching the starcraft first.

But then--

“You’re cleared for exit. On your way.”

Trini’s hand is warm on Kimberly’s arm. “Come on,” she says as they pass the starships, looming on either side. “I’ve got some clean clothes. Might be a little small on you though.”

.

Space is cold. She’d forgotten. The jacket Trini gave her is the same yellow one from before and only a little warm, not made for long distance travel.

And it’s hours before she realizes that she has no idea where she’s going.

.

She dreams of her Master falling. Of the Temple in ruins and the cries of the younglings inside.

Wakes in a cold sweat to Trini shaking her shoulder, saying, “We’re here.”

.

Here is the second moon of M’altesh and the sky is a cloudy blue, its planet looming large and grey in the distance. The weeds in the ground glitter with the sun and Kimberly follows Trini off the ship.

“We’ll just see how well this goes,” says Zack.

The ship is empty behind them, resting in the waving grass and dirt and the air is clean. Kimberly is tired. She’s hungry. More than anything, she is lost.

Like taking your first step

(her hands in snow, clearing the passage, her brothers and sisters breathing beside her and Master Zordon’s voice, always, You must be strong, younglings. You must listen to the crystal singing to you. Follow its voice, and the yellow crystal she’d found and buried in the heart of her lightsaber)

only to trip on a rock.

“Trinity!” a man calls and his smile is younger than the wrinkles around his mouth, the crinkled skin of his forehead. He’s coming closer, a vest like Zack’s across his shoulders. The sun is shining.

The house they’re closest too has three windows on this side and all of them are open, gaping against the stone of the wall. Kimberly has only ever seen buildings shaped like this one on Naboo, and never as crudely constructed.

When he reaches them, the man grabs his daugher by the shoulders. Greets Zack with a smile.

Says, “Everything go okay?” and Zack nods.

Then, “Who’s your friend?”

.

The house is warm and two boys greet them at the door. Kimberly can smell something cooking, but she doesn’t recognize it. A group of men are being called by Trini’s father outside, ordered to take the cargo off the ship.

Kimberly thinks, This is what smuggling must be like, but has so little experience with it that she’s not sure. She’d always imagined something much more dire than two kids in a beaten-up ship with ten boxes in it.

A woman is standing by the fire and she turns when her daughter enters, her eyes lit up in the same way her daughter’s are.

Kimberly has few memories of her parents. Really only scattered dreams left. Her teachers had not thought it appropriate to maintain a relationship with them, like several of the other younglings her age had been able to because of their parents’ diplomatic status.

She remembers her mother’s voice at times, the weight of her father’s arms around her. That’s all.

Trini’s mother cups her daughter’s face and says, “I’m supposed to worry, I’m your mother. You know I don’t like you going out there. I wish you’d stay home,” while Trini squirms away.

This, Kimberly thinks, is what family is supposed to mean.

She’s never seen it before.

Zack stands by the door with her. He must be an outsider to this, too. His posture mimics hers and neither of them says anything.

.

Trini’s mom has her clean up in the bathroom and gives her a clean, fresh-smelling pile of clothing that must belong to Trini.

“Take your time, dear,” she says as she passes the clothes over and she shuts the door behind herself.

It’s a modest room with nothing but the basic hospitality of her own chamber’s bathroom back at the Temple. She washes the dirt from her hair and scrubs under her fingernails. In the mirror, she looks different--hair much shorter than it has been since she was much younger.

She ruffles it with her fingers and frowns.

If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and not recognized yourself, then you know the feeling.

.

“Kimberly, where are you from?”

It’s said over dinner, over mouthfuls of food and Kimberly trying to slow down even though it’s been weeks. Possibly longer.

Trini’s mother (“Call me June, sweetie.”) says it across the table and Zack is watching her. She can feel his stare as he munches happily on a roll. Two little boys are eating in the kitchen, closer to the fire

(“No shop-talk around the boys,” June had said to her husband. “Wait a little while before you corrupt them the way you corrupted our daughter,” and Trini shrunk under her mother’s gaze)

but they look up as this is said.

“I--”

The Force quivers around her as though waiting for something, for her own answer. No amount of preparation would have helped, though. At once, her mind pulls her back to the hot sun, to the dirt and the blood caked on rock, of the city she left and her lightsabre hidden away.

There’s no good answer.

“Nowhere, really,” she settles on and tries to smile, tries to thank this family anyway she can for taking in a complete stranger.

Trini’s gaze settles on her across the table, her eyes soft, her presence pleasant and complacent in the back of her head as Kimberly tries to close out her fear.

June changes the subject to the heat of the day, though the breeze tastes bright as it flutters through the open windows.

The art of withholding information: sometimes you start to forget the real answer.

.

What she learns that night is everything she already knew--

The Republic is gone. In its place stands the great, new Galactic Empire with an emperor instead of any sense of order. The Jedi, it would seem, are the Empire’s greatest enemy.

“It’s only a matter of time before they’ve eradicated all of them,” Trini’s dad says to Zack.

There’s a fire cracking low in the fireplace. June has dismissed herself to bed and Kimberly knows nothing other than the names of these people--the fact that Trini was so eager to save her and that Zack’s trepidation nearly left her stranded.

“Real cheery talk for guests, Dad,” Trini chirps, sounding grumpy.

Kimberly is warm in a chair by the window, watching the stars through the waving movement of the trees, of leaves dark in the shadows. The nights here are brighter than the nights on Taarq. She can see more than three feet ahead.

“If Kimberly minds, she can speak up,” he returns, smiling at Kimberly. “Or join in the discussion.”

She has nothing to add, no new information

(they’ll get me, too; they will; like they got the others; like they got Zordon)

to add beyond her small breadth of knowledge. And all of that is too elite, too informed for this conversation. Perhaps, too, outdated . The Clone Wars, it would seem, are over.

Chancellor Palpatine had not lied about that part.

“I’m going to bed,” Trini decides and she gets to her feet, stretches her arms over her head.

Kimberly thinks this should be when she ducks out, thanks this family for their hospitality and finds somewhere outside to rest until she can arrange passage away. Because she needs to keep moving.

Can’t impose for too long. But she has nowhere to go.

A night in the woods, back against a tree. A night in the evening air to clear her mind. To come up with a plan.

Her fingers tremble.

“Kim, you’ll have to bunk with Trini. Full house,” Trini’s dad says, and Zack is smirking.

He’s feeling something strange. Mirth , she decides after a moment.

And it’s coming off of him in waves.

Trini seems to want to protest. Her arms fall, limp, to her sides and she stares at her father slack-jawed. “Okay,” she decides, finally, and then says, “Come on.”

A shared look that is trying to say something without words. Kimberly doesn’t understand, what, but Patrick is feeling amusement so loudly that it’s nearly enough to block out Trini’s surprise.

Up the stairs, around the corner, and creaking across wood floors to a mostly-bare room with a double bed in the middle.

“I’ll take the floor,” Trini offers and a pile of rough-looking blankets gets placed there from a set of drawers in the corner.

Kimberly is too busy trying to follow what’s just happened to protest for a moment. But then, “No, I’m...I’ll...It’s your bed.”

There’s no arguing with Trini, though, and her smile makes Kimberly remember the sunset outside her chambers in the Temple,

(light gleaming off glass and metal and transports shuffling past her windows, the sky a beautiful orange and yellow, bleeding into the clouds)

making her chest ache with longing for something she can’t quite remember.

She’s wanted dead. Could have died. Didn’t.

And the Force always finds a way, but this could just as easily be a trap. Perhaps this family knows of some bounty on her head. Knows of the lightsabre she tucked in her dirty clothes in the corner of the room--after changing into pants too short, a shirt too small in the foggy bathroom before dinner.

This could be a trap of some sort, but at no point, lying in that darkened bedroom on the bed--Trini lying in a pile of blankets beside her--does Kimberly think: I need to leave .

Trini offered food, her name, and transport to a stranger she didn’t know. Trini smiled and brought her into her family and her family had fed her, again. Zack’s smiles became less on edge at some point during the long, long day.

Sometime between her falling asleep on the ship and waking up.

Family , she thinks.

The Force led her here. She can feel it on the edge of her vision, at the back of her neck--buzzing brightly between her and Trini.

.

In the morning, she’s still alive and June gives her too much food at the table.

Trini’s dad (“Patrick,” he corrects) asks how good a pilot she is. Trini’s brothers wave across the room and Zack is there, too. Smiling sleepily.

“Decent,” is her answer and Patrick smiles.

Says, “ Perfect ,” while June scolds him and Trini breathes beside her, warm arm brushing into Kimberly’s.

It’s more leisurely than she’s used to. She’s accustomed to the sterile clarity of the Jedi Temple, of breakfast spent alone in her chambers or eaten quickly in a tent surrounded by other soldiers.

Patrick kisses his wife as she sits down and Trini ruffles one of her brother’s messy heads of hair while Zack slathers butter on bread and stuffs it into his mouth. The peace between them all is palpable, spreading into the room so freely that Kimberly doesn’t understand it.

Trini is grinning as she eats, so careless and affectionate, and Kimberly wants to tell them all how honored she is to be included in all of this. To be thought of. To have fresh fruit and warm bread pushed across the table to her when she can offer nothing in return.

“It wasn’t always this way,” Trini says that afternoon, sitting in the grass with Kimberly beside her. “I...I left for a while a year or two back. Only came back a couple months ago.”

“Why did you leave?” Kimberly asks, but part of her understands the answer.

“My mom and I had a...disagreement, I guess. So I left. Went to the Largos system for a while and picked up on trading from Zack. He was working with some Trandoshan back then. Nasty guy. Anyway, his mom died and he couldn’t...stay there anymore. Got me thinking. So I came home.”

It makes Kimberly ache. She thinks of Trini sitting beside her, who is now bathed in extravagant affection from Zack and her brothers and her wonderful parents and how it must have felt to go from that to being alone.

Still she aches for something more--for a childhood raised in her parents’ warm arms, bedtimes and stories and something to go home to.

“But, it’s better now?” she asks, thinks of June smiling at her daughter. Worrying over her.

Trini tilts her head and their eyes meet. She smiles. “It’s better now.”

And it’s as simple as that.

.

Here is what happens: time passes and no one comes for her. Life settles down.

To understand what it means, look at Kimberly sitting in a tiny pub in the center of the small city set up on the moon, drinking terrible beer with Zack and Trini.

Trini sits beside her and her fingers are warm whenever they accidentally brush against Kimberly’s arm on the table. Kimberly is trying to understand why it makes her feel the way it does.

She’s having a harder and harder time trying to tamp it down.

“The Empire isn’t interested in some small smuggling moon,” comes Zack’s reassurance that night and Trini’s hand on Kimberly’s wrist under the table.

Comfort, she thinks and lets it rest there.

“What do you smuggle?” she asks curiously, and she’d been imagining people, or weapons , or military plans .

What she gets is, “Spices. From all over,” and a careful wag of Trini’s finger to indicate the Outer Rim.

It’s less than what Kimberly had expected, and she’s glad .

Then, there’s Trini herself. She’s not sure what to make of her.

She’d had acquaintances at the Temple--children she’d known since she was old enough to remember anything . Kids her age she’d trained with and learned with and eaten meals with. Shared a chamber with until she was assigned to Master Zordon and then she slept alone.

But Trini is different than any of that. It’s new somehow and different and she doesn’t understand it entirely.

Doesn’t understand Trini staring at her sometimes and Zack always laughing about it, always nudging Kimberly’s shoulder to say, “She has basically no experience with pretty girls.”

It takes her a while to understand that he means her . That this is a compliment.

That Trini is maybe thinking of her in that way, too. The way she’d been taught to never consider for herself.

(Trini who sleeps in her old bed, while Kimberly sleeps across the cramped room in a bed June had Zack and some of Patrick’s boys push up the stairs a week or so in. Trini who smiles at her and who touches her sometimes. Who stares. Who thinks she’s pretty.)

At night, Trini whispers secrets. Things like, “--a girl in Vesta. My mother was livid ,” and it makes Kimberly blush to think of Trini with anyone . Trini kissing another girl and being walked in on by June.

(She doesn’t understand that especially.)

More than that: “I wanted to be a fighter pilot for the Grand Army, but--” and, “--for him isn’t so bad, I guess. Gives me something to do,” or, “--heard of Naboo? I hear it’s the greenest planet there is.”

(Kimberly has been to Naboo, just once, when Zordon had met with the Queen and her Council there before being assigned to hold the line in Taarq.

It had been the greenest planet she’d ever seen, the sky spreading above her in beautiful waves of white against blue that she’d hardly been able to fathom.

Trini would be beautiful there, she thinks. Her dark hair spread out against the warm, green grass. Her teeth shining as she smiles, white and perfect. Her skin against Kimberly’s in the water, slick and sliding together.)

(This, she thinks, is the most confusing thing she’s ever thought.)

Trini says, “What happened to you? Did you kill a guy?” one night.

In a light way. A joke.

And Kimberly, incensed, presses her palms across her eyes. “No,” is the answer.

It’s as good as any.

.

“I’m not a good person,” she decides one day, but she doesn’t have the reason for why .

Trini is sitting on the edge of a cliff, staring down into the depths of the water below them, churning endlessly into shadows her eyes can’t fathom. The sky is orange with the loss of the light, so beautiful it’s almost ugly. So pretty, she has to look away.

She’s not looking at Trini, either. Can’t even bring herself to it. Trini’s hand brushes against hers every few seconds but it stops the moment Kim says this. It stills impossibly and Kim knows that she shouldn’t look at her

(because that buzzing is there, under her skin, and Trini is beautiful and alive beside her)

because she couldn’t look away again if she did.

The days are passing and each one finds her less and less willing to stop staring at her. It’s odd, puzzling.

And Kim has blood on her hands and a bounty on her head. She’s wanted dead by a force much greater than any she can exercise control over.

She doesn’t know what to do.

“Why do you say that?”

Kim thinks. It’s not an easy answer. “I--” she starts, but stops to wet her lips. Trini’s arm brushes against hers. “I’ve done things...things that--”

But she doesn’t know. That’s the problem.

Is it possible that Jedi really did try to kill the Chancellor? Is it possible that she was always on the wrong side of this war?

Is that why she’s wanted dead?

She thinks of screaming children in burning cities and the younglings in the Temple. The younglings that weren’t even old enough to know how to fight with the lightsabres they’d built. Who must have fallen to the ground in pieces because no one was there to protect them.

She wasn’t there to protect them.

“I...I haven’t done things, I guess. I think that’s the problem.”

She does look at Trini then, silhouetted in the light. This girl that saved her life, that continues to. This girl she shares a room with and watches sunsets with and who is always touching her, always trying to be close.

This girl that makes her feel so--

It doesn’t matter.

“You can’t hate yourself for things you didn’t do, Kim,” Trini says. “That’s not how it works.”

“Then how does it work?”

Trini shakes her head. “I don’t know, just...just don’t waste time thinking of all the moments you missed or you’ll never catch up. You can’t control the past. People can try to guilt you for crap like that all they want. They’ll ignore you or push you in a direction you don’t want to go, or cover what you mean with what they mean until you’re convinced that it’s all your fault. Even when it’s not.” She pauses, hesitates. Then, “ Especially when it’s not.”

Silence descends. It’s thick. Comfortable. It would be more weighted, maybe, if they didn’t understand one another completely.

Then Kim says, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“No one does, I don’t think. I sure as shit don’t.”

Kim feels herself laugh, despite herself, and Trini grins at her in the setting sun.

“Look,” Trini starts, “you don’t have to know what you’re doing, okay? Cause you’re not alone. You’ve got me.” She hesitates, the words twisting pleasantly in the pit of Kim’s stomach until she’s certain she’s lost the ability to breathe in its entirety. “And Zack...My parents love you, too.”

There’s more silence and Kim mulls this over as Trini grabs her hand, squeezes it twice.

Then, “You’re a good person, Kim.”

Kim frowns, but there’s hardly point in arguing. “Okay.”

They look at one another in the dim light, in the shadows of the impending evening. Just two girls who have no idea what they’re doing, what they’re meant to do. What they’re heading towards.

And then Trini kisses her.

It’s not a good kiss. It’s dry and brief and Kim has never done anything like it. She has no idea how to tilt her head, leaving their noses pressed into one another’s uncomfortably.

But then it’s over anyway and Kim still can’t breathe.

“Sorry,” Trini mumbles against Kim’s mouth and Kim keeps her eyes closed until Trini pulls away.

“You don’t have to be,” she hears herself say, her lips with a mind of their own, her tongue dancing thickly behind her teeth, still so unsure.

When she opens her eyes Trini is smiling, sadly. She shakes her head and looks away.

“Stop thinking about all the things you aren’t ,” Trini tells her, her heels kicking briefly into the rocks below. “Think about everything you want to be. Everything you are. Everything you can do and not the things you can’t or haven’t. You’ll never get anywhere if you keep looking backwards.”

.

This is what moving on is, Kim thinks:

Becoming the things you weren’t .

.

A week later, Patrick says, “I have a guy in Ortosk with some knock off comm-links that I need to get yesterday ,” to his daughter over dinner and June excuses herself.

She doesn’t like shop talk, even when it’s necessary.

Kimberly recognizes only the planets, but not what it means. That is, until Patrick says, “Take Kimberly with you. Test her mettle.”

And winks at her across the table.

“Comm-links?” Trini asks, confusion painting her face in the shadows.

Patrick’s answer is a simple nod.

She hides her lightsabre in her bag the next morning.

“Could get dangerous,” Zack says when they’re boarding the ship, waving to June through the windows the house.

Trini’s brothers are waving as well--Alex shoving Diego in the arm as they both try to stand in the door enough to see. Patrick is already away, preparing a backup transport in case any of the checkpoints pull them over on the way in (“Always be prepared,” he’d joked, with a wink he must have taught to Zack).

“It never gets dangerous,” Trini assures her from the seat beside him and then they’re up and jetting off.

Kimberly sits on a stiff bench in the back of the ship and eventually Trini joins her. The jacket she’s wearing is big enough, now. Warmer, too.

It’s one of Zack’s, lent out of need because June is too erratic to make clothes well. June’s hands shake and she gets distracted by asking a hundred questions about comfortability, size, color, cut.

The trousers she’d attempted to hem for Kimberly had ended up a botched, unwearable mess.

“It’s easy,” Trini says and Kimberly caves at the cadence of her voice, grabs Trini’s hand in her own.

She’d held Zordon’s before, for comfort after that first day in active battle. She’d been frightened and small and he’d held her hand and said, Do not let your fear become you.

This is different.

Trini looks down at their hands and seems lost in thought for a few minutes. She doesn’t let go.

.

What happens is easy:

They land on a scrubby planet under the cover of darkness and then Trini gets out to do the talking.

The box goes on the ship and they’re back in the sky in five minutes, but Kimberly’s heart pounds the entire time--loosely, loudly. She can’t breathe the entire time she’s watching Trini through the window, something curdling in her stomach.

(She thinks: what if we get caught; what if Trini gets caught; what if that man is dangerous.

Zack puts a hand on her arm to keep her inside.

She thinks: what if I lose her ?)

She doesn’t.

“You okay?” Trini asks as the ship jostles through the atmosphere of Ortosk, nose pointed back towards home.

(For a fervent moment, Kimberly thinks her chest is going to explode and she’ll be left with nothing but an empty, blackness and ash in her veins, but Trini is alive, Trini is fine. The whole thing is fine)

“Yeah,” she says. It sounds like a lie. She swallows around her tongue and presses her hands onto her thighs, ignoring the look Zack shoots to her out of the side of his eye.

Stars pass by them, just blots of light in the distance. Trini is still staring at her, as though she wants to ask the question again.

“I’m fine,” Kimberly lies and the subject is dropped.

Fortunately, the flight home is not a long one.

.

The reason for smuggling something better than spice:

“The Empire is starving people out with these taxes,” Patrick says. “I can turn double the profit for these in occupied systems.”

As it turns out, he’s right.

.

“They’re starving people out,” says Tommy, one of Patrick’s pilots, when he gets back from Corellia. “People are living in the streets.”

The impact of the moment is lost on the sounds of celebration from the tavern up the road.

Zack looks mournful, but it’s hard to keep away from the celebration when enough people you know are in attendance.

“We could turn this business around!” Patrick is saying inside, and June is at home with the boys. That’s the only reason his voice is so loud, so jubilant.

Trini’s hand brushes into Kimberly’s.

The building is so packed that you can hardly see anyone’s face, the lights low and a couple men in the corner churning out some out-of-tune song in the corner of the room on instruments that have seen better days.

“Now this, ” Zack says,

(Outside, in the quiet, where the voices can hardly be heard)

“Could get dangerous.”

Trini nods and Kimberly watches her, follows her, doesn’t let go of her hand.

And she doesn’t understand it entirely but she knows that it’s something.

Something.

Not enough.

.

Zack, it seems, is right, because they’re back on the ship two days later with the navigation system mapping them towards the Salient system.

“If this gets us killed,” Zack tells them, halfway there, “I’m gonna kill him.”

Kimberly’s sabre is back on the inside of her jacket, in the hidden pocket she’d gutted into it two weeks ago. She presses her arm into it. Doesn’t move.

.

Kimberly’s earliest memory is a light-filled room and a circle of strange faces around her. A holopad in front of her

( A ship, a dog, a tree, a cup)

and Master Yoda nodding. Telling her she got every single one of them right without ever seeing the screen.

She thinks she must have been about three-years-old.

(Another memory says her name. Yells it. Loudly. A woman crying. Her mother, perhaps, as she was taken away. But she told Master Windu once, very young, and he’d told her to put it aside. So she had.)

The point of the story: she can see the surface of Salient before they ever land. She can see the gray sky and the frozen dirt of the ground, the dirty, volcanic snow and the ugly face of the city just a few kliks south.

“What a lovely day,” Zack jokes as he lands carefully.

Trini leads them out to the snowfield and the man they’re meant to meet is discrete, in simple civilian clothing. There is a cart with a sheet over it behind them and Kimberly stands to the side with Zack while Trini approaches him, talks in silent movements that Kimberly can’t bring herself to look away from.

The gentle wave of her hands, the delicate bones of her wrist. She shivers in Zack’s old jacket and does not look at him, can feel the heat of his stare.

It takes five minutes and then the cart is on the ship and unloaded.

“Think there’s good food on this rock?” Zack asks. He looks small in his heavy, black coat, one hand deep in the pocket of his trousers, the other absently tracing the edge of the blaster on his hip. “I’m starving.”

It’s hard to refuse.

They shuffle towards the city, which Trini says is a mistake as she side-eyes the ship nervously. Kimberly doesn’t know what the punishment for something as simple as smuggling holotapes and portable carbon stovetops to avoid tax. She imagines it must not be too, bad, but the thought of being found out for more than just that leaves her raw.

Past the walls, past the first buildings, Kimberly realizes that the note of trepidation in her throat is caused by something more than partaking in illegal activities on a foreign planet. Instead, it’s the sign reading, No Alien Scum Served Here, plastered on the door of the cantina Zack goes to enter.

“Wait,” Kimberly says, and points to the sign. She’s never read anything like it. Heard things, perhaps, behind cupped hands in the streets of Coruscant on the rare occasion she’d had the opportunity to go out. Children whispering terrible things about an Ithorian family, minding their own business, crossing the street leisurely.

But this is different. This sign digs a pit in her stomach.

“What?” Zack asks, but Trini sees the sign, too.

She’s frowning, her lips twisted down and Kimberly looks at her. Their eyes meet and Kimberly sees some reflection of what she’s feeling in Trini’s eyes.

The streets are empty. An odd sign she’s only just noticed, but not something she’s unfamiliar with. This was often the way streets looked during the daylight on planets that they’d had to liberate from under the thumb of the Separatists. She just hadn’t expected it here .

On a useless little, Outer Rim planet not that far from somewhere she was beginning to think of as home .

And then she remembers Tommy’s words just days ago. People starving in the streets. The reign of the Empire growing sour in less than two months.

“Where is everyone?” Trini asks, finally asking the real questions. And then Kimberly sees a familiar, beetle-eyed helmet up ahead.

Clones.

Three of them, actually, one of them jabbing at a Bothan boy on the steps of a shabby house.

And hidden-identity, safety of herself be damned, Kimberly is up and running towards him, her hand already reaching towards the waist of her trousers to rest idly on the hilt of her lightsabre.

“What are you doing?” she says as she approaches and one of the soldiers stops moving to look at her.

“Move along,” he says, voice clipped off by the mask.

The boy looks up at her with frightened eyes and she plants her feet in the ground. Behind her, she can hear Trini and Zack as they run to catch up with her.

To stop her, possibly.

Possibly not.

“Not until you allow this boy to return home safely,” she says.

Three white helmets are pointed towards her now and she hates that she can’t see their eyes. Hates the way it brings familiarity boiling up in her throat. Men like this were her allies, her friends, even.

She fought alongside them for years. And now they’ve got their blasters pointed at a child.

--fallen under the shadow of the Empire--

It’s Obi-Wan’s words, but Zordon’s voice, heavy in her ears.

“This does not concern you, citizen. Move along.”

His hands itch at his blaster, as though longing to point it at her next.

Trini is behind her now, saying, “Kimberly,” softly in her ear and pulling gently on the fabric of her jacket.

“They’re frightening this boy, Trini,” she says. “They’re scaring him. He’s not doing anything and they have their blasters pointed at his head.”

“Move along or you’ll be forced to move along.”

Now the blasters are pointed at her own head. At Trini’s and Kimberly realizes, suddenly, what this feeling in her chest is--the one that’s taken residence the time she’s been with her. From Trini smiling at her and touching her arm and offering her a ride, a home, a family.

Offering all of this and asking nothing in return.

And she’s been terrified since Zordon fell of what might happen if she ever outed herself. If any of these troops who want her dead found out who she really is. Who she used to be.

She’s never killed anything before. Not anything human-like. Alive. Nothing but droids, really, and her head is still a chant of, they were your friends, they helped you, they helped you, they served alongside you--

One of them pushes forward, too close to her and his blaster is right there against Trini’s throat.

It’s not a hard decision to make then.

There’s no great moral debate to be had when someone presses a gun to the throat of the girl you’re in love with.

Because it’s somehow more terrifying than sleeping on the dirty ground with nowhere to run. She can admit that to herself, right now, when she sees that terrified child on the ground and the soldier breathing heavily behind his helmet.

The realization hooks itself into her ribs in three words: I love Trini .

They throb in the base of her throat, make her lips buzz unpleasantly, because she wants to say them but she can’t because her hand is outstretched, the Force buzzing in her palm and the clone is thrown backwards, sent sprawling on the ground.

The other two clones are frozen for a moment and Kimberly can feel Trini lock up in confusion beside her. Then they charge. One of them raises his blaster and aims it straight for Zack’s chest, the other aims for Kimberly’s and they’re maybe seconds from firing when Kimberly’s lightsabre makes its way into her hand and ignites in a burst of energy she can feel through her entire body.

She cuts them down in two quick swoops of her wrist, the exultant rush of the Force around her.

Behind her, she can feel Trini and Zack stagger back and the boy is frightened, cowering behind his hands, when she drops her sabre, when the blade of light retreats and they’re left alone on a snowy street.

It’s cold and airless. Kimberly can’t breathe. She turns and Trini’s eyes are wide, but not frightened. Just surprised. Zack mirrors the expression.

“Did you--?” he starts, but he doesn’t get the chance to finish.

Because another voice cuts in, sudden and sharp. A voice that says, “Are you a complete idiot? Get off the street !”

..

The introduction (or, rather, re -introduction) goes something like this:

“That was so stupid--”

“--they were hurting him! They were going to--”

“--in the middle of the street! Anyone could have--”

“--have a ship. We’ll leave, but this boy, they would have--”

“--risk outting yourself as a Jedi! Risk outting me as a Jedi, when I’ve--”

And that’s where it stops.

They’re in the shadows of the alleyway, the stink of charred, severed flesh behind them on the street. Zack is dragging the bodies into the shadows to buy them time, but an empty street does not mean empty buildings.

People tend to see more from behind their closed blinds.

The voice belongs to a man who can’t be much older than her. Kimberly feels absurd simply thinking of him as a man, though the darkened, wary circles under his eyes tell a different tale than the youthful softness of his face. His light hair is unkempt and scruffy and his clothes are tattered, his blue jacket too long for his wrists and hanging loosely around his dirty palms, bruised knuckles.

She’s seen him before. A wave of nostalgia in her stomach and the buzzing . The Force moving around them. Almost as strong as it is when Trini is standing too close.

“You’re a Jedi?” she asks. Then, “Is your name Jason?”

Jedi Knight Jason Scott, Lieutenant under General Brutto, his former Master. Stationed in the Salient system for three years to maintain control for the Republic.

He’s alive .

Familiarity in his eyes as light crosses the side of his face, bleeding in from the street.

“We need to split, guys,” Trini says behind them, the softness of her voice breaking through Kimberly’s thoughts. “I’m not lookin’ to get busted or nothing.”

“You were Zordon’s padawan,” Jason says and Kimberly nods, her throat catching on the name. “Is he--?”

She shakes her head.

Jason’s anger is gone. He rests his hand on her shoulders.

“Look, we gotta get to the ship,” Zack pipes in. He’s moved the body’s now--severed, armored, arm and all.

Jason is watching them carefully and some sort of kinship flutters between them.

Thinks, We will all be challenged. Our trust. Our faith. Our friendships, in Obi-Wan’s clear, gentle voice. The way the static had hit each word on her comm-link as he warned her, as he sent out hope to anyone who remained.

Jason might have gotten that message, too.

“You have a ship?” he asks.

“We gotta go!” Zack yells.

Trini’s hand slips into Kimberly’s--her left hand. Her sabre remains in her right.

“We can take you with us,” Trini says, this kind, beautiful girl she loves who offers a place to anyone who needs to get out . “But you’ve gotta hurry, man.”

.

The boy she fought for goes home. He slinks from the shadows and says words in Bothese that Kimberly doesn’t fully understand. She never excelled in language lessons, but she recognizes ruk and traesk.

Understands that he’s called her a warrior and said something about shining--perhaps the light coming in from the street, that dirty gray brightness. Or maybe, herself. The lightsabre in her hand, bright and deadly and steady as always.

.

There’s a dirty building at the back of the alley behind a large metal door. Jason enters and goes down the steps. Zack stands behind them, muttering about a bad feeling and Trini doesn’t let go of Kimberly’s hand. She’s grateful for it.

“I’m...I’ll stay here. You’ve got five minutes to get that dude back up here.”

So Kimberly goes after him and Trini goes after her.

The room is big and bright with things plastered all over the walls--maps of star systems illuminated in the otherwise darkness. Jason is talking quietly with another man down there, saying things like, “--out of here now .”

Kimberly stands at the base of the stairs and watches.

The other man looks a little younger than Jason and Kimberly remembers Jason’s Trials being waived. Remembers him being sent to the very front line of duty at the age of seventeen. A year younger than she is now. Four years ago.

He’s carrying himself differently and only in the glow of the holographic map can she finally see why. His pants are torn a little at the back of his right knee and she can see the glint of metal behind the fabric. He’s lost his leg.

Movement startles her. “We’re coming with you,” Jason says. Then, “This is Billy.”

Billy is a gangly looking guy who smiles awkwardly as he stuffs some weirdly shaped gadgets into a bag. “What kind of ship do you have?” he asks. “I had a ship once, but...it crashed when I tried to get us out of here the first time. Jason was still on the mend. It takes a while for robotics to really meld with a person, you know? They don’t always listen right away.”

“Billy,” Jason cuts in, stuffing clothes and food into a different bag. “We gotta go. She killed a couple of troopers. They’re gonna notice soon and then we’ll never get out of here.”

So they hurry.

Halfway up the steps a minute later, Billy freezes and turns around. “I almost forgot him, Jason!”

There’s a heap of metal in the corner that looks like nothing, but it springs to life a moment later and beeps unhappily.

“Master Billy!” it chirps.

“No time, Alpha,” Billy says. “Come on, we gotta go!”

So they go.

.

“What kind of bot is that?” Zack asks at the top of the steps.

Android, ” Billy corrects. “His name is Alpha-5. I built him.”

“That thing only took you five tries?” Trini asks, sounding incredulous.

Billy shrugs. “Yeah. Jason’s leg took way longer though. I went through about seven prototypes before I was able to successfully mimic the ones DD-13’s can make.”

Kimberly can feel something trembling in the earth. Something terrible that’s shaking the ground. Jason must feel it too and she wonders, briefly, if Trini can as well because she’s looking at the two of them oddly. Head tilted to the side a little.

“What’s that?” she asks and the trembling stops at once.

“She’s here,” Jason says so quietly that Kimberly very nearly doesn’t even hear him to begin with.

“Who is?” Zack asks, but a dark look has crossed Billy’s face.

“We gotta go,” he says and then he tugs Jason through the darkness, to the edge of the city.

Trini’s fingers lace softly between Kimberly’s own and she can’t see her, but she can feel her and it’s enough.

.

She is General Brutto. Once Jedi Knight. Master. Friend.

Now she wields her green lightsabre in her hand at the gates of the city.

Jason stops them all with choppy movements, his arm jutted out to cut them off, and they halt--the five of them--lingering in the shadows as they watch her storm past the gates with thirty soldiers at her back. The ship isn’t parked too far from where they’re standing. Kimberly can’t see it, exactly--not from where she’s positioned. There’s brick in the way.

But it’s easy to figure out where they’re heading.

She has a lot of questions to ask, but Trini is fierce at her side. Trini has different questions than she does.

“Where the hell are we supposed to go?”

No one seems to know.

But it doesn’t seem to matter after a moment.

It happens in seconds:

Two swinging songs of blaster fire, bearing down on them and the volume of it in Kim’s ears. Her lightsabre in her hand, again, though she couldn’t tell you how it go there. It deflects one shot and then cleaves the clone who fired them in two .

He must have seen them, recognized them, fired on mere suspicion. There in the lip of the alleyway.

Trini is behind Kimberly. She doesn’t recall Trini moving there, but thinks she can feel some faint shadow of her own movement, pushing the other girl out of the way on basic instinct as her sabre ignited.

“Are you okay?” she asks, turning to take Trini into her arms.

Trini’s eyes are beautiful, even in the darkness. Her lips, close, and the memory of that first kiss--on the edge of that cliff what feels like ages ago burns on Kimberly’s tongue.

“I’m fine,” Trini whispers, breathy. Distant. Not nearly close enough.

And then Jason falls to his knees, his leg collapsing under his weight.

The first blaster shot--the one she hadn’t had time to deflect--having shot a clean hole through the metal of his right leg.

.

Zack and Billy shoulder his weight between the two of them and they can’t return to Billy’s.

“I have to fix it,” he says, then adds, “I have another...a previous version of it. That could work.”

More important: “It’s...I lost it on my ship. I had to leave it behind.”

“We...We have to get out of here,” Trini tells them and her panic flares out so quickly, so frighteningly, that it’s nearly enough to make Kimberly jump.”

This is well understood.

Billy leads them down a dark sewer, rank with the smell of piss and shit and mold .

This is what the front line of battle smells like with a hundred clone troopers dead at your feet. This is death. This is desolation.

“Kimberly,” Billy says, nudging his bag back towards her, slung across his shoulders. “Can you…?”

She nods and pulls it open, tugs out a circle of collapsed machinery and presses a button on the very top.

But Billy’s android boots back to life, becomes something alive with galaxies in his eyes and looping tendrils of light swirling down his arms and chest.

“Alpha-5, can you lead us to my ship?” Billy asks.

Alpha-5, it turns out, can.

.

They make their way, fright-sore and quiet. Trini doesn’t leave her side and only Billy seems sure-footed. He follows the faint light of Alpha-5 through the wet tunnels without tripping once, even with Jason limping beside him on one good leg.

“Your Master was with the clones,” Kimberly says in a harsh whisper she only half-means the feeling behind. Mostly, as it has been these past weeks, fear fuels her, sets her sputtering forward every half-inch she manages to move.

It’s not a question and Jason doesn’t treat it like one.

He jerks his head in a nod, struggling to stay upright. “Yes.”

Then, “Former Master.”

A correction. He puts the distance between the meaning and himself, no longer willing to keep up the bond of affiliation.

“Did she--?” The question she’s posing is clear, whether she actually completes it or not.

It’s clear. Brutto turned against them, either a while before the killing of the Jedi began or else after. Perhaps at the exact moment.

If she reaches her mind out--sends it probing through the distance between them--she can almost see it. She can see the clones turning their blaster rifles towards their alleys and Brutto among them. She can see Jason’s confusion in the middle of the battle, as he’s suddenly surrounded by enemies. Outnumbered.

A duel, perhaps. One that sliced his leg clean off and he was left for dead. A smart boy, able to fake it, perhaps.

“Billy found me,” Jason says, understanding what she’s just seen, and his gaze shoots over to the man holding him up. “He saved me.”

Trini’s fingers brush softly against Kimberly’s knuckles.

She knows exactly what he means.

.

The ship is some big old thing and it’s not what Kimberly had been expecting. It looks like some sort of decommissioned--

“--Y-8 mining vessel, yeah. It was my dad’s back before he died.”

It’s an ugly thing, dug into the ground somehow in a cave that it shouldn’t still be intact in. Kimberly wants to ask how this had happened, but it occurs to her a moment later that burying it like this might have been purposeful.

Less to explain that way.

It’s dark. Pitch black. She can feel Trini’s hand in hers, her other hand gripping the back of her jacket. Zack brushes into her other side.

“It’s thrust vector magnet got dislodged somehow when we were trying to leave. Probably from the magnetic pole of the planet’s core. I can’t fix it without the proper supplies and I really doubt packing foam and adhesive tape will do the trick this time.”

They follow Billy and Alpha-5--who keeps up a steady stream of conversation--inside and the doors open immediately, opening to a large, oval chamber. Everything seems intact and the lights flicker on dimly when they enter. It’s not large by any means, but it’s much nicer than some of the other Corellian space crafts Kimberly has been on before.

Jason gets set down on a shaky looking bed in what appears to be a sleeping bunker. He grunts in discomfort and Billy immediately flies out of the room. From where Kimberly is standing by Jason, with Trini at her side, she can hear him tearing things apart down the hall.

He returns a moment later with a crude, looking piece of metal in his hands and a black bag that rattles when he sets it down.

“This could take a while,” he says. “You guys should...There’s food in the galley. Up the hall.”

Jason is staring at the floor, uncomfortable.

“How long do we have before she brings reinforcements?” Zack asks. “That lady looked serious and if she thinks there are Jedi here, she’ll want them gone.”

Billy looks over at Alpha-5 and says, “How long would it take to assemble enough troops to storm the planet?”

Silence for a moment. Alpha-5 eeks out small beeping noises of calculation and then he says, “My best guess is eleven days,” which doesn’t sound so bad, but then, “Sorry, eleven hours.”

More silence. Defeat stemming through it, now.

“We need to hurry,” Jason says, but he looks like he may be saying it more for everyone else’s benefit than his own.

“I can’t rush this,” Billy says, and Jason shakes his head.

“Let’s go,” Trini whispers, her breath cool against the shell of Kimberly’s ear. “We’re going to go rest,” she says to the others in a normal volume, and Zack doesn’t follow them when she pulls Kimberly out of the room.

.

Alpha-5 shows them to some chambers, rooms with still air and low lights, where they can rest if they need to.

Kimberly sinks onto the stiff mattress of one of the beds and Trini sits down beside her, on one side--how it should be, how she wants it. She can hear Zack speaking through the walls.

His voice is mostly soft, but there’s a tiny edge of hysteria to it. She can guess at what he’s asking about.

In her mind is blood caked on the ground, seared shut wounds and burning skin, because she sliced through armor like it was nothing . Like she was never taught to do. Like droids storming villages and pointing hot bolts of light, cutting through screaming children with them--

“So, um…” Trini starts, clearing her throat.

Kimberly knows what’s coming next.

“You’re a Jedi, huh?”

Kimberly imagines Trini turning her in. Sees her on the streets of Taarq with nothing but food and a smile that kept drawing Kimberly in, closer, closer. Until she couldn’t get away.

“Yes,” she says. “I was .”

Silence. “I don’t know that I’d use past tense here, Princess. That light-sword thing was pretty convincing. Twice.”

Kimberly chokes back bile at the memory, at the thought of her lightsabre gliding unpleasantly through armor then flesh then bone .

“I--” She never finishes.

“Why did you do that? You could have...They’re trying to kill you, Kim. They...The Empire wants you dead and you just...you fucking just--”

When she turns her head, Trini is looking at her.

Why now?

It’s the better question.

Kimberly pulls herself to the side, away from Trini’s warmth--some sort of quiet punishment for herself--and presses her lips together. She remembers the blaster against Trini’s neck. She doesn’t move again.

“I...I wasn’t thinking,” she says. “I...He was going to shoot you and I…”

And she wasn’t thinking. Not really. Not in any way that she was taught to, at least. She was taught to keep a clear mind, to focus and channel and, above all, to be wary of attachments. To never love someone the way she loves this girl--sitting next to her.

But she does.

And maybe Trini understands that.

Because she’s coming closer and closer. Pushing herself upright and then to her feet.  Kneeling on the floor in front of Kimberly until they’re as close as they’ve ever been. Closer than Kimberly has ever been to anyone.

That feeling is back. The words, I love you, sticking dry to the roof of her mouth, making her feel parched and dying and alive at once.

“I can’t think,” she says and Trini presses gentle fingers to Kimberly’s knees, thumbs brushing across the fabric of her trousers. “I can’t think around you.”

She half-expects Trini to say something else, to ask another probing question, like she used to get so often when people would see her in Coruscant

( do they make you do your hair like that? and do those robes ever get uncomfortable? or the occasional can you fly? )

but Trini doesn’t. She’s silent for a moment, and then she just smiles.

“I can’t think around you either,” she admits quietly, her smile so bright Kimberly feels it lighten her chest.

For a moment, she’s not in some underground, crashed ship waiting to be found, waiting to be killed. Because she won’t be able to hide as easily after this. Brutto knows the marking of a body slain by lightsabre, knows that she’s here or that Jason is and there’s no getting out of here without being followed, at the least.

“Is this...normal?” she asks. “For…”

She’s not sure how to phrase that last part, but Trini seems to understand.

Trini must have felt it before

(that girl on some distant planet, perhaps)

and the thought of that leaves Kimberly burning.

“Yeah,” she says. “Weird, right?”

She has questions of her own, a hundred of them, it feels like. She wants to talk about what this means, what happens next, but she’s heard rumours of things like this--seen films in the multiplex when she was younger and could sneak in with a few other Jedi her age.

Seen girls her age falling into the arms of men much older in ways that made her cringe. The soldier always getting the girl, wooing her.

She wants to ask about it, to say that she doesn’t understand. Wants to ask Trini to teach her and the question is ready on her tongue.

Then Trini kisses her.

It’s terribly soft, just the barest hint of pressure, and Kimberly isn’t sure what she’s meant to do with her hands, but she has the vague idea that she’s meant to be touching Trini, so she does. She rests her palms over Trini’s knuckles on her thighs and kisses her back.

After a moment of just sort of pressing their lips together, something warm and wet touches Kim’s bottom lip and she realizes a moment later that it’s Trini’s tongue. She brings one shaking hand up to Trini’s hair and brushes it away from her neck before resting her fingers there, knife-sharp and clinging, pulling the other girl closer and deeper into the kiss.

Kimberly kisses Trini, tentative and unsure and careful. Trini kisses her back, more confident than Kimberly could have ever been in that moment. Bold and tameless girl that she is, she knows what to do. Knows how to leave Kimberly a shaking, out-of-breath disaster when they finally pull apart.

“I’m getting you home,” Kimberly whispers into Trini’s lips and Trini nods. “I’m going to take you home.”

“Take us home,” comes Trini’s voice. “Both of us. I don’t want to be anywhere you’re not.”

That’s the plan, at least.

Ask Kimberly how to do that--how to get them both out of here--though, and she won’t know the answer.

“You should stay away from me,” Kimberly says. “I’m dangerous. They want me dead. I...I can’t lose you.”

She’s lost everything, she wants to say. She’s felt her life burn down around her ears and tasted ash on her tongue.

“You won’t.”

“I could .”

“I can take care of myself, Kim. Been doing it for years.”

She wants to argue that she’s not a good person, but she doesn’t get the chance.

“This thing between us,” Trini asks, gesturing, “is it because of you?”

Kimberly knows what she’s asking--about the high thrill of the Force on her skin and the way it dances around them whenever they touch. She’s heard Master Yoda discuss Force-sensitive people--men and women in the world unaware of what they could do because they were never trained to --and she wants to explain it, but she thinks it might be something else.

Some deeper connection. Amplified, perhaps, by the way Trini’s closeness is making her head spin.

So she says, “It’s because of you,” even though it doesn’t even begin to cover what that must mean for them.

Trini nods. She says, “ Kim ,” in this deathly serious way, but doesn’t finish.

And anyway, Trini in her arms, Trini on her lap. Blazing, blooming grace of a girl and her warm hands on Kimberly’s jaw, on her neck, her hips trapped in Kimberly’s palms, fingers gripping tight. The kind of girl she’s heard soldiers talk about.

The kind of girl you’d die for a hundred times over because she’s already killing you anyway.

Kimberly pulls her into another kiss and Trini pushes that heavy jacket off of her shoulders and knocks it to the ground.

There is no passion, there is serenity, is a lie her mind has no room for anymore.

She understands the word passion now. Understands it when Trini’s shirt comes off and drops to the bed beside them.

It’s like nothing she’s ever seen before, Trini’s smooth skin and the way she looks under Kimberly’s curious, learning hands.

She’d describe it to you, but the next part isn’t something she wants anyone else to experience.

.

Things Kimberly has grown used to:

    - The heat of her lightsabre against her palm

    - The sound of battle

    - Dirt in her boots

    - Acute emotional emptiness

    - The buzzing, careful push of the Force in her fingers

    - The taste of regret on the backs of her teeth

Things Kimberly hopes she will never get used to:

    - Trini’s lips on her thighs

    - Trini’s fingers in her hair

    - I love you, whispered breathily into the safe curve of her collarbone

 

.

Of course, perfection, especially, can’t last for very long.

Kimberly must fall asleep. Doesn’t remember it. Wakes up naked under scratchy sheets to Trini groaning beside her, sitting up, clawing at her throat.

The worst always comes knocking when you’re at the top of the mountain.

It takes Trini five minutes to calm down. Kimberly hardly dares to move, puts tentative hands on Trini’s bare back, on her shoulder blades, through the ends of her hair.

“She was there ,” she says and Kimberly doesn’t have to ask who. “She told me to hand you over to her.”

General Brutto standing stock still in the shivering cold of the city gates. General Brutto’s hands shaking in steady eagerness, longing to cut her and Jason apart.

She doesn’t have to ask how . That’s not how the Force works .

You don’t get to ask questions. And Trini is sensitive. Trini has some sort of untapped power that Kimberly has been drawn to all along, that she thinks she’s always revolved around

(the yellow of her sabre sung brightly in the sun even before she’d seen Trini in that jacket in a dirty marketplace)

and she knows that Brutto has offered Trini an out. She’s felt her, found her. Pegged her as the easiest to reach.

(is that how the Force works?)

(she isn’t sure)

“Why?” she asks, but she knows the answer.

Trini looks at her, eyes dim, eyes defeated. “She said she’d let me live if I did.”

.

“What do you mean you dreamt about her?”

“I just did .”

“This is worse than I thought.”

“That makes no sense, Trini. What the fuck are you talking about? You sound crazy.”

“Fuck off, Zack. I know what happened.”

“I’ve never heard of someone--”

“--out of here.”

“We can’t take on an entire battalion.”

“We don’t have to.”

“That leg won’t hold up well in a fight, Jason.”

Fuck my leg.”

“Guys, this is the opposite of making a plan.”

They’re in some huge control room, the wall bubbling and rippling with coordinates as Billy fiddles with some control panel at the front. He’s trying to map out the best route away because they can’t go straight back to Trini’s family even if they get to the ship alive.

That would be absurd.

Jason Scott is a Jedi Knight and a veteran of the Clone War, which is apparently over and a new one has taken its place. The war against the Jedi themselves and anyone who stands in their way. He’s tired and pained and half the age that his eyes would tell you. One of Billy’s hands is resting on his shoulder.

Kimberly is younger than him, still, and drunk still from Trini’s mouth against hers, Trini’s fingers against her skin, Trini underneath her. Her eyes are filled with fire.

Soon, they won’t be able to get out of here. The sky will be filled with Imperial Navy ships and there’ll be no getting out for anyone .

Not until her or Jason is dead.

Both, probably.

But Trini is beside her, one of her hands clasped in both of Kimberly’s. Trini is alive and breathing and she’d said, I’ve never-- You’re so-- against the skin of Kimberly’s neck not two hours before as Kimberly trailed her mouth across her jaw and then lower.

And there is Zack across the room, looking at them. He’d smiled when he saw them, mouthed something to Trini that looked a lot like, About time, while Trini blushed and looked away.

Zack who claps her on the back and greets her in the morning and always pushes leftovers at dinner across the table towards her. Who has become her friend.

She loves him, too. Fiercely. Just in a different way than she loves Trini.

Billy is looking at them now, turned away from the panels he was staring at. “Parth,” he says. “We can go to Parth. It’s in the Outer Rim, but there’s no strategic reason for being there. It’s mostly uninhabited. A few villages. The Empire won’t want it. We go there. We hide and then we go get Trini’s family.”

It hits Kimberly that she could love him, too. She could love the way he’s smiling proudly, hopefully. She could love Jason, if she could learn to compromise this sunken man in front of her with the vibrant, feral boy he’d been the last time she’d seen him.

And this is why the Jedi don’t form attachments. This is why they’re wary.

Because she’s so terrified of losing any of them.

“We’ll do that,” she says, breaking the silence that’s descended. “I can take out any troops on the ship. We sneak past Brutto. We hurry. We’re getting out of here.”

The others stare at her, but no one disagrees. Trini presses her lips into Kimberly’s hair, rises up on her toes to do it.

It’s not a plan. It’s a suicide mission. Kimberly knows, already, what she’ll have to do.

.

Every inch of the air seems to understand what's about to happen. Every atom on this planet trembles.

Darkness has fallen outside. Something in the vibration, in the cold, thick, sour air tells Kimberly that they’re nearing the end of the timer Alpha-5 put on this whole thing and what had she been doing instead of finding a way out of here?

She’d had a girl under her hands, under her mouth. Been spread flat to a lumpy mattress, naked as the day she was born while Trini licked down her stomach.

Master Zordon would have had her head for it. He’d have put her on trial in front of the entire Council with some excuse about “learning to not be distracted.”

Embarrassment will save you from falling into the same trap.

But Master Zordon is dead.

Trini is holding her hand still, fingers bright with cold against Kimberly’s own. She can hear her breathing, those harsh, nervous puffs of air as they move forward, out of the sewers, towards light.

“You guys know you could all be murdered, right?” Alpha-5 beeps from in front of them, his voice shrill and tinny. Kimberly is certain he is going to give them away.

“Dude, shut that thing up,” Zack tells Billy, but Billy shakes his head and follows after his droid.

“He’s the only one who knows the way back to Trini’s ship,” he argues and, well...it’s hard to fight that.

“There’s a 98% chance of not getting off this planet,” Alpha-5 continues.

Jason is limping just ahead of Kimberly. She watches him blankly. Squeezes Trini’s hand.

They’re going to be fine.

Zack grunts and runs into something. He curses.

Alpha-5 stops walking and turns around to look back. “Okay, Zack?” he asks. “You suffered a minor contusion to the shin. I suggest--”

“Oh, fuck off.”

It’s already going well.

.

The gates of the city are right where they left them.

The streets are empty. Brutto and her troops gone for now, perhaps. People hiding in the safety of their homes or perhaps forced there at gunpoint.

Billy presses a button on Alpha-5’s head and the droid immediately collapses into a small enough shape that Billy can then shove him into his bag. “We need to hurry,” he tells them, when he turns his head to shoot them a look.

Jason nods and Zack looks just about ready to charge out there without looking, but he’s stopped by Kimberly’s voice.

“Wait,” she says, “do you feel that?”

Because there’s a stone in her chest about this and it’s something more than being seconds away from either making it out alive or not .

The ground is pulsing again.

The question is directed at Jason, but Trini is nodding beside her and the others have stopped as well, Billy with a serious frown on his face, Zack’s features overcome with confusion.

“She’s here,” Jason says, and of course she is. She was always going to be. There was never going to be a chance that it would be so easy.

Trini freezes in fear beside her.

But, there is no chaos, there is harmony.

And her mind is fluttering, hot as she tries to calm herself. As she tries to call for guidance, to pull something from the Force that could help her, but there’s nothing. Nothing but the image of blood on dirt, of Trini’s lifeless, red fingers clawing into the ground as she tries to make it to the ship.

As she falls, lifeless, the others around her.

Zordon on the sand. Zordon saying, Kimberly, run!

Trini.

She’s beside her, their heartbeats are one and the same and she can see her eyes even through the darkness. She can see Brutto--all green, flashing eyes and ready to strike down anyone who stands in her way--ready to kill all of them and Kimberly shouldn’t be here anyway.

She should have died in the sand with her Master.

She should have died and--

(All she wanted was one minute of peace from this. One minute of Trini in her arms and now there’s nothing to do even though--

    - Trini's fingers in her hair

    - I love you

--and she has to do this, doesn’t she?)

Trini looks up when Kimberly cups her jaw, presses their lips together once. Briefly.

“What are you--?” she starts to say, but there isn’t enough time to finish it before Kimberly speaks.

Before she says, “Don’t follow me,” and steps out of the darkness and into the street.

.

She wants Trini to know that she never had a family. Wants Trini, especially, to understand that all she ever wanted to be was someone who did the right thing--that went on adventures and loved fiercely. Was loved in return. That she went to her lessons and learned how to carry herself and took herself more seriously than little girls usually do.

And that she’s never been happier or luckier than she was the day they met--scuffing her feet through the streets as Trini led her to her ship, saying, I’m not leaving you here, not alone, in everything but words.

.

Past the gates, she freezes. She doesn’t even make it much closer to the ship--that hulking, misty shape in the distance--than ten feet before her heart is aching painfully as it thuds in her chest.

Get out, the Force sings in her blood, run run run run run.

“Ah,” the shape says -- the woman, the monster -- with her green lightsabre lit already and her teeth bared and sharp and her eyes so dark and empty that Kimberly can't hold the gaze for long. "Come to play?"

Kimberly is shaking. She’s frightened.

She doesn’t want to die.

The shape is watching her, she can feel the heat of the gaze. This is not a woman any longer. This is a creature who has killed and watched the light their eyes. This is a beast that cut down its own Padawan.

(and Kimberly is terrified, she’s so so scared because she’s never felt anyone, anything, so angry before, so ready to shed blood without a cause)

Her eyes clear, adjust to the shocking dark around her, and she heaves in air and there’s the sound of a scuffle from the shadow she’s just come from. The muffled yell of someone, perhaps.

Trini.

Trying to get to her.

She can barely do this. Her legs are quivering and her mouth, her mouth is forced into a thin line and she’s biting the inside of her cheek hard enough to draw blood, her lightsabre gripped in her hand because she’s going to die today.

Finally.

She’s going to join her Master wherever you go once the Force decides to take you.

(because the Force can be merciless)

“You’re going to die today, you foolish girl,” the creature says. “Silly little Jedi, believing you can escape the inevitable. I’m going to cut you down. You’re not worthy. None of you were. You lived like maggots--swarming over the truth and devouring it, turning it into something ugly . You lived like maggots. You’ll die like one.”

But--

No.

A beast she may have become, but she is still flesh and blood. She is more real than a nightmare. She was once called Brutto. Her energy screams Repulsa. But she has renamed herself. Like Ventress. Like Dooku.

She is the villain of this story, like the ones in all those stories she was told as a girl.

Good always wins.

“Are you afraid, girl?” The air is thick with the sound of her lightsabre crackling, popping. Frenzied. Kimberly jumps.

And then her own blade ignites in her hand, bright yellow and beaming light that lights up the filthy darkness surrounding the pair of them.

"No," comes her lie, fiercer than she's ever felt and she throws herself through the shadows.

.

Kimberly sees the fight unfurl through someone else’s eyes. She sees herself dancing, wielding her lightsabre like someone born battle-ready. It’s a dance she’s done before. In sparring, in training, in practice. In the actual battlefield.

But not like this. Never so unpredictable, so choppy.

She’s the same girl she was before. Older, perhaps. Seeing someone you admire, someone who was meant to be there for you die, will do that. She supposes it’s changed her.

Or, perhaps, it’s Trini that’s changed her. This love that blossomed in her chest for Trini and her family--for Zack and her brothers and her parents. This family that she found.

For Billy and careful smile, Jason and his calculated limp.

Jedi training can be unmade by the simple will of your heart, it would seem.

It’s Trini’s eyes, she thinks. She can feel the warm clamp of Zack’s hand around her mouth, feels herself being dragged, struggling, saying, Kim, so distantly that Kimberly might be imagining the entire thing.

We have to go, comes Billy’s voice, some faint echo. We have to get to the ship.

Kimberly sees: Zack half-dragging her, Jason limping beside, and she feels herself fight his grip like a girl who never learned to fight with anything other than words. She sees herself--her actual self--in the distance, just barely ducking a furious swipe of Rita’s sabre, stumble over her own feet, and then whipping around, coming back strong.

They make it to the ship, the doors open for them, and Trini is staring back at Kimberly.

Kimberly can taste her despair. Her resolution.

(she wants Trini to know that it’s sometimes beyond you to burn the galaxy for someone else)

(but Trini already knows )

.

“You think you’ve won ,” barks Master Rita Bru--

No.

Repulsa .

Her lightsabre is on the ground and Kimberly has the blade of her own pointed down. She’s gained the higher ground somehow, knocked her opponent down with love thumping in her chest, making her hands unsteady, unreliable.

“You can’t kill me, girl. You don’t have the guts.

And Kimberly hesitates. That’s entirely the point.

It’s one of the things said to get someone to second guess themselves--to fill them with moral complexity and something like guilt. Because the higher ground means more of a chance to double back again.

She hesitates, and that’s why it works.

.

Here is something she knows: there is always something worth fighting for.

It is something that everyone knows, she is sure. It is something everyone is told, no matter what side you are on. It is the same thing that Palpatine must have fed this woman for months, to turn her against them. To make her this way.

Something else she knows: that has to mean something.

For Zack, it means: a warm bed, a nice house, a place where I can kick my shoes off at night.

Get him drunk, get him sentimental, and he'll say: My mom in the kitchen. She loved cooking. My mom, I guess.

For Billy it's: Everything. All of it. Anyone who matters to you.

Don’t ask Jason. His answer would take too long to come because the only thing he would know with any certainty is this--

The people on this ship with him. The girl laying down her life as a distraction.

But for Trini, it's--

.

“Kimberly!”

It’s this, ultimately, that distracts her. Not the reason for the yell--the soldiers sliding out from the gates with careful, sideways steps and their blasters already raised.

She looks away, just long enough. Her lightsabre drops down a little from where it’s pointed at her enemies neck.

Rita Repulsa lunges forward, pulls her lightsabre across the ground and into her hand and the attack is full of heat, full of venom. Hatred. An emotion that Kimberly has never known and she had not understood that this is how the Force can be.

The Force can be as evil as it can be good: a monster, evil and dark. Something that has known the taste of blood in its teeth.

And its followers are fast. They always are. But, for all of this, Trini is faster and it's over in a moment. 

The air falls quiet, filled with the absolute reek of cooked meat. 

Rita Repulsa falls to her knees, then to the ground, a hole sizzling hot through her chest.

.

“The question you must ask yourself,” Zordon said that first day, her hands trembling as the droids approached in the distance, as the clones prepared for war around them, “is not what is worth fighting for, but what is worth living for. The only truth you will ever understand is your own.”

And Kimberly does not want to die. Not today. Not ever.

Especially not today.

.

The clones don’t fire. Even with Rita Repulsa’s body sizzling in the dirt and Kimberly remembers the exact half-sigh that Zordon had released when he died. She remembers it and she drags herself to her feet, drops her lightsabre to the ground.

She’d wanted to kill her. She’d wanted to kill her more than anything and it would have been easy to, but--

“Why aren’t they shooting?” Trini asks and her hands on Kimberly’s, her mouth so close.

Zack is behind them. Jason and Billy too.

Everyone is waiting. Everyone is holding their breath.

.

This is what happens, outside the gates of a worthless planet in the Salient system:

Only one shot is fired.

It’s the killing blow to a former Jedi’s chest.

It burns through her chest and out the other side, ending her. She does not reach some careful conclusion. She does not earn forgiveness in any form. 

She dies in a flash of heat and the sound of her body hitting the dirt.

It is quick.

And then comes the waiting.

Without a leader, the clones are left at a loss. None of them know whether or not to shoot.

Kimberly does not retrieve her ignited lightsabre from the ground. Trini does not let go of her hand.

It’s too long.

Too long without sound. And then one of the troops at the front, the commander, perhaps, says, “Blast them!”

And Kimberly’s chest aches as she steps in front of Trini, in front of Zack.

Jason, at her side, steps in front of Billy.

But then--

.

The people of Salient finally, finally leave their homes. In droves, in hordes. They leave their homes and they take back their city.

Fathers and mothers knocking blasters from the clone’s hands. Children tripping them from the blind spots of their visors.

“What’s happening?” Zack asks, towards the start of it, because no one really has the answer.

“They’re fighting back,” Billy says.

Jason nods. He doesn’t have his lightsabre. He doesn’t have his robes.

But neither does Kimberly

(she leaves her sabre burning on the ground)

and she fights better without it.

.

When it’s over, when their numbers are dwindled--put out like matches in the snow or pushed behind firm doors and the doors locked tightly--the boy from before finds Kimberly with Trini’s hand around her waist.

The Bothan boy from the streets and he smiles kindly.

“Laryn,” he says and she doesn’t know that word, but the next one-- “Jedi?” she does know.

“Jedi,” she confirms.

Trini kisses her jugular--the only spot she can reach without rocking onto her toes--and they’re alive. They’re alive.

Zack claps her on the back.

The boys parents are there, smiling kindly, too. Proudly.

Kimberly looks away after a moment. The father says--in Basic--, “You must hurry, before they send more!”

And the entire town can gather for two things, it would seem: taking back what’s rightfully there’s and rushing a group of kids onto a smuggling ship.

.

“We can’t go back to M’altesh,” Zack says in the air and Jason is sitting in the chair beside him, Billy leaned over the back of his seat.

Trini sighs, loud and long. “I know.”

Because they can’t. Not now. It’s too dangerous.

Billy smiles. “I still have the coordinates to Parth,” he offers. Then, “Or...Alpha-5 does. Just give me one--”

He reaches for his bag to pull out his droid, but Zack cuts him off.

“Please, leave that damn droid in there. I’d rather wing it.”

True: He wings it pretty well and they’re there, undetected, in an hour. Two, tops.

.

“It’s...nice,” Jason says in a run-down shack they find in a clearing on the bright, green surface of Parth.

(“It’s greener than I thought it would be,” Trini had said when they stepped off the ship, and Naboo had seemed nice, but Parth will do, if the flutter in Kimberly’s chest is anything to go by)

“It’s a mess,” Zack corrects, and Jason gives him a look. Zack smiles. “We’ll fix it.”

There are fish in the lake outside the door and Parth has one city with a population of less than 200. Billy catches dinner and Jason says, “We’re safe here, for now. Keep our heads down for a while.”

No one says anything about close it came. No one knows how.

Kimberly eats dinner in the grass with the distant sun setting far away--barely the size of her thumb in the sky. Zack sits on one side and Trini sits on the other, both of them refusing to budge. Halfway through a bite, she squeezes her eyes shut, tears scalding tracks down her numb cheeks.

Trini stops chewing and curls an arm around her waist, tugging her in, kissing Kimberly’s earlobe.

“You’re an idiot,” Zack scolds, low and throaty, on her other side. “No more self-sacrificing shit. From either of you.”

“Fine with me,” Trini says and Kimberly nods. “Don’t try to die again on my watch.”

Kimberly lets out a wet laugh, but she finds she is not crying for the blood on the backs of her teeth or Rita Repulsa's eyes, blank and void of life. She is not crying for the stench of death, sunk so deeply into her clothes that she's certain it will linger on her skin for days. She is crying for those men, those women, those children who tugged themselves upright to defend what is theirs. She is crying because she nearly died. Would have.

 

Should have, maybe. But she does not want to consider that.

Jason smiles at her. “There is no death,” he says, his voice light. A joke. “Only the Force.”

And there’s something approaching happiness in his eyes; but his eyes are dark and something inside of them is broken. He looks exhausted.

Kimberly wants to sleep .

She imagines he knows the feeling.

“You Jedi and your damn cryptic mottos,” Zack says.

Trini laughs. “I like it.”

“Of course you do,” Zack tells her. “You’re sleeping with one of them.”

Billy frowns and stops eating his fish. “I like it, too,” he says. “They have neat sayings.”

Zack wiggles his eyebrows at him and then at Jason and the topic is dropped.

“I’m sorry,” Kimberly whispers later, when Zack has scooted away to talk to the others, when it’s just Trini who can hear her, without risk of embarrassment over her heady insistence. “I...I don’t...I…”

She wants to say that she’d die a hundred times over for Trini.

Trini seems to understand. She kisses her and she says, “I love you, idiot,” into Kimberly’s mouth.

It starts of subdued, careful, and then Kimberly tugs Trini forward by the back of her neck and parts her lips and--

It ends up being decidedly less subdued. 

Alpha-5 beeps in protest.

“Hey! There are like four dust-covered beds you could be doing that, rather than in front of me,” Zack says, only half-kidding. “Spare me the show, ladies.”

.

It’s a fair request, so they abide it.

(the bedroom is far more suited for that anyway, though the bed is a bit dusty)

.

Later, Kimberly will wonder at the absolutely absurd amount of time she has found. Time for Jason to learn to walk properly, for them to spar with sticks in the grass like children until the others insist on joining in. For swimming in the water with Zack and tuning the ship up with Billy.

For sending a message to Trini’s family

( Yes, we’re okay, we’re alive. We’re fine . We’ll be home soon. We love you, too. )

There is time for food and for sleep and to press Trini back into a mattress that they share with kisses first thing in the morning. To revel in being alive so deeply that she begins to forget.

Correction: she wants to forget.

It’s not entirely possible.

Sometimes, there is nothing better than being stuck somewhere you never planned on being.

Some nights, she sits in the grass with Jason, talking about how they almost died, how they lived. How none of that matters anymore.

What it’s like to feel so alone that you’d rather die.

“You’re not alone anymore,” Kimberly tells him and Jason always smiles.

Jason always tells her, “You did what you had to do,” even though she knows it already.

Knows it for both of them.

The buzzing between her and Trini gets stronger every day--learns new songs to sing, to make her feel dizzy and lightheaded always. She hopes it never goes away.

And it won’t. Because that is how the Force works.

It latches on like some sort of illness until you forget what it was like before sickness, before pain. Forget what it was like to get out of bed and walk on your own. It becomes a necessity, a drug.

A parasite.

A long time ago, Kimberly was scared of this. She was a little girl who feared being a vessel for something so much greater than her.

But Trini gives her the control, and suddenly the tables are turned.

Time passes. This is all she could tell you.

.

What she doesn’t know:

The stories on planets all over the galaxy.

The resistance on Salient.

The Jedi who survived the Purge. Who lived. Who fought back. Who led the fight.

A twisting of the truth, for sure, but so the story goes.

.

In months, things will change. An Imperial Class Star Destroyer will land beside Trini’s home and frighten everyone half to death, thinking it’s finally the end.

But then twenty men will come out, one of them a Senator that Kimberly vaguely remembers from Coruscant, and someone will say--

Are you the Jedi Knight who saved Salient from Rita Repulsa?

Because stories are how you twist them.

Kimberly does not remember her parents. She does not remember a time before she became a Jedi. The first hand she was offered pulled her out of her mother’s arms and pressed a weapon into her palms and she has never, ever known any other way.

But she will say, My friends...they...they did all the work really, with Trini’s hand in her own.

And the silence will throb through her until the Senator--Organa, perhaps--smiles and says, So I’ve heard. I have an... idea that I would like to share with the five of you.

And it will become quite clear, then, that some rebellions really are built overnight.

.

But first: home.

First M’altesh and the sunlight and Kimberly being pulled into the only parents she’s ever known, to her small brothers and Trini’s lips on her ear.

This is not the end. This is the beginning.

Another battle is coming, much fiercer and more frightening and much, much more dire. Always.

But for now, she sees Jason being shown the house, his limp all but gone, and Billy grinning, asking how he can help Trini’s dad with whatever he does. She sees Zack taking his normal seat by the fire and sighing, winking at her. Looking at peace.

It’s probably the most chaotic this house has ever been. The boys run and scream in excitement--four inches taller than the last time Kimberly saw them--and June is already fussing over dinner, over how much weight they’ve lost.

Trini smiles and presses into Kimberly’s side like she never wants to be anywhere else.

(It all tried to end)

(Tried to light itself aflame)

(And yet--)

“I love you,” Trini says and Kimberly smiles.

“I love you, too,” she says.

And here is Kimberly Hart, ready to begin at last.

...