Title: Star Crossed Author: Raissa Baiard Genre: rom-com in SPAAACE; action Characters: Ezra Bridger, the rest of the Ghost’s crew, OC’s Timeframe: 0 BBY Betas: @Ewok Poet and @Findswoman. Thank you so much for your suggestions and support; without it, this story wouldn’t be here Disclaimers: 1.) This is an AU 2.) I’m not fully caught up on Rebels, so if something conflicts with Season 3, see point 1.) This is for the OTP Rom-Com Challenge. The random elements I received were: death of a family member/friend and life threatening situation. Star Crossed Part One BWOP! BWOP! BWOP! "Aaaah!" The strident alarm reverberated through the cabin, jolting Ezra awake and upright. He banged his head on the cabin's ceiling and bit back an un-Jedi-like oath, while evil robotic laughter came from below. "Chopper! Don't you ever get tired of doing that?" "Hmmm... uh-uh." The astromech droid's flattened dome swiveled a negative. "Yeah, thanks." Ezra sat and pushed his dark hair out of his eyes. It was starting to get long again, maybe not as shaggy as it had been back on Lothal, but it was a good thing that the Rebellion didn't care about militarily precise appearances. "Don't you have to prepare the Ghost for landing or something?" Chopper shook his head again and blatted out an answer. "We're already there?!? Shavit!" Ezra grabbed his chrono. He was certain that he'd set the alarm last night; he was running point on a mission this morning and Hera was not going to be pleased that he'd managed to oversleep...again. Sure enough, the chrono's alarm had been set to go off an hour earlier--and had been switched off. "Chopper!" He vaulted down from his bunk, but the droid was already rolling away at top speed, chuckling to himself the whole time. He let Chopper go with a sigh of frustration, and started pulling on his clothes. Five years ago, he would have chased down the ornery droid and probably whacked him with the nearest heavy object for pulling something like that. Chopper might never change, but Ezra had developed a better sense of priorities over the years. Not to say that he never pranked Chopper or Zeb anymore, but right now he had his mission to think of. The Ghost was transporting a librarian, of all people, to the relative safety of the Corporate Sector. In the course of cataloging material for the Imperial Archives, librarian Meryan Ranga had come across a full report of the occupation of Ralltiir, written by Lord Tion himself. She’d started reading it and was appalled both by the brutality and the casual way Tion recounted the atrocities. Ranga decided that people had a right to to know what kind of heinous actions the Empire was taking against its own citizens when they dared to speak out. She stole the report and started trying to contact news agencies to find one that would release it to the public--but not until after she'd mentioned her feelings to a co-worker who was loyal the Empire and not Ranga's ideals of truth. She was threatened and her apartment ransacked, but she was assaulted by Imperial agents on her way home from work, she began to fear for herself and her three small children, six year-old twins Elsi and Dewi and four year-old Nathen. When a reporter from the Coruscant Underground named Linel Blye heard Ranga's story and contacted her, the librarian initially refused to speak. Only when Blye promised to help Ranga and her family escape the Empire did she agree to talk, and even then, she insisted she would only give the Underground the report after they were safe. Blye and her colleagues had provided useful intel to the Ghost’s crew on more than one occasion; now she asked them to return the favor. It didn’t take much persuasion for the Hera to agree. She located a Rebel cell called the Idiot’s Array which specialized in forging documents for those hunted by the Empire and getting them to the relative safety of the Corporate Sector, and they arranged for them to create new identities for Ranga and her children. With the Ranga family aboard, the Ghost was packed from cockpit to cargo hold. Unlike the traumatized librarian, the children never stayed in their cabin; they were everywhere--chasing Chopper down the halls, ransacking the galley for snacks, exploring the engine room. That was the last straw; an irate Zeb plunked the younglings down in front of Ezra and growled, "Here. Do something with these little ankle biters before I have to lock them in the cargo hold for the rest of the trip." "Me?" Ezra protested. "Wouldn't Hera or Sabine do better? You know, maternal instinct and all that?" Hera flashed him a look over the edge of her datapad. "Oh, I think you'll do just fine," she said as she rose to to leave the overcrowded common room. "Think of it as good practice.” Sabine patted him on the shoulder. “Women appreciate men who are good with younglings." "Do you?" he asked hopefully, but she only laughed as she, too, exited, leaving him to deal with the children as best he could--which he had a feeling was not going to be very well. At their age, he'd been fending for himself on the streets of Lothal, stealing food and picking pockets. What did he know about entertaining kids? "Um, okay..." Ezra pulled a deck of sabacc cards out of the drawer beneath the acceleration couch before they bolted in three different directions as usual. "I guess I can show you a few tricks." Surprisingly, the card tricks and sleight of hand he'd learned as a street rat amused them. When they got tired of that, he'd levitated the cards, making them fly in formation. They thought that was so much fun they asked to see it again. And again. And again. And suddenly Ezra was their new best friend in the whole galaxy and nowhere was safe from them, not even the 'fresher. The kids’ constant attention was bad enough, but was harder to ignore the conflicting emotions Ezra felt when he was around them. Like Meryan Ranga, his parents had believed in exposing the Empire’s lies and bringing the truth to light. But Ranga had decided the cost was too high and that protecting her children came first, while the Bridgers continued in the face of imprisonment...even though it meant leaving their son on his own. Ezra had made peace with their decision, or thought he had; now he found himself wondering again what his life would have been like if his parents had made the same choice. What it would have been like to have had a family and a home…and he had to stop and tell himself that dwelling on the past and wallowing in self-pity wasn’t something a Jedi should do-- there was no emotion; there was peace--and at least he could make sure Elsi, Dewi, and Nathen could still have that sort of life. And, Ezra reminded himself, he did have a home and a family now, even if home was a spaceship and family was composed of more than one species. Hera mothered the entire crew, though Kanan was more like an older brother than a dad; he supposed that made Zeb and Chopper the crazy uncles he’d never had, and Sabine…. Well, Sabine had made it clear she thought of him as a little brother, no matter how many times he’d tried to change her mind. Whatever their differences, they were family in every way that mattered, and right now they were probably waiting for him to get it into gear so they could wrap up this mission. He grabbed his jacket and dashed down to the galley to snag some caf and a ration bar before heading out for the day. The rest of the crew was finishing up breakfast when he got there. Zeb, Kanan and Hera were clustered in the dining booth, while Sabine leaned against the counter, caf mug in one hand and half a piece of haarshun bread in the other. "Morning, sleepy head. You ready for your run today?" "I'm always ready." Ezra poured himself a mug of caf. It was Centaxday, Zeb’s turn to make it, so it was black as space and thick enough to crawl out of the mug on its own, but he needed the caffeine fix. Ezra dumped in a couple extra spoonfuls of sugar so it would at least taste a little less like engine sludge, rummaged through the top cabinet until he found the ration bars, unwrapped one and dunked it in the caf. Hera gathered up her dishes from the table. "Let's go over the plan anyway.” The caf had softened the ration bar enough to make it almost edible. Ezra gnawed off a bite. "I go to the cantina and find my contact from the Idiot's Array…” “Idiot's Array?” Zeb asked, looking up from the soggy remains of his biscuits and hash. “Why’re they called that?” “Their call signs are all sabacc cards. The one I’m supposed to meet today is the Ace of Sabers.” Zeb shoveled up the last bite and grunted. “Yeah, but the Idiot’s Array? Still seems like a stupid name for a cell if you ask me." "Maybe they think they're unbeatable." Sabine suggested. "Or maybe they're just idiots." Over the years, Hera had made ignoring this kind of nonsense from her crew into an art form. Only the slight twitch of her lekku showed any sign of irritation. "So you meet the Ace of Sabers and give her the code phrase. You do remember the code phrase?" she prodded Ezra. "Yeah." He set down his mug and thumped a fist against the counter dramatically. '' 'What's a guy got to do to get a drink around here?' And then she says 'Aren't you a little young to be drinking this early in the morning?' Seriously, who comes up with these things?" "I hope you're more convincing than that when you get to the cantina," Sabine told him. "Otherwise I might as well make you a nice sign that says 'Rebel Operative' and get it over with." "How long have I been doing this and you still don't trust me?" They exchanged glances and answered a near simultaneous "No." "Thanks. I love you guys, too." The galley door slid open and a herd of wild younglings stampeded inside. Okay, there were still only three of them, but in the narrow galley, they certainly seemed like a herd as they clamored for breakfast. "Ezwa!" Nathen squealed, attaching himself to his leg. "Do the twicks again!" "Oh, hey, look at the time..." Ezra pried the little boy loose, ignoring his shrieking protest, and dumped his mug into the sink. "I really need to get going." "Don't you want to finish your breakfast before you go?" Hera called after him. "Nah, I'll just grab something in the market." "Are you sure?" "Yeah," Ezra answered, dodged the youngling as he lunged, chubby, grasping hands outstretched. "I am definitely sure."