Chapter 1: The First Time
When he first walked in Hera mistakenly assumed he was a hipster.
As the owner of an independent coffee shop called The Ghost (yes she was aware that it was an odd name and no she was not planning on changing it) there was certainly no shortage of them walking through her doors. Each of them walking proud with their man buns, light scarfs and tight jeans. This man almost fit the description, with his tight green shirt and trousers. However unlike the others his hair had been tried back in a low pony tail with strands hanging loose around his slim face and a few scratches of hair on the end of his chin. Usually hipsters had the look of someeone who tried to appear like they didn’t care about their appearance but it was obvious that they spent hours meticulously planning ever hair on their head. However this man clearly did not care about his appearance in the slightest. Hera wasn’t sure if he’d even showered.
“Can I get a black coffee please?” He said when it was his turn to order. That was the second sign. Most hipsters usually ordered something so complicated she sometimes had to remake it multiple times until she got it precisely right. He just took his drink with a simple nod of thanks before he went to sit down in the corner of the room which was the third sign. Usually they sat in the window with their laptops or notebooks if they’re feeling extra open, so all those that walk past can see their latest artistic genius without actually bragging.
But he was sat hidden away in the very corner of the room. His eyes either trained on the door or clouded over in a lost memory until someone too enthusiastically opened the door with a bang causing him to jump. It was that lost look that solidified it to her. She knew that look. She recognised it from herself. She wondered if his reasons for it were similar to hers.
For a moment she wondered it she should ask him about it but quickly banished the thought away. She knew from personal experience how it felt when people started prodding you with questions.
She made sure she was was in his line of sight when she walked over to him with a full pot.
“Thank you.” He said his voice slightly rough due to either lack of sleep or alcohol Hera suspected judging by his wide and sunken eyes. Possible even both.
At least he still had his manners unlike some other less savoury customers who’d come into her shop.
“You’re welcome.” Hera went back to the counter to serve other customers but kept a watchful eye on the mysterious stranger. She couldn’t explain why but there was something intriguing about him. Maybe it was just that underneath the beard and the sleep and the smell was a handsome face ...or maybe it was something deeper.
A short whole later the man got up and left. For some unknown reason Hera felt slightly disappointed. She gave herself a slight shake and told herself that she was being ridiculous, that she would most likely never seen the man again.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
Chapter 2: The second time
Thank you so much to everyone who’s shown interest in this story!!! I’m reply proud of it so your words mean a lot!! In this chapter the actual plot gets started and mysteries get revealed so I hope you enjoy!!! Xxxxxxxxx
Hera didn’t think she’d see the man again but next Tuesday there he was. This time it looked like he’d actually put some effort into his appearance. He still hadn’t shaved but his pony tail was neater and this time she could tell that he’d actually had a shower. It was quite the improvement Hera thought to herself with an admiring rise of her brow.
It was unusually busy for this time of day so Hera was nearly over loaded as she tried to take everyone’s orders whilst simultaneously make their drinks.
“Sorry, your drink might take a few minutes. Can I take your name please?” Hera asked when it was the man’s turn to order whilst running up a new fresh pot from the machine.
“It’s fine. And my name’s Kanan.” The man -no Kanan said. He went to sit back in the same seat in the corner as she wrestled with the machine. She noticed that he appeared more relaxed then last time. His eyes were still trained on the door but they don’t mist over as often and he doesn’t jump when it banged, especially since she’d added a stopper behind the door to prevent it doing that very thing. It was something she’d been meaning to do for a while but after his reaction she finally got round to doing it.
A few minutes later his drink was ready.
“Black coffee for Kanan.” She called, his name running naturally off her lips.
He walked up to her with the corner of his lips twitched upwards in a grateful smile.
“Thank you.” He said his fingers accidentally brushing Hera as he took the cup from her hand. She mentally chided herself for blushing like a nervous school girl at the tingling sensation in her fingers. She could see the judgmental glares her cat Chopper was sending her out of the corner of her eye from where he was perched on her counter.
She ignored him and went back to making drinks while Kanan went to sit back down in his spot. She noticed that he stayed there long after he’d finished his drink. When the rush quietened down and a lot of people left he came over to the counter.
“Hi I erm... I wanted to apologise for my appearance last time. I know I must have looked a mess.” Kanan said with a nervous chuckle drawing her attention back to him. She was a little surprised at the apology.
“It’s fine.” She told him honestly. “Trust me I’ve had customers in worse state than you.”
“But still, I’m sorry.” He said seriously through his long dark eyelashes.
“I forgive you.” She said for his sake than her own. Sure enough at her words a small breathe of relief escaped his lips that quickly turned into a crocked smile.
“So the Ghost huh? Interesting name.” He said leaning against the counter.
“Yes.” She said with a roll of her eyes. This was far from the first time she’d been questioned on her shop’s unusual name.
“And no it’s not temporary and no I’m not going to change it.” She told him waving a spoon threateningly in his direction.
He held his hands up in mock surrender. “Hey I never said I don’t like it! It’s unique.”
They sure were Hera thought remembering the faces of the people she named it after her. She shook the memory from her head.
“What’s wrong?” He asked his teasing tone dropping as he noticed her change in demeanour.
“Nothing, it’s just ...I named it after some old friends. They’re ...not around anymore.” Hera said focusing on the drink in her hand unable to meet his eyes. She didn’t know why she told him that. Even with her closest friends she hardly talked about it.
“I’m sure they would be honoured.” He told her. She looked up to see the truth gleam in his turquoise eyes. She appreciated that he didn’t say sorry. She had heard that to many times over the years. Something told her that he’d heard it too many times as well.
They stayed like that, locked in eachother’s gaze for what seemed like hours but could only have been for a couple of moments. Kanan was the first of them to look away.
“Yeah well I er...I’d better get going.” He said dipping his head bashfully. “People to go, places to see. It was nice talking to you er...?”
“Hera.” She replied, suppressing a giggle at his failed turn of phrase.
“Hera.” He smiled at the taste of her name on his tongue. “Goodbye ...Hera.”
He left her shop with a little wave.
This time Hera knew that she would see him again.
And she was looking forward to it.
Chapter 3: The Third Time
Hope you guys enjoy!!! Xxxxxxxxx
The third time she saw him she was in the middle of giving a shovel talk. It was the end of Sabine’s shift and her new girlfriend had come to pick her up.
“Promise me you’ll take care of her.” Hera threatened, pointing her spoon at the dark skinned girl who stood in front of her.
“Hera-“ Sabine started in an annoyed tone from where she was stood next to Hera behind the counter. Hera fixed her with one of her signature states that she was told could stop a buffalo in their tracks. Sabine didn’t stand a chance and immediately closed her mouth, although the little warm smile at the thought that someone cared about her enough to threaten them on her behalf made any embarrassment at the shovel talk worth it.
Despite only working with the girl for a few months Hera already felt over protective of her. Hera had hired her after being forced to admit that even she couldn’t take care of the shop entirely by herself on the weekends. Sabine used to work at The Imperial Cafe down the street (and people say her shop’s name was weird) but quit because she swore the owner was and she quote “The crazy bitch from that god awful Indiana Jones movie.” Sabine was a model employee, always on time and willing to work and even offering constructive criticism which Hera respected. It saddened her that the girl’s parents couldn’t see that part of her. Something that Hera could unfortunately relate to which only made her even more over protective. It was the reason she was giving a shovel talk in the first place.
Sabine has finally had enough of her parents and had decided to move in with her girlfriend. Hera didn’t think moving in with your girlfriend of two weeks was the wisest of decisions, but even though she was still in school she was eighteen and technically an adult so Hera couldn’t stop her, and she knew that despite the girl’s fiery nature she did think things through.
“Is everything ok?” Having forgotten for a moment that the cafe was still open and therefore customers could still walk in Hera was slightly startled by Kanan’s presence. She could detect genuine worry in his voice as he stood there warily like a wolf ready to pounce.
“Yes.” Hera said with a small smile that she only ever seemed to find herself using around him before turning back around with a glare back on her face. “I was just explaining to Ketsu here that if she hurts Sabine I’ll set Chopper on her!”
Her cat didn’t bother moving from where he was laid out across the counter. Ketsu raised her eyebrow in an unimpressed manner but both Sabine and Hera knew that this was no idle threat.
“Well as entertaining that would be to watch I’d hate to interrupt your flow so I’ll get a black coffee to go.” Kanan said with twinge of amusement in his smile.
Hera was surprised when she found herself smiling back. “Sure.”
She fixed Kanan his coffee ignoring the looks Sabine and Ketsu we’re sharing behind her back and handed a warm cup to him.
“Here you go.” Was it her imagination or did his hands linger around hers for longer than usual. “I hope you enjoy it.”
“I’m sure I will.” He said with a crocked smile as he placed a tip in the jar on the counter that was probably more than he could afford.
She watched him as he walked out almost hypnotised by the swaying of his slim hips.
"Soooooo who was that?" At those words Hera was broken out of her trance and turned to face Sabine who was looking at her with a sly suspicious smirk.
"Nobody." Hera said defensively. "He's just a customer that's started coming here regularly that's all."
"Sure he is." Sabine said sarcastically. "And you were deffinatly not just checking out his ass."
Hera ignored her and grabbed the milkshakes she had previously finished before heading over to one of the tables by the window where a group of kids who liked to call themselves “The Iron Squadron” were eagerly awaiting their drinks.
As she was walking over a car in the street outside backfired causing a penetrating bang.
Suddenly Hera was a million miles away as the world burnt around her in a fire that would rival hell. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't see past the memory stuck in her eyes.
The sound of glass breaking brought her back to reality. She looked down to see broken mess of milkshake and glass from where the drink and dropped from her limp hands.
"Hera." She jumped slightly at the sound of her name. She turned to see Sabine standing beside her, a mop already in her hand.
"I'll clean this up while you go and calm down in the back."
"But your shift-" Hera started to protest until she was fixed with a stare from Sabines face that she recognised as her own.
"Don't worry about it. It's not like there's anywhere I need to be. Now go and sit down while I mop up this and make them some more drinks ok."
That was another reason Hera liked the young girl. She didn't try and baby her or run away. She dealt with everything directly and quickly without hesitation or judgment.
Finally she nodded. As she headed back Chopper jumped off the counter to rub against her legs. Once she reached the back and sat down he kept onto her lap to nudge her still limp hands until she started to stroke him. Wish each brush she could feel her breathes getting calmer and her heart rate getting slower. The soft touch of his fur and the gentle sound of his purrs cementing her firmly in reality.
"Thank you Chop." she whispered giving him a quick scratch behind the ear. Chopper looked up at with his eyes full of the love, loyalty and respect that he only showed to her before nudging her hand again to demand more scratches. Chuckling quietly to herself Hera obliged.
For a brief moment wondered how Kanan would have reacted if he had seen her like this and reminded herself that this was the reason that it didn’t matter because it wasn’t fair to let others deal with her issues.
The fourth time was on another weekday. It was around three o'clock so the cafe was fairly empty since it was after the lunch time rush and before the after school crowd. In fact the only customers were a couple who were conversing in a language Hera didn't recognise and their son who was happily drawing in a colouring book beside them. So one of her dearest friends Zeb had taken the opportunity to come to see her.
"-And then I flipped him over the table with one hand whilst holding onto his friend's face with the other! It was like a cartoon! He kept trying to swing at me but his arms were too short!" Zeb chuckled heartily making Hera bend over the table in laughter as he recalled a particularly memorable bar fight. It had been a while since she'd had a good laugh and was surprised at how badly she'd missed the feeling. She could always count on Zeb to cheer her up.
"Hey, I'm heading down to Old Jho's on Saturday, you should come." He said casually. Hera's laughter died down. She knew what he was up to.
"I can't. I've got to look after the cafe." She said, her excuse well rehearsed.
"Sabine can take care of it for you, besides we'd go in the evening anyways," Zeb said trying to act nonchalant.
"I can't. You know I've changed the opening times so I'm open late on weekends."
"Yeah, so you can avoid me," Zeb grumbled under his breathe. He looked up at her with his big caring green eyes, his tone serious.
“You need to get out more Hera. You know that I know that this isn't good for you. We don’t have to be to Jho's. We could go to the park or the museum or a restruarnt or paint balling or whatever! You don't even have to go with me either just as long as you talk with someone!"
"I'm talking to you right now!" she protested.
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, in your own cafe."
She didn't have a response to that so she grabbed his half empty cup and stormed over to the counter to fill it up. She felt her anger calm down as she concentrated on the drink. When she brought it back he wrapped one of his large hands around her own.
"I'm sorry." He said. "I just care about you,"
Hera squeezed his hand with a sad smile. She couldn't be angry at Zeb. He was only caring about for her. Despite his appearance, he was a massive cuddly teddy bear.
"Am I interrupting something?"
Hera turned her gaze away from Zeb to find Kanan standing nearby, his eyes locked on their intertwined hands.
"Nah, I was just about to leave anyway." Zeb said dropping her hand. He stood up revealing his seven foot body of muscle. Hera stifled a giggle as Kanan took a step back in shock and intimidation. She wasn’t the only one who noticed judging by the way Zeb proudly flexed his biceps as he put on his large leather jacket who's seams squealed in protest against his broad shoulders.
"See you next Thursday." he said with one last feral grin before heading out, ducking when he passed through her door. Once he'd gone she turned her attention back to Kanan.
"A black coffee?" She asked.
"You know me." He said with a smile even though the only things she knew about him were that he liked his coffee black and that for some reason he liked her cafe.
"Was that your boyfriend?" He asked when she handed him his coffee.
Was that jealousy Hera heard in his voice? She shook her head. She was probably just imagining it. Especially since women weren't exactly Zeb's type.
"He's an old friend." She said. She tried to convince herself that she wasn’t purposely trying to make him jealous but from the judgemental glare her cat was sending her she realised that she probably was.
"Oh.” Kanan said before taking a long sip of his coffee. He didn't say anything else.
“So do you work near here?” She asked after a few minutes of awkward silence.
He pulled a face. “Kind of. I ...recently left my old profession so I’ve been doing odd jobs until I find something more permanent.”
That definitely made sense considering the somewhat random times he had come into her shop. The loss of his old job could possibly be the reason he smelt like Old Jho’s when they first met.
She looked up to see one half of the couple, a man with red-brown eyes and high cheekbones, pointing at them as he said something to his partner in whatever language they were speaking. His other half, a younger man with light brown skin and hair, quickly slapped his hand down and presumably told him off for pointing. Although judging by the smile on his face and the nodding of his head he agreed with whatever observation he'd made.
Seeing the pair interact reminded Hera of how few people she knew from outside her old life and that she hadn’t been on any dates since. As much as she hated to admit it Zeb was right. She really did need to get out more. She found her gaze drifting back to Kanan. Maybe that could be a start.
She opened her mouth to ask him if maybe he wanted to meet up outside her cafe some time when she froze remembering last weeks incident. As she mentally debated the same argument that she’d been having with herself for months that getting someone else involved with her emotional turmoil wasn’t fair to them Kanan interrupted her thoughts.
“Speaking of jobs, I actually need to go to one now so...” He trailed off at the end as he stood up.
“Of course.” Hera said slightly disappointed that she had missed her chance.
Again he left more money than he could probably afford in her tip jar, especially since now she knew he didn’t have a stable job.
Once he left the young boy piped up from his colouring to ask;
“Was that your boyfriend?”
Thank you so much for reading!!!
If anyone is confused the couple talking in another language are Thrawn and Eli Vanto. Their son in an OC Beau from my fic “Family”.
Also unfortunately due to a mixture of personal stuff and exams I wont be updated this fic or any of my other fics for short while. Sorry!!! Xxxxxxxxx
The fifth time she saw him she was surprised to find that he hadn't come alone. She was even more surprised that said companion was a teenage boy. He looked a few years younger than Sabine thanks to his slim build and floppy dark hair.
"What can I get for you?" She asked the boy. He turned his head to Kanan who gave him a gentle nudge.
"Go on Ezra. Get whatever you want." He said in a fatherly manner. At his words the boy's face broke out into a wide grin.
"Can I have a tripe chocolate milkshake with a piece of fudge cake and a meiloorun fruit pie?
"Are you sure you can eat all that?" She asked with a raised eyebrow. The boy just shrugged cockily.
"I guess we're going to have to find out."
She turned towards Kanan expecting him to tell him that it was too much but was surprised to find that he was just looking down at him with an indescribable expression. It was a fond look but it also held traces of sadness. She wanted to ask him about it but knew that the reason for it would probably not suitable to talk about while the kid was present.
So she rung up the order without question along with the black coffee that Kanan inevitably ordered.
"Wait?" Ezra asked as she made a start on their drinks. "You dragged me all the way here just to get a black coffee? Why?"
Hera was facing away from them as she fixed their drinks so didn't know what the boy was referring to when he said "Oh, I know why."
"Here you go." She said handing them their drinks a few minutes later.
"Thank you." Kanan said as his fingers brushed against hers, his words almost sounding like a sigh. The kid gave him a funny look before shaking his head in an exasperated manner as though he was the adult here. They then took their drinks to Kanan's usual spot in the corner.
As she served her other customers Hera couldn't help curiously glancing over to the pair.
The boy was animatedly telling Kanan about some wild story making the older man chuckle fondly before handing the boy a napkin, telling him to wipe off the chocolate that he'd gotten all around his face.
The interaction definitely looked like one between a father and son. Hera supposed that Kanan could have been his uncle or a family friend but their connection seemed to close for either of those options.
If he was his son then Kanan would have had to have been around the boys own age when he'd had him which wasn’t exactly unheard of.
They didn't look much alike either. Their skins were both a light brown but Kanan's features looked more Latino whilst Ezra's seemed more Middle Eastern. But then again for all she knew the boy could just look a lot like his mother. Whoever his mother was. She definitely must have misread Kanan's supposed jealously before over Zeb if Ezra's mother was still in the picture.
Not that it's any of your business a small voice in the back of her head reminded her. She forced herself to ignore them for the rest of their visit after that.
A few days later the boy turned up at her shop again but this time he was alone.
"Can I get another of those triple chocolate milkshakes?" He asked hopefully.
"Of course." She smiled.
"Can I get it for twenty percent off since my Dad's a regular?" He said with a childish cocky grin. So Kanan was the boy's father.
Hera rolled her eyes but changed the price on the till.
"Wait really?" The kid said in genuine shock. "Thanks!"
She found herself rolling her eyes again as she made a start on his milkshake.
"Will your Dad be joining you?"
"No he's working today. Why do you ask?" Ezra asked with a sly suspicious smirk that reminded her to much of Sabine.
"I was just wondering if I needed to put on another pot of coffee." She replied in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner as she handed over his milkshake.
"Sure." The boy said clearly not believing her. After grabbing his milkshake he went to sit where his father usually did and got out some homework from the large backpack he always seemed to be carrying.
After serving him Hera started wiping down the counter top when a figure cast a shadow over her clean counter.
"Can I get an earl grey tea, white with no sugar?" A voice said. She looked up in shock to find Wuilf Tarkin standing in front of her.
"It would be my pleasure." Hera said politely whist internally she wondered what the hell he was doing here. Although Tarkin technically owned all the businesses along the road he rarely visited any of them except The Imperial Cafe.
"It's on the house I premise." The man stated almost offhandedly.
Hera plastered on her sweetest of smiles that she saved fit her most detestable of customers.
She watched him out of the corner of her eyes as he went to sit down in the middle of her shop. She also noticed that the kid was keeping a secretive eye on him as well.
When she took him his tea he motioned for her to wait. Her nervous agitation built as she waited in silence as he took a long sip of his drink.
"Sit" He said gesturing to her to sit opposite him as though he was the owner instead of her. Not having any choice she sat down and waited to hear what he had to say.
He took another long sip of his drink.
"So ‘The Ghost’.” Hera didn’t like the sound of the name in his mouth. “An interesting name for a cafe."
"Thank you." She said calmly but inside she was panicking. Not once in her life had she ever heard Tarkin freely give away a compliment. The man was clearly up to something. A sudden rush of panic charged through her as a sudden thought came into her mind. There was no way that he could know what it was named after.
"Oh that wasn't a compliment my dear." He said between thin lips. "In fact I've heard that some find the name off putting."
Hera wasn't sure how since he hardly ever left his office and appeared to hate interacting with people but she wasn't going to mention that. And besides she’d had plenty of people ask her about the name before and it was always in mild curiosity never off-putting. She stayed perfectly still as he leant forward with the closest his lips could get to a smile.
"I want it changed."
Hera looked at him in shock. He couldn't be serious.
"Buts it's my shop!" She protested unable to stop some of her anger seeping through.
"Actually this street belongs to me so ergo so does this shop." He said with what would be a smug smile of smiling wasn't possible for his genetic code. "And if you don't then I'll raise your rent by five percent."
Hera's frown quickly turned into a determined scowl. Tarkin may be a massive jerk but he was still nothing but a flake of snow compared to the mountains she'd faced.
"I'll pay it." Hera said firmly. For a brief moment Tarkin's eyes widened causing her to hide a small smirk. Even if nothing good came of today at least she'd have the small victory that she'd actually managed to shook the grand Tarkin himself.
His lips thinned as he took in her offer. Although he didn't like that she'd refused his orders he couldn't help but be pleased that he had managed to squeeze more money out of her.
"Very well." He said eventually. Hera was forced to wait as he slowly drank his tea. Eventually, long enough for a small line of customers to start waiting by the counter, Tarkin finished his tea. He then stood up so Hera quickly mirrored him, wanting the man to leave as soon as possible.
"A pleasure speaking with you Ms Syndulla." He sad offering her a gloved hand.
"Likewise." It took all of Hera's energy to restrain herself from crushing his fingers.
The old man had just turned to leave when Ezra barrelled into him.
"Sorry!" The kid cried jumping up and down from leg to leg. "I really need a piss."
Tarkin's face contorted with disgust as the boy ran off in the direction of the toilets whilst Hera strained to stifle a giggle. Tarkin straightened his jacket in a huff before marching out of the coffee shop without another word. Hera let out a small sigh she didn't know she'd been holding as she walked back behind the counter to serve her less detestable customers.
A short while later Ezra came back from the toilets.
"Thanks for the drink." He said with a smirk as he dropped a few notes into her tip jar. She decided not to mention that she knew he'd stolen them from Tarkin's back pocket when he'd bumped into him. The boy then picked up his stuff before leaving with a small salute. Hera shook her head fondly at his antics.
After that Ezra started coming in most days after school. Usually he'd bring his two friends, a sensible dark skinned boy named Zare and a less sensible Pilipino one called Jai. And once a young blonde haired boy whom he couldn't take his eyes off.
Today however Ezra was sitting with Zare and Jai as they drank three of her famous meiloorun milkshakes whilst neglecting their homework in favour of chatting.
"Urrgghh! My mum is so unbearable at the moment!” Jai whined. “She keeps telling me to get a haircut since my hair keeps falling in my eyes! It wasn’t my hairs fault I fault I tripped over into that cement on the side walk. That was the builders for not pitting a sign up. She can be so annoying at time! I wish-Oww!" He cried after Zare elbowed him hard in the side. He glared at the dark skinned boy with an offended look who in return subtly motioned towards Ezra who had suddenly gone very quiet as he curled into the corner of the booth.
"Oh my god Ezra! I am so sorry!” Jai cried sending genuinely apologetic. “I wasn’t thinking. I-“
"It's cool." Ezra said with his usually cocky smirk although this time it lacked any of his natural charm. "My mum used to say the same thing before she...you know...died."
So his mother is dead, Hera thought sadly as Zare quickly changed the subject to something school related.
She decided not to comment on Ezra's hair the next time he came in when she found he'd changed his floppy locks to a buzz cut.
It was clear to her now that the reason for his dishevelled state when they’d first met was a result of the recent loss of Ezra’s mother. So despite it paining her, to do so, she decided that she wouldn’t flirt with Kanan ever again.
WOOOOHOOOO!!!! GUESS WHO IS FREE OF EXAMS!!!! YES!!!
All my fics should be updated on their regular schedule now THAT I AM FREE!!!!
Also special shout out to RoninReverie for the idea about Tarkin being the land lord!!! You’re awesome!! Xxxxxxxxx
Hera parked her truck outside. As per usual she took a few moments to compose herself before getting out of her truck.
“You can do this. You can do this.” She muttered, knowing that despite her agitation this always made her feel better.
Confident that she would be alright, she marched into the hall where the chairs were already set out in a small circle. Rex and Ahsoka waved at her as she took her usual seat next to Baze. Despite being blind his husband Chirrut somehow knew that she'd arrived and handed her a warm cup of tea.
"Thank you." She smiled taking a long sip. It was a strange but nice feeling to be served a drink after serving them herself at her shop.
Not long after Zeb arrived with a man Hera had never seen before. He was tall, not as tall as Zeb or course, with floppy blonde hair and he walked with a noticeable limp.
“Hey Hera!” Zeb said once he'd sat down on her other side. “This is Kallus.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms Syndulla.” The man who was apparently called Kallus said in a slightly stiff yet polite tone. “Zeb has told me a lot about you.”
“Please call me Hera. And I trust that he only told you the good stuff.” She said, elbowing her friend in the side.
“Hey! There’s only good stuff to tell!” Zeb chuckled elbowing her back. She was definitely going to have bruises in the morning.
She noticed Kallus looking at their interaction with a slightly enviously smile. When he noticed her looking at him he then glanced anxiously around the room, his eyes trained on the exits and sat awkwardly with his back held straight. Hera easily recognised the signs of someone who had only recently returned home.
Once everyone had arrived Rex started the meeting.
As usual he began with a re-telling of one of his many missions with his brothers in arms during Vietnam. He then told them about how a few nights ago he’d woken up convinced that he was still in the war and had called out for one of his fallen brothers.
Kallus went next as it was his fist time here. He told them how he’d been recently stationed in Afghanistan when he had been taken captive and tortured for information. He’d managed to escape but because pf that and the leg injury he’d sustained he’d been honourably discharged. He visibly deflated after that. Perhaps just acknowledging what he had gone through by telling people about it had helped him take the first steps to deal with it. Zeb then wrapped a large arm around him, pulling the man close who practically melted into his side.
They then went around the circle saying what they needed to say, whether that was retelling an old battle, an event caused by their service or just what they did at the weekend.
When it was her turn she talked about the incident that had happened a few weeks ago when the car had backfired. All around her she was surrounding with sympathetic and understanding looks which was what she appreciated most about these meetings. Nobody ever looked at her with pity since everyone here at been thought the same things she had. She’d just started explaining how Sabine had helped her when suddenly someone slammed open the hall doors with a loud bang making them all jump.
“Sorry I’m late! I had to go to my kid’s school because he-“The person cut off when their eyes landed on Hera.
Zeb nudged her side “Hey, isn’t that-“
“Yes.” She breathed in complete shock. It was Kanan.
“Please take a seat.” Ahsoka told him, snapping him out of his state.
“I... yeah sure.” Kanan stuttered, sitting down in the only available seat directly opposite Hera. Their eyes were locked with one another, neither one believing that the other was truly here.
“Hera, if you would please continue.” Ahsoka said, turning the attention back on her.
She nodded before automatically continuing with her story unsure of what else she could do. But her mind was preoccupied with questions about what he was doing here. Although the answer of course was obvious. He must have served too.
When she had finished Rex gestured for Kanan to go next.
“My name is Kanan Jarrus.” He said, the nerves in his voice clearly showing that he was new to these kind of meetings. “I served with the marines for two tours before I was discharged. When I first came back this place didn’t even feel like home. But slowly certain things started to make this place feel like home again.”
As he spoke that last line he looked directly at Hera. Her breath caught in her throat at the gravity of those words. She had noticed that with every trip to her shop he appeared more relaxed but she hadn’t realised just how much her presence had affected him.
Once the meeting ended Hera numbly said goodbye to everyone before rushing outside to where Kanan was waiting for her.
“What are you doing here?” She blurted out, knowing that she was most likely being rude but was unable to stop herself.
Thankfully Kanan didn’t seem offended as he was most likely thinking the same thing about her.
“Me and Ahsoka have known each other since we were kids. After chewing me out for not telling her that I’d come back she insisted that I came here. She said it would do be good for me.”
“Was it?” She found herself asking, hoping that it had been as helpful for him as it had been for her.
He nodded truthfully. “Yeah I think it did. Just to be around people who’ve gone through similar experiences too it… I don’t know… it helps me to realise that I’m not alone.”
Hera smiled. She knew exactly what he meant.
“So err how long have you been going to these meetings?” He asked shyly scratching his neck. It reminded her of when they first met.
“About two years. Zeb forced me to come.”
“Oh. That’s nice.” Kanan said in an awkward smile. “So are you two…?”
Hera chuckled. “Yeah, I’m not really his type.”
“What do mean?” Kanan asked as though somebody not liking her was a preposterous idea.
Hera rolled her eyes before pointing over to where Zeb was standing by his motorbike with Kallus. Her large friend had just placed a chaste kiss the other man’s lips before putting matching pair of striped purple helmets onto each of their heads. They then climbed onto Zeb’s bike and drove off into the night.
“Oh…” Kanan said in a very different tone to last time. He then turned to face her, once again scratching his neck. “If you don’t mind me asking what made you want to join the army?”
“Mostly because he wanted to help people. But also because I wanted my father to notice me. He fought in Vietnam and that coupled with the death of my mother when I was young turned him cold and paranoid. Growing up he was always too busy building his bunker in our back garden to notice me.”
“I’m sorry. That must have been tough growing up.” Kanan said sympathetically. She nodded sadly.
“And why did you leave?”
Hera sighed. She could count on one hand how many people she’d told this story to, herself included. That didn’t make it any less painful.
“When I signed up I didn’t sign up by myself. My best friend for as long as I can remember joined up with me. Her name was Numa.” Images flashed in Hera’s mind of a pair of young girls with matching pigtails playing soldiers in her back garden. “We were lucky enough to be assigned to the same squad. Ghost squadron. There was me, Numa, Gobi and a pair of Rex’s cousins Boil and Waxer. For four years we like a family.” Smiling faces around a small fire, carrying unconscious bodies across a battle field, crying in a warm lap, huddling together with nothing but the sky for protection. “Until one night a mine went off in our camp. When I woke up they were gone and took part of me with them. After my tour had ended I didn’t know what to do. I had no friends and my only family was hiding in a homemade bunker at the end of his garden. Until one day at her bar a man thought he could grab whatever he wanted so I threw him over the counter. His friends didn’t like that so they tried to pin me down. I’m good in a fight but it was still five against one. I wouldn’t have one if it wasn’t for a seven foot giant of a man didn’t come barrelling in to help me. On the way to the police station he told me that he’d recognised my technique from basic training and asked me what unit id served in. and that’s how I met Zeb. Not long after he took me to my first meeting. Along with Rex, Ahsoka and the others they helped me get my life back on track. My mother had owned a small coffee shop when I was little so I decided to open one of my own. And then one day I rescued an injured grumpy old ginger cat and I finally felt at peace here.”
They were silent for a while afterwards. After sharing something like that they had to be.
“And what about you?” She asked eventually, her voice sounding steadier than she felt. “Why did you sign up and leave?”
“My story is kind of similar to yours actually.” He answered, his voice heavy. “I signed up as soon as I left high school. Like you it was mostly because I wanted to help people but also because as a kid in the care system I didn’t have many other options. I don’t regret what I did. Fighting gave me a purpose and let my help those that couldn’t help themselves. And I met so many good people like my friends Stance. But the best of them all was my commanding officer Depa Billaba. She was more than just my commander, she like a mother to me. She’d been in the care system too and I can’t describe it but it was like we just had this connection.” His voice turned hard as though he was speaking through ice. “But near the end of my second tour we were betrayed by one of our unit. She died protecting me. I can’t get her last words out of my head. When I came back I was such a mess. For months I was either drunk or hungover. Eventually Old Jho got sick of me moping in her bar and banned me from it. Desperate for a drink but not knowing where to go I somehow found myself outside a coffee shop called The Ghost. It might not be alcohol but strong black coffee was the next best option.” He said, turning to look at her with a faint smile. “I think that meeting someone who didn’t look at me like I was a waste as well as having to look after Ezra and drinking something other than whisky helped me to realise that I couldn’t go on living like this. So I sobered up, got a job and decided to come to these meetings. For the first time in so long I feel like I’m not a complete waste.”
“You were never a waste. Nobody is.” Hera told him fiercely, placing her hand on his arm, realising that this was the first time she’d touched him for longer than a brief brush of fingers.
“I understand how hard loosing who might as well be your family is.” She poke gently. “And to loose Ezra’s mother on top of everything else you’ve been though…it must have been difficult."
"What?" Kanan asked looking at her with an odd expression. Thinking that he must be upset about Ezra’s mother she immediately let go of his arm and started apologising profusely.
"I'm so sorry! I overheard Ezra mention his mother’s death in the shop one day. If you don't want to talk about her I completely understand. It wasn’t my place to say anything. Again I’m so sorry."
He was stilling giving her that strange look until eventually his eyes lit up with understanding. “Oh I err think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding. Me and Ezra’s mother were never together. I never even met her actually. I adopted him. His parents died a couple of years ago now. I’ve only been taking care of him for the past two months or so.”
Once that new information had sunk in Hera cursed herself for being so stupid. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of the possibility of Ezra being adopted before. Everything now suddenly made so much more sense.
Kanan chuckled at the expression on her face. “I guess we've both been idiots."
"You more than me." Hera retorted. “I can’t believe you thought Zeb was straight.”
“Hey!” Kanan said in mock offence.
They both giggled before looking at each other in a new light.
“So you don’t have a girlfriend.” Hera said leaning forward.
“Nope.” Kanan said mirroring her. “And you don’t have a boyfriend.”
“No.” She leant even closer.
They both cut themselves off in slight embarrassment as they spoke at the same time.
“You go first.” Hera told him kindly. Kanan chuckled in response.
“How would you like to go on a date with me?” He asked, the scratching of her neck betraying his nerves.
Hera smiled. “I would love to. As long as it’s not at another coffee shop.”
“We can go wherever you want.” He replied kindly.
They stayed there for a moment, lost in each others eyes before Hera broke away.
“Do you have a ride home?” She asked.
He shook his head.
“No I was going to get the bus.”
“I can give you a lift if you’d like.” Hera said getting the keys out of her bag.
“If you don’t mind.” He answered bashfully.
They climbed into her truck before driving off below the sea of stars that promised them that their future together would be bright.
Hi guys! It’s kinda sad that this story is finished. I had such fun writing it and all your amazing comments have been wonderful! Thank you so everyone who’s such around to the end! I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this! Xxxxxxxxx