WORD COUNT: 9500 WORDS
GENRE: Fan Fiction – Post-Star Wars Rebels
DISCLAIMER: All characters are the property of Lucasfilm and Dave Filoni. SPOILER WARNING for anyone who hasn’t watched Star Wars Rebels.
Part One: Recall
“I regret the decisions that led to his death.”
Ezra raised an eyebrow at Thrawn, who was sitting cross-legged on a cot across from him. One of his blue arms was in a sling and his eyes were closed, thankfully. Ezra knew a range of emotions had flickered across his face and he was glad Thrawn hadn’t seen it.
They were on a Chiss ship heading to who knows where. He had barely survived the jump to hyperspace with the purrgil let alone the several weeks on the ship with Thrawn, his adversary turned reluctant partner. They had managed to put aside their differences and find a way to get a distress signal out. Luckily, and with the Force’s help, Thrawn’s people, the Chiss Ascendancy, had found them before pirates or something worse had.
If it wasn’t for his Jedi training, Ezra was sure he would’ve gone insane. At least Thrawn had been respectful enough to keep any casual conversation on his end to a minimum. Ezra, not so much, but it seemed the blue-skinned Chiss now wanted to test their boundaries.
“You didn’t give the order to fire on those fuel pods,” Ezra said a few moments later, voice cool. “Pryce did.”
He paused, not entirely sure whether the next words that flashed in his head should be said. The words slipped out and felt metallic on his tongue.
“But you kept her in power. You gave her the authority to make that decision… and that’s on you.”
Ezra moved to his own cot to sit down. Thrawn’s ever calm and even voice cut through the air between them.
“You must understand,” Thrawn replied. His red eyes now looked directly at his former adversary, emanating… sadness? Ezra was skeptical that sadness was even something the Chiss ever felt. In his time with Thrawn, he had realized that his current partner’s mind was a complex connection of pieces, constantly arranging and rearranging with every minute that passed. Emotions of any kind were hardly present whenever he stretched out to him with the Force.
“I was wrong to rely on Governor Pryce. My conclusion that she would make the most sound decisions in my place was incorrect,” Thrawn continued. “She had shown a tendency to create problems before, but I choose to ignore those problems because she had proved beneficial to my mission at that time.”
“Problems… right,” The young Jedi growled back.
“She misconstrued my desire to defeat your Rebel cell as equal to the death of the rogue Jedi, Kanan Jarrus,” Thrawn responded. “I never desired for your death or the death of your Master, only the end of your cell’s interference in Imperial affairs.”
This time it was Thrawn that hesitated, deciding whether to tell Ezra an important part of his own puzzle. It was the first time Ezra had actually seen him visibly struggle with finding his words.
“I was desperate,” Thrawn admitted. Ezra masked his surprise at the Chiss’s slightly wavering voice. “I needed the Emperor to support my TIE Defender project. If I captured your cell or stopped your intrusions all together, I believed Palpatine would back me and not another project of more catastrophic proportions. That his ‘Death Star’ would no longer be pursued.”
Ezra shook his head, incredulous.
“Kudos to you, but guess what?” He growled, his blue eyes fierce. “The Empire doesn’t need whatever this ‘Death Star’ is… they exterminate and imprison and oppress anyone who so much as questions them, all for the sake of so-called order.”
Thrawn stared at him, chiseled face emotionless, but his eyes dimmed with a sense of dejection.
“Do I forgive you for what happened?” Ezra questioned, jaw set and eyes determined to say his peace. “Maybe. When I’m ready to. It’ll probably take me a while, but I know one thing.”
The young Jedi paused again, taking a beat to gather himself and decrease the edge to his voice.
“Kanan knew his role and what he had to do. He was selfless and sacrificed himself to save the people he loved. He understood that what he did would help push the rebellion on Lothal forward and help us win, despite whatever you thought your precious plans would achieve. It was his final lesson to me and I listened to him.”
Ezra stood up from his cot, towering over Thrawn. The tenseness in his shoulders eased a little.
“He’s one with the Force… at least, that’s what I feel in my heart.”
And that’s what Ezra still believed. Snippets of his time in the Unknown Regions were trickling back since yesterday. After his latest round of sleep, the memories were becoming clearer. Some had the blue-skinned Chiss, others involved Thrawn, and others included some guy named Vanto who had nothing but respect for the Grand Admiral. Ezra’s thoughts were still a little cloudy about that last one.
But Ezra also felt Caleb Dume. First in his dreams. Then again when he came across Jacen and once more when he was back on the Ghost for the first time, in what had been Kanan’s bunk. It’s not like it was when he was alive, but his Master was all around him, permeating him. Kanan’s presence was clearly some part of his son’s Force signature, too, but could Ezra explain it? Not one bit, but he had learned over and over that the Force wasn’t meant to be understood in its entirety, at least that was his point of view.
Over the next couple days, everyone filled him in on what had happened while he’d been away. The rise of the Rebellion. The destruction of both Death Stars. The fall of the Empire. This guy Skywalker, a Jedi just like him, that helped bring down the Emperor and Vader and was now working to train the next generation of Jedi.
Things had definitely changed… in the Galaxy, on the Ghost, and along with it, his family.
Hera had been one of the Rebellion’s best generals, all while being a mom… to Jacen. Ezra wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to wrap his mind around the fact that Kanan and Hera had a son. It still hurt to think of Kanan, but Jacen was already reminding him of all the best things about his former Master.
Zeb and Kallus had been a pleasant surprise, too. He’d realized early on that they had become close friends, but when Zeb had gushed to him about their home on Lyrasan, and how Ezra had to come visit, their being together made complete sense. They still helped Hera out from time to time, with jobs and looking after Jacen, but it sounded like both Unkie Zeb and Uncle K – that’s what Jacen called them – had traded their old lives for something more stable.
Rex was still around, too. He had been a crucial part of the Rebellion, of course, but when Ahsoka returned after finding Ezra, he’d flocked right to her side. They had heard from an old friend and left to help her with something on Ansion while Ezra was recovering in his bacta tank. Rex had sent a communication that they’d meet the crew in a day or so, and Ezra was looking forward to talking with Ahsoka… she was the closest thing he’d have to a mentor.
And Sabine. Sabine held true to her promise to him. She had stayed on Lothal. She had described in detail about his home planet and how his people had finally freed themselves from Imperial oppression, but he needed to see it with his own eyes. He needed to take in all that his parents had set in motion against the Empire what felt like so many years ago.
So the Ghost was on course to Lothal, per his request.
He was standing in Kanan’s old bunk, which was now Hera’s. Jacen had gotten the one he had shared with Zeb. His mouth turned up into a sad smile, realizing how empty the Ghost must feel now that it was just Hera, Jacen and sometimes Sabine.
And of course Chopper, too. The little astromech was as flippant with Ezra as always, but he had given him a cheerful “bwah bwah” when he first stepped on the ship.
Ezra looked around the room again. This time he caught his face in the mirror, noticing for the first time how different he must’ve looked to everyone. His dark blue hair was long enough that he had it tied back at the nape of his neck and his face had a fresh five o’clock shadow. He’d grown, all right.
He instinctively reached up to stroke the scar on his left cheek that had remained after his and Kanan’s final battle with the Grand Inquisitor. Defining marks he had earned during his training were still there to remind him how far he had come.
“How are you feeling?” Sabine asked. Ezra jolted at her voice and immediately dropped his arm to the side, not realizing how deep in thought he was.
“Things are still hazy, but I remember so much now,” He replied, turning to face her. She was leaning in the doorway, arms crossed and face blank enough that Ezra wasn’t positive which Sabine he was talking with… his friend or the crew’s protector.
“That’s good. It’ll all come back in time.” She said while she looked down, averting his inquisitive eyes. Ezra sensed her hesitation.
“What is it, Sabine?”
She glanced back up at the young Jedi, her mouth open as if she was about to say something. Instead, she took two big steps, slammed into Ezra and tightly wrapped her arms around him.
Flabbergasted for a mere moment, Ezra chuckled a reply and wound his arms around her. “I missed you, too, Sabine.”
The friends melted into the embrace, appreciating that their true long-awaited reunion was in private. Ezra was a few inches taller than Sabine now and her head fit easily underneath his chin. Sabine closed her eyes and remained silent. With her ear on his chest, she listened intently to his steady heartbeat. A flutter rippled through Ezra and settled in his stomach, almost identical to the one he had felt a couple days ago when he had said her name.
“Oh, uhhhhh…” They both heard Zeb interrupt them awkwardly from the doorway. “Hehe, sorry to disturb you two, but Hera said we’re just about to arrive in the Lothal system.”
Sabine broke away from the hug and smirked at her Lasat friend. She looked back at Ezra.
“I’ll see you in the cockpit in a few.” Ezra grinned happily at her as she stepped back out into the hallway.
“Well, Zeb.” Ezra gestured to his clothes, thankful to shift the conversation from him and Sabine. “Whaddya think?”
Hera had found a couple of old outfits that belonged to Kanan and decided to lay them out for Ezra when he joined them on the Ghost. Both of the shirts were green. One was long-sleeved while the other only hit Ezra’s elbows. The pants, one light brown and the other a softer black with a pseudo leather strip down the side of each leg, were made of a thicker woven material.
Ezra decided to put on the collared long-sleeved tunic, the black pants and a pair of gray boots, and they all fit him pretty well.
“Like one of us again, “ Zeb replied with a lopsided grin. He reached out with one of his big furry hands and ruffled Ezra’s hair.
Kallus called from the hallway, laughter in his voice. “I hate to cut this short, but Ezra’s going to want to be there for the descent to Lothal.”
As they made their way to the cockpit, Ezra worked to settle his nerves, relying on the Force to help calm the electricity running through his body. But he was nowhere near prepared for the onslaught of emotions that welled up inside him as his home planet came into view.
Ezra’s breath hitched at seeing Lothal. It was bright against the dark backdrop of space and even after everything he had learned about the fall of the Empire, it still relieved him to not see any kind of Imperial presence or blockade above his home.
The clouds swirled above the varying land masses, which no longer showed burned grasslands, and the oceans were the clearest blue. This planet was once again calm and lush with life.
Ezra’s legs went numb as he sat down in the co-pilot seat next to Hera. Sabine stood behind him while Kallus and Zeb occupied the secondary seats. Zeb held Jacen on his lap, keeping him close to his chest. All of them stayed quiet, respecting Ezra’s need to experience this in his own way.
Knowing Lothal like the back of her hand, Hera took the Ghost down into its atmosphere. As they made their way through the upper clouds, Ezra swallowed hard as countless memories of his life, from street rat to Padawan to Rebel fighter, flashed through his mind.
Sabine placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder and Ezra reflexively grabbed it for support.
Capital City shone brightly in the distance, as clear as the picturesque landscape that appeared in Ezra’s vision the night he discovered his parents had died. Seeing the city stand tall filled his heart with pride and sadness, knowing his parents gave everything they had to free it from the Empire’s grip.
“We’re going to land in Capital City,” Sabine whispered in his ear, careful not to startle him.
Ezra nodded, eyes brimming with tears.
Hera gave him a warm look as she soared effortlessly above the paints and brought the ship closer to the city’s skyline.
“There’s something we want to show you before we do anything else.”
Ezra was immovable for several minutes, his eyes fixated on the image before him. After departing the Ghost and arriving at their destination, Hera, Sabine and the others had given him some space, knowing what he was seeing would dredge up things he would need to process on his own.
Sabine revealed that she had painted it after everything that transpired during and after their final push against the Empire, with permission from the city’s citizens, of course. She hadn’t approached the painting with any sort of plan or knowledge of what she was going to do, but instead had let her hands guide her. First, she painted the background, then the home planet’s creatures, lothcats and lothwolves, and finally each member of the Ghost’s original crew.
Ezra didn’t really know what to say. The mural was breathtaking, of course. Sabine’s talent was obvious, but this piece was different from what she had done before. It wasn’t just a rebel’s vandalism or a humorous interpretation of shenanigans on their ship. He felt like he was gazing through a mirror at a moment frozen in time, not all that unlike his experience in the world between worlds where he had saved Ahsoka and was desperately tempted to stop Kanan from dying.
He cautiously took a few steps toward it so that he was only a couple inches away from his own portrait. Ezra reached forward and placed a hand on the painted white lothcat perched on his shoulder. Slowly, he started to move his hands from person to person, lothcat to lothwolf, taking the time to feel the love, the grief, the self-reflection that Sabine had poured into each detail. He relied on the Force to help him sense what she was feeling with each stroke of her hand, to commit each detail of her work to memory and to keep him from breaking down as a multitude of emotions swirled inside him.
Chopper sitting in front of Hera who was standing tall, proud, the one who never backed down.
Zeb lumbering in the back with a soft grin on his face and a friendly hand on Sabine’s shoulder.
Sabine next to Ezra’s likeness with her colorful hair and Mandalorian armor, ever at the ready.
Kanan’s hand was on Hera’s right shoulder, his face stoic and his blinded white eyes marked with the injury Maul gave him on Malachor. Ezra was glad Sabine hadn’t painted him with his mask… he wanted everyone who came across this mural to know his former Master’s face.
Ezra slid the hand that was touching the mural to Kanan’s form. Again, he reached out around him and felt a faint echo of Kanan’s Force signature circling around Jacen’s own presence.
Then, he heard someone approach from behind.
“I think about him every single day,” Hera whispered, voice thick with an equal share of both love and pain. “Sometimes I feel sadness, regret knowing that I waited too long to tell him….”
Ezra turned and saw Hera wasn’t looking at him. Her face was directed toward Kanan’s likeness, eyes glassy with fresh tears.
“He loved you,” Ezra replied, not much louder than Hera had been. “He loved all of us… He loved me… He was the father and mentor I never knew I needed.”
He paused, shifting his eyes past Hera. “He’s still here in some way, too.”
She saw that Ezra was looking past her and turned her form to see her son, Jacen, who was giggling happily and literally running circles around Zeb. A loving smile spread across her face and her lekku radiated warmth.
“Take all the time you need,” Hera said.
As she walked back to the group, Ezra turned again to look back at the mural, this time honed in on his own portrait. He recognized the person looking back at his blue eyes, but he knew he wasn’t that Ezra any longer.
He owed so much to so many for how he had grown both before and after that final confrontation with Thrawn on the Chimaera. But he was positive that without Kanan, he wouldn’t be a Jedi and he wouldn’t have learned the final lesson that helped ensure the safety of so many others.
And now he understood that Jacen needed someone to be his guide and teach him the ways of the Force like Kanan had done for him. Jacen would need a Master.
Suddenly, he felt a tug on his tunic.
“Are you feeling better?” Jacen asked, his big green eyes staring up at Ezra.
Ezra chuckled before replying. “Yes, quite… I was just thinking about your dad, that’s all.”
“Yeah… mommy cries about him sometimes.” Jacen looked down at his feet. His next words were a mere mumble. “I wish he was here.” \
Ezra’s heart clenched. He knew what the loss of a parent meant. He gently placed his hands on Jacen’s small shoulders and knelt down so that his face was level with the little one. Jacen lifted his head as Ezra started to speak.
“Any time you feel that way, I want you to remember something.” Ezra firmly pointed to Jacen’s chest, calling attention to the little one’s heart. “Your dad is right here… I can always feel him here.”
“Yes,” Ezra responded, affirming his words. “Close your eyes.”
Jacen gave him a suspicious look, but he did as Ezra asked and shut them.
“There’s this thing called the Force,” Ezra continued, speaking softly so only the green-haired boy could hear him. “It’s something that your dad told me once. The Force is everywhere. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. It flows through every person in the universe, but it’s strong with me… and it’s strong with you.”
Jacen’s breathing was slow and steady, his mind absorbing every word being spoken at that moment. Ezra could feel the little one’s Force signature begin to swirl and come alive.
“Did your mom show you holopics of your dad?” Ezra asked. Jacen shook his head yes. “Imagine you have one in your hands right now and try to only think about that.”
Jacen let an image of Kanan flicker to life inside his head and he focused on it. He only thought about it, letting everything else float away.
Jacen gasped and opened his eyes, seeing that Ezra.
“I heard something!” Jacen exclaimed, his excitement bright and clear. “I heard someone.”
Ezra grinned. “That’s the Force. Your dad was a Jedi Knight and he taught me so much about what it means to be a Jedi.”
“You can learn what it means to be a Jedi, too. I can teach you.” Ezra encouraged with a smile. “When your mom thinks you’re ready.”
Jacen nodded excitedly.
“Let’s get back to the group.” As Ezra stood to walk back to the crew, he felt a hand instinctively wrap around his own. He glanced down to see Jacen fall in step beside him.
“Mom! Mom!” Jacen called, running the last few feet toward her, leaping into her arms.
“What Jace?” She laughed as she swung her son around, her head tails mimicking her movement. “What’s got you so excited?”
“Ezra’s gonna teach me! Teach me so I can be a Jedi like dad!”
Hera stopped spinning to look at the young Jedi Knight. A sheepish grin marked Ezra’s face, a look she remembered happened all too often when he first joined her crew.
“Oh, he did, did he?” She remarked out loud, attempting to keep a smirk from showing. Ezra shrugged playfully.
“Okay, okay. We’ll talk about it later, Jace,” Sabine interrupted, lovingly mussing up his hair. She gestured toward the congressional building. “We’re already late for a meeting with the governor.”
The group started to walk toward the main street, taking in the sights of Lothal’s capital, but Ezra slowed after a few minutes and closed his eyes. His mind began to race, flipping through memory after memory of his time with Thrawn until it froze on a specific moment.
It finally clicked. The last puzzle piece snapped together.
“I know what happened to him, where he is.” Ezra blurted out, his mouth open in astonishment. He only had a feeling, but he couldn’t ignore it.
“Who?” Hera questioned, as she found her way back to where Ezra stopped. She was startled by his forcefulness.
He looked up at her, blue eyes clear and focused. For the first time since he had woken up on the frigate, he knew, without a doubt, what they needed to do.
“Thrawn… and we need to help him.”