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Extracurricular Research

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There are approximately three million Twi'lek holidays, give or take a couple thousand. Kanan has researched this, looking for a holiday appropriate for giving a small gift to someone without the action coming across as desperate, creepy, or weird. The good news is, he has plenty of holidays to choose from. The bad news is, sorting through them is going to be a nightmare.

He'd like to find an occasion that fits his purpose and is coming up soon rather than taking place, say, when Ryloth's tilt causes a peculiar alignment of the stars every forty-three planetary years. If Hera celebrates this particular holiday, that would be best. He once dated a girl from Carnet, very briefly. He'd looked up her planet's customs and wished her a happy Winnowing Day, only to discover that festival celebrated the day that the majority Carnetti culture destroyed the last major city of her own culture, sending her people into exile and ruin. This time, he will be more thorough before cramming his foot into his mouth. Besides, this part of the research is more fun.

They're between jobs, which means they're between worlds. The last gig meant filching then selling some Imperial tech to a low-life scoundrel Hera knows. Kanan has spent enough of his life on the wrong side of the law to know the basics of thievery, smuggling, and cutting deals with criminals. When Hera first brought him along, he expected to be her muscle. Instead, she's got him front and center making the deals she wants, while she stands aside, or gets the ship ready.

"I trust you," she says when he asks.

"Yeah, but is it more because you don't trust them to respect you?"

"Does it matter?" She likes answering questions with questions to get out of giving answers. That drives him up the wall and if she keeps it up, he is definitely walking out. Someday. Maybe.

Today he wants a few answers. "You've never said. What part of Ryloth are you from?"

"The hot, annoying flat part with the desert."

He chuckles. "I'll have to look that up on the map. Is 'annoying' spelled a special way in Twi'lek?" It's enough to get her to smile back at him.

"I grew up in the Tann province. It's not far from Lessu."

That pricks a memory. "There was a battle there. In Lessu." Master Windu told the story to the younglings after his return. Kanan remembers sitting in a circle with his friends as the Jedi Master drew pictures with his words of their valiant fight.

"There was. The Republic came to help free us. Then they stayed and became the Empire." She doesn't talk much about her past, but now Kanan has another piece. He remembers the name of the Twi'lek who fought beside Master Windu. He's not about to ask how common of a family name 'Syndulla' is. It's enough to narrow his search from three million holidays to about ten thousand.

His next gambit waits until they're finishing up their next job. Hera's contact sends them to raid a supply shipment then drop off the food and medicine for a colony that's seen the underside of the Imperial boot too often.

"We're not getting paid for this one," she tells him as they unload the crates. "I traded for information."

"You're the boss," he says, shifting two crates together. "You know, this reminds me. We mostly live on rations. If we do manage to get in something different to eat, do you have any restrictions I should know about? Do you have allergies? Any kind of religious prohibitions against fruit? That sort of thing."

Hera shoves her crates along. "No allergies, and my family wasn't religious. We spent too much time on the edge of starvation when I was young to worry about avoiding food. I'll eat anything that isn't trying to eat me first, and if my blaster is fully charged, that's fair game, too."

"Good to know." He considers this further. "You threatened to shoot me the other day. Would I have ended up on the menu?"

"No, humans taste terrible." She pushes her crates in front of his, and now they're at the village, and Kanan thinks she's kidding but if she isn't, he doesn't want to ask how she knows. No particular religious affiliation. That narrows things down more.

For his third attempt, he enlists assistance. Hera's busy in the cockpit, and Kanan has found a reason to be alone with her surly astromech. Chopper doesn't like him much, but he doesn't like anyone much. He's both fiercely loyal to and protective of Hera while also giving her static and refusing to work at every opportunity. Hera threatens to deactivate him at least once per cycle and she loves him so deeply that when he got blasted by a stormtrooper, she spent three sleepless days repairing him. Chopper is her best friend.

"Buddy," he says to the droid with a wide smile. He's instantly greeted by growling suspicion. Kanan's still learning the rude binary language, but he can tell when he's being asked what in the hell he wants.

"I need your help on something."

Chopper growls again.

"You've known Hera a long time. Since she was a kid, right?"

Grudging assent.

"Do you know if she celebrates on her birthday, or ignores the day?"

Chopper mutters to himself. Kanan can't make out what he means.

"Sorry?"

The mutter is clearer now. Some day, he will understand this droid as well as Hera does. Maybe.

"Thanks." It's too much to ask Chop not to tell Hera he's been asking. That's the one way to guarantee the droid will roll straight up to her and spill. He has to trust he's too boring to snitch on.

He waits until they're between jobs yet again. The last one paid well enough that they won't run out of fuel any time soon. Kanan can put out feelers to their regular contacts and see if anything turns up. They've made port on a quiet world where the Empire is only a little nasty, and for once, the same goes for Chopper.

Over dinner, the conversation turns to the latest book she's reading. Hera's into technical manuals and political tracts most of the time, but she's got a taste for philosophy, and Kanan remembers studying this one back when he was still at the Temple. Enough of the lesson stuck with him that he can keep up with her this time. Wishing his education had continued usually leads him down the sharp-stoned path of memories of why that didn't happen. Tonight he's only wistful that he's not as well-read as his companion and wouldn't know where to begin to catch up. These kinds of conversations are his favorite. He'd love to have them with her for the next fifty years.

"Oh," he says casually, as the topic drifts. "I found something you might like. Hold on." He left it back in his cabin, hidden inside a drawer. Hera's still in the galley when he returns. "Happy Etros Day." He hands her the wrapped package.

Hera looks at the package and then at Kanan. "What?"

"It's a present. I thought Etros Day would be a good day to give it to you. If it's not, forget I said anything. Open it."

She blinks at him, then returns her attention to the package. The covering is fabric, something he scavenged from an old shirt that saw the bad side of a mission. Hera peels away the wrapping.

"A relay interface?" A grin spreads over her face.

"You said you wanted to install a new one but you could never find the right model. I found this at that trading post on Galdona."

"Thank you," she says, turning it around to inspect it from all angles critically as she stands. "It's perfect."

He follows her to the cockpit, where Hera opens the panel and starts working. She's never happier than when she's flying her ship, or finding ways to make the Ghost fly even better.

"Hand me the tool kit. Thanks. Galdona was a while ago."

"I was waiting for the right occasion."

"And you picked Etros Day?"

Kanan puts his hands behind his back and lectures in a sing-song voice. "Etros Day is observed in your area of Ryloth. It is celebrated by exchanging small gifts, usually of sweet foods or jewelry. Now, I thought to myself, we can buy a month's worth of rations for the same price as one box of sweets, and you don't wear jewelry. You'd get mad if I wasted credits on either one. But you do like new parts for the ship."

"I do," she says, and the interface locks into place. She closes up the panel, stands, and places her hand atop it with a satisfied smile. She's got some grime on her face and her clothes from the work. He's never seen anything better in his whole life. "Go check in the storage cabinet, will you?"

"Huh?"

She points to the cabinet at the back of the cockpit. Confused, Kanan goes to it and opens the hatch. A small, wrapped package is stuffed into one corner.

"You can open it," Hera says with mild exasperation.

Curious, he pulls off the thin wrapping and finds a datapad. He gestures it on. The oversized drive is filled with books. Philosophy, yes, but history too, and a few novels his rusty understanding of university curricula suggest are kind of important.

"You told me you never had a chance to learn much of this." She's awkward now. He has only told Hera a little about his life. She hasn't pushed him into telling her the rest and he's appreciated that, expecting a million questions, not this simple acceptance in place of dredging up his old wounds to satisfy her own curiosity. Now she is touching on the edges of things they don't talk about much, and she jerks her words back and away from the sore spots. "I thought you might like it as a reference." She comes up beside him, still nervous, almost babbling in a very unHeralike fashion. "I added several articles that go into deconstructing the major texts. I'm not sure I agree with them all but the opposing viewpoints were helpful for me to organize my own thoughts about the source texts, and...."

"It's perfect. Thanks."

"I don't think you're stupid."

"You know, it didn't occur to me to assume you did until you said that." He softens it with a smile, which eases the sudden worry on her face.

"Like you said, we can buy an entire crate of food for one box of sweeties, and you don't wear jewelry either. Also, we spend a lot of our time running for our lives, so we've got to travel light. The great thing about books is that once you'd read them, they're with you in your head forever, no matter where you wind up."

Her smile is still nervous. She's been spending time thinking about him, about something he might like and want and use, just like he's spent the last several cycles thinking about the same thing for her.

"You're going to help me through the deeper ones, right? There's only so much meaning of existence stuff I can get through without getting confused about the nature of reality, and that gets weird when I start making Force constructs in my sleep again."

"I'd be happy to." The last of Hera's tension eases out of her shoulders.

"So, Etros Day. I only picked up the basic details from the holonet. Is there more I ought to know?"

"No, it's your standard holiday with fasting and prayer. There was a famous massacre that took place one Etros Day about seventy years ago."

"Seriously?"

She shoots him a look. She's kidding again. "You got the basics. People exchange small gifts as signs of affection. Sometimes there are carnivals for the children where they play games and get loaded up with sweets. It's considered lucky for couples to announce their intention to marry on that day, but to be honest, any couple more reliant on luck than on working through their problems together isn't going to last."

Hera is either dropping a very heavy-handed hint at his feet, or she's off on another philosophical tangent. The datapad in his hands suggests the latter, but Kanan is happy to press his luck now and then. "Interesting. What else is lucky to do on Etros Day?"

She gives him a different look, another one he's coming to learn and enjoy. "I'm not sure. I've never had any reason to celebrate before. Why don't we research that together?"