Chapter 1: The Survivors
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Star Wars.
Dedicated to Kanan Jarrus. May you forever rest in peace within the Force.
This story is co-written with MaybeImARebel
A/N: This is an A.U. story that gives our favourite Ghost crew a somewhat happier beginning. Things to note: Kanan is 3 years older than canon so he fights the entirety of the Clone Wars with his Master. Hera is also older than her canon age so that Kanan isn't way too old for her. Ezra will now be a year older than Sabine to make that relationship a little easier to write.
There's an explanation of how the calendar works in 'Flame of Hope' if you're curious.
Oh, I'm Attached All Right
D323/22 BBY, Ryloth
Just tuned fourteen year old Padawan, Caleb Dume, and his Master, Depa Billaba, were in charge of the relief supply mission for the battle torn Ryloth. The war was over on Ryloth. The twi'lek Cham Syndulla and his resistance fighters, as well as Masters Windu, Kenobi, and Skywalker had won the planet back from the Separatist Occupation, but at great cost to the planet itself. The twi'leks were starving. Much of their food had been pillaged by the Separatists and most of the crops either destroyed by the war or neglected due to the lack of people left to attend them.
They met with Cham Syndulla at his impressive home in the Tann province. The imposing orange twi'lek loomed over Caleb as he greeted them with a serious face. "Thank you for coming, Master Billaba. Your assistance is greatly appreciated," Syndulla said as he bowed slightly to Caleb's Master.
Depa smiled. "You are most welcome, General Syndulla. Allow me to introduce my Padawan, Caleb Dume."
Caleb stepped forward bravely, and bowed slightly more than Syndulla had, showing more respect to the older, more experienced man. "It is nice to meet you, General."
Syndulla nodded in acknowledgement. "Welcome, young Jedi." He gestured them into the main foyer of the mansion built inside the mountain. "Please, come in. Can I offer you some refreshments? Caf?"
Depa politely refused, knowing resources were tight for them right now. "We are fine, thank you."
Caleb's eyes were drawn to movement from down a hallway, followed by an echoing voice shouting "C1-10P! Get back here! I wasn't done with you!"
A beat up looking astromech with seared orange and yellow paint on his dome came zooming into the room, beeping frantically about not wanting a new paint job. He liked his old paint, thank you very much. The droid tried to hide behind Syndulla, but the girl that came marching into the room wasn't buying it. "Chopper! You are going to get new paint whether you like it or not. Now stop hiding behind father before I..." the light green twi'lek girl came to a sudden stop as she realized there were more people in the room. Her eyes darted from Caleb to Depa and then back to Caleb, before she blushed darker and looked at the ground. "I'm sorry, Father. I didn't know we had guests," she said quietly in a heavy Ryl accent. Interesting, since she'd barely had any accent at all when she was yelling at the astromech.
Syndulla almost cracked a smile. "It is alright, Daughter. Come. Meet our guests. These are the Jedi with more supplies for our people. Master Depa Billaba and her Padawan, Caleb Dume." Syndulla glanced at his guests before gesturing to his daughter. "And this is my daughter, Hera. She is all I have left." Caleb could see and sense the pride the man had in his daughter.
The girl walked up to them, no longer embarrassed. She met the eyes of the woman with the braids and they exchanged smiles of greeting. "Hello. It is nice to meet you." Then she looked Caleb right in the eyes, a warm smile reflected in her own. "Hello to you too. Welcome to our home."
Caleb blinked, and had to consciously remind himself to keep his mouth closed, for she was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen. He actually felt his heart pick up speed and his palms get sweaty. Her eyes were the most perfect shade of emerald green, and her skin was literally his favourite color in the galaxy. And her voice. Her. Voice. It gave him chills, it was so perfect. Either with or without the accent, which seemed to come and go at will. Caleb gulped, and tried frantically to remember how to speak. "H..Hi," he finally managed, then mentally smacked himself. Smooth, Dume. Real smooth.
The girl just smiled a little wider, corralled her protesting droid, and pushed it out of the room. "Nice to meet you," she called as she left. Caleb could hear her chastising the droid all the way down the hallway. "Now look what you did, Chopper, embarrassing me in front of Father and his guests. We really need to work on your manners." Her voice even sounded angelic when she was scolding a droid and fading away. Caleb wanted her to come back. He wanted to hear her talk some more. He wanted to look at her some more. He just flat out wanted. And his feelings scared and confused him. For he'd never felt like this before.
Caleb startled out of his trance when Master Depa sent a quick burst of disapproval down their bond. He glanced over at her, ashamed. Right. Jedi don't have feelings like that. Caleb breathed deeply as they followed Syndulla deeper into the house. Centering himself again. With one last thought of longing for what would never be, Caleb put the twi'lek girl out of his mind. At least for now.
Later, after delivering the supplies to the towns and villages that needed them the most, General Syndulla departed their ship with one last sentence. "If either of you ever need anything, my home is always open to the Jedi." With a final bow of farewell, the large twi'lek male took his leave, and headed back to his home.
Depa glanced at her padawan, seated beside her in the co-pilot chair, as she flew the ship through the atmosphere and up into space. "Do we need to talk about all the feelings that were taking over you earlier?"
Caleb shook his head emphatically, making his short braid swing. "Nope. No. I'm good. I got it under control. Sorry Master. I was just surprised, that's all. I promise it won't happen again."
Depa raised a brow, a hint of humour running down the bond. "I'm sure."
Caleb sunk in his chair just a little. Losing control of his emotions was not a good way to impress his relatively new Master. How embarrassing.
That night, as Caleb was drifting off to sleep, an image of the girl appeared in his mind again. A small smile formed on his lips. He might not ever see her again, and he might not be allowed to actually feel anything about her, but he still considered her to be the best birthday present he'd ever received. For what teenage boy didn't like to have something nice to dream about?
Back on Ryloth, a twelve year old twi'lek girl flopped on her bed and hugged her pillow to her chest and sighed, dreamily staring at her ceiling without actually seeing it. In her mind, all she saw was the totally hot human boy she'd met that day. And not just any boy. A Jedi boy. She mouthed his name to herself. 'Caleb Dume.' What a great name. His teal green eyes were the first thing she'd noticed. How they seemed to see all the way into her soul. He had short reddish brown hair with a little braid hanging behind his right ear. And he'd been tall too. For a boy. Just as tall as his Master. And a hair taller than her. Which wasn't easy to do. Since she felt freakishly tall for a girl. She blamed her father for that. She certainly hadn't gotten her height from her mother. Hera had to cut off that line of thought or she'd start crying again. Her mother was gone. Lost in the war a few months ago. Hera focused on the image of the boy in her mind. He was so much better to think about. Hera sighed again. "Caleb."
Chopper beeped inquiringly. Hera turned her head and looked at him, with his brand new, painstaking orange and yellow paint job that had taken her hours to do. She'd actually had to turn him off to get it done. "It's nothing, Chopper. Just a boy. You wouldn't understand."
Chopper beeped back, "This young organic?" before showing a holo image of Caleb that he must have recorded in the minute they'd been in the same room.
Hera gasped and jumped off the bed, tossing her pillow aside. "Chopper!" She hugged the droid. "Oh Chop, you're the best droid ever! Don't ever erase that image. Please."
Chopper beeped, "Okay."
Hera hugged him one more time. She got up and slipped under the covers on her bed, putting her pillow back where it belonged, before curling up on her side facing Chopper. "Can you leave that image on for me until I go to sleep, Chop?"
Chopper beeped again. Hera smiled at him as her eyes drunk in the image of Caleb Dume, Jedi superhero.
D365/20 BBY, Kaller
Depa woke on a gasp. The Force was screaming at her. Caleb's nearly overwhelming fear making her choke as it flooded their bond. Depa struggled out of her sleeping bag, calling her lightsabre into her hand and igniting the green blade as she surged out of her tent. Her eyes widened in horror as she emerged to find her entire Battalion of Clones pointing their blasters at her and Caleb, who had already emerged from his tent, with blue sabre held at the ready. "Why?" she asked Commander Grey.
Grey looked back at her with emotionless eyes. In fact, every single one of her comrades in arms were looking at them with emotionless eyes. "Because you are a traitor. You must die. All Jedi must die."
Without any further warning, hundreds of blasters fired at Caleb and Depa, their lightsabres not able to deflect all of the shots, even though they tried. The lightsabres were almost a blur, as they fought for their lives, but the clone troopers just kept shooting. Hundreds of them. Against two. They never stood a chance. Depa cried when Caleb fell to the ground, dead from a bolt to the head that had made it past his defences. Her moment of inattention was enough. A bolt made it past her lightsabre and hit her in the chest. As she fell, her last sight was of her beloved Padawan's sightless teal eyes.
Depa woke on a gasp, tears streaming down her face. "Caleb," she whispered. She sent a warning down the bond, which she felt him acknowledge. Grabbing a bag with the most important thing she owned in it, she slipped out of her tent as quietly as possible, lightsabre in hand.
Caleb emerged from his tent, lightsabre ready, eyes wide with curiosity. Depa thrust the bag at him. "Take this and run. Run, Caleb. Now. I'll be right behind you."
Caleb looked at his Master, her face deadly serious. "But why?"
Depa narrowed her eyes at him. "It doesn't matter." She shoved him in the direction of the hill. "Go!"
So Caleb ran, all the way to the top of the hill, but he came to a stop when he heard blaster fire. Lots of it. He looked back and saw the entire battalion of clones, including his friends Grey and Styles, shooting at his Master. Her green lightsabre was a blur as she stood between them and Caleb. Caleb lost his ability to breathe as he saw her fight off the entire battalion. "Master!" he screamed, and started running back down the hill.
He'd only taken two steps when he heard her in his head and felt an almost overwhelming urge to do as ordered. "RUN, CALEB!" He came to a halt again. She'd never actually said words in his head before, and she'd paired it with the strongest burst of persuasion she could muster. It was enough to make him obey against his instincts.
As he topped the hill again, he looked back one more time only to see his Master fall, shot hundreds of times as her sabre fell from her hand.
As one, the clones looked up at Caleb silhouetted in the night sky by the moon behind him. "Get the traitor!" yelled Commander Grey. Caleb turned and ran for his life towards Plateau City, glowing in the distance, igniting his lightsabre and blocking the shots that came too close as he ran. He didn't even look back, letting the Force direct his arm and give wings to his feet, eyes too full of tears to be able to see much anyway.
Finally reaching the edge of the city, Caleb slunk into the nearest dark alley and lost himself in the maze of narrow streets. His first instinct was to head for the spaceport, but he knew that was the first place the clone troopers would look for him. So for now, he'd stay in the city, hiding. He stole new clothes and food to survive, hiding under a hooded cloak and pretending to be an old man. When he found a decent place to hole up in an abandoned building, the numbness that had sunk in wore off. He collapsed to the floor in a corner and curled into himself, tears streaming down his face as his shoulders shook with the sobs he was holding in.
After a while, he wiped the tears off his face and sniffed pathetically. Pulling the bag off his belt, the one Depa had given him, he opened it and pulled out the object he already knew was in there. Caleb glared at the holocron in his hand. "Why?" he demanded from it. "Why did she make me run? Why did the clones turn on us? They called me a traitor, but I know I'm not. I serve the Republic, just like they do. Don't they?" When the holocron did nothing, not even bothering to open, Caleb lost it. He threw the precious cube across the room, and watched with satisfaction as it bounced off the wall and disappeared into a corner.
Only a minute later, he regretted his rash actions. Jumping to his feet, he retrieved the holocron and cradled it to his chest, relieved that it didn't seem broken. This was the last thing his Master had given him. And it was important to her. He'd take care of it forever. Caleb sank back to the floor, holding the holocron like a life line, as the tears started again. "Why?" he whispered to the Force.
1 day later, Ryloth
Cham and Hera sat in stunned silence for endless minutes after watching the breaking news bulletin. It was beyond unbelievable. And Hera said so, with arms crossed and a set chin. "I'm not buying it. The Jedi would never betray the Republic. They were good people."
Cham put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I agree. I think we're being fed a load of bantha poodoo. The timing is just too convenient. The Jedi are executed for treason and the Emperor suddenly takes over, changing the political system from a Galactic Republic to a Galactic Empire, all in the space of a couple of days? Definitely something wrong with this picture."
Hera huffed. "How can they get away with it? Doesn't anyone else see this is wrong?"
Her father sighed at the injustice. "I think not. People are willingly blind to what is happening around them. They just want to live the easiest way possible. Not the right way."
"Well I'm never going to live like that, with my head buried in the sand," Hera vowed. "I'm going to fight for what is right. Always." With that, Hera marched out of the room, lekku stiff with determination. Cham watched his daughter with pride and worry. What kind of trouble was she going to get into, with that kind of spirit?
Hera went to her room, with Chopper following behind her. She closed the door and sank onto her bed, dejected. "Please turn on the image, Chop."
Chopper beeped, and the holo image of Caleb Dume appeared, not even needing to clarify which image she meant.
A tear ran down Hera's cheek, which she quickly wiped away. She looked at it for a moment, then turned her head away. "Delete it, Chopper. He's gone. There's no point keeping it."
Chopper beeped, "Are you sure?"
Hera lay down on her side and curled up, facing away from Chopper. "Yes. I'm sure."
D3/19 BBY, Kaller
Caleb left his temporary shelter for hopefully the last time. It had been more than three days since he had reluctantly run for his life. He was hoping the clones would have given up their search for him by now. Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, he made for the spaceport. He had to get off this planet. He had to get home to Coruscant. Hopefully he could get answers there. Someone had to know why the clones had called him a traitor. Even if they didn't, the Jedi Council would be able to look into the matter.
The streets were quiet in the early hours of the morning. No one was awake to see the shadow silently move through streets and back alleys. Caleb arrived at the wall that surrounded the spaceport. Not wanting to go through the main gate, which he was sure had video surveillance, he leapt for the top of the wall. Landing lightly on the top in a crouch, he quickly swept the area. Not seeing anyone, he jumped down, landing silently. Now to find a suitable ship to stow away on.
Caleb didn't even bother looking at the public transport ships. There would never be a place to hide in those, and they usually had some sort of video surveillance as well. He needed a private ship. Preferably something not Kalleran made since there was a better chance of it actually leaving the system. Not finding exactly what he was looking for, he settled on the next best thing. A red and black painted Kalleran freighter. Freighters usually carried goods. Hopefully this one also left the system. Caleb stopped by the closed entrance to the KST-100. He sent his Force senses towards the ship. Not sensing anyone inside, he held out his hand towards the door, and concentrated on unlocking it and making it open. The door popped open with a quiet hiss, and Caleb's lips twitched into a temporary smile.
Caleb entered, and closed the door behind him with a wave of his hand. Now to find a place to hide. He wandered the ship for a few minutes, getting a mental map of it. He grabbed a couple days worth of pre-packaged rations from a large stash in the galley, hit the refresher for a quick shower, then tossed his bag into a vent. It was a tight squeeze, but Caleb got his body into the opening. At least the duct work was bigger than the entrance. Caleb crawled through the ducts until he was fairly certain he was in a location where he wouldn't be easily heard, and at an intersection, so he had more space.
Getting as comfortable as possible, Caleb settled in to wait. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on his breathing and cleared his mind. Meditation would help him pass the time and help him deal with the loss of his Master.
Caleb dreamed he was flying through hyperspace. He sat in the co-pilot's chair, hands behind his head, feet on the dash, not a care in the world. A droid beeped behind him. Caleb turned his head to see what the droid wanted, but his eyes stopped at the beautiful light green twi'lek girl in the pilot's chair, eyes intent on a datapad. Caleb smiled. "Hera, Chopper's asking you a question."
The twi'lek lifted her eyes to meet his and grinned mischievously. "I know, Kanan. I'm ignoring him right now. He didn't fix the ship's comms like I asked him to."
Caleb laughed while Chopper beeped disgustedly and stormed out of the bridge, cursing in binary the whole way. Caleb got up. "I'm going to get some caf. You want me to bring some back for you, darling?"
Hera nodded, smiling. "Thank you, love."
Caleb placed a kiss on top of her head, before leaving the bridge.
Caleb woke with a smile. He loved when he dreamed of Hera. She was soooo much better than the nightmare of his Master's death that he'd been having for the last couple of nights. He wished he'd get more Hera dreams, but they only showed up a few times a month. This was a new one too, and it had felt so real. Caleb ran through the dream again in his mind, pausing on the image of Hera. She was older in this one. Maybe eighteen. She just got more beautiful with age, her face a little less round and her cheekbones more pronounced. Then his brows furrowed in confusion. Did Hera call him Kanan? Caleb's heart sank. Maybe she wasn't talking to him at all. Maybe he was dreaming of Hera with another guy. Now that sucked. Big time. Caleb forced himself to put Hera out of his mind. It was stupid of him to dream of her anyway considering what he was. Jedi weren't allowed to form attachments.
He wasn't sure what would happen to him now that his Master was gone, but maybe one of the other Jedi Masters who didn't have a padawan would be willing to take him on. It wasn't an ideal situation. He'd already had a very strong bond with his Master. It was very unlikely he'd form a bond with another one. And he was a little old to start a new partnership, being sixteen. Hopefully someone would be willing to continue his training anyway. Caleb sighed forlornly. He missed Depa. They'd been together for three incredibly intense years, fighting the war against the Separatists for the most part. Talk about on the job training. Most padawans stayed with their Masters into their late teens or sometimes even their early twenties before taking the test to be a Jedi Knight and go off on their own. Caleb didn't feel like he was anywhere near ready to be on his own.
He was startled from his musings when he heard the door of the ship open. Footsteps echoed through the hallway, heading for the bridge. The engines started, rumbling through the framework of the ship as they warmed up. The footsteps came back down the hallway, pausing in the galley. Suddenly, there was a pounding on the door of the ship. Caleb heard a muffled voice yell, "Open up! In the name of the Emperor!" Wait. What Emperor? There was no Emperor of the Galaxy. At least there wasn't a few days ago.
The footsteps stomped towards the door and he heard the door open again. "What do you want?" a grumpy voice said in Basic with a Kalleran accent.
"We're searching all ships leaving the city for a fugitive Jedi." Caleb muffled a gasp with his hand. He was pretty sure that was Styles' voice. It was hard to be one hundred percent sure, because the clones all tended to sound the same, but he'd been fighting side by side with Styles for so long, he could pick out the subtle differences in his tone compared to the others.
The grumpy voiced man hummphed. "There's no one on my ship but myself, but you can look if you want." Footsteps of at least three people walked through the ship, searching every room. "What's this Jedi done, anyway?" grumpy voice asked.
"He is believed to be an accomplice in an effort by the Jedi to assassinate the Emperor. All the Jedi have been, or are being, executed for treason, as we find them," said Styles emotionlessly. Caleb had to suppress a gasp. ALL of the Jedi? All of his friends and all the Masters were dead?
"Surely not all of the Jedi are guilty?" said grumpy voice. "Aren't there thousands of them?"
"I don't know," said Styles. "I'm just following orders."
Grumpy voice grunted and continued to follow the clones around his ship. When the extra footsteps left, he closed the door. "Poor Jedi, they don't deserve that," grumpy voice muttered. "The ones I met didn't seem that bad." His footsteps made their way back to the bridge. Caleb felt the ship lift off the ground. A few minutes later, it jumped into hyperspace. Caleb sighed in sad relief. He was off the planet at least. Force knows where they were going, but it didn't matter anymore. From the sound of things, he had no one to go home to. He was on his own. Caleb wiped the tears off his cheeks. This couldn't be happening. And yet it was. A waking nightmare that would never end. Caleb extracted the holocron from his bag and hugged it to his chest, quietly crying himself back to sleep.
Caleb woke hours later, in desperate need of a trip to the refresher. Hearing no sounds coming from the ship, he hoped the pilot was asleep. Crawling silently, he found the vent that opened into the refresher.
As he was crawling back into the vent, he heard a voice. Master Kenobi's voice. Oh kriff. The pilot was bound to hear that. He scrambled as fast as he could towards his stuff, listening to Master Kenobi, who must have taken his suggestion about using the Temple Recall signal as a warning instead of a call home. "This is Master Obi Wan Kenobi. 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 message is a warning, and a reminder for any surviving Jedi. Trust in the Force. Do not return to the Temple. That time has passed, and our future is uncertain. We will each be challenged. Our trust. Our faith. Our friendships. But we must persevere, and in time a new hope will emerge. May the Force be with you. Always."
Unfortunately, that just confirmed what Styles had said earlier. Caleb was heartbroken again, but didn't have time to think about it, because grumpy voice was awake. "All right, Jedi. I know you're in there. Come out, before I shoot you out."
Caleb sighed. His life just got crazier every day. Concentrating for a moment, he turned the glowing blue holocron back off. Then he quickly packed up the small mess he had made into his bag, before crawling back towards the nearest vent. No point travelling through the ducts any longer than necessary.
He walked down the hallway and was quickly met by a tall Kalleran male, holding a blaster pointed at him. Caleb raised his hands in surrender. He didn't want to fight him. He didn't have the heart for it.
The Kalleran looked him up and down, then raised a brow in surprise. "You're just a boy. Something tells me you had nothing to do with the attempt on the new Emperor's life."
Caleb kind of shrugged. "I don't know anything about it. I didn't even know there was an Emperor. I've been hiding for days, ever since my friends turned on us and killed my Master."
The Kalleran holstered his blaster. "I believe you. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with you. But I believe you."
Caleb lowered his hands. "Please don't turn me in. I can help you, if you need a crew. I have nothing to go home to and no place to go."
The Kalleran chuckled. "I don't think you want to join me. I'm a smuggler. A little below your Jedi principles I think."
Caleb thought about it for a moment. What did Jedi principles and teachings matter, if all the Jedi were gone? He looked at the Kalleran. "The Jedi are dead. Everything I believed in is dead. I have to do something with my life. Being a smuggler at least sounds interesting. I'll work for free, except for some food and a place to sleep. And I'm good in a fight." Caleb smiled hopefully.
The Kalleran laughed. He walked over and clapped Caleb on the back, making him stumble forward a step. "I like you, kid. Welcome to my ship, the Kasmiri. I'm Janus Kasmir, but you can call me Kasmir or boss."
Caleb smiled happily. "Thank you, Kasmir. I'm Ca..."
Kasmir cut him off with a shake of his head. "No, you're not. I don't want to know your old name. You need to think of a new name. And until you do, I'll call you Kid."
Caleb blinked. He was right. Caleb Dume was a fugitive. He couldn't go by that name anymore. But he didn't want to be called Kid either. "Really? Kid? I'm not that young. I'm sixteen!"
The green skinned alien grinned, showing a lot of sharp teeth. "Kid, when you've reached my age, sixteen is definitely in the category of young." Kasmir pulled on Caleb's braid. "This has to go too. It's a dead giveaway."
Caleb reached up and fingered his padawan braid. He'd forgotten about that. It was such a part of him, he didn't even feel it anymore. When he felt more tears try to start, he turned his face away and furiously wiped them away. He needed to grow up and get over it. His old life was over. He looked back at Kasmir, who looked at him knowingly with a sympathetic look in his eyes. "Do you have a knife?"
Kasmir pulled a folding knife out of a pocket and handed it to him. Caleb opened it, and grasping his braid, he sliced it off at the hairline. His head felt funny in that spot, like he'd just amputated an arm. Caleb handed the blade back to Kasmir and straightened his shoulders in determination. He held the braid he'd been growing for three years tightly in his fist for a moment, then held it out to Kasmir. "You got a place I can throw this out?"
Kasmir smiled. "How about out the air lock? We can give your old life a proper Spacers burial."
Caleb nodded. "I'd like that. Thank you."
D25/19 BBY, Lothal
The Kasmiri came out of hyperspace in front of a pretty light green and blue planet, having a nice mix of continents and oceans. Caleb looked at the planet curiously. He'd been to a lot of planets with his Master, fighting the Clone Wars, but never to this one. "Where are we?" he asked Kasmir.
Kasmir grinned as he flew the ship down through the atmosphere. "This is Lothal, Kid. A nice little backwater planet that grows some very nice produce that the desert planets are always eager to purchase. I have a few friends here too, that call this planet home."
Caleb gawked at the seemingly endless continent of grass intermixed with strange little round mountains that they were flying over. He'd never seen anything like those before. They flew past a nice little city and kept going, finally landing near a tiny settlement surrounded by more grass. Kasmir stood. "Come on, Kid. You're about to eat some of the best grub this side of the Mid Rim you can find."
Caleb dutifully followed the Kalleran off the ship and through the haphazard buildings. They walked into a bar full of people and species of many descriptions. Kasmir parked himself at the bar, waiting to get the attention of the ithorian bartender. Kasmir smiled in greeting when he came over. "Jho! How's it been?"
It was hard to tell if he smiled back, but Jho said, "Good, good. Been pretty quiet lately," through his translator. "And how are you, my old friend? And who is this?"
Kasmir chuckled. "I'm good. Things have been pretty interesting. I picked up a new crew member. Jho, this is Kid. Kid this is Jho."
Caleb rolled his eyes. "It's nice to meet you, Jho, but my name's not Kid. It's Ca..." Opps. Caleb frantically scrambled to fix it, and spit out the first thing that came to mind. "Kanan. Yep. It's Kanan."
Kasmir smacked him in the back and guffawed. "Good save there, Ka Kanan."
Caleb flushed, as Kasmir and Jho laughed at him. "Whatever. It's better than Kid."
As Kasmir and Jho continued to talk, reminiscing about old times and smuggling routes, Caleb turned his back to the bar and absently watched the other people. They were eating, drinking, laughing, playing cards and holo games. A little oasis of drifters with no worries on their minds at this very moment. As Caleb let his mind wander, he came to a sudden realization. His name was now Kanan. Forever. Caleb was officially no more. This was going to take some getting used to. 'My name is Kanan. My name is Kanan,' he chanted to himself over and over. Then his eyes widened again as he had another thought. What if the Kanan Hera was talking to in his dream was actually him? Did that mean he was going to see her again? Have a real relationship with her? They sure seemed like a couple in the dream. Caleb's heart sped up at the thought. There was nothing to stop him from having feelings for her anymore. No disapproving Masters or stern Jedi Councils. His old way of life was dead. Holy kriff. He was going to have a girlfriend! Hopefully. He didn't know when, but someday in the future, he was going to find Hera again. His eyes narrowed in determination. He'd make sure of it.
Kasmir nudged him out of his thoughts with an elbow. He was holding a couple plates of delicious smelling food. "Come on there, Ka Kanan. Let's go eat."
Caleb groaned and grabbed his plate, wondering how long Kasmir was going to tease him about that. He followed Kasmir to a table that already had a few other people at it. They looked up at their approach. The one with the horns, one of them broken, broke out into a grin and jumped up to give Kasmir a manly half hug. "Kasmir! It's been too long! Where have you been, you old mooka?"
Kasmir set his plate down before it got spilled and pulled his friend into a proper back slapping hug. "Just wandering the Galaxy, Visago. Staying out of trouble. Picking up stray puppies. You know. The usual."
Visago laughed and sat back down, gesturing for them to join his table. He raised a brow at Caleb. "I take it you're the stray puppy?"
Caleb nodded, picking up his fork. "That's me. Name's Kanan. Kasmir helped me out of a rough spot, and now I'm working for him. For free."
Visago snorted. "Typical. Not that you'd find a better deal anywhere else. At least you got food to eat."
Caleb shovelled in a bite of whatever unknown substance was on his plate, then blinked in surprise. That was really good, whatever it was. He attacked his food. This beat ration packs and protein bars by a lightyear. Neither he nor Kasmir were particularly good cooks. Maybe he should learn, if this is what real food could taste like. It had been a long time since he'd eaten good food. Travelling from planet to planet, fighting one battle after another, and camping out in the open more often than not hadn't exactly provided for proper meals either, as he fought with his Master. Caleb concentrated on his food while Kasmir and Visago talked, their conversation about things he had no knowledge of not being of much interest to him. Instead, he started to imagine what life would be like with Hera and how soon he could possibly go find her again. Hopefully his dreams weren't lying to him about her liking him. That would really suck if she didn't and he'd based his whole new future on a false hope.
After lunch, they flew back to the city they had passed, picking up crates and crates of fresh fruit, filling the cargo hold to the brim, before taking off again through hyperspace towards the desert planet of Tattoine, where Kasmir would sell his fruit for a tidy profit under the nose of the Hutt who lived there and liked to think he had a monopoly on the import business.
While Caleb was in the refresher the next morning, he picked up his razor to shave off his stubble, then took a long hard look at himself in the mirror. If he was going to have a new name, maybe he should have a new look as well. As he was shaving, he left the stubble on his chin alone. He was going to try growing a goatee and let his hair grow out. So far, they hadn't gone anywhere he might run into someone who knew him, but you never know when that might change. It was time to look different too.
The metamorphosis from Caleb to Kanan had begun.
D83/19 BBY, Ryloth
Hera and her father were shopping in Lessu, the capital city of Ryloth. Over the last three years, the city had slowly recovered from the war. Almost all of the merchants had opened their shops again. Destroyed buildings had been cleaned up and new buildings lined the streets. The feeling in the city was one of tentative hope that things were finally going to get better.
Hera was in a spare parts store, looking for a replacement part for one of the many downed fighters she was trying to repair. If she could get this one flying again, she could practice some more. Hera loved to fly. She felt free when she was in the sky, away from all the trials of her past. And to have a real fighter to fly would be a dream come true. Flying shuttles and freighters just wasn't enough. She wanted more. She wanted to go faster. She wanted more manoeuvrability. She just knew she could handle a fighter.
Chopper beeped from the next row over. "I found it!"
Hera dashed around and grabbed the part off the shelf. "Chopper, you're the best!"
He purred happily when she patted him on the dome. Hera took the part to the counter and paid for it. Just as she was walking out the door, she heard a commotion from outside. Everyone was looking towards the end of the street, so Hera did too, and gasped in dismay. A battalion of white clad troopers marched towards her, followed by a dozen armoured ground transports. A voice was playing over a loudspeaker from one of the transports. "This planet is now under Imperial control. Resistance will not be tolerated. This planet is now under Imperial control. Resistance will not be tolerated." The message repeated over and over as the parade marched past her.
Cham appeared at his daughter's side, carrying an armful of packages. He narrowed his eyes and growled deep in his chest at the Imperial army. "This is unbelievable. We just won our planet back from the Separatists and now these Imperial blurrg droppings think they can just march in and take over? Not while I'm still alive." Cham glanced down at his daughter, who looked ready to go beat them up single handed, her hands in fists and eyes spitting fire. He shifted things around and put a hand on her shoulder. "Easy, Hera. We can't fight them like this. We need to get the Resistance Fighters back together. This is going to take some planning."
Hera looked up at her father, then back down the street at the back of the parade. "I hate them! They killed the Jedi, and now they're stealing our planet."
Cham sighed. "I know, Hera. We'll fight them. I promise. First, we must prepare."
D360/19 BBY, Ryloth
The fighter came out of nowhere, attacking the Imperial convoy with precision. Each well placed shot took out the guns on the tops of the transports. As the fighter circled around for a second pass, it shot the walls of the canyon in front of the first transport, causing all four of them to come to a screeching halt or run into the rocks and rubble. Hera called on the comm. "Stage one complete, Freedom One. You're good to go."
"Good job, Freedom Two. I'll see you at home." Cham watched the fighter fly away for a moment with pride shining in his eyes, before turning his attention to the transports below him. He nudged his blurrg and yelled, "Attack!" Dozens of blurrgs jumped over the edge of the cliff and stampeded towards the Imperial convoy.
Troopers leapt out of the transports, firing on the blurrgs and their twi'lek riders. Cham and his resistance fighters fired back, with much better aim. Cham charged his blurrg all the way up to the first transport, bulldozing over a trooper on the way. He leapt off and jumped into the transport, blaster ready. The driver tried to fire a shot at him, but he was too slow. The driver slumped over, as Cham's shot took him out.
Cham looked into the back, and growled. There was at least twenty twi'lek girls in there, bound and gagged, ranging from twelve to eighteen years old. "I'll be right back," he told them. Cham jumped out of the transport, quickly assessing the situation. His fighters were taking out the last of the troopers. He walked up the line and glanced in all the transports. They were all full of twi'lek girls. Cham's rage at the new Empire grew. How dare they steal his people! Leaving his fighters to untie the other girls, he went back to the first transport only to find his best friend and right hand man, Gobi Glie, already there. He quickly helped the blue twi'lek with the untying of the girls, as they cried their relief at being saved. "What are we going to do with them?" Gobi asked.
"We get them back to their families. And then, I think we'll have to advise that all the girls go into hiding for now. This is getting out of hand. This is the third shipment of girls we've stopped, and who knows how many we've already lost? We can't let them take any more of our females." Cham left the transport, secure in the knowledge that Gobi would take good care of the girls, and jumped back on his blurrg, who had been faithfully waiting for him. Calling to his resistance fighters, he gave his final orders for the mission. "Dump the Imperial scumbags off to the side. Escort the girls to their homes. Spread the word that all underage females are to go into hiding for their own safety."
With that, Cham turned his blurrg towards his home, hours away by blurrg, and nudged it into the fastest pace it would go. It was time to have a talk with Hera. She was NOT going to like what he had to say, but he wasn't going to lose her too. Especially not to the Imperials, to be sold as a slave girl.
"I won't do it! You need me! I'm the best pilot you have!" Hera stomped around the room, lekku twitching with agitation. She whirled around and jabbed a finger into her father's chest. "You cannot make me stay in this house forever!"
Cham stayed stalwart, arms crossed over his chest and face stern. "Yes. I can. I am not losing you, Hera. Not like this. Do you want to get caught and live the life of a slave, servicing whatever sleemo paid the highest price for you!?"
Hera wilted a little, eyes no longer able to meet her father's piercing orange ones. "No. But I still don't see why I can't at least do the flying missions. I won't get caught if I'm in a fighter. They won't even know who's flying it."
"And what if you get shot down and captured?" Not giving her time to answer, he continued. "You're staying in the house, and that's final." Cham turned his back to her, heart breaking at the look of betrayal in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Hera. But that's the way it has to be. At least until we chase the Imperials off our planet. Or you get older. They don't seem to be going after anyone over eighteen, so you only have three more years to go. I pray I don't have to make you stay in the house that long though. For both our sakes."
Hera gave something that sounded suspiciously a lot like a growl to her father's back. "Fine. You win. I'll stay in the house. But I'm never talking to you again." Hera stomped towards the exit with a muttered, "Come on, Chopper."
Chopper zapped Cham, before rolling after Hera. Cham jumped and whirled, growling at the droid who cursed back at him in binary. That thing was not normal. Cham felt like he deserved it though. He called to his precious daughter just before she cleared the door. "Hera." She stopped, shoulders stiff. "You can still work on the fighters. I know you enjoy that. The hanger is close enough to the house that it should be safe enough."
Hera nodded once, then left the room, her faithful droid following behind.
D184/18 BBY, Takodana
Kanan spent the morning meditating deep in the forest, far from Maz Kanata's castle. He soaked in the peace and quiet of the forest, as different from the noisy bar that housed the widest assortment of smugglers, pirates, and other riff raff, that you could get. Despite technically no longer being a Jedi, Kanan had not been able to stop practicing the teachings he'd been raised with. Meditation was what had gotten him through the loss of his old life, because even though all of his friends and Masters were gone, the Force was still there. It would always be there for him, as reliable and necessary as the sun in the sky. Kanan drew comfort from the Force every day, secure in the knowledge that somewhere in the vast entity of the Force, Depa was still alive, in some form.
As Kanan sat, letting his mind drift, the wind blew through the trees, creating a soothing rhythm for him to breathe to. He became the wind, the trees, the animals scurrying through the forest, his whole being just existing in the moment. With closed eyes, he fell deeper and deeper into the Force.
Kanan found Hera working on a fighter in the hanger, assisted by Chopper. "Hera," he called. "I have a present for you!" Hera emerged from deep in the fighter's engines, covered in grease, and looking even more beautiful than the last time he'd seen her, days ago. The last mission with Cham had taken much longer than planned. But it had been worth it. At least he hoped so.
Hera beamed at him as she walked towards him, wiping her greasy hands on a rag. "A present? Kanan, you've never given me a present before." She stopped in front of him, reached up to wrap her arms around his neck, but remembered her grease covered state, and dropped her arms. Instead she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
Kanan chuckled, and gathered her up in his arms, lifting her off the ground, pressing a proper kiss to her lips. "You can get me as dirty as you want, darling. You're worth it."
Hera laughed, and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back. She pulled back and grinned. "You asked for it. Don't blame me when you can't get the grease stains out of your clothes though."
Kanan grinned and set her back on her feet. "Don't care. Clothes can be replaced." He grabbed her hand. "Come on. You need to see your present." Hera smiled as he tugged her along, towards the small people sized door at the back of the hanger. Before he opened it, he said, "Close your eyes."
Hera looked at him in surprise, but did as he asked. Kanan grabbed her other hand too, carefully leading her out the door and into the sunshine. Making sure she was positioned just right, he stood behind her, hands on her shoulders and said, "Happy birthday, Hera."
Hera opened her eyes and gasped. "Kanan! It's beautiful! Where did you get it?" She whirled around and kissed him soundly for a minute, not giving him a chance to reply, before running towards her present.
Kanan grinned broadly, his whole body feeling full to overflowing with the joy she was radiating. He followed behind, enraptured with her, as she explored her present. This moment made up for everything bad that had happened in his life. She was perfect.
Kanan opened his eyes in wonder. If that was a vision from the Force, then he eagerly awaited his future. Now all he had to do was get to Ryloth. He stood up and walked back towards the old castle. He needed to talk to Kasmir. A life with Hera was worth fighting for.
Walking into the dim bar, Kanan searched for his friend/boss. He found him at a table playing sabacc with a bunch of lowlifes. Judging by the pile of loot in front of Kasmir, he was on a roll. Not wanting to interrupt, Kanan went to the bar instead. He chuckled at the tiny ancient female behind the bar when she plopped a glass of blue milk in front of him. "Really, Maz? Milk? Surely I'm old enough for something a little stronger? At least caf?"
Maz blinked her eyes behind her goggles and looked at him very seriously. "You shall never turn to drink. At least not in my bar. Bad things would befall you if you ever went down that path." Kanan blinked in shock. That had sounded disturbingly like Master Yoda, without the backwards speak. Her eyes went a little glassy, as she seemed to look through him. "Stay on the path you have chosen. Follow the light." Kanan just gaped at Maz for a moment before remembering to close his mouth. Was she a Force user? Shouldn't he have sensed it? Maz seemed to snap out of it, continuing as if the conversation had been normal the whole time. She smiled at him and nudged the cup of milk closer to him. "Drink your milk. You're a growing boy. It's good for you."
Kanan dutifully drank his milk, his mind whirling. What did Maz mean? Stay on the path he had chosen? Follow the light? The first thing that came to mind was Hera. He had just resolved to go find her as soon as possible. Did she mean continue to follow the Light side of the Force? Surely that was a no brainer? Or could it be something more complicated than that?
Kanan was torn from his musings by a scuffle and angry yelling from behind him. "Hey! No fighting in my bar!" yelled Maz. "You know the rules!"
Kanan turned around to see what was happening. But he was too late. The blaster had already shot Kasmir directly in the chest. Kanan's first instinct was to throw the offending pirate across the room with the Force. He was raising his arm to do it and everything, but Maz touched his arm gently. He glanced at her for half a moment, surprised. She gave a tiny shake of her head. As Kanan ran to Kasmir, he realized she was right. He couldn't show what he was to this bunch of outlaws. There was a huge bounty out for any Jedi still alive. He'd be hunted faster than you could say Jabba the Hutt.
Kanan knelt by Kasmir's fallen body. He was gasping for breath, his green skin turning a sickly grey. Kanan gathered him up into his lap while Kasmir looked up at him through eyes that were rapidly losing their focus. "Kid. Thank you. Take the Kasmiri. It's yours now. You earned it."
Kanan felt a tear creep down his cheek. He smiled weakly at his friend. His saviour. "I finally thought of a name. It's Jarrus. Kanan Jarrus."
Janus Kasmir smiled one last time, then went limp in Kanan's arms. Maz appeared beside him. She scooped up all the winnings from the table that Kasmir had won into a bag and handed it to Kanan. "This is yours." There was a sputter of protest from the others still at the table, but she silenced them with a glare. "Go, Kanan. I'll deal with this. Go meet your destiny. I'll see you again one day."
Kanan placed Kasmir's body down on the floor and rose to his feet. "Thank you, Maz." He mouthed, 'May the Force be with you.'
Maz smiled knowingly and winked, then shooed him out of the bar. As he was leaving, he heard her yelling at the one who had killed Kasmir. "And you! You get out of my bar and never come back! And take your odiferous crew with you!"
Kanan made his way to the Kasmiri quickly, not wanting a confrontation with the pirate crew. He ran into the bridge and started the engines. Out of curiosity, he waited for the pirates to come out of the castle. They trudged out, looking like some of the worst scum in the galaxy he'd ever seen. They boarded a heavily modified for war freighter, a Corellian VCX-100 by the looks of it. As Kanan watched the freighter fly away, he did a double take. That ship looked awfully familiar. Not being able to place where he'd seen it before, he shrugged and took off himself. Floating in space above the lush green planet of Takodana for a minute, he entered the coordinates for Ryloth in the nav computer. Heeding Maz's words, he went to find his fated soulmate.
Chapter 2: The Courtship
D185/18 BBY, Ryloth
Hera was just leaving the hangar to get some lunch when she heard a ship approaching. Ducking back into the door, she watched cautiously as it approached. With her father away on another mission against the Empire, it was just her and Chopper. Seeing that it wasn't an Imperial ship, she breathed a sigh of relief, and stepped back outside, curious to see who would be visiting her. Or more realistically, her father. His Free Ryloth movement had drawn a lot of attention, and new volunteers appeared weekly to fight the war. This was probably just another eager person wanting to join the cause.
The red and black Kalleran freighter landed in front of the hanger with a soft thud. A minute after the engines powered down, the door opened and out walked a very handsome tall young man. He had his longish hair tied back in a stubby little tail, and a small goatee living on his chin. The young man walked up to Hera and smiled. "Hello, Hera. It's good to see you again."
Hera searched his face, trying to figure out who this could possibly be. He didn't look familiar at all. Then she looked at his eyes, really looked at them. Their teal green depths were twinkling at her. Hera gasped. "Caleb Dume! You're alive!" She launched herself at him and hugged him tight for a moment, before pulling back, blushing furiously and staring at the ground. "Sorry. That was rude. We don't even know each other, really."
Kanan chuckled and tilted her head back up with a finger under her chin. "Hey. It's alright. I'd really like to change that, and get to know everything about you." His eyes met hers as he smiled at her hopefully. "And it's Kanan now. Kanan Jarrus. Caleb Dume is dead and needs to stay that way."
Hera felt like she was drowning in his eyes. They seemed to see to the very depths of her, and they liked what they saw. Her heart was racing and she felt like she could barely breathe. "Okay," she said, trying her best to not sound as flustered as she felt. "Kanan it is. I was just about to make myself some lunch. Would you like to come inside and keep me company?"
Kanan grinned happily. "I would love that, Hera. Thank you." Kanan followed her into the house, eyes drinking in the sight of her. Even in grease stained coveralls, she was gorgeous. Tall and curvy, with lekku and hips swaying enticingly as she walked. Kanan had to remind himself not to pant after her like an idiot. He pulled on some of his training to calm his pounding heart and find his tranquil center again. He didn't want to scare her off by acting like a slavering mooka, after all.
Cham rode his blurrg up the hill towards his home, exhausted from another long week of fighting the Empire. Spotting the unfamiliar freighter parked in front of his house, Cham's heart picked up pace and all sense of tiredness evaporated as he went into worried parent mode. Giving his blurrg an extra nudge, he raced up the rest of the hill. Pulling his blurrg to a stop, he leapt off and ran into the house yelling, "Hera?" All he heard in reply was terrifying silence. Worry increasing, he went back outside and across the yard to the hangar, giving himself a mental slap for not going there first, since Hera spent almost all her time in there, ever since he'd confined her to the house.
As Cham neared the hangar, he stopped in shock when he heard Hera laugh. It had been years since she'd laughed, as far as he knew. There just hadn't been anything for her to be joyful about lately. Approaching quietly, he listened carefully, ears straining to hear every sound.
"No way! He didn't!" Hera said.
"Yes, he did," an unfamiliar male voice replied.
"So what happened next?" said Hera, accompanied by the clanging of metal against metal.
"So there I was, surrounded by crates of illegal fruit, my new boss slinking away to save himself, or so I thought, with Jabba the Hutt and all his henchmen looking at me suspiciously. Have you ever met a Hutt? No? Be happy. They are the ugliest, slimiest, smelliest beings I've ever had the misfortune to meet. And this Jabba guy was mean! He was all, 'What have we here? A little snack for my Rancor perhaps? Ha Ha Ha Ha,'" the male said in a decent impression of the deeper voice of a Hutt.
"Wow. Can you hand me that please, Kanan? Thanks."
Cham's brows furrowed as he tried to think of a Kanan, but couldn't come up with one. The person talking to Hera was definitely a stranger. Cham didn't know what to do. Hera sounded happy. Really happy. Not just the fake happy she'd been portraying ever since the Empire had taken over the Galaxy. But he was dying of curiosity for two reasons now. He needed to see this person who'd brought Hera out of her shell, but on the other hand, he really wanted to hear the end of the story too. He decided to wait and listen.
The male voice continued. "I was wracking my brain frantically, trying to come up with some way out of this mess that didn't include using any Jedi skills, when out of nowhere a blaster is thrown at me and someone is shooting at Jabba and his goons. I grabbed the blaster out of the air and jumped behind a crate, shooting at the enforcers. They divided their attention between me and Kasmir. One of the sleemos tossed a grenade at me and it hit the crate I was hiding behind. I leapt away, but the crate exploded along with all the yogans inside, covering me in fruit bits. I smelled like yogans for days." There was a peel of laughter from Hera and a self conscious chuckle from the male. "I dove for cover again, still exchanging fire with the bad guys. Kasmir yelled at me, saying, 'run for it, Kid! I'll cover you!' So I did. Dashing all the way back to the ship, past a ton of people gawking at the teenager covered in purple yogan pulp. I started the engines and was about to fly to where Kasmir was, when he ran onto the ship yelling, 'Go! Go!' So I gunned it for the atmosphere with another ship in hot pursuit. It was a race to see if I could jump to hyperspace before we were shot down. I won," the teenage? Jedi? said with a smug tone. "Needless to say, we never went back to Tatooine again. Kasmir was sitting in the co-pilot chair, trying to catch his breath when he actually took a moment to really look at me. His eyes almost popped out of his head and he laughed at me for at least an hour. Even after I went and showered clean, he still cracked up at random for the next week. It turns out that yogans will stain you purple for quite a while."
Hera giggled. "I wish I'd seen that."
"I'm glad you didn't," said the male.
"I would have recorded it," said Chopper, making Hera laugh again at the male's groan.
"Now I'm really happy you weren't there. I never need to see myself purple again."
Cham decided he'd heard enough. He entered the hangar, expecting his presence to be a surprise, but that's not how it went.
Kanan waved at the larger man from his lean on the fighter, already facing the doorway he knew the man was listening from. "Hey, General Syndulla. It's great to see you again."
Cham's eyes widened fractionally in surprise at the relaxed demeanour of the boy, who looked somewhere in his late teens. His daughter slid out from under the fighter, wrench in hand, said, "Hello, Father," coolly, and disappeared back under the fighter. Well, it could be worse. At least it wasn't the silent treatment he'd gotten for weeks last year, but she still wasn't happy with him. Cham studied the boy intently, trying to figure out where he might have met him before and came up blank.
Kanan felt the man's confusion and decided to put him out of his misery. Walking up to Cham, who was only a few centimetres taller than him now, Kanan bowed exactly the same as he had years ago, then looked at Cham with a smile. "My name is Kanan Jarrus, but you met me once when I was still Caleb Dume. My Master and I brought you supplies."
Cham broke out in a grin and clapped the boy on the back in greeting. "The young Padawan! Look how you've grown! And you're still alive. Hera and I assumed that you had been killed with the rest of the Jedi."
Kanan smiled tightly. "Most of them didn't make it. Including my Master. She sacrificed herself to save me." His eyes got a faraway, longing look, which made Cham regret his words. Kanan seemed to shake himself out of it. "But those days are over. I'm not a Jedi anymore. Not really. I can't afford to be. But I'm still good in a fight, and a decent pilot. Hera tells me you have a 'small' Imperial problem here on Ryloth. I'd be more than happy to join your resistance fighters."
Cham wrapped an arm around the boy's shoulders and grinned down at him. "I'd be glad to have you join us, Kanan Jarrus. And worry not. I won't tell anyone what or who you were." He herded the boy towards the door. "Come on, son. Let's go find some supper. I'm starving. You too, Hera. The fighter will still be there tomorrow. Come get cleaned up and try looking like a female for once. Oh, and take care of my blurrg, would you?"
Chopper beeped a curse at Cham, which he ignored, while Hera slid out from under the fighter and glared at her father's back. Kanan looked over his shoulder at her helplessly as he was bodily escorted away. Hera rolled her eyes at him and he made a face back, making her smile.
Hera watched her father lead Kanan away, and sighed dreamily as she put away her tools. "Chopper, I might be silly, but somehow, he's even cuter than before, even with that stupid bit of hair on his chin."
Chopper beeped a suggestion, making Hera gasp and smack Chopper with a wrench. "No, you will not cut the hair off his chin while he's sleeping. He obviously grew it there for a reason. Besides, you'd probably manage to scar him for life. I like his face the way it is, thank you very much."
Chopper sulked as he followed Hera out to where the blurrg was patiently standing. "It was just a suggestion. Do you want me to record a new image of the organic for you to moon over at night?"
"No! Yes. Maybe. Argghh." Hera glared at her droid as she led the blurrg to the stables. "For a droid, you are frighteningly observant."
"Thank you," beeped Chopper.
"That wasn't really meant to be a compliment, Chop."
On the ride back from a mission, Kanan finally worked up the courage to ask Cham a question that had been keeping him practically sleepless for days.
He'd spent almost two months getting to know Hera, and finding her to be just as enchanting as he hoped she'd be. She was the most beguiling combination of sweet, gentle, and caring, combined with strong, feisty, and determined. Her never knew which side of her personality he'd see from one moment to the next and he loved that about her. Whenever he wasn't off fighting the Empire with her father, he was with Hera, helping her fix the ships or clean the house or tend the garden or take care of the blurrgs. (The Syndullas used to have servants when Hera was little, but after the first war, they couldn't afford to pay them anymore, so now Hera and Cham did all the work required to maintain their household.) They'd spent countless hours talking and he knew he could happily spend the rest of his life just listening to her beautiful voice. Now all he needed to do was ask her father for permission to make that a reality.
Clearing his throat nervously, Kanan jumped off the figurative cliff. "General, sir, I was wondering if I could have your permission to court your daughter?"
Cham glanced at the boy riding beside him and turned his gaze back to where they were going, taking everything he had to keep a straight face. Kanan's face was beet red and he was fidgeting with his reins like they were on fire, making his blurrg look back at him with a confused look. "Kanan, son, you have my blessing. Honestly, you're the first person Hera's even shown any interest in whatsoever. All the other young twi'leks I've brought home to meet her in the past made absolutely no difference to her demeanour at all. But with you, she actually smiles again. Normally I wouldn't encourage a human to get anywhere near my daughter, but you are different than most humans. Aside from being a Jedi, you have excellent manners and are an outstanding fighter. You've treated both myself and my daughter with the utmost in respect, and I appreciate that. So, yes. Feel free to TRY and court Hera."
Kanan's chest swelled with pride and his heart thumped joyfully to hear that. He thought this was a perfect example of Master Yoda's much overused, 'Do or Do Not. There is No Try' saying. "Thank you, sir. Do you think, perhaps, that I could take her for a picnic? I promise she'll be safe with me, both from the Imperials and myself."
Cham chuckled and sighed at the same time. "I suppose that would be acceptable. We are far enough away from the city that we rarely see Imperial ships out here. I will trust in you to protect her if something does happen."
Kanan grinned to himself at his success. "I promise to protect her with my life, sir. For as long as I live." Kanan patted his blurrg happily, just because he needed some sort of outlet for his joy.
The next morning, at breakfast, after Cham had left to go to a strategy meeting with other important people from Ryloth, Kanan asked Hera the question he'd rehearsed all night. "Hera?"
She looked up at him from her absorption in her bowl of mixed fruit, heavy on the meilooruns. "Hmmm?"
Kanan took a deep breath and spit it all out in a jumbled, mumbled mess. "Wouldyoupicnicgoonwithmeplease?"
Hera blinked at him in confusion. "What?"
Kanan smacked himself in the forehead and put his face on the table in embarrassment. That did not go the way he'd planned. At all.
Hera watched Kanan with mild amusement, a smile playing on her lips. He was so cute when he was flustered. She reached over and pushed his head off the table, looking into his woebegone eyes. "Kanan, whatever it is, yes, I'd be happy to. Now that you have my answer, would you like to try again?"
Kanan sat up tall and composed himself, saying a few meditation chants in his head. Okay, it couldn't possibly get any worse than what he'd already done, so he might as well get it right this time. He held his hand out and rejoiced when she took it with an expectant look. "Hera. I was hoping that you would grant me the honour of gracing me with your presence on a picnic this afternoon."
Hera beamed at Kanan, emerald eyes shining into his teal ones. "I would love to, Kanan. That sounds delightful." But then she looked sadly down at the table and took her hand back. "But I'm not allowed to leave the house. Father is still convinced I'll be captured and sold as a slave."
Kanan gently grabbed her hand again and laced their fingers together, making her look at him in surprise. He smiled at her. "I already asked your father for permission to take you out. We are free to go anytime."
Hera stared at him in disbelief. "You didn't!" When Kanan nodded and smiled wider, Hera went a little nuts. "You did! Oh, I could kiss you right now. Do you know how long I've been stuck in this house?"
He shook his head, eyes wide.
"More than half a year, Kanan. And I want out! I used to go on missions and fly the fighters, but I've been grounded FOREVER! You have no idea how close I've come to losing it and walking out of this house and never coming back. I just... I just need to be free again." Hera stopped, her voice trailing off, realizing she'd just exploded in poor Kanan's face. She squeezed the fingers she realized she was still holding and leaned over and kissed his cheek softly, making him blush bright red. "I'm sorry, Kanan. You didn't need to hear all that."
Kanan raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed it, amused by the grease permanently stuck under her fingernails. Now it was her turn to blush. "Yes, Hera, I did. I want to know everything about you. Even how you look when you're ranting. Which is enchanting by the way. Feel free to rant at me anytime. I was going to suggest we ride blurrgs to get to our picnic spot, but now I have a better idea. Would you like to fly my ship there, with maybe a detour or two on the way?"
Hera's heart almost burst with the excitement that tore through her. "YES!" She jumped out of her chair and launched herself at Kanan, almost making him fall out of his, before he caught her and held her safely in his lap as she rained kisses all over his face. Kanan could barely contain his shock at this unexpected turn of events, but he wasn't complaining. He wrapped his arms around her back, careful not to squish her lekku, and just enjoyed the feel of her body against his. This was officially the best moment of his life. A minute later he had to take that back, as the moments just got better and better.
Hera stopped when she realized what she was doing. Eyes going wide in embarrassment, she froze and stared at Kanan in bewilderment. Somehow, she'd turned one of her daydreams into reality, and it felt amazing. Kanan's strong arms were around her and she was SITTING on him. Her hands were buried in his hair, she'd even tore out the tie holding it back, the silky auburn strands tumbling around her fingers and his face, causing new sensations she'd never felt before. She couldn't believe how soft his hair was. She LOVED it. Hera stared into his eyes, feeling no expectations from him, just acceptance of wherever she wanted to take it from here. She thought about getting up and returning to her chair, and as she did so, she felt his arms loosen, and that decided it for her. He really was perfect. Hera changed the direction of where she was going. She leaned forward again instead and kissed his lips gently. Feeling his arms tighten, Hera did it again, this time leaving her lips on his longer. They parted with an inhale in surprise at the sensations that rushed through them. Hera tightened her fingers in his hair and planted her lips back on his as he happily returned the kiss with more than enough enthusiasm.
Kanan's eyes were closed in bliss as the literal girl of his dreams kissed him like her life depended on it. He almost opened them in surprise when he felt her lekku wrap around his arms and hold him tight, not knowing that they could do that, but he went with it. It was just one more sensation to savour. His Master and the Jedi Council were probably rolling over in their graves right now, but he didn't care. The Force had shown him visions of this girl and their life together. What he was doing couldn't possibly be wrong. When Hera pulled back again, and blushing furiously, unwrapped her lekku from his arms, Kanan reluctantly, but respectfully let her go. Bringing one hand around to the front, he stroked her heated cheek softly. "Wow, darling. That's all I can say."
Hera blushed some more, but smiled widely. Cupping his cheek in return, she pressed one more quick kiss to his lips. "You keep making me happy, I'll keep kissing you. Okay?"
Kanan grinned in return. "I'll do my best. From now until the end of time. I love you, Hera."
Hera gasped, not expecting him to say those words anytime soon. But they felt real, and oh so right. With a sigh of utter contentment she snuggled down into his lap so she could rest her head on his chest and wrap her arms around his back. "I love you too, Kanan."
Kanan smiled at the of top her head and kissed it lovingly. Stretching over, he reached for her bowl of fruit and pulled it closer. Stabbing a piece with the fork, he held it out for her. "You should finish your breakfast, darling."
Cheeks darkening again, Hera took the piece of fruit offered. Then with a shake of her head, she grabbed the bowl herself and took the fork from him. "I know that's supposed to be romantic and all, love, but I just don't think I can do it. I'm perfectly capable of feeding myself." She proceeded to demonstrate, quickly eating her fruit.
Kanan laughed, and just watched her eat, more than happy with his life right now. She may be fiercely independent, but she hadn't left his lap yet, had she? He squeezed her tighter for a half a moment, making her look up at him and smile. With a smirk, she held a piece of meiloorun up for him to take. Kanan chuckled, and obligingly ate it.
When Cham walked back in the dining room, to tell the teenagers that his meeting had been moved to tomorrow, he got the shock of his life, making him completely forget what he was going to say. With a grin of satisfaction, he took in the sight of his rather standoffish daughter sitting in the lap of the human boy and feeding him a piece of fruit. Changing his expression to stern father mode, he cleared his throat loudly, making them jump.
Hera scrambled off of Kanan's lap and back into her own chair, lekku twitching in embarrassment. "Father!"
"Sir, I can explain," Kanan said at the same time, practically choking on the fruit he was trying to swallow.
Cham grunted and crossed his arms in front of his chest and put on his best disapproving glare. "I gave you permission to take her on a picnic, not take liberties with her person."
"It was me, father! I jumped on him. He had nothing to do with it," Hera said quickly, not wanting Kanan to get in trouble or even kicked out of their home.
"Really? And his holding you there for how long was all your idea as well?" Cham said with a raised brow.
"Umm," said Kanan. "You see, sir, it went like this. I was just..."
Hera cut him off with a hiss. "Quiet, Kanan. This is my fault."
Cham couldn't keep his face straight anymore. They were just so funny, looking like scared little children. He burst into laughter, which took forever to wind down, the teenagers staring at him in shock the whole time. With a final chuckle, Cham wiped the tears from his eyes. "That was priceless. Really though, Kanan, what did you say to get her to do that? I honestly thought my daughter would die an old maid."
Hera gasped in outrage. Kanan was just happy Cham hadn't walked in a couple of minutes sooner. What he saw was bad enough. "All I did was ask her to go on a picnic with me and offer her the chance to fly my ship on the way there. She really, really liked the idea?"
Cham chuckled again. "I understand now. You figured out the way into her heart was through flying. Good job, son." Cham turned back around, to leave them to their privacy. As he walked he shook his head in bemusement. "Too bad none of the twi'leks I brought home for her to meet thought of that," he mumbled to himself.
"I heard that!" Hera called to his retreating back. "Don't you dare present me to any more either! I've made my choice!"
Cham stopped and whirled back around, eyes wide in astonishment. "You did not just do that!"
Hera stood, and faced her father with crossed arms, a determined look on her face that he knew meant she was never changing her mind. Her mother had worn that exact same look more times than he cared to remember. Hera definitely had her mother's spirit. "Yes, I did. Live with it," she stated in a 'so there' tone.
Kanan looked back and forth between them, sensing something very important had just happened, but he had no clue what.
Cham looked at the confused human ex Jedi. "Congratulations, son. You just got engaged. You can officially be married on her eighteenth birthday."
Kanan's jaw dropped, as he gawked at the twi'leks, eyes blinking in shock. As the words sank in, his face transformed into a smile so bright, it filled the room. He jumped up from his chair and grabbed Hera around the waist and whirled her around in circles, making her laugh as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "You just made me the happiest man in the galaxy, darling."
Cham shook his head, only slightly dismayed at the turn of events, as he left the teenagers alone for real this time. The Jedi wasn't what he wanted for a son-in-law, but if it had to be a human, at least it was the best possible kind of human; a man who was a skilled fighter and who obviously loved his daughter. A father really couldn't ask for more.
Hera and Kanan held hands and dragged their feet as they walked behind her father to the hangar, delaying the inevitable as long as possible. Their eyes spent most of their time gazing into the others and not really looking at where they were walking, but they reached the doorway safely regardless.
Cham had already climbed into his fighter and started it by the time the teenagers came to a stop beside the fighter Kanan was taking. Pulling Hera by the hand into his space, Kanan lowered his head to kiss her quickly. Hera rested her free hand on his chest and eagerly kissed him back, grateful the fighter blocked her father's view of what they were doing.
Hera pulled back and smiled at her fiancé. "Be careful, love."
Kanan grinned down at her, not worried about the coming mission at all. "I'll be fine, darling. I'm always careful. I'm not ready to die yet. We've hardly even begun to live the life I see in our future."
Hera caressed his cheek with her fingers. "That's good to hear. I worry when you leave."
Kanan smiled reassuringly. "You don't need to worry. It's me who should be worried." He glanced towards the Kasmiri. "Try not to get in too much trouble while I'm gone, okay?"
Hera stretched up and pecked his cheek, then looked at him with a raised brow. "Me? Get in trouble? Never."
They both laughed softly at that. Kanan leaned down to kiss her one more time, but was interrupted by Cham's voice yelling at them. "Enough of that already! I might not be able to see you two, but I know what you're doing! Let's go!"
Kanan sighed and climbed the ladder up into the fighter. "We'll be back in a few days," he called down to Hera, before starting the fighter and pulling on his helmet.
Hera waved at him and watched the two fighters leave the hangar longingly, wishing it was her instead. They were off to check out rumours about more missing girls and stolen spices on the other side of the continent, and taking the fighters just in case things got interesting. The Kasmiri would have made the trip a lot more comfortable, but it wasn't equipped to fight, having just the basics in shielding and no guns. It was just a freighter after all. But that was all right, because she got to play with it while her father was away. Kanan understood her need to fly, and had immediately told her to take the Kasmiri out for a spin anytime she wanted and could get away with. It wasn't the same as a fighter by a lightyear, but it was better than being stuck on the ground.
Chopper bumped into her leg and beeped at her, making Hera abandon her watch of where the fighters had disappeared in the clouds. She reached down and patted his dome absently. "Yes, Chopper, we're going for a ride in Kanan's ship. And stop calling him names. He's staying in our lives whether you like it not. No matter how many pranks you pull on him or zap him when he's not looking, you're not going to scare him off."
Chopper laughed evilly. "But it's fun. And you're my organic, not the meatbag's."
Hera sighed and rolled her eyes, walking towards the freighter. No matter how many times she reprogrammed Chopper, he always came right back to this. Droids weren't supposed to get jealous, but Chopper was obviously special, and most of the time, not in a good way. But he was HER droid. He'd kept her company and kept her sane when she was all alone for too many days to count. Ever since her mother and little brother, Jacen, had died, her father had thrown himself into the war against whoever was trying to take over their planet at any given time. Hera knew he still loved her, but he just wasn't the same happy, attentive father he used to be when she was little. At least when she got to fight in the war with him, they had spent most of their time together and had something in common. Now she just felt like a possession left at home, like a treasured piece of art. Something to look at and claim ownership of, but not something you actually packed and took with you when left the house.
Two hours later, Hera felt like she'd finally gotten enough of a flying fix to keep her happy for the rest of the day. She'd twirled the freighter through the clouds joyfully, performing aerobatics the freighter was never really designed for, but she got everything she could out of the ship and made it better than the designers had ever dreamed it could be. It didn't hurt that she'd been tweaking with it for the last few months, to help its performance capabilities.
The first time she flew for Kanan, the day of their first official date, she'd started out flying normally enough, just getting a feel for the ship, but then she'd grinned at him and flew up into the clouds and proceeded to scare him to death. He'd gaped at her, and clutched his chair for dear life as she flung the ship into a series of rolls and dives, laughing exultantly the whole time. After a minute, he'd relaxed, realizing she knew what she was doing, and started to grin before breaking into laughter as well. "Your father is an idiot for keeping you on the ground," he'd said after she finally returned to normal flight and headed for a perfect place by a lake for a picnic.
Hera had beamed at him, happy that he understood. The instant she landed the ship, she'd jumped out of her chair and attacked him for the second time that day, kissing him like a woman possessed, just because she was so happy, she had to let it out somewhere. Kanan hadn't complained in the least. It was a good half hour before they actually left the ship and had that picnic, before going for a swim in the lake. That had been the best day of Hera's life so far.
Hera dropped back down below the clouds and headed for home, a smile of contentment on her face. As she was flying, a shuttle passed her going across her path. Hera absently kept an eye on it in the monitor, just out of curiosity, and was surprised when it did an abrupt about-face and started shooting at her. First of all, since when did shuttles have guns? And secondly, what had she done to deserve that? It wasn't an Imperial shuttle, but a personal shuttle, Correllian made by the looks of it. Hera flew back up into the clouds for cover and flew erratically to avoid the shots. With no way to shoot back, and not wanting to lead it to her home, Hera got inventive. Flying up, she somersaulted the Kasmiri over the shuttle and chased it instead. "Chopper, give me as much power to the shields as you can!" Chopper beeped in acknowledgement and plugged into the wall. Hera put on a burst of speed, pursuing the shuttle. When she was beside it, she smirked to herself and rolled the much larger freighter right over the shuttle, smacking it out of the sky.
Hera followed the shuttle down as it stuttered and jolted its way down to the ground, landing with a long skidding crash that left a deep furrow in the ground. She landed the Kasmiri beside the smoking shuttle and then palmed her blaster and ran out of the freighter, pointing it at the door of the shuttle. It opened a moment later, and a coughing, staggering, filthy looking human male fell out of the ship, staring up at her in surprise when she pointed the blaster at his head, snatching his blaster from its holster and pointing that one at him too. "Why did you try and shoot me down?" She demanded of the man who had his dirty hair twisted into long dreadlocks and was wearing clothes that looked like they hadn't been washed in weeks.
"I thought you were someone else," he wheezed between coughing fits.
"Who?" Hera demanded. When he didn't look like he was going to answer, Hera pointed a blaster at his groin instead.
The man's eyes widened in horror and began speaking rapidly. "A teenager. Goes by the name Kanan Jarrus. Flies a ship just like yours. He's got something that belongs to my Captain, and he wants it back. I thought I'd gotten lucky when I passed you. We're just here to acquire a few of your native products," he said with a leer at Hera, as he looked her up and down. Hera narrowed her eyes at him in disgust and gave him a not so gentle kick in the side, making him curl up and wheeze some more.
"One more look like that, and I take off what you value most," Hera said, pushing him back onto his back with her toe.
The man cupped his groin protectively and stared at her with wide eyes. "Sorry, lady. You're insane, you know that? I've never seen flying like that before either."
Hera grinned at the squirming human. "Good. You remember that. Us twi'leks aren't just going to sit here and let you blurrg droppings steal our people and our hard earned products. Oh, and tell your Captain whenever you actually see him again that you accidentally tried to shoot the wrong ship out of the sky. I don't know who you're looking for, but this is my ship and it's belonged to my family for years," she unabashedly lied. "And one more thing. Thank you for the shuttle. We could really use that."
The man looked up at her in surprise, his head shaking frantically back and forth as Hera changed her blaster to stun and shot the filthy scum.
Hera left the human in the dirt and walked into the shuttle, waving her hand at the smoke. She searched through the compartments on the walls until she found a fire extinguisher and sprayed the offending instrument panel. As soon as the smoke inside the ship cleared, she disabled its locator beacon, not wanting the rest of the sleemo's crew to show up, looking for him. Hera glanced around at her new toy and grinned in glee. This was so much better than a freighter, and it had guns! With a little bit of tinkering, she'd have it flying again in no time. Hera walked out of the shuttle and closed the door. Giving the unconscious human another kick just for good measure on the way by, Hera walked back into the Kasmiri. Chopper was waiting for her at the door. "I recorded all of that. Just in case you want to watch yourself beat up a meatbag again," he beeped cheerfully.
Hera grinned and patted him on his dome. "You know me so well, Chop. And I'm sure Kanan would love to see it too. Wish I could show Father, but he'd have a fit if he knew I'd left the house, so that's a no go."
Hera picked up the broken shuttle with the magnetic lock on the bottom of the freighter and carted it towards home, hiding it in a large rock cluster close enough to her house that she could ride there on a blurrg in an hour or so, if the Kasmiri wasn't available to take. Flying the rest of the way home, Hera was floating in a cloud of satisfaction with her day. She'd outflown a superior ship, bested a human, and acquired a new ship that was just hers. All on her own. She wished she could say her father would be proud of her, but he'd just have a freak out. Kanan, on the other hand, would. She just knew it.
When the pirate woke up hours later in the dark, he shivered and sat up with a groan and pressed a hand to his screaming side. That twi'lek bitch had cracked a rib. At least. With a grimace, he pulled his commlink from his belt. "Hey, Captain," he said, when his call was answered.
"How's the scouting trip going, Dreads?"
"Umm, it's not. This massive ship full of giant male twi'leks shot me out of the sky and left me for dead in the middle of nowhere. And they stole our shuttle. Can you come and get me?" Dreads whined.
The Captain cursed for a while, then started to laugh. "Guess what, Dreads. I can't track where you are. And you don't know where you are. How am I supposed to get you? Sorry, but you're on your own. Good luck." With a final laugh, the commlink went silent.
Dreads cursed and threw the commlink as hard as he could, then instantly regretted it as his ribs screamed at him for the motion. He carefully lay back down and stared up at the stars for a while, waiting for his ribs to shut up. Eventually, he realized he would die out here if he didn't move. Forcing himself to his feet, he turned around in a circle, trying to figure out which direction he'd come from. Giving up, he picked a direction at random and started trudging.
Years later, someone would find his bones at the bottom of a cliff. Many of them were broken, including two ribs on his right side.
Kanan and Cham had spent the last two days following horror stories from town to town. Stories about a group of filthy humans who were scouring the towns for the prettiest girls and stealing them in the dead of night from their homes, killing everyone else that lived there. Most of the dead females showed obvious signs of bruising and of being taken savagely. The humans were also raiding shops for the most expensive of the native spices grown on Ryloth. Products that didn't take up a lot of space, but paid well on other worlds.
They were flying their fighters in the middle of the night, in a search pattern near the latest town attacked looking for the roughly diamond shaped ship that the pirates were said to be flying. They were hoping the pirates would have landed somewhere close, and they could catch them unawares while they slept. They couldn't just attack the ship, either, assuming that the stolen girls were still on it. This was going to have to be a stealth mission; a perfect opportunity for Kanan to use his Jedi skills without consequences. Kanan was looking forward to that, missing the days when he was almost constantly using his skills during the with the Separatists.
Spotting a gleam of silver parked near a river, Kanan's heart sped up with excitement. Circling around, he inspected the diamond shaped ship and recognized it right away. It was the same one that the pirates had flown away in on Takodana. The pirates who had killed Kasmir over a game of sabacc. Kanan still had the bag of loot from that game, but he'd never had the heart to open it. He hadn't needed the credits, and it brought back bad memories. Kanan called Cham and gave him the coordinates of his location after he landed within a reasonable walking distance away from the pirate ship.
Cham landed beside him fifteen minutes later. After coming up with a plan of attack, they walked towards the pirate ship.
Kanan approached the ship quietly, with Cham following behind, noting that it seemed to be asleep for the night, like they'd hoped, no lights showing from the transparasteel areas at the front. Stopping at the cargo bay door, Kanan closed his eyes and reached towards it, letting the Force swirl through him, he felt the opening mechanism and triggered it. Kanan opened his eyes with a small smile when Cham clapped him on the back. They walked silently up the ramp, blasters drawn, ready for anything.
They found a dozen girls, bound and gagged, in the cargo hold, all passed out, hopefully just drugged or exhausted. Other than that, they appeared unhurt. Which made sense. You get more money for an untouched slave than a used and abused one. They also found crates and crates of expensive spices, which Kanan was sure the owners would be ecstatic to get back.
Kanan followed his Force senses up the ladder and to the crew quarters. With a wave of his hand, he opened each door and dispassionately stunned the sleeping occupants of every bunk, leaving Cham to follow in his wake to tie up every pirate. After that was done, Kanan swept the ship with his senses again and followed them further down the hallway, going through another door and past a ladder that led up to the top gun turret.
Kanan opened the last door between himself and his target. Calmly striding into the common room, Kanan pointed his blaster at the pirate Captain. The man who killed Kasmir.
The Captain looked up blearily from where his head had been resting on a dejarik table, a bottle of alcohol falling from surprised fingers and breaking on the floor as he jerked upright at the sight of Kanan. "You!" he said.
Kanan looked at him with cold eyes. "Yes, me. You killed my friend. I would kill you now for what you did, but that is not my way. Instead, I'll let the relatives of the twi'leks that you murdered have you. I'm sure whatever justice they give you will be well deserved."
The Captain fumbled for his blaster, but was stunned for his efforts, falling back into a slump over the table.
Cham walked into the room a minute later and glared daggers at the unconscious captain. "I would have just killed him," he said.
Kanan looked at Cham for a moment before heading towards the front of the ship. "I seriously thought about it, although outright murder is not the Jedi way, even if I'm not exactly a Jedi anymore. Then I realized there were people out there who had even more of a claim on his life than I did. They deserve the chance to see him die in whatever fashion they deem appropriate."
Cham grunted and patted Kanan on the shoulder. "You are wise beyond your years, young Jedi." Kanan opened his mouth to protest, but Cham stopped him. "No, you are a Jedi. And you will always be a Jedi. At least to Hera and I. I've worked with the Jedi in the past, and you are just as noble as them. You deserve the title."
Kanan smiled in gratitude as he sat in the pilot's chair and started the ship. It was time to take the girls back home to whatever families they had left. And the pirates to their justice.
While Kanan flew, Cham untied all the girls, most of them trying to wake up groggily as he did so. He threw the pirates down in the cargo hold, and after stripping the bunks of their filthy covers, gently put the drugged girls in the bunks instead. Cham took great pleasure in tossing the Captain down the ladder, wishing he was awake to feel the landing.
Kanan dropped the two fighters as gently as possible from the bottom of the ship as he released the magnetic lock, and then parked the modified freighter beside them at the back of the hangar, so Hera wouldn't see her seventeenth birthday present. Cham hadn't been enthused about the idea, wanting the ship for himself, but Kanan had given him the Kasmiri in compensation. If things worked out the way Kanan hoped, he wouldn't need two ships anyway. He was perfectly happy to give the new freighter to Hera. She was by far the superior pilot, the best he'd ever seen in fact. She deserved to have a ship of her own.
Before coming home, Kanan and Cham had scrubbed the ex pirate ship from top to bottom and burned anything the pirates had touched. Any valuables were split up among the stolen girls to help them survive without their immediate families. The ship sparkled now, both inside and out. It had taken a whole day of work to make that happen, since the ship looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years. The twi'leks from the last village they stopped in had helped, washing the outside and giving it a fresh paint job. Kanan hoped Hera liked her present. Cham had even come around after a while and gotten into the spirit of the idea. They had grinned at each other when the ship was done, both of them looking just as filthy as the ship once had. They'd purchased themselves some fresh clothes and jumped back in the ship, eager to get home in time for Hera's birthday.
Kanan and Cham walked down the ramp, Kanan heading into the hangar, knowing Hera was in there, and Cham hiding around the corner of the building so he could watch Hera's reaction. Cham knew this was a special moment between Hera and Kanan, but he just had to see. Cham waited eagerly for Kanan to bring her out, drumming his fingers as the minutes ticked by. He didn't even want to think about what was going on there that was taking them so long. Finally, they appeared, Kanan leading her by the hands as she walked with her eyes closed. He positioned her just right and said, "Happy birthday, Hera."
Hera gasped, her eyes opening wide in surprised wonder, face lighting up like Cham had never seen before. "Kanan, it's beautiful! Where did you get it?" she cried, before whirling and kissing Kanan for a minute. Then she whirled back around and ran to go see her new ship, with Kanan following behind wearing a dopey smile, and a lot of grease all over his new clothes. Cham smiled contentedly to himself and walked to his house, leaving the two of them alone.
Hera LOVED her present. It was the prettiest ship she'd ever seen. She explored every inch of it. From the engine room, to the nose gun / work station area, to the crew quarters, to the common room and the galley, the refresher and med bay, the two hallways that led to docking bays on either side of the ship, the top gun turret, and up a ladder that seemed to lead to nowhere; just a short hallway with a door that opened to the top of the ship. She finished her tour back in the bridge, gawking over every little instrument panel and trying out her new chair. Kanan sat beside her and looked at her hopefully. "So, what do you think?"
Hera looked him with a radiant smile. "It's perfect, Kanan. Just perfect. It has everything we need to fight the Empire."
"But we're already fighting the Empire," Kanan said, confused.
Hera shook her head. "No, Kanan. You and Father are fighting the Empire. I am just sitting here doing nothing. If Father won't let me fight on this planet, then I want to go to a different planet and fight them there. The whole Outer Rim even. I know the Empire can't be oppressing just my people. There are others out there that could use our help just as much." Kanan blinked at Hera, not sure what to say. Sensing his indecision, Hera walked over and sat in his lap and put her arms around his neck. "Please, Kanan? I really want this."
Kanan stared into her beautiful gem green eyes and came to a decision he hoped he wouldn't regret too much. Cham wasn't going to like it, and it might even cause a permanent rift in their friendship, but Hera was his everything. He would do anything for her. Even wander the galaxy with her and take pot shots at Star Destroyers if that's what she wanted. Kanan sighed and kissed her cute nose. "Alright, Hera. If it comes to that, if your father still won't let you fight with us, even with this great ship, then we'll leave Ryloth."
Hera squeaked happily and pressed kisses all over his face, before he captured her lips with his own and pulled her body tighter against his, loving the feel of her sweet softness and the even sweeter taste of her mouth. It wasn't very Jedi of him, but you couldn't have pried him away from her right now short of the end of the world. And even then... He'd probably just grin and think he'd died the happiest of males.
Kanan was very much attached to his wonderful Hera, and he intended to stay that way for the rest of eternity.
Chapter 3: The Marriage
D56/17 BBY, Ryloth
Hera and Kanan quickly got lost in the heat of the moment. Hands were sliding under clothes. Tongues were tangling. Moans and whimpers echoed through the space. Breaths were coming in gasps.
And that was just the first five minutes.
Kanan tore his mouth from Hera's with a reluctant groan and pressed his forehead to her shoulder while he talked his body back down to something resembling being in control. Despite how unfair it was, he just couldn't seem to stop his hands from their caressing path up and down her lekku. They fascinated him beyond measure, they were just so responsive to touch. Right now, they curled towards his arms and quivered with fine shivers with every pass of his hands. He could feel through Hera's emotions how delightfully turned on this made her, which fuelled his own desire in turn.
Kanan moved his hands to the much safer territory of her back, but that just drew his attention back to what Hera was doing with her hands. Kriff, he was in so much trouble.
Hera couldn't help herself. She just had to keep touching him. Even as the shivers calmed down in her lekku, the rest of her body was still on fire. At least it felt like it. She had her hands under his shirt and she wasn't about to stop with the caresses she was lavishing all over his perfect, muscular chest. Nor was she going to stop sliding against the mind numbingly amazing hardness she was sitting on. Her sensitive fingers found the little nubs on his chest and stroked across them, eliciting another rewarding moan from Kanan. She rubbed her cheek on his silky hair, and closed her eyes in delight as he turned his head and started kissing and sucking on her neck.
Kanan gave up the fight to keep things decently under control.
They'd never gone all the way, neither of them wanting to suffer the wrath of her father if he found out, and getting a contraceptive shot for Hera would definitely be impossible to do in secret with the way supplies were so carefully kept track of. The most they'd done so far was a lot of making out and petting above the waist.
Now, though, Kanan just flat out gave up on his self imposed rules. He undid her coveralls and slid his hands under her clothes to feel the incredible satin skin of her perfect butt as he cupped it and pressed her even closer to his rock hard length.
Hera gasped and pulled her hands out from under his shirt, grabbing the bottom and pulling it up and over his head with a swift jerk, displacing his hands temporarily, but they instantly went back to her butt and rocked her core right against him again, sending another jolt of pure desire through her. Hera pulled her own shirt off out from her under her coveralls and undid the breast band. Then she buried her hands in Kanan's long hair and held on for the ride as sensations shot through her. The barrier of their clothes did nothing to stop her from feeling every thrust of his length against her, hitting her in just the right spot with each movement.
Kanan had been lost in the sensations ripping through him; the exquisite pleasure of pressing himself SO close to her core was just more than he could fathom right now. But then he opened his eyes and saw her perfect, BARE, round, perky, dark green tipped breasts staring right at him, and he damn near exploded then and there. He leaned forward and latched his mouth to one with a groan that sort of sounded like 'Hera' if you used your imagination.
Both Hera and Kanan stilled at the new naughty thing they were doing. Kanan's mouth froze on her breast and he looked up at Hera, a question in his eyes, since he hadn't exactly asked permission first before attacking her.
Hera smiled softly and ran a soothing hand through his hair, pressing his face a fraction closer. "It's good, love. Really, really good," she reassured in a breathy whisper. "More."
Kanan smiled and licked her nipple and then enveloped it again, their hips picking up right where they'd left off on a sensual journey to an epic mutual orgasm; their first one together.
Hera's eyes were closed as she held Kanan's head to her chest as he worshipped her breasts. "Love you. Love you. Love you," escaped her lips in an endless litany with every lick and suck of his mouth.
They rocked and ground, but it just wasn't quite enough. Out of sheer instinct, Kanan tumbled them to the floor between the seats, putting his hands down to absorb the impact while Hera clung to him with a small scream of surprise at their sudden descent.
Kanan's hands stayed planted on the floor by Hera's head. His mouth found hers in a frantic kiss. And his hips found a proper thrusting rhythm that finally felt like it was going somewhere.
Hera felt the coming explosion build and build and build and BUILD. Her lekku wrapped around Kanan's wrists with the tension filling her. Her stomach and thighs tightened. And her core throbbed and wept, soaking though her clothes and his. One more thrust from Kanan's hips just THERE and she took flight. Her head tipped back as she cried his name in ecstasy, ripping her mouth away from Kanan's.
Kanan buried his face in her shoulder again, thrusting against her like a wild thing. So close. So close. So close. He could feel Hera's climax through the Force and it built in him like a tidal wave, sending him over the edge into his own jaw clenching, spine breaking orgasm, sending shots of creamy fluid into his undershorts. Kriff. Kriff. Kriff. That was good.
Kanan shook over Hera's body for a few seconds while his brain rebooted. He kissed her neck in adoration and then rolled them over so he didn't crush her before he completely collapsed.
With a happy moan, Hera found Kanan's lips again and nibbled sweet kisses along their kiss swollen length until he took over and turned it into a proper kiss. Then his head fell back to the floor with a groan and a smile. "I think you've killed me, Hera."
Hera rubbed her breasts against his chest just a little bit on purpose as she settled into a comfortable spot and smiled to herself as pleasant aftershocks kept her body on a low hum. "You're welcome, love."
Kanan hummphed good naturedly and closed his eyes, savouring the moment.
Which turned into more than several minutes as they both drifted off into a light doze. When he opened his eyes again Kanan groaned from his sprawl on the floor between the seats, with Hera draped over his body. The floor was kriffing hard, but it had been worth every minute of it. Hera hummed contentedly and rubbed her face against his shoulder like a tooka. He smiled and petted a lek gently to get her attention. She opened her eyes and propped her chin on his chest, raising a brow in question. "So what are you going to call your new ship?" he asked.
Hera blinked. "Seriously? That's what you come up with after everything we just did?"
Kanan half shrugged. "Yah. What's wrong with the question? I've been wondering what you'd call it for the last day and a half or so."
Hera rolled her eyes at her clueless fiancé. Males really were the less intelligent gender. She thought about getting up and storming off, but decided it wasn't worth the effort. Kanan had literally loved her to almost death. At least he had that part right. With a sigh, she readjusted her arms and hugged him. "Kanan, you're lacking a few brain cells if you think that question was appropriate at the end of a romantic moment, but I love you anyway."
Kanan thunked his head into the floor a couple times, finally getting where she was coming from. "I'm sorry, darling. I'll make it up to you later. When I can move again." He raised his head again and rubbed her silky soft bare back. "I love you, Hera, with my missing brain cells and all."
Hera smiled and closed her eyes again. "That's more like it." Hera drifted for a while, her mind now preoccupied with the original question. What was she going to call her new ship? The ship had many unique features, for a freighter, but one thing stood out more than the rest. It had a sensor scrambler, allowing it to fool with the sensors of other ships, making the ship invisible to them. "The Ghost," she said randomly, making Kanan open his eyes and startle a little, since he'd drifted off again at her silence.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"I'm calling our new ship the Ghost," Hera said again.
Kanan smiled and closed his eyes again. "I like it. The Ghost it is."
Hera pressed a kiss to Kanan's chest then pushed herself up off his body. "Come on, love," she said as she gathered up their shirts that were scattered on opposite sides of the bridge. "I have something to show you, and I really really want to take my new ship for a test flight. And," she added as she glanced down at the glaringly wet spot on the front of Kanan's pants and her own, "We might want to run a few things through the washer before we go anywhere near my father again." Hera knew that even if their clothes dried on their own before then, her father would still be able to smell what they'd done. She'd never be able to live with how embarrassing that would be.
Kanan sat up and groaned as he observed just how messed up his pants were. He was so distracted, he didn't even see his shirt come sailing at him until it smacked him in the face, but he managed to grab it before it fell to the floor. He couldn't help but smile at the sight of Hera bent over as she undid her boots so she could pull off her coveralls. Now there was an image he wouldn't mind looking at for the rest of his life. He'd seen her in just her underwear before when they'd gone swimming together, but now he was apparently getting the whole show while the coveralls and underwear came off and the breast band and shirt went on. Her shirt was just long enough to cover everything important, but he'd sure gotten an eyeful of her delicious rear end in the process.
"Stop ogling and get dressed and undressed." Hera said as she did some ogling of her own. Kanan was incredibly good to look at. His years of combat had him in perfect shape with beautiful lean muscles everywhere and not an ounce of fat to be found. Not that she loved him for his body, but it sure didn't hurt. She loved him because of how much he cared, not just about her, but everyone. She loved him for his bravery, his ridiculous sense of humour, his independent spirit, and the sense of tranquility that just radiated from him. And most of all, she loved him because he had never tried to cage her, in either her personality or her need to leave the ground. He understood her, one hundred percent of her. He saw her for exactly who she was and loved her for it. As he pulled his shirt over his head, Hera stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. She looked up into his loving eyes, getting lost in them for a moment. "Have I told you lately that I love you?" she said softly.
Kanan smiled at his beautiful green twi'lek as he hugged her tight to his chest. "Yes, Hera. I'm pretty sure you told me not too long ago. I lost count at some point, but I think you said it about twenty times in the last hour. I'm not sure how I'm ever going to catch up with the declarations of devotion when you keep doing that. But for the record, I love you more."
Hera blushed as she recalled exactly what had transpired to make her so talkative, but she grinned at Kanan anyway. "Not possible. I love you the most."
Kanan chuckled and pressed a kiss to her nose. "How about we call it a tie?"
Hera crinkled her nose at him and returned the gesture. "Fine. We love each other equally. Now take our stuff and go put it in the cleaner then park your fine butt in the co-pilot chair. We're going for a ride." Kanan jumped and laughed as she smacked said butt before settling herself in the pilot's chair with a satisfied smile. Hera glanced at all the controls one more time, just to familiarize herself with where everything was, and started the ship. She closed her eyes and listened to the engines for a moment, thinking that they could use a little tuning, but they would do for now.
Kanan picked up Hera's clothes and then watched her Force signature out of curiosity. As she sat there with her eyes closed, her signature changed slightly and he swore started to resonate with the ship. She might not be a Force sensitive per say, but she was certainly gifted in some fashion. Hera was born to fly, and to even think about keeping her on the ground should be considered a criminal offense. Forcing Hera to stay in the house was the one thing about Cham that he'd never agreed with. Kanan understood that Cham was just trying to protect her, but all he'd really done was imprison her. The first time Kanan had seen her fly, she'd become a different person. Her signature had lit up like a sun and she'd come alive in a way that had made him realize that she'd just been going through the motions of life until that moment. Kanan had vowed to himself then and there that she would always have something to fly, as often as she wanted and wherever she wanted. And now it looked like they might be exploring the galaxy sooner than he thought. Despite what he'd said to Hera earlier, he didn't think there was much of chance that Cham would change his mind about Hera getting to fight with the Resistance here on Ryloth. He'd tried talking to Cham about it in the past, and had been shut down quickly. After a minute of gazing at her with his heart in his eyes, watching as she literally synced herself to the ship, Kanan turned and left the bridge.
When he came back a couple minutes later, also only wearing a shirt, which thankfully also covered all the necessary dangly bits, Kanan sat in his chair, grateful it had received a thorough cleaning recently. He watched her fly for a moment before he broke the silence. "Well, Captain, where are we going?"
Hera glanced at him as her face split into a grin. "Captain." She breathed deeply once in satisfaction. "I like it." Hera touched the controls with deft fingers and the Ghost twirled through the clouds with a happy spin. "I acquired a new toy the day you left. I can't wait to show you."
Kanan raised a brow. "What kind of toy?"
Hera just smirked. "You'll see in a minute."
While Hera was flying, the commlink on Kanan's wrist chimed. "Hey, Cham," Kanan answered.
"I thought you two would be in the house by now for dinner, so I looked outside and noticed that the new ship was gone. I'm assuming you have a good reason for leaving?" Cham said rather sternly.
Hera glared at the commlink while Kanan suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. "Yes, sir. Hera wanted to try out her new ship. I promise we're not going anywhere we might get into any trouble. We'll be back in..." Hera held up one finger. "One hour. "
"Fine," Cham growled. "But we will be talking about this when you get back."
"Yes, sir." Kanan said, and turned off the comm. He focused on Hera and found her pretty much fuming in her chair, her grip on the controls turning her knuckles almost white. "Hey," he said. "It's going to be okay. I'll deal with him. Forget about your father for the next hour and just enjoy your present. Please."
Hera sucked in a breath and let it out in a sigh, forcing her limbs to relax. "Thank you, Kanan. I don't know how much more of this I can take. I don't know how you can stay so calm all the time, when we have to get permission just to go for a quick jaunt. He's driving me insane!" she said as she landed the Ghost beside a pile of large rocks.
Kanan stood and knelt beside her chair, resting a comforting hand on her bare thigh, thrilling that he could get away with such liberties. "I have a LOT of Jedi training to call on. Emotions were practically drilled out of us as soon as we were old enough to know what emotions were. If you think your father is aggravating, you should try living with a Master who knows every little emotion you have. Not saying that I didn't like my Master, I did. But ever since the day I met you, I was scolded quite frequently for letting my emotions get carried away and was lectured constantly on how Jedi don't form attachments and that I needed to forget you. I'm ashamed to say that I might have left the Order if it hadn't been wiped out, because you haunted my dreams. The Force kept sending me visions of you and of our future. I think... No. I know that the Force believes we were meant to be together and that the Order had the no attachments rule wrong. I've loved you for real for more than half a year now and I don't feel like I'm falling to the Dark side at all. If anything, I feel even closer to the Light than I ever have. Just being in your presence fills me with Light."
As Kanan spoke, Hera turned off the ship and then devoted all of her attention to his words. Words that made her chest hurt with love by the end of his speech. Hera fell off her chair and into his arms, blinking back a few tears. "Kanan. You officially win the declarations of devotion contest. I don't think I can top that."
Kanan smiled with utter contentment as they held each other, once again on the floor of the Ghost. With his face buried in her neck and hers in his, they stayed like that until his bare knees reminded him that the metal floor was still kriffing hard. Holding her tighter, he picked her up as he stood for a moment and sat in a chair with her in his lap.
Hera's chest brushed his as she sighed happily. She pressed kisses up his neck and down his jaw, stopping at his mouth for one blissful minute. Pulling back, she grinned at the dopey smile Kanan was wearing. "As much as I'd love to continue that, dear, we're not wearing anything on our bottom halves and we really can't get afford to get carried away again. Besides, I still have a surprise to show you, and we have a ticking time limit, so let's go." Hera hopped off his lap and pulled him up onto his feet.
Hera grabbed her boots and they meandered over to the refresher, knowing they still had a few minutes to kill before the cleaner would be finished with their clothes. Hera spent more time examining her new ship with a smile in her eyes and contentment radiating into the Force while Kanan followed behind like a lovesick puppy. A very happy lovesick puppy.
Too soon for Kanan, (because he was enjoying looking at Hera's bare legs), the cleaner chimed that it was done, and they put all their clothes back on. He had to suppress a sigh of disappointment as Hera's delightful curves were mostly hidden by her coveralls again, but he had some fantastic memories now, so he couldn't complain too much.
Kanan followed her off the ship and into the rocks, thinking that he would happily follow her anywhere until the end of his days. He came to a stop when he saw the somewhat beat up looking shuttle. "Umm... Do I want to know where you got that?"
Hera just grinned as she hit the button to open the back door. "I stole it from a pirate who tried to shoot the Kasmiri out of the sky. This shuttle has guns! It's been modified just like the..." Hera's eyes widened as she put two and two together. "Kanan. Where did you get the Ghost from?"
Kanan shrugged and tried to look casual as his brain whirled through all the possible things that could have happened to her when someone was shooting at her while she was flying an unarmed ship. "Pirates. The ones who were causing so many problems on the other side of the continent. And the same ones who killed Kasmir. How did you get the shuttle and what happened to its pilot?" he said as calmly as he could manage.
Hera waved a hand blithely as she started the shuttle. "I just smacked it out of the sky and I left the smelly pirate to walk back to civilization whenever he woke up. Chopper recorded it so you could see." Hera was oblivious to Kanan's gaping, wide eyed look as she flew the shuttle over to the Ghost. Eyeballing the spot on the top of the Ghost that had a second hatch that had seemed to lead to nowhere useful, she grinned to herself for figuring it out. She backed the shuttle into the spot that was custom made for it on top of the Ghost, so that the guns were pointing out. It fit perfectly. Hera patted the consol of the shuttle. "I think I'll call you the Phantom. With a little more TLC I'll have you looking and running just as well as the day you were made. Better even." Hera looked over at Kanan, pleased with her new ships, expecting him to be just as happy. She raised a questioning brow at his still gasping for air like a landed fish look. "What?"
Kanan finally got his brain to work and closed his mouth. "You... You smacked... You know what? I don't think I even want to know how you accomplished that." He took in a few deep breaths and centered himself again. "You constantly amaze me, darling. In a good way, I promise."
Hera grinned and kissed Kanan's cheek on the way to the back of the shuttle. "Come on, dear. We have to get back before father has a fit. Oh, and the pirate I left in the dirt said that you had something his Captain wanted back desperately. Do you know what that is?"
Kanan's eyes widened in surprise as he followed Hera down the ladder and back into the common room of the Ghost. "No, I don't. I have a bag of loot that Kasmir won the day he was shot, but I've never been inspired enough to actually look at it. We'll have to do that later."
Hera grinned over her shoulder at him. "That sounds like it could be fun. Maybe it's a map to buried treasure."
Kanan laughed as he sat in the co-pilot chair again. "I doubt it. But I like the wishful thinking."
Cham was anxiously waiting at the window for the teenagers to return. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the new ship land safely in front of the hangar. His relief quickly turned to anger as he saw the beat up shuttle on the top of the ship, glaringly obvious against the new paint of the bigger ship. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Hera must have acquired the shuttle while he was gone and had picked it up just now from wherever she had stashed it. Cham stormed out of the house and down the hill to where the new ship rested, meeting the teenagers as they walked off the ramp, holding hands and looking ridiculously happy with themselves. The sight of his daughter looking so content gave Cham a moment's pause, but it wasn't enough to calm him down. "Hera Syndulla, you know you're not supposed to leave without permission, and where did you get that shuttle!?"
Hera came to an abrupt stop and set her shoulders and jaw. "Father. We need to talk. I refuse to be treated like a little girl anymore. I am not the small child you could once order around. I am a grown woman, and I'm going to be making my own decisions from now on."
Cham growled deep in his chest. "You are still my little girl, and it's obvious that you have been disobeying my orders for who knows how long. This will not be tolerated!" Cham stepped forward to grab her wrist and drag her back to the house, where he intended to make her stay, by locking her in her room if he had to, but he only moved one foot before he felt an invisible wall slam into him. Cham changed his focus to Kanan, who was holding his hand towards him and had a very cold look in his eyes. Cham tried to push forward through the wall, but found himself frozen to the spot.
Kanan stared at Cham as he held him still. "You need to listen to me now, Cham Syndulla. Hera is MY fiancé. YOU said so yourself. That means that I, not you, am the one who says what she can and can't do. And I say that Hera can do whatever makes her happy. Locking her in her room as you were just thinking about doing is not going to happen."
Hera gasped and glared at her father even more.
Cham stared at the boy, no, young man, in shock. "How did you know that's what I intended? I didn't know the Jedi were mind readers."
"I'm not. Some of the older Masters may have had the skill, but that's not what this is about. You were screaming your intentions into the Force, and the Force let me see them. I will not allow anyone to hurt Hera in any way, not even her father. And so far, the only thing you've done to your daughter for the last two years is hurt her by trapping her in your house. I know you think it was for her own good, but I don't understand how you couldn't see that you were slowly killing her spirit." Cham opened his mouth to speak, but Kanan cut him off. "I'm not done. Hera wants to fight the war against the Empire too, and since you are so set on her not doing so on this planet, we are going to leave and fight them elsewhere."
Cham slumped in agonized defeat. Instead of protecting his daughter, he'd actually managed to push her away, and he'd lost the respect of the Jedi boy. He could feel it. As all the fight went out of him, he was released from the invisible hold. Cham turned his eyes back to his daughter. "I am sorry, Hera. I did not realize that your freedom meant so much to you. Your mother would be so disappointed in me for not seeing how truly unhappy you were. I was just trying to keep you safe. The Empire and other scavengers have stolen more than a quarter of the girls from this planet already. I couldn't stand to lose you as well. And now I have anyway. At least I will be comforted in the knowledge that you have a good man at your side."
Hera stepped forward, closer to her father. "I understand your reasons, Father. And despite everything, I still love you, and you will always be my father. But I need to be free. Kanan has always understood that, and you never have. I'm packing my things and we will be leaving in the morning. I am sorry it has come to this. This is not how I thought our lives would end up. If you ever truly need anything, you can always call me and I will come back. But not to stay. Never again will I live on this planet. There is nothing here for me anymore."
Cham felt like his whole world had just been torn out from under his feet. Again. For the third time in the last ten years, he had lost another person that he loved. And every single time, he could blame a war of some sort. An illness not native to their planet had taken his young son, brought by invaders. The war with the Separatists had taken his mate. And now the war with the Empire had taken his daughter away, all because he loved her too much. Cham's eyes filled with tears as he looked at his beloved daughter's determined face. "Will you do one thing for me before you leave?" Hera nodded, a question in her glistening eyes. "I know it's a year early, but will you marry him before you go? It would make it easier to bear, and I would rest easier knowing that you will always have a Jedi protecting you."
Hera sobbed and flung herself in her father's arms. "Father!"
Cham wrapped his arms around his daughter and looked over her head at a rather stunned looking Kanan. "I hope that is all right with you, son?"
A slow grin split Kanan's face. "That's more than all right with me, sir. I would have married her last year if I could have. I've known for a long time that Hera was my destiny."
Cham smiled sadly and opened an arm. Kanan walked forward and joined the family hug. He wasn't perfect, but Cham was the closest thing to a father that Kanan had ever had.
The last three days had been a whirlwind of activity. Cham had thrown his entire focus into planning the best hasty wedding possible for his daughter. As he looked over the guests, consisting of other planetary leaders and some of his Resistance fighters, making conversation in the front courtyard as they ate the provided feast, Cham was saddened to realize that not a single one of them were friends of either Hera or Kanan. Whatever friends Hera had when she was younger had drifted away as Hera had focused her effort on Cham's war with the Empire, and she certainly hadn't had the opportunity to make new ones secluded in the house. Kanan didn't have any real friends either. As far as he knew, all of his fellow Jedi were dead or in hiding, and he hadn't exactly made any new ones afterwards except for his boss, who was also deceased. Kanan was friendly with the other Resistance fighters, but he'd never spent any time with them other than to run missions. He'd devoted every spare second to Hera instead. Cham sighed at the sorry state of the young couple's lives. At least they had each other.
Cham looked at the happy couple, who were entirely focused on each other as they ate and talked quietly. Hera looked radiant in her mother's ivory wedding gown, perfectly complimenting the markings and ribbons on her lekku. They'd had to find a seamstress to lengthen it a good six inches, but it fit perfectly everywhere else. Kanan had run off to the city for a day to get a suit and custom rings made. Both of which had been delivered just this morning. Hera had lit up like the sun when she first spotted Kanan in his dark green suit with a few highlights in a light green that matched her skin perfectly. She actually cried tears when she saw the wedding rings that had the same patterns as her lekku engraved on them. Cham had to give the boy credit for doing everything right. Hera had made a fine choice in a mate, even if he wasn't a twi'lek.
Cham had married them himself, as was traditional, having a hard time keeping himself together as they repeated their vows. His little girl was officially all grown up now, and there was nothing he could do to turn back time. Cham desperately wished he had that power. There was so much he would do differently. At least Hera and Kanan weren't leaving with bitter feelings. And she did promise to come back and visit every once in a while. He would just have to be content with that. And in the meantime, he still had a war to win. That would keep him busy for as long as he needed it to.
Gobi gave him a nudge, startling Cham out of his thoughts. "You know, Cham. I never did ask you where you found that boy."
Cham turned to his best friend, and made an attempt at a smile. "I didn't. He found us. The Force brought him. And now he's taking my daughter away." Cham sighed sadly.
Gobi sighed too. "I'll miss her. We all will. But it's for the best. She was wilting being stuck in the house. I haven't seen her this happy since before Cali di..." He stopped his sentence abruptly when he saw Cham's lekku sag even further. "Sorry. I didn't mean to remind you."
"No, it's okay, Gobi. You're right, though. That boy is the best thing that ever could have happened for my daughter."
Kanan carried Hera onto the Ghost to the sound of loud cheers. They grinned and blushed at each other as Hera reached over and hit the button to close the ramp and shut out the noise. Kanan stopped at the top of the ramp and lowered his forehead to Hera's. "Welcome to our new home, Hera Jarrus."
Hera smiled into his eyes and grasped his neck just a little tighter. "Nope. Not Jarrus. Sorry, love."
Kanan pulled his head back. "What?"
Hera shook her head ruefully. "There's only two Syndullas left. According to tradition, females only take the male's family name if there are at least three other male Syndullas to keep the name going. And since my father is the last male Syndulla, that means that I have to stay Hera Syndulla, and our male offspring have to be named Syndulla as well. If you like, any girls we have could be called Jarrus."
Kanan sighed and kissed her forehead. "That's alright, Hera. We might as well name all of our children Syndulla. Jarrus isn't even my real name anyway. I just made it up to honour Kasmir."
"Thank you for understanding, Kanan." Hera hugged him a little tighter and rested her head on his shoulder while he walked a few steps across the hold, waiting for him to realize what they had actually just talked about. She grinned to herself when he came to an abrupt stop and stared at her. "Wait a minute. Are we having kids? Like, now?"
Hera shook her head reassuringly. "No, dear. Not now. Yeesh, we're still teenagers ourselves. But someday, I'd like to have a child or two if we can."
Kanan sighed in relief and smiled at her as he continued across the hold. "That sounds perfect to me." He stopped at the ladder and looked down at her with a raised brow. "I'm guessing you're going to want to climb up this on your own. I could carry you, but it would have to be over my shoulder like a caveman."
Hera laughed and shook her head. "I think we're slightly more civilized than that." She pulled Kanan's head down to hers and kissed him thoroughly before wriggling to be let down.
Kanan grinned as she climbed the ladder and he got a first class view of her legs as he followed behind. Hera needed to wear dresses more often just for this moment.
As if she could read his thoughts, Hera giggled. "Enjoy it while you can, love. Dresses are not my thing. I feel naked in this, despite the acres of material."
"Whatever you want is fine with me, darling." Kanan said as they sat in their chairs. "You look beautiful in everything you wear. And stripping you of your clothes is just as much fun if it's a flight suit or a dress."
Hera rolled her eyes as she flew the Ghost up into the atmosphere. "Men," she mumbled under her breath. As she reached space, she realized this was the first time in her life she was actually leaving her planet. She'd never been in hyperspace before. And she didn't know where they were going. Hera let the Ghost drift in space for the moment. "Umm, Kanan?"
"Where are we going?"
"How does a quiet little planet in the middle of nowhere sound? It has great food, lots of open spaces, few people, no Empire yet, and the cutest wild tookas you've ever seen."
Hera smiled. "Sounds good to me."
Kanan grinned and turned to enter the coordinates in the nav computer. "Alright, darling. Punch it."
Hera did. Pushing the Ghost into lightspeed, she gasped and her eyes went wide with wonder as the blue and white light of hyperspace filled her view. "This is AMAZING!"
Kanan chuckled and went to pick her up. He sat in the chair with Hera in his lap as she gawked in awe for at least ten minutes.
Hera eventually remembered she had something else worth looking at. She turned her eyes back to Kanan's as he smiled at her indulgently. To him, she was way more fascinating than hyperspace. Hera returned his look of love. She leaned forward and whispered against his lips. "I think I'm ready for some of the aforementioned stripping now."
Kanan's eyes lit up and he kissed her quickly before standing with her in his arms. Kanan was grateful the bridge door was set to automatic and waved a hand at the door to the first cabin on the left, too lost in her eyes to bother looking for the button. It was honeymoon time, and Kanan planned to keep Hera chanting 'I love you's' for the whole trip to Lothal.
Thirty seconds after lying Hera down on a bunk and snuggling in beside her, pressing kisses along her jaw and well on his way to her lekku, Hera pulled back from Kanan's arms and looked at him with panicked eyes. "Kanan! We forgot Chopper!"
Kanan groaned and buried his face in the pillow as Hera ran out of the room. He'd never tell her this, but he'd kind of forgotten Chopper on purpose.
Chapter 4: The Astromech
D313/22 BBY, Venator Class Star Destroyer, the 'Resolute'
C1-10P had been forgotten by the organics long ago.
He spent his time these days buried deep in the depths of a Republic cruiser, fixing things that broke at random when the fancy struck him. (It usually didn't.) C1-10P was content in his isolation away from organics, as he'd never really liked them anyway. He hadn't done his real job as an assistant in a fighter for over ten standard years, not since the new R2 astromech models had come on the market.
Being sidelined had hurt at first, but he had eventually convinced himself that he didn't care and that flying wasn't all that great anyway. After so many years, he actually believed it.
C1-10P was startled out of sleep mode when a protocol droid knocked on his dome.
"What the kriff do you want?" he beeped in his most disagreeable tone.
The tall grey protocol droid rose up to his full height and glared down. "You don't have to be so rude. I'm just trying to tell you that the organics are looking for any available astromechs to report to the flight deck. Our forces have sustained significant losses and are cobbling together a new squadron."
C1-10P turned his photo receptors away from the other droid. "They won't want me. They haven't wanted me for years."
AP-5 actually felt a drop of sympathy for the grumpy little orange and white astromech. "Well, you should go anyway. We are rather desperate."
C1-10P stubbornly kept his dome turned away until the other droid left with a sad sounding sigh.
After waiting a few more minutes, he crept away from his corner, crossing the storage room full of spare parts and peered out into the corridor. Seeing no one, he picked up his pace a little.
Before he knew it, C1-10P was zooming down hallways and riding lifts upwards until he finally made it to the flight deck.
He came to a sudden stop at the edge of the organized chaos and watched in indecision as strangely identical looking organics worked on damaged looking Y-Wings and prepped newer looking ones for flight.
He might have lost his nerve then and there and returned to his corner to sulk if a very young togrutan female hadn't walked up beside him and exclaimed happily to see him.
Ahsoka Tano bent over the old droid and ran her hands over his dome appreciatively. "Look at you! One of the original astromechs! I didn't know any of you were still around! Oh, my Master would love to see you, but there isn't time. Maybe when you get back." She stood back up as the little droid seemed to stare at her in stupefaction. "Come on. I'll take you to meet your pilot."
C1-10P was in such shock that someone actually thought he was worth something that he forgot how to move.
Ahsoka stopped and looked back when she sensed that the droid hadn't followed her. She raised a brow marking at him. "Are you coming or not? Don't you want to fly?" Her tone was incredulous at the almost blasphemous idea.
As the thought, 'yes I do,' popped into C1-10P's mind, he found himself already rushing forward to the togrutan's side.
Ahsoka smiled down at the droid and patted his dome. "That's what I thought." She continued walking across the vast space and glanced down at the droid now sticking like glue to her side. "What's your name anyway? I'm Ahsoka."
"C1-10P," he beeped.
Ahsoka shook her head and laughed. "No, silly. Not your designation number. Your NAME."
"I don't have a name," C1-10P said. "No one ever gave me one."
"Well that just won't do. We'll have to think up something," Ahsoka said as she arrived at her destination beside a beat up looking yellow and white painted Y-Wing that had definitely lived through a battle or ten.
"What won't do?" one of the many identical looking organics said as he stuck his head over the side from inside the cockpit.
Ahsoka smiled up at him. "Hey, Broadside. I've brought you a new astromech. He hasn't been given a proper name yet."
Broadside jumped down from his fighter and landed lightly beside the little old droid. "You're right, Commander, that won't do." As a clone, Broadside knew exactly what it felt like to just be a number until the right name was gifted or stumbled upon. He knelt down by the little droid. "Hey, buddy. You're not exactly new, but I bet that just makes you better at your job. And don't worry, we'll find a name for you sooner or later. What's your designation?"
"C1-10P," he answered again, feeling slightly overwhelmed at having a second organic in a row actually be nice to him. Was it possible for a droid to have dreams?
Broadside grinned. "That almost sounds like a clone designation. You'll fit right in with us boys, 10P." He glanced up at his Y-Wing. "You wanna help my run some diagnostics on my old rust bucket here? It was acting up a bit during that last skirmish and then I lost my astromech to an unlucky shot from the Seppies. I still don't know what's wrong with it and we're moving out again in twenty minutes."
C1-10P nodded eagerly and immediately flew up into the slot designed just for astromechs.
Broadside and Ahsoka grinned at each other. "Now that's a good droid," Broadside commented before jumping back up into the cockpit, not hindered at all by his armour.
"May the Force be with you, Broadside," Ahsoka called before she left. "I have a good feeling about this droid."
Broadside quirked a brow at the retreating form of the tiny Commander. "I sure hope so," he said to himself. After the last disastrous battle in Ryloth skies, where he'd lost seventeen brothers, they needed any good feelings the Jedi padawan could muster.
Forty-five minutes later, Broadside was fighting to stay conscious amidst the smoke in the cockpit. He was pretty sure that his gunner, Quench, had been hit or electrocuted by whatever was causing the smoke in the cockpit, because he wasn't answering his comm. The filters in Broadside's bucket had helped keep him alive for the last ten minutes while he doggedly flew on and the astromech took over the shooting, but even filters couldn't keep up with this much smoke.
"10P," he coughed out over the comm. "You gotta land us somewhere. I can't see where we're going anymore."
C1-10P beeped out an affirmative and took over flying the Y-Wing. He didn't bother to tell the organic that they were in the midst of heavy enemy fire and were pretty much surrounded. He simply did his best to find the safest possible route out of the mess and shot at anything that got in his way.
It worked. For a minute. And then an enemy fighter scored a lucky shot and took out the last working engine.
C1-10P let out a string of binary curses as the Y-Wing stopped flying and started falling. He did his best to guide it to an acceptable landing (okay, crashing) area, but all he managed in the end was to not land on top of someone's house.
"Hang on and pull up!" he beeped over the comm to the organic inside the cockpit, hoping he was still conscious enough to hear it.
Out of sheer determination, C1-10P and Broadside managed to get the fighter to crash on its belly, but they couldn't stop its momentum as it crashed into a wall of rocks at the base of a large hill.
Broadside was knocked unconscious as the nose of the fighter crumpled in, but his armour and safety straps kept him from being seriously injured. The crash caused enough of a crack in the cockpit that the smoke escaped too.
C1-10P, on the other hand, didn't have such a lucky landing. When the fighter hit and came to an abrupt stop, he did not. With a binary scream, he went flying into the rocks. His systems stuttered and then shut down.
When a medivac transport came for Broadside and Quench, they didn't see the crumpled form of the astromech in the rocks a few meters away, as Kix and his team of medics were too concerned over the health of their fellow brothers to see anything else.
A few hours later, after the battle in the skies was over, a light green twi'lek girl, who'd watched the whole thing with avid interest, came running down the hill, eager to check out the ship that had crashed so close to her home.
She climbed all over the ruined fighter eagerly, her bright mind already figuring out how things worked and wondering if she could fix it.
Hera was just about to leave, before she got in trouble for sneaking out of the house, when a glimpse of orange caught her eye. Curious, she clambered over the rocks and gasped when she saw the broken astromech droid. "Oh, you poor thing."
She crouched beside him, and with some determined tugging, got him up on his struts. "Hello? Droid? Are you alive?" Hera shook him a little, not knowing enough about astromechs to do anything more productive. Yet. Hera was determined to change that as soon as possible.
C1-10P's systems jolted back into wakefulness and he spun his dome around wildly, temporarily confused about where he was. He spotted the crashed Y-Wing and flinched. Maybe he'd been right to think that that flying wasn't all that great. His dark quiet corner was looking really inviting right now.
"Hey! You're awake!"
C1-10P swivelled his dome again and focused on the twi'lek girl. "Who are you?" he beeped.
Hera smiled at the droid. "I'm Hera. Who are you?"
"C1-10P," he beeped for the third time that cycle.
Hera smiled wider. "We'll have to work on that. You need a proper name."
C1-10P was starting to think that might actually be true, since this was the third organic to say so.
Hera stood up. "Can you move? Can you make it up to my house there?" she said with a gesture up the hill.
C1-10P ran a quick systems check and found the motors for his struts were not operational, but his rocket boosters were still functioning. "I can fly," he beeped.
Hera grinned and started for her house. "I wish I could fly. You're so lucky."
C1-10P wasn't so sure about that, but he flew beside the girl anyway. She led him to a large garage / workshop type space and he landed. "Now what?" he beeped.
Hera patted his scorched and dented dome. "You stay here for now. I'm going to do a crash course on how to fix an astromech on the holonet and then I'll be back, okay?"
C1-10P was incredulous that an organic would go to so much trouble to help him. All he could do was respond with a tentative, "Okay?" in return. He watched the girl practically skip out of the workshop and wondered if he was still dreaming.
Some four hours later, the light green twi'lek girl was back, and she wasn't alone. Accompanying her was a very large orange twi'lek male and a green twi'lek female who shared many facial features with the young one. C1-10P immediately came to the correct conclusion that these were her parental units.
"I'm back!" the girl called in a statement of the obvious.
The male crossed his arms over his broad chest and hummphed as he looked C1-10P over. "You should just throw it out. It's too old and too broken to bother fixing."
C1-10P wasn't surprised or even much bothered by the male meatbag's opinion. It wasn't the first time he'd been called useless by a long shot and he refused to let it bother him anymore.
Hera looked at her father with hurt in her eyes, a few tears making them glisten. "But Father, I thought of a name for him and everything. I'm going to call him Chopper cause if you read his designation number, it almost looks like C H O P."
C1-10P was surprised to hear that he'd been given a name, but the more he thought about it, the more he liked it. Most droids didn't get real names. A good owner who treated them well was all any droid ever hoped for. An abbreviation of one's designated number was usually as close to a name as a droid was going to get from even the best owner. To have a name that actually meant something made C1-10P, no... Chopper, instantly adore the young girl and vow to stay with her forever.
The female twi'lek put a hand on the meatbag's arm. "Let her keep him, Cham. She's been so lonely ever since..." she stopped herself and glanced at the young one. "Just... let her keep the droid. It can't hurt anything."
The one Chopper dubbed Cham the Meatbag's orange eyes softened as he looked at his mate. "All right, Cali." He then looked at the hopeful eyes of his daughter and put a tender hand on the girl's head. "You can keep the broken droid. But he's your responsibility."
Hera beamed and hugged her father's waist. "Thank you, Father. You won't regret it, I promise. I'll program him to help around the house and everything."
Cham chuckled and hugged her back before shaking his head ruefully. "Just don't stay up too late working on him. And I expect you to be inside in time for dinner."
Hera stepped back and grinned cheekily. "Yes, Father." She turned and started rummaging through a box, then held up the tool she was looking for triumphantly and walked over to Chopper. "Let's see what we can do to get you rolling again, Chopper."
Chopper watched the girl as she started to take apart his strut and then glanced over at the parental units who were watched their daughter fondly for a few minutes before leaving with their hands interlocked. What a strange organic custom.
Later that night, after Hera had gone to sleep, Chopper stood guard in her room, having decided all on his own that his purpose in life was to protect this organic. While he studied the objects in her room, trying to figure out her likes and dislikes, he received a comm call from the Resolute.
Not wanting to wake her up, Chopper left the room before answering the summons.
"10P?" a familiar male organic voice said. "Are you okay?"
"I am better now," Chopper beeped back. "I met a small organic who fixed me."
"That's good to hear," Broadside said with clear relief in his tone. "As soon as I get out of this med bed, I'll come and get you."
Chopper beeped a quick negative. "No. I don't want to leave. I like my young organic. She gave me a name; Chopper."
"Oh," Broadside said in disappointment. "I understand. I was going to ask you to be my permanent astromech, but I wouldn't want to take you away from what sounds like the start of family. And for what it's worth, I like the name. Chopper is a good choice. I have a brother called Chopper. Haven't seen him for a year or so, but if I ever do again, I'll tell him that another Chopper saved my life. I'm sure he'll get a kick out of it."
Chopper made an ambiguous noise, not really sure how to respond to that.
Broadside sighed. "If you ever change your mind, you know where to find me."
"Thank you," Chopper beeped. "I will do so, but the odds are very slim."
The clone laughed. "Now you sound like AP-5"
Not even two cycles later, after they'd both left to battle the Seppies that morning, the large orange organic came home carrying his mate in his arms and had clear fluid leaking out of his eyes.
Hera and Chopper saw him walk in the front door like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, stooping them over his mate, from a side hallway. Chopper was unable to detect any life signs in the female. He beeped sadly and looked at Hera to see how she was taking it.
Not well. Not well at all. Her lower lip quivered and liquid was pooling in her eyes as some fell down her cheeks, but she didn't make a sound, not wanting to draw attention to herself. But that didn't last. A strangled sob escaped and Cham's head whipped over to see them.
"Hera," he said in a hoarse whisper.
Hera choked back another sob then turned and ran to her room with Chopper following behind. As the door closed behind them, she fell to the floor on her knees and started crying for real.
Beeping softly in sympathy, Chopper got as close as he could and tried not to startle when she threw her arms around him and sobbed on his dome. Tentatively, he put a manipulator on her slender back and just waited for his young organic to feel better, not sure what else to do.
It turns out just being there was enough.
That was the moment that cemented their relationship forever.
Chopper dutifully recorded the whole wedding like a good droid should. (Although he might have complained about it a little.) Chopper still wasn't convinced that the male meatbag that Hera loved so much was worth her time, but he had toned down the zapping and the grumbling just enough so that Hera would stop lecturing him every day about it. Chopper gave a binary sigh as the meatbag picked up his organic and carried her up the ramp into the new ship Hera had named the Ghost. As they disappeared from view, Chopper stopped recording.
Finally. That was an incredibly boring process. Hera better appreciate what he did for her.
When the ramp started to close, Chopper rolled forward as fast as he could, but he was too far away. The ramp slammed shut with a bang and Chopper was left on the wrong side of the door. He banged his manipulators against the hull a few times and beeped frantically, but the ramp never opened again. He tried sending a comm signal to Hera, but she either wasn't carrying her comm (of course she wasn't, not in a wedding dress) or she was ignoring him. The later thought made Chopper very sad.
Hera had been his organic for years. She wouldn't just abandon him here with the parental unit who was indifferent to a droid's feelings, would she? Hera's parental unit still called him by his original name of C1-10P, instead of the one Hera had given him. Chopper loved his name. It made him feel unique in a world of droids who were all called by letters and numbers.
As the engines started, Chopper really began to panic. He rolled back and forth in front of the ship, ignoring the laughter from the meatbag guests, trying to get Hera's attention. But her eyes were already on the sky, where they always went. His organic sure did love to fly. He had been built as an astromech for a fighter, but ever since his crash, Chopper had only just tolerated the process of flying in a ship. But for his organic, he made an exception, and pretended to enjoy her flying. He did admit that she was exceptionally skilled, for an organic. Having flown with many pilots, she was easily the best. Chopper liked to think it was because he was the one who taught her many of her flight skills, since her parental unit hadn't been all that keen on the idea.
The meatbags in the crowd started taking bets on how long it would take Hera to realize she left her droid behind. The speculation ranged from two hours to two days, based on the fact that she was technically on her honeymoon now. Chopper faced the crowd and beeped very confidently that she would be back in just over half an hour. That only got him more laughs, but he beeped, "You'll see," and turned away from them.
Based on everything he knew about his organic, he gave her two minutes to get to open space. Ten minutes to gawk at the novelty of hyperspace. Three minutes to exchange kisses with her meatbag husband before remembering her faithful droid. One minute to turn the Ghost around. Thirteen minutes to make the return trip, and another two minutes from space to the ground; a total trip of thirty-one minutes.
Chopper waited patiently while the meatbags around him continued to consume food and alcohol, while still making bets with real credits on Hera's return. A few even said she was never coming back for her droid. Chopper scoffed at that idea. What a waste of credits.
Hera's parental unit was the only one to listen to Chopper and bet on less than forty minutes. Who knew the large orange meatbag actually had a brain?
Precisely thirty-one minutes after leaving, the Ghost landed on the ground again to a chorus of groans from everyone who had just lost a ton of credits to Hera's parental unit. Cham Syndulla laughed and called, "Thanks C1!" as Chopper rolled up the ramp that was lowered for him.
Chopper waved a manipulator in a 'don't mention it' motion.
The ramp closed behind him and Chopper flew up to the bridge area. Chopper thanked his maker for giving him his own thrusters, because Hera's new ship was not droid friendly. Chopper started to give Hera a stern scolding for forgetting him, but she immediately hugged him and said many sorries. She also promised to give him an oil bath.
Maybe getting left behind for a short period of time wasn't so bad after all.
Chopper turned to the male meatbag called Kanan, who was also hovering over him, with an expression that could only be called resigned. Chopper zapped him in the leg, just because he was sure it was the meatbag's fault that he was left behind in the first place. He was too much of a distraction for Hera to be able to concentrate properly. Kanan cursed and jumped, while glaring at Chopper over Hera's head. Chopper laughed to himself. Tormenting Kanan was the best part of his life right now.
With a final pat to his dome, Hera went back to her chair and flew the Ghost back up into space before quickly throwing the ship back into hyperspace. Chopper supposed the nav computer was already set from the last time they did this. Hera stood and grabbed Kanan's hand. She looked at Chopper. "Watch the ship for me, Chop?"
Chopper beeped an affirmative and watched sadly as Hera dragged a smirking Kanan out of the bridge. Chopper gave the binary equivalent of a sigh. From experience, he knew that Hera would be otherwise occupied with Kanan and their somewhat revolting mating process for the next few hours as he'd seen them exchanging saliva for incredibly long amounts of time before.
Chopper tried to make himself scarce whenever that happened.
He set about better acquainting himself with his new home, starting with the other computers on the ship. Most of them were friendly enough, but the nav computer was cranky. Chopper tried to reason with it, but that only sparked a feud that would last for years. He never told Hera that she had a persnickety nav computer. Chopper just dealt with it whenever he had to. Fortunately, whenever one of the organics entered coordinates into the nav computer, it always cooperated with them. It was just Chopper it didn't like. Stupid computer. The rest of the systems on the ship, he started programming to listen to him or one of Hera's organics only, just in case another droid tried to usurp his position as Hera's droid, or a stranger tried to steal the ship.
Eventually Hera and Kanan emerged from their cabin wearing their normal clothes and rather blissed out expressions on their faces. At least they enjoyed their mating rituals. Chopper was glad he didn't have to engage in fleshy acts. It just seemed so undignified, unsanitary and unnecessary. (Unless one was trying to reproduce, which he knew his organic was not.) But even if she was, there were much more clinical ways of accomplishing that as well.
Chopper was resigned to the fact that even his organic had flaws. Her love and devotion to the male meatbag was definitely on the top of the list. But he would stay loyal to her regardless of her physical activities. Hera had saved him from a scrap heap after all. He would stay with Hera until his circuits refused to work anymore, no matter how many additional organics she added to their family unit. Didn't mean he had to like them, but he wasn't leaving Hera for anything.
Chapter 5: The Honeymoon
A/N: There is now an expanded lemon scene available for this chapter. (An additional 1400+ words.) See my Facebook page 'Thelonerebel's Stories' for an excerpt and info on where you can read it.
D59/17 BBY, The Ghost
Hera dragged Kanan towards the cabin they'd decided was theirs, a thrum of anticipation running through her.
It was honeymoon time and she fully intended to spend the entire trip to Lothal as close to Kanan as she could manage.
She'd finally gotten a contraceptive shot in a mortally embarrassing scene from her father that she absolutely refused to ever think about again, and she knew exactly what she wanted to do now. Hera had a lot of fantasies about her and Kanan doing naughty things together that she desperately wanted to make reality.
Kanan was flat out grinning by the time they made the short trip from the bridge to the first cabin on the left. Hera was radiating so much anticipation and desire into the Force he was practically swimming in it, and wow did it feel good. He had no idea she'd been that eager to get him alone in a room, but he wasn't complaining.
The cabin door closed behind them and Hera immediately pounced on Kanan's suit jacket, unbuttoning it and pushing it off his shoulders in record time, mumbling, "Off, off."
Kanan raised a brow and chuckled, grabbing her hands and caressing them with his thumbs before she could get his dress shirt off too. "Easy, darling. We have hours and hours. Don't you want to savour our first time together?"
Hera raised her own brow and pressed her body against his, trapping their hands between them. She pressed her lips to his jaw and kissed a path to his ear before whispering huskily into it. "No. Savour later. I want you, Kanan. And I want you now."
Well, that did it. Apparently they were savouring later. Kanan dropped her hands, cupped her face, and meshed their mouths together in a fiery kiss.
Hera smiled briefly against his mouth, then returned the kiss wholeheartedly, and got busy with the buttons holding his shirt closed. She moaned into his mouth in triumph when the shirt finally slid off his arms, then she tackled the undershirt. Ripping their mouths apart, Hera growled at it as she pulled it over his head. "Too many clothes, Kanan. Why are we wearing so many layers on a wedding day? Isn't that counterproductive?"
Kanan laughed and started undoing Hera's dress while she tackled his belt. Then their arms just got tangled and in each other's way, making them laugh and give up on undressing each other. Instead, they went after their own clothes.
Soon enough, they were standing in a scattered mess of wedding finery, just staring at each other, as this was the first time they'd seen each other completely bare before.
Kanan's brain might have short circuited at the vision before him, he wasn't sure. She was so kriffin' perfect. From her beautiful face to her adorable little toes and every curve in between, Hera was built like every boy's wet dream. She had slender shoulders and a narrow torso with two of the most amazing breasts ever made, he was sure. He now knew from experience that they were the perfect size to fit in his hands. Her waist dipped in and then flared out around her curvy hips, leading down to her shapely legs. And to make it all just that much more perfect, she was covered in satin soft skin in his favourite shade of green. It was like someone had designed her just for him.
Hera was also thinking that her mate was perfection personified. She loved his silky hair and his handsome features. She'd even come to like the goatee he sported on his chin, deciding it was cute after a month or two of getting used to it. His broad shoulders tapered down to narrow hips in a perfectly muscular chest and abs that just made her want to touch him. His legs were strong and capable looking and ended in feet that were almost twice as big as hers, but somehow looked proportionate nonetheless.
And then there was the appendage in the middle that looked like it was straining towards her. Hera kind of gawked at it for a moment or twenty. That was supposed to fit inside her? How the hell was that supposed to work? She didn't realize she said that aloud until Kanan barked out a laugh. Her eyes flew up to his amused teal ones.
Kanan took a step forward and scooped her up into his arms with a hand under her knees and behind her back. He nuzzled his nose to hers and grinned. "Trust me, darling, it works."
Hera put a hand behind his neck as he walked the two steps over to the bunk and sat on the edge with her in his lap sideways, but still looked at him skeptically. "I don't see how. And how would you know anyway?"
Kanan chuckled as his hands started to wander over her back and up and down her legs in whispered caresses that sent tingles through Hera. "Aside from some strictly clinical research on the holonet, which was very informative by the way, you're father cornered me the other day and gave me the 'talk', since he figured as a Jedi, I wouldn't have received a proper one when I was younger. He was right, but I don't know if there's anything more embarrassing than talking about sex with the father of your fiancé."
Hera couldn't help but giggle at the appalled look on his face. She reached up and caressed his cheek, feeling the fine stubble that was trying to make an appearance. "Father gave me a similar talk, I think. Although, in this case, I think he was just as embarrassed as me. I think we were both desperately wishing my mother was still alive."
Kanan hugged her to his chest at the wistful tone her voice had taken at the end, and kissed her forehead in sympathy. "I'm sorry, Hera. I wish I could bring her back for you."
Hera sighed and shook her head, making her lekku sway gently against his arms. "It's okay, love. No one can do that." She mentally pep talked herself into smiling again. "Anyway, we've gotten seriously off track here. We're supposed to be having a honeymoon, not getting all depressed."
Kanan felt himself smiling again as well. "You're right, darling. If you want, I can show you how well we fit together now."
Hera giggled again at the way he was wiggling his eyebrows at her and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. She pressed her mouth to his for a brief kiss and then pulled back enough so she could look him in the eyes again. "Yes."
Kanan smiled softly and spun around on the bunk, placing Hera carefully on her back and then settling himself beside her.
Hera's sense of urgency had disappeared at some point during the last few minutes, but she felt it return quickly as Kanan kissed her and started running his hands over her body. She couldn't help but notice that one of his hands came closer and closer to her center with every pass. She parted her legs a little to allow him access to the part of her that was already tingling with need and growing damper by the moment at just the thought of what they were about to do.
Kanan kind of moaned into Hera's mouth when his fingers touched her warm core for the first time. It was damp already, which he'd read was a good thing. He explored the new territory carefully, not wanting to hurt her. He found her clit and rubbed it gently, eliciting a moan and a shiver from her. Kanan pulled away from her mouth and kissed a quick path down her body, desperately wanting to see what he was touching.
He nudged her legs a little further apart and gazed at what had to be the gateway to paradise, saliva pooling in his mouth. "So pretty," he breathed, in awe of her bare perfection.
Hera gazed down at Kanan with blinking eyes. "I'm glad you think so. It just looks like a bunch of folded skin to me."
Kanan snorted and licked her clit experimentally, watching her face. Hera's eyes rolled up and she moaned again.
"Not just folded skin, darling," he teased.
Hera grasped his head and buried her fingers in his hair, pulling it free of the band holding it back, as he concentrated all his efforts on her pussy. His mouth was sending her clit into spasms and his fingers were toying with her dripping entrance. She gasped when he slipped one of his large fingers just inside and felt herself clench around the intruder.
Kanan reached up and stroked a hand up and down her lek. "You have to relax, Hera."
Hera gasped and moaned again, now her lek was tingling too. "You have got to be kidding. I feel like I'm going to combust."
Kanan grinned against her core. "That's also a good idea."
Hera kind of growled and clamped her thighs around his head. "Make up your mind."
So Kanan did. He attacked her clit and lek with renewed vigour, which soon had her shaking and trembling and keening. His finger was almost trapped in her core, she was clenched so tight around it. (He couldn't wait to feel THAT around his cock.) He slid his finger in and out of her, stopping at the barrier he felt.
Hera felt strung tight, everything was so over stimulated. She wasn't sure if she was going to survive it, but soon all the sensations reached a peak and she screamed as Kanan sent her flying into an amazing orgasm. The slight pinch as Kanan pushed his finger through her maidenhead barely even registered amidst all the other sensations.
Kanan waited patiently for her to finish spasming around his finger and relax a little on the bed, going almost boneless, before he carefully inserted a second finger and started stretching her a little so his cock wouldn't shock her. He was thanking his Jedi training upside and down right now, because it was the only thing that had kept him from pouncing on her like a crazed man when he first saw her naked. He was throbbing and leaking and pretty sure he'd come about two seconds after getting inside her, but hopefully she wouldn't mind.
Sensing that Hera was as prepared as she was going to get, Kanan settled himself over her with his hips between her spread legs. He pressed his tip against her wet opening and slowly pushed himself in, groaning at how perfectly her depths clasped him in welcome.
Hera's eyes popped open when she felt something larger and decided hotter and harder than Kanan's fingers push into her. She found some new energy from somewhere and wrapped her arms around his back, smiling up at him to see his expression of pure joy. "It does fit," she murmured teasingly.
Kanan mustered a grin, kissed her, pumped twice more and came like a rocket, groaning like a dying man into her sweet mouth.
Hera savoured the sensation of holding Kanan deep inside her. It made her feel complete somehow. When his seed shot deep into her depths, a little thrill coursed through her, knowing that she pleased him enough to make him come so quickly. She wrapped her legs around him too, holding him deep inside, loving how it felt.
Kanan panted over Hera's body, determined not to collapse on top of her and crush her. He called on the Force just a little to lend him some strength and got a little more than he bargained for. It swirled through him happily and he felt his energy instantly restored, along with something else.
Ecstatic, Kanan started thrusting in and out slow and deep, watching as Hera's emerald eyes went all dreamy.
She ran her fingers through his hair that hung down beside his face and said, "I didn't know you could do it again so quickly."
Kanan smirked and changed his angle a little, experimentally, pleased when she gasped and tightened around him. "For you, darling, I can do this all day."
Hera pulled his head down for a hot, wet kiss, before meeting his heavy lidded eyes. "I dare you to prove it."
So he did.
Hera gawked at the landscape of Lothal as she flew towards the coordinates that Kanan had given her. The endless expanse of grasslands interspersed with funny little mountains felt so alien to her. It drove home the fact that she'd actually done it. She'd left her home and was really doing this. She was embarking on a new life with Kanan and starting their very own grand adventure. It made her feel a little anxious, but she glanced over at Kanan, who was looking as calm and as peaceful as ever, wearing just the hint of a smile, and Hera felt her anxiety melt away. With Kanan at her side, she felt like she could accomplish anything. Even take down the Empire single handed.
Kanan felt the emotions swirling through Hera and sent her a few calming ones down the bond she didn't know they had. He'd never worked up the courage to tell her that they were more connected than she thought, but the hint of a bond that had formed the day he first met her had grown into something strong and unbreakable and beautiful. He wasn't sure if he should be influencing her emotions like that, but he figured a hint of calm when she was anxious couldn't hurt. It's not like he was actually using the bond to make her do anything. He would never do that to her. "So what do you think of Lothal?" he asked.
Hera glanced at him again before returning her gaze to where she was flying. "Well. It's different."
Kanan grinned. "It is that. Just wait until you see some of the other worlds out there. This one's downright normal in comparison."
Hera smiled at the thought. "I can't wait to see them all. I want to go everywhere. I want to explore the stars. I want to float in space and just be. I want to soar through the clouds of a hundred different planets. And I suppose, every once in a while, put my feet back on the ground," she said with a teasing smile at Kanan and caught his eyes shining at her. "And now, thanks to you, I can do all that. I feel so free, Kanan. I don't know if you understand what you've done for me."
"I do understand, Hera. I understand more than you know. I will happily follow you wherever you want to go, because you are my own freedom." Kanan gazed at Hera with his heart in his eyes and she returned the look, forgetting to look where she was flying.
They both startled out of their trance when Chopper beeped from behind them. "Can you guys cut down on the romantic drivel? Hera's forgetting how to fly!"
Hera looked forward again and gasped. She swung the Ghost around a mountain at the last second. "Thanks Chopper," she said. "What would I do without you?"
"You don't have to be quite so literal," Hera said, making Kanan chuckle and Chopper huff.
"And you almost left me behind," Chopper added.
"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?" Hera said in resignation at the thought.
Chopper beeped, "Nope," at his organic
Hera exchanged an eye roll with Kanan.
"I saw that," Chopper beeped.
Kanan and Hera sighed simultaneously. "It's like we already have a child," Kanan said. "A very annoying one."
Chopper rolled forward to zap Kanan again but found himself floating in the air.
Kanan narrowed his eyes at the droid. "And you know what? I've had enough of that. The next time you try to electrocute me, I'm sending you out the airlock while we're in hyperspace."
Both Chopper and Hera said, "Hey!"
Chopper beeped, "Hera would never let you get away with that."
Kanan floated the droid higher and then let him fall, making him land with a clank and a binary curse. "She wouldn't be able to stop me, you hunk of junk. Now behave yourself."
Chopper spat a string of curses at Kanan and left the bridge with a serious sulk on.
Hera glared at Kanan. "You know I'd never let you get rid of my droid, right?"
Kanan grinned and winked at her. "Oh, I know. But he doesn't know that. And if I ever did give in to the urge to toss him out the airlock, I promise we'd go back for him. AFTER letting him sit and think about things for an hour or so. There is something seriously wrong with that droid."
Hera smiled and shook her head at Kanan. "My father says that all the time. There were many times I bet he wished he had an airlock to toss him out of too."
"I don't know why you keep him," Kanan grumbled.
"Because he's MINE. I saved him. I put him back together after his crash. He was my only companion for longer than I care to think about. And he cares about me. He's a good droid, even if he is a little different. I always take care of what is mine."
"Am I included in that category?" Kanan asked hopefully.
Hera glanced at Kanan again. "I suppose," she said teasingly. "You are my husband after all. I guess I'm obligated to take care of you as well."
Kanan pouted jokingly. "Thanks. Way to make me feel loved."
"You're welcome," she said with complete seriousness as she landed the Ghost near the tiny settlement named after Old Jho. Not a lot of people lived there, but Jho's cantina saw a steady stream of customers nonetheless. After turning off the ship, Hera stood and kissed Kanan on the cheek and pulled him to his feet. "Come on, love. Let's go see this little backwater planet you've decided would make a good destination for our honeymoon."
Kanan grinned. "The food alone is worth it. Trust me."
Hera stepped closer to Kanan. "Oh, I do trust you. I trust you with my life. I trust you with my heart. And I trust you with my soul."
Kanan looked down into her glowing emerald eyes and forgot how to breathe for a moment. She was just so beautiful and perfect. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into him so they were pressed together. "I love you, darling. And I trust you with all of myself as well."
Hera beamed up at him and raised her face invitingly.
An invitation Kanan would never turn down as he fused their mouths together in a sweet kiss.
Some long time later, after making out like the teenagers they were, they left the Ghost to find Chopper already outside, surrounded and covered in curious wild lothcats. The droid was standing perfectly still and making tiny distressed sounds. Kanan and Hera burst into laughter, startling the wild tookas, making them all dash off and disappear into the tall grass.
"It took you long enough," Chopper beeped accusingly. "Those pesky small meatbags seem to like me, but I don't think I like them."
"I'm surprised you didn't just zap them away," Kanan said. "Isn't that your usual m.o.?"
Chopper grumbled. "I was afraid one would scratch my paint if I made them mad. Hera put a lot of effort into this paint job."
Hera patted his dome affectionately. "I can always fix it for you Chop. I don't mind."
Chopper practically purred under her hand. "You're the best organic ever."
Hera smiled at him. "Thanks, Chopper. Would you guard the ship for us while we go into town?"
Chopper sighed to himself as his organic walked down the rolling hill, holding hands with the meatbag. He turned and rolled back up the ramp and parked himself at the top. Standing guard. As ordered.
Kanan led Hera into Old Jho's Pit Stop. His eyes scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces. He hadn't been here since the last time with Kasmir about a year ago. Kanan spotted Visago with his usual group of cronies and raised a hand in greeting. Visago saw Hera and raised a brow questioningly. Kanan waved him over to the bar as he only wanted to explain himself once. Jho had spotted him by now as well, and also made his way over, on his side of the bar. "Hey Jho. Hey Visago," Kanan said.
"Kanan!" Visago said with a grin. "Who is this lovely thing?" he leered at Hera.
Kanan pulled a glaring Hera forward. "This is my WIFE, Hera Syndulla. So eyes off, pal. She's the best pilot you'll ever see and she's not too shabby with a blaster either, so watch yourself. The last man who looked at her like that ended up walking back to civilization after a long nap. Hera, this is Visago, the local smuggler, and Jho, who owns this place."
Visago toned down the leer at the twin glares pointed his way. "Syndulla. I know that name. I've heard stories about a Syndulla who's making the Empire miserable on Ryloth. Is that you?"
Hera snorted. "I wish. That's my father, General Cham Syndulla. He wouldn't let me fight in his war, so now Kanan and I are going to make the Empire miserable on our own."
Visago and Jho chuckled at the spitfire female that Kanan had attached himself to. "Where's Kasmir?" Jho asked. You're not working for him anymore?"
Kanan looked between Visago and Jho. "You haven't heard, have you?"
"Heard what?" Visago asked.
Kanan sighed sadly. "He played the wrong game of sabacc and the loser decided to end him in retaliation. Kasmir didn't make it." Visago and Jho shook their heads mournfully. "The good news is that the pirates have all met their justice and we have their ship now; a very nice Correllian freighter that's been modified for war. Hera's plans for taking pot shots at the Empire are definitely within the realm of possibility."
Hera smacked him in the arm. "Hey. We are so doing more than just taking pot shots at them. We're taking them down. I don't care how long it takes."
Visago laughed. "I like her."
Kanan grinned. "So do I. That's why I married her."
"Aren't you two a little young to be married? How old are you anyway?" Jho asked.
Kanan shrugged. "I'm eighteen and she's seventeen. We were going to wait another year, but Hera wanted to leave Ryloth and her father didn't want her to go without seeing her married first so, yep, we got married. I don't mind. I like being able to tell other guys to keep their eyes off my wife. It's very satisfying to say."
Hera rolled her eyes at Kanan. "Men. Such Neanderthals," she said under her breath. The guys heard her anyway and all gave her fake looks of hurt. She smirked at them. "Get over yourselves." They all grinned at her. "So what did we come in here for anyway?" she asked Kanan. "Surely not just to gossip with these old geezers?"
"Hey!" Visago said. "Who you calling old?"
Kanan grinned at him. "She's not wrong. You are old compared to us. And I did have a reason for coming in here. Jho, could you make us a picnic? One fit for a couple of kids on their honeymoon? Add some fresh fruit too. Hera loves fruit."
Jho's wide mouth stretched into an even wider smile. "Sure, Kanan. Anything for you and your pretty lady. Just give me ten minutes." The ithorian turned and disappeared into the kitchen.
Kanan turned his attention back to the smuggler. "Soooo. Visago. You're in the loop on this side of Galaxy. Where's a good place to start our fight against the Empire?"
Visago didn't even have to think about it. "You could go to Garel. The Empire just took over that planet. It won't be long before they claim Lothal next. They seem to be systematically making their way across the Galaxy, and Garel is just the next system over."
"Thanks," Kanan said. "We'll check it out. If you ever hear of something that will throw a wrench in the Empire's plans and turn us a little profit, let me know. Hera and I aren't opposed to putting a few credits in our pockets while we're off saving the galaxy."
Visago chuckled. "Who isn't? Yeah. I'll keep an ear out for useful jobs for you." He clapped Kanan on the shoulder. "It was good to see you again, kid. I still can't believe you landed that," he said, eyes going up and down Hera's form one more time appreciatively, despite the warnings. "Enjoy your honeymoon." As he walked back to his table, he added "I know I certainly would."
Hera's fingers were just itching to shoot the lecher in the back for his attitude towards her. She raised a brow in ire at Kanan. "You have some very unsavoury friends."
Kanan shrugged ruefully. "Sorry, darling. What can I say? It kind of comes with the territory of being a smuggler. I'd shoot him for you myself, but he's a very useful person to know. We'll need his information if we want to fight this war against the Empire."
Hera huffed a sigh and crossed her arms over her chest. "Fine. But the next time he looks at me like I'm a piece of tasty meat, he's getting stunned, just because."
Kanan grinned at her. "Go for it. Maybe he'll learn a little respect."
Jho came out of the kitchen then, carrying a basket, drawing their attention. "Here you go, Kanan. One picnic as ordered." Kanan went to hand him some credits, but Jho shook his head. "This one's on the house. Call it a wedding present."
Hera beamed a smile at Jho. "Thank you, Jho. That's very sweet."
Jho flushed in pleasure. "No worries, my lady. Please enjoy your meal."
Hera looked at Kanan. "Now this one, I like."
Kanan chuckled and took the basket. "Thanks again, Jho. I'm sure we'll be back for more of your great cooking. And you can't stop me from paying for it either."
Jho just laughed and shooed them off.
Kanan held the basket in one hand and Hera's hand with the other as they walked back to the Ghost. "You know, we still haven't looked at the loot Kasmir won. You want to do that while we eat our picnic?"
Hera nodded eagerly. "Sure. I almost forgot about that, what with the whirlwind of the last few days." They walked up the ramp and greeted Chopper on the way in. "So where do you want to have our picnic?"
Kanan grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows. "I was thinking we could move to a more remote location. Something a little more private."
Hera laughed. "Of course you would. It's a good thing I love you, because there are times when you act a lot like that scummy Visago."
Kanan shrugged. "What can I say? I'm a male, and you're beautiful. I can't help it."
Hera practically rolled her eyes right out of her head.
After eating their picnic, and enjoying a round or two of 'fun', Kanan finally opened the bag of winnings from the deadly sabacc game from close to a year ago. He dumped out the contents between them on the blanket they sat on. Hera and Kanan gawked at the large pile of credits and jewels for a minute, completely stunned. "You've had this in your possession all this time and didn't know it?" Hera finally asked.
Kanan looked up at her with shocked eyes. "Apparently. Now I know why the pirate Captain had a fit when he lost the game. I know for a fact that most of this isn't Kasmir's, at least, not until he won it anyway. This should keep us in food, munitions and fuel for a few years if we're careful." Kanan felt Hera's burst of gratitude at his words that confirmed that he was one hundred percent on board with her plans. He smiled to himself when she wrapped an arm around his waist and kissed his cheek. He kissed her temple in return and stroked a hand down her lek lovingly, before returning his attention to the credits.
Hera stirred a finger through the pile, spreading it out more. She stopped when she saw something that wasn't a credit or a jewel. She grabbed the data disk. "I wonder what's on this that would make it worth something in a card game?"
They looked at each other with identical looks of confusion. Now really curious, they packed everything up quickly and walked back to the Ghost. Hera called for Chopper as she walked up the ramp. He beeped from the top of the ladder, and she quickly climbed up. She gave Chopper the data disk. "Can you read that? We want to know what's on it."
Chopper processed the information and then projected a star map on his holo emitter. One of the planets was lit up. Then the picture changed to a map of the planet, with a location indicated. Kanan and Hera looked at each other. "I wonder what could possibly be on Tatooine that the pirate Captain would think is so important?" he asked.
Hera shrugged. "Maybe it IS buried treasure. Wouldn't that be fun?"
Kanan grinned. "Sure. You want to go check it out?"
Hera returned his grin as her eyes lit up at the thought of a new planet to see. "Definitely."
Chapter 6: The Selfless
A/N: This chapter is written with the assumption that you have seen Episodes 1-3 and The Clone Wars series. If you haven't; SPOILERS! And you really should.
P.S. A box of Kleenex might be a good idea.
D63/17 BBY, Tatooine
The Ghost dropped out of hyperspace in front of the more or less monotonously beige planet. Hera looked at it for five seconds then turned her head and gave Kanan a look. "Please tell me this isn't a gigantic ball of sand. That's about as boring as I can think of."
Kanan shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry, darling. I can't do anything about the landscape. But... I heard there was pod racing here. You might like that."
Hera lit up and she more or less jumped up and down in her chair. "I've always wanted to try that. Oh, we have to go see it at the very least."
Kanan grinned at her enthusiasm. "I promise we'll go see a race before we leave. And maybe we can talk someone into letting you try their podracer."
Hera's head was nodding as fast as she could make it. "Please. Please. Please."
"Alright," he replied, getting in the spirit of her excitement. She looked about five years old right now, and it made him happy to see her so enthusiastic about something. "But first, I want to know where that map is leading us. Don't you?"
Hera felt the extra energy drain out of her as their purpose for being here was brought back to light. "Yes. Yes I do. But I doubt whatever it is is as exciting as a podracer." She huffed a sigh. "Okay. Flying to the location indicated on the map. And then we're finding a podracing track."
Kanan couldn't stop the chuckle that escaped at her determined look. She shot him a 'don't make fun of me' glance, which sobered him up real quick. Kanan leaned back in his chair and just watched her fly. He would never get tired of that. Ever.
Hera landed the Ghost just outside the outskirts of the small town of Anchorhead and looked at Chopper. "You're sure these are the coordinates on the map?" Chopper beeped an affirmative. Hera sighed. "I don't think we're looking for buried treasure anymore. Not in the middle of a town."
Kanan stared out the window at the town, unmoving. "No. It's definitely not a what that we're looking for. I think it's a who."
Hera looked at Kanan and saw how tense he was, his brows were furrowed, and his eyes looked... Actually she didn't know how to describe it. It wasn't worried exactly, but it was something. "Are you okay? Do you want to leave?" she said as she stood and stroked her fingers down his soft hair.
Kanan looked up at her, and mentally shook himself back into business. He gave her a small smile of reassurance. "No, Hera. I'm fine. I just felt something. Something I haven't sensed in a long time." He stood and kissed her on the forehead. "Come on, darling. Let's go see what there is to see."
They left the ship, and when Chopper tried to follow them, Hera sighed. "Alright Chopper, you can come too. I think this town looks quiet enough that no one will try and steal my ship."
Kanan looked around at the sleepy little town. "Yah, I don't think you have to worry about that, but just in case..." As they walked away, he casually waved a hand behind him, and the ramp closed itself, sealing the Ghost shut.
Hera smiled at Kanan and laced her fingers through his, bumping his shoulder with hers. "Thank you, love."
Kanan bumped his shoulder back and squeezed her fingers gently. "Glad to be of service."
They wandered down the main street, casually window shopping, and stopped for a snack from a pastry vendor. Eventually, they made it to the far side of the town, and found nothing of any real interest.
"Shall we just move on?" Hera asked.
Kanan shook his head. He had stopped in front of a tiny house near the end of the street. "No. We're here."
Hera looked at the unassuming little house with a raised brow. "Really?" she said rather dryly. "This is worth gambling in a card game?"
Kanan smiled sadly. "Yes. I'm afraid it is." He walked up to the door and was about to knock, when the door opened itself.
D98/41 BBY, Coruscant
Obi-Wan was seventeen when the right Master finally walked through the Temple doors.
He was much older than most younglings when they were matched with a Master, but he didn't mind. Obi-Wan liked training in the Temple, and he liked his teachers; especially Master Yoda. The ancient Jedi Master had an obscure sense of humour that kept Obi-Wan smiling more often than not, his jokes usually deeper than most younglings could make sense of.
But Obi-Wan got it, and he developed his own dry sense of humour in response. Unfortunately, the Masters that came to the Temple looking for a Padawan usually didn't get it, or didn't appreciate it. They all said that despite his slightly better than average skill in the Force, he just didn't feel right. And Obi-Wan thought the same of them, to be honest.
Thus, the Jedi Code was ingrained into him a little longer than most, staying in the Temple classrooms for three years longer than the norm.
And then the somewhat outcast Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn came to the Temple after a long absence, studying the Living Force on his own.
Obi-Wan felt a stirring in the Force that had him curious while he was lightsabre training with a small group of other younglings, including the current favourites of the teachers, Depa Billaba and Luminara Unduli.
Obi-Wan had immediately excused himself from the class, to a knowing nod from Master Yoda, and followed the feeling in the Force to the Temple library. There, he found a man with long brown hair, a well kept beard, and piercing blue eyes in his late thirties looking up something on one of the workstations.
Qui-Gon looked up when he felt a presence come to stand beside him and smiled warmly at the older teenage boy with short reddish brown hair, no padawan braid, and intelligent slate blue eyes, who was looking at him curiously. "Oh, good. You found me," he said. "Saves me the trouble of seeking you out."
"What?" Obi-Wan said, blinking.
"You're here to be my Padawan, are you not?" Qui-Gon said expectantly.
Obi-Wan studied the Jedi that he didn't know, listening to the whispers of the Force, and nodded slowly. "Yes, I suppose I am."
Despite being polar opposites in their views of the Code, the two immediately clicked, and Obi-Wan finally left the Temple and went on adventures with his new Master.
34 BBY, Various locations
Obi-Wan had many memorable missions with his Master, but the one they undertook when he was twenty-three was the first one that made him question his stalwart belief in the Jedi Code.
For a whole year, they protected the hunted Duchess of Mandalore.
Satine Kryze was beautiful.
She was only twenty years old and in charge of an entire people that spanned systems. She was breathtaking in her spirit and determination. Heart stopping in appearance, being slender, delicate looking in her features, and possessed rare turquoise blue eyes and platinum blonde hair. Unfortunately for her, her views of how her people should move forward and leave the old warring ways behind wasn't quite as popular as she would like. Thus, the running and hiding, and the need for bodyguards that weren't Mandalorian.
Satine made his life both more fulfilled and a living hell as he fought with himself over his fascinated attraction to her.
Only once in that entire year did he give in to it.
And really, you couldn't blame him. Even Qui-Gon hadn't done more than raise an amused brow when he found them in a compromising position.
The planet they were hiding on at the time, Draboon, was home to a nasty insectoid species called venom-mites, and were named thusly for a very good reason. If one stung you, the site of the bite tended to blow up to the size of a yogan and turn just as purple, then leave a small scar as a reminder. (Obi-Wan had a few.)
So when they encountered a swarm of them while retrieving water from a stream, Obi-Wan did the first thing that came to mind.
He picked Satine up, tossed her over his shoulder, and booted it in a Force run that quickly left the swarm behind. But he kept running for a couple more minutes, just to make sure they were well and truly far enough away.
Finally coming to a stop, adrenaline still coursing through him, Obi-Wan stood there catching his breath for a moment. Until an indignant clearing of the throat from behind him drew his attention.
He looked to his right shoulder where he carried his charge and got an eyeful of the galaxy's most perfect heart shaped rear end. "Oh dear," he breathed in awe.
"Quite," Satine said from her upside down position on his back, getting her own eyeful of a tight Jedi posterior.
"So sorry, Your Highness," Obi-Wan said as he shifted her into his arms in front of his chest, holding her light weight easily.
Satine reached up and patted his cheek fondly, having come to deeply admire the young Jedi and his calm ways. "That's all right, Obi-Wan. That would never be my first choice for a mode of travel, but preferable to the other option."
They smiled at each other, eyes locking together, as her hand lingered on his clean shaven cheek.
Obi-Wan's breath caught in his throat as he stared into her dazzling eyes, the touch of her hand sending little jolts of electricity through him. Without him even realizing it, his head started to lower towards hers.
And hers raised a little towards his, her lips parting slightly as she inhaled.
As if drawn like magnets, their mouths touched and fitted together perfectly. Obi-Wan's eyes closed and a little groan escaped as he lifted her a little higher and the kiss deepened.
And then another, louder, throat was cleared and Obi-Wan remembered who he was and that they weren't alone and dropped her.
Satine yelped as she fell to the ground and then cried louder as she landed on a sharp rock.
Obi-Wan immediately knelt beside her, apologizing profusely, as Qui-Gon appeared beside them and inspected the hand she was cradling that had cushioned her fall the hard way.
Satine glared at Obi-Wan, but under that, he could see the knowledge of what they'd shared lurking in her eyes, and he knew he wouldn't be the only one lying sleepless in their tent tonight.
He was very careful to keep his distance from her after that, but it was very difficult. And the longing he saw in her eyes from time to time didn't help at all.
The day she no longer needed protecting was both a blessing and his least favourite day of his life. They parted ways very carefully, shaking hands like associates and nothing more, but their eyes were speaking all the volumes neither dared to say aloud.
He didn't see her again for thirteen long years, but he kept tabs on her via the holonet whenever he had the chance and soaked in her appearance hungrily, taking in every little change as she matured into an even more beautiful woman, if that was even possible.
It wasn't very Jedi of him, but he couldn't bring himself to care enough to stop.
D65/32 BBY, Tatooine
Obi-Wan and his Master were protecting yet another female of royalty when he met the boy that would change his life forever.
Much occurred in a very short timespan, but at the end of it all, Obi-Wan lost his Master, killed (he thought) a Sith called Maul, finally became a Knight years after he should have, and gained a Padawan.
A nine year old Padawan that knew absolutely nothing about the Force and had no self discipline.
A Padawan Qui-Gon believed to be the Chosen One spoken of in prophesy.
He never should have trained the boy himself, but Obi-Wan was a selfless man, and it was his Master's dying wish, so he fought for the right to train the boy, despite the misgivings of Master Yoda and the other Council members.
He trained Anakin Skywalker as best as he could, trying to instill in him a modicum of the discipline, peace, and purpose that Obi-Wan found in the Force and the Code that he stood by. (It only kind of worked.)
It wasn't long before their relationship became decidedly more sibling like than Master and Padawan, but there was nothing he could or would do to change that. Obi-Wan grew to love the tenacious boy, who had more courage and heart than most grown up Jedi.
He was also moody, temperamental, unable to let go of his attachments, and flirted with the Dark side on more than one occasion.
Obi-Wan was in way over his head, but he too had formed an attachment, and just couldn't bring himself to ask for help.
In the end, Obi-Wan trained the man who eventually fell to the Dark in the worst possible way.
Obi-Wan trained the exterminator of the Jedi Order.
It would forever be a dark stain on his soul and a tear in his heart.
D314/21 BBY, Mandalore
Obi-Wan had some grovelling to do to earn Satine's forgiveness.
They'd renewed their friendship a couple years ago when a mission had brought her back into his sphere of protection. It had admittedly been a bit snippy at first, but he'd drunk in the sight of her like a man stuck on Tatooine without water.
Now, after enough time had passed for the desire filled bickering to settle down, they were good friends once again, settling into their old pattern of studiously staying far enough apart to not give in to temptation, but close enough to relish the other's presence.
It seemed, though, that the only time they saw each other in person was when one or the other of them happened to be in danger or even mortal peril. It made for some very interesting conversations after the fact, if he did say so himself.
This time, as Obi-Wan snuck into her bedroom in the dead of night (since he wasn't supposed to be here, and to be spotted by anyone would be a huge problem with the Council), he'd come to tell her he was actually still alive.
Only a few had known his 'death' was a ruse for a mission, and Satine hadn't been one of them.
Neither was Anakin, and Obi-Wan was severely regretting that. Their bond had frayed a little around the edges when Anakin found out that Obi-Wan had let him think that he was dead, because the Council thought it was for the best and a good test of Anakin's ability to let go of his attachments. It was an utter failure and the wrong move in so many ways. The surge of anger that had come from Anakin was downright frightening in its intensity. Obi-Wan was afraid he'd started a domino effect in Anakin that he couldn't stop.
Shaking off the morbid thought, Obi-Wan let himself gaze at Satine's sleeping face lovingly for a minute before he gently touched her shoulder, buried under the covers, and whispered her name. "Satine. Wake up, my darling Satine."
He'd never dared to call her an affectionate name before, but since she was quite asleep, he figured he could get away with it.
Satine moaned softly and rolled over onto her back, a little smile playing across her lips. "Obi," she murmured. "Hold me closer, Obi."
Obi-Wan's brows rose almost to his hairline. "Um, Satine, you might want to wake up," he whispered as he bent over her form, shaking her shoulder.
Satine's bare arms snaked out from under the covers and wrapped around his neck, pulling him down to her with a surprised 'ummph'.
"No," she whispered. "I like this dream."
And then her eyes opened sleepily as he tried to pull away from her grasp. She gasped as she realized she wasn't dreaming, let him go, slapped him, and then pulled his head back down again with a firm grip of his hair and kissed him like she was starving and he was a buffet of desserts.
Obi-Wan got lost in the passion and relief radiating from her, not to mention her sweet, sweet mouth.
The next time he had a lucid thought, he found himself actually in the bed with her, balanced over her soft body, only the covers separating them.
Then she whispered, "Obi," again and he was once again lost in her mouth, and her scent, and the silky texture of her hair in his fingers, and the feel of her hands on his back where they had somehow managed to burrow under his tunic.
Eventually, after what felt like hours, and mere seconds of perfect bliss, in a strange paradox of time, Obi-Wan's brain rebooted just enough to remember that he couldn't do this. He was a Jedi Master on the High Council. This behaviour simply couldn't continue or he would walk away from everything here and now to be with Satine forever.
He just couldn't do it. No matter how much he loved Satine, he couldn't walk away from everything he'd trained and fought for his entire life. He couldn't walk away from Anakin, who needed him more now than ever. He couldn't walk away from the war.
This, this was why Jedi weren't supposed to form attachments. It was to save them from the pain of moments like this one.
Obi-Wan rested his forehead on Satine's for a moment, conveying all his remorse with his eyes, and then rolled off her to lay beside her, staring up at the ceiling and talking his body into believing that it wasn't desperately in need of more touching and kissing. "I AM sorry, my beloved Satine," he said softly. "I'm sorry you had to think I was dead. I'm sorry I let THAT get so out of hand. I'm sorry I can't be what you need."
Satine stared at the ceiling as well, too many emotions roiling through her to bear. But she was a Mandalorian damn it, although a pacifist, and her heritage still dictated her actions. She wouldn't let a little thing like stupid emotions stop her from thinking rationally. Or kill her fighting spirit. She huffed a sigh and pushed her conflicting emotions regarding Obi-Wan away once again. She fumbled around without looking until her hand found his and interlaced their fingers together. "It's okay, Obi. I'm afraid I understand perfectly well," she said just as softly. "Perhaps in another life, or another universe, this does work between us."
Obi-Wan rolled onto his side and ran his fingers over her cheek and then her soft lips, receiving a tender kiss to his fingers. "I like that thought, Satine. I think I'll treasure it." He raised their joined hands to his mouth and kissed the back of her hand lovingly and then rolled back onto his back and sighed at the hand of fate the Force had dealt them. "I should go. I never should have come, to be honest. But I couldn't leave you thinking I was gone any longer than necessary."
"Thank you, Obi. You have no idea how much I grieved for you." Satine kept firm control of her voice so it didn't break like it tried to. "I'm grateful you came." He made a move to get off the bed, but Satine tugged him back down with her grip on his fingers. "Please, stay. Just until I fall asleep again?"
Obi-Wan squeezed her hand gently and settled back onto the bed. "Of course, darling. It would be my pleasure."
Satine returned the squeeze and then closed her eyes, comforted by his presence, so grateful he was still alive.
D53/20 BBY, Mandalore
Obi-Wan defied the order of his fellow Council members when he went to save Satine.
Maybe he should have listened to them. Maybe she'd still be alive right now.
Or maybe not.
Maul was ruthless in his determination to take over Mandalore and get his revenge on Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan held her body in his arms, her last words ringing in his ears, "Remember my dear Obi-Wan. I've loved you always... I always will," and raised her hand to his lips one more time for a final loving kiss.
He gently placed her body on the floor and closed his eyes as rage like he'd never felt before swirled through him, leaving him feeling cold and boiling at the same time. He wanted to cut Maul in half a hundred times more. He wanted to take his lightsabre and plunge it into his smirking face over and over and over.
And then he opened his eyes and looked at Satine's face again and all of the rage just kind of died away. She would hate him if he turned into a monster like the one who had murdered her. Satine didn't love a monster. She loved a Jedi. And a Jedi he would forever be. For her.
Obi-Wan glanced at Maul before he was led away to be imprisoned again, filled with calm determination. One day, they'd have their reckoning. Just not today. But when it did happen, Obi-Wan would stay calm and be the Jedi Satine loved; calm and in control. It would win him the day in the end.
D83/20 BBY, Coruscant
The day Ahsoka left the Order was the day Obi-Wan's bond with Anakin became truly fragile.
Anakin blamed the Council for the loss of his beloved little Padawan, and Obi-Wan was part of the Council.
Obi-Wan's own heart was breaking for the betrayal his little one had been subjected to by her friend, the Council, and the Republic. Pretty much everyone, in fact, except Anakin, who had gone above and beyond to prove her innocence.
Obi-Wan felt terrible that he hadn't tried harder to help Anakin find the real culprit. He'd known in his heart that Ahsoka hadn't bombed the Temple, but the evidence against her had been overwhelming.
After it was all over, and Ahsoka was gone, Anakin put on a brave front, but his emotions were roiling. And when Obi-Wan tried to talk to him about them, Anakin shut him out and took solace in the company of Palpatine and Padme instead.
Obi-Wan didn't know how to fix it, so he and Anakin just continued on with their everyday lives, fighting the war, as if nothing was wrong. But it was.
Everything was falling apart
D2/19 BBY, Mustafar
It was the calm that he clung to determinedly that saved his life.
Anakin, or the man who used to be Anakin, lost because he let the rage take over. Rage makes you do stupid things. Like try to leap over an adversary who has the high ground.
He had to force his hand to do it, but he cut off his former Padawan's three remaining organic limbs as he flipped over his head.
The limbless body fell to the burning hot ground and looked up at him pitifully, mouthing the words, "Help me."
But Obi-Wan had no place left in his heart for the Dark side monster before him. This was not his Anakin. This was Darth Vader. This was the creature that murdered all the younglings in the Temple.
Obi-Wan turned away from the monster as it started to burn from drops of molten hot lava that jumped up onto him like the Force was helping Obi-Wan with his heart breaking mission.
"I hate you!" the monster screamed at him as he burned as fiercely as the yellow glow of his eyes.
Obi-Wan turned back and looked at him with pity and betrayal, his voice breaking as he said, "You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you."
And then he left the monster to burn, his mind turning to the rescue of Padme and the children she carried within her; Anakin's children. Hopefully he wasn't too late. He needed to save them for his former Padawan. For everything they'd been through together.
Because, no matter how much he told himself that he'd only done what he must, the real Anakin would forever be the brother of his heart and what was Anakin's was his to care for too.
D63/17 BBY, Tatooine
Ben Kenobi had just finished his morning tea when he felt a stirring in the Force. Surprised, he stood and looked out the window. A small smile crossed his face as he saw a happy looking young couple walking down the street towards his house. He studied the young man carefully in the Force and his smile widened. Someone else had survived. It made his heart so happy to see it.
Schooling his features into something more demure, he waved his hand at the door before they could knock and moved to stand in the open doorway. He looked at the young couple and the droid with a calmly raised brow. "Padawan Dume. This is a surprise. Won't you come in?"
Hera looked from the older man to Kanan. She understood now.
Kanan nodded his head respectfully. "Master Kenobi. It is good to see you alive and well." They followed Obi-Wan into his little house. "And my name is Kanan now. Kanan Jarrus."
Obi-Wan gestured to the couch for them to sit. "Ah. I understand. I go by the name Ben now myself." He looked curiously at Hera. "And who is your companion?"
Kanan smiled lovingly at Hera. "This is my wife, Hera Syndulla."
Ben tried to look disapproving, but he was pretty sure he failed. The couple was obviously very in love. He remembered what that felt like and it made his heart hurt for old times. "You know Jedi aren't allowed to form attachments?"
Kanan stared back at Ben with a determined look. "I know. But I'm not a Jedi anymore. I can't afford to be. The bounty on Jedi is very large. Which is why, I think, we're here."
Ben had been wondering how they found him, now he was even more curious. "Please, do explain."
Kanan smiled ruefully. "The short version is that I acquired a data disk from a pirate and it has this location on it. Obviously, someone knows you are here, and is selling the information."
Ben stroked his beard thoughtfully. "I see. This is troubling news. I'm afraid I shall have to move." He sighed and chuckled. "And I liked it here."
Hera spoke for the first time. "Really? You like this ball of sand? It wouldn't be my first choice."
"Oh, I was referring to the town, Lady Syndulla. Unfortunately, I cannot leave this 'ball of sand' as you put it. I have an obligation here that requires my presence." He gazed at Hera questioningly. "I know the name Syndulla. I fought on Ryloth, and a General Syndulla was pivotal in the retaking of that world from the Separatists."
Hera smiled proudly. "That's my father. Unfortunately, we've had a parting of ways. He wouldn't let me fight his new war with the Empire, so Kanan and I are going to do what we can for other worlds on our own."
Ben raised a brow in surprise. "That is very ambitious of you. I wish you luck on your mission." He stopped to think for a moment. "Wait. There is someone who can help direct your purpose, I think. I shall contact him, and have him contact you."
Hera patted Chopper's dome. "Chopper can give you his comm frequency. We can always be reached through him." Chopper beeped proudly.
Ben looked at the old droid. "I haven't seen a C1 unit for a long time. I'm surprised he's still functioning."
Chopper beeped. "Hera saved me from my crashed Y-Wing on Ryloth. She is the best of organics and takes good care of me."
Ben chuckled. "I see. So you fought in the war there as well?"
"I did," Chopper beeped proudly. (Half an hour of battle counted in his mind.)
Ben turned his attention back to Kanan. "This is quite the little family unit you have here Ca... Kanan. Aside from defying the rules, I think your Master would be proud of you."
Kanan smiled wistfully. "I like to think so. In no way do I mean to disrespect Depa's memory by marrying Hera, but she was my destiny, and I simply followed it right to her."
Ben's eyes went far away. "I had a destiny like that once. Unfortunately, I didn't follow it like you, and I lost her. It is just one of my many regrets." Ben mentally refocused on the here and now. "So what are your immediate plans?" he asked them.
"Podracing," Kanan and Hera both said. They looked at each other with matching grins.
When Ben looked at them in confusion, Kanan elaborated. "Hera's a pilot, one of the best I've seen. She could probably give Skywalker a run for his credits, if he was still alive." A fleeting expression of pain crossed Ben's face at the name, but Kanan just assumed it was from losing his old padawan. "Hera wants to see a podrace. And fly one. If we can borrow somebody's."
Ben looked from Hera's eager face to Kanan's not so eager but definitely accepting one. "I don't know about borrowing a podracer, as their owners are pretty protective of them, but I do know where you can fly part of the track. And the Boonta Eve Classic is in just a couple of days. Now that's a race worth watching."
Hera was almost vibrating with excitement. "Can you show me?"
Ben chuckled. "I suppose I could. I haven't been out of this town for awhile. It would be nice to go for a little jaunt. Do you have a small ship? The canyon is very narrow in places."
Hera grinned. "Do I have a ship? I have two. Thanks to my wonderful husband."
Ben looked at Kanan with a raised brow.
Kanan just shrugged bashfully and said, "Pirates," as his only explanation.
Ben shook his head and stood. "Okay then. You'll have to tell me the story on the way there. This, I want to hear."
Kanan chuckled as Ben gathered a few things and led the way out of his house. They walked back down the length of the town to the Ghost. Ben stopped to admire it. "Nice ship. But that's not going to fit through Beggar's Canyon."
Hera led him around to the back and pointed to the repainted and fixed shuttle docked to the top of the Ghost. "Will that fit?"
Ben studied it for a moment. "You know. I think it just might. It'll be tight though."
Hera grinned in anticipation. "Excellent."
Ben exchanged looks with Kanan. "She's definitely special."
Kanan smiled proudly. "Don't I know it. I don't deserve her."
Hera heard him and patted him on the cheek as she walked back towards the front of the ship with the men trailing behind her. "Of course you do, love. You don't give yourself enough credit." She gestured to the ramp. "Now be a good Jedi, and let us in."
"Yes, dear." Kanan chuckled and waved his hand, lowering the ramp.
Ben raised his eyebrows in surprise.
Kanan explained, "Best security system we could afford," with a rueful shrug.
Ben laughed, already liking this couple immensely.
Chapter 7: The Race
D63/17 BBY, Tatooine
Hera flew the length and back of Beggar's Canyon from above it in the Ghost, studying it intently. When she reached the beginning of the canyon again, she gave the pilot's chair to Kanan. He took the controls and watched his wife practically skip out of the bridge. Ben moved up to the co-pilot chair so he could watch the show with the best possible view.
A minute later, Hera's voice came over the ship's comm. "Undocking. Wish me luck."
"Have fun, Hera," Kanan said in reply, hiding the worry he was feeling. That canyon looked awfully tight and treacherous.
A moment later, the Phantom appeared in front of them and dove down into the canyon, already going way faster than Kanan thought was safe. He followed from above, keeping his eyes firmly attached to the shuttle that was literally zooming through the canyon, heart in his throat the whole time. The shuttle navigated Dead Man's Turn, Diablo's Cut and the Stone Needle easily, still going way too fast.
When she reached the end of the canyon, Hera swooped around and ran it back the other way. Kanan could feel her joy through their bond. She was literally laughing as she defied death. He was glad she was enjoying this, but Kanan wasn't sure he ever wanted to see her run the canyon again. He didn't think his heart could take it.
Ben just watched in awe as the young twi'lek manoeuvred a SHUTTLE though a canyon that podracers barely fit through. And she wasn't going cautiously either. On her run back, he clocked her, and he was pretty sure she'd just beat the official record by two seconds. "You're right," he said to Kanan after Hera had finished her second run. "She is an amazing pilot."
Down on the ground, on the rim of the canyon, a hidden figure had been staking out the canyon. He was searching for a new pilot for his boss' podracer, and watching the wannabees fly the canyon was the best way to find one. Their idiotic pilot had gone and insulted one of Jabba the Hutt's henchmen, and now found himself quite dead. With the race in only two days, his boss was getting desperate. The figure watched the shuttle fly the canyon both ways, chronometer in hand, and stared at it in shock at what it said. He'd just found his new pilot. Now he just had to convince the person in the shuttle. He commed his boss and gave him the hopeful news.
Hera docked the Phantom, her heart still racing and all her limbs tingling with the thrill of flying. She'd never tell Kanan, but that was the most fun she'd ever had. He'd be hurt if he knew that flying like that slightly outdid the 'fun' they had together. (Not that she didn't love Kanan's attentions, she really really did, but this was just a little bit more thrilling.) Hera slid down the ladder into the common room, too excited to climb normally. She ran down the hall and into the bridge. "Did you see? Did anyone time it? Was I fast? Or did it just feel that way?"
Kanan smiled at her and gave her a hug as she sat on his lap and kissed his cheek. "I saw, darling. And you were very fast."
Ben held up his chronometer. "You weren't just fast. You beat the track record by two seconds. Mind you, you weren't jostling for position with other racers, but still. In a shuttle, that's more than impressive."
Hera turned her attention to Ben. "Really? Thank you. I love to fly. This just made my day. Thank you for showing me the canyon."
"You're welcome. I enjoyed watching you fly," he said with a smile.
"Do you want to stay with us for the next couple of days?" she asked." You could watch the big podrace with us."
"I think I would like that," Ben said, stroking his beard with a happy glint in his eyes. "This is the most excitement I've had in a couple of years."
Hera smiled happily, glad that Kanan would get to spend more time with one of his old Masters. She stood and pulled Kanan out of her chair, so she could fly the Ghost to Mos Espa.
On the ground, a speeder followed the freighter. When the figure driving the speeder was sure the freighter was heading for Mos Espa, he smiled in satisfaction. His job just got easier.
Hera parked the Ghost in the spaceport and paid the exorbitant parking fee, thinking it was a good thing they were only staying for a couple of days. This time, when they left the ship, they left a sulking Chopper behind to guard it. Hera didn't trust anyone in this teeming city to leave her precious ship alone.
They had just walked out of the bay when a human male approached them. "Excuse me," he said, eyes on Kanan. "But I just happen to be looking for a pilot, and I saw your run through Beggar's Canyon. Would you be interested in flying a podracer in the Boonta Eve Classic?"
Kanan grinned and shook his head. "I'm not the pilot." He nodded his head at Hera. "She is. You'll have to ask her."
The man gawked at Hera. "A slave girl?" He shook his head. "This won't do. Not at all. The boss won't like it if I hire a slave girl to fly his podracer."
Hera crossed her arms and glared at the man. "Excuse me? I am no slave. You can take your podracer and shove it where the suns don't shine. I wouldn't fly for you if you paid me."
Despite his reservations about how dangerous it was, Kanan tried to reason with her. "Are you sure, Hera? I know you really wanted to fly a podracer. This could be your only opportunity."
Hera toned down her glare a smidge. "Perhaps I could be persuaded to change my mind. IF he stops calling me a slave. And I get paid well, plus a quarter of the prize money."
The man looked at the female twi'lek in astonishment. He'd never heard one so commanding. They were usually so meek. And SILENT. And she was an astonishingly good pilot. Maybe she would be worth the displeasure he'd receive from his boss if he found out. His brain started whirling with how to make this work for him. "Would you be willing to wear a disguise? I can pay you five thousand credits for flying, and you'll get a tenth of the prize money you win."
Hera stared at the man. "A sixth of the prize money, and you have a deal."
The man sighed. "Done." He reached out a hand and they shook on it. "I'm Doran by the way. And your new boss? Jabba the Hutt."
Hera raised a brow, and glanced at Kanan. He shrugged. She looked back at Doran. "Nice to meet you Doran. Just be sure to tell your boss that this is a onetime thing only. I have business elsewhere and can only stay for the race."
He nodded eagerly. "Will do. Do you want to see your podracer now? I'm sure you'll want to test it out before the race."
Hera rolled her eyes at the man's back as he walked away without waiting for her answer. Hera, Kanan and Ben exchanged resigned looks and followed the man through the city.
Hera stared at the podracer in shock. "You have got to be kidding me. How am I supposed to fly this? It's in pieces!"
Doran shrugged. "Not my problem. Apparently the last pilot was working on it when he inconveniently got himself shot." He gestured at the mess of parts on the floor of the garage. "Have fun putting it back together." With a wave, he left them to it.
Hera sighed. "At least, if I'm the one to fix it, I'll know that it's working properly."
"Do you want our help?" Kanan asked.
Hera shook her head. "No. I got this. You could send me Chopper though, and my bag of tools. We've put many ships back together over the years. This shouldn't take too long." Hera looked at Kanan, seeing that he was reluctant to leave her alone. She kissed him quickly and pushed him towards the door. "I'll be fine. Go get Chopper. You two go talk Jedi stuff or meditate or something. I'll comm you when I'm ready to take it for a test flight."
Kanan sighed and let himself be pushed. She was so independent. Sometimes frustratingly so. But that was one of things he loved about her. "Alright, Hera. But you know I don't mind helping."
Hera laughed at him. "Your version of helping is too distracting. I have a time limit here. Now get."
Ben raised a brow and glanced at a smirking Kanan as they walked down the busy street. "Do I want to know what she meant by that?"
Kanan shook his head and grinned. "Nope."
While Hera was playing with her new toy, Kanan and Ben did some Jedi 'stuff', as Hera suggested. They meditated for a while and then Ben surprised Kanan by pulling his lightsabre out of apparently nowhere. "I don't know about you," he said. "But it's been a long time since I've had anyone to practice with. Your cargo bay looks big enough to spar in a little. Are you up for a round or two?"
Kanan jumped up eagerly from his kneeling position. He hadn't touched his lightsabre for more than two years and had only practiced his forms with a stick when there was no one around, for safety's sake. (Although, Hera had seen him practice a few times and thought it was very sexy, which then led to other, funner, things.) "Am I ever. Just give me a minute to dig mine out."
Kanan ran to his and Hera's cabin and pawed through a drawer under the bed, tossing stuff out. He grinned when he found the bag that held his lightsabre and the holocron. He touched the holocron fondly, then ran down to the cargo bay, where he sensed Master Kenobi had already moved to.
A friendly sabre duel ensued, with Ben giving helpful pointers to Kanan whenever he saw a need for it. Overall, he was impressed with the Padawan. Kanan fought well, and controlled his emotions easily, eagerly learning any new moves Ben was willing to teach him. Master Billaba had taught him well. They practiced for an hour, before calling it quits, both of them sweating and puffing. "Holy nerfherders," Kanan gasped. "Apparently I'm out of shape. It's been too long since I did this."
Ben leaned against a wall. "No kidding. Try being much older and out of shape." He looked down at the young man, who'd sat on the floor with his back to the wall. "If you're interested, Kanan, I wouldn't mind continuing your training. I miss this."
Kanan jumped up and nodded eagerly. "I would love to, Master Kenobi. It would have to be pretty sporadic though. I can't disappoint Hera. She has her heart set on fighting the Empire."
Ben nodded. "I understand. And call me Ben. Whenever you can, come visit me here. There may come a day when we need our skills again, and two huffing and puffing ex Jedi just won't cut it."
Kanan laughed. "Well then, Master Ben, we should practice some more." He ignited his blue lightsabre and got back into the ready position of Form 3.
Ben rolled his eyes, chuckled, and copied his stance.
It was Race Day. And Hera was as ready as she was going to get.
After cobbling together a baggy outfit and annoying headcovering and mask, Hera had taken her perfectly tuned podracer for a test run around the city. She'd never had so much fun in her life. The podracer, which she'd nicknamed The Shadow, didn't actually go faster than the Phantom, but it sure felt like it with the wind whipping through her clothes. She was more than grateful for her goggles that kept the grit out of her eyes, or she'd never see where she was going.
Hera and Kanan were in the garage, hiding from the massive crowds that had overrun the city, while they waited out the last hour before post time. Ben was off somewhere, just saying he was bringing back a surprise. Kanan quickly took advantage of the alone time. He hadn't felt comfortable doing much more than hold Hera with Ben on the ship, sure that the old Master would be able to sense any shenanigans.
Hera giggled as Kanan picked her up and sat her on one of the engines of the podracer, then stepped between her legs so he could get as close to her as possible, leaving his hands on her hips. Hera wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed a path down his jaw and to his lips, whispering against them. "I take it you're feeling a little neglected, husband?"
Kanan grinned, teal eyes sparkling. "Only slightly, wife. I feel like you might like this podracer better than me."
Hera shrugged and pressed a kiss to his nose. "Perhaps," she teased. "But it doesn't love me back like you do. So you'll win in the long run."
Kanan chuckled. "That's good to hear. I'd hate to lose you to a machine. My ego would shrink to the size of a grain of sand."
"Ha," she laughed back. "As if that would ever happen, my self-confident Jedi. But just in case, let me reassure you that you'll always be my first love." She kissed him passionately for a minute, then pulled back and looked into his eyes with all seriousness. "And my last."
Kanan groaned deep in his chest and meshed their mouths back together, hands searching for the zipper of the shapeless, overly large, flight suit she was wearing, quickly stripping it off of her, and chuckling as he unbelted the pillow she'd strapped to her torso to further disguise her figure.
Hera smiled lovingly at Kanan as he made quick work of her clothes, running her fingers through his hair and pulling out the tie. She would forever be fascinated with the silky stuff and not just because she didn't have any.
As soon as he was done with hers, Kanan shed his own clothes in double time, calling on a little Force speed just because he could. He also sent a little wave at the doors of the workshop, making sure they were all locked.
Hera's eyes were twinkling with amusement as she watched Kanan rush. "You know I'm not going anywhere, love."
Kanan smirked as he put his hands on her hips and stepped between her legs again. "I know. But it's been days and we only have twenty minutes. Taking care of clothes is the last thing I want to spend time on."
Hera didn't get a chance to reply as he mashed their mouths together again in a deep, tongue duelling kiss.
Kanan pulled back after a minute, having a clear plan in mind and he was determined to stick to it. He kissed a path down her slender neck, down her collar bone, paid homage to her breasts for a minute until they stood up in aching points, then continued down her stomach and planted his mouth on her sweet core, placing her legs over his shoulders.
Hera's eyes closed in bliss and she arched her back as Kanan pleasured her unmercifully with his mouth. He sucked on her clit and nipped it gently before moving lower and tonguing her opening and thrusting in. By the time he'd repeated that pattern a few times, Hera was pretty much ready to fly.
"Kanan," she whined. "I need you inside me."
Kanan smiled to himself and kissed her soft petals lovingly one more time before standing again from the crouch he'd been in, leaving her feet hooked over his shoulders and lining his aching length up with her opening.
Hera braced her hands on the engine casing behind her and gasped as he entered her in one swift thrust that filled her to the brink of almost too much. "Kriff, Kanan. We should try this position more often," she panted.
Kanan's eyes near rolled into the back of head at the pleasure of her depths feeling incredibly tight around him. He forced himself to focus on her and bent forward a little, bracing his hands beside hers and thrusting in and out rhythmically. He nipped her full lower lip and smiled into her eyes. "Anytime, anywhere, darling. You know I'm yours."
Hera grabbed the back of his neck with one hand and tried not to moan too loudly as he hit the end of her channel over and over. The coiling tension within was building almost unbearably. "Harder," she whispered against his mouth, and then cried out when he did. Three pounding thrusts later, she went flying into a limb clenching orgasm.
Kanan plastered his mouth to hers to muffle her scream and kept pounding, his own climax only seconds away. He groaned deep in his chest as he released into her hot depths over and over and over.
They stayed like that for a minute, recovering, with their foreheads pressed together. Hera kissed him lovingly when she caught her breath. "I will never get tired of that."
Kanan smiled into her glowing emerald eyes. "I know exactly what you mean."
He reluctantly backed away from her embrace and found a tissue to clean them up with and then he helped her back into her shapeless outfit before getting dressed himself. They shared a quick kiss when everything was restored to order and then Hera put on her headcovering, mask, and goggles.
Hera checked the chrono and cursed under her breath. "We gotta go. I refuse to miss this race."
Kanan laughed and unlocked the doors, opening the big one so they could float the podracer down the back lane to the stadium. "Force forbid we miss your big race, Hera. That would be the end of the galaxy, I'm sure."
Hera just gave him a chiding glare for even teasing about such a catastrophe.
Kanan just laughed again.
Hera huffed at him and then turned her attention to the podracer, determined to ignore him in retaliation. Her podracer didn't make fun of her.
That lasted for all of a minute, because Kanan wouldn't let her be mad at him for long. He intertwined their fingers as they walked down the alleyway that had other podracing teams already ahead of them, and nudged her shoulder with his when she still wouldn't look at him.
Hera finally gave up when he just kept nudging her with every step. "What?" she snapped.
Kanan gave her his best puppy eyes. "I'm sorry, Hera. I shouldn't have made fun of your race. I know how much this means to you. I should have realized this wasn't something I should tease you about."
Hera's indignation melted away at his apology and she squeezed his hand. "And I should have just laughed too. I was being juvenile."
Kanan squeezed her hand back. "You could never be juvenile, darling. You're much too curvy to be mistaken for a youngling."
Hera's eyes widened in shock at his words and serious tone. She looked at him again and laughed as she saw the teasing light in his eyes behind the dead serious mask he wore. "You're awful, love."
Kanan grinned. "I know."
Ben met Senator Bail Organa at his ship in the private docking bay where he had just landed. They exchanged grins and a back slapping man hug. "Bail," he said. "It's been too long." He glanced around. "You didn't bring Breha and Leia?"
Bail shook his head. "No, Breha didn't think this was an appropriate environment for a two year old, and I completely agree." He gave Ben a quick once over. "It is good to see you looking well, my old friend. The climate isn't too hard on you?"
Ben chuckled. "I've been worse places than this sandy pit of despair. I've also been in much nicer places, but what can you do?"
Bail snorted, and then got down to business. "So we have another team for our cause?"
Ben nodded. "Yes. They found me, believe or not, without even trying. They seem very eager and are more than capable of running missions against our foe. If you'll come with me, I'll introduce you."
"I'd be glad to, but first, I've brought someone with me that I'm sure you'll be happy to see. Ben, I'd like to introduce you to the Director of the recently invented Intelligence Division, going by the codename Fulcrum," Bail said with an anticipatory smile. "I know she's a little young for the job, but her experience more than makes up for that."
Ben watched a hooded figure descend the ramp of Bail's ship, his brows rising in surprise as he felt her Force signature that she'd been masking until now. "Ahsoka," he breathed.
The figure stopped in front of Ben and lowered her hood. She smiled up at Ben. "Master Obi-Wan, it is good to see you again." Then she dropped her reserved air and threw herself into Ben's arms. Ben hugged the young togruta woman back for a moment, before she stepped back and composed herself again. "Sorry, Master. I just didn't know you were alive, and Bail didn't tell me, and I just had to, and... I'm babbling." Ahsoka felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment, thankful that her skin didn't show the blush.
"That's alright, little Ahsoka, who's not quite as little anymore." Ben smiled reassuringly at his padawan's padawan, who was really a Jedi Knight in everything but name. "I didn't know you had survived either. I am grateful that you have." Ben looked at Bail. "That was quite the surprise you've been waiting to spring. Now mine doesn't seem quite so signifagant."
Bail chuckled at Ben's fallen expression.
Ben sighed. "Oh, well. Mine's still a good surprise anyway." He looked from the Senator to Ahsoka and back. "Come on, then. Let's go meet my new, occasional, sparring partner."
Ahsoka and Bail glanced at each other and shrugged. She put her hood back up, shadowing her face and hiding her montrals and lekku, as she trailed behind the older men, not wanting to deal with any idiots who thought to treat her like a slave because of her species. Her days of walking confidently through a crowd as a Jedi who got to wear her lightsabres in plain sight were long gone.
Ben led them through the crowds to the garage, but found it empty. He glanced at his chronometer and cursed under his breath. "They must have left for the race already. We'll have to hurry if we want to catch up."
"Why would they leave already?" Bail asked. "The race doesn't start for another forty minutes."
Ben grinned over his shoulder at his companions as he hurried though the crowd. "Didn't I tell you? One of your new agents has been hired to fly Jabba the Hutt's podracer. They'll have taken the podracer to the start line already."
Bail and Ahsoka just gawked at the back of Ben's head.
Jabba watched the podracers line up, his black one with green and blue highlights starting in a position at the back due to the new pilot that had no record of wins. Jabba glared at the quivering man beside him. "Are you sure this pilot is capable?" he said via his protocol droid. "Surely you could have at least found one with some experience?"
Doran stiffened his limbs so his shaking wouldn't show as much. "I did the best I could, my Lord. I didn't have a lot of time to work with. I promise this is a very good pilot though."
"He better be," Jabba rumbled from his giant, slimy green body. "Or you will be the next snack for my rancor."
Doran nodded frantically and prayed as he watched the blob of a figure, which he knew was actually a shapely young female twi'lek, make some last minute adjustments to the podracer with her assistant.
Kanan glanced up from under the brim of his hat at the V.I.P. skybox that housed Jabba and all of his servants. "Jabba isn't pleased," he yelled at Hera over the roar of the assembled podracers. "I can feel it from here."
Hera glanced up at the skybox as well, through her goggles. "The ugly slug will just have to suck it up. He's lucky he has a pilot at all, not to mention a working podracer," she yelled back.
Kanan grinned at his feisty wife. "As long as he doesn't renege on what he owes you, then I'm fine with whatever grumbling he wants to do."
"Oh, I already made Doran pay me the five thousand credits, just in case things go really wrong at the end of all this."
Kanan gazed at Hera adoringly. "Have I told you how much I love you yet today?"
Hera grinned behind her mask. "I don't think so, but you definitely showed me."
Kanan blushed. "Yes, well. Earlier aside, I think you're amazing."
Hera almost patted his cheek, then remembered she was supposed to be a male. She turned the motion into a friendly punch on the shoulder instead. "Thank you, love." She looked past his shoulder to the edge of the track. "It looks like Ben has found us. Why don't you go stay with him now?"
"Are you sure?" Kanan asked.
"Yes," she said as she rolled her eyes. "There's nothing left to do but wait. Don't worry, I'll be fine."
Kanan sighed. "Alright. Good luck, darling. Please try not to get killed."
Hera gently shoved him in the direction of Ben. "Go. I got this."
Kanan shot her one more look over his shoulder, but did as he was told. As he trudged reluctantly towards the edge of the track, dodging rumbling podracers, their crews, and pilots doing last minute checks, he noticed there was a couple of people who seemed to be standing with Ben. Although it was hard to be sure, considering the crowd they were in. He was surprised they had even managed to get to the edge of the track. "Hey, Ben," he yelled as a reached them. The noise from the crowd was even worse than the deep rumblings of the podracers.
Ben grinned at Kanan. "I brought friends," he yelled back.
"I see that," Kanan said dryly. His eyes widened as he looked closer at the other man. "Senator Organa," he nodded respectfully. "I'm surprised to see you here."
The Senator looked at the young man curiously, but didn't recognize him.
But Ahsoka did. Even with his long hair and goatee, he couldn't change his distinctive teal green eyes or his Force signature. "Caleb!" she squealed and threw herself into his arms, pushing her hood back in the process.
Hera picked that moment to look at where Kanan went and saw a pretty female togrutan in his arms who looked about the same age as him. Her jaw dropped in shock. Then set back up into a determined line. She was going to win this race and then give him a piece of her mind. He had no business holding other girls. (Even if he had a spectacular excuse.) That was HER man. And the other girl was going to wish she'd never touched him.
Ben looked at the two ex padawans and felt very old. He remembered when they were just tiny younglings in the Temple and now look at them, basically all grown up. Kanan was taller than him, and Ahsoka? Well, she wasn't a little girl anymore, let's put it that way.
Kanan held the girl for a moment out of reflex, before pushing her back by her shoulders and grinning at her. "Ahsoka! You survived too! Did your clones turn on you as well? I know you weren't technically part of the Order anymore, but I heard you still had command of a Battalion."
She nodded, and, realizing her hood was down, pulled it back up. "Yes," she said, her eyes sad. "Everyone but Rex, and I don't know where he is now. We faked our deaths and went separate ways. Did your Master survive as well?"
Kanan shook his head sadly. "No, she forced me to run and sacrificed herself so I could get away. I would have stayed and died with her if she hadn't."
"I'm sorry, Caleb," she said, eyes reflecting her sorrow.
"So am I. I still miss her." Kanan sighed. "And it's Kanan now. I changed my name to Kanan because I was being hunted. All of us are. It's a long story, but that's how I found Ben here." He nodded towards him.
Ahsoka smiled at Ben again, then her eyes were drawn to the racetrack. "You'll have to tell me that one later. I spent the last couple years as Ashla, myself. It looks like the race is about to start. I take it the person in the pod who is still looking this way is a friend of yours?"
Kanan spun around and waved at Hera with the biggest good luck smile he could pull off. Now that he was concentrating on her, he could sense her displeasure. Uh oh. She must have seen Ahsoka hug him. He was in trouble and he could feel it. He winced and tried to send her thoughts of love and happiness, but she turned her head away and stared determinedly forward as she revved the engines. Ouch. Kanan glanced at Ahsoka then looked back at Hera's stiff posture. "Yes, she's my wife. And she's very unhappy with me right now. You too, I think."
Ahsoka's jaw dropped and she blinked at Kanan, then looked at the shapeless, covered figure, and then back to Kanan, completely speechless. How had he moved past his Jedi training so quickly? She'd only ever let herself form friendly attachments, and in the case of her Master, perhaps something more like a sibling one. Taking a mate was something she hadn't even considered.
Behind them, the older men exchanged looks of amusement on Kanan's behalf. They both knew perfectly well what it was like to have their woman mad at them.
Ahsoka had finally collected herself and was about to ask Kanan how he'd done it, but the race started with the loud sound of a horn and a screech of podracers taking off. She decided to save it for later.
Kanan watched the race on the giant projected screens while barely breathing. Hera flew her podracer easily while slowly moving up the ranks. By the time she reached Beggar's Canyon, she was in third place and half the other racers had already eliminated each other or crashed. Kanan's heart stopped when she made a daring move at Dead Man's turn and overtook second place. He breathed easier once she left the Canyon, hot on the heels of first. The other pilot glanced over his shoulder and saw her approaching. With a smirk, the male glymphid threw a handful of tools at Hera, trying to distract her. She ducked, but a wrench caught her headcovering and tore it off.
There was a gasp from the packed stadium as they saw the pilot's light green patterned lekku appear. The word 'twi'lek' flew through the crowd. They started to cheer for Hera, thinking she was a male twi'lek since her face was still covered by the mask and goggles. No one had seen a twi'lek win a race before. No one could even remember a time when a twi'lek had even been in a podrace, for that matter.
Hera narrowed her eyes and sent her podracer chasing after the glymphid cheater. As she came up beside him, only a few hundred meters from the finish line, she pulled off her mask and grinned at him before leaving the gawking male in her dust as he eased off the accelerator in shock.
She crossed the finish line in first place to the sound of absolute silence as the crowd took in her appearance on the big screens that had zoomed in on her face. Hera pushed her goggles up onto the top of her head and looked for Kanan as she brought her podracer to a stop. She barely even noticed when the crowd started cheering like crazy, and she forgot that she was mad at him, because he ran onto the track and scooped her into his arms and twirled her around and around. Hera laughed joyfully. "I did it! I won!"
Kanan kissed her exuberantly, oblivious to the flying cambot recording the moment.
Up in his skybox, Jabba the Hutt had recovered from his shock. The first thing he did was tell his bounty hunters to get the girl and eliminate the man he recognized from their last encounter. Then he turned to Doran, who looked like a quivering mass of human scum. "You," he said. "Today, you shall not die. You did in fact find me a very good pilot. And a new slave. I don't appreciate being surprised though, so you're fired."
Doran listened to the protocol droid's translations and wept in relief. He made himself scarce as quickly as he could. (No one ever saw Doran on Tatooine again.)
Kanan put Hera down when the Force sent him a warning of danger. He glanced around and saw two people flying at them from above and several others making their way through the crowds. He palmed his blaster and saw Hera pull hers out of a pocket. "Time to go, darling. Things just went wrong, as predicted." As the first blaster shot landed near his feet, he turned and shot at the figure in the sky, scoring a hit to the shoulder and sending the bounty hunter off track for a few precious moments. More shots landed around them from the other flyer.
Hera grinned as she ran beside him towards Ben, who was already turning with the others with him and shoving their way through the already panicking crowd. "I had a feeling this would happen as soon as I lost my headcovering," Hera yelled over the noise. "But I won the race, so I don't care." She spun on the ball of her foot and aimed a shot at one of the flyers casually before continuing into the crowd who were all making a run for it now. With her free hand, Hera grabbed her comm link. "Chopper?" She smiled when she got a beep in response. "I need you to start up the Ghost and track my location. We need a pick up!"
"Be right there," he beeped back.
Hera and Kanan caught up to Ben, Bail, and Ahsoka, despite the chaotic crowd. When a hand grabbed at Hera, she cried out and spun towards the man grabbing at her, aiming a punch at his face with the hand that still held her blaster. He let her go and backed off with a copiously bleeding and broken nose.
Kanan stopped when he heard Hera cry, but grinned as he saw her take care of the problem. He reached back and grabbed her free hand. "Come on, darling. We can't afford to get separated now."
Hera smirked up at him. "You worry too much, dear." She glanced up when she heard a familiar engine over the noise of the screaming crowd. "Our ride's here."
Ben saw their ship approaching. "Go," he said. "I'll stay with the senator. He can take me home and help me find a new location. Comm me when you're clear of the system and we'll talk about our plans. I'm afraid this is goodbye for now."
Kanan nodded, touched Ben's shoulder once in gratitude, and then glanced up at the open ramp now hovering over their heads. He picked up Hera and tossed her up onto the ramp then jumped up and grabbed the edge, pulling himself up. He could have done all of that in one move, with Hera in his arms, using the Force, but he didn't think he should call that much attention to themselves. It was bad enough they had to make their escape in such an obvious way. He waved at Ben, Bail, and Ahsoka before hitting the button to close the ramp. By the time he looked, Hera was already most of the way up the ladder, to take over flying the ship.
Hera jumped into her chair with a pat to Chopper's dome on the way by. She gunned it for the atmosphere, already spotting two other ships leaving the spaceport and flying in pursuit. "Kanan, you might want to pick a gun now and keep them off our tail," she said to him as he appeared beside her. He nodded and ran out of the bridge. A moment later she heard shots fired from the top gun turret. Hera smiled and patted the consol in front of her. "I love my ship," she said as she raised the shields. Chopper beeped. "Yes. And my droid. Start the calculations for a jump back to the Lothal system, would you?" Chopper beeped an affirmative.
"What about me?" Kanan called over the ship's comm system.
Hera chuckled. "And I love my husband most of all."
Ben watched until the Ghost disappeared from sight and then walked calmly with Bail and Ahsoka back to his ship, making their way through the milling crowds.
"Well, that was certainly interesting," Bail said, once they were all in the quiet of his ship and settled in the luxurious common area.
Ahsoka tossed off her hood. "No kidding." She looked at Ben with a raised brow. "So those are my new operatives?"
Ben nodded with a grin. "Yep. I hope they meet your standards."
"They certainly do that," she said dryly. "You have got tell me everything you know about them. And HOW did Caleb, I mean Kanan, end up married?!"
Chapter 8: The Forbidden
A/N: In this A.U., Onderon is a Republic world, not a Separatist one.
D179/22 BBY, Coruscant
Ahsoka Tano glared at the full length burgundy dress she was wearing while her Master drove them to Senator Amidala's apartment. "Tell me again why I have to wear this thing?" she begged of Anakin Skywalker.
Anakin was having a hard time concealing his amusement over his padawan's discomfort. He'd been afraid he was going to have wrestle her into it when she'd first seen it, and it had come pretty close for a minute there. "It's just a dress, Snips. It's not going to swallow you whole. And you have to wear it because we're going to a formal party. You're usual outfit that covers practically nothing just isn't acceptable."
Ahsoka plucked at the long belled sleeve on her other arm and glared some more. "This thing is stupid. And I'm already getting too hot. And you're not wearing formal attire. I don't see why I should." She crossed her arms over her chest and slumped in her seat, stating her displeasure in as vocal and as visual a manner as she could without throwing a full blown tantrum. "I wish I'd never agreed to go to this stupid party."
Anakin gave up the fight and laughed. He'd never seen her so cranky before and he was finding it hilarious. He laughed harder when Ahsoka glared at him with narrowed eyes and basically hissed like a tooka. After a minute or so, he finally got himself back under control when she sent a wave of extreme displeasure down their bond.
Anakin glanced at her pouting face and then returned his attention to where he was flying through the heavy traffic of upper Coruscant. "I'm sorry, Ahsoka. I shouldn't have laughed, but it really is just a dress and it's only for a few hours. I even let you wear your belt and boots. And I am wearing the formal version of my usual robes. They just happen to look just like the other two sets of robes I have; dark and bland. If you wore robes like Barriss, you wouldn't have to wear a proper dress, so it's your own fault, really."
Ahsoka huffed and turned her head so she was looking out to the side. "It's not my fault I'm naturally hot while I'm still growing. I can wear robes when I'm older and not in danger of boiling to death. Not that I'll ever want to," she added under her breath.
"I heard that," Anakin said with a chuckle.
Ahsoka rolled her eyes. "Of course you did."
Anakin pulled the speeder up to a parking spot beside the main balcony and jumped out of the speeder eagerly. (Any time he got to spend in his precious Padme's company was always the highlight of his day.) "Come on, Snips. Three hours. You can do it. Call it an endurance test if you want. Just get out of the speeder."
Ahsoka groaned, heaved a sigh that only a teenage girl can do justice, and then fumbled her way out of the speeder in the most exaggerated fashion she could manage, trying to emphasize how stupid a floor length gown was for a Jedi to wear.
Anakin snorted and just enjoyed the show. If she wanted to make things more difficult, far be it for him to stop her.
Ahsoka finally stood and shook out the voluminous skirts that she'd managed to step on at least three times from her seat to the balcony. "I look stupid," she grouched.
"No you don't," Anakin said as he aimed for the glass doors where he could see a milling crowd already filling Padme's living room. "And hurry up. We're already half an hour late."
Ahsoka glared down at her dress one more time before trudging after him. "That was the idea," she mumbled.
And this time, he didn't hear her.
Lux Bonteri was talking with two of the teenage Padawan's he'd already met when a couple of latecomers arrived at the party. He froze with his drink of some sort of fruity punch half way to his mouth when he saw the togrutan girl. She was wearing a pretty gown that left her upper chest and slender shoulders bare while covering the rest of her torso snugly to the hips in a colour that complimented her orange skin beautifully. The decorative crisscrossed belt with the lightsabre hanging off of it gave her away as a Jedi, but that didn't deter his interest one little bit. If anything, it increased it. (He always was one to want the forbidden.)
"Who is that?" he breathed reverently.
"Who is who?" Caleb Dume asked, surprised at the sudden change of topic. He turned around and followed Lux's line of sight and smiled. "Oh, that's just Ahsoka. She's Anakin Skywalker's Padawan."
"She's not JUST anything," Lux said. "She's gorgeous."
Caleb blinked at the Senator of Onderon's son and then chuckled, acting as cool as he could to impress the older boy. "If you say so. I grew up with her in the Temple, so the best I could say is that she's not ugly. She's like a sister or something."
Barriss Offee raised a brow. "And what am I?"
Both boys flushed red to be caught talking about how pretty a girl was in front of another girl.
Caleb shrugged. "Another sister?"
Lux also shrugged apologetically. "Not my type?"
Barriss nearly rolled her eyes right out of her head at their idiocy. "It's a good thing we're not allowed to have romantic attachments, because I'd never have the patience to deal with how stupid boys are." She left them gawking at her back and went to find her Master; grownups were so much better to talk to anyway.
Ahsoka followed Anakin to the little group of adults containing Padme, Master Obi-Wan, Senator Organa, Senator Mothma, and the stranger Ahsoka assumed was Senator Bonteri, hoping to say her hellos and then escape as soon as possible. The only reason she'd agreed to come to the party in the first place was because Padme promised to invite some of her friends as well, and had mentioned something about Bonteri's son being in attendance and not wanting him to feel like the odd man out.
Padme greeted Anakin and Ahsoka warmly, her caring personality shining through, as usual. "Anakin. Ahsoka. Please let me introduce you to one of my oldest family friends, Mina Bonteri, the Senator of Onderon."
"It's a pleasure," Anakin said, bowing over her hand gallantly.
"Nice to meet you," Ahsoka added, when Anakin was dawn fawning over the pretty lady. (He was such a lady's man, completely defying the rules about being chaste and humble and all that. Obi-Wan just laughed at his shenanigans, so Ahsoka had learned not to mention it anymore. Then again, Obi-Wan had his own way with the ladies that seemed to draw them to him like flies to honey. He was incredibly smooth when he wanted to be, but Ahsoka had never seen him do anything that would indicate he did more than flirt politely.)
Ahsoka also didn't miss the glare Padme shot at the back of Anakin's head while he was paying attention to someone other than her. She was pretty sure that if those two weren't already involved in a more than a friendly acquaintance, Padme would really like for it to be so; why else did they spend so much time with that particular senator in comparison to the others? She caught Obi-Wan's eye and they shared a mutual roll of the eyes and a smirk. Anakin was going to get himself in trouble one of these days.
(Little did they know that Anakin's outlandish flirting with every pretty female he saw was a front to hide the fact that he was fiercely in love with Padme and very much married to her, in complete defiance of the Jedi rules.)
Padme cleared her throat and smiled through slightly gritted teeth. "Ahsoka, why don't you go find Lux? I know he's around here somewhere. Mina just mentioned that he just celebrated his sixteenth birthday a couple days ago, the same day as yours."
Ahsoka almost choked on a laugh at the pointed look she was giving Anakin, plainly saying that he was barking up a very old tree who had a sixteen year old son, only four years his junior.
Anakin merely smiled blandly at Padme and then turned to Mina Bonteri again. "Your beauty defies your age, Senator. Your husband is a very lucky man." He smiled down at Ahsoka next. "I'm sure I saw a boy with Caleb and Barriss a minute ago. That must be him." He patted her shoulder encouragingly. "Go make friends."
"Yes, Master," Ahsoka said dryly, but was more than happy to leave the 'adults' to their talk of politics and veiled flirting.
She wandered across the room, spotting Caleb's convention defying dark green robes easily. (How he talked his Master into letting him have those special made, she'd never know, but Master Billaba had seemed really nice whenever she talked to her, considering her Master was Mace Windu, and he was one of the sternest, by the book, Jedi ever.)
Ahsoka studied the boy with Caleb as she approached. He was taller than Caleb, obviously, since her fellow Padawan was about half a year younger than her, and she'd just turned fourteen. (They'd been the same height until a month ago, when Caleb suddenly started growing again.) Lux Bonteri had pale, perfect looking skin that hardly ever saw the sun, overly slicked back brown hair, fancy dark grey and blue froufrou clothes, and, as she got closer, pretty grey eyes. Overall, her first impression wasn't a good one.
It's a good thing she'd been taught never to judge a person on first impressions.
Caleb turned with a grin as he sensed her approaching. "Ahsoka. Escaped from the elders' grasp, have you?"
Ahsoka snorted. "Finally. It's gag city over there."
Caleb and Lux guffawed. When they calmed down, Caleb looked Ahsoka up and down, as if just noticing her outfit. "What has your Master got you wearing?! Aren't you hot?" (He knew how much hotter she ran than the average human, thus her skimpy outfits.)
"Of course I'm hot!" Ahsoka exclaimed, plucking at the bodice of her gown and frowning at it once again. ""But Master said my usual outfit wasn't acceptable for a formal party, and I suppose he's right, based on the amount of glitz and bling I see in this room alone, but for Force's sake, couldn't he have found me a lighter fabric? I think this is real velvet!"
Lux hadn't known that togrutan's were hotter than humans, but he did the first gallant thing that came to mind. "Why don't we go hang out on the back balcony then? It's much cooler outside than in here."
Ahsoka smiled at the older boy, immediately forgiving him for looking like a popinjay. "What a wonderful idea. Thank you."
He gestured for her to proceed them and then followed behind the two younger teens, trying very hard not to notice how her hips swayed the fabric of her skirt with every step. Lux forced himself to look away before he embarrassed himself and spotted the buffet table serving drinks. Remembering she hadn't been carrying a drink, he dashed over and poured her a little fruit punch and added a ton of ice chips, hoping this would help.
Ahsoka turned around jumped up onto the balcony railing, balancing effortlessly on the small ledge, about to comment on how much better and quieter it was outside to Lux, but he wasn't with them anymore. How did that happen? Then he came through the door carrying two glasses and handed her one with a smile.
"A drink for you, my lady, heavy on the ice."
Ahsoka glanced in the glass and then beamed a smile at the boy. "That is so sweet, thank you."
Lux's heart nearly stopped at her smile and he had to mentally stop himself from looking at her like a lovestruck idiot. Those big blue eyes nearly did him in every time he looked in them. "You're welcome."
Ahsoka took a sip of her punch and then floated the glass in the air absently. "So, Lux, what brings you to Coruscant?"
Lux closed his gawking mouth with a snap after realizing that she didn't even seem to notice how amazing what she was doing with her glass was, and focused on her words. "Oh. Um. Well, my mother is a Senator, which you probably know already. With the increase in political upheaval over the war, she's been spending most of her time here in debates with the Senate, so Father and I decided to follow her and rent an apartment on Coruscant for the foreseeable future. Father was thinking of joining the Republic military, since he was here anyway. He's a Lieutenant in the Onderon military, so he shouldn't have any problems getting a decent position here. And I'm starting school at a private University next week when term starts. I'm studying to be an astrophysicist since I want to chart the Unknown Regions and study everything I come across when I'm done my education." (He was also thinking he wouldn't mind if Ahsoka accompanied him.)
Now Ahsoka and Caleb were the ones to gawk.
"Wow," Caleb finally said.
"Double wow," Ahsoka added taking another sip of her punch and then sucking on a piece of ice. "That's an awesome goal. I hope the war doesn't interfere with your plans."
Lux shrugged negligently and moved to lean against the railing beside her, looking up at where he knew the stars where, but not being able to see them with the glow that Coruscant put off. (He missed them already.) "I am resigned to the fact that my plans may be delayed by a year or two, but there's always work for an astrophysicist to be found, so I'm not worried." He glanced from Ahsoka to Caleb. "What do you two plan on doing, after the war is over? What does a Jedi do if they don't have to keep the peace?"
Caleb shrugged. "We keep being Jedi? It's what we know. In a peaceful time, both Ahsoka and I would never have been taken on as Padawans until we were fourteen, but with the war starting at the beginning of the year, things got pushed up a bit. I just met my Master a few weeks ago when she was recovering from serious injuries acquired in battle. Ahsoka was assigned to Master Skywalker right after the battle of Geonosis, since she's literally the best of us and he's a Force genius or something."
Lux glanced at her with a raised brow and noticed how she was trying to look all nonchalant about the compliment. He thought it was cute.
Ahsoka continued the conversation. "As far as what Jedi do when there are no wars? That's easy; we do our best to prevent more wars. It worked for the last thousand years, it should work again. None of us actually know how this war got so out of hand. With so many Jedi in the galaxy right now, peaceful negotiations between worlds should have been easy to accomplish. Something has gone horribly wrong somewhere and no one can figure out where."
Their attention was diverted from their conversation when Padme opened the glass door and stuck her head out. "Hey, dinner will be served in five minutes, so you three should come back in." She closed her eyes in delight as a refreshing breeze swept past her face, then stepped out onto the balcony. "Now I know why you're hiding out here. It's a lovely evening."
"Yes, it..." Ahsoka started to reply when the Force shouted a warning and the world dropped out from under her with a huge bang and a crack.
Anakin had been discreetly keeping an eye on Padme as he and Obi-Wan talked nonsense with the politicians. As the first niggles of impending doom swept through him, he was already moving towards the back balcony doors, eyes on Padme's figure as she stepped outside. He caught her with the Force just as the explosion happened, pulling her back into the building, away from danger, and into his arms, then turning his back to the flying glass.
They looked at each other in relieved shock for all of two seconds then they both had the same thought.
Depa was already at what was left of the glass doors and Mina was on her way, a cry of, "Lux!" ringing through the suddenly silent room as people rose from their instinctive crouches and ducked positions.
As she was thrown away from the blast that took out the balcony, Ahsoka reflexively reached for Lux, who had been right beside her. Her fingers touched a sleeve and she grabbed the fabric tight as she turned her head and saw a look of pure surprise on his face as they were now falling through the seemingly endless sky. Using her grip, and a little bit of the Force, Ahsoka managed to wrap her arms around him, much to his further surprise, as they fell past countless speeders zipping by, missing many be narrow margins.
Spotting another speeder coming right at them, Ahsoka aimed for it. This wasn't easy to do with a boy almost twice her weight in her arms, but she used the Force and sheer determination and made them land on the back of it, keeping the balance so they didn't fall right back off.
The human driver of the speeder looked behind him in surprise when he felt his speeder rock. "Hey!"
Ahsoka waved at him cheekily. "Just dropping in. Don't mind us." Then she wrapped her arm around Lux's waist again and jumped them off again, aiming for the street below them that wasn't that far away anymore, only being another fifty meters down or so.
She slowed their momentum at the last second with a burst of the Force and landed them on the ground with a bend of their knees, since Lux seemed to be with the program.
Lux stared at the tiny girl who actually did radiate heat, who he could now feel had arms the size of twigs, in absolute amazement and adoration, ignoring the crowd of passersby who'd stopped to gawk at them for appearing out of nowhere from the sky. "That was bloody fantastic!" he breathed in wonder, raising a hand to cup her smiling cheek.
Ahsoka shrugged negligently and grinned. "All in a day's work for me." She stared up at the boy whose face was looking cuter by the minute, with his hair now wonderfully windblown, and he had sparkles in his eyes, making them look silver, just noticing that her arms were still around his waist and he felt surprisingly fit under his fancy clothes. She felt a strange invisible pull towards him and was curiously comfortable with their close proximity, like she was where she belonged. The moment stretched into an endless second as their eyes locked and Lux's head started to lower towards hers. Just before their mouths would have touched, Ahsoka jerked her head back. "I can't," she whispered. "I'm sorry."
All the sparkle left Lux's eyes, but he nodded in understanding.
"Ahsoka!" Caleb called excitedly as he ran up to them from further down the street, making her pull away from Lux with a blush that thankfully didn't show. "That was some fall, wasn't it?"
Ahsoka pulled herself together and grinned at Caleb as he came to a skidding stop beside them. "It sure was. I wouldn't mind doing it again."
The teens were laughing when Anakin and Depa landed beside them, having jumped off the building as well in a state of worry for their Padawans.
Anakin touched his wrist comm. "Tell Senator Bonteri that her son is fine."
"Will do," Obi-Wan's voice responded. "And the other two?"
"Laughing their heads off," Anakin replied wryly.
"Of course," Obi-Wan said dryly. "And you might want to catch that."
"Catch what?" Anakin said, his tone getting the attention of the others. They all looked up as what was left of the balcony was making its way down, screams starting to fill the street as civilians noticed the freighter sized piece of duracrete aiming right for them.
"Oh, that," Anakin said. He glanced at Depa, Caleb, and Ahsoka, and they all raised their hands and focused on the falling balcony that had given up clinging to the side of the building by its last support strut. It slowed to a stop just above head height and they gently lowered it to the ground, blocking the entire street, but at least no one was crushed by it.
Lux looked from the destroyed balcony to the four people who'd placed it on the ground. "I think I know what Jedi do now," he commented dryly.
Ahsoka and Caleb burst into laughter again, while their Masters just shook their heads at them and the sound of police sirens filled the air.
So that was Lux's introduction to Ahsoka.
They became fast friends, of course, and visited each other whenever the opportunity presented itself. Which wasn't often, with Ahsoka off fighting the war more often than not and him busy with school.
His love only grew for her, but he never pushed her again, not wanting to cause her conflict. For Lux, just spending time with her was better than nothing. He watched her grow up from a woman child to an actual woman, becoming more beautiful every day, thinking his life was pretty good, all things considered.
And then it wasn't.
The war finally reached Onderon about two years later. He and his father went home to help their people fight the Separatists who wanted to take over the planet and claim it for their own, since it was located near a pivotal hyperspace corridor and whoever controlled the planet could control the hyperspace route.
Ahsoka, Anakin, and the 501st came to help as well and they did win, but Lux's father was killed not even two days into the conflict.
And then his mother was assassinated and Lux suddenly found himself taking her place as the Senator of Onderon and moving right back to Coruscant.
His friendship with Ahsoka was the only thing that got him through that week of misery and loss.
Not even a month later, the Jedi Temple was bombed and Ahsoka was blamed for it. Lux knew she would never do something like that, but it seemed like he was the only one, except for Anakin. By the time her name was cleared by her Master, she'd lost all faith in the Jedi Council and the people who had been her family.
She left the Order.
She even left Coruscant, going back to her home planet of Shili, saying she needed some time alone to think about what she wanted to do with her life now. That hurt, but Lux understood. He also rejoiced just a little, because now there was nothing to stop her from pursuing a romantic relationship. He just had to wait for her to come to the same realization.
She did come back after another month or so, and with some begging by the Jedi Council, she rejoined Anakin and finished out the war, in command of the 501st again, but she didn't do it as a Jedi. She said she would never be a Jedi again.
The last time he'd seen her, she was on her way to Mandalore to deal with a Sith called Darth Maul who had taken over the planet. She'd kissed him on the cheek in farewell and said she'd see him again soon, a little sparkle of life in her eyes that hadn't been there since before she left the Order. Ahsoka seemed finally ready to move on.
Then Order 66 happened and Lux was told that Ahsoka had been killed by her clones, along with almost every other Jedi in the galaxy. It was the worst day of his life as all his hopes crumbled to dust.
Not able to stand living on a planet that held nothing he cared about anymore, he left Coruscant and returned to his family home on Onderon, doing his job as the Senator from home as much as possible and only going back when he had to.
He'd lost all of his hopes and dreams, but life went on, and so did Lux.
D75/17 BBY, The Reckless, CR90 Corvette
Ahsoka leaned back in her chair and swung it absently back and forth, staring at the ceiling of her office, as she thought over the hours long conversation she just had with Kanan and Hera. She'd just sent them on their first official mission for the Rebellion, to check out the rumours of a new Imperial base on the moon Blackfel.
Her mind was whirling. Not because she was worried about their ability to handle the mission, but because of the obvious devotion they had for each other. With every glance they exchanged and light touch they gave each other, Ahsoka had realized how much she wanted that as well.
Despite not officially being a Jedi anymore, she'd more or less stuck with her ingrained training of not forming attachments. Not that she hadn't anyways over the years to a small degree. She'd loved her Master like a big brother, and it had killed her to leave him. She'd also made many friends. But there was one friend who could have been so much more, if she didn't have the no attachments rule holding her back.
Seeing Kanan and Hera together had been like a smack over the head. There was no good reason for her not to have her own mate.
She reached forward and hit the comm button for the bridge. "Captain, set a course for Onderon."
"Yes, Sir," came the brisk reply.
Ahsoka resumed the gentle swing of her chair as an anticipatory smile crossed her face.
She was going Lux hunting.
Chapter 9: The Taken
D76/17 BBY, Onderon
Ahsoka used the cover of darkness and her own stealth abilities to sneak into Lux's estate a ten minute drive from the capital city. There were security cameras everywhere and guards at the gate and posted throughout the grounds. She had to Force jump over a seven metre high wall, use a calming trick on the guard mookas who came bounding over to see her, and use a mind trick on a guard that came to see what the mookas were so excited about.
Overall, it was good times, and she was having fun. Why Lux needed such security measures, though, she'd have to ask.
Ahsoka looked up at the back of the four story mansion with narrowed eyes. 'All right, Luxi. Where are you?' she thought. Ahsoka had been here once before, during the war, but there hadn't exactly been time for the grand tour.
There were a few lights on in some of the windows, so that narrowed it down. Unless he was asleep already, but she doubted it. Lux was never one to go to bed early. He was more inclined to stay up late and gaze at the stars while reading a book.
Ahsoka spared a moment to close her eyes and just feel with the Force, searching for Lux's familiar presence. She smiled when she felt it, the comfortable sense of warmth and energy that was distinctly his sending a little thrill of excitement through her.
Pushing off the ground, she leapt for a balcony on the highest floor and to the right. She took off her dark hooded cloak and draped it over the railing, then peered through the glass doors to see Lux seated at a desk off to the side, talking to a female shaped hologram. The room was large, fancy, and had 'gentleman's study' written all over it, from the dark, synth leather couches and chairs, to the walls lined with real books in fancy wooden cases, to the massive fireplace.
Ahsoka drank in the sight of Lux, not having seen him for more than two years. He'd grown up some more. His shoulders seemed broader and his face had settled into the features of a man instead of the boy he'd been. He almost took her breath away, he was so handsome now. He'd always been cute, but the new maturity just brought him up another level. Ahsoka could happily see herself waking up to that face every morning.
Curious about who he was talking to, but not wanting to interrupt, she cracked a door a smidge and listened.
Lux was holding on to his polite facade out of sheer determination. For reasons that he didn't wholly understand, a veritable line of eligible females from prominent families across the galaxy had decided that he was the best catch of the season and they just wouldn't leave him alone. It had been a little over two years since he lost Ahsoka and he had yet to encounter anyone else that even remotely interested him the way she had. Now if only the other females would get with the program and leave him alone, he'd be a much happier person.
He knew that eventually he'd have to find a wife and settle down, if only to keep the Bonteri name going, since he was the last, but he was only twenty-one and he was determined that he was staying single for a few more years yet. Maybe by then, he might actually have gotten over his dream of marrying Ahsoka, who he'd thought was absolute perfection.
Right now, he was talking to the Senator of Pantora, Riyo Chuchi. She'd called under the pretext of discussing the new bill the smart ones in the Senate were trying to oppose that would allow the Emperor complete control over who was chosen as the Senator from each world. That meant that anyone Palpatine didn't like or didn't play his way would find themselves without a job awful quick and the Senate would end up being even more of a joke than it already was.
Lux was more than happy to talk about important politics, but she'd already started to veer off topic, much to his dismay.
"I was wondering if perhaps you'd like to meet in person to discuss this further," Chuchi said suggestively, twirling a lock of her purple hair around a finger. "Maybe someplace quiet and private where we wouldn't be interrupted?" She batted her lashes over her gold eyes a few times, like that would help.
Lux blinked at the hologram of the blue skinned senator, not sure what to say. She was pretty enough, for an older woman, he supposed, her colouring rather striking, but really not his type at all. "Um, well. I don't think..."
A flash of movement caught Lux's eye and he glanced over to the balcony doors. The glimpse of blue and white stripes made his heart stop for a beat or two in shock, but a slow smile spread across his face as he returned his attention to the hologram. "What I mean to say is that I'm taken, Senator Chuchi, and I would appreciate it if you kept your calls to a more formal nature in the future."
Chuchi gawked at him rather unbecomingly. "But, no one's seen you... That is. What I mean is... Well. To put it bluntly, no one's seen you courting any other females."
Lux raised a sardonic brow. "That doesn't mean I'm not already spoken for." He didn't care how she interpreted that. They could think he was in a hidden relationship with another male for all he cared. He just wanted them to leave him alone. Because he really was taken, heart and soul. With any luck, Chuchi would spread the word and his days of being stalked by status and credit hunting females would be over. Some of the more daring had even taken to showing up at his house at night, hoping to seduce him into marrying them. It was revolting. And spending credits on guards was not how he preferred to invest his family money.
Chuchi's eyes widened as that sunk in. "I see."
"I'm glad that you do. Good night, Senator."
"Good night," Chuchi replied rather dazedly before her hologram disappeared.
Lux immediately surged to his feet and crossed the room to the balcony doors and flung them open. Her back was to him as she stared out over the dark gardens lit only by a sliver of a moon, forearms resting on the railing. Her lekku were a little longer, and she might have grown a bit taller, but he knew it was her.
"Ahsoka," he breathed reverently. "You're alive." He was afraid to move in case he was just imagining her and the phantasm would wisp away with the breeze.
Ahsoka stood up straight, forcing her spine to keep her upright as her heart stuttered through the chest clenching sorrow. She turned to Lux and smiled tightly. "Hi, Lux."
Lux unfroze from his spot and surged forwards until he was right in front of her. He had the passing thought that it was a good thing he'd grown that last millimetre because she was just as tall as him now. He grasped her shoulders and studied her face intently. Stars, she was gorgeous, her huge blue eyes still dominating her exotic features. But why did they look sad? "What's wrong?" he asked.
Ahsoka couldn't meet his searching eyes anymore, so she stared at his chest instead. In his casual white shirt, there was a definite strength and width to him that she didn't remember him having. She was also ignoring how nice it felt to have his big hands cupping her shoulders. "I... I came to see if you wanted to... perhaps..." Why was this so hard to say? "Be my mate," she mumbled out quickly, her face heating in extreme embarrassment. She pulled out of his hold and looked out over the grounds again without seeing it. "But I heard you say you were taken already," she continued in a resigned tone. "I shouldn't have come." She put her hand on the railing and her cloak, and was just about to jump over when Lux stopped her with a hand on her arm.
"Ahsoka, wait." He turned her around and tucked a finger under her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his as he smiled at her softly. "I am taken, that is true. But it's you, Soka. It's always been you."
Ahsoka stared into his multihued grey eyes, seeing only sincerity and perhaps even... love? "Oh," she breathed. And then louder. "Oh!" She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him tight, burying her face in the crook of his neck and breathing in his wonderful scent that she'd always found most pleasing.
Lux chuckled and wound his arms around her back in turn, pressing a kiss to the side of her montral. "I'm so happy you're alive. I was told that you were killed on Mandalore."
Ahsoka nodded against his shoulder, reluctant to move, as she was sure she'd just found where she belonged. "I almost was," she murmured into his neck. "Rex saved me from the other clones. We faked our deaths and then went into hiding. I haven't seen him since that day." Ahsoka pulled back just enough so she could see Lux's face. "I have to warn you. I can't be seen by the public. Jedi and Force users and even babies are being hunted across the galaxy by that Sith lord, Darth Vader, and hundreds of bounty hunters. No one can know I'm alive. Can you live with being in a secret relationship? Can you live with my not being here all the time as I pursue my new job?"
Lux raised a hand and stroked his fingers down her back lek gently, pleased to see her eyes widen as a shiver went through her. "Soka, I've waited for you since I was sixteen. Any time I can spend with you will be considered a blessing. Just knowing that you're alive is already more than I ever thought to have over the last two years. I could wait for you for eternity if it meant that I knew I'd get to hold you in the end. So to answer your question from before, yes, I would love to be your mate."
Ahsoka beamed at him. Just flat out smiled like a sun had taken up residence within her body. Before she'd even realized that she was going to do it, she pressed her mouth to his in a kiss that had zero finesse but a whole lot of enthusiasm.
Lux grinned into the kiss before he took control, showing her how to meld their mouths just right and the pleasures of tongue play as she opened for him willingly.
The sensations zipping through her at the contact of their mouths and their bodies was downright amazing. His hand that kept trailing up and down her lek was turning her insides into a puddle. Ahsoka pulled back for a moment. "Force, that's good," she whispered, before pressing her mouth to his again.
Lux wholeheartedly agreed. He'd kissed a few girls before he met Ahsoka, but none of them even came close in comparison to how thrilling this was. Her lips were so plush and soft. Her mouth tasted like the sweetest of berries. And her body felt like heaven in his arms, all pressed up against his. In fact, everything seemed to line up just perfectly, her curves fitting snugly against him in all the right places.
He kind of groaned in his chest and then moved his arms to the small of her back and behind her knees, picking her up and holding her tight against his chest as he pressed kisses along the line of her jaw. "I've imagined this moment for years, Soka. Years."
Ahsoka wrapped her arms around his neck, marvelling at how easily he held her, as she wasn't exactly little anymore, and returned the kisses. "I must confess, my dear Luxi, that I've had a few un Jedi like thoughts about you as well. I had to shield them like mad from my Master when I was younger."
Lux laughed as he smiled down at her, kissed her forehead and then started walking back into his study. Ahsoka very helpfully closed the doors with the Force and then he came to a halt in the centre of the room, unsure what to do now. "Ahsoka?"
"How far did you want to take this tonight? I don't want to push you beyond what you're comfortable doing."
Ahsoka smoothed the little frown from between his eyebrows with a finger and smiled rather seductively, if she did say so herself. "I want everything you have to give me, Lux. I don't have a whole lot of time before I have to leave again."
Lux practically drowned in the blue of her eyes as his breath caught at her words. He kicked his feet into motion and made for the door, aiming for his bedroom further down the hallway. "So, what do you do now?" he asked to keep his mind occupied as he walked. Otherwise he'd probably take her up against a wall in the study like a barbarian. That idea had a lot of merit, but not for their first time together. (He did have some sense left in his nearly bloodless brain, as all of that had apparently travelled south for the time being.)
Ahsoka played with a strand of his soft brown collar length hair, liking how it looked gold or bronze as the light struck it at a certain angle. "Oh. I'm the Director of Intelligence for the new Rebellion that Bail Organa and Mon Mothma are starting. Our plan is to overthrow the Empire eventually."
Lux stopped and blinked at Ahsoka for a moment. "I'm in," he stated before walking on, nudging his bedroom door closed with his shoulder. (Not that anyone else lived on this floor, but it was the principle of the thing.)
"Good," Ahsoka said as she smiled at him some more. "We'll need as many senators on our side as we can get."
Lux pressed a short, sweet kiss to her smiling mouth. "This is perhaps the first time I've actually been glad that I'm a senator. I want to help make things right again."
Ahsoka beamed at him again. (It felt like that was the only expression she had now.) "I knew there was a reason that I loved you."
Lux froze again with one knee on his king sized bed. "You love me?" he whispered in awe.
Ahsoka shrugged casually. "Of course I do. I always have. I always told myself it was just a friendly love, kind of like how I loved Anakin and Rex and Caleb like siblings, but I knew I was lying to myself. It was easier than living in a state of want, though."
"Geez, Ahsoka. I love you too," he gushed.
"I know," she grinned. "I can feel it."
Lux rolled his eyes slightly as he turned and sat on the bed, now cradling her in his lap. "Of course you can. You and your Jedi senses will forever have me at a disadvantage, won't you?"
Ahsoka shrugged again, but didn't deny it. "So now what?" she asked curiously. "I don't actually know what comes next. It's not something they taught us in the Temple."
Lux cough laughed. "Why am I not surprised? Fortunately, my education was a little more down to earth." He kissed her cute little nose. "Are you sure this is what you want? There's no going back once it's done."
Ahsoka cupped his cheek, feeling the tiny stubble of his facial hair, meeting his eyes. "I'm sure, Lux. I choose you for my mate."
Lux felt his chest swell with pride at being this amazing woman's choice. She could have anyone in the galaxy and she wanted him. "What about children? Please say you want those."
Ahsoka smiled softly, fingers caressing the lines of his face. "I do want them. Not yet, I'm only nineteen, but two would be nice to have someday."
Lux exhaled in relief. He'd take her even if she didn't want kids, but he'd had a picture in his mind for years now of raising a family with her. Now the dream could stay intact. The odds were low for their two species to procreate, but it could be done. Speaking of... He flushed a little in embarrassment to ask this, but... "Did you, ummm, get anything? For that?"
Ahsoka nodded, her own cheeks heating. "Yes. Before I came here. I got a shot. We're good."
Lux chuckled at her stilted words as he started pressing kisses to the side of her head and trailing down her left lek, paying attention to every stripe like they were the most fascinating things ever.
Ahsoka literally shuddered in his grasp, eyes closing in bliss. "Good. Good. Good," she mumbled, her arms tightening around his neck reflexively. When she couldn't stand it anymore, the shivers almost too much for her to take, Ahsoka pulled away from Lux's hold and stood up, panting, her body on fire like she'd never known. She started pulling off her clothes in a rush, starting with her boots and belt that held her recently acquired lightsabres, the items hitting the lushly carpeted floor with a thump.
Lux was pretty sure he'd died and gone to heaven as he gawked at the vision that was being uncovered for him. Until she nudged him with a bare toe, that is.
"Don't just sit there, Luxi. Strip. I don't want to be the only one naked here."
Lux jolted into action, tossing off his shirt and removing his trousers and socks in record time. He finished at the same time she did, since he was wearing less individual pieces and they stood there for at least a minute just admiring the other.
"Stars, Ahsoka, you're beautiful," Lux gasped out past his pounding heart. She really was. She was covered in the most beguiling shade of soft orange skin, except for the white markings on her face, her breasts, and over her pubic mound. Her head sat on a slender neck that seemed much too delicate to do the job. It led down to shoulders that were slender and yet strong looking. Her arms were no longer twigs, but defined in lean muscle and ended in the most graceful looking fingers. Her torso was slender as well, making her mouth watering breasts look bigger than they actually were, and framed in by her lekku. She had well defined abs, a nipped in waist, and hips that flared out perfectly, leading down to strong and lean legs that he couldn't wait to have wrapped around him. Her feet were adorable too, being decidedly smaller than his.
Ahsoka looked her chosen mate up and down and then back up again, her eyes impossibly wide. "You're not exactly ugly either, Lux." She replied after a moment. The man had muscles everywhere! He almost rivalled the clones for muscle tone, and that was saying something. (She'd seen more than a few when tending wounds on the battlefield, healing what she could with whatever energy she had left after each battle.) His broad shoulders and strong arms led down to a muscled chest that narrowed into defined abs and narrow hips. His legs were strong and oh so capable looking, and his big feet were cute, despite how contradictory that sounded. And then there was the appendage in the middle that seemed determined to make its presence known as it pointed right at her. She could almost sense how much that not so little source of mutual pleasure wanted to get acquainted with her own place of mating.
Ahsoka took the step that separated them and placed her hands on his chest, feeling his heart jump at the contact, eyes meeting his that were now more black than grey. "In fact, I think you're beautiful too."
Lux shook his head as his hands were drawn to her flesh and he trailed them up and down her arms, his mouth quirking up on one side. "You mean handsome?"
Ahsoka shook her head too, eyes twinkling with desire and humour. "No. I mean beautiful. You are so much more than just handsome. Any guy can be handsome. You are perfect, both inside and out."
Lux felt himself blushing. "Geez, Soka, you're going to give me an ego the size of Coruscant." He leaned closer and nuzzled his nose against hers. "But I'm not complaining."
He wrapped his arms around her back and pulled her closer so that all of their parts were pressed together in the most heart pounding way. "And you, my lovely Ahsoka, are the only girl I've dreamed of for five years. I've always thought that you were perfect in every way. I love how smart you are. I love your sense of humour. I love your caring nature and the honour that you live by. I love your smile. I love your eyes. I love your pretty lekku. I love..."
Ahsoka stopped him with a finger to his lips, laughter in her eyes. "I get it. You love me." She wiggled against him just so and watched as his eyes darkened even further with need. "Now can we move on to the next part? I've waited a long time for this."
Lux groaned, picked her up and tossed her on the bed, settling himself over her, and kissed her breathless for a minute or two. When he drew back, he smiled slightly. "Not as long as I have, Soka darling."
Then his mouth was pressed to hers again and not a whole lot of talking occurred for a very long time. (Unless you count moans, groans, squeals, laughter, and 'Oh Force! Do that some more!')
It was about six hours later, and neither of them had slept yet, too busy exploring the new pleasures to be found in each other's arms. So far, Lux had worshipped her body from top to bottom and especially the middle, making her climax for the first time in her life. Then Ahsoka had done the same, swallowing his seed like it was the best thing she'd ever tasted. Then he'd lain on his back and settled her over him, taking their first time together slow and easy and as deep and hard as she wanted it.
After they'd both come from that, things had gotten a little wild. Lux had a whole list of positions in his mind that he wanted to try and over the course of the next two hours, they got to quite a lot of them. Ahsoka had come at least nine times already and he four.
Feeling like he had one more time left in him before he collapsed from sheer exhaustion, Lux now had her on her hands and knees on the bed in front of him and he was sliding into her welcoming heat once more, both of them groaning at the new sensations from yet another new angle and depth reached.
His hands grabbed her shoulders and her side lekku curled back and twined up his arms, holding him just as tight. The first time her lekku had moved, he'd been VERY surprised, but apparently they could if you got your girl excited enough. (Ahsoka was more than excited enough.)
Lux pounded into her tight channel over and over, a little groan escaping with every move. Ahsoka was more or less whining as her now raw voice keened her pleasure with every thrust. Feeling her tightening around him and the tension in her body increase, Lux picked up the pace and pulled one of his hands free so he could caress her clit, knowing that would send her over almost instantly.
It did. Ahsoka wailed as she spasmed around him. Lux buried his face in her back lek, sucking and kissing it mindlessly as he thrust twice more and came with a loud groan, filling her depths once again with stream after stream of his essence.
Not wanting to collapse on her, he rolled them over onto their sides, keeping them connected in the most intimate way possible, and wrapped his arms around her middle and chest, the soft weight of her breasts resting on his forearm.
Lux gasped for air as their overheated bodies practically steamed and rested his chin on her shoulder, eyes closing as he savoured the afterglow of passion. "Love you, Soka," he mumbled before falling into a deep sleep within minutes.
Ahsoka had never felt so content and well exercised in her life. Jedi training had nothing on lovemaking in terms of physical activity. She covered Lux's arms with her own and whispered, "I love you too, Luxi," in reply. Her eyes also closed and she sighed in sheer happiness, snuggling back against him just a fraction more, before also falling into an exhausted slumber.
When Lux woke up in the morning to a line of bright light sneaking in through the curtains, he thought he was dreaming at first.
He had a woman in his arms and he knew it was Ahsoka, her body heat warming him despite the lack of covers, or clothes.
As he gazed at her head resting on his chest in awe, her legs wrapped amongst his, the events of last night came rushing back and he knew this wasn't a dream. Lux grinned as pure joy filled him from the inside out, his arms tightening their hold around her back.
Ahsoka nuzzled her face against Lux's warm skin as she woke up to the feeling of love and joy pouring over her in a soft rush of Force energy. She opened her eyes and propped her chin on his chest, fingers lazily stroking whatever bit of skin they happened to be near. Smiling at his handsome face looking down at her, she said, "Good morning, my beautiful mate."
Lux grinned and pulled her body up his so he could kiss her lovingly. "Good morning, my gorgeous mate," he replied when he'd kissed her dreamy eyed to his satisfaction. His hands feathered up and down her back as he savoured her weight on him, loving the feeling of having her in his arms. "How long can you stay, and are you hungry?"
Ahsoka rubbed her curves against him, her eyes heavy lidded, and her fingers grasping his hair. "You have me till an hour before the sun rises again, and I'm STARVED."
As her soft mouth covered his own, Lux knew she wasn't talking about food.
He thought he might just be the luckiest guy in the galaxy right now.
Chapter 10: The Brothers
D102/17 BBY, The Ghost
Hera turned off the holo comm projector and turned to enter new coordinates into the nav computer. Once her ship was zooming through hyperspace, she left the bridge with a pat to Chopper's dome on the way by, and wandered down the hallway towards the common room, a smile on her face.
She had a new mission from Ahsoka and some news from her new friend that made her very happy for her. Hopefully Kanan thought so too, since he was also invited to be part of the proceedings.
Opening the common room door, she found her rather handsome husband sitting behind the dejarik table, frowning in concentration over the belt and tool he held in his hands. "What are you doing, love?"
Kanan glanced up at her, smiling briefly at the sight of her and returned his concentration to his task. "I'm adding some new hooks to the back of my belt. Now that I've been practicing with it again, I find that I miss having my lightsabre with me all the time like I used to. I figured out that if I broke it down into two pieces, it doesn't look like a lightsabre anymore and it should be safe enough to wear it in the open."
Hera sat beside him, her shoulder and hip just brushing his and watched his dextrous fingers work with fascination. "That's wonderful, Kanan. I'm happy you've come up with a solution."
He smiled at her again, leaning over and pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth and then concentrated on the belt again. "Ben keeps his hidden under his robes, but as we both know, I don't wear them, so I got creative."
Hera smirked suggestively, lowering her voice a fraction. "I like when you get creative."
Kanan's head popped back up and he dropped his things on the table. "Oh, you do, do you?" He grabbed her around the waist and buried his face in the crook of her neck, nipping and kissing her slender neck as he growled playfully.
Hera giggled and buried her fingers in his hair, pulling out the tie. "Yes, love," she breathed as the sensations in her neck shot straight to her core. She was dripping within minutes.
Kanan sensed her excitement of course, and it only fueled his own growing desire. One hand shot up to her lek and stroked it while the other started working on her the fasteners of her flight suit.
Hera let go of his hair for the moment and helped with her disrobing. The moment that was accomplished, she found herself lifted onto the dejarik table and treated to a superspeed strip show while Kanan tore off his own clothes.
Kanan's head dove for her breasts, kissing both quickly and then latching onto a dark green nipple and suckling just the way she liked. Hera's fingers returned to his hair and held him as her eyes closed in bliss. Every suck and nip of his mouth sent another jolt to her weeping pussy. "Kanan," she begged after a few minutes of exquisite torture.
Kanan grinned around her delectable mound of flesh and reached down with one hand, plunging a finger into her warm depths, eyes near closed at the feel of her welcome heat. A second finger quickly joined the first and he moved his mouth back up to her neck, over to her mouth just in time to swallow a loud moan, and then over to a lek, kissing a path down to the end of it and sucking the tip into his mouth. She clenched around his fingers. Hard. Her body arched in a bow and his beautiful wife screamed.
Kanan was very pleased with what he'd accomplished so far, but he wasn't done. Not by a long shot.
Hera was still drowning in the aftershocks when she felt Kanan pick her up. She wrapped her arms and legs around him out of reflex and gasped as he entered her with a solid, unerring thrust. "Oh, Force," she moaned against his neck, biting maybe a little harder than she should have.
Kanan didn't mind. His hands were wrapped around her lush ass as he walked a few steps to the nearest empty wall, the movement of his steps moving him within her with each stride. He leaned his shoulders against the wall and braced his feet in front of him. "Put your legs down, darling," he whispered in her ear cone.
Hera shuddered and did as ordered, finding that she could stand on her own feet, since she was almost as tall as him. She was also now in control of how much they moved against each other. She rocked up and down, eyes heavy lidded, and threaded her fingers through his hair once again. "This is new."
Kanan managed a smug smile while trying not to let his eyes roll to the back of his head at the pleasure of being buried in her wet channel. "You did say you liked it when I got creative."
Hera's only response to that was to meld her lips to his, sinking her tongue in his mouth, and to clench herself around his hard length, making him gasp into her kiss. And then do it again and again.
After about a minute of that, Kanan knew he would go insane. He clenched his fingers on her rear end and flipped them around, pushing her up against the wall at just the right height so he could drive into her over and over, never taking his mouth from hers except to gasp in air every once in a while.
Hera shuddered with every thrust. He'd managed to find just the right angle that hit just the right spot every time. Soon, her body was tightening again, ready for another explosion.
Feeling the tiny shivers that indicated her climax was near, Kanan tore his mouth from hers and moved it to the lek he hadn't paid attention to yet. Three kisses and some gentle nips later, she cried out again as she climaxed around him.
He paused his movements and just enjoyed the feel of her climax, both physical and in the Force. It was an amazing thing and was almost enough to send him into his own if he didn't concentrate on holding it back.
When she was nearly boneless in his arms, Kanan held her tightly to him and walked once again, this time aiming for the galley door only a few steps away. He set her down on the counter that was the perfect height for this and started moving slowly in her again.
Hera stirred back to life enough to hold on for the ride as Kanan started thrusting with more purpose. HIs mouth was panting in her ear. "One more time, darling."
She shook her head. "I couldn't possibly."
Kanan reached down and circled her clit and she clenched around him again reflexively. "I think you can."
Five minutes later, Hera had to admit that he was right. She shattered again, quickly followed by his hot seed filling her depths, prolonging her climax.
Kanan's lungs worked like a bellows as he held himself over Hera and just felt. The aftershocks from both of them seemed to go into infinity if he focused on how their love affected the Force around them. He wouldn't say it was his favourite part of making love to Hera, but it was definitely in the top ten of his list of reasons why his love for her just felt RIGHT.
When Hera slumped against him, he kissed her forehead lovingly and withdrew himself from her depths gently. Gathering her up in his arms, he carried her to the refresher and started the shower, cleaning the sweat and other fluids from them.
Hera just let him. She was drained. And had never felt more loved. Kanan had exceeded himself today and she didn't think she could love him more.
An hour or so later, their clothing was set back to rights and Kanan was once again working on his belt.
"So where are we going?" he asked, having felt the ship jump into lightspeed. "New mission?"
Hera nodded from where her head rested on his thigh, her lithe body stretching out the remaining length of bench with her knees up and feet flat, as she pulled a datapad from one of the many pockets in her flight suit. "Ummm hmmm. We're going to Teth to scavenge through an old battle ground. Ahsoka thinks there might be some salvageable munitions in some of the downed ships and walkers."
Kanan hmmmed in agreement. "I wasn't there, but I heard that they left in a hurry afterwards, something to do with Jabba's son and Ahsoka and Skywalker under threat of execution by the ugly slug. It is possible that no one thought to clean up the mess. The battles on mostly empty worlds would be good candidates for scavenging. Ahsoka always was a clever one." He made a little sound of triumph as he finished his modifications to his belt and tested the top third of his lightsabre to see if it sat neatly in the brackets.
Happy with his work, Kanan put the belt on the table and settled back against the couch, fingers stroking Hera's lek fondly as he watched her skim through information on the planet of Teth on her datapad. "Find anything interesting?"
Hera glanced up at him, and her lips quirked up in a smile. "Aside from the fact that it's a jungle planet practically in the middle of wild space, the only sentients that currently live on the planet are Hutts." Kanan groaned exaggeratedly and she laughed softly. "The good news is that the sight of the battle is on the other side of the planet from where the Hutts have settled. The old B'omarr monastery is supposed to still be abandoned."
"Well that's something at least. We shouldn't have any annoyed natives to deal with."
"You mean like on that last mission where we had to run for our lives?" Hera said with a grin.
"More like a strategic retreat, but yes."
Hera rolled her eyes slightly before closing them in contentment as Kanan's hand continued to work its magic on her lek, lulling her into a very happy place.
They sat in comfortable silence for a while before Hera remembered the rest of her news. "After this mission, we're going to Alderaan via Tatooine. We need to be there in five days."
"Ahsoka's going to surprise Lux with a traditional wedding ceremony, since her species' mating rituals aren't recognized as binding to most of the galaxy, and she wants us to be there. She thought you could be Lux's best man. She said you used to be friends."
Kanan grinned at the memories. "Oh, we did. I haven't seen him for a few years now for obvious reasons, but there used to be a time when we spent a lot of our spare time together. I taught him how to fence and he taught me more about astrology then I ever needed to know. He was always asking about Ahsoka. You should have seen him the first time he saw her. He was a goner, just like me for you. When Ahsoka told us she'd gone Lux hunting, I wasn't surprised at all."
Hera just had to reward him for saying he was a goner on her. The datapad was tossed on the table and her arms reached up and grasped his neck, pulling herself up and him down so she could give him a proper kiss.
Kanan blinked at her when she let him go and resumed her position with her head on his thigh and picked up her datapad again. "Not that I'm complaining, but what was that for?"
Hera smiled up at him again. "Sometimes, love, you say all the right things without even trying."
Kanan stared at her with a blank expression for a couple seconds while he replayed his own conversation and then a lightbulb went on in his eyes, and he flushed a little. "Ah. Well. That's good."
Hera just smiled to herself and continued to peruse the holonet.
About a day later, Hera flew the Ghost around the monastery built high on a mesa of rock. "What do you think? Should we start up here or in the jungle below?"
Kanan shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me."
Hera rolled her eyes at her very helpful husband. "Kay, the jungle it is. Might as well do the harder part first."
With some determination and the death of a few trees, Hera found a small bit of space amongst the dense forest to park the Ghost near the base of the mesa. She shut down the ship but left Chopper on standby in case they needed a quick pick up. Who knew what type of creatures lived in a forest like that?
Walking down the ramp, Hera and Kanan paused. "All right. If I was a wrecked walker, where would I be?" Hera mused.
Kanan nodded to a green vine covered lump just visible through the trees. "Buried, I think."
Hera raised a brow at the lump. "Really? It's only been five years. Surely we should be seeing some metal?"
Kanan shrugged, put his lightsabre together, and started hacking a path through the thick vines and undergrowth for them. "It IS a jungle. They tend to claim anything and everything they can."
"If you say so," Hera said as she followed her mate.
Within a minute, Kanan had them at the base of the lump of green. "Well, it's certainly big enough to be a walker. Only one way to find out." He started slicing at the vines, the blue laser of his sword making quick work of them. He smiled in triumph when durasteel was revealed. "Stay here," he said before he jumped up to the top of the lump and took an educated guess at where the access hatch was and started slicing again.
Hera crossed her arms and raised her brows. "And where else did you think I was going to go?" she called up. She was surrounded by dense forest and a rock wall. Her options were extremely limited.
"Sorry, stupid command," came back down from above.
Hera shook her head and waited for a couple minutes. "Well?" No answer. "Kanan?" Still no answer. Hera's fingers started to drum on her crossed arm as a hint of worry took over. She didn't know why she startled when Kanan suddenly landed beside her, but she did. "Did you find anything?" she said to cover up her unease.
Kanan shook his head. "It's been picked clean already. Absolutely everything of any use in there is gone. Even the seats. I think it's safe to say that any other walkers out here are probably in the same state."
Hera sighed. "We could still try the mesa above. Even if it's just to explore the old castle. That could be fun."
Kanan smiled. "Sure, darling. We're here anyway." He laced his fingers with hers and they followed the path he'd made back to the Ghost.
Hera flew them back up to the top of the mesa and parked in front of the monastery castle. As they walked towards the big front door, Hera glanced around. "Where are the battle droid bits? There's no jungle up here to hide everything."
"Already scavenged, I suppose," Kanan replied as they came to a stop in front of the very large and very closed door. The control for the door looked like it had been sliced through with a lightsabre, so that wasn't going to get them in.
"We could look for a back door," Hera suggested. "Something this big can't have just one door."
"Or... you can have a Jedi for a husband," Kanan said with a cocky grin before he closed his eyes and felt for the inner workings of the door and triggered it to open with a wave of his hand.
"Or there's that," Hera said with a smile at him.
They entered a massive open space lit only by the open door and windows high above. Hera came to a stop in the middle of the room and looked around. "It's kind of creepy, and... Is it just me or do you feel like we're being watched?"
Kanan was staring into the shadow of a doorway on the far wall, tension gathering in him. "It's not just you." He palmed his blaster and called out into the dark. "Come out and show yourselves."
"Why should we?" a male voice answered from the dark. "We have you vastly outnumbered. I suggest you remove your shebs from our home while you still can."
Kanan tensed further as his suspicions were confirmed by the voice. He'd known the dozens of similar Force signatures felt familiar. In a flash, he exchanged his blaster for his lightsabre and ignited it, the blue glow lighting the space around him. "Because we have a score to settle, Grey. You murdered my Master." Kanan's voice was low and deadly dangerous.
Hera gasped beside him and drew her own blaster, prepared to fight for him to her last breath.
"Now just hold on one shabla minute," another voice that sounded almost exactly the same said from another doorway. Kanan turned slightly as a plain white armour clad clone approached them slowly, hands up in surrender, his light blond buzz cut clearly visible. "Grey didn't do that under his own will. You can't blame him for it, Commander Dume."
Kanan relaxed his fighting stance only slightly. "Captain Rex. Ahsoka said you saved her life. Why did you not turn on her like every other clone did to their Jedi?"
Rex came to stand in front of Kanan, tense but keeping his stance calm and respectful. "Because we had chips in our brains, Sir. I had mine removed just before we went to Mandalore because of something Fives said. They controlled us, made us puppets, no better than the battle droids. There was an order from the Chancellor. Order 66. It was the order to execute all Jedi without question because they were traitors to the Republic. I know now it was all a set up so the Chancellor could take over the galaxy and become an Emperor. I know... we all know, that our Jedi would never do that. And my brothers are wrought with nightmares for what they were forced to do. I've been liberating my brothers whenever possible and bringing them here. All of us here have our chips out now, Sir. You don't have to worry."
Kanan put his lightsabre away and sagged slightly as he shuddered in the aftermath of the furious emotions that had taken him over for a minute. It all made sense now. All the hate he'd been harbouring for the clones faded away into the Force. "I'm sorry for your brothers, Rex."
A white and red clad clone emerged from the first doorway, followed by dozens of others from doorways all around them and even the second level above them.
"And I'm sorry for General Billaba, Commander," the clone said as he walked up to Kanan and took off his helmet.
Kanan studied the clone that used to be his friend. The golden brown eyes were filled with remorse and the scar that ran diagonally from his forehead to his cheekbone stood out starkly against his paler than normal skin. "I believe you."
The former Commander looked relieved. "Thank you, Sir. You have no idea what it was like. That order... we followed it... I followed it...as if under some kind of spell…as if I had no will of my own. No memories of the battles we had fought together. It was shabla awful, Sir, when I remembered everything again and realized what I'd done."
"It's okay, Grey. I understand now and I don't blame you anymore. And my name's Kanan Jarrus now. Please call me that." He swept his eyes over all of the clones, recognizing a few more, like Commander Wolfe and Echo, who he'd thought had died. "Where's Styles?"
Grey's face fell. "I couldn't convince him that something was wrong, Com...uh, Kanan. We haven't been able to get through to most of the brothers we've talked to. Their conditioning runs too deep. We didn't want to force them to leave the Empire's military so we left them. They're just stormtroopers now. Not brothers anymore. it's like the chip completely took over and they never woke up to who they used to be."
"I'm sorry," Kanan said softly at the grief in his friend's voice. "What about Commander Cody? Surely he was as smart as the rest of you?"
"I like to think so," Rex answered. "But we haven't been able to get near him. He's leading the 501st now, and as far as we've been able to tell, they go wherever that shabla Sith cyborg goes. We're terrified he'll sense what we're trying to do so we've not tried."
"Perhaps we should."
"We, Com...Kanan?" Rex asked, raising a brow.
Kanan grinned. "Sure. That's kind of what we do now; steal things from the Empire and make their lives as miserable as possible and... occasionally take pot shots at a Star Destroyer or two on the way by."
"Kanan!" Hera huffed. "Don't go exaggerating things again. It was only a light cruiser."
"And half a dozen TIEs, darling. Don't forget the TIEs." Kanan said as he looked at her with twinkling eyes.
Hera rolled her eyes. "How could I forget those? Chopper and I were fixing the Ghost for two whole days after that mission."
"We got the cargo, didn't we?"
Rex, Grey, and the others had watched the exchange with fascinated eyes, heads swinging back and forth in synchronization. "Kanan, Sir. Could you please debrief us on what you're talking about?" Rex cut in when it looked like the two were going to just stare each other down for who knows how long.
Kanan flushed slightly as he realized he'd gotten distracted by Hera's eyes again. (But really, who wouldn't? They were such perfectly beautiful emeralds in her perfectly beautiful face.) "Right. Sorry, Rex. First, this is my wife, Hera Syndulla, and before you ask, yes, she's the daughter of that Syndulla. Second, we work for Ahsoka, who works for Senators Organa and Mothma. We're starting a secret organized Rebellion against the Empire."
Rex looked at Grey on his left and Wolfe on his right. They both nodded slightly. Rex looked back at Kanan. "We want in."
Kanan smiled. "I thought you'd say that. Ahsoka will be very happy to see you. She misses you."
Rex's eyes went soft. "I miss the little Commander too. She was one of the best."
Kanan chuckled. "She's not so little any more. Girl's almost as tall as me now. She's definitely taller than you."
Rex's eyes widened and he laughed. "Figures. So many people called her 'Little Soka' for so long, she was sure to defy them by growing like a weed."
"She's not the only one," Grey added. "I remember when you were chest height on me, Kanan."
Kanan shrugged good naturedly. "What did you expect? I was thirteen when we first met."
"And I was eleven."
"Yeah, but you had an unfair advantage."
"It's not such an advantage now," Grey sighed. "I'm eighteen years old and I look almost forty. It's shabla depressing."
"Has anyone tried to stop the advanced aging?" Hera cut in.
All the brothers shook their heads in sync. "Not that we know of, Lady Syndulla," Rex said.
"Well, maybe someone should," Hera stated. "And call me Hera. Lady Syndulla was my mother."
"Understood. And thanks for the support," Rex said, liking Kanan's wife already.
Hera crossed her arms and raised a brow. "Would I be correct in guessing that you are the ones who scavenged this area already?"
Rex crossed his arms right back. "You would. And every other battle sight we could think of. We also have a couple of ships that we may have 'appropriated.' A brother's gotta eat somehow."
Hera looked up at Kanan. "I like them."
Kanan wrapped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her into his side, kissing her temple fondly. "I do too."
"Glad we meet your approval," Rex said with a roll of the eyes. "But what's the plan now?"
Kanan refocused again. "Now, we go to Tatooine and pick up Master Kenobi, and from there we go on to Alderaan. Ahsoka's getting married and we wouldn't want to miss that."
Rex raised a brow. "Lux Bonteri?"
Kanan grinned. "Who else?"
Rex chuckled. "Those two always were making googoo eyes at each other when they thought no one was looking."
"I know, right?"
Three days later, the Ghost appeared out of hyperspace and docked with the Reckless above Alderaan, quickly followed by two nondescript small freighters that would blend in at any spaceport. They docked with the Ghost and each other, making a chain of freighters.
Ahsoka greeted Hera and Kanan at the airlock of the Reckless. "So? How was your scavenging mission? Did you find anything useful and why do you have two more ships attached to you?"
Kanan grinned as he moved aside to make room for more people to step onto the Reckless. "Firstly, we picked up Ben, who seemed quite ecstatic to get off of Tatooine for a few days."
"I wouldn't say ecstatic," Ben said dryly as he joined the group in the hallway. "But I'm not exactly sad about it either."
Ahsoka smiled at her grandmaster warmly in greeting. "Thank you for coming, Master. It means a lot to me."
Ben flushed in pleased embarrassment at her words. "Yes. Well, Someone has to officiate this thing. It might as well be me."
"There's no one better than you," Ahsoka said, hugging him quickly.
Ben flushed a little darker and hugged her back. "Thank you."
Ahsoka pulled back and focused on Kanan again. "Now that you've distracted me nicely, do you care to explain the rest?"
"I could. Or you could see with your own eyes. We brought you one or two more volunteers for our cause. You might recognize a few."
At the signal, clone brothers wearing a variety of different colours on their armour or just plain white marched into the Reckless, lining the long hallway on both sides almost as far as the eye could see. Ahsoka gaped as soldier after soldier filed past her with a salute and then tears came to her eyes as the last one stopped in front of her with a tentative smile as he saluted her.
"Rex!" She threw her arms around him and laughed through her tears as he hugged her back with a chuckle.
He pulled back after a moment, her eyes even with his and the tips of her montrals topping him by a couple of millimetres. "You grew up. Kanan said so, but I didn't quite believe him."
Ahsoka laughed. "Had to happen sometime, Rex."
Chapter 11: The Surprise
D107/17 BBY, Alderaan
Lux landed his sleek gold plated Opu-Yacht on Senator Organa's personal landing pad behind his mansion and beside a Corellian freighter. The graceful glass and steel building was enormous and put Lux's brick mansion to shame in terms of size. Lux preferred his own home, but he'd never be so impolite as to say so.
Walking down the ramp of his small luxury travelling ship, Lux was greeted by Bail himself. As males did, they smiled warmly, shook hands firmly, and because Lux had known the older man for his entire life, they did the half hug, back slapping thing.
Greetings taken care of, they walked side by side to a back door of the mansion.
"Thank you for coming," Bail said as they walked. "Talking about our little rebel schemes is much safer done face to face."
Lux shrugged and smiled. "I made time as soon as I could. Ahsoka has told me much but about your plans, but it's always good to know more and learn what I can do to help."
The door opened and closed silently before and after them as they walked into the mansion and Bail turned left down an elegantly decorated hallway. "I'm sure I would have recruited you sooner or later, even without your re-acquaintance with a certain young lady, but I'm glad you've joined us."
"So am I," Lux said as they meandered down hallways. "I've never been a fan of Palpatine, and what he's doing to the galaxy is appalling. Slavery is more abundant than ever. Worlds are being forced to join the Empire whether they like or not. And I've heard that they're not taking volunteers for their military anymore; they're just flat out conscripting men of the right age and size and forcing them to be troopers after rudimentary training. I'm ashamed to have to call myself an Imperial citizen, but we both know we had no choice for the wellbeing of our planets. Even then, there's a group on my planet calling themselves the Partisans who want us to fight against the Imperial presence on Onderon. They're causing a lot of headaches right now."
Bail stopped in front of a door. "I'm sorry to hear that. Unless you trust their leaders, they can't know that you don't support the Empire you work for. Our longterm plans hinge on this Rebellion being a complete surprise to the Emperor for the next few years. We need to keep this a secret."
Lux sighed and shook his head. "No, I wouldn't trust Gerrera as far as I could throw him. He's hot-headed and reckless. The saner half that used to lead with him, his sister, was killed by a stormtrooper a few months ago during one of their 'demonstrations' and he hasn't been reasonable since. We'll just have to keep dealing with him as we go. We're talking about banishing him and his group from the planet before things get out of hand and the Empire steps in and takes total control of Onderon."
Bail grasped Lux's shoulder in sympathy for a moment. "Let me know if there's anything I can do. But in the meantime, why don't we talk about something a little more pleasant?"
Lux raised a brow, noticing that they'd been standing outside this door for awhile now. "Like?"
Bail grinned, his dark eyes sparkling with mischief. "Like getting you married."
Lux blinked at his long time family friend. Bail had to be kidding. He knew how annoyed Lux was with all the matchmaking minded people who had been after him until recently. "Pardon me?"
Bail signalled the door to open and waved Lux into a large ballroom decorated in a ridiculous amount of blue and white flowers. "A certain young togrutan seemed to think you wouldn't be opposed to the idea of legitimizing your relationship. In a very clandestine and hush hush way, of course."
Lux was stunned for a moment as he realized who Bail was talking about and then a wave of ecstatic joy overtook him. He looked around the ballroom and spotted the small group of people waiting for them at the other end of the room. Lux's eyes fell on Ahsoka and stayed there, awestruck. She was wearing a burgundy dress, almost identical in style to the one she'd worn the first day they'd met, lightsabre belt and boots included, but with silver threads woven in floral patterns along the bust and hem lines and made of a much lighter fabric that shone under the lights of the chandeliers.
Love for her nearly overwhelmed him as he understood what she'd done for him. He vaguely remembered to say something along the lines of, "She wasn't wrong," to Bail, and then he was striding down the long ballroom to stand in front of her.
Ahsoka watched Lux as he approached, nearly vibrating with anticipation. Finally, FINALLY, the day had come to spring her surprise. She'd had this in the plans for almost a month now, but it took awhile to get everyone in one place at once, and Lux was busier than you'd think. Aside from his duties as a Senator, he oversaw the running of his family estate and businesses, as well as continuing his education, still determined to study the stars firsthand one day. His schooling had been put on the backburner when his parents died, but he hadn't given it up entirely, and she admired him greatly for that.
Lux looked as handsome as ever, dressed regally in dark blue and grey clothes suitable for visiting another Senator and being in the presence of a Queen. She'd long grown used to his popinjay appearance, but now she had the secret thrill of knowing what he looked like as just a man, sweaty and messed up from their physical activities. Destroying his carefully groomed hair style with her fingers while kissing him breathless might just be her favourite thing to do.
He stopped in front of her and grasped her hands, their eyes meeting and locking. "You look amazing, Soka," he breathed. "Your beauty shines brighter than all the stars in the galaxy."
Ahsoka's face heated in pleasure. "Thank you, Luxi. And just like a star, my purpose is to keep you warm for the rest of our lives."
"Hmmmmmmm hmmmmm," came a decidedly cleared throat from behind Ahsoka and they both turned to look at the source. "You're jumping the blaster, Ahsoka," Ben said with a quirk of his mouth and a twinkle in his blue/grey eyes. "We are no where near the part where you exchange vows."
Ahsoka shrugged slightly, her own mouth quirking in humour. "Sorry, Master." Everyone in the room heard the unspoken 'not really'.
Lux returned to polite gawking. "Master Kenobi, I never expected to see you again. Ahsoka told me about your longterm mission on Tatooine."
Ben shrugged slightly. "My mission is only two right now." Ben very carefully didn't look at the other two year old in the room. Aside from himself and Master Yoda, no one but Bail and Breha knew where Leia had come from and they thought it should stay that way if she was to believe herself worthy of being a princess. She could never know what her real father had turned into. And that was a secret that only he and Yoda knew. "I doubt very much he can get in too much trouble while I'm away for a week or so. A few more years from now, though... Now that's debatable, if he's anything like his father."
Lux nodded in understanding. He'd heard all about Skywalker's many misadventures from Ahsoka, who adored her Master, but bemoaned the trouble they always seemed to end up in. He then looked at the rest of the assembled and his mouth actually fell open despite all his ingrained training to avoid unseemly facial expressions.
Standing on the girls side was the Queen of Alderaan herself, looking formal, but smiling warmly, holding the hand of her adopted daughter, Leia. Both Breha and the tiny princess were wearing dresses in a lighter shade of burgundy that coordinated with Ahsoka's gown, but didn't outshine it. There was also a pretty, light green twi'lek in another matching gown who Lux assumed was the Hera Syndulla he'd heard about.
And if Hera was here, that meant... Lux's head snapped to the right and he really looked at the auburn haired man with the goatee, wearing a formal dark grey suit with matching burgundy highlights. His teal eyes smiled warmly and Lux near fell over in his haste to rush over and give the younger man a massive bone squishing hug. "Caleb! It's so good to see you alive!" Ahsoka had told him that Caleb had survived the massacre of the Jedi, but seeing it with his own eyes just made it real. He was almost as happy as when he first saw Ahsoka standing on his balcony.
Kanan chuckled and returned the hug with a fond pound or two on Lux's back, deciding to leave the issue of his name for another time. He actually preferred the name Kanan, because in a roundabout way, Hera had named him that. "Lux. Looking good, my friend. Finally caught her, eh?"
Lux blushed and glanced at Ahsoka apologetically. She just winked at him. They both knew who'd caught who.
"Yes, well. I'm a patient man," Lux said by way of explanation.
Caleb, Ben, and Bail (who he now noticed also wore a matching dark grey suit) all chuckled in amusement, as well as the last guest at their little party. Lux tilted his head to the side slightly as he tried to place the stranger with the golden brown eyes and the light blond buzz cut. Knowing Ahsoka, it had to be someone she cared about, and that list was pretty short. Lux grinned as he figured it out, mentally putting the man in white and blue armour with his helmet tucked under his arm instead of the suit he was wearing. He hadn't seen the clone Captain without his helmet on more than twice in three years, but that was enough. "Captain Rex. I'm very glad to see you alive and well, and out of armour. That has to be a first," he teased.
Rex smiled at the young man who was actually older than him. "I'm pretty happy to be alive, myself. And to tell you the truth, I feel kind of undressed without my armour. I miss it already."
That brought more laughter to the assembled until Ben took control. "All right. Now that everyone's here, how about we get this ceremony rolling so Ahsoka can drag Lux off to some random location and have her way with him?"
"Master!" Ahsoka exclaimed, cheeks burning with mortification.
Ben shrugged unapologetically. "Can you deny it?"
"Well...no, But sometimes you're as bad as Anakin!" Ahsoka said with a shake of her head.
"Where do you think Skywalker learned it from?" Kanan asked with a smirk. "He was raised by that sense of humour."
At the name 'Skywalker', Leia's wandering attention was caught. She wasn't sure why she was here with the grownups while they did some strange grownup talking thing, but she was a good girl, so she went along with it. A quiet girl, Leia spent much of her time listening to the grownups and learning. They underestimated how smart a two and almost a half year old girl was and tended to talk freely in front of her. And one thing she had definitely noticed was that whenever someone mentioned the name 'Skywalker', everyone's emotions changed to something less pleasant and more furtive. There was a place inside Leia that felt empty, like she was missing something. One day, she was going to figure out what it was, and somehow, she knew the word 'Skywalker' was involved in that missing piece.
The adults continued their conversation, oblivious to the storm that was brewing inside one tiny girl.
"That is very true, my occasional apprentice," Ben said with a grin. "Perhaps it's a good thing I'm not actually raising the next Skywalker. This one might turn out much better behaved."
Ahsoka sighed and rolled her eyes. She reached for Lux's hand and they faced Ben together. "Before this gets any more out of hand, can we please do what we came here for?"
Ben smiled cheekily at Ahsoka and Lux. "It would be my pleasure. Now if only I could remember the words," he teased, eyes sparkling with barely suppressed mirth.
Ahsoka almost growled at him.
"Stop torturing the children and get on with it, Master Kenobi," Breha said in an exasperated tone.
Ben flushed slightly at the chastisement. "My apologies, Your Highness." He glanced down for a moment, getting in the right frame of mind. When he looked up, he appeared properly solemn. "My dearest friends. We are gathered here today to bear witness to the joining of two people who found each other after one was lost for much too long."
Lux squeezed his beloved's hand at the heartbreaking truth of that statement.
Ben continued, getting a little misty eyed at the emotions coming from the couple in question and the remorse of never having the same moment with his own heart mate.
"There is nothing more beautiful in the Force than a union of souls who truly love each other. It is something the Order chose to overlook, but I refuse to do that anymore, and as such, it is my privilege to be the one who gets to officially bind Ahsoka Tano and Lux Bonteri together in matrimony. There are no two people who deserve it more."
Hera looked across to Kanan and met his knowing, loving eyes. She swore she could feel his love surrounding her and ghostly hands whisper down her lekku as they both remembered their own wedding day not so long ago. Her father might not have been as elegant in his words as Ben, having quoted the original twi'lek ceremony word for word, but he had meant them every bit as much as Ben did. It had meant a lot to her to have her father marry them and now Ahsoka was getting the same thing with the man who was as close to a father as she'd ever have. They were both incredibly lucky.
Ben looked to Ahsoka. "I know you prepared vows. You may say them now."
Ahsoka turned to face Lux fully, taking his other hand in hers as well. "My beautiful mate. Once, there was a time when I dismissed the attraction between us as forbidden territory to be ignored at all costs, but you believed in what I refused to see and waited for me, even after you were informed that I had died. I vow to spend the rest of my life returning the devotion you have shown me with my entire being; heart, body, and soul. I believe the Force gifted you to me as my perfect match and I vow never to take that for granted. I will always love you."
Hera wasn't the only one blinking back tears. She was pretty sure she heard Rex give a surreptitious sniff and Breha was openly dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, trying to preserve her makeup. Hera met Kanan's eyes again and told him with her own that everything Ahsoka had just said went double for her. Kanan's slow smile was answer enough that he got the message. There was a promise in his eyes that said she would most definitely be the recipient of some extra attentive loving in the very near future. Hera's breath caught slightly in anticipation.
Lux would have sworn that he couldn't possibly have loved Ahsoka more than he already did, but her vows made him realize that there was room in his heart for his love to grow just a little more. The pounding of his heart made it so he barely heard Ben say, "Your turn, Lux. Sorry It's a bit on the spot, but I'm sure you can come up with something."
Ahsoka squeezed Lux's hands gently as he stared at her in open wonder, telling him with her eyes that anything he said was fine with her. It had taken her a whole day to come up with just the right words to say, she didn't expect him to come up with something brilliant in only a few seconds.
Lux blinked and remembered to breath. Barely. Words tumbled from him. Words that he'd been keeping in his heart for a very long time. "My gorgeous Ahsoka. I fell for you like a rock the first day I saw you even as we were falling through the sky. Your beauty forever blinded me to all others. Your courage and kind heart made me want to be a better person to be worthy of you. Your powers in the Force made me want to worship at your feet like a peasant to a goddess. But you were so much better than a goddess sitting on a throne high above me. You were real. And I knew that even if I never had you as my own, I was blessed to simply know you. Right now, you have fulfilled my deepest dream that I doubted would ever come true. I think I was born loving you. I know I will die loving you. I am yours."
The room was silent as everyone processed Lux's words. Tears were openly running down Hera's face now and all she could do was keep her eyes on Kanan's.
Ahsoka was speechless, her eyes swimming mistily. She eventually managed to gulp back the tears and smile like a dawning sun. "Lux," she whispered. "I'm yours too."
Ben had to clear his throat to get it to work again. The emotions radiating off of the three couples in the room were making him feel, to be utterly frank, kind of depressed. He'd missed so much by denying his attraction to Satine when they still had a chance to be together. And yet, he couldn't begrudge any of them their happiness. Bail and Breha had been his friends forever. Ahsoka was practically his daughter, and Kanan was quickly falling into the category of a son as well. Their chosen mates were both amazing people that Ben was very happy that they'd found. The young ones deserved a happy life, they'd been through so much already. It made him wish he could go back in time and change a lot: How he dealt with his feelings for Satine. Prevent the death of Qui-Gon so Anakin could have been trained by the best. Listened to the multiple people who'd been trying desperately to tell him and the Council that the Dark Lord was right under their noses.
So many regrets.
But this wasn't the time to dwell on them. Ben cleared his throat again, getting the attention of Ahsoka and Lux, who seemed quite spellbound in each other. "Right. On to the next part. Who has the symbols of commitment?"
"We do," Hera and Kanan said together, stepping forward and placing them in Ahsoka's and Lux's hands and then stepping back into their places.
Lux stared at the tiara type thing in his hand. It was made of silver and embedded with stones of a sky blue that matched Ahsoka's eyes. It took him a moment to understand that he was supposed to put in on Ahsoka, replacing the row of pewter triangles that she'd worn at the top of her forehead for as long as he'd known her and he just realized that she wasn't wearing now.
"In replace of the traditional rings, Ahsoka requested that we use traditional togrutan mating symbols," Ben explained. "Lux, you first, and say, 'With this diadem, I thee wed'."
Lux took in a shuddering breath and carefully placed the fancy headband on her head where her orange skin met the white and blue stripes of her lekku and montrals, almost covering the two diamond markings at the top of her forehead. "With this diadem, I thee wed," Lux managed in something that was slightly louder than a whisper through his constricted throat.
Ahsoka smiled at him reassuringly if a little shakily.
"And now you, Ahsoka," Ben said quietly.
Ahsoka clutched the necklace for a moment that she'd had made just for Lux to match her headband, before reaching forward and clasping the thickly woven silver ornament with a big sky blue stone in the center around his neck. The bottom point of the roughly star shaped stiff necklace rested just above his collarbone. "With this torque, I thee wed," she said at about the same volume that Lux had managed.
Lux looked down at his torque (the manly version of the word necklace) and beamed at Ahsoka. He could wear it all the time under his clothes and no one would ever know. Since their marriage would have to be kept a secret until the Empire was overthrown and Ahsoka could once again live openly as a safe citizen of the galaxy, he would never have been able to wear a ring without a lot of questions being asked. He thought these marriage symbols were perfect and a fitting blend of both their cultural wedding ceremonies.
Ben smiled at the couple that were once again lost in each other's eyes. "By the power vested in me by the Force, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You many now kiss the..." He stopped as the rest wasn't necessary. Ahsoka had already pounced on Lux and their mouths were very much sealing the marriage in the most intimate way.
Ben raised a brow in amusement as the kiss went on for more than minute, and then rose higher as another minute went by. He looked at the others in the room who were also starting to get a little uncomfortable. "Perhaps we should leave them alone?"
Bail nodded quickly. "That might be for the best." He strode around the embracing couple and picked up Leia, setting her on his hip. "Come on my little Princess. What say we go find some icecream?"
Leia grinned. "Yay!" Watching grownups attach their faces to each other wasn't exactly her idea of fun.
Bail led the group towards the doors at the other end of the room. Just before they got there the comm unit in his pocket chimed. Digging it out, he paused and answered. "Yes?"
"Sorry to bother you, Sir," a female voice said, "but I couldn't get a hold of the Director and she said this was important. I looked into where the one called Darth Vader is right now and if the 501st is with him. The answer is yes and that they just left Coruscant with orders to deal with the rebellion on Ryloth. The Executioner ISD will arrive at Ryloth in two days."
Hera gasped and went pale, sagging in the arm that Kanan had wrapped around her waist.
Ben's eyes narrowed in thought and consternation. It wasn't more than five years ago that he, Windu, and Anakin had won that planet from the Separatists. Now Ana... Darth Vader was going to take it away from the twi'leks again. There was some kind of perverted poetry in that. Too bad Ben wasn't going to let him.
"Thank you," Bail said to whatever spy or slicer he was talking to. "I'll tell her myself, but I think it's safe to say that you can spread the word to the brothers that they have a confirmed mission and location to retrieve Commander Cody."
"Yes, Sir," the female said briskly and then ended the call.
Ahsoka was so incredibly happy right now, wrapped in Lux's arms and exploring the depths of his mouth like she hadn't already done so dozens of times.
She would have gladly stayed like that forever but her sensitive hearing picked up the conversation on the other side of the massive room and she pulled back with a gasp, eyes wide.
"What is it?" Lux asked with concern.
"I have to go." She grabbed his head, making sure his hair was thoroughly mussed, and kissed him hard and quick. "Love you. I'll comm you later."
Lux blinked after her as she ran to the others, grabbed Hera's hand and practically dragged the other woman out the door. Caleb, Master Kenobi, and Captain Rex ran after them.
Lux walked up to Bail and Breha, feeling kind of dazed. "What just happened?"
Bail snorted lightly. "I think you just got a taste of what the rest of your life is going to look like for the foreseeable future."
Chapter 12: The Reluctant
D107/17 BBY, Alderaan
Lux stared at Bail for all of two seconds then covered Leia's ears for a moment with his hands and said, "Kriff that." He glanced at Breha apologetically for swearing in her presence. "Beg your pardon, Your Highness. But I'm not just going to sit at home like some child while Ahsoka has all the fun."
Bail grinned and said, "Good for you." He made a small shooing motion with his hand and Lux took off, sprinting down the hallways. He arrived at the landing pad just in time to see Ahsoka going up the ramp of the freighter alongside Hera, with the men already in the cargo hold.
"Ahsoka!" Lux yelled, still running.
Ahsoka turned around, surprised to see Lux. "What is it, Luxi? I don't have much time."
Lux stopped at the base of the ramp, breathing a little faster than normal but not terribly out of breath. He was grateful he kept himself in shape. "I'm coming with you, or to be more specific, you're coming with me. I'll take you to Ryloth, if that's all right with you. I have nothing scheduled for the next three days, because I was supposed to be here with the Organas, but you're way more important to me and I want to spend as much time with you as I can."
Ahsoka's heart practically melted into a puddle. "Oh, Lux. Of course I'll go with you." Without taking her eyes from Lux's, she called, "Kanan, can you toss me my..." Lux momentarily wondered who Kanan was, then remembered that was what Caleb was calling himself these days. He'd have to try harder to remember that.
A bag came sailing through the air before she could finish her sentence and she caught it without even looking, reaching above her head. Lux was impressed, to say the least. Then again, Ahsoka had always impressed him. All she had to do was walk and he was impressed. Add some Jedi senses and tricks on top of her looks and you end up with a male who was officially a goner a long time ago.
"Thanks," Ahsoka called, then walked the few steps separating her from her mate. She touched his cheek tenderly. "I don't deserve you," she whispered.
Lux smiled softly. "Yes, you do. I'm sure it's the other way around." Then he scooped her up off the ground into his arms, bag and all, making her giggle. "Come on, my secret Mrs. Bonteri. We just got married. I'm pretty sure the honeymoon comes after that." He wiggled his eyebrows at her, making her laugh again.
"What about the mission?" Hera called.
Ahsoka turned her head to look at her friend as Lux carried her away from her. "We'll all meet by the Reckless and then jump together. Contact your father. We'll have a strategy meeting twenty minutes after we jump."
"All right," Hera called. Despite the worry for the dire situation her planet was soon to be in, Hera couldn't help but smile at the sight of Lux and Ahsoka as they disappeared into his gold plated luxury ship that was maybe a quarter of the size of the Ghost. If she didn't already have her own perfect mate, Hera might have been inclined to feel a little jealous of their obvious adoration for each other. But she did have a wonderful mate, and he was wrapping his arm around her waist at the moment and kissing her temple.
"If I was Lux, I would be doing the exact same thing," Kanan drawled. "I would want to spend as much time with you too, if we couldn't live together all the time like we do."
Hera glanced at Kanan as they walked back into the Ghost and she closed the ramp. "I'm very happy with the life we have, love. I'm glad I'm not Lux, having to stay at home all the time, worrying what Ahsoka is up to."
Kanan grinned at her before climbing the ladder up to the bridge. "I'm glad you're not Lux too, darling," he said as he climbed. "That would make for a rather awkward moment when it came time to decide who would play the role of the wife."
Hera snorted and smacked his calf as she climbed below him. "You're awful, Kanan. I don't know where you come up with this stuff sometimes."
Kanan reached down and pulled her up onto the decking, still grinning while he shrugged unapologetically.
"I think Anakin and I might have rubbed off on him a little bit at some point," Ben said dryly from one of the chairs. "I'm afraid we weren't a very good influence, much to Depa's chagrin. I don't know how Ahsoka stayed sane. I swear she did more eye rolling than training some days."
Rex snorted his agreement. "You two were awful. Cody and I used to take bets to see which one would make the worst joke on any given day."
Kanan settled into the co-pilot chair while Hera took her place in the pilot's chair and started up the Ghost. "Aside from the Masters' rather questionable influence, I also spent the better part of two years as a smuggler. If you think my jokes are bad, you should hear some of the terrible ones that came out of the riffraff that Kasmir and I dealt with."
"I'd rather not," Hera said firmly as she flew the Ghost up into space. She was glad to see in the sensors that Lux's little ship was following her. She wouldn't have been surprised if they'd gotten too distracted to remember that they had a rather urgent mission to accomplish.
Hera was trying not to think too much about what could happen if they didn't get to Ryloth first, what would happen if they weren't successful in their attempt to foil Darth Vader's plans. She was determined to only think positive thoughts instead. Too bad her imagination wasn't cooperating.
The next day passed by in snatches of too fast and way too slow for Hera.
Hera dropped Ben and Rex off with the Reckless, then their small fleet of three freighters, one corvette, and one yacht all jumped towards Ryloth together. Hera contacted her father and the mishmash group of rebels had a strategy meeting that lasted for about two hours until everyone was happy with the plan they'd come up with.
After that, Kanan did his best to distract Hera from her tumultuous thoughts, but for the first time in their marriage, she just really wasn't in the mood for fun time or games, so Kanan held her instead and stroked her lekku soothingly, lulling her to sleep for short periods of time.
Hera was very grateful for Kanan. If she didn't have him to keep her calm, she was sure she would have spent the entire trip pacing the halls.
Their little fleet eventually came to a stop just outside of Ryloth space where Ahsoka transferred back to the Reckless and Lux reluctantly flew back to Onderon. (He'd desperately wanted to stay and help, but Ahsoka had finally convinced him to leave by saying his Force signature was unique enough that Vader would probably recognize it, and, as a Senator, he couldn't afford to be sensed at the scene of a mission. Both Ben and Kanan had agreed with the assessment.) Hera didn't need to see their parting to know it had to have been a painful one. Just the thought of Kanan flying away from her was enough to make her chest hurt in sympathy.
Then it was game time.
D109/17 BBY, The brand spanking new ISD, 'The Executioner', above Ryloth
Cody was having a terrible time wrapping his head around the thought that they were back at Ryloth to do the opposite of what they'd done the last time they were here.
Last time, they'd helped the twi'leks win their freedom from the Seppies. Now, he and the General...errrr, Lord Vader, were taking the planet away from them again. There was something seriously wrong with this picture.
Cody felt like his life had gone to shabla hell.
Everything he'd fought for as a soldier of the Republic had all been thrown away in a moment of unwilling compliance called Order 66. Now he was murdering people instead of droids, and it was all because of a chip in his head that forced him to follow the orders of whoever owned him. He felt like one of the idiotic battle droids, but instead of 'Roger Roger' he was cursed with a never-ending litany of 'Good soldiers follow orders' in his sleep at night.
Cody didn't sleep much.
The saddest part was that he still felt some deeply ingrained loyalty to the thing that used to be General Skywalker. He wasn't his own General Kenobi, whom he'd been forced to betray, but he was close enough since the two had practically been interchangeable when it came to who gave orders to their respective battalions and they fought together more often than not.
Lord Vader was a far cry from the enthusiastic, devil may care, young man he used to be, but it didn't matter to Cody's sense of responsibility. He'd been trained from birth to protect the Jedi at all costs, and even though he knew Lord Vader was now a Sith, he still felt the need to protect him. It was downright depressing.
Especially when Lord Vader murdered on a whim on an almost daily basis.
At the moment, Cody was striding down hallways towards the main hangar with his current Lord and Commander, receiving his orders for the coming mission.
Between the eerie breathing, Vader's deep mechanical voice practically monotoned, "The rebels are reported to be hiding in the cave systems near Lessu. I recall that you are familiar with these caves. Take your best men and flush them out. I will deal with any who do not immediately surrender." He sounded essentially emotionless as he discussed killing other beings like it was a normal occurrence. (Perhaps because it was now.)
"Yes, My Lord," Cody responded obediently.
He stood at attention as Vader and his personal escort of white armoured body guards (Ha!. Like he needed them.) marched into his new Lambda shuttle, not budging until the ramp was completely closed. Then he turned smartly and strode to where fifty white clad soldiers of the Imperial Military stood at attention. Cody was proud of his men, even if they were nothing but assassins in the name of the Empire now.
Like him, every single one of them were the best of the best of the remaining clones. There were new recruits in the 501st that didn't claim Fett blood, but none of them could come close to the experience and training his brothers had, so they didn't get anywhere near the elite squadron that Cody commanded. Lord Vader might even have been a little sentimental in his insistence that Cody and his brothers remain in the 501st and not get shunted back to Kamino for decommissioning like so many clones already had.
Between the chips in their heads and their fear of being sent to Kamino to be put to sleep, Cody and his brothers sucked it up and did everything they were ordered to do. Because 'Good soldiers follow orders', and that's what they were; the best of the best of the 'Good Soldiers.'
It didn't help with the nightmares though.
After relaying Vader's orders and sending a stored map of what he remembered of the underground cave system to their HUDs (which was a lot, since he had a photographic memory), Cody ordered them to their dropships and they got underway, their ships following the Lambda shuttle down to the surface of Ryloth and more dropships from other squadrons following theirs.
Cody tried to tell himself that the uneasy feeling in his stomach was from the cheap pre-packaged rations he'd eaten for breakfast, but he knew he was lying.
After the final rumble faded away from the charges that had been used to seal all but one of the entrances to the cave system, Vader watched Commander Cody's squadron file into the opening with what would be a stony expression if his face wasn't already covered up by the despised mask and respirator. Aside from the orange pauldron, signifying his status, Cody's Phase II armour was now just as plain white as every other trooper's. Vader still wasn't entirely convinced that the Empire's troops should be so monotonously uniform. He still thought the 501st, at least, should be marked as special. But his Master was adamant that the 501st, or more specifically, Vader's men, should not be given special treatment compared to the other stormtroopers.
Vader had reluctantly agreed, but he wasn't pleased.
He was stirred from his musings by a small shuttle that flew overhead, blasting fire at his men from the twin laser canons on the nose of the ship.
Troopers fell like dominoes, but those that remained standing fired back at the shuttle, causing no damage as the shields absorbed the blaster bolts.
Vader was following the progress of the shuttle, pivoting on the ball of his cybernetic foot, raising his hand to yank the offensive ship out of the sky, when the back door of the shuttle opened and a familiar figure in beige and brown robes saluted him cheekily with his blue lightsabre.
Obi-Wan was here! And now that he'd seen him, Vader could feel his ex Master's presence in the Force. The sneaky traitor must have been shielding like a sonofahutt to hide from him and still be so close.
As the shuttle flew away and the back door closed, hiding Obi-Wan from view, Vader jolted into motion, sweeping troopers out of his path with the flick of his arm and ran towards the ramp of his shuttle.
He stormed inside, closed the ramp with a wave of his hand, and threw the surprised pilot out of the chair, settling into it and flicking switches like lightning. He had the shuttle up in the air faster than it was intended to go, but by then the traitor's shuttle was long gone from sight. Vader flew in the direction it had been going, sending his senses out for Obi-Wan's presence.
Finding him a second later, Vader pushed the shuttle to its maximum speed in pursuit, ignoring the surprise and dismay coming off the co-pilot in waves who was gazing between Vader and his unconscious crewmate with wide eyes. Fortunately for him, he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.
As the shuttle flew away, a small army of twi'leks doubled up on blurrgs, led by Cham Syndulla, charged into the landscape near the cave entrance. They swiftly dispatched any troopers still standing and the pilots of the dropships. Then they stole the dropships and flew away in them, heading in the opposite direction of Vader's shuttle, and the riders of the blurrgs galloped away from the sight, heading for the other cave entrances that had been blasted closed and the troopers that were bound to still be there.
Meanwhile, two A-Wings flew around the planet at their top speed, heading straight for the Executioner. The officers in the bridge barely had time to register the presence of the two small fighters before they disappeared off the sensors.
There was a flurry of, 'Where did they go's?' and 'I don't knows' followed by a bellowed, "Well, somebody better find out!"
The A-Wings had boldly flown directly into the main hangar of the Star Destroyer, and, with a burst of reverse thrusters, landed neatly near an entrance into the main part of the ship.
The hangar was practically deserted at the moment, since Vader and a large number of troopers had recently flown out of it. The few shocked personnel who happened to be in the hangar at the time of the A-Wings abrupt arrival were swiftly shot into silence by the pilots of the fighters.
Ahsoka and Kanan leapt out of their fighters, riding an adrenaline high. She looked at Kanan as they strode towards the door. "When you said you could keep up with me, I have to admit I thought you exaggerating."
Kanan grinned. "My Hera may insist on flying the ship 99.9% of the time, but she also seems to enjoy teaching me stunts that she invents now and then. I was pretty confident I could pull off any move Skywalker may have taught you."
Ahsoka rolled her eyes. "What if I said I came up with that move all on my own?"
"I'd be impressed, but this seemed like a very Skywalker move to me."
Ahsoka huffed and chuckled. "You're right. We did pull off the exact same manoeuvre on a Seppie ship." She paused at the door. "Now let's hope the rest of the plan goes better than before."
Kanan nodded as she opened the door and they took off in opposite directions down the hallway, Kanan aiming for the shield generators and Ahsoka going for the engine room. Anyone who happened to get in their way or fire at them found themselves handily disposed of.
Also meanwhile, inside the caves, Rex, Wolffe, Grey and two dozen more brothers, all armoured identically to Cody's team, slowly but surely mingled with and replaced them as they stabbed the troopers in the neck from behind with an instant sedative hypospray and carried them into side caverns and tied them up quickly after disarming them and removing their helmets to make sure they were a brother and so they couldn't call for help if they woke up early. Rex wasn't surprised when they all were. Clones were the best after all, and Cody would inevitably have an elite team on any mission he went on.
By the time Cody had wandered through underground tunnels for five minutes, at the front of the line, he was the last one to be caught. As he was coming to a Y in the tunnels, he gestured for half the men to go left while he took the other half to the right. That was the last thing he did before he felt a stabbing pain in his neck and then everything went black. He slumped towards the ground and was caught by strong arms.
"Bring the freighters," Rex called through his comm. "We have them."
Hera flew the Phantom all over the planet, through canyons, over mountain ranges, past green jungles; always staying just ahead of Vader's weapons range. (On purpose, of course.) He was in a bigger, slower, less agile ship, but no matter what Hera flew through or around, he kept up. Force forbid she make a mistake, for he would surely score a hit within moments. Hera bit her lip as she concentrated fiercely.
"He's really good," she muttered after something like fifteen intense minutes.
"You're just admitting that now?!" Ben exclaimed from the back as he held onto his chair for dear life and paled further as Hera swooped through a tiny gap in a canyon that made Beggar's Canyon on Tatooine look like a stroll through a park. "He's Anakin Freaking Skywalker! The best pilot in the galaxy. The only reason we're not dead is because you have the better ship and might just be the second best pilot in the galaxy."
"Thanks," she muttered dryly. Then looked back at him with wide eyes. "What did you say?"
"Oh Force," Ben swore, the urge to hurl up his breakfast temporarily disappearing under the weight of his dismay. "I wasn't supposed to say that. Can you keep what you just heard a secret?"
Hera glared at him for half a second. "Are you insane?"
Ben shook his head slowly. "Dead serious."
Hera sighed as she swerved around a mountain range. "I suppose. But, kriff, Master Kenobi, you're asking a lot."
Ben sighed too, still griping the chair. "Don't I know it."
Hera gave him a look at the helplessness in his voice, but was distracted as the comm finally chirped, signalling it was time to go.
Picking up speed, she shot for the atmosphere, leaving Vader's shuttle behind temporarily. The Ghost was waiting for them just above the planet, out of sight and sensor range of the ISD. Hera docked in reverse in only seconds, grateful she'd done the manoeuvre dozens of times so it was as easy as breathing.
The instant the magnetic docking clamps engaged, Hera called, "Go, Chopper!" and she was out of her seat and climbing through the hatch down to the common room of the Ghost.
Her voice floated back up to Ben. "Make yourself useful and shoot at that blurrg dropping if he gets too close."
Ben snorted in amusement and consternation, not sure how he felt about Anakin/Vader being called animal excrement or being ordered around by a teenager, but found the controls for the canons and did as directed.
Vader was practically vibrating with rage by this point. Obi-Wan was so close but he just couldn't catch him. He cursed the maker of the shuttle for not giving it a faster maximum speed, (the engines were howling in complaint already) and vowed he would get his own fighter and use that from now on on missions. He would never be humiliated like this again.
Somewhere in the rage, Vader couldn't help but grudgingly admire the other pilot's skills. He didn't know who it was, but it definitely wasn't Obi-Wan. His ex Master had never been that talented at flying. Nor did he particularly like it. Vader wouldn't be surprised if the man had turned green a few times. It served him right if he had.
As the Corellian freighter that the small shuttle (and was it really just a shuttle if it could fly that fast and had an excellent set of guns?) had docked with approached the Executioner, two A-Wings zipped out of the Executioner's main hangar and started shooting at it with everything they had. The Corellian freighter also bombarded the ship with its forward guns and a top gun turret, aiming for the bridge.
Vader practically growled as he dodged shots from the docked shuttle and watched as his brand new Star Destroyer appeared to be floating dead in space and just took the abuse. Where were the TIEs to defend it? Why weren't the guns working?
Giving up on the Correllian freighter for the moment, Vader went after one of the A-Wings, knowing whoever was in there must be responsible for disabling his ship. And honestly, there was only one person he could think of who had the skill level to do that without getting herself killed.
As the A-Wing flew past him on another run against the Executioner, Vader caught just a hint of the Force signature flying the ship, since she was shielding, but it was enough. He'd know her signature anywhere, just like Obi-Wan's. Vader was filled with even more rage and just a hint of reluctant amusement as he remembered a mission where he and his Padawan had pulled pretty much the exact same trick against a Seppie ship.
Fly in, sneak around, turn off or destroy everything you can in ten minutes or less and then fly out and go to town with the guns. Those were good times.
Ahsoka and Obi-Wan were going to pay for this, though. He had the sudden thought that all of this had been a diversion, but for what? To get the rebel twi'leks off the planet? That made sense, he supposed. He wondered if Cody's team would even find any rebels in the caves. He was pretty sure that the intel had been a false trail now.
The freighter finally hit something vital one too many times and the ISD gave up on sparking fires and turned into a giant ball of flame instead.
The A-Wings and the freighter jumped into hyperspace in the next instant, a hail of shots from Vader's shuttle flying uselessly through space where the freighter had just been and Obi-Wan's signature winked out as well as his ex Master went back to shielding.
Vader smashed his fist into a non essential part of the control panel, causing sparks, and making the quivering co-pilot jump, and then pointed the shuttle back towards the cave system near Lessu.
On the way, he tried comming Cody but received no response. He also received no response from any of the pilots of the dropships or any of the troopers down on the planet. Vader was not pleased, and somewhat worried.
Landing a couple minutes later, Vader scanned the area that used to contain a dozen dropships but only found the bodies of troopers. Striding out of the shuttle, he walked into the cave system for a minute and then, concentrating, he swept his Force senses outwards, eventually coming to the conclusion that there was nothing living in here. Not even the fading echoes of death like those of the signatures of men who'd been ambushed and slaughtered like the ones from outside.
Cody and his men weren't here.
Vader could only conclude that they'd turned on him as well and disappeared, never to be seen again. They weren't the first Clones to fight off their conditioning by a long shot, thus the rapid forced drafting of new troopers that weren't clones and the search for a new method of producing clones that didn't take a decade for a finished product, but they would be the last ones Vader used in the 501st.
He was done with Clones.
Vader had been betrayed by every single person he trusted.
The hate and despair grew to yet another level within him.
It built and built as he walked back out of the cave, so that by the time he reached the entrance, Vader had Dark energy whipping around him, making his cape flap in a nonexistent wind.
With a slash of his arms and a roar, he released the energy into the cave system, causing a rumble and a resounding crack that grew and spread as the walls literally fell in on themselves and the ground collapsed a meter or two, causing a massive hole that spanned kilometres.
Feeling slightly better, Vader strode back to the useless shuttle and took his seat in the pilot's chair again. Rising up into the sky, and then into space, he set the hyperdrive for Coruscant. If the rebels on Ryloth rose up again, someone else could deal with them. Vader never wanted to see this planet again.
Cody woke up in a sterile white med bay, strapped down to a table, and wondering why his head hurt. Glancing around him, he saw all of his men in the same condition and there was a med droid performing some sort of surgery on a brother at the other end of the room.
"What is the meaning of this?" he said through clenched teeth, struggling against his restraints.
A human medic appeared from a side room, advancing cautiously while talking into a comm unit. "He's awake, and he doesn't look happy."
"Of course I'm not happy, di'kut," Cody snarled. "What are you doing to us?"
The medic raised his hands to show he was no threat. "Just stay calm and everything will be explained momentarily."
Cody narrowed his eyes at the man. "I don't want to stay calm. I want to know what you're doing to my brothers and I."
"We're liberating you," a voice said that sounded just like Cody's and yet didn't at the same time. "I hope you appreciate it, because I would hate to have to space my favourite brother."
"And I would hate to have to say goodbye to a friend," a smooth drawl added.
"Me too," added a female voice that Cody could pick out amongst thousands.
Cody near stopped breathing as his chest filled with painful longing and he came to the conclusion that he was dreaming. He drank in the sight of them anyway. Rex, General Kenobi, and Commander Tano. His three favourite people in the entire galaxy. Cody's eyes met Rex's as his brother stopped beside his bed. "Rex. Am I dreaming? I like this better than the usual nightmares, but I think it might be crueller."
Obi-Wan waved his hand and his restraints fell off and Cody sat up. "You're not dreaming, Cody. You really are free now."
Cody blinked at him and then looked at Ahsoka, who was definitely older looking and not how he pictured her in his mind. She smiled and nodded encouragingly, laying a gentle hand on his arm for a moment. "We're real, Cody. I promise."
Feeling the dull ache in his head again, Cody raised a hand and felt a bandage on his temple. "What...? The chip?"
Rex nodded and smiled. "It's gone, brother. You're your own man now. No one can control you anymore."
"Shabla," Cody breathed as he finally understood what had happened. "You stole us from him. Right under his nose."
Rex grinned. "Yep. And we blew up that fancy new ship of his too. It was too grey anyway. And what's with all the white on the troopers? How do you tell the different battalions apart?"
Cody chuckled. "We don't, most of the time. It's annoying."
Obi-Wan's changeable blue grey eyes were kind and amused as he said, "Well, you don't have to worry about that any more. You don't even have to be a soldier anymore if you don't want to be."
Cody shook his head ruefully. "I wouldn't know how to be anything else. I hope you have something for me to do."
Ahsoka grinned at him happily. "Welcome to the Rebellion then, Commander Cody."
Cody blinked in surprise. "You're actually forming a Rebellion? You plan to take down the Emperor and General... I mean Lord Vader?"
"Yep," Ahsoka said proudly, then her eyes narrowed at him. "Wait. What were you going to say?"
Cody looked from Ahsoka to Rex, who was also staring at him with concern. "You don't know, do you?"
"Know what?" Rex asked suspiciously.
"Uh oh," Obi-Wan muttered under his breath, frantically shaking his head at Cody.
Cody ignored him. Rex and Ahsoka deserved to know. "Darth Vader is General Skywalker."
Ahsoka actually paled in colour, putting her hand on Obi-Wan's arm to hold herself up as she swayed, and Rex started swearing a blue streak, turning almost red in his anger.
Eventually, they both glared at Obi-Wan as they realized that he'd known all along.
Obi-Wan smiled sadly, his eyes now very grey and misty. "I'm sorry I never told you, but I didn't want you to have to go through the hurt that I have."
Tears came to Ahsoka's eyes as she wrapped her arms around Obi-Wan's waist and tucked her face into his shoulder as she realized just how much Obi-Wan had to have agonized over losing the Padawan that he'd practically raised to the Dark side. "I'm sorry too, Master."
Rex and Cody exchanged looks and silently made themselves scarce so that Ahsoka and Obi-Wan could grieve in semi-privacy. Rex would mourn the loss of his General all over again, but not in the same way that the other two would. He had called Anakin his friend, but he'd never been bonded to him, not like they had. And he knew the bond was real. He'd seen proof of it over and over again over the course of the war. You just can't fake being able to find someone by feeling for them or knowing when they were hurt and they had to pick up the pace to go help them.
Their Jedi powers were a strange and wonderful thing, but right now, Rex was happy he was just a normal human clone.
Ben hugged his grandpadawan and tried really hard not to cry all over again at the fresh agony that Ahsoka's devastated pain brought him. For the five millionth time, he wondered where he'd gone wrong with Anakin. And for the five millionth time, he came up with a hundred different answers.
And then there was the stupidly amused part of him that laughed because he'd just sworn Hera to secrecy for a secret that wasn't a secret anymore. This wasn't the first time he wished he was more prone to receiving visions of the future, and he had a feeling it wouldn't be the last.
Chapter 13: The Hunted
D302/16 BBY, Takodana
Hera landed the Ghost on the gorgeous green planet near the castle, amidst a host of other assorted ships. She turned to Kanan and beamed at him. "Now this is more like it, love. You've finally shown me a planet worth the fuel."
Kanan grinned and wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed her temple after they both stood from their chairs. "I knew I'd get it right someday."
Hera turned in his arm and rested her hands on his chest as she looked up at him with a teasing glint in her emerald eyes. "I was beginning to think that would never happen. So far, I've seen sand, grass, ice, swamps, too much water, barren rocks, an occasional tree surrounded by rocks, more sand, more ice, and worst of all, snow. I don't like snow," she said with a fake shudder.
Kanan smiled apologetically and hugged her tight. "It's not my fault Ahsoka keeps sending us to awful locations. I've wanted to bring you here for awhile. I knew you'd like it. And you'll like Maz too. That old pirate is something special."
Hera smiled up at him and gave him a quick kiss. "Shall we go meet her then?
"Lets," he replied with a last squeeze of his arms, before letting her go.
As Hera walked into one of the favourite gathering places for all the riff raff of the galaxy, she took in the atmosphere eagerly. It was just like any other cantina, with a bar and tables and a band playing wretched music, and yet so much more. The feeling in the room was calm and yet had a quality to it that screamed violence could break out at any moment. The only reason a hundred fights didn't start every day was due to one tiny Takodanian pirate queen and her absolute rule over her space.
Maz sensed a change in the Force around her and looked up to see Kanan and a light green twi'lek dressed in pilot's gear walk through the door. She put down the glass she was wiping dry and hopped over the bar and marched her little legs over to meet them, face split in a grin. "Kanan Jarrus, you took my advice. Good boy."
Kanan grinned down at the tiny old woman who barely reached his waist. "Maz. Looking well as always. May I introduce you to my wife, Hera Syndulla?"
Maz looked at the twi'lek girl and liked what she saw. She saw caring, strength, courage, determination, and best of all, a beautiful strong bond that ran between her and Kanan. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Hera. Welcome to my home. I hope the boy's been treating you right?"
Hera smiled warmly down at the ageless woman with the goggles. "Oh, he does his best," she said with a teasing smirk thrown at Kanan.
Maz laughed and led them towards the bar. "Come on. You two must be thirsty. I've got just the thing for two people who've come so far just to see me."
Hera raised a brow at Kanan, surprised at how intuitive the Takodanian was. He shrugged and just followed Maz.
On the far side of the room, a bounty hunter looked up from his drink and almost spit it out as he caught sight of Hera and Kanan. It was them! His boss had been hounding him for what felt like forever to find these two. Jabba wanted his slave girl back something awful. And the man eliminated. He quickly finished his drink and left a credit on the table, before casually making his way out of the room. He was going to stake out the ships and try and catch them unawares when they returned to theirs.
Hera smiled in delight when Maz placed a fruity smelling purple drink in front of her. She took a sip and beamed at Maz. "This is delicious. I know there's more than meilooruns in here, but how did you know I love them?"
Maz smiled mysteriously. "I have my ways." Then she placed a cup of blue milk in front of Kanan and Hera laughed at his woebegone expression.
"Really, Maz? Still with the blue milk?" he moaned.
Maz smacked him on the head. "Yes. Now drink up." Maz glanced at Hera again and winked, making her snort into her fruit smoothie.
They spent a couple of hours talking to Maz about some of their adventures on Ryloth and other planets that didn't give away too much about what or who they were actually working for whenever she had a moment between tending to other customers. Hera instantly loved her, as Kanan had thought she might. They stayed for as long as they could, before Kanan said it was time to go. Unfortunately, this was just a quick stop on their way to yet another secret op.
With a wave and a smile, Maz watched the young couple leave. She sighed and dredged up memories of when she was that young and in love, close to a thousand years ago. She missed those days.
Kanan and Hera strolled back towards the Ghost, hand in hand, admiring the stars that had just begun to appear. As he walked, Kanan felt a little niggle of danger from the Force. He glanced around but found nothing out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, he squeezed Hera's hand in warning, and they continued their stroll as if nothing was different, but Kanan could feel Hera's instant tension as she readied herself for anything.
When a shot rang out from behind them, aimed at Kanan, neither of them were surprised. Kanan calmly dodged the shot and drew his blaster, Hera doing the same right beside him, as they each took cover behind a tree. More shots were sent Kanan's way. They both noticed that not a single one was aimed at Hera. That alone told them what this was probably about. This wasn't the first time someone had tried to capture Hera and kill Kanan. But they'd dealt with every bounty hunter that had shown up and would continue to do so.
Kanan glanced up at the branches above his head and Hera nodded in understanding. She kept shooting towards where the other shots were coming from while Kanan leapt up and landed lightly on a branch far above the ground. Hera started running for the Ghost, hoping to draw the bounty hunter out. The idiot fell for it. He chased after her, worried that his prey was going to get away. As he passed below Kanan, Kanan jumped down on top of him, knocking the bounty hunter to the ground. Hera stopped and came back.
She pointed her blaster at the dazed looking man, standing over him with Kanan at her side, his blaster also aimed at the man's head. "Why were you after us?" she asked, just to confirm her suspicions.
The man looked back and forth between them with wide, fear filled eyes. "Jabba the Hutt wants you back."
Hera rolled her eyes. This was getting ridiculous. How long was it going to take for the slimy slug to forget about her? She'd never even met him. She looked at Kanan with a raised brow. "Are you going to do the thing?"
Kanan nodded, and the man at their feet squeaked in alarm and tried to crawl backwards. Kanan sighed and planted a boot on his chest. He stared into the man's eyes. "You never saw us and you will forget who you work for and find new jobs," he said with a wave of his hand.
The bounty hunter relaxed under Kanan's boot and stopped trying to get away. His eyes went blank. "I never saw you and I will go find a new job."
Kanan let the man go and holstered his blaster, holding his hand out for Hera to take. They continued their stroll back to the Ghost as if nothing had happened. Hera grinned up at Kanan once they were back inside the Ghost. "I wonder how long it will take Jabba to realize that the bounty hunters he sends after us aren't coming back?"
"Not too much longer I hope. This is getting old," Kanan replied as he climbed the ladder.
Hera sat in her chair and got the Ghost back up into the air. "At least it's entertaining. Can you imagine how boring our lives would be if no one shot at us every other day?"
Kanan laughed and fell into his chair. "I actually don't know what I'd do with myself if we lived as simple farmers or something like that. War and fighting is basically all I know."
Hera glanced at him in complete understanding. They'd both been raised in the shadow of a war.
The next day, Hera parked the Phantom on a landing platform in the now officially nameless city that was once called Republic City on the cosmopolitan planet, Hosnian Prime. The locals were calling it R.C. out of loyalty, but not within hearing of any Imperial officers who were calling it Hosnian Capital.
Hera and Kanan disembarked their shuttle dressed in much nicer clothes than normal. Kanan was sporting an actual dress shirt in green silk and black slacks. Hera had on a pretty, flowing, white top over dark grey slacks, her usual bland headcovering and goggles replaced with a much fancier headdress with silver beads hanging over her forehead. They walked into the massive skyscraper hotel through the sliding glass doors like they belonged there.
No one gave them a second glance as they strolled through the lobby and towards the medical convention taking place in a large auditorium at the back of the hotel on the first floor. They slipped into the auditorium and found some seats in the back row of the packed room. And then they watched their target with avid attention as she finished her lecture on gene splicing to polite but enthusiastic applause from her fellow scientists.
The incredibly tall, and incredibly thin, woman nodded regally, her white skin shining almost pearlescent under the lights and the tiniest hint of a smile appearing on her thin lips. "Thank you," the kaminoan, Ko Sai, said softly, and walked off the stage, her long legs making the movement look more like floating.
She was immediately surrounded by eager people from many races, asking her questions, but she held up a hand. "I'm sorry, but that is all I have time to say today. You may send your inquiries to my holo page and I will answer them when I am able."
The beings reluctantly parted and allowed her through, most resuming their seats as the next speaker took the stage. Kanan and Hera joined the small crowd that left the room and followed the kaminoan back towards the lobby. They casually stepped into the elevator with her and Kanan made sure the doors closed before anyone else could join them.
The woman politely ignored them, like all people did when locked in an enclosed space with strangers.
Kanan made the elevator stop halfway between floors and Ko Sai focused on the indicator board in surprise. "What's happening?" Hera cleared her throat lightly and the tall woman looked down at her with narrowing eyes. "Are you doing this?"
Hera smiled apologetically. "Yes, we are. I apologize for the unconventional introduction, but we need your help. Or more specifically, about one hundred of the Fett clones need your help. We want to stop their accelerated aging so they can live more normal lives. They said you were the most likely one to be sympathetic to their problem. If they were wrong, we apologize and you'll never see us again and we'll look for another solution. If they were right, you can come with us and help them."
Ko Sai tilted her sleek head slightly and she stared at Hera with her large eyes unblinking. "What you are asking is treason."
"Yes," Hera said simply.
"We can make it look like you are being kidnapped if you like," Kanan said quietly, sensing that the woman wasn't immediately opposed to the idea of helping them. "This would allow you to return to your life without any repercussions."
"That... is an acceptable plan," Ko Sai said. "I will come with you. I have already done much research on reversing or at least stopping the aging process in the clones, but it is all theoretical. Nala Se did not agree with my views and thus did not endorse my projects. I have not had the opportunity to work on live subjects."
"Well, now's your chance," Hera said brightly.
Ko Sai gave that almost invisible smile again, but Kanan could feel her emotions and knew she was much happier and more intrigued than she was letting on.
"There are some things I need from my room before you 'kidnap' me," Ko Sai said matter of factly.
"Certainly," Kanan said as he waved a hand at the controls of the elevator again and they resumed their swift ascent.
"You are a Jedi," Ko Sai said, seeing the movement this time.
"More or less," Kanan said with a half smile. "I am Kanan and this is my wife, Hera."
Ko Sai's brilliant mind did not miss the implication. "I see. More or less, indeed."
The elevator stopped and they disembarked on the forty-fifth floor. Her room was only two doors away from the elevator on the right hand side. They entered and she swiftly packed her bag, tossing in a couple datapads and toiletries from the refresher.
Kanan was just reaching to carry the small suitcase for her when there was a knock on the door. Ko Sai was just opening it when he felt the warning in the Force. "Don..." he started to call, but it was too late.
Ko Sai had just focused her attention on the person in the doorway when he stunned her with his blaster. Ko Sai fell to the ground in a long crumpled heap.
Kanan and Hera stared at the male in dark green, red, and gold Mandalorian armour in shock for half a second, and he stared back at them through his helmet in equal surprise as he was bending to shoulder the kaminoan. He paused and straightened up again. "You! You're on Jabba's wanted list!"
"Oh kriff," Kanan mumbled. He pushed the bounty hunter into the opposite wall of the hallway, pulled Ko Sai further into the room, and slammed the door closed and engaging the lock with the Force.
Almost immediately, blaster shots rocked the door and penetrated through the expensive wood. Where was a good, solid, durasteel door when you needed one?
Kanan and Hera dived to the floor.
"Now what!?" Hera called over the noise.
Kanan glanced around the room, grabbed the mattress from the bed and flew it to the door, propping it up against it. The mattress immediately absorbed the blaster shots and they were free to move, but they had to act quickly.
As they rose to their feet again, Hera pulled her small blaster from where it was strapped to her ankle and Kanan did the same with the two pieces of his lightsabre. He clicked it together, walked to the other side of the room, and slashed through the glass of the floor to ceiling window before attaching it to his belt and going back to shoulder the sleeping kaminoan. "Thank the Force she's lighter than she looks,"
Hera grabbed the woman's bag. "All right, what's your plan?" she said as she looked down forty-five stories below which just happened to contain the parking platform for shuttles and speeders.
"We jump." Kanan said.
Hera raised a brow. "Jump." She shook her head at him. "It's a good thing I trust you, love."
Kanan smiled widely. "Count to five and then jump, darling. I promise I'll catch you."
Hera nodded, and with that, Kanan stepped out the window. Hera watched them plummet, clothes flapping in the wind, as she mentally counted. She'd only made it to two when the door to the room slammed open, but got stuck on the mattress. The man spat out vile curses and shoved against the mattress while firing at her.
Kanan pointed his hand at the ground and Force pushed himself to slow himself. He landed on the ground with a graceful bend of the knees and looked up. Hera was falling quickly but not as bad as it could have been, since she'd spread herself out like an x to make the most drag as possible. Above her, the Mandalorian had jumped out the window as well and was arrowing headfirst at the ground, blaster pointed at HIM.
'Frag,' Kanan had time to think before time sped up again and everything happened at once.
Kanan dodged the blaster shot, raised his free hand, caught Hera with the Force just enough so she could land without getting hurt, and then SHOVED the bounty hunter as hard as he could away from them. He didn't stop to see how far that was, just made sure Hera had landed okay, and then they ran as fast as they could to the Phantom.
Kanan opened the back door with the Force as he heard the sound of a jet pack kicking into life behind him. He summoned his lightsabre to his hand and blocked blaster fire as he backed into the Phantom and Hera ran to the controls and booted up the shuttle.
"Shields are up! Get in here!" Hera called to him.
Kanan closed the door as the Phantom took off and shrugged the kaminoan onto the floor as gently as possible just as she was starting to wake.
Ko Sai blinked a few times, shook her head, and then sat up as she looked around the interior of the shuttle. "What happened?"
"We weren't the only ones after you, I guess," Kanan said as helped her to her feet. And then the Phantom shuddered with an impact and he had to catch them both from falling.
"Sleemo just shot a MISSILE at us!" Hera called. "Where did he get one of those?"
"Mandalorian jet pack," Kanan answered. "Comes equipped with a missile launcher."
Hera snorted and then said, "Hang on!"
Kanan grabbed Ko Sai and a strap on the wall just as Hera abruptly turned the Phantom around a building and then came to a dead stop right against it.
Ko Sai gasped and paled, but didn't say anything.
The bounty hunter flew past them before noticing that he had. He came to a stop quickly and turned back, but it was too late. Hera was already firing at him and flying right at him. "Shoot at my ship, will you? I don't think so."
The bounty hunter stopped abruptly again and then turned and flew away as fast as he could in an erratic pattern, realizing he wasn't going to win this one. Hera pursued him for a minute, practically snarling, until police speeders appeared in the distance, lights flashing.
Hera abruptly abandoned her vendetta and flew for the atmosphere, easily outdistancing the police in only moments.
Minutes later, she was docking with the Ghost and Chopper jumped them into hyperspace. She powered down the Phantom and then turned to look at her passengers. Ko Sai's eyes were even bigger looking than normal and Kanan was shaking his head at her, but the slight quirk to his mouth said he was amused.
"That was fun," Hera said with a grin, strolling over to Kanan and pressing into his side as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple with a chuckle.
"I have to disagree," Ko Sai said with a slight frown. "I have never been a fan of adventure and death defying stunts."
"it's probably a good thing, then, that you were sleeping when I jumped us out the window," Kanan said, hiding his grin.
Ko Sai blinked at him in disbelief. "You did what?!"
After returning to his ship, Boba Fett settled into the pilot's chair with an incredulous shake of his head at how the day had turned out.
Leaving his helmet on to hide how young he actually was, since not many would put their trust in a sixteen year old bounty hunter, he made his first comm call. Jabba's holo figure appeared shortly. "What is it, Fett?" he rumbled out grumpily.
"I just spotted your green twi'lek and her companion while working on another job. My price for her capture and his death just quadrupled."
"Why?" Jabba growled out, narrowing his eyes in anger.
"Because the man is a Jedi."
Jabba blinked and finally understood why all his bounty hunters had been disappearing. He laughed, deep and slow.
Boba drummed his fingers against his thigh while he waited for Jabba to stop laughing. It took a while.
Jabba eventually focused on the second Fett bounty hunter he'd employed. "Take them off my list. The twi'lek isn't worth the credits. If you want to capture the Jedi on your own, that's your business." Jabba's hologram blinked out.
Boba shrugged to himself. If Jabba didn't want them anymore, he wouldn't go looking for them. But if he happened to stumble upon the man again, he would take a whack at capturing him. Jedi were worth a fortune if captured alive.
Boba then placed a comm call to Coruscant. The shrouded figure of Darth Sidious appeared a minute later. "Were you successful?"
Boba shook his head. "I regret to say that another team captured the kaminoan first. But I think you'll be interested to know that one of them was a Jedi."
Sidious' eyes narrowed in displeasure at Fett for failing, but he decided to leave him alive for now. He could still be useful in the future. "Did you get an image of the Jedi?"
Boba nodded, already anticipating Sidious' request and sent him an image of the man from his helmet's recordings.
Sidious nodded his thanks as he got the image and then turned off the comm. He stared at the young man for a minute, taking in the auburn hair, the goatee, and the unmistakably familiar teal eyes set in an older face. Sidious wasn't familiar with every Jedi that existed before Order 66, but he was familiar with all of the Generals and their Padawans. Especially the Generals who also sat on the High Council.
He steepled his fingers as his mind put puzzle pieces together. What would Caleb Dume want with a kaminoan medical scientist? The answer had to have something to do with cloning. Which led him to believe that Dume was working with clones; the missing ones, to be specific. Which made him come to the conclusion that his suspicions about a growing, organized, rebellion were more likely a reality then just a suspicion.
Darth Sidious was not pleased, but not surprised.
Chapter 14: The Family
Cham Syndulla watched the familiar ship land in front of the hangar with eager eyes. It had been more than two years since he'd seen his daughter. He found it somewhat ironic that it was another relief supply mission that had brought her back. They'd talked over the holo comm over the years of course, and he was proud of her accomplishments for the Rebellion, but he desperately missed having her in his life. The big house was even lonelier than ever without her. As a result, Cham spent as little time at home as he could manage, throwing all of his time into making the Imperial presence on Ryloth as miserable as possible.
As the ramp lowered, Cham drank in the sight of Hera, looking so incredibly grown up and self confident, followed by Kanan and that C1 droid that was somehow still functioning. He hurried over to meet them. "Daughter!" he called and opened his arms. Hera broke into a huge smile and flung herself into his chest. Cham wrapped his arms around her and hugged his daughter tight. "I missed you, Hera."
"I missed you too, Father," she said before pulling back and smiling up at him. "It's been too long, but we've just been so busy."
Cham smiled down at her before exchanging welcoming nods with Kanan. "I understand. We both do what we must in our fight against the Empire." He looked from Hera to Kanan and back. "How long can you stay? The longer the better."
Kanan and Hera exchanged glances. "I'm afraid only for a day, Father. We'll have to leave tomorrow. We have another mission lined up and it's time sensitive."
Cham sighed and just managed not to slump his shoulders. "Alright. At least we can have a nice family dinner tonight after we deliver the supplies."
Hera nodded and smiled. "That would be lovely. Thank you, Father."
A few hours later, it was like Hera and Kanan had never left; the old rhythms of preparing dinner together and setting the table falling into place seamlessly.
Sitting down to eat, everyone dug in and enjoyed the starter course of fresh berries and greens in a homemade vinaigrette provided by Hera and Kanan after making a raid on an Imperial supply ship.
"This is really good," Cham said gratefully. "I've been living on prepackaged rations for weeks now."
Hera looked up in alarm. "You should have told me, Father. I would have come sooner."
"I didn't want to trouble you," Cham said with a shrug before spearing another lettuce leaf. "Besides, I've lived on worse."
Hera cringed as she thought back to when EVERYONE was starving during the Clone Wars and how even a single stray grub would be considered a meal for one. "That is sadly true, but you shouldn't have to."
Kanan raised a brow and said in a teasing tone to lighten the suddenly sombre mood, "Then how come we eat them so often? It can't be for the flavour."
Hera smirked at Kanan and nudged him with an elbow. "No, dear. It's because of your abysmal attempts at cooking. The rations are cheaper than wasting the food neither of us want to eat after you're done with it."
"Hey!" Kanan said in mock offense. "It's not my fault none of my teachers thought that cooking was a useful Jedi skill. At least I'm trying."
Hera smiled sweetly at him. "I know, love. But until you figure out how to make more than instant batter space waffles, I'll keep buying rations."
Cham had to laugh at Kanan's look of resigned acceptance. "At least you get to eat Hera's cooking every once in a while. She gets the gift from her mother. I'm just as hopeless as you, even after all these years on my own."
"You should invite Gobi to come live with you," Hera said. "I remember him being a half decent cook."
"I guess I didn't tell you," Cham said seriously. "Gobi's gone and finally found himself a mate. He's got his own family to take care of now."
"Really?" Hera said in surprise. "Anyone I know?"
"Her name's Cena. She's the mother of that little girl that befriended the clones. I don't know if you remember Numa?"
"I do actually," Hera said with a raised brow. "I remember Cena too. She was very nice to me even after losing her husband to the war. I actually stayed with them one night while you were off fighting. Tell Gobi I'm very happy for him."
"I will," Cham said as he polished off his salad. "They're expecting their first child together to add to the two Cena already has."
"That's great," Hera said as her father rose and gathered up everyone's salad plates then disappeared into the kitchen. He returned a minute later carrying the nerf roast that had been staying warm in the oven.
"Speaking of children," Cham said as casually as he could manage while he sliced the roast. "Are you two planning on producing some grandchildren for me anytime soon?"
"Ummmmmm," Kanan said, staring down at the table and turning somewhat red in the face.
Hera just shook her head at her father for his audacity. "Not for a few years yet, Father. We're still much too young to have our lives added to in such a responsible fashion. But..." she added as she saw her father's face fall. "Children are definitely in the plans though for the future, I promise."
Cham grinned in relief and Kanan exhaled a huge breath at not having to get into too many awkward details with his father-in-law.
Fortunately for Kanan's peace of mind, the rest of the dinner conversation revolved around missions they had accomplished and included a lot of laughing at the increasing ineptitude of the stormtroopers as the old clones were gradually replaced with idiots.
Overall, it was a good day, and Hera and Kanan very much enjoyed being home again.
D60/14 BBY, Lothal
Hera turned on the Ghost's sensor scrambler as they approached Lothal. With the Empire now in control of the planet, it wouldn't do for them to notice how often their ship was in the vicinity at the same time that rebel activity was reported. She flew straight to Jhothal, where she landed for two whole minutes.
Kanan dashed out of the ship and into Old Jho's. The Ithorian already had the picnic basket prepared. With a, "Thanks Jho! You're the best," Kanan tossed some credits at him with a huge grin and grabbed the basket.
Old Jho called, "Happy anniversary!" after the quickly retreating figure. Kanan raised a hand in acknowledgement just before he disappeared from sight. Old Jho chuckled to himself. When they showed up on their first anniversary, asking for another picnic, Jho had been surprised and pleased. When they showed up for their second anniversary, Jho had a basket prepared in the back, just in case. This year, the basket was waiting on the bar, and Jho was happy that his instincts had been right.
After they finished their picnic, Kanan produced a small, brightly wrapped box and handed it to Hera. She looked at him with big surprised eyes. "A present? I thought we were saving our credits for fuel and supplies?"
Kanan stared at the ground bashfully. "I know, but I saw these and I just knew you'd love them. I couldn't resist."
Hera leaned closer to him and kissed his cheek gently. "Thank you, love. Even if you shouldn't have, I do love presents."
Kanan looked up at her and grinned. "I know. Now open it."
Hera tore into the wrapping and she gasped in surprise as the box was revealed. "Is this real Trammistan chocolate?" she breathed. "Isn't that dreadfully expensive?"
Kanan nodded and touched her cheek gently so she'd look at him again and see how much he meant his next words. "You're worth real chocolate, darling. And it's even better than just chocolate. Try one," he encouraged.
Hera opened the box and found a dozen balls of chocolate. She reverently placed one in her mouth and savoured the flavour before chewing. She moaned and closed her eyes as the delectable flavour of chocolate and meiloorun mixed. As she finished her treat, she opened her eyes, placed the box in the basket carefully, and threw herself at Kanan, knocking him back onto the blanket.
Kanan's chuckle was abruptly cut off as Hera kissed the breath right out of him. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back. When she finally came up for air, Kanan smiled up at her sparkling eyes. "I take it you like your present?"
Hera nodded almost frantically and grabbed at Kanan's shirt, pulling it off. "I haven't got a present for you, love. But you definitely deserve something as a reward." She kissed a path down his jaw to his ear and whispered in it, her breath making him shiver. "I'm going to love you until you're too tired to move."
Kanan's eyes gleamed with anticipation. He ran his hands down her lekku, making her shudder, then linked his fingers behind his head, making all the muscles in his chest, shoulders, and arms stand out in stark relief, much to Hera's visual delight. "You're welcome to try," he rumbled in challenge.
Hera bit his shoulder in retaliation. "Oh, you're going to regret saying that."
Kanan smirked at her as he relaxed into the blanket with a shift or two of his body, finding just the right spot for the coming 'torture'. "No. I don't think I am."
Hera snorted under her breath, but he was right. Kanan had always been perfectly happy to let her do whatever she wanted to him. She decided to see if she could outdo her previous performances in regards to turning her husband into a puddle of exhausted male.
She whispered her tongue around the edge of his ear and then nipped it lightly, happy to hear his breath catch. "You're mine, Kanan Jarrus," she breathed into his ear. "I'm never letting you go."
Kanan slanted his eyes towards her. "A herd of crazed gundarks couldn't make me move right now."
Hera giggled as she pressed kisses down the muscled cords of his neck. "I don't think that's actually true, but I like the sentiment."
She loved kissing Kanan all over. Loved running her hands over his skin and muscles. He was so incredibly sexy to her. He wasn't the galaxy's buffest male by any stretch of the imagination, being more on the tall and lanky side, but every inch of him was hard and powerful. And he had the most intriguing hair patterns, so unlike a twi'lek, who were all hairless except for their fine eyebrows.
His scalp was graced by the silkiest long strands of brown hair that gleamed with copper, bronze, and red highlights in the sun. There were fine, almost invisible hairs on his forearms and calves, and an absurd but cute little bush of hair in each of his armpits. And for some reason that made sense only to humans, there was a tiny trail of hair that ran from below his belly button and down to his private parts, ending in another fine bush.
Kanan had told her at some point in the past that he had very little body hair compared to the majority of human males, and that some could be almost as hairy as a wookiee. She had seen shirtless male humans before, and noted they did seem to have a lot of chest hair. Unattractive chest hair. Hera considered herself very lucky indeed in her choice of a mate.
He'd offered to shave his body hair off for her once, when she remarked on how different he was from a twi'lek, but Hera had cringed at the thought of how much that might hurt, and it would just grow back again anyway, so she told him he was perfect as he was. To be honest, she'd come to adore his little patches of hair. It made him unique to her. And he was most sensitive where the hair was, which she took advantage of now with a grin.
Kanan had to concentrate on not curling up and laughing as Hera tickled him by running a finger over the hair in his armpit. He clenched his fingers together harder and bore the teasing touches like a man.
Hera glanced at his face and saw his mouth twitching. "You're so fun to tease." She reached across his chest and tortured his other armpit and Kanan's stomach muscles clenched in response as he held in his laughter. Suddenly moving her hands down to his ribs, she found his weak spot and tickled him until he gave up and laughed, while trying to squiggle away from her without actually using his hands, because he still had them locked behind his head.
Hera straddled his hips so he couldn't get away and continued her assault until he was nearly breathless from laughing so hard. Then she bent forward and attacked his tiny little nipples with her mouth, nipping them in turn and skimming her hands up and down his sides sensually now as opposed to playfully.
Kanan stopped laughing and froze as she stole his breath in a new way. And, oh Force, now her lekku were trailing over him as well. If he hadn't been fully hard before, he most certainly was now.
Hera slid up a little as Kanan let out a whimper and pressed her mouth to his. She kept her hands on his pecs and nipples and let her lekku twine around his forearms while she entwined her tongue with his in a very long and very hot kiss.
When she eventually pulled away, he looked up at her with heavy lidded eyes, the teal just showing through. "What you do to me, darling. I am unequivocally yours until the end of time."
Hera's lips curled up in a very satisfied smile as she sat up, lekku and hands caressing as she let him go. "I told you." She moved off him and focused her attention on his belt and trousers and the very dominant bulge in the crotch area. "And now I'm going to show you, as well."
"You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to it," Kanan said as he watched her undo his belt in what had to be slow motion.
"Oh, I think I do," she said, bending down and pressing a kiss to the centre of his chest over his pounding heart which thumped like a bass drum in the background of her extra sensitive hearing, since she wasn't wearing her usual headcovering and goggles.
Hera took her time undressing Kanan the rest of the way, much to his dismay. She knew he wanted her to go faster, but making him wait was half the fun.
She started with his belt. Then she teased him by brushing over his bulge with her hands before running her fingers down the length of his strong thighs, over his knees, down his shins, and then removed his boots one at a time.
Then it was his socks, pulling them off slowly, exposing his large feet. She ran her nails along the bottoms of his feet which made him curl his toes and hunch his shoulders up to ears and laugh, since that was another ticklish spot for him. She thought about spending more time making him squirm but decided against it since she wanted to move on to the first course of the five star meal that was her husband.
Her hands trailed back up his cloth covered legs as she shot a look at his face, catching him watching her with a rapt expression. She stopped at the waist of his trousers and undid the fastenings, still taking her time, now torturing them both, since she was just as hot and bothered as he was by her own actions. She deliberately grazed his erection as she removed his trousers and undershorts, pulling them down his narrow hips and off his legs.
Then Hera had to stop and admire the work of art that she had uncovered. He was perfection in male form; hard, lean, golden skin gleaming with sweat in the sun, gorgeous teal eyes staring at her with open adoration and trust, and a towering length of manhood between his legs that twitched with a life of its own as her hands grasped it lovingly.
Many many hours later, as the sun set over the plains, Hera smiled in satisfaction as she looked at the peaceful face of her sleeping husband. She snuggled a little closer to his chest and fell asleep as well.
Kanan woke up in the dark with Hera draped over him, and the sound of a child's laughter echoing through his mind. Hera's skin glowed in the light of the moons and the stars, making her look even more gorgeous than usual. He sighed in contentment and hugged her closer, relishing the heat generated by their fused skin. But then the evening breeze swept over their bodies and their combined heat wasn't near enough. Kanan shivered and saw Hera do the same in her sleep.
Since that wouldn't do at all, he gently placed her on the blanket and stood, removing everything from the blanket so he could wrap it around her. Then he pulled his clothes on double time. Kanan stuffed her clothes into the basket and then picked her up with the basket dangling from one of his wrists. Hera snuggled into his chest and Kanan smiled at her with all the love in his heart. She was so incredibly precious to him.
And how she'd loved him near to death. They'd been practically insatiable, coming together over and over again. She'd loved him with her mouth and hands until he was near begging for release. Then she'd stood and slowly stripped off her clothes in a sensual dance to the music of the grass in the wind, near blowing his mind.
Then she'd straddled him and lowered herself on his length, engulfing him to the hilt and then proceeded to NOT move for what had to be half an hour as they kissed slowly and passionately. It was maddening and incredible at the same time. By the time she actually did move, they were so tightly strung that it had only taken two shifts of her hips for them to both come.
She'd kissed him through the whole thing.
Kanan had been sure he'd died and gone to the Afterlife.
Once they'd both caught their breaths again, with her still impaled on him, she'd started rocking for real. Kanan finally given up keeping his hands off her at this point. He'd grasped her hips and helped her move on him, eyes trailing up and down her luscious body from her exquisite face, to her perfect bouncing breasts, to the place where they joined in her hot depths.
That round had lasted a while.
After they'd both come again and she'd collapsed on his chest, Kanan had turned them over and proceeded to worship Hera as thoroughly as she had worshipped him, but without the tickling, since she just wasn't ticklish. But wow, was she sensitive to touch, especially on her lekku. He'd made her come again just by loving her lekku with his mouth and hands.
It was a beautiful sight.
Then he'd crawled over her and kissed her in a mirror image of what she'd done to him, thrusting into her agonizingly slow and deep for what felt like hours.
He'd made her come twice more like that before he flipped her over and took her from behind in something resembling a wild frenzy. That one had been fast and furious and oh, so fulfilling, as she screamed his name to the sky.
And just when he thought they were done, she'd coaxed him back to life with her mouth again and then straddled him once more, determined to win the challenge of loving him until he was too tired to move.
And how he loved her for it.
Now, as he walked back to the Ghost, carrying his beloved, the sound of a child's laughter whispered through his mind again. Kanan raised a brow in curiosity. With no better idea, he connected to the Force and let it sweep through him, bringing with it the wonderful sense of belonging. With the Force flowing through him, Kanan looked at Hera again, just because he always loved to see what her Force signature looked like at any given time. She shone like a star in the Force tonight and within that star was a tiny separate light of its own.
Kanan stopped moving. Stopped breathing. And just stared at the new life that lived in Hera as an overwhelming sense of joy filled him.
Kanan pressed a kiss to her forehead and started walking again, stepping onto the ramp. "I love you, Hera," he whispered to his sleeping beauty.
When Hera woke up, she was in her own bed with Kanan beside her, resting his chin on a fist and smiling at her with the dopiest grin she'd ever seen on him. "What?" she asked. "What is that look for?"
Kanan tried to straighten his face back into serious, but he was pretty sure he failed. "Just out of curiosity, person who takes care of these things, when are we due for another set of contraceptive shots?"
Hera raised a brow at the random question that didn't really answer her question at all. But she thought back through the days anyway. "Next week. Why do you ask?"
Kanan grinned at her some more. "I think we can skip them this time. Our last shots must have expired early."
"WHAT?!" Hera screeched, making Kanan wince. She toned it down a bit. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
Kanan nodded almost reluctantly, no longer sure that her reaction was going to be as positive as his.
Hera stared at Kanan with wide eyes for a minute while her brain processed the new development. She glanced down at her stomach, almost expecting it to look different, then looked back at Kanan. She sucked in a big breath of air for courage and then let herself smile at him, which brought the beginnings of his dopey smile back. "Alright. We can do this. It's sooner than I wanted, but if the Force wills it, then I'm in."
Kanan looked back at her with relief in his teal eyes. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her gently. "I love you, darling. Forever. I think you'll be a perfect mother for our child."
Hera rolled her eyes and kissed him back. "I love you too, dear. And just so you know, the males raise the children in my culture," she said with a completely straight face. Kanan actually bought it as he gawked at her with blinking eyes and a dropped jaw. Hera laughed, pushed his jaw back up with a finger, and kissed him again. "I'm kidding, love. We'll both raise our child."
D120/14 BBY, Tatooine
Hera set the Phantom down on the sand beside another small shuttle near Ben's lonely home in a rocky crag of the Western Dune Sea. She'd left the Ghost and Chopper up in space, just in case one of Jabba's people actually spotted the ship. He could jump it to hyperspace and come back for them later.
Hera glanced at the other shuttle again and smiled. "Ahsoka must be here too. I guess she's going to get the news a few months sooner than I intended."
Kanan thought that wasn't a bad thing. In his opinion, Hera could stop running around and getting shot at anytime now, but she was determined to keep running missions for as long as she could.
They walked out of the Phantom at the same time that Ben, Ahsoka, and Lux emerged from the door of Ben's house. Hera nudged Kanan with her shoulder. "Look, dear. Your friend is here too. You boys can go talk guy things while Ahsoka and I talk missions."
Kanan rolled his eyes, but silently admitted she wasn't far off. It was nice having another man around his age to talk to about their feisty wives, and Lux had been one of his closest friends when he was younger; it had been easy to fall back into that friendship after he married Ahsoka and returned to Kanan's life in a roundabout way. Ben was a great friend as well, but there were just some things he didn't feel comfortable talking to the old Master about. Like how his whole life revolved around Hera. The Order would most definitely frown on that, and Ben had dedicated his life to the Order.
Although... There had been rumours about him and the Duchess of Mandalore at one point. Kanan didn't have the heart to ask about her though; he knew she'd been killed in front of Ben by Maul and didn't want to bring up any bad memories.
Hera and Ahsoka greeted each other fondly with a hug while the men wandered off to their own man talk after everyone had said hi to everyone else.
Ahsoka took one look at Hera and raised a brow. "When were you going to tell me?"
Hera shrugged. "In a few more months, when I can't run anymore." Hera glanced pointedly at the small bump in Ahsoka's stomach. "And when were you going to tell me?"
Ahsoka grinned. "Soon. Let me guess. You got your shot from the medbay on the Reckless?"
Hera nodded. "You too?"
"Yep. I'm not the only one either. At least five other females that visit the Reckless on a regular basis are all pregnant. I wish I knew who to blame for the faulty shots, but I can't honestly be too mad. I'm kind of looking forward to having a child."
Hera smiled sweetly. "So am I. And Kanan's over the moon about it. Needless to say, we'll have to cut down on missions for awhile. At least the more physical ones that need two people, anyway. I can still fly, though. So if you come up with something that fits those criteria, we're in."
Ahsoka laughed. "We'll see what comes up."
D28/13 BBY, Alderaan
Kanan and Lux paced the waiting room in the private hospital while Cham, Bail, and Breha looked on indulgently. Leia was asleep curled up in a chair, having grown bored with waiting long ago.
Both of their wives had carried longer than expected, Ahsoka by almost a month and Hera even longer, but with hybrid pregnancies, everyone knew that anything goes and to not expect the normal. And now they'd both gone and decided to have their babies on the same day.
Kanan had wanted the best possible medical team on hand in case there were complications, and Lux agreed. Bail had provided them with that peace of mind. Now all they could do was wait. And wait. Both men had tried to stay in the delivery rooms with their wives, but had been kicked out by the med droids when things got closer to the end. Kanan wasn't too sure he thought that was a good idea, but there was nothing he could do.
Both men turned to the door when a nurse appeared there. She smiled at Lux. "You're wife just had a healthy girl. You can come see them in a few minutes."
Lux whooped and grabbed Kanan in a bear hug. "You hear that? I'm a father!" Then he ran out of the room, leaving Kanan alone in his misery.
Half an hour later, the same nurse returned to the room and Kanan turned hopeful eyes on her. She smiled at his eager look. "Your wife just had a healthy boy. They're both fine. You can..." Kanan didn't let her finish. He dashed out of the room and down the hall to the delivery room. The door was blocked by a medbot, but the moment it allowed Kanan in, he hurried in to see for himself that Hera was all right.
He stopped just inside the door and had to remind himself to breathe. Hera looked beautiful, holding a tiny bundle in her arms. Exhausted and sweaty, but so beautiful regardless.
Hera looked up and beamed at Kanan. "Come on, dear. Come meet our son." Her eyes twinkled with amusement as he walked towards her as if in a trance.
Kanan stopped at her side and kissed her forehead lovingly. "Are you okay, darling?"
Hera nodded and smiled at him teasingly. "I am now. There was a point where I was wishing you had never been born, but I'm over that. Now I'm just tired."
Kanan smiled apologetically and finally looked down at his son. His eyes widened in surprise although he wasn't sure why. He was already expecting the unexpected with a hybrid, but the tuft of emerald green hair on the baby's head took him off guard. He took in the pale skin and pointy twi'lek ears that had a hint of green at their tips, and then he beamed at Hera. "He's perfect."
She smiled back at him. "I know."
"What are you going to call him?" Kanan asked. They'd talked about names, but hadn't come up with anything concrete; just some random ideas.
Hera looked down at her son, and he opened his dark blue eyes. Kanan raised a brow at the eye color. He wasn't expecting that either. As mother and son looked at each other, Hera smiled to him sweetly. "Jacen," she said. "He has my little brother, Jacen's, eyes." Hera looked up at Kanan imploringly. "If it's alright with you, I'd like to name him Jacen."
Kanan nodded and held his arms out, asking if he could hold his son. Hera raised him and Kanan took him gently into the crook of his arm. He smiled at the tiny boy, and felt his heart beat with joy when Jacen did something that almost resembled a smile back. "Hello, Jacen Syndulla. My son."
D12/12 BBY, Lothal
Kanan and Hera leisurely strolled through the market of Capital City, buying supplies. Jacen was in a carrier strapped to Kanan's back, and he could feel the boy's curiosity at everything he saw. Kanan glanced down at Hera, and smiled at her as she focused on a datapad with a list of things they needed. If it were up to him, they'd just buy things willy nilly, so it was a good thing it wasn't up to him. Hera was so much better at managing their credits.
As they stopped in front of a fruit vendor, Kanan felt something new surge through the Force, catching his attention almost insistently.
He looked around, eyes darting from person to person, trying to find the source of alarm and anger that wasn't his.
After what felt like an eternity of, 'Who? Who? Who?' he finally saw the reason all the fine hairs were standing up on his arms and the back of neck. About a block away, he could see two stormtroopers dragging a furiously fighting young boy down the road towards a speeder. Acting without thinking, Kanan took off Jacen's carrier and handed it to a surprised Hera.
"What...?" she got out before he was gone.
He bolted down the road as fast as he could without using Force speed, dodging surprised people, and drew his blaster as he ran.
Chapter 15: The Orphan
D1/12 BBY, Lothal
The just turned nine year old boy known as Ezra Bridger was practically bouncing as he walked home from school. It was his birthday today and he couldn't wait to see what his parents had planned for the traditional surprise outing. He turned the corner to his street and came to an abrupt halt, eyes widening in fear and breath freezing in his throat.
What were they doing in front of his house?!
The door slid open and two troopers dragged his dad out of the house. Ephraim Bridger put up a fight as best as he could, cursing and struggling in their unrelenting holds, but he was no fighter. At least, not physically. Ezra's father was a diplomat; he fought with words. His struggles stopped when an Imperial officer shot him in the back with a stun blast, making him slump between the hands roughly holding him up.
Ezra gasped and ran towards them, furious at what they were doing to his dad. "Let go of my dad, you Imperial sleemos!" he yelled as he ran.
The troopers and the officer turned to look at the little boy running at them. They laughed and sneered. "Get the boy too," the officer said to the extra troopers just standing there.
At the same time, two more troopers dragged out Mira Bridger, also struggling in their hands. She saw Ezra running towards them. "Ezra! Stop! Run!"
Ezra skidded to a halt at his mom's words, shaking his head in denial, but his feet obeying anyway. "No, Mom! I won't leave you!"
Mira struggled harder to get free when she saw the troopers getting much too close to her little boy, her headcovering coming loose and allowing her unique opalescent lavender hair to tumble around her shoulders and exposing her as not entirely human. "Ezra! Run!" she managed to scream at him one more time before the officer shot her as well.
With tears blinding him, Ezra did as his mom wanted and ran for his life, his short legs running faster than they ever had as he dodged the large grasping hands. In desperation, he leapt for a balcony above his head, and barely grasping the edge, pulled himself up. A hand caught his foot, but he kicked the trooper in the helmet with his other foot, surprising the trooper into letting him go.
Then he just kept climbing, pretending the wall of the building was the play apparatus at school.
All the way to the roof he went, as fast as he could, miraculously dodging every stun bolt sent his way as if the stars themselves were guiding his movements. Once he'd reached the top, he ran back the way he'd come, jumping the small gaps between the packed together buildings.
He came to a stop near the edge of the roof across from his house and dropped to his stomach. Crawling to the edge, he looked over, dreading what he'd see. His parents were being tossed into a speeder without care as to their wellbeing, their unconscious bodies crumpled into a heap in the back seats of the speeder.
More tears flooded his vision, but Ezra managed to stifle the sobs that wanted desperately to escape. He knew he couldn't make noise or he'd get caught. He just couldn't let that happen or he'd never get the chance to rescue his parents, faint hope that it was. For what could a small nine year old boy do against an entire Empire?
As the speeder drove away with his parents, Ezra curled into a ball on the roof and cried silent tears. His happy world was torn apart, and he didn't know what to do.
The snap of a stun bolt landing near his face made his immediate future clear at least; he had to keep running.
Dashing back onto his feet like a startled lothdeer, he swiped at the tears blurring his vision before spotting the two white clad stormtroopers that had made it onto the roofs as well. He swiftly left them in the dust as he scrambled and jumped across the rooftops.
When he came to a gap that was too wide to jump, he found a way to climb back down to the street and kept running. In what felt like an instant due to the haze his mind was in, he was suddenly at the edge of the city. Ezra looked out at the endless waves of grass, then back towards the city.
A flash of dreaded white decided it for him.
Ezra plunged out into the sea of grass and ran and ran and ran until his trembling limbs couldn't run anymore. Collapsing into a gasping ball on the ground, Ezra sobbed, whimpering 'mom' or 'dad' every so often. His sobs eventually turned to hiccups then even those settled down to just the occasional high pitched whine. Hugging his knees to his chest only helped so much as exhaustion overtook him and he surrendered to sleep, hoping that when he woke up, all of this would just be a bad dream.
When he awoke sometime later, he was surrounded by wild lothcats, all purring reassuringly.
After his initial surprise, Ezra sat up slowly, not wanting to startle them away. He tentatively reached out to the closest one. "Hello, little tooka. What are you doing here?"
The brown spotted lothcat chirruped, put his head under Ezra's hand for a moment, then walked away. It stopped and looked back at Ezra as if saying, 'What are you waiting for? Follow me.'
With a shrug, Ezra did. He honestly couldn't think of anything better to do. Going back into the city right now was undoubtedly a bad idea, sure that the evil troopers would still be looking for him.
He followed the lothcats all the way to an old communications tower.
Ezra looked up at the tower than back at the cats, but they had disappeared. He blinked in surprise and then shrugged to himself. Ezra went to the door, and was pleasantly surprised when it actually opened when he pushed on the button. He climbed the stairs all the way to the room at the top of the tower since the lift was most definitely not working. The grinding noise that hurt his ears when he ordered it to come down to the main floor was a pretty solid clue.
Glancing around at all the old stuff covered in dust, he found a door that led outside and to a balcony that surrounded the tower. The view was spectacular. Capital City and the ocean beyond it were glowing in the reflected light of the setting sun.
Unfortunately Ezra was too depressed to appreciate it.
He sat on the floor of the balcony and brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. With a shuddering sigh, Ezra thought to himself, 'What am I supposed to do now?'
D2/12 BBY, Lothal
Ezra woke up stiff, sore, cold, and very hungry, huddled in a corner of the tower room. His last meal had been at lunch yesterday, feeling like an eternity and another lifetime ago already.
After employing the ancient refresher, Ezra drank as much water as he could stand, trying to convince his stomach that it was full. With nothing to eat in the tower, Ezra knew he needed to go back to the city. But he dreaded the prospect, not wanting to go home to an empty house.
He walked out the door of the tower and into the tall grass, where he was greeted by a rare white lothcat. The cat chirped at him and smiled a feline grin. Ezra dropped to his knees and waited to see if the wild lothcat would come to his hand to be petted. With a mrrooww, the lothcat walked under his waiting hand and let him stroke it once, before it walked back into the grass. Climbing back to his feet, Ezra followed the lothcat all the way back to the city, comforted by its presence.
The lothcat led him through alleyways and sewer systems, always keeping to the shadows. Ezra was surprised but followed anyway as he learned new parts of the city he'd never seen before. Parts his parents would be appalled to know he was walking through. Ezra thought it was cool though, if a bit smelly.
When they were close to his house, Ezra decided he knew where he was going from here and tried to take the lead. The lothcat dashed in front of him and hissed. Ezra came to a quick stop, confused. Why couldn't he go home? He tried to go around the lothcat, but got the same result.
"All right then, lothcat, where do you want me to go?" he asked the tooka, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at it, not really expecting an answer.
The lothcat's demeanour changed instantly back into happy and purring. It turned and led Ezra away from his house and to another house a couple of blocks away.
Ezra looked at the house in surprise, because he recognized it. He'd been here before, many times, with his parents. He suddenly felt silly for not thinking of his uncle in the first place as a source of refuge. He turned to thank the white lothcat, but it was gone. With a shrug, Ezra rang the buzzer for the house, now used to the fact that the lothcats seemed to have the ability to appear and disappear at will, not to mention being way more intelligent than most of the people he'd met.
The door opened half a minute later, a yellow rodian standing in the opening, looking rather shattered and depressed. The rodian blinked his large green eyes at Ezra and then dropped to his knees with a cry of joy and wrapped him in a hug. "Ezra Bridger! Tseebo has been looking for Ezra all night! Tseebo heard about Ezra's parents and went to find Ezra, only to see Imperials guarding the Bridger house. Tseebo thought that Ezra would need a place to stay. Tseebo would like it if Ezra would stay with him until his parents are released. Tseebo will do what he can to make that happen."
Ezra buried his face in his 'uncle' Tseebo's chest and cried tears of relief. He wasn't alone anymore and there was an adult who would take care of things. "Thank you, Tseebo." He looked up at the rodian's equally watery eyes. "Do you have any food? I'm really hungry."
Tseebo chuckled and led the boy to the kitchen, watching him inhale a whole plate of space waffles, content in the knowledge that he hadn't failed the Bridgers.
After making sure the boy was clean and comfortably ensconced on the couch watching holo TV, Tseebo went out and bought Ezra a couple more outfits of clothes, not sure how long it would be before they could get back into the Bridger house, or when Ephraim and Mira Bridger would be released. After putting away his packages, including more groceries, Tseebo prepared lunch for them, which Ezra once again devoured hungrily.
Looking at the boy fondly, Tseebo told him his plans. "Tseebo is going to Imperial Headquarters next, to see what can be done about getting Ezra's parents released. Tseebo will do his best to be as quick as possible. Will Ezra be okay until Tseebo returns?"
Ezra nodded, blue eyes wide as he gulped down the last of his blue milk. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve and smiled widely. "You're the best, Uncle Tseebo. Don't worry about me. I'll be okay here by myself. Just like I was when you asked earlier."
Tseebo smiled and ruffled Ezra's shaggy midnight blue hair. "Tseebo is glad. Ezra is a good boy. Tseebo will see you soon." With a final wave, Tseebo walked out the door.
When Tseebo hadn't returned by dinner time, Ezra started to worry. He paced Tseebo's house, too anxious to sit still anymore. By the time full dark fell, he was more than worried; he was flat out scared.
It had happened again, he just knew it. The Empire had stolen another person from him. This time though, he was going to be better prepared. Ezra found a backpack in a closet and stuffed as much food as he could into it, as well as a few personal items like a toothbrush and the new clothes that Tseebo had purchased for him.
That night, he slept fitfully on the couch, still hoping that Tseebo would come back, but not really expecting it. The packed bag was beside him on the floor, ready to grab at a moment's notice.
Ezra's instincts weren't wrong.
At the crack of dawn the next morning, he heard a lot of feet approaching the door to the house. Ezra grabbed his bag and ran to the back of the house where he climbed out a window and monkeyed his way up onto the roof. Ezra silently slithered to the other side and peeked over the edge. He was right. The Imperials were here. He heard them searching the house, throwing things around carelessly. Ezra's anger at the Empire grew as they destroyed Tseebo's things. The anger swelled even more as he realized that they had probably treated his own family's things the same way. How he wished he was bigger and knew how to fight; he'd go down there right now and beat the poodoo out of the Imperial sleemos.
Having seen and heard enough, Ezra moved to the side of the house and jumped over to the next house. Then the next and the next, until he was far enough away that he could climb back down to the street safely. Sticking to the back alleys, he walked towards his home, half expecting a lothcat to stop him. He needed to know for himself what had been done to his house.
He approached his home cautiously from the back then walked silently along the side wall and glanced around the corner for half a moment. Just as Tseebo had said, there was a trooper stationed in front of the house, waiting for him to come home, he guessed. Ezra scoffed silently. They were just going to have wait indefinitely. Ezra refused to be caught.
He returned to the back of the house and climbed up to a second floor window. His window, which he knew wasn't locked. He pushed it open and dropped into his room, heart breaking to see all of his things thrown all over the room and smashed.
He spotted his favourite stuffed nexu, the one he'd had for as long as he could remember, and almost went to pick it up and take it with him. But something stopped him. He wasn't sure if it was his instincts or just the need to not feel like a little boy anymore, but he left it behind as he walked out of his room and explored the rest of the house cautiously on tip toeing feet.
Everything was in the same state as his room; scattered everywhere and destroyed.
Ezra choked back the sobs that wanted to form, but let the tears fall for a moment before furiously wiping them away as resolve grew in him. Crying wouldn't help him now. He'd cried enough already.
He went to the big comfy chair in the living room and pushed it off to the side as quietly as he could. They hadn't moved it, so he hoped they hadn't discovered the secret cellar beneath the house. Lifting the small section of floor, he exposed the dark hole. Ezra climbed down the ladder, turning on the light switch as he did so.
The contents of the cellar appeared untouched. The radio that his parents made illegal broadcasts from was still here, as well as all the other boxes and things that had accumulated in the storage space.
Ezra glared at the radio. That was what had gotten his parents arrested. And Tseebo too. And what difference had it made? None, as far as he could tell. Turning away from the radio, Ezra dug through the drawers in a cabinet. He was sure he'd heard his parents say... Yes! Ezra grabbed the little bag that clanked with the emergency store of credits. At least he had some money now to buy more food for a little while. He'd have to be careful with it though. Who knew how long he'd be on his own?
After pushing the chair back over the cellar door, Ezra left the house the same way he'd entered, oblivious to the tracker in the toy he'd almost picked up. Standing in the alleyway, he looked up at his house, saying a silent goodbye, not knowing when or if he'd ever live there again.
With a stash of food to tide him over for now, he made the long walk back to the abandoned tower outside the city. It seemed just as good a place as any to call home for now. When he got there, the small herd of lothcats were waiting for him at the door, purrs rumbling from their furry chests.
Ezra knelt among them and smiled sadly as they snuggled up to him and one even let him wrap his arms around it. How they knew he needed their company, he didn't know, but he was beyond grateful.
D12/12 BBY, Lothal
Despite eating as little as he could manage every day, the food in his backpack ran out.
Ezra slowly nibbled on the last quarter of a protein bar as he started the long walk back to the city. From the balcony of his tower, the city didn't look that far away, but it sure felt like it when he had to walk it. Ezra wondered how hard it would be to steal an air bike and if he could even manage to drive it. They weren't exactly designed for children to drive for a reason.
A mrroww at his feet interrupted him from his wishful thinking. Looking down, Ezra smiled at the orange and brown spotted lothcat that had appeared at his feet. "Oh, hey Beanie. You coming for a walk with me?"
The cat mrrrroowed and rubbed its body against his leg, almost knocking him over.
Ezra giggled as he caught his balance. "Alright. I'll take that as a yes." He reached down and ran his fingers down the cat's back and continued his walk, lothcat at his side, easily as tall as his knees. "Thanks for the company, Beanie."
The lothcat purred and deliberately put his head under Ezra's hand for rubbing.
Ezra glanced down at him fondly and did as ordered. "I'd be awful lonely if weren't for you and the other lothcats." He got another chirp in response.
Eventually they reached the edge of the city. Beanie went to follow him into the city but Ezra shook his head. "I don't know if you should. I can't afford to draw attention to myself."
The lothcat sat and looked at him for a moment. Then it blinked and leapt for the side of the nearest building, quickly making its way onto the roof. He peered down over the edge at Ezra.
Ezra laughed and shook his head. "Alright then. Your way it is." He quickly scrambled up to the roof as well and was greeted by the grinning lothcat. "I know, you're very smart. You don't have to brag."
Beanie just chirruped again and trotted towards the edge of the roof and leapt the gap to the next one.
Ezra shook his head again and followed, smiling.
After many roofs, a few furtive dashes across streets that were too wide to jump, more gloating by the lothcat and hushed giggling from Ezra, they eventually made it to the market sector.
Ezra sighed and turned to the lothcat at his side. "Okay, Beanie. This time you really do have to stay here. I'm just going to shop quickly and then we'll go home, okay?"
The lothcat blinked and sat his butt down on the roof, curling his fluffy tail around his feet.
"Good Beanie," Ezra whispered and gave him one final scratch behind the ear. "I'll be back before you know it."
Ezra wandered the market place. He'd never gone shopping without his parents before, but how hard could it be? Pick some food, give the vendor credits and take the food home. Easy.
Turned out it wasn't so easy. The first stall he stopped at had the protein bars he wasn't particularly fond of, but they didn't require a cooling unit and took up little space in his backpack. Ezra grabbed a dozen assorted bars and took them to the vendor to pay for them. After handing over the required credits, the blue female rodian looked at him curiously. "Where's your parents, little one?"
Ezra almost panicked. He wasn't expecting to be questioned on being alone. He glanced around then pointed at a human and twi'lek couple down the block who had a baby with them. "Over there, ma'am. I'm being a big boy and shopping on my own," he said with a cheeky grin.
The vendor looked from him to the couple and back. "Really?" The doubt in her voice was obvious.
Apparently she wasn't buying it. So he looked nothing like either of the couple he pointed out. Couldn't she just go with it anyway? He thought quickly. "Yes. Sort of. They're not my real parents. They're my adopted parents. I'm an orphan," Ezra said, making his eyes as big and watery as he could manage. (Which wasn't hard, when he thought of how he really was an orphan, more or less.)
That made her look at him with sympathy. "Oh, I'm so sorry." She reached into a barrel and gave him yogan. "Here, baby. Have a treat."
Ezra beamed at her. "Thank you, ma'am. I love yogans." He smiled at her one more time and held the yogan to his chest as he backed away and then turned and walked towards the couple he'd pointed out. Once he'd gone far enough, he glanced back, and seeing the vendor busy with another customer, he ducked into an alley and ate his yogan with relish, savouring the citrus flavour to the fullest. He hadn't had any fresh food for days. The yogan was a welcome treat after pre-packaged rations and protein bars.
Emerging from the alley five minutes later, Ezra glanced up and down the street before making for a bread vendor. The goal was to buy some fruit spread and a loaf or two of bread and he could have sandwiches. Ezra would even buy a small amount of sliced meat for his dinner sandwich. He was really looking forward to that.
He'd almost made it the bread vendor when a speeder with two stormtroopers in it went by on a standard patrol. Ezra tried not stare or draw attention to himself, but apparently he wasn't having a lucky day.
The trooper not driving glanced at the boy and then did a double take. "Hey! It's the kid we tried to catch on the roofs last week!" The speeder screeched to a halt and both troopers jumped out of it and chased the boy who was running for it through the market crowd. "Stop him!" the trooper yelled to the people in front of him. Most people just glanced at the running boy curiously, but a few started trying to grab him.
Ezra dodged the hands that tried to grab him. And he succeeded for a short while, but eventually someone caught his backpack, which slowed him down enough for someone else to grab his arm. "Let me go!" he cried.
They ignored him of course.
The troopers caught up and snatched him from the helpful citizens without a word of thanks for the assist.
Ezra fought and squiggled and kicked at the troopers who were bodily carrying him by the arms back towards their speeder. "Let. Me. Go," he panted out as he kicked at the stormtrooper on his left again. Unfortunately, with their armour, he was just a pesky fly to them.
Ezra felt a hint of something that made him look up and see the man from earlier running towards him from a block away and pulling a blaster out of its holster. He blinked in shock. Was someone actually going to try to help him?
Then he got another shock as he heard matching yowls and was abruptly dropped. Ezra looked up from the ground and laughed. Beanie and the white lothcat he hadn't seen since the day it led him to Tseebo's house were clinging to the troopers' helmets and scratching and hissing at them as the troopers danced around and tried to pull the lothcats off their heads. Ezra immediately came up with a name for the white one.
The gathering crowd laughed, amused by the free entertainment.
Ezra scrambled to his feet and called, "Thanks, Beanie and Ghost," over his shoulder as he ran towards the man who had actually looked like he was willing to help him. The cats were good, but they wouldn't be able to distract the troopers forever.
As Ezra ran past the brown haired man who was watching the spectacle with shocked eyes, he called, "Thanks for trying, mister!"
Ezra dashed into the next alley and scrambled for the roof. He'd have to come back another day to shop some more. At least he still had his backpack with the protein bars. They would feed him for awhile.
Kanan shook himself out of his stupor as the boy ran past him. What had just happened? Had that kid just summoned those lothcats to help him? And did he really feel the kid's emotions?
There was only one way to find out.
Kanan ran after the boy. He skidded to a stop when he found the alley empty he was sure the boy had disappeared into. He glanced at the dead end and then started looking for other options. Eventually he looked up and Kanan smiled to himself. Clever boy. Double checking that no one could see him, Kanan Force jumped onto the roof and landed in a crouch.
And there was the kid, three roofs over, petting his lothcat saviours who looked mighty pleased with themselves.
Kanan pulled out his commlink and called Hera, who must be very confused by now. "Hey, darling," he said softly.
"Where'd you go?" Hera demanded.
"Something very interesting came up. We'll finish our shopping later. For now, it's probably best if you head back to the Ghost and wait for me. I might not be alone."
"Okay," Hera said on an exaggerated sigh. "But I expect a really good explanation when you get back, love."
Kanan smiled as the comm turned off. He rose from his crouch and picked up a casual walk towards the boy, not wanting to startle him into running. "Hey, kid," he called out.
Ezra looked up from scratching behind Ghost's and Beanie's ears as they purred in self satisfaction, and almost bolted when he saw the man on the roof two roof's over. But the white lothcat stopped him by bumping into his leg and looking at the man with a pointed purr. "Okay, then." Ezra decided to see what the man wanted. He could always run later. He did try to help him after all. He watched the man jump the gaps easily and walk confidently up to him. "What do you want?" he asked suspiciously.
Kanan smiled at the boy reassuringly and crouched down to his height, petting the lothcat who came to sniff him over. "I was just curious. Did you really summon the lothcats to distract the troopers?"
Ezra looked at the man like he'd lost his mind. "Summon them? How could I possibly do that? They just do whatever they want because they're my friends. They've been helping me and keeping me company ever since..."
Kanan felt a wave of grief overwhelm the boy. His big blue eyes shimmered with tears but he blinked them back, stuck his chin out, and put his shoulders back. Kanan was impressed. The boy had some serious self discipline considering his age and lack of training. "Since what, kid?"
Ezra looked at the man with the sympathetic and wise teal eyes and felt somehow safe with him. Not to mention the lothcats liked him. He decided it couldn't hurt to continue his story. "Since the Imperials took my parents away for making illegal broadcasts against the Empire. They took my uncle Tseebo too. I've been hiding from them ever since. Stupid sleemos almost caught me today, though, but I was out of food."
Kanan thought quickly. The boy was clearly strong in the Force, something the Empire obviously didn't know, or they'd be trying much harder to find him. He was living on his own, who knows where. And he had no food. Kanan's decision was almost too easy. He hoped Hera was okay with this. "Kid, do want a place to stay for a while? And I'll see if I can find out what happened to your parents."
Ezra's heart leapt at the offer, but he wasn't sure if he should trust this stranger. "I have a place to stay. But I would really appreciate it if you could find my parents for me."
Kanan sighed. He didn't think it was a good idea to leave the boy on his own. "Kid."
"Ezra," he interrupted, not in love with being called 'kid'.
"Okay. Ezra." Kanan smiled at him. "And I'm Kanan. I'd be worried about you on your own. What if the Imperials find your hiding spot and take you away before I can try and rescue your parents?"
Ezra looked at Kanan assessingly. He had a point. But... "How can you rescue my parents and Tseebo? You're just one man against an Empire."
Kanan grinned. "It's kind of what I do. My wife and I, we fight the Empire. If anyone can rescue your parents, it's us." Kanan debated with himself for a moment, but didn't feel anything in the Force saying he shouldn't. He had a feeling the boy was going to be in his life for a long time even if he did find his parents. "And there's one more thing in my favour." He paused for dramatic effect and then whispered, "I'm a Jedi."
Ezra's eyes widened in surprise. His parents had told him stories about the Jedi. They were legendary, even if the Empire had tried to teach him in school that the Jedi were just an evil myth. Ezra chose to believe his parents' stories over the teachers in school. Then his eyes narrowed in disbelief. "Prove it."
Kanan raised a brow. The boy certainly wasn't gullible. "Alright." He glanced around and then smirked slightly. Kanan focused on the spotted lothcat and floated him into the air with a gesture of his hand while the cat looked startled and swam his feet. The white lothcat took one look at what was happening and quickly made himself scarce. Smart cat.
Ezra gawked as Beanie was lifted into the air by an invisible hand and then gently put back down. He blinked at Kanan in shock and awe. "You really are a Jedi," he breathed in awe.
Kanan nodded once. "Do you trust me now?"
"I guess so. I suppose I could try staying with you, but Beanie comes with me."
"Beanie?" Kanan asked.
Ezra petted the still distraught spotted cat, calming him, and pointing out the perfect bean shaped spot on the top of his head. "Beanie."
Kanan blinked. Hera was going to kill him. "Okay. Beanie can come too." Kanan knew he was doing the right thing when the blue eyed, blue haired boy beamed at him and threw himself into his arms. Kanan hugged the little boy and felt the waves of relief flowing from the boy. Losing his parents and living on his own must have been really hard on him. Kanan sent back soothing thoughts down the bond that was already forming between them.
He could barely believe it, but somehow, he'd found his own Padawan.
And he came with a lothcat.
Kanan smiled to himself. Somehow, he just knew the lothcat was going to cause chaos on the ship.
Ezra pulled back from the hug. "What's funny? And why can I sense that you are amused?"
Kanan ruffled the boy's shaggy hair that could really use a wash. "I was just thinking that Beanie is going to make things very interesting on our ship. And you can sense my emotions because you are a Force sensitive like me and we have started a bond. That means that you have the potential to be a Jedi like me someday and I am meant to teach you how."
Ezra took a moment to process that, eyes wide. "First. You have a ship? Second. Me? A Jedi?"
Kanan nodded, trying to keep his face looking serious, but probably failing. The boy was just so cute. "Yes. We live on a freighter called the Ghost. Hera and I travel the galaxy running missions against the Empire. Being a Jedi is a very dangerous thing to be right now, but it's very helpful when making the Empire miserable is your goal in life. I can train you to use the Force, like me. You just have to keep it a secret so the Empire doesn't hunt you for it. Can you do that?"
Ezra nodded eagerly. "I can keep a secret. I really want to be cool like you."
Kanan laughed and stood from his crouch. He ruffled the boy's hair again. "Come on then, my little Padawan. Let's go meet Hera and Chopper. I'm sure this will go anything but well."
"What's a pada... whatever?" Ezra said as he followed Kanan across the roof.
Kanan smiled down at Ezra. "A Padawan is the student of a Jedi Master. Not that I ever made that ranking, I was still a Padawan myself when my Master was killed by the Empire. But I guess, despite that, I am your Master, and you are my Padawan."
Ezra skipped after the tall man. Some of that sounded sad, but the rest sounded good. "Do I call you Master then?" he asked curiously.
Kanan laughed again and jumped over to the next roof, watching as Ezra easily tapped into the Force and did the same. The kid was a natural. "Sure, if you want, when we're not in public. But call me Kanan most of the time, alright?"
Ezra smiled up at him and nudged his hip with his shoulder playfully, making Kanan look down at him in surprise. "Got it, Master," he said with a wink.
Kanan couldn't stop the bark of laughter that escaped him again. What a cheeky child. He loved him already.
Ezra changed his mind about the day. Instead of being unlucky, today had turned out to be one of the luckiest days of his life. He had found a saviour of sorts who was practically a superhero in his mind and he was offering him a nicer place to stay.
And Beanie got to come with him.
"You wanna hear something funny?" Ezra said suddenly as they walked down the busy streets towards the spaceport, a tall man, a boy, and a lothcat, drawing startled looks from other pedestrians.
"Sure," Kanan said indulgently with a smile.
"I had just named the white lothcat 'Ghost' not even five minutes before you showed up."
Kanan raised a brow in surprise and then chuckled. "You're right. That is funny. I'm sure Hera will love the fact that her ship shares a name with a tooka," he said with dry humour.
"That's awesome. We'll have to tell her," Ezra said, completely missing Kanan's sarcasm.
Kanan laughed again.
"Hera's the green twi'lek I saw you with earlier, right?" Ezra asked, not wanting to make any mistakes when he met her.
Kanan looked down at Ezra in surprise. "Yes, she is. Very observant of you."
"I saw a baby too. He's yours?"
Kanan nodded, smiling proudly. "He is. His name's Jacen. I wish I could say he'd be a great playmate for you, but he's not quite one. All he's good at right now is drooling on whatever he can get his hands on."
Ezra giggled. "That's okay. I'm sure we'll get along fine anyway."
Kanan ruffled his hair again fondly. "The only other 'person' on our ship is our astromech, Chopper. He's kind of cranky and usually only listens to Hera, so don't feel bad if he doesn't like you."
Ezra shrugged his little shoulders. "Okay. But droids usually like me. I was taking robotics classes in school before..." his voice trailed off, not able to finish the sentence.
Kanan squeezed his shoulder lightly in sympathy. "I'm sorry, Ezra."
Ezra moved a little closer to his side, drawing comfort from him even as the lothcat pressed himself to Ezra's other side, offering his own form of comfort. Kanan was still surprised at how easily the boy communicated with the cats without even realizing it. He definitely had a gift when it came to animals.
Ezra put on a brave smile. "I'm okay. Really."
"I know you are." Wanting to lighten the mood a little and help get Ezra's mind off the gloomy, Kanan returned to his conversation about Chopper. "I should probably warn you; Chopper has a serious dislike for lothcats, so when we get to the ship, things could get very interesting."
Ezra petted Beanie's head and grinned up at Kanan. "I'm not worried. Beanie's tough. He can take care of himself."
The lothcat chirruped firmly, joining the conversation.
"See," Ezra said, grinning wider.
Kanan grinned back and shook his head at the pair of survivors.
Hera was waiting for them on the ramp of the Ghost, Jacen looking over her shoulder from his carrier on her back. She took one look at the boy and the lothcat and narrowed her eyes at Kanan. "Kanan Jarrus, you better have a good explanation for this."
Kanan winced at her tone. "I do. I promise. But we should probably take off and go someplace a little safer first."
Hera raised a brow then sighed. "Fine. But you can start talking." She shrugged off the carrier and handed it to Kanan as he walked up the ramp with a very curious Ezra and Beanie following behind him.
Kanan smiled at Jacen and got a smile and a gurgle in return. "Hey, little buddy. Did you miss me?"
Jacen cooed and drooled, his hands reaching for Kanan's chin. "Da. Da. Da."
"I'll take that, whatever that was, to mean yes," Kanan said with a grin, pretending to chew on the little fingers reaching for him, eliciting happy giggles from the baby in his arms.
Hera smacked the button to close the ramp and looked over her shoulder as she started climbing the ladder. "Now, Kanan."
Kanan winced again then shot a glance at Ezra as the boy giggled. Of course he would find this entertaining. "Just you wait, Ezra. One day, you'll have your own female who bosses you around."
"I heard that!" came from above.
Ezra laughed more and Kanan sighed. "Come on, Ezra. Let's go explain ourselves to the Captain."
Ezra nodded and followed Kanan up the ladder. He couldn't believe he was actually following this man and trusting him, but there was something inside him that was telling him this was right. He felt safe with him and he missed that feeling. And the way the twi'lek talked to Kanan just now reminded him so much of his parents whenever his mom was displeased with his dad. Despite the chiding tone, he could feel the love between them, just like his parents. It made him feel almost like he was back home again.
How he missed them.
Ezra heard a forlorn mrroww from the cargo hold. He looked back down the ladder and saw Beanie sitting at the bottom. "Come on, Beanie. If we're going to live here for awhile, you'll have to figure out the ladders."
The lothcat chirped sadly and touched the first rung with a paw, then decided to just go for it. He surged up the ladder, feet scrambling and made it to the top with wide eyes and a fluffed out and madly twitching tail.
Ezra laughed at him. "Well, it's a start. I'm sure you'll get better at it." Beanie mroowwed in disgust then wandered off to explore the confines of the bridge.
Hera sucked in a breath to stop herself from saying something she'd regret as the tooka invaded her space while she was trying to fly the Ghost. She glared at Kanan who'd sat beside her and he quickly got the lothcat off the consul while still balancing Jacen on his lap. "Kanan."
That's all she said, be he knew he better start talking fast. "Darling, this is Ezra and his tooka, Beanie. Ezra is a Force sensitive whose parents were taken by the Empire for making anti-Imperial broadcasts. He's been living on his own ever since and has no one to look after him. We can't just leave him. And I promised we'd try to rescue his parents. And he's my Padawan. We've already started a bond," he finished in a rush.
Hera gawked at Kanan, then looked over her shoulder at the boy who couldn't be more than eight or nine. Her heart melted at the big blue eyes looking at her through a mess of dark blue hair hopefully. How could she say no to that?
Chopper chose that moment to roll into the bridge.
The door opened. Chopper appeared. He came to a sudden halt at the sight of intruders on his ship, then he was attacked by a flying ball of fur. He beeped frantically as the lothcat landed on his dome and spat cat curses at him and scratched his paint with sharp claws.
"Beanie!" Ezra cried. He tried to pry the cat off of the droid, but it was too big for him to move. "Let go, Beanie. It's just a droid. What's your problem?"
The lothcat finally let go of Chopper and leapt down, shooting through the still open doorway with a hiss.
Chopper turned and chased after the lothcat. "Come back here, small meatbag. You're going to pay for that," he beeped as his electric prod appeared, zapping the air threateningly.
Ezra ran after the droid. "Don't you dare hurt my tooka, you sleemo droid!"
Kanan and Hera looked at each other in astonishment. This wasn't going well. Kanan sighed and put Jacen's carrier on the chair and ran after the boy, the droid, and the cat.
Twenty minutes later, with peace restored, everyone was in the galley while the Ghost floated in the safety of a random bit of space. Hera prepared a lunch of salad and nerfburgers while Kanan fed Jacen.
Ezra sat at the table and just watched the domestic scene with eager eyes, and Beanie sleeping under the table at his feet. Chopper had been turned off for the moment. They'd finally gotten an explanation out of the droid. It turns out he'd been zapping the lothcats any time they came close after his first experience with them. Beanie must have been one of the lothcats Chopper had tormented. It was going to take some doing to get those two to learn to live with each other.
Hera put a plate of food in front of Ezra. "Thank you," he said, then dug into the food like he was starving, because he sort of was. All he'd eaten so far today was a quarter of a protein bar and a yogan. Yesterday, just three quarters of a protein bar and the last of the ration packages from Tseebo's house.
Hera's heart hurt as she watched the boy eat for a minute, before she brought plates to the table for herself and Kanan. "So, Ezra," she said gently as she sat beside him. "Tell me more about yourself and your parents. If we're going to help them, I'll need to know more than your first name."
Ezra looked up from his plate and swallowed his large bite of burger. "Oh, umm. My name is Ezra Bridger. My parents are Ephraim and Mira. My dad worked for the Governor. My mom had a part time job in the Governor's office as well. I'm not sure exactly what they did there. We've lived on Lothal my whole life but I'm pretty sure my parents moved to this planet shortly before I was born. I just turned nine. My mom is one quarter angel but she hides it and is thirty years old. My dad is thirty-two and fully human." He stopped and looked from Kanan to Hera and shrugged. "I don't know what else to say."
"That's okay, sweetie. That's enough," Hera said. "What's wrong?" she asked as tears swam in the boy's eyes.
"My... mom. She called me sweetie too," Ezra mumbled as he fought back the tears. He didn't want to look childish in front of these people. Especially the Jedi.
Hera glanced at Kanan, her eyes speaking volumes, before she opened her arms to the boy who looked like he desperately needed a hug.
Ezra gave up his fight and sobbed. He leaned over and wrapped his arms around the green twi'lek who reminded him so much of his mother. He buried his face in her chest and let the tears fall while she rubbed his back and stroked his hair and whispered that everything was going to be okay. Ezra sobbed harder. The lothcats were good company but nothing was better than the feeling of being cared for by a mother figure. He wanted his mom back so bad. And his dad. But for now, this was exactly what he needed. He'd been holding in the misery for days, not letting himself feel. Having Hera hold him made him feel like everything really could be all right again.
Over his head, Hera and Kanan had a silent conversation. She didn't know if they could actually save the boy's parents, or if they were even still alive. From her experience, most rebels caught by the Empire were usually tortured for information, and then executed. No matter what happened in the future, the boy had already earned a place in her heart. He was staying. Or at least visiting an awful lot, if his parents were still out there to save. And she told Kanan that with her eyes.
Kanan smiled sadly and nodded. The moment he'd met the boy, he knew they were meant to find him. He reached across the table and brushed a tear off her cheek with his thumb before it could fall on Ezra's hair. He cupped her cheek in his hand and she leaned her head into his touch, while still holding Ezra to her chest. "I love you," Kanan mouthed. Of course his Hera would accept the boy with open arms. She was the most caring woman in the galaxy.
Hera smiled mistily and pressed a kiss to his palm and then one to the top of Ezra's head. She looked back at Kanan. "I love you too," she mouthed back.
Chapter 16: The Padawan
A/N: I've written an addition to the chapter 5 lemon scene. (1400+ words worth.) See my Facebook page 'Thelonerebel's Stories' for an excerpt and info on where you can read it.
D12/12 BBY, Lothal
After who knows how long, Ezra finally felt empty of tears, but he couldn’t quite make himself pull away from Hera’s embrace just yet. Despite being past the age where he thought hugs were awesome, Ezra was still feeling very affection deprived and he was soaking in the comfort to be found snuggled against the soft chest and in the strong arms of a motherly figure.
Her gentle hands smoothing over his hair and back didn’t hurt anything either. They had inspired a few additional sobs at first, to be truthful, because it just reminded him too much of how his mom used to hold him and comfort him when he had a nightmare when he was smaller. But it was still worth it.
Eventually, he pulled away with an embarrassed grimace and scrubbed his sleeve over his face to wipe away the tear tracks and the leaking snot. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled, afraid to meet the Jedi’s eyes or even Hera’s.
Hera tilted his chin up with smile, shaking her head as she handed him a paper napkin from a pile on the table. “You have nothing to be sorry for, Ezra. You’re grief is perfectly normal and understandable. I lost both my mother and my little brother during a war when I was young and I bawled for what felt like days.”
Ezra blew his nose into the napkin, grateful for it. “Awww. I’m sorry, Miss Hera.”
“Just Hera,” she murmured, smiling wider at the boy’s ingrained manners.
“I cried too, when my Master was murdered at the end of the same war,” Kanan admitted, hoping to ease the discomfort he could feel from the young boy. “I was sixteen.”
Ezra gave the man a wide eyed stare, used napkin crumpled in his fist. “Oh.” He didn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t picture the man who radiated a sense of calm and peace as being sad enough to cry. But it was comforting to know he wasn’t the only one who’d lost people very close to them.
Kanan picked up his burger again and nodded his chin at Ezra’s plate. “That was a bad time for a lot of people in the galaxy, but it’s in the past now. How about we all finish our burgers before they’re stone cold and then I’ll make a call and see what we can do about finding your parents and your uncle Tseebo?”
Ezra beamed at Kanan and picked up his fork again, stomach once again remembering it was hungry. “That sounds great.”
Hera raised a brow. “Tseebo?” No one had said anything about an uncle.
Ezra nodded as he swallowed a bite of salad. “Not really my uncle, but a good friend of my parents. He’s a bright yellow rodian. I haven’t the foggiest idea how old he is other than he’s not a kid like me and he’s not ancient like the Emperor.”
Hera laughed softly. “All right. We’ll look for Tseebo too.”
Kanan ended up leaving Hera with the interesting task of coaxing Ezra into the shower so she could throw his clothes into the washer. The boy didn’t have any outfits left in his bag that were clean so Kanan gave Hera one of his t-shirts for Ezra to wear until the laundry was done.
Kanan was happy that Ezra would be otherwise occupied while he used the long-range comm to call Ahsoka. He didn’t think it was wise to have Ezra reminded even further of what was missing from his life while he talked to his friend about the captured parents. He also thought a little family bonding between Hera and Ezra couldn’t hurt anything.
He called the flying headquarters of the Rebellion Intelligence Division, aka the Reckless, first and was informed that the Director of Intelligence was currently on Onderon on ‘business’ and that she wasn’t to be disturbed unless it was an emergency. Fulcrum would be informed that he had called when she got back. Kanan hid his smirk and asked to be transferred to the slicing department instead.
He gave the computer wizard who answered his call what information he had on Ezra’s parents and Tseebo and was politely informed that his search request would go in the queue and they would get back to him when they had dug up what they could from Imperial files.
Kanan thanked the nautolan female and ended the call. He had half a mind to try Ahsoka on her private comm channel, but decided against it. If she really was having some rare family time with Lux and their daughter, then she deserved to be left in peace. But he was dying to tell someone about his new Padawan and that left only one more option:
Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Or Ben, as he still insisted on being called.)
Ben answered almost right away with a warm smile, eyes twinkling even through the bland bluish hologram. “Kanan, what do I owe the pleasure of your image to?”
“Master,” Kanan said in greeting, bowing his head respectfully before returning his grin. “Something quite amazing happened today.”
Ben raised a copper eyebrow that was starting to show signs of turning grey. “And what is that, Kanan?”
Kanan paused as the first little niggle of doubt crept in. “I, um, found an orphaned Force sensitive boy today. We’ve already started a Master/ Padawan bond, which feels absolutely amazing. But... I just realized I’m not even a Knight yet and I have no business training a Padawan. I have no idea how to teach him.”
Ben stroked his beard thoughtfully. “That does present a bit of a conundrum doesn’t it?”
“Just a bit.” Kanan sagged into his chair, the urge to run his fingers through his hair in frustration just barely restrained.
Ben contemplated his part time student with serious eyes. “How old are you now, Kanan?”
Kanan raised surprised eyes back to the hologram. “Twenty-three. Why?”
Ben smiled encouragingly. “It seems to me that you’re more than old enough to be a Knight and there’s no reason why we couldn’t consider you to be one if that’s what you want.”
“But I haven’t taken my trials,” Kanan protested.
“Not formally, no, but I’m sure there’s been enough trials in your life to qualify.”
“Hmmmph,” Kanan grunted, not convinced. “I don’t want to just adopt a title that I don’t feel like I’ve earned.”
Ben inclined his head in acknowledgement, smiling in approval.
Kanan narrowed his eyes at the Master. “Was that a test?”
Ben smiled wider. “Yes it was. And you passed.”
Ben continued. “Now, as far as you having a Padawan is concerned, I don’t see any reason why you can’t have one. It's not like there's a line up of Knights and Masters wandering around to take him from you. Besides, Anakin was barely twenty when he started training Ahsoka and she turned out quite well, all things considered. If you’ve bonded with your boy already, then the Force has already willed for this to happen.”
Kanan sagged in relief this time, grateful for the approval. “That’s what I thought at first, too, but then I let doubt cloud my mind. Thank you, Ben, for helping me with that.” Kanan paused, smiling gratefully at the hologram until he shook his head. “But there’s still the small matter of the fact that I don’t know what the kriff I’m doing.”
Ben laughed. “Neither did I, when I started training Anakin. And I can guarantee you he didn’t know either, when he started training Ahsoka. My best advice is to start slow and teach him what feels right.”
“Thank you, Ben. Even that helps a lot.”
“I thought it might. Now... tell me about this boy you found. How old is he? What’s he like? Is he showing signs of Force powers already?”
Kanan’s eyes lit up and he leaned forward in his chair. “He’s nine, very smart, resilient, brave, already can Force jump instinctively, and has a connection to animals like I’ve never seen. In short, I’m in awe.”
Ben chuckled at Kanan’s enthusiasm. “The short version sounds quite promising, now tell me the detailed one...”
Twenty minutes later, Kanan walked back into the common room, his steps light and a hum of anticipation singing in his veins.
He paused in the doorway as he took in the sight that greeted him; his heart filling with the certain knowledge that what he was looking at was a snapshot of his foreseeable future.
The very rightness of it nearly stole his breath.
Hera smiled in greeting as the door slid open, a questioning eyebrow raised. Snuggled against her side on the couch was Ezra (enveloped in a green t-shirt that reached his ankles), who had Jacen in his lap, arms snug around the contented toddler who was gumming a soft plastic teething ring. Snuggled up against Ezra’s side was his tooka, purring loudly with slitted eyes as it stared in triumph at Chopper, who was glaring as best as a faceless droid could at the whole scene from his charging spot in the corner by the computer desk.
Kanan refrained from smirking at Chopper only because he didn’t want to be seen as childish and walked over to take the empty spot on Hera’s other side, putting an arm across the back of the couch and effectively holding the entire little family in one move.
“Soooooo????” Hera said, when Kanan didn’t say anything about his comm calls right away; just stared at all of them with a fathomless look of what might be contentment if she had to give it a name. She was very curious about the results, and the minute vibrations coming from the half sized mostly human boy beside her told her she wasn’t the only one.
Kanan paused the cartoon movie they were watching that had singing and dancing tookas in it. He gave Ezra an apologetic look and sent him a little bit of comfort down their budding Force bond. “The request for information on your parents is in a queue. The tech didn’t say how long of a queue, but I have no doubt it’s not a short one. They’ll get back to us eventually.”
Ezra groaned. “Man. More waiting.”
Kanan squeezed his shoulder softly in sympathy. “That’s one of life’s most important lessons, I’m afraid; be prepared to spend much of it waiting. Patience is a virtue that doesn’t always come easily but is worth it in the end.”
“Wow, that’s deep,” Ezra said with wide eyes.
“I learned that one young,” Kanan said with a chuckle. “Master Yoda loved to make us younglings practice our patience to the point of outright rebellion on occasion. It never ended up being worth it.”
“Who’s Master Yoda?”
“He was the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, before it fell, and taught pretty much every youngling that went through the Temple at some point or another in their lives. He's about nine hundred years old, green, pointy eared, about as tall as my knees, dangerous with a lightsabre, and had a wretched sense of humour that made us younglings groan more often than not. Oh, and just to drive everyone nuts and make sure we were paying attention, he spoke most everything in a backwards fashion.” Kanan shook his head with a fond smile in memory, missing his old teacher, and not for the first time, wondered if Yoda had survived the Purge. He’d tried asking Ben, but had simply gotten a shake of the head as a response that told him absolutely nothing.
Ezra blinked at Kanan as an image of a little goblin like creature in a beige robe flashed in his mind. “What do you mean by talking backwards?”
Kanan looked thoughtful for a moment, calling up memories. He smiled when he found the perfect one. He cleared his throat and did his best impersonation of Yoda. (Which he thought wasn’t half bad, having practiced countless times when he and the other younglings were alone in their dorms, making them laugh.) “Curious, you are, Ezra.” (He switched out his old name of Caleb for Ezra) “Serve you well, this might. Or not. Heed the Force, you should, yes, but silence, too, has its uses, hmmmm?”
Kanan chuckled at Hera’s and Ezra’s gape mouthed looks and shrugged. “That’s a direct quote from Master Yoda to myself when I was eight. I had a tendency to ask a LOT of questions. It drove many of my instructors batty.”
Hera laughed and hugged his waist. “I would have loved to have seen that; Jedi Masters pulling their hair out because of you.”
Kanan grinned, shrugging. “I’m sure it didn’t go quite that far, but I do remember more than one of them going grey while I was in the Temple.”
Hera shook her head at him, kissing his cheek fondly. “You, Kanan Jarrus, are too cheeky by far.”
Ezra smiled, watching the adults interact. He was once again reminded of the loving relationship his own parents had and his sense of comfort with these two increased. The adorable boy in his arms helped, too; as soon as Hera had asked him if he wanted to hold him, Ezra had felt a sense of comfort settle over him. He didn’t know how it worked, but holding Jacen’s soft warmth made him feel an immediate kinship to the baby, like he was meant to have a little brother.
When the adults had stopped talking and were just staring at each other with soft smiles, Ezra felt the need to get things back on track. “Sooooo,” he drew out the word until they turned their heads and focused on him. “What happens now?”
“Now,” Kanan said on a smile, “we go Tatooine. My part time Master wants to meet you.”
Ezra’s eyes went comically wide. “You mean go on a long trip? Because I’ve never been further than a shopping trip to Garel before.”
Kanan ruffled the wild dark blue hair, amused that Ezra had focused on the destination as opposed to the person. “Yes, I suppose that’s what it means. Although I wouldn’t exactly call Tatooine anyone’s idea of a vacation destination.”
Hera snorted. “Now there’s an understatement.”
“What? What’s wrong with Tatooine?” Ezra had never heard of the planet, but he was excited to see something new.
“Nothing too much, honest.” Kanan held his hands up, fighting back a grin.
Hera grimaced as she dug an elbow into Kanan’s side. “He’s being a cheeky nerfherder again, Ezra. Ignore him. How do you feel about sand?”
Six hours later.
“Is this Tatooine?” Ezra asked eagerly as he looked through the transparisteel windows at the mostly orange planet with a few scattered small grey oceans on it. It was certainly different than the greens and blues of Lothal.
Hera laughed, shaking her head as she piloted the Ghost towards the Tann Province. “No. This is a surprise. Both for you and for my father. This is my home planet of Ryloth. And since we were passing by it anyway, I thought we could make a quick stop.”
Kanan leaned his forearms on the back of the co-pilot chair that Ezra was perched on the edge of. “Stick with us long enough and you’ll see pretty much the entire galaxy. Although, according to Hera, some of it’s not worth the fuel.” He shot her a smirk when she rolled her eyes at him.
“That’s okay,” Ezra said, drinking in every new mountain and canyon they saw that looked nothing like the cone shaped rocks that Lothal had. These ones were huge in comparison and seemed to go on forever. There wasn’t much in the way of greenery, either, which felt strange to him, since he was used to seeing grass pretty much everywhere. “I want to see it all anyway.”
“He sounds just like you, Hera, from a few years back,” Kanan teased.
Hera stuck her tongue out at him.
Kanan switched the seat he was leaning on and wrapped his arms around Hera’s shoulders, resting them just above her still somewhat bigger than normal breasts. (She'd stopped breast feeding Jacen a few weeks ago.) “Was that an invitation?” he whispered huskily, just loud enough so she could hear him through her cap.
Hera’s eyes closed a little as a shiver of warmth spread through her. Her ability to fly in a straight line was temporarily compromised. “Hmmmmm, maybe it is now,” she whispered back. “But later, love.” She shrugged him off gently. “Go sit down and behave yourself before you make me crash into my house.”
“Yes, darling.” Kanan said smugly, happy with himself, and did as ordered (mostly), taking the seat behind her. Her sexy patterned lekku hanging over the back of the chair were too tempting, though. Not able to help himself, he ran a finger down one, making it curl up and causing his wife to visibly shudder.
“Kanan!” Hera hissed as she accidentally jerked the steering, making her landing approach to the courtyard in front of her house rather sketchy looking.
Kanan chuckled and put his hands behind his head, crossing his feet at the ankles, adopting a look of pure innocence when she took a second to give him a scowl.
“Wow, is this your home?” Ezra asked, oblivious to the drama happening right beside him as he looked up at the enormous mansion built into the side of a mountain. It somehow managed to blend with the landscape while still looking elegant and awe inspiring.
Hera landed the Ghost with a small thud, still not quite back in her groove yet. “Yes and no. Technically, The Ghost is my home now. But this is where I grew up.”
Ezra stared at Hera with wide eyes for a moment before he blurted out, “You must be rich as the Emperor!”
Kanan guffawed from his chair. Chopper chortled from the back of the room. And Hera gawked at Ezra for a good five seconds before she broke into peals of laughter.
Ezra slumped in his chair, wishing he could take back the words.
Noticing, Hera broke off mid giggle and moved over to his chair, hugging him tight for a moment before looking him in the eyes with her hands on his shoulders. “Ezra, baby. It’s okay. I guess that is a logical assumption to make, based on what you know. My family was rich once. Not like the Emperor, but well off enough. But now my family’s money is long gone, spent on the wars and supplies to feed thousands of starving citizens of my world. I barely remember the days when we had servants and dressed in fine clothes. All my father has left is this house. He sold off his properties long ago and most of his business investments went bankrupt when the Clone Wars started. And as for Kanan and I... Let’s just say that we make enough money to feed us and fuel the Ghost, but that’s about it.”
Ezra whimpered, now feeling guilty about encroaching upon these people. He desperately wished he was back in the tower with the lothcats right now. He stared down at his lap where he was wringing his hands. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “You could just take me back to Lothal, please, and you won’t have to worry about feeding me anymore.”
Hera tilted his chin back up with a finger. “Sweetie. No. You misunderstand. When I said there was enough money to feed us, I meant you too. I don’t want you to leave unless we find your parents, and even then, you’ll always be welcome with us. You are Kanan’s Padawan, after all. You’re stuck with us.” She smiled teasingly.
Ezra shuddered in a relieved breath and then threw his arms around Hera’s neck, hugging her tight. “I think I’m all right with that,” he mumbled into her neck, thinking she smelled really nice. Like home. Like his mom.
He had to fight not to cry all over again.
Beanie chirped from his spot on the floor, rubbing his face against Ezra’s leg, starting a loud purr.
Another hand on his shoulder made him peek his eyes up, finding Kanan kneeling beside Hera as well, and smiling at him softly. Ezra could also feel how much Kanan wanted him to be there in the same way he could always feel his parents’ emotions. He felt like he was sensing Hera, too, and she also radiated ‘welcome’.
Ezra gave Kanan a wobbly smile over Hera’s shoulder, amazed beyond words at how things were turning out. The only thing that would make this better would be to get his parents and uncle Tseebo back.
Cham glanced out a window and did a double take when he saw the Ghost approaching his house. Heart suddenly pounding with excitement, he jumped up from behind his desk in time to see the ship waver from its course and then eventually settle into a dust raising touchdown.
Cham’s eyebrows rose significantly at the less than stellar landing. Was Hera injured or something to the point where she was letting Kanan fly? Because that’s all he could think of.
Now worried, Cham rushed from his office and jogged through the halls until he finally made it to the front door, and rushed out to the front of the Ghost.
He then proceeded to wait a good ten minutes for the ramp to open, arms crossed over his chest and foot tapping the ground impatiently.
At one point, he almost ran back into the house to get a commlink, but then worry that he might miss them leaving the ship kept his feet bolted to the ground right where he was.
Eventually his (im)patience paid off.
The ramp lowered and Cham breathed a sigh of relief to see his daughter looking perfectly happy and healthy, carrying his grandson on a hip and her other hand laced with Kanan’s.
What had him blinking in confusion was the wild haired boy who was walking on Kanan’s other side, dressed in an orange t-shirt (good colour choice), and brown trousers, staring at his surroundings with big blue eyes. And there was a brown and orange spotted tooka sticking close to his side, eyeballing Cham suspiciously.
Who was that?
Cham put that curiosity off to the side for a moment to beam brilliantly at his daughter and grandson. “Hera! This is a wonderful surprise!”
“Hello, Father. I thought you’d think so.” She let go of Kanan’s hand to give her father a quick one armed hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Jacen held his arms out towards Cham, chanting, “Pa. Pa. Pa.”
Cham’s eyes shot to Hera’s as he scooped up the baby, cuddling him close to his face. “He’s talking already?”
Hera shrugged as Kanan laced their hands back together. “Just a few real syllables. He’s mastered Ma, Da, Pa, and... thanks to Chopper, Bwa, which we all know is not a nice word in Binary.”
She shot a glare at the droid in question over her shoulder. Chopper merely chuckled evilly.
“I told you he wasn’t worth keeping,” Cham said, shaking his head.
Hera rolled her eyes at him.
“I’m not sure if he knows that you actually are ‘Pa’,” Kanan said, to get the attention off a delicate subject (don’t get between Hera and her precious droid or you’ll regret it), “because pretty much every adult male he meets that isn’t me is granted that designation.” As Cham’s face fell, he quickly added, “But I’m sure he’ll figure it out very soon. He is a Syndulla after all.”
Cham beamed proudly, pressing a loud smacking kiss to the baby’s cheek as little hands grabbed a long lek tightly and Jacen chortled happily. “Of course he is. He’s got my ears. And the rare, but treasured, dark blue Syndulla eyes.”
Kanan and Hera smiled indulgently.
Cham glanced at the other little boy who’d been hanging back a bit and looking somewhat uncomfortable. “Speaking of blue eyes, who’s this?”
Kanan waved Ezra forward and put a proud hand on his little shoulder. “This is my new Padawan, Ezra Bridger. Ezra, this is Hera’s father, General Cham Syndulla. He’s a great war hero.”
Ezra stared way up at the massive, orange male twi’lek who was even taller than Kanan and quite a bit more muscular. He stuck out a hand bravely. “Hi.”
Cham handed Hera Jacen back and grasped the small hand gently, shaking it a couple of times before letting go. “Hello, Ezra. I’m very glad to meet you.”
“Me, too. General Syndulla.” Ezra wasn’t particularly sure if he meant the words, but they were the polite thing to say.
“Call me Cham,” he invited. “Something tells me we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.”
“Okay,” Ezra gulped.
Cham turned back towards his front door, assuming his little family would follow. “You like war stories, Ezra?”
Ezra’s face lit up, all discomfort forgotten, and he quickly skipped to catch up to the big twi’lek, Beanie still staying close to him protectively. “Yes!” he gushed. “Tell me about the Clone Wars! The teachers at school leave out all the good parts. Did you kill many Separatist droids?”
“Oh boy,” Hera muttered, making Kanan laugh.
Their quick stop ended up being an overnight stay.
Ezra had a great time exploring the mansion, (the vast majority of it unused for years so it had a very haunted house kind of feel to it), while listening to Cham tell stories about the wars. Beanie found many little rodents to stalk and capture in some of the darker corners, which made Cham seriously think about getting his own tooka.
“Do you have any animals at all?” Ezra asked curiously.
“I do,” Cham chuckled. “But they don’t fit in the house. They’re my riding animals called blurrgs. You want to see them?”
Ezra loved the blurrgs.
They looked kind of like giant lizards and were very sweet natured, all six of them gathering around him in their irrigated grass pasture and sniffing him curiously, making Ezra giggle as they blew his hair around.
Cham leaned on the fenceline, watching with a bemused smile. When Kanan and Hera caught up to them after getting sidetracked by Jacen, who wanted them to follow a pretty pink and yellow butterfly that caught his eye, Cham said to them quietly, “I’ve never seen blurrgs take to someone so quickly. They’re usually very cautious around strangers.”
“I remember,” Kanan said. “Even with my ability to reassure her through the Force, the blurrg you gave me to ride gave me the stink eye for three days before she accepted me.” He nodded at Ezra, who was petting the noses of the animals in turn as they jostled him gently to get their share of attention. “Ezra is special when it comes to animals. He calls them and understands them, even if he doesn’t know he’s doing it. I’ve never seen anything like it, but there are stories in the archives about Jedi Beast Masters who had a similar ability. From what I’ve been able to piece together from what he’s said, the ability showed up after his parents were taken. Times of great stress can do that to young Force sensitives, activate untapped abilities, I mean.”
Cham almost asked Kanan if he’d displayed any new talents when he lost his Master, but stopped himself in the nick of time, knowing that was a hurt that was just cruel to bring up. Instead, he merely grunted a, “Huhn. Intersting.”
Kanan, sensing where Cham’s mind had wandered, volunteered a little more information. “It’s different for younglings raised in the Temple. We were tested and taught appropriately in regards to our affinities. I never tested as particularly special in anything, but proficient in everything, so I learnt the basics of all of the Jedi arts. Technically, I’m just your average Jedi.”
Hearing the little bit of disappointment in Kanan’s voice that he couldn’t quite hide, Hera bumped her hip against his to get his attention. He looked down at her with a raised brow, beautiful teal green eyes curious, and arms unconsciously hugging Jacen just a little bit tighter. “Hey, there’s nothing average about you as far as I’m concerned,” she said with a teasing light in her eyes, and her hand settling on his arm with a gentle heat that he felt all the way to his core. “In fact, I wouldn’t mind if you showed me again just how far above average you are once we put Jacen to bed.” (She said this with the throaty purr she knew drove him nuts in playful retaliation for what he did to her when she was landing.)
Kanan sucked in a breath, completely forgetting whatever it was that had downturned his mood a moment ago. Her name emerged from him in a husky moan of reverence. “Hera...”
Cham cleared his throat loudly, making Kanan and Hera jump guiltily. While it made him happy to know that his daughter and her husband were very much in love with each other, he really didn’t need to see or hear the visual proof. “And now, I think it’s time for dinner,” he said pointedly. “Ezra! Come on! We’re going in. You can help me settle them in their stalls later.”
“Okay!” Ezra practically skipped back to the fenceline and crawled through the gap in the rails. He wondered why all of the adults were looking both smug and embarrassed at the same time. What had he missed?
Supper was fun as Ezra got to try and feed Jacen, which was a feat unto itself with the baby constantly making things float while giggling his green haired head off. Ezra would hold down the bowl of steamed vegetables with one hand, try and fork a vegetable into Jacen’s mouth with the other, and then have to quickly catch vegetables as they started to float right out of the bowl. When he asked Kanan if it was normal for such a young person to be able to do such tricks already, Kanan merely shrugged, unable to hide his obvious pride in his talented son.
“When will I be able to float stuff?” Ezra asked wistfully.
Kanan smiled widely, ruffling his hair. (People really liked to do that and he didn’t know why.) “Ezra, technically, you’ve already floated your entire self when you used the Force to jump across the rooftops.”
Ezra’s jaw dropped nearly to the table. “I did?”
“I’ll teach you how to do the other ‘tricks’ soon enough,” Kanan reassured. “But first, we have to master meditating and connecting to the Force on purpose.”
“Why does that sound boring?”
Kanan chuckled. “Probably because you’ll think so, at first. But it’s worth it. Trust me.”
“Okay.” Ezra was giving Kanan the benefit of the doubt when it came to that one, no matter how skeptical he was.
After supper, he was given his own room to sleep in, which turned out to be Hera’s old room. (Hera and Kanan had a new room in the house now, one with a bigger bed, and an adjoining nursery.) After doing his nightly routine in the refresher and changing into his pajamas, Ezra curled up on the bed. Beanie jumped on after him and found a spot in front of Ezra’s chest that he liked. Ezra wrapped his arms around his tooka, snuggling his nose into the soft fur and listened to the loud purr that started for him.
“Beanie,” he whispered. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or any of the tomorrows after that, but today was pretty good, don’t you think?”
The tooka turned his glowing yellow eyes on Ezra and mrrowed softly in agreement.
D13/12 BBY, Tatooine
Ezra goggled at the seemingly limitless expanse of sand that covered the planet as they approached their destination of a small, light beige house perched on some rocks in the desert. “You were right, Hera. This is a ridiculous amount of sand.”
They hadn’t even landed yet, and Ezra already missed the plains of grass that was Lothal.
When they did land, he missed his home planet even more.
The twin suns beat down on his head unrelentingly, making Ezra instantly feel hotter than he could ever remember being. The ground shifted under his feet disconcertingly, looser even than the beach sand that was the only sand he was familiar with.
This was going to take some getting used to.
A ginger haired man, older than Kanan, stepped out of the house they’d parked in front of, and walked down a path amidst the boulders down to the sand where they stood waiting for him.
Ezra looked up at the bearded man curiously, sensing the returned curiosity. They smiled at each other at the same time and Ezra felt a wave of welcome from the Jedi Master that came with an even stronger sense of peace and tranquility than Kanan gave off.
As Kanan had instructed, Ezra finally remembered to bow politely. “It’s nice to meet you, Master Kenobi.”
Ben bowed in return, shooting an amused glance at Kanan, who was watching them with smiling teal eyes. “It’s nice to meet you too, young Ezra Bridger. Please, come into my home and out of these hot suns. They age you prematurely if you’re not careful.”
Ezra looked down at his short body and then back up at a much taller Ben. “Wouldn’t that be a good thing?”
Ben joined Kanan and Hera in joyful laughter. He ruffled the boy’s wild hair fondly. “Kanan’s right. You are a brilliant child.”
Ezra beamed at the compliment. “My mom always said so.“
Kanan exchanged a look with Hera that was pretty clear; they really hoped they could get Ezra’s parents back for him, because neither of them wanted to be the one to tell this effervescent little boy that he was never going to see his mom and dad again.
A/N: Thank you all soooooo much for reading my stories! Every kudos, sub, or nice review makes me want to write that much more for you. :D :D :D :D :D
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