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Saga - OT [DDC 2017]Teenage Rebellion--Updated 11/27/2017 (Mara/Ezra/Luke)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, Jan 3, 2017.

  1. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Took me some time to catch up, but tonight I did.

    I feel uncomfortable about birthdays, too, because since 21 years dreadful things happen around my birthday and therefore I hate it. (Like Christmas actually, but I try to be brave since I have DarthUncle in my life and do all the decorating and other necessary Christmas stuff.)

    Your characters are full of dread and/ or nervousness. But wise people around them help them to grow and change their perspective on life a bit. This is what I love most about your fics, the personal growth.
     
  2. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Just what I said during the beta - this is short, but effective and it packs more action than some long, long chapters. Everything is concentrated in a small space, like The Big Bang and it goes straight to the point. Love every single word of it.

    The Mara with a happy childhood and loving parents facing a vision of the Mara we know from the Legends 'verse is a chilling sight, to say the least! While I knew that it was about to come at some point, I must say that it would've been a complete "whoa, didn't see THAT coming" otherwise. If there is the headsplode award in 2019, this moment is so.going.to.be.nominated.for.it.

    Some of this parallels Luke's experience in the Dark Side Cave on Dagobah, in The Empire Strikes Back, with a significant difference: Luke is shown what he could become if he does not change, Mara is shown what she would have been in a less happy version of the world as it is. And just like Luke's experience, this one will surely open a whole new set of possibilities for Mara, as well as give her a couple of things to fear. In the Jedi-appropriate way, of course!
     
  3. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ohmigosh, Mara! :eek: Well, this is something for sure... if I understand this right, her vision in the temple was of her Legends, Emperor's Hand self, doing the ruthless, hardboiled, coldblooded things that that self was known to do—and that are totally foreign and unthinkable to your version of Mara. (Though I have to say, that in a way it would be interesting to see the finished results of your original, Legends-based plan for Raissa and Doran's daughter.) Like @Ewok Poet said, this is a short, concentrated entry that packs a huge punch, perhaps all the more so because of its brevity.

    There are resonances with the Dagobah cave sequence, of course—not at all a bad thing, because it makes sense that visions of this sort would have some things in common. But there are differences, too. Luke experienced just a single duel with the Vader-who-was-also-himself, one in which he "won"—but Mara is seeing the "other her" killing and murdering again and again and again in a "MAKE IT STOP!" kind of way, and it all culminates in that one sheevy "well done." Not only that, she seems to be, to a certain extent, inside the mind of the "other her," perceiving her feelings (or lack thereof) almost as though they were her own... absolute goosebumps. :eek:

    But another notable difference with Luke's vision is that Mara is most definitely not alone this time; she has Ezra and Luke beside her, and Ezra's warning echoing in her ears, and Kanan and Hera not far off. And undoubtedly these friends and mentors will be beside her during her recovery, too. But let's hope that recovery will not take too long, and that the aftereffects of all this will not be too lasting! [face_relieved]
     
  4. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    First of all, I’d like to say a very big Thank you to everyone! I’m blown away by the number of Fan Fic Awards nominations Teenage Rebellion has received:
    Best Story Between 0 and 4 BBY, Best Multi-Chapter, Best Epic, Best New Canon/Legends Mash-up, Best Alternate Universe, and Best Humor. Mara and Ezra were also nominated for Best Original Relationship and the whole gang is up for Best Ensemble. Wow! I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who nominated me [:D] and I’m amazed and honored by all the love this story has gotten! I can’t thank you all enough! [face_love]

    Thank you! It actually started out as a dream where Mara visited a Dark Side temple and got a vision of her life as the Emperor’s Hand (although in my dream, she also got to see that...Wait a minute, this me ends up married to Luke?) and then it became a drabble during the Ultimate Drabble Challenge, but I’ve wanted to tie these versions of Mara together for a long time. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Thanks! It was kind o intense to write (and to dream!), imagining of all the things Legends!Mara did and how the Mara who was raised as a Jedi would feel about them.
    I’m so glad that you did! [:D] It’s hard when occasions that are supposed to be happy like birthdays and holidays carry unpleasant memories and emotions with them, but having your loved ones beside you can make all the difference. Ezra and Luke are both able to turn their not-so-happy occasions around, thanks to their friends and family.

    Thank you so much! They’re at that stage in their lives when you’re really finding out a lot about life and yourself, what you stand for and who you want to be, and fortunately, these three do have some wise and patient mentors—Kanan, Hera, and even Leia—to help guide them in the right direction.

    Thanks! In a way, I think it helped to do this scene as a drabble first, because it made me strip it down for maximum effect. I probably could have elaborated more, but I think you’re right that keeping it short gives it more of a punch.

    Thanks...as many times as your stories have made my head explode, I’m happy to be able to return the favor, at least on some level :D And I love the idea of a “Jedi-appropriate” way to face fear. I’m sure Space!Dad could advise her on them, in the absence of her own parents—heck his ways might be more Jedi-appropriate than anything Doran would say :p Maybe it’s a good thing she also has her Space!Boyfriend by her side for support, too.
    Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening here. Mara sees her Legends-verse life, where she was raised, not as a Jedi or even a Sith, but as a tool for the Emperor, carrying out his “justice” with ruthless attention to duty.

    It seems like these kind of places are able to tailor their visions to their audience; Luke’s ESB vision in the cave is much less detailed and personal than the one he has in the same cave of an alternate history where Mara caught his lightsaber at the sarlacc pit. Maybe it’s the difference in level of training or that was what would be most effective at the time. The Dark Side accurately judges what will be most unsettling to Mara... that version of herself who is her opposite both in what she does and why she does it.

    Yes, Yoda wasn’t exactly a sympathetic presence, was he? :p But as you note, Mara is surrounded by caring friends and the one who truly loves her. Whatever non-attachment doctrine may say, that love and support can only be a good thing.
     
  5. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thanks, as ever, to @Findswoman and @Ewok Poet for beta reading and their continued support [:D]

    This entry was inspired by the Memorable Melodies Challenge. The song that I received was This I Promise You.

    ————

    Ezra

    Mara’s scream tore through eerie stillness of the twilight, and the sound was like a vibro-shiv to my heart. I pulled my lightsaber free from its belt clip as I dashed to her, running on instinct even though I knew there was no enemy I could fight with a blade.

    In some ways, I think it might have been easier if there had been someone I could have fought. It would have been something I could have done to help her, but when I saw Mara unconscious, I was helpless against the rising feeling of dread. I didn’t know what had done this to her or if there was anything I could do for her at all.

    “She fainted!” Luke struggled to hold Mara up, his knees buckling with the awkward burden of her limp form. Her head was lolling back at a strange angle, her arms and legs hanging limply. His eyes were wide and wild, and he babbled. “She was staring at the wall, like she saw something in the wall and I pulled her away and she fainted!”

    I eased Mara from his arms, and her head fell against my shoulder. “No. No, Ace…please…” I pressed my lips to her pale forehead, reaching out to her in the Force. She was there, but behind so many shields I could hardly sense her, like she was hiding herself behind them and not just the fear that trembled on the edge of her presence. *Mara, please...Come on. Come back…* If she could hear me, she gave no sign. Her shields were as solid as a duracrete wall and there wasn’t even a tiny crack. How was I going to get past them? How was I going to get to her?

    I thought I could hear something like low, evil laughter echoing through the courtyard. You failed. Just like you did on Malachor, a cold voice hissed. Was it coming from the black stone of the temple or my own mind? I couldn’t tell. If I’d thought the day had grown cold before, it was nothing to the chill I felt listening to it throw all my fears back at me. You couldn’t keep her safe. You failed, like you always fail the ones you love. Like you failed Kanan and Ahsoka. You will always lose to the Dark Side. And now you’ve lost Mara. This is how your journey ends…

    No! My arms tightened around Mara. I’m not going to lose her! I love Mara, and she’s my journey’s end. I won’t let the Dark Side have her, not as long as I’m alive!

    “We have to get her away from here. Now, before...” Before whatever did this to her came back. I swept Mara up into my arms; her head lolled against my shoulder and started down the path toward the lake as fast as I could, but the black stones pulled at my feet like I was slogging through a meter’s worth of mud instead of walking down a smooth stone path. The laughter followed me, and it was an echo of Maul, of Thrawn and the Inquisitor—everyone I’d ever faced—reminding me of every time I’d ever failed. You will lose her

    I don’t know if Luke could hear the demonic laughter, too, or if he heard his own fears, but I felt his hand on my shoulder. There was a look of determination on his face I remembered from all those I’ll-show-you lightsaber lessons, but this time he turned that stubborn persistence towards helping me, adding his strength to mine. We trudged down the path together. “It’s gonna be okay, Ace,” I told her...or maybe myself. Maybe all of us, especially that mocking voice that kept telling me I’d lost her. “We’re gonna get you back to camp, where you’ll be safe. It’s gonna be alright.”

    But Mara never responded. She never even twitched an eyelash to show she’d heard a word I said, and her shields stayed high and impassable. By the time Luke and I picked our way across the treacherous stepping stones, my assurances felt hollow. The chill that had enveloped the dark temple seemed to have crept into my heart. Emotion, yet peace, I reminded myself. Passion, yet serenity… and then I stopped because I did not want to think of the last part: death, yet the Force.

    Kanan and Hera were waiting for us when we reached the other shore. “What happened?” Kanan asked; I only halfway heard Luke’s rambling explanation as Hera, her eyes full of concern, ushered me towards the campsite. She pulled aside the flap of the nearest tent, ducked inide and hastily unfolded one of the bedrolls so that I could lay Mara down. Behind us, Kanan and Luke knelt just inside the entrance. Hera pulled off one glove and pressed two fingers against Mara’s neck. “Her pulse is steady, and she’s breathing well.”

    “Uh huh. That’s good.” I murmured a vague assent. It should have reassured me, but it was hard when Mara still felt so distant. I smoothed a tendril of hair that had come loose from her braid away from her face and took her hand in mine. *Mara… you’re safe now. We’re back at camp now, on the other side of the lake. Whatever it was, it can’t hurt you here. * I hoped. Dear Force, how I hoped that was true. *I’m here with you, Ace. Please, come back to me…*

    *Ezra?* Mara’s voice was faint and muzzy, like it was coming from the other side of the Galaxy over a broken comlink.

    *Yeah, it’s me, Ace. I’m here!* I squeezed her hand as reached out to her in the Force with all I had. Behind her shields, Mara stirred faintly and the smallest wisp of the Force reached back. When she found me, she held on like I was her lifeline, and following my presence, she slowly drew herself back to consciousness.

    “Ezra…” Mara woke with a gasp, scrambling to sit up, and she held onto me like a youngling who’d woken from a nightmare —like she was was trying to prove to herself I was really there. I could feel her trembling against me as fought to control her emotions, locking them back behind her shields. *Emotion, yet peace…*

    I held her, steadied her and squeezed the hand that was clutching mine. “Hey, take it easy. It’s okay…” She drew a deep breath and nodded, as she finished putting her shields back in place, all her emotions back in order. But she didn’t quite let go of me.

    “What happened, Mara?” Kanan asked. “Luke said you saw something in the stone…”

    “Me. I saw myself…“ Mara’s voice was thick with revulsion. She clutched my hand harder, until her fingernails pressed into my palm. “But I wasn’t a Jedi, I was… a killer. A murderer.” Mara paused and looked away. For a minute, I didn’t know if she would continue, but she reinforced her shields, steeling herself for what came next. “And I served the Emperor. He called me his Hand. I…” Now Mara broke off, choking back a noise between a sob and a hysterical laugh.

    *Oh, Mara…* I pulled her closer. I’ve had plenty of awful visions before—visions of my friends abandoning me, visions of them being killed, visions of Maul that were so real I’d attacked some hapless pilot thinking it was him—and those were bad enough. To see yourself killing for the most evil man in the Galaxy? No wonder Mara was disturbed. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d run screaming into the jungle, but here she was telling us about it. And if she was still trembling a bit, well, it was better than I would have done.

    Around us, the others wore various troubled expressions. Luke’s anxiety skittered through the Force, concern for Mara mixed with the kind of fear you get when don’t understand what’s going on. Kanan, of course, wore a frown, but he laid a reassuring hand on Mara’s knee. “Places that are strongly imbued with the Force can cause these kinds of visions, and if they’re strong in the Dark Side, they can show us our worst fears. But that vision—it wasn’t the real you. You are a Jedi, Mara. Don’t be swayed by the Dark Side’s lies.”

    Hera pursed her lips and her glance flicked from Kanan to Mara to me. She rose to a crouch and eased towards the front of the tent. “Why don’t we let Mara have some time to recover?” She nudged Luke and Kanan out of the tent like a mother avian shooing her chicks. “I’m going to start on dinner. Luke, why don’t you and Kanan make sure we have enough firewood to last through the night?” Kanan frowned some more, and I thought he might object, but he acceded to Hera’s suggestion.

    “Are you all right, Mara?” I asked once they’d gone.

    “Yeah...no.. Kind of.” She let go of her shields with a shuddering sigh. Shreds of fear still clung to her like creeper vines growing on a Massassi tree, and beneath them her presence churned with anxiety. She shook her head. “I know what Kanan said, but it wasn’t a lie. It was me—the me I would have been if the Inquisitor had taken me away from my family. I would have served the Emperor… and that was the worst part.”

    “That you were his servant?”

    “That I did everything he told me and I never questioned. I killed for him. And I didn’t care. It was just my job. If I’d been angry, if I’d hated all those people… I don’t know, I could have understood that, in a way. But killing them didn’t matter to me any more than serving drinks at the Café.” A note of self-loathing crept into her voice and she looked away. “I never thought I could be that kind of person. Ever.”

    “You’re not.” I pulled her closer. I wished we’d never gone to that stupid temple. I wished I’d stayed next to her while we were checking it out. Maybe if I had I could have stopped her from touching those dark stone walls. I could have done something to spare her all this pain. “Even if you might have been, that’s not you. I know you, Mara, and you could never be like that. You’re a Jedi, and you’re strong.”

    “But there’s part of that girl in me,” Mara insisted. “She believed what she did was right, because she really believed the Emperor was right and it was her duty. If I thought I had a good reason, could I be like that?” Tears sparkled in her jade-green eyes, and though she closed her eyes against them, one slid down her cheek. “Could I start down the Dark path thinking I was right?”

    I wanted to tell her that could never happen, she was too strong and too smart to ever do that...except I knew how easy it was to fall into that kind of trap. It had happened to me, after Malachor. The guilt and grief I’d felt over Maul blinding Kanan had driven me to open the Sith holocron, believing that the knowledge it contained would make me strong enough to keep anyone from hurting my friends again. But it wasn’t my own strength that kept me from going to the Dark Side, it was only having Kanan’s love and acceptance. I couldn’t tell Mara nothing would ever go wrong, but I could promise her she’d always have my love. “Whatever happens, I promise I’ll be there for you. We’ll face it together. You know I’d never let anything happen to you.” I wiped away the tear and kissed her gently. “I love you, Mara. You’re my journey’s end, always.”

    She smiled for the first time since we’d seen the temple, and nestled her head against my shoulder. “And you’re mine. Always.”

    I held her without saying anything, letting all my love and strength flow through the Force to her. Mara closed her eyes. Slowly, those lingering tendrils of fear loosened and faded until they were nothing more than shadows. She relaxed in my arms, her Force-sense growing quiet and still and her breath becoming slow and regular, and soon she was asleep, her head resting on my chest. I brushed my lips against her forehead. “Love you, Ace.”
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
    AzureAngel2, Findswoman and Ewok Poet like this.
  6. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    How divine of you to weave the fate of the EU Mara into your story!

    Having watched "Ghost in the shell" with my husband recently, the motto of the movie fits for your update: " We cling to memories as if they define us, but... they really don't. What we do is what defines us."

    Your version of Mara is defined by her choices in life, by the people that are in her life. This is why the dark side might plague her, toy with her, but she will never end up as its servant.
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Beautiful gorgeous yummy! Perfect use of the song :) [face_sigh] And terrific and just-right from Ezra's POV. =D=
    Mara asks some realistic and candid questions. That is always the danger -- when you're strong and courageous -- if someone fools you or you're carried away by a situation or are raised in a particular environment versus another, you could do the "wrong, evil, unthinkable" thing and think you were right in doing so. [face_thinking] If Mara was ripped away from a loving family and all she knew was duty and obedience, :eek: even to a cruel Sithly tyrant -- she would have known no other life-path or choices, and they would have felt natural.
    Hera was so intuitively compassionate and did the right thing in leaving Ezra and Mara alone to process through. :) Very glad that there isn't a traumatizing aftermath. I know Mara willl use this experience to be stronger and more thoughtful about decisions etc.
     
  8. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ogosh, this is almost as much of a trial for Ezra as it is for Mara. :eek: It looks very much like this dark-side-steeped location is playing on his fears and insecurities too. And I must say...

    ... you've been on quite the roll with frightening Force visions lately. I know one is around the corner in A Diamond in the Rough, which tested Ezra's resolve in a completely different way and yet which was also super well done.

    First there's that brief but significant moment where he almost wishes "there had been someone I could have fought"; the fact that that's still his first instinct says a lot about how much he too still has to learn in his Jedi training. Then it's followed by that low, cold phantom laughter that sounds like Maul, Thrawn, and Aloysius Augustine Dalrymple-Murgatroyd the Inquisitor rolled into one, and that dark inner voice whispering those terrible things to him. But most chilling of all is the way the voice twists the beautiful "journey's end" motif—Mara and Ezra's mutual Six of Sabers fortune from the "guess the card" phase of their Jedi training—into something dark and scary: loss and failure will be his journey's end, it seems to be saying, no matter hat he does or how hard he tries. Even Mara's higher-than-usual shields seem to be part of the trial somehow; she and/or the dark currents permeating the temple seem hellbent on keeping him out of her feelings on purpose.

    Her progression back to consciousness and communication is very gradual, very believable; love the description of how her Force-voice sounds when he finally gets through to her:

    Fitting, because one could indeed say that Mara has been somewhere even farther away than the other side of the Galaxy during this whole experience—because that's how far the Emperor's Hand Mara is from this Mara. And yet: the intriguingly dire possibility is raised that this strong, principled Jedi girl has some of that cold, ruthless other girl within her. As we discussed during the beta, they definitely share dogged determination and a strong sense of duty. Characteristics shared by Ezra as well—and he too once almost succumbed to visions not unlike these, as he himself points out. And just as Ezra's visions on Malachor had repercussions, I am guessing Mara's visions in this temple probaby will too. [face_thinking]

    But: just as Ezra had Kanan's love and acceptance helping him through those trials, Mara has Ezra's love and acceptance helping her through these. He really has such a good and caring heart—in this AU as well as in the series—and it really shines in this scene as he brings not only his love but his own experiences to bear in helping Mara through. Especially in that lovely final moment where they both reclaim the "journey's end" motif... just how splendid is that. @};-

    I know you were concerned about this scene at one point, but it came off great—just the right balance of emotion and tenderness, and all believably done for the situation. You are really acing (ha ha) this couple and their romance in so many ways! [face_love]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  9. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    I'm so late here. Ironically, I was distracted by nothing other than a REBELS BINGE!

    Eight nominations? I didn't even realise it was that many (because I'm a doofus), but, to quote one of my OCs...HOLY MANDALORE VARACTYL WITH CONSTIPATION! ^:)^

    Once you've received the accolades, 51% of the shares in this story is mine, okay? [face_whistling]

    *ahem*

    Mara's scream reminds me of the one Ahsoka lets out of her throat in Rebels S2 E1/E2 the moment she realises that Vader is Anakin. But unlike her, Mara has the privilege of being able to be frank around her friends - it's not like the whole situation could result in an epic domino effect in this case!

    And the way Ezra feels for his loved one in pain is incredibly powerful here. He is the reigning king of animal empathy, but apparently, other kinds of Force connections, too. His and Mara's love might have started as a teenage thing, but it's taking on a new dimension here.

    His self-doubt and short-term self-centeredness did confuse me a bit, at first. No, my boy, you have not failed anybody, focus on what really matters right now. The Force is unpredictable and you never know where it will take you and how the events will develop. Breathe. Focus on Mara, not what you think you have done! My guess is that this was one of his temptations, much like Malachor - whatever had upset Mara to the point of having her faint was testing him, wanting him to turn to himself and he snapped out of it at the right time!

    In a way, Luke was tempted here, too. He could have considered himself a white knight for having caught an unconscious Mara, he could have had a whole episode there, but instead, he even comforted Ezra. And that's a leap forward. He's a completely different young man from what he had been at the beginning of this journey. The journey that brought him to stability, because the three of them faced it TOGETHER.

    But the thing all these kids need to realise is that they're on a clear path of Light and that there's no turning back. Not anymore.
     
  10. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    What a lovely quote, and how true! I think you’re absolutely right about Mara. Her family has given her a strong foundation, and now she has Ezra, the other Spectres, and even Luke to stand beside her and her stay strong. With their guidance and support, whatever temptations she faces, she won’t surrender to the Dark Side.
    Thank you! I’m glad you liked the way I used the song prompt; it really was the perfect inspiration for this chapter. Mara is confronted by song’s “visions and fears” in a literal way, but Ezra’s love is steadfast and he is there here beside her and promises he always will be.
    I think Mara does have a point to ask these questions; she has a lot of the same characteristics as her EU self—you mention her sense of duty—and the same unswerving loyalty and pride in what she does; the big difference is where and how she uses these talents. Palpatine exploited these virtues and turned them to his own ends, but in this universe, Raissa and Doran have giving their daughter the foundation she needs to resist that kind of manipulation.
    Can you tell I love Hera? She’s such a loving Space!Mom, so,of course she’s the one to see that Mara needs some time to work through this without a crowd (and without well meaning speeches on the Dark Side’s lies.) Mara may have some lingering doubts, but with Ezra and the rest of her adoptive space!family there for her, she’ll get through.
    You can have 49% of my non-existent prize money. Hey, it’s a fair offer!
    Not a bad analogy with Ahsoka; she and Mara both experience a vision that kind of reorders their perceptions of the world, though Ahsoka’s of what is and Mara’s is of what might have been—or maybe could be. And Ezra brings the empathy and compassion that lets him connect with animals of all kinds to his relationship with Mara. He obviously has a deeper connection with her, but it’s still because of that same caring heart. Their bond really has grown from a crush into something true and lasting.
    Part of what led Ezra to open the Sith holocron was his guilt over what happened to Kanan and Ahsoka, and the feeling that if he was stronger he could keep his friends safe, so I think what he’s feeling here is more doubt and fear (and a bit of deja vu) than self-centeredness. When someone you love is suffering, it’s easy to second guess yourself and think there’s something you could have done to prevent it. So yes, i’d say these feelings represent a trial for him as much as the vision is for Mara.

    I think you’ve got a point about Luke; as @Findswoman pointed out earlier, Luke finally has Mara in his arms, if not exactly the way he imagined it, and it would be tempting for him to want to be her hero. But he, too, passes his trial, lending his strength to Ezra and working with him to save Mara.
    Thank you! Poor Ezra; he’s really been put through the wringer lately, hasn’t he? But I promise he’ll get some fun and a bit of mush in the future to make up for it all.

    I think it’s very hard, even for a Jedi, to sit back and just wait when you see your loved one in pain. Yes, intellectually, Ezra knows there’s no emotion, there is peace, but his heart wishes he could do something—if he could bash someone with his lightsaber, that would be action. And that feeling coupled with his memories of Malachor bring all his doubts and fears into play, that he will lose Mara, and it is all his fault.

    One could say Mara Blayne and the Emperor’s Hand are a universe apart. Even though they share the same qualities—the same strengths, even—they couldn’t be more different in their backgrounds and the way they use their talents. Ezra’s experience, as much as his love for her, makes him just the right person to help her with the questions she has. A brush with the Dark Side need not seal her destiny.
    Thank you so much, and thank you for all your suggestions and encouragement as I was writing. They helped me get past my own self doubt [:D]
     
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  11. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thank you to @Findswoman for beta-reading @};-

    Mara
    The hike back to base was a lot more subdued than the trip out had been. We walked in silence most of the time; no one really felt like singing or joking around after what had happened to me at the temple, I guess. Luke didn’t even whine about the heat or how far it was. Instead he spent his time checking on me—was I okay? Did I want him to carry part of my gear? Did I need some more water?—until I finally snapped that I was fine but if he didn’t stop bothering me, he wouldn’t be. And he looked at me with those sad mooka eyes and I gave in and let him carry my bedroll even though I was perfectly fine.

    All right, “perfectly fine” is an overstatement. Nothing in my Jedi training had ever prepared me for something like this. I’d never had a vision like that before, one that pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go. It left me drained and feeling like an AT-AT walker had danced the box-nov two-step on me. Even though I fell asleep before dinner, I didn’t feel rested when I woke. My dreams that night had been full of shadows and blood and the flash of a purple bladed lightsaber. But it was nothing I couldn’t handle, because a Jedi is in control of her mind and body. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself on the long trek home and afterwards.

    Life went back to normal—Jedi training, intel work, target practice—or at least it should have, but the vision lingered in the corners of my mind. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop thinking of that other me, the girl with the purple lightsaber who killed as easily as I picked off targets in the Junior Marksmanship trials. What would it take to make me into her? Was there anything that I would kill for? The Rebellion? The Jedi? Well, yes, this was a war after all. There was always that possibility. But that was different, wasn’t it? Would I do it for my family? For Ezra? And I knew that I would kill to keep them safe. But again, that wasn’t the kind of cold-blooded murder that the other me had carried out without a second thought. Was it really any better, though? Wasn’t killing killing no matter the reason? Could I pretend I was better than that other me when I’d just admitted I could be a killer, given the right circumstances?

    The questions plagued me no matter how hard I tried to dismiss them. Sometimes I felt like I was running on autopilot while I tried to figure out who I was and what I could become. The shadow of that other girl slipped in and out of my dreams even though I built my walls high to keep her out and my doubts hidden. But the others still noticed—Kanan, Hera, Luke, Ezra. Especially Ezra. They stopped asking if I was alright after I snapped at them a few times, at least out loud, but their eyes still asked the question whenever they looked at me. I hated feeling so weak; I didn’t want to be pitied.

    I tried my best to stay strong, to meditate and remember the Jedi Code. I tried not let anyone see the how I doubted myself, but the sleepless nights were starting to wear on me. Dex's food was even more flavorless than usual and I found myself eating a bowl of apple slug stew without even realizing what it was at lunch. Ezra slid onto the bench next to me, slipped his arm around my waist and kissed me. “Hey, dinner at the Ghost tonight. Hera has a new mission for us.”

    “You’re sure Kanan trusts me to go on a mission?” I stabbed at a chunk of rubbery apple slug; it went skittering out of the bowl and bounced halfway across the table. “I’ve seen the way he’s been watching me since the temple—the way you’ve all been watching me,” I said at Ezra’s frown. “I’m not going to the Dark Side, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

    “We’re not worried about you going to the Dark Side. We’re worried about you..” I caught the shift in his Force-sense as he reached out to me, only to run up against the walls I’d built to hold everything inside and hide my weakness from the world. His blue eyes flickered with emotion—not doubt, not pity, just concern…and love. And since he couldn’t reach me in the Force, Ezra turned to wrap his other arm around me, circling my waist. “I know it’s hard, getting rid of all the shadows after you’ve had a brush with the Dark Side, but you don’t have to do it alone. We’re all here for you, especially me.”

    When you live in a family of Jedi, learning to control your emotions is a must unless you want to broadcast how you’re feeling to everyone all time. But sometimes I wish I hadn’t learned that lesson so well, because when you keep yourself behind walls, you keep everybody else out, even the ones who love you the most. It seemed like that was a lesson I was still learning. I dismantled my shields, piece by piece, over the objections of the panicky voice that if Ezra saw how weak and afraid I was, he’d hate me. “I’m sorry I’ve been so touchy lately, it’s just…”

    Without the shields between us, he knew my heart, and I knew his. *I love you. I will always love you.*. “It’s okay, I know how it is. Believe me, I know.” Ezra held me close, pressing a kiss against the top of my head as I leaned against him. “Maybe this mission will be good, help you take your mind off things. It’s a rescue mission, kinda like the one with Meryan Ranga.”

    I smiled, remembering—the mission that had brought a Certain Young Jedi into the Café Alderaan, demanding to know what a guy had to do to get a drink around here. And even though I would never admit it to anyone, my heart had thumped when he grinned at me across the counter. When the Force had insisted I follow him, I was already halfway there. “Are you going to need a bodyguard this time, too? If I’m going to have to save your shebs from bounty hunters again, some warning would be nice. ”

    “No one I’d rather have save my shebs, Ace.” Ezra grinned that same roguish grin, and my heart thumped just like it had the first time. “You can guard my body any time.”

    “You’re terrible, Ezra Bridger,” I told him, laughing in spite of myself. “And, yes, I love you anyway!”
    —————

    The Ghost’s common area was crowded that night, with all six Spectres, me and Luke, who looked less than comfortable squeezed in between Zeb and Sabine on the acceleration couch. It was hard to say who was making him more nervous—the burly Lasat who kept giving him the side-eye (even though Ezra and I were over it, Zeb still held the poetry incident against Luke) or the pretty Mandalorian who blew things up for fun.

    Hera made her mushroom noodles and Sabine contributed flat bread and a batch of tiingilar. Ezra made a valiant attempt not to snicker when Luke took his first bite of the spicy fish stew; Zeb snorted and thumped him on the back as he coughed and gasped, turning the same deep red as the boontaspice powder Sabine had liberally added to the sauce. She only grinned; the more hetikles—and the fact that Mandalorians have a word for the quality of food so spicy it burns your nose says something about them—her food caused, the more of a success she judged it. Kanan already had the water pitcher in hand and poured Luke another glass when he gulped down his first.

    Once Luke finally stopped spluttering, Hera pulled out her datapad. “As I’m sure you all know, we’ve been given a new mission. We recently received a request for help from a rather unusual source—No-Holds-Barred Studios, a group of actors and directors who have been blacklisted by the Imperial Board of Culture.”

    Ezra put down his fork in surprise. “Hey, I’ve heard of them. They’re the ones who distribute all the old Jedi Action holos to the underground markets!”

    “So we have them to thank for Gar-Jen vs. Gargantua? Wonderful.” Kanan was less enthusiastic. “What do they want from us?”

    “They’ve asked for our help in getting an artist to the safety of the Corporate Sector.” Hera consulted her datapad. “According to this he’s a holo-comic artist, a Cerean named Stahn Li.”

    “Stahn Li!” Sabine exclaimed, her eyes lighting up with the same fervor they had when she was working on a new project. At the same time, Luke yelped, “No way!”, jumping to his feet so quickly that he knocked his over his plate, spilling the remains of his tiingilar into Zeb’s lap. He sat down with a sheepish laugh, and handed a napkin to the glowering Lasat, who snatched it with a growl.

    “I take it you’ve heard of him?” Hera asked.

    “Yeah!” Luke answered, breaking into a goofy mooka-pup grin. “He’s the creator of the Brave Little Banthas!”

    “The Amazing Krykna-Man!” Sabine added.

    “The Galactic Four!”

    “The being’s a genius!” Sabine’s voice was rapturous. “His use of line and color! His command of anatomy and facial expression! Genius!”

    “Okay…” Zeb snorted as he finished wiping tiingilar off his left shin guard. “So why does this genius need rescuing?”

    “Li created the Banthas to support the Republic during the Clone Wars, but when Emperor Palpatine came into power, the show’s producers replaced all mention of the Republic with the Empire,” Hera explained. “Since the destruction of Alderaan, Li’s become more and more concerned that his creation is being used to indoctrinate younglings. He threatened to pull his permission to use the characters from unless they restored all the original content. You can imagine how much the Imperial Board of Culture liked that.”

    Sabine grimaced. The IBC and its sanitized, bland, officially sanctioned version of culture were a particular pet peeve of hers, a topic she could hold forth on for hours if you let her. “But if he can get to the Corporate Sector, he can make underground versions of his comics—anti-Imperial versions. He can use his art to influence the youth for the better! I told you he’s a genius!” She leaned across the dejarik table, holding her hands out imploringly. “Hera, you have to let me go on this one!

    “I’m sorry, Sabine, but I need you and Zeb on the artillery inspection and maintenance team,” Hera answered. She sighed, looking distant for a moment. “The Empire’s getting more aggressive with their blockade, and we need to have all our equipment in top condition before we have to evacuate.”

    “But…”

    “I’m sorry, but this mission belongs to Ezra, Mara and Luke.”

    “Me?” Luke hastily slurped down his mouthful of mushroom noodles, and the look he gave Hera couldn’t have been more startled if she’d said she wanted him to arm-wrestle a gundark while blindfolded. “On a mission? But I’m not—“

    Kanan cut him off with a smile and wave of his hand. “Hera and I have discussed this, and we both feel you’re ready to take this on. It shouldn’t be a complicated mission; the three of you together should be more than capable of handling it.”

    Hera turned to me. “Mara, how soon can you have a new ident-card and travel documents ready for Master Li?”

    I considered it. I’d need to slice the Imperial database to create a new record for him, and forge the ident-card to match—not a problem since Intel had the supplies to create fake cards for field agents. “Just for him? Two or three days, depending how much of a fake background you want his new identity to have.” He’d at least need a new bank account and credit sticks, but the more of a trail I could create—education, employment records, even holo-net profiles—the better it would hold up to official scrutiny.

    “Good.” Hera nodded, checking something off on her datapad. “Once you’ve got them finished, the three of you will take the Phantom to Taris and extract Master Li. From there…” She looked up from the datapad, a mysterious smile curving her lips. “From there, you’ll rendezvous with our contacts who’ve arranged passage for Master Li to the Corporate Sector. I believe you know them—the Idiot’s Array.”

    “What’s the Idiot’s Array?” Luke, as usual, was confused.

    I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face until I was grinning like the Idiot itself. “The Idiot’s Array—it’s my family’s Rebel cell on Merkesh.”

    Home. I was going home.
    ————
    Notes:
    Meryan Ranga: a young librarian whose family the Spectres helped flee to the Corporate Sector. The story of that mission, and Mara and Ezra’s first meeting, is told in Star Crossed.

    The Brave Little Banthas are @Ewok Poet ’s fanon. Their creator, Stahn Li is based real life cartoonist/comic writer Stan Lee, who also created the real life analogs of the fanon Amazing Krykna-Man and Galactic Four.

    No-Holds-Barred
    Tiingilar[/i]
     
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  12. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Double-post.... nothing to see here... move along...
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
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  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Adored Mara's real-to-character and situation reaction. It was very natural to ask those questions and have those doubts. Love how she apologized for being snappy and realized she was keeping those who loved and cared out @};- But what took the prize was Ezra's gentle assurance and support. Their mutual openness and being there for one another through anything and everything is pure yum!
    The mission they're going on sounds interesting and will give them a chance to bond more as a team. ;)
    =D=
     
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  14. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    I'm kind of sad, because I know that this is going to wrap up sooner than later, with that mission coming up, but at the same time, there will be another enjoyable ride to hop on, I'm certain! :)

    The way you expanded on my initial idea on the Brave Little Banthas is amazing! Stahn Li's connection with a resistance group of sorts, the whole mission planned and more information of what the Empire had done to censor his creation. So, seriously, it's our joint creation, just like ANGRY MACE is. I mean it. [face_love]

    Also, Mara's duality in two parallel universe and her ruminations on it have been handled in a manner that I think us Muggles could also relate to. What could've been? What would have been? Why? Would one small step have affected everything that would've happened next, OR would she have been a part of a much bigger picture. And, once again, why? It's easy to get lost in such a maze. Luckily, she can focus on what IS and focus her energy on this upcoming mission. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
  15. Mandalorian Riddler

    Mandalorian Riddler Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2018
    Really enjoyed reading this, love that newer characters aren't being shunned, Ezra appearing more, Hera too :) Thanks and keep it up..
     
  16. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    I know you intended this in some ways to be a transitional entry, moving Mara from her encounter in the Jedi Temple to the Stahn Li mission, but it is a transition that packs a lot in, and in a good way, of course. :) Mara's continuing reflections on her vision are very believable and very understandable; it makes sense that a moment like that would still be on her mind and would have her pretty spooked concerning her own potential capacity for evil, especially during wartime when lots of killing is going on anyway—is it really any better or more justified than what her Emperor's Hand self is doing? There aren't any easy answers to that one, of course, but to me the fact that she is thinking so hard about this shows how principled and conscientious she naturally is. All the same, I am still pretty sure her experience won't be without further repercussions.

    It's Ezra, her dear Ezra, who helps ease the transition, first with his tender reassurance that it's her as a person they're concerned about and not just THE DARK SIDE—and knowing that is what encourages her to let her shields down at last. <3 And then the new mission! I am in awe at the variety of interesting missions you have been able to come up with for this crew in your Rebels stories, and I seriously mean that, because I find that kind of thing really tough to do. Rescuing an anti-Empire cartoonist is a very cool idea definitely not the kind of mission that fanfic writers come up with—but then rescuing a librarian (in Star Crossed) wasn't either (and I love that both of those cases were inspired by different sectors of your own experience). I know you thought for a long time about exactly what form the mission would take, but you figured it out, and it makes great sense with the talents of the team to which it's assigned (including Mara's creation of new identification cards). So much fun to see Sabine get all gushy about the genius of this artist, complete with comments on line, color, form, etc.—and then so disappointed when she can't go. But it's neat too that
    friendship with

    Apropos Luke, it's so much fun to see him all awkward and timid among all the Spectres, squashed in there between Sabine and Zeb, suffering from hetikles (I love that word too, and I learned it from this chapter!), and spilling his stew all over A Certain Burly Lasat Who Still Holds the Poetry Business Against Him (and yet who takes it relativey calmly, I'd say—this is progress on the "man's honor" front :p ). And the final kicker: this mission involves a rendezvous with none other than Mara's own family, back at her home on Merkesh! What an amazing thing for so many reasons—not only will I bet it be therapeutic in a way after her temple vision, but it also means that the Spectres will be meeting up with the wonderful and inimitable Idiot's Array in not too long, and we know how much fun it is when that happens! I, for one, can't wait. :D
     
  17. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thank you! Mara has a touch of Legends!Mara's reserve and self-protectiveness, if for very different reasons. Like Legends!Mara, she has to learn to loosen that reserve and accept that those who care about her love her even with all her fears and flaws. Because of course Ezra is there for her, no matter what, and her really does understand what she's been through. Team bonding is exactly what Kanan and Hera have in mind by sending these three off together (sneaky Space!Parents sneaking in lessons when the kids aren't looking :p)
    There's still a bit of fun to look forward to with the mission and the return to Merkesh, though! And you know once you get all the Blaynes involved things will get even snarkier! I'm planning out some more adventures in the Marzra-verse, don't worry!
    Thank you very much! :) I'm just so happy you let me piggyback onto your awesome creation of the Brave Little Banthas, who've already played some very important cameos in this story. I've wanted to do something with the idea of blacklisted entertainers for a while and it just tied together too perfectly, because cartoons and comics have historically been very important pieces in the war effort and propaganda (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pluto and Donald are starred in patriotic wartime cartoons. Donald's anti-Hilter "Der Fuhrer's Face" even won an Academy Award!) and in real life, Stan Lee bucked the Comics Code Authority to do a story about the dangers of drug abuse at a time when no depictions of drugs were allowed.
    It's a maze of possibilities and alternate universes, isn't? What is, what was, what could be, what might have been... Mara's got some very good questions and some good reasons to question, but you're right that she needs to shift her focus from all the might-have-beens to the present and what will come on their mission.
    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Ezra and Hera have fast become two of my favorite Star Wars characters and two that I enjoy writing about the most.
    And of course, it's that very reflection that makes her so different from the Emperor's Hand, who accepts her assignments as right and just because they come from the Emperor (though I'm sure that lack of questioning is due at least in part to the Force bond he's imposed on her). The fact that Mara is willing and able to ask herself whether she could kill and whether that makes her the same as the Other Mara of her vision shows her commitment to the Jedi's ideals.

    [face_blush] Well, thank you, though I have to give you credit for suggesting that the Spectres rescue a librarian in Star Crossed! But it makes sense that it's more than just politicians and scientists who are in need of rescuing. Librarians are passionately concerned about the free flow of information and censorship's effects, and artists and entertainers have taken an active role in promoting their causes during wartime. I was inspired in part by the story of the Hollywood Blacklists and the House Unamerican Activities Committee in the 1940s. And Sabine :D That's me channeling my inner art geek! Whatever Serious Art Critics may contend, cartoonists and animators are artists, too, whose work can make more of an impact than a lot of Serious Art. Sabine has always seemed like the type to be inspired by everything, no matter the source.

    Yeah, Luke's still finding his place among this motley Space!Family. Some of them take a bit of getting used to (looking at you, Zeb ;) )but ultimately they're a good bunch and not as intimidating as them seem, Mando cooking notwithstanding. (I picked up the term "hetikles" when I was writing the "Spicy" drabble about Sabine cooking for the crew. It was too good not to use again). And poor Luke doesn't know what he's in for on Merkesh, because, as you point out, when the Spectres and the Blaynes get together all sorts of interesting things are likely to happen. It'll be his own version of "meet the family" the Ezra experienced in Star Crossed and you just know a Certain Younger Sibling will have to get in one the act!
     
  18. Mandalorian Riddler

    Mandalorian Riddler Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2018
    Glad you're taking to the Rebels Characters, I hope to follow the journey of them more in the future after that finale.
     
  19. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Many thanks to @Findswoman , for beta-reading, suggestions and support @};-


    Luke

    It only took Mara two days to make a new identity (I always knew she was brilliant—and I’m just saying that as a friend, of course. Not because I still have feelings for her or anything) but I almost wish it had taken longer. Kanan said he and Hera thought I was ready to go on an official mission, but even with those two days to try to psych myself up, I didn’t feel ready at all. I tried to meditate like Kanan had taught us, but I couldn’t keep my mind empty and calm. I just kept thinking about Stahn Li—Stahn Li! THE Stahn Li!1!1!—and the mission and whether I was going to mess everything up like I always seem to do... It was time for our final mission briefing, I had a flock of mynocks the size of a star destroyers in my stomach.

    As anxious as I was, I’m kind of impressed that I managed not to scream when Sabine waylaid me at the top of the Ghost’s ramp. “Luke…” she hissed as she yanked me into the hallway. “You’ve got to help me!”

    “Um, okay.” What else could I say? What else could anyone say when a girl who could probably kill him without half trying has him cornered? Sabine’s...well...I wouldn’t say it where she could hear me, but she’s really pretty...but she’s also really, really REALLY intimidating. Like, how do you even say hi to a girl who’s got more weapons than the entire population of Anchorhead?

    “Here!” She thrust a clear flimsi envelope with a holo-comic inside at me.

    “Whoa! Is that Amazing Krykna-Man #1?!” I recognized the cover right away. It’s got to be one of the rarest holo-comics in the Galaxy, and it’s worth like a million credits or something. I couldn’t believe Sabine had one...and she’d just handed it to me!

    “I knew you’d appreciate it! It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?” Sabine ran a finger over the envelope to trace the Krykna-Man logo. “The one that started it all...one of Li’s best stories, too.”

    “You read comic books? I never really thought of you as that type.” From all the things she’d said about Stahn being a genius, I guess I’d thought that she liked to analyze the pictures or something, you know as art… not read the comics for fun. Somehow I’d always pictured Sabine’s idea of fun involving large amounts of explosives.

    “Well, yeah!” A smile softened her face; it made her seem less like a Mandalorian and more like a girl (okay, you know what I mean…) “My dad used to buy Li’s holo-comics for me when I was a little girl. Mom hated them. Thought I should spend my time reading ‘Dha Werda Verda’ instead.” Sabine rolled her eyes. “Not everything has to be serious Clan lore to be a good story. If you could get Stahn Li to sign this for me… I’d really owe you one.”

    “Sure, yeah!” I promised. Surely Stahn would sign one holo-comic for someone who was a big fan, right? Someone who was an artist, too? “I mean, I’ll do my best.” Sabine smiled again, more like a grin this time, and punched my shoulder. I think it was supposed to be friendly, but if I hadn’t seen her do the same thing to Ezra and Zeb, I might have thought she was trying to beat me up... it was hard enough that I staggered against the wall.

    The door to the common area slid open, and Ezra peered out, glancing between Sabine, grinning, and me, rubbing my arm. His eyebrows went up a little but all he said was, “Hey, come on, Luke, Hera’s waiting!”

    I followed Ezra and slid onto the acceleration couch next to him and Mara, who was already sitting there. Kanan was seated on one of the stools at the dejarik table, and Hera was standing by the comm terminal, double-checking her datapad. She looked up when I came in. “All right, team, the Ghost will get you past the Imperial blockade. Once we’re out far enough, the Phantom can detach and make the jump to hyperspace. It’s a straight shot on the Hydian Way to Taris. Mara, do you have the instructions for contacting Master Li?”

    “He’ll be staying in room 1138 at the Onasi Plaza Towers. We knock on the door to the tune of the Brave Little Banthas theme and say ‘Huttza delivery for Leero’, and he’ll respond. ‘But Kylo wanted quadduck soup!’”

    Ezra snorted. “Did your dad come up with that one, too?”

    “No, this time it was Nick.”

    “Wow, and here I thought he was the serious one.”

    “Ahem.” Hera gave Ezra a stern looked and tapped her datapad. “When you leave Taris, contact the Idiot’s Array via the secure comm channel. They’ll arrange transportation on the Corporate Sector shuttle for Master Li as soon as possible after you arrive. After that you’ll have three days leave on Merkesh before the Ghost rendezvouses with you there. Questions?” She glanced between the three of us. “No? All right, Lieutenant Commander, to your ship.”

    Ezra grinned and tossed her a brisk salute as he rose and headed out, Mara following close behind him. My steps were slower; I felt like I had an actual star destroyer in the pit of my stomach now, weighing me down.

    “Something wrong, Luke?”

    I heard Kanan’s voice as he came up beside me, and I turned around with a sigh. I must be getting used to this Jedi stuff, because this time it didn’t surprise me that he’d noticed. “Are you sure I’m really ready for this? Wouldn’t Sabine be better on this mission? She’s better with blasters...and explosives...and pretty much everything than I am.” I shook my head and sighed again. I probably shouldn’t do that so much, but I just couldn’t help it. This was my first real mission and I wanted to do my best, but I felt more useless than pants on a Hutt. “I’m not a Jedi—I haven’t had much training. I’m a good pilot, but Ezra can fly the Phantom better than I can. I can’t do spy stuff like Mara. I’m not even really a part of the team!”

    “You’re not?” he asked, cocking his head to the side. “Why not?

    Another sigh (I’ve really got to work on that). “Well, I’m not part of the Ghost’s crew or Phoenix Squadron—”

    “Neither is Mara. Do you think she’s not part of the team, either?”

    “No, but that’s different. She and Ezra—“

    “Luke,” Kanan shook his head with a sympathetic smile. “You’ve been training with us for months. You’ve worked with us, shared meals with us and spent your free time with us. You’ve become a good friend. If all that doesn’t make you part of our team, what will?”

    “I guess, but—“

    “As for the rest of it, it’s fine to acknowledge your limitations, but don’t let yourself get mired in worry. Hera and I believe you can handle this, both as a padawan and a member of the Rebellion.” He clapped a hand on my shoulder, and I could sense that he meant every word he’d said. His trust and reassurance were like a bantha wool blanket against the cold desert night. “You just have to believe in yourself. Believe in the Force. Believe in your team.”

    “Thanks, Kanan.” Maybe I could do this after all, if I trusted the Force the way Kanan trusted me.


    He clasped my hand briefly. “May the Force be with you. Oh,” he called, as the door slid open, and handed me the flimsi-plast envelope I’d left on the dejarik table. “Don’t forget Sabine’s comic book. Mandalorians aren’t the most forgiving people.”

    ———-

    The Ghost made it past the Imperial blockade around Yavin without being spotted—with more than eighty upgrades to is stealth systems, it slipped past as easily as sand slips into, well, everything on Tatooine. (Don’t tell Han, but I wonder if the even the Falcon could have made it that easily!)

    Once the Phantom jumped to hyperspace, Mara, who’d been kind of fidgety since we took off, announced that the cockpit was too crowded with all three of us in there and headed back to the cargo area to double check the documents she’d made for Stahn. I took her place in the co-pilot’s seat and stared out the viewport at the swirl of hyperspace for a while. (It’s kind of boring, really. I think it would have put me to sleep if I’d kept watching.) I thought about reading The Amazing Krykna-Man #1, but I didn’t want to smudge the cover or put fingerprints on it or anything after Sabine ENTRUSTED ME with it. Which got me thinking about Sabine and how different she seemed when she was talking about comic books instead of weapons. I looked over at Ezra, who was fiddling with something on the instrument panel. “Hey, Ezra, you know Sabine pretty well, right?”

    “Yeah…” He glanced sidelong at me up, his brows drawing together with a slight frown. “Why?”

    I shrugged and played with the edge of the flimsi-plast envelope that contained Sabine’s comic. “I don’t know… You think a Mandalorian and a farmboy—”

    “Luke, don’t go there.” Ezra shook his head slowly. “Seriously. I tried for a long time to figure out what it would take to impress her. I still don’t have a clue.”

    “Wait, you and Sabine?!” The first thought that crossed my mind was “no way!” The second was “stang, he gets all the girls,” and the third was “does Mara know about this?”. Because somehow I couldn’t see her being very happy about Ezra living on the same ship as his ex-girlfriend.

    “No, not me and Sabine, weren’t you listening?” Ezra rolled his eyes and jabbed a finger at me. “And don’t look at me like that, this was way before I met Mara. Sabine’s like my sister now… so I’ll give you some brotherly advice: pick a girl who can’t beat the poodoo out of you if you make her mad.”

    “Oh, like you did with Mara?”

    His scowl dissolved into a laugh. “Yeah, Well, that’s different, isn’t it? You realize if she and Sabine ever heard us talking like this they’d take turns killing us.” Ezra’s smile faded, and he turned back to the instrument panel and started poking at buttons again. It was kind of odd. Once you’ve got a hyperspace route plotted, there’s really nothing to do until you get where you’re going, but Ezra was frowning like he was still trying to calculate the jump coordinates—without using the navicomputer. When I reached out in the Force, his presence was swirling like the streaks of hyperspace.

    “What’s wrong?”

    Ezra gave the instruments one last check and slumped down in the pilot’s seat. “We’re going back to Merkesh, Mara’s home, and Hera’s arranged for us to spend a couple days with her family. What if…” He stared out the viewport at the whirl of hyperspace and sighed. “What if once we’re there, Mara decides she doesn’t want to go back to Yavin?”

    “Not come back with us? She wouldn’t do that! You don’t think she’d really do that?” The thought rocked me back into my seat. Jedi training without Mara would be...just wrong, missing all its spark. Yavin without her would be… flat, somehow, colorless. Even its green wouldn’t be as green without her. “I mean, she wouldn’t leave the Rebellion. I know she wouldn’t.” I glanced over at Ezra, who seemed to find the patterns of hyperspace incredibly interesting. “She wouldn’t leave you; she loves you!”

    “She loves her family, too. If you had the chance to go back to your family, wouldn’t you take it?” He finally looked away from the viewport, smiling sadly, and shrugged. “I couldn’t blame her if she did. I couldn’t ask her not to.”

    “But…” I shook my head; I knew I’d give anything to see Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru again, but I also knew that I couldn’t give up the fight against the Empire now, after everything had happened. I don’t think they’d want me to, either, knowing how important it was—not even Uncle Owen. “Maybe you could tell her, though. How you feel, I mean…. Just because she loves her family doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean she’d give up on you.” I thought I knew what Kanan would say, and I felt almost like a Jedi when I told Ezra, “Don’t worry so much that it ruins the time we have on leave. Talk to Mara first.”

    Ezra glanced over at me like he hadn’t seen me in a while and I’d changed while he wasn’t looking. “Yeah,” he said, with a smile—just a bit of one, but at least not sad. “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, Luke.” He punched me on the shoulder, the same way Sabine had, but thank the Force not as hard.

    I leaned over and punched him back. “Anytime.”
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] I adored Sabine with Luke and of course Kanan didn't miss the fact she gave him her comic book [face_mischief]
    Kanan's assurance was so wonderful [face_love]

    But the topper was the brotherly/best buds type talk between Luke and Ezra... [face_dancing] Who'd've ever EVER guessed they'd be able to talk to each other that way?

    Ezra is a darling for not asking Mara to come back if she wants to stay with her family but he does need to share his feelings and let her make her choice. Luke's right that Mara does need to hear that instead of accidentally thinking Ezra would let her go without a fuss. [face_thinking]

    I cannot see her not going back with them, although she may want to stay with her folks for longer than a few days. @};-
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  21. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Ah, they grow up so quickly... ;)

    Wonderful dialogues and wise choices.
     
  22. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    This is great. I love it.

    And I totally don't blame Luke for being all like, "Stahn Li! Stahn Li! I get to meet Stahn Li!"
    Because you know that any of us would probably be the same way if somebody told us that we were gonna meet Ewan McGregor on Saturday.
     
  23. Findswoman

    Findswoman Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    There's something so cute about the initial exchange between Sabine and Luke, and I think it's just because they're such diametrically different characters. And yet they have this very cool commonality in their appreciation of Stahn Li's artwork—see how art can bring people together? #theUnifyingForce (Just talking purely in a fraternal-sororal way, of course.) I'm not surprised to hear that Sabine's dad was the one who first fostered her love of Li's work, nor to hear that her Serious Mandalorian Mom pushed Serious Mandalorian Epics. :p I can only echo Kanan in hoping that Luke had better get that comic book back to Sabine with a nice signature from Li!

    Of course, true to his role as Space!Dad, Kanan's more serious advice to Luke is also spot on; he is the perfect example of trust and confidence for Luke right now, and I don't see how Luke could get a warmer welcome to the team. (Shall we call him "Spectre 6 3/4"? I guess 6 1/2 would be Mara, right? :D )

    The most fun thing here, though, is the Luke-Ezra chat. Even just the fact that they are chatting in such a laid-back and friendly way is huge, given the rocky history they've had over the course of the story. I love how their conversation traverses the full range, from (more or less) lighthearted repartee about the girls (love the little homage to the "a princess and a guy like me" line) to Ezra's concern that Mara might not want to stay with him after she reunites with her family. Given how important the concept of family has become to Ezra—nothing's more important—I can see where his concern comes from, and as I mentioned in the beta, I can see where he'd have a tendency to overcompensate on it. Another area in which he will need to find balance, one might say. But how wonderful is it that LUKE gets to be the one offering the calm, balanced reassurance here, pointing out to Ezra that Mara's love for her family won't lead her to stop loving Ez or give up on the Rebellion. And how wonderful it is, too, that Ezra listens to him! That kind of thing is the sign of A Beautiful Friendship, indeed. :luke::ezra:
     
  24. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    I apologise a lot these days, especially to you and you only...OK, nobody else. Yeah, sorry that I bailed out of beta-reading for this chapter, won't happen again. If nothing else, I CREATED THE BRAVE LITTLE BANTHAS!11!

    So, this is where Luke's fanboy self emerges out of practically nowhere and he is suddenly his wacky, overexcited, sugar-injected self from the very beginning of the story. While his boyish innocence regarding romantic relationships turned into an approach of a decent young man and not a "nice guy" stereotype, the child inside of his heart is alive and well and there are so many other things to love and be giddy about, not just girls who remind you of trees. :)

    Phew! I'm glad that he didn't think in some warped way and thought that he could court her again because she's now a new person or somethin'. [face_rofl]

    I'N DYING RIGHT NOW. That metaphor at the end is too much! Too, too much! And not having beta'd this entry made it a surrpise. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, STOP IT, RIGHT NOWWWWWWWWWWWWW! [face_rofl]

    Cool, cool inclusion of Dha Werda Verda! :) Always lovely to see it get a mention, pretty much anywhere.

    And the bolded part...you keep on doing this and I'll die, you'll have to pay for my funeral. [face_skull] [face_rofl]

    Another thing that made me giggle here was The Amazing Krykna-Man #1. I remember how obsessed Bart, Millhouse, Nelson and Martin were with it and I guess that Sabine shouldn't be letting Luke anywhere near it. Like, that stuff's probably more worth than the spaceship they'll be travelling on. :eek:

    SERVING THE REPUBLIC EMPIRE REBELLION, SALUTES!

    And Onasi Plaza Towers. [face_love]

    The mission details show how closely you watch (and probably rewatch) Rebels. Every single thing in it is plausible, every single possible plot hole has been taken care of.

    I can totally see how everything that happened so far would get Luke to be slightly uncomfortable with his mission for a moment. Like, how can you belong after you have not belonged anywhere for a long time (leitmotif of Rebels spotted!)? How can you be seen as a serious being despite what you have done in the recent past? How can you end up in a small spaceship with two beings you wanted to separate because of you and not feel at least a bit weird? I'm glad that Kanana reassured him.

    Similarly, Luke did get onto something regarding Ezra and Sabine, but boy, oh boy...does his imagination run wild? Give him one hint, he imagines a whole Venezuelan telenovela, instantly!

    I totally know what will happen and I can't wait for that little, microscopic spark to ignite. [face_whistling]

    I think he's starting to realise how absurd his lyricism is. :eek:

    And wow, that very ending hits HARD. Totally didn't expect a mod whiplash. I mean, that's one thing the boys initially bonded over, but still...sad, sad stuff.

    P.S. Curse me, but now I want us to write a sequel to Growing Pains, where Doria has learned about the Rebellion and can peacefully discuss BYBLO building blocks and TBLB with Luke!111!1!
     
  25. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Luke really is becoming a part of the team, and not just with the Jedi; Space!Mom's taken him under her wing, too, and now even big bro and sis are starting to warm up to him. He's starting to see that he does fit in. And, yeah, Luke and Ezra -- friends at last! I think the two of them will be great buds now that they've move past their differences and found they got a lot in common.

    He would do anything for her, but Luke is right to remind Ezra of one of Kanan's favorite lessons: communicate! Mara can't know how he feels if he doesn't tell her.
    Don't they, though? :) Not without their share of problems and bickering, but they've matured a lot and the result is such a great thing for all of them.
    Thanks! Heck, I'd be this way if I got to meet the real Stan Lee, and I don't even read Marvel comics! Ewan McGregor... pretty sure I'd be a stammering idiot :p
    Yes! Art binds the Universe together! And who doesn't love comics? Sabine definitely learned from her dad that art is art, whatever form it takes, and inspiration can be found everywhere -- and hey, they're just good stories! Maybe someday she can do an illustrated version of "Dha Werda Verda" and make both of her parents proud! I'm sure that Luke will do his fanboy best to get that autograph for her.

    I like that! Though as Kanan points out, it isn't an official callsign or membership in the crew or squadron that makes him part of the team, it's the way he's shared his life with them, and they with him. (Perhaps he can needs a callsign in the Array, as well? The Wheel, as per the Force's suggestion?)

    The fact that they're talking about girls is pretty huge, too, given that Luke was not too long before trying to win Ezra's girl away from him! But now Ezra's able to give him brotherly advice and Luke is able to admit that Mara loves Ezra. He's come quite a way that he can accept Ezra advice without whining and offer some of his own good advice to Ezra-- we always knew you had it in you, Luke! Indeed, they are well on their way to a Beautiful Friendship!
    True, there's also power converters! I think Luke always had that boyish innocence and enthusiasm, it's just now he's learning to temper it a bit. He's taking his Jedi training seriously, not just as a way to impress Mara. He's learned that things and people aren't always what they appear to be. He's making good and true friendships. But Stahn Li! OMF STAHN LI!!1!

    Metaphor? If you add them all up, Sabine probably does have more weapons. Or at least more firepower.

    Mando epics for the win! Let me know your final arrangements....MWUHUHAHAHA [face_devil]

    No worries, Luke will treat it with the true reverence it deserves ^:)^

    I had to include some references to your oeuvre (ooh, look, Sabine...I used a fancy art word!) and I couldn't have them visit Taris without including some sort of reference to KOTOR!

    What, me watch Rebels obsessively? Whatever gave you that idea? :kanan::hera::sabine::zeb::ezra::choph:

    {quote]I can totally see how everything that happened so far would get Luke to be slightly uncomfortable with his mission for a moment. Like, how can you belong after you have not belonged anywhere for a long time (leitmotif of Rebels spotted!)? How can you be seen as a serious being despite what you have done in the recent past? How can you end up in a small spaceship with two beings you wanted to separate because of you and not feel at least a bit weird? I'm glad that Kanan reassured him.[/quote]I can't add anything to this except: yes, beautifully summed up.

    Crack!fic plot bunneh :p

    Neither can...you know who...

    What?! It's poetic! It's BEAUTIFUL! And green!

    Skyguy1138 is up for HyperYak chatting any time Doria is! Who knows, he may also be joined by AceOfSabers and LothCat6 ;)