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Not How Your Story Ends

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Kanan almost immediately gasped at the mental contact with his Padawan. It was immediately clear that whatever was plaguing Ezra was severely affecting his brain function and sense of consciousness. Ezra’s mind was now little more than a fever-riddled warzone of conflicting thoughts and sensations. In that moment, there was no way Ezra had a solid grasp on reality, and his default reaction was to panic.

Knowing that calming him down would be instrumental to treating him, Kanan went to work, trying to bring some semblance of peace and clarity to Ezra’s strained mental state. It was a difficult task, and Ezra was feeling the effects of it as well. The pain and fear was so physically straining for the already ill boy that Kanan could feel Hera at one point guiding the boy to the edge of the comforter to retch, losing the only bit of nutrients he had received in the past few hours. It was deeply disheartening and uncomfortable for both Master and Padawan, but just as Kanan was on the brink of giving up, he began to feel the steadying of his student’s erratic breathing patterns, as well as the glimmer of recognition within their bond. It wasn’t perfect, but Kanan decided to take the small victory. Looking back up, he relayed his success to their Captain.

“Hera, I think I’ve got it. If you need to talk to him, now would be the time to try.”

She gave a brief sigh of relief, put aside the cleaning rag she was forced to gather after the earlier incident and centered herself once again before taking action.

“Alright. Zeb, I need you to bring us some towels and a bucket of cold water - as cold as you can get it. There should be some ice in the freezing unit”. The Lasat huffed in affirmation and left the room without a word. Returning her attention to the boy on the ground, she carefully laid a hand on his forehead and began to speak.

“Ezra, Ezra can you hear me?” she called, internally praying to any gods she knew of for a response.

The room was entirely silent for a moment, and Hera was sure her heart was about to pound right out of her chest. But after a few seconds that felt like an eternity, a weak groan sounded throughout the cabin.

Taking hold of the small opportunity, she continued to try and keep hold of the the boy’s focus. “That’s good, Ezra. You’re doing great. You don’t have to worry about speaking if you’re not able to. Just keep focusing on my voice. Now, can you open your eyes for us, love?”

The room was silent for a moment more before a sharp whine permeated the air around them as the Padawan tried to shift on the comforter beneath him. It was truly a pitiful sight. Trying not to feel defeated quite yet, she helped Kanan still him before Zeb returned with a stack of towels and rags. Chopper, complaining about being “awoken” by Zeb when he wasn’t fully recharged yet, filed in behind with two large buckets of ice water. Ignoring the droid’s snarky comments, she gave a silent nod of thanks to the two, then began to soak the various rags into the freezing water and drape them over every inch of Ezra’s exposed skin.

Still hoping to engage the Padawan’s consciousness in some manner, she turned to her Jedi for help.

“Kanan, I’m kind of occupied right now, can you try talking to him?” she asked without tearing her attention away from the cloth she was now vigorously wringing out over a bucket.

Kanan nodded, shifting slightly to prop his student’s upper body against his own the best he could without disturbing Hera’s work. Gently, he reached out a hand and began to run it through Ezra’s hair in a manner he hoped was comforting. “Come on, Ezra,” he pleaded, “open your eyes for me”.

Silence ensued, and for a moment, as Chopper suggested “a little shock” to assist in the process. After a swift and stern scolding from Hera at the idea, Chopper left the room, warbling something about being underappreciated.

Trying once more, Kanan spoke aloud to his apprentice, but this time reaching a bit back out to his apprentice’s mind, once again successfully bringing his conciousness closure to the surface. This time, when Ezra moaned in response, his eyes cracked open ever so slightly to face the assailing voice.

Kanan smiled slightly at the sound. “That’s it, Ezra. Just focus on me.”

“K-k-k-k….” Ezra sputtered, seemingly unable to even form coherent words anymore.

Kanan looked down at him sadly. “Shhhh….” he cooed, carefully propping Ezra up even further. “Don’t speak. I’m gonna ask you some questions, okay? Just squeeze my hand so I know you understand.”

It took a moment, but Ezra eventually replied with a weak squeeze.

Kanan sighed slightly in relief. “Good, good. You’re doing great, Ezra,” Kanan encouraged softly. “Now, do you think you’ll be able to drink something if we brought it?”

This time, there was a longer pause, but eventually Kanan felt a light squeeze against his palm which he relayed to Hera with a stiff nod. Hera wordlessly stood from her work and fetched a water pouch for her youngest crew member. Getting him to drink something was priority number one for her at the moment. Seeing that the boy wasn’t able to keep down much in the last twelve or so hours, dehydration was a pressing concern, and if Ezra failed to keep down even water again, she knew that they would have to start seeking emergency care. Finally grabbing the packet and pressing it gently to her charge’s lips, she silently prayed that it would stay down and they could put the worst of his illness behind them.

But her hopes were utterly short-lived. Not even a five full minutes had passed after he drank before Ezra began to gag once again and the little progress they had made was lost. Hera soon found herself scraping together the supplies she needed for a meager IV.

“I just don’t get it. How did it get so out of hand?” Hera grieved as she stuck the small needle into Ezra’s arm without a single protest from the boy.

“Well, you said it had gone up to 104, right? That’s only a little more than it was before, right?” Zeb chimed in from the corner of the room, entirely unsure if his presence was needed or even wanted at the moment.

He immediately regretted his contribution.

Hera looked up sharply and narrowed her eyes. “Zeb... I thought you said his fever hadn’t risen last time you checked?” she spat venomously.

“It didn’t!” Zeb defended, rising his hands in a form of surrender, “He said it was 103 somethin’ before and it was 103 somethin’ when I checked.”

“103 what, Zeb?” the captain seethed, hanging the IV bag on a protruding wall hook without removing her accusing gaze from the fourth spectre.

“Ugghhhh, 103.8? I think?”

Hera nearly blew up. “Zeb! Why didn’t you tell me?! That kind of thing makes a big difference when tracking human body temperatures!”

“Well how was I supposta’ know!” he retorted, taking a step back from the near raging captain.

“I knew that and I’m not human!” she quipped before sighing and gripping the bridge of her nose in exasperation. “Ugh… You know what, Zeb? Since you’ve been just, stellar about communication during this whole ordeal, you get to be the one to start contacting the other cell leaders to find any friendly medcenters nearby. Kanan, stay here and watch over Ezra, I’m going to get Chop and fire up the nav system. Com me if his condition changes.” Zeb exited the room with his hanging slightly in shame and fear. Hera looked down and gathered up her supplies before slowly rising herself. Just before she reached the door, however, Kanan stopped her.

“Hera, wait,” he called out with a dark softness typically reserved for the most intimate moments they shared. She looked back at him, her heart pounding from the stress that seemed to finally be catching up with her. “This isn’t Zeb’s fault. You know that,” he gently mused.

Hera sighed, allowing the guilt to wash over her. “I know,” she whispered. “And you know, in all honesty, it’s not even his fever I’m worried about anymore. He can’t keep anything down, Kanan - not even water. His body can’t keep going on at this rate. This all just… couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” she muttered, wrapping her arms around her midsection and revelling in the small amount of warmth and comfort it provided.

Kanan gently shifted, repositioning his charge and moving towards Hera with a warm grace. “Don’t tempt the fates, my love,” he smiled softly, squeezing her shoulder with a firm reassurance.

Hera returned his unseeing gaze, smiling, and with refound confidence, she returned his gesture and headed towards the cockpit.

The moment she left the room, Kanan’s smile disappeared as he returned to his Padawan’s side and drew him closer to his own body, preparing to whisper to the ailing teen. “Come on, Ezra. You’ve managed to get Hera of all people riled up. I don’t know if I can keep up this strong act forever. That’s usually her job. Please, don’t make us worry like this. We need you. Keep fighting”.