“Be a channel for the Force,” Luke advised the struggling youngling. “Let it guide you.”
Jacen gritted his teeth, wincing as yet another bolt from the training droid hit his leg. “I’m trying.”
Despite his efforts, Luke couldn’t keep the smile off his face. He remembered all too well his early days of training, trying to tap into the Force around him as he reflected the bolts from the very same droid. He hadn’t fared too much better than Jacen, and could completely recount the same frustrations and, at times, confusion.
On the other side of the cargo hold of the Ghost, where they had decided would be the best place to commence training for Jacen, Ezra sat straight where he’d been perched on a crate. He raised a finger. “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Jacen paused to sigh loudly, exhaling such a force of air that his shoulders collapsed and he hunched over. “Dad tells me that all the time,” he moaned. “It’s not helpful.”
Ezra and Luke met each other’s gazes and both dissolved into fits of laughter.
Luke felt his cheeks flush as electricity shot down his spine. Even a year after meeting Ezra, and six months since becoming his boyfriend, he still found himself melting when their eyes met. Han never ceased to give up teasing him about it.
(Though, none of it had compared to the six months before they got together. Leia, Han, and Lando had all never ceased to give him flack for not asking Ezra out. Luke new that Ezra had suffered the same from Sabine.)
He’d stopped caring a long time ago. He never felt as happy as when he was with Ezra – and sometimes, he wondered if he would ever be able to get over calling himself his boyfriend.
Jacen had ripped his helmet off and was glaring at them, unimpressed with the behaviour of his mentors. Luke sobered up quickly, shutting the droid down before focusing on his (temporary) student. He placed a hand on the young boy’s shoulder. “Sorry. It’s just that we’ve all had the same experience of frustration with that saying. You’ll come to appreciate it in time.”
Jacen furrowed his brows. “I don’t know about that. Why is all this Jedi stuff so confusing? Was it too hard to be straightforward?”
Luke sighed and closed his eyes. When Kanan had asked if he and Ezra would be willing to oversee Jacen’s training while he and Hera had a meeting with Hera’s father about the ongoing repairs to Ryloth’s cities (held over hologram; Cham Syndulla mostly just wanted Hera’s input, especially in regards to the rebuilding of their own house) he’d been quick to agree.
He’d thought it would be easy. Not only would Ezra be with him (always a bonus), but he thought he had the experience from having guided Leia through training. His sister had flourished under his tutelage, and was now as comfortable wielding a lightsaber as she was her words in the Senate – though he doubted she would ever use it as much. Her calling still remained in politics, and she was a key figure in the formation of the New Republic. Luke was prone to belief that it would collapse if she should vacate. Not that she ever would.
He’d come quickly to understand that training Jacen an entirely different.
For starters, he was a lot younger than Leia. He didn’t have the same developed understanding he and Ezra had when they were being trained – Luke found many of the ways he had been trained took a lot longer to explain to Jacen, who was still so young. His upbringing in the middle of a war and beside his mother had made him sharper and more aware than most other boys his age, but that didn’t change his actual age.
And he was so impatient and restless. He always seemed to be twitching when they meditated, and ready to move on when he only started to understand a particular move. It was hard going to get him to focus on any one topic at any time.
Luke squeezed Jacen shoulder. “Trust me, Jacen – there is wisdom in those words that have helped all of us. It reminds us to not force it. Don’t try and command the Force. Instead, let yourself be open. Be free. Let it flow through you. Imagine that you’re piloting in the middle of a battle. You don’t overthink every move and force the ship to act a certain way, do you? You instead react on instinct, and let that guide you. It’s the same with the Force.”
Jacen nodded seriously, eyebrows knitted in concentration. “I – I think I understand.”
“Good.” Luke stood back. “Give it a shot.”
Jacen placed the shield back over his eyes and ignited his lightsaber. The blue blade hummed and Luke activated the droid.
Jacen’s shoulders were tense as he followed the droid. “Relax,” Luke reminded him gently. Jacen took a deep breath and relaxed his shoulders.
The first blast came, and Jacen deflected it with ease. The droid shifted position, firing off five more shots, five shots that Jacen was able to block. When it released three in rapid succession to Jacen’s success, he started to grin.
“Did you see that?” he exclaimed.
“I did! Go again,” Luke encouraged, while Ezra applauded.
In the end, Jacen was able to block the rest of the shots with ease. He was still grinning when he tore the helmet off his head, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“See?” Luke said, smiling at him. “You did really well.”
Jacen perked up, eyes shining. He stood a little taller. “I did?”
“Of course. You’ll be a great Jedi in no time.”
The change came instantly. Jacen deflated as quickly as he had stood tall. He looked down and fidgeted with the end of his shirt, tugging at a loose strand. “I don’t know…”
Luke and Ezra exchanged a worried glance. “Have you seen him like this before?” Luke mouthed. Ezra may not live on the Ghost anymore, but he still considered the crew his family and had spent more time with them than Luke had.
Ezra shook his head.
Luke crouched to the young boy’s level. Behind him, Ezra hopped down from the crate and walked to Luke’s side, also lowering himself.
“What’s wrong?” Luke asked softly. “Do you doubt yourself? There’s no reason to. It takes all of us a long time to learn – even Ezra and I. Even your father, no doubt,” he added, with a quirk of his lips.
Jacen shook his head. “No… not that. I’m not sure I want to be a Jedi. I prefer flying with Mum.”
“And your Dad is her co-pilot, isn’t he?” Ezra input. “And he’s a Jedi. You don’t have to choose – you can easily be both.”
“The Jedi of old were both accomplished pilots and warriors,” Luke said. “Besides, you’re too young to worry about what you’ll do with the rest of your life right now. You’ve got so much time to think about it.”
Jacen tilted his head. “Really?”
Ezra nodded. “Really.”
A sparkle returned to the young boy’s eyes.
“Jacen Jarrus-Syndulla!” a voice bellowed. “You have not tidied your room like I asked!”
Luke had not had too much experience with Hera Syndulla, but the tone of voice was enough to make him flinch. He looked at Ezra, who had responded similarly, but there was a bright smile on his face.
Sounds like they’d finished their meeting.
Jacen groaned and threw his head back. “I’ve had Jedi practice, Mum!”
Hera appeared over the balcony, her hands on her hips and an eyebrow raised. “Well, now you have cleaning practice. Have you put anything away this past week?”
“Coming, coming!” Jacen grumbled.
He handed the droid and the helmet back to Luke, and placed his lightsaber on his belt, moving as slowly as he dared with his mother watching his every move. He turned to leave, but before he did so he looked back at his mentors for the day and waved.
“Thanks Luke, thanks Ezra!”
Ezra grinned. “No worries. But I think you should get up there before your mother makes you clean the entire Ghost.”
Jacen gulped and scurried up to the next floor, where Hera made a point of making sure he went to his room. She shook her head when the door closed, muttering something under her breath. But no one could mistake the utter love in her eyes when she watched him leave.
When she left, after calling a greeting to the two below, Ezra leaned against a wall and laughed, wiping at his eyes. Luke had no idea what the joke was, but Ezra’s mirth was infectious: he was grinning despite himself.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, standing beside him. He absently moved his hand to entwine his fingers with Ezra’s.
He felt a jolt down his spine when Ezra squeezed them back.
“Oh, Hera used to say things like that to me all the time,” Ezra chuckled. “It’s good to hear it being directed at somebody else for a change.”
Luke snorted. “How cynical of you.”
Luke was too busy trying to come up with some sort of retort that he almost didn’t hear Kanan approach, and it was only when Ezra waved to his mentor that Luke turned as well.
Kanan still wore a mask over his eyes, and wore his hair short. But what really caught Luke’s attention when they first met was not Kanan’s blindness, but the burns down his arms from when he held an entire explosion from destroyed the Ghost’s crew. Sabine had managed to pilot the ship close enough to get Kanan back on board and leave, but not before he could fully escape the fire’s wrath. The burns had healed well and Kanan could wield a lightsaber as well as ever, though the scarring was permanent.
Luke had been awed when he first heard the story. He could barely begin to imagine holding something of that magnitude with the Force. It had been hard to wrap his head around how powerful Kanan must be.
“Thanks for taking him on today,” he said. “I know he can be a handful.”
Luke shrugged. “It wasn’t a both. He’s a good kid; he just gets excited easily. It can be hard to get him to focus.”
“Seriously, I don’t think even I was that difficult to train,” Ezra mused, stretching his arms over his head.
Kanan frowned. “No. You were worse.”
Ezra shot him a withering look. Luke covered his mouth with his hand to hide his smirk – though his shaking shoulders probably gave him away, for Ezra punched him lightly on the shoulder.
“You’re supposed to stand up for me as my boyfriend,” he complained.
Luke schooled his features into an innocent look. “Now where’s the fun in that?”
It earned him another punch. Luke rolled his eyes.
Kanan watched them with a smile. “You know, you’re both good at this. He wasn’t pouting when he finished training, which is an achievement. He’s got too much of his mother in him. He’s too restless. He just wants to be in the air – the more challenging and dangerous, the better.”
It was a sentence that could so easily have been taken as criticism – but Luke didn’t think that for a second. Kanan’s smile was too soft, his voice too loving, for the comment to mean anything but fondness.
Ezra slung an arm around Luke’s shoulders. “Don’t worry, Kanan. We’ll make him a Jedi yet.”
“We’ll see.” Kanan rubbed his forehead. His voice dropped when he next spoke, and sounded more far away, as though they were standing on opposite ends of a tunnel. “It’s funny. I was so used to being surrounded by new younglings… But seeing my son train is different. Just us, on our own, makes the absence of the Jedi Order so much more pronounced.”
He trailed off. Luke bit his lip. The heartbreak was audible in Kanan’s words, and he too felt the sense of loss rush over him as though he’d lost a very dear friend.
How empty was must the galaxy have felt after the thousands of Jedi Knights were massacred?
“You miss it,” he whispered.
Kanan sighed. “I do. I wish you both could have seen it.”
Luke closed his eyes. He did, too. He yearned to at least have had a glimpse at the Order his father and Master Obi-Wan had served in.
“Could you tell us more?” he asked. Ezra leaned forward as well.
Kanan looked up, and his lips spread into a slow smile. “Of course. What do you already know?”
In the end, they spent about two hours with Kanan, drilling out of him all that he and Ahsoka hadn’t already told him about the Jedi of old. Luke and Ezra both wanted to hear about the Temple and the Council, about some of the Jedi, how training was organised and the vast library, right down to the minute things like how uncomfortable sleeping was and what food was provided. They only stopped because Hera reminded them they needed to eat, and they helped themselves to some of the nutrition packs on board.
After, desiring some time alone and in the quiet, they retreated to Ezra’s old room. He’d once shared it with Zeb, Ezra had explained, but he spent most of him time on Lira San nowadays with his people. He and Kallus sometimes visited, but not too often.
They sat together on the top bunk, backs against the wall. Luke sat with his head on Ezra’s shoulder, taking comfort in his presence.
“That was fun,” Luke mused.
“It was,” Ezra agreed. “You’re good with kids. You’d be a good father one day.”
Luke choked. For a moment he forgot how, exactly, to breathe.
“What – I don’t – Ezra!”
Luke spluttered and sat bolt upright. His entire face was bright red, and he was sure it had extended to his neck and ears. What did Ezra think he was doing, suggesting that?
Ezra was red, too, and wasn’t meeting Luke’s gaze. “I mean it. You were really able to communicate with Jacen back there, and were patient and gentle. Any kid would love you.”
“That – that’s off topic,” Luke stammered, looking away. If he looked at Ezra any longer he was sure he would combust.
“What was the topic?” Ezra quipped, nudging his side.
“Training. Training and Jacen. Not multiple children.”
Luke leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Even if understanding exactly how to get through to Jacen had been a little difficult in the beginning, once he figured it out… He’d enjoyed it. He really had. There’d been an undeniable surge of pride in the boy, and joy himself, of watching him succeed and expand his abilities. Even though Jacen mostly trained with his father, Luke felt the urge to return and continue training with him, watching those abilities develop even more.
It wasn’t just Jacen. Looking at him, Luke thought he could see the beginning of the Jedi again. That was how they’d begin: with children, learning the ways of the Force. It would start with only a handful, but that number would grow, and continue to grow. He doubted he would be alive to see it reach the size of the old Jedi Order, but there was the possibility to plant the need. Nurture it. Watch it grow, and take solace that it would continue to grow when he was no longer around.
He could almost see it now, as clear as if the Force was granting him a vision. A future where the Jedi thrived once more. Where they were peacekeepers, and a little more aware of and in tune with the galaxy at large.
A possibility to right the wrongs of the past.
“Have you ever thought of bringing the Jedi Order back?” he wondered. His voice was barely above a whisper.
Ezra paused. “Not long after Kanan took me in,” he murmured. “Once I started coming around to the idea of being a Jedi, I’ve thought about it a lot. When we defeated the Empire… maybe Kanan, Ahsoka, and I wouldn’t be the last Jedi in the galaxy. We wouldn’t be alone anymore. I… I wanted that.”
Luke’s heart clenched. He understood that feeling all too well. When Yoda had told him he was the last of the Jedi, he’d really believed it. He’d felt so small in a universe so large, so lost and still in need of guidance. It had felt too big a task to undertake himself, and he’d yearned for more Jedi. Someone who understood. Someone to make him feel a little warmer and give him some guidance, some comfort.
When Lando had told him about the Jedi he’d done jobs for in the past, Ezra and Kanan and their crew, it had felt like the weight of the galaxy had been lifted from his shoulders. For the first time in a while, Luke felt as though he could truly exhale with the knowledge that he wasn’t alone.
And when he met them, and Ahsoka too, it felt like everything had slid into place.
He wanted to expand that. Make it a reality, so no one had to feel that way again.
“Me too,” Luke said. “I still want it.”
“We could bring it back,” Ezra whispered.
Silence fell over them, the magnitude of the words settling over them.
“It wouldn’t be that hard,” Ezra started slowly. “I mean, there’d be a lot of screaming and unhygienic kids… But we have Kanan and Ahsoka to guide us. If we could find a safe place, and start finding the kids…”
He sat straighter with every word, voice becoming more and more animated. Luke straightened with him, feeling something warm swell in his chest, expanding with every word Ezra spoke. “We could set up our own Temple.”
“With our own students. Lots of them.”
Their eyes locked. Luke shivered. He could almost feel the Force singing, urging them on, celebrating this possible future. It was like it was pushing them onward down the path, determined to have them realise it.
“We’d have to change the Code,” Luke said adamantly. “There is too much I don’t agree with.”
Ezra nodded. “I know. Times have changed – we have to start anew. For a new age.”
“Our own age. Our own Temple.” Luke smiled. “I didn’t see this being my future on Tatooine.”
Ezra snorted. “I never thought I’d be anything more than a street kid on Lothal. The Force must have been out of its mind to choose us.”
Luke laughed. “Thank stars it did. I would never have met you, otherwise.”
Ezra took his hand. Luke squeezed it back, heart skipping a beat.
By the Force, he was so lucky to have him as his boyfriend.
“I love you, Ezra,” he murmured.
Ezra’s cheeks glowed. “I love you too, Luke.”
Luke leaned in and pressed a quick kiss to Ezra’s lips, but his boyfriend caught him and deepened it. Luke closed his eyes and melted into it. He held onto Ezra, taking comfort in that whatever they were about to do, Ezra would be by his side the entire time.