CHARACTERS: Ghost crew (minus Ezra), Han, Luke, Leia SUMMARY: Kanan Jarrus, instead of dying the noble death he was prepared for, survives the fuel depot explosion...but his road back will not be an easy one. At the same time, in another cell of the Rebellion, a young Jedi-in-training is desperate for guidance, but despairs of finding any. As far as he knows, the rest of the Jedi are gone. Sooner or later the Force will bring them together for a common cause...though one is far more reluctant than the other to embrace the role set before him. GENRE: Injury/Recovery, Friendship, Family My only warning is even the concept of this is still very much a work in progress. I haven't finished more than two chapters, and the story isn't flowing as easily as some of my others...I just felt I *had* to share it! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Lothal Medical Center 0 BBY 6 months after liberation I’m not dead? It was such a strange thought to have, and yet it was the first of clarity to enter the mind of Kanan Jarrus. He was supposed to be dead. That was at least the impression he’d been getting from the Force. He’d prepared for it….expected it...thought it would happen instantly upon being engulfed by the explosion at the fuel depot. There was the horrible scream from the one he loved, the blinding light, the searing pain...and then nothing. No feeling of leaving his body or transforming into the Force, as he had been taught happened to those who died, just a simple black nothingness, wrapped up in hazy dreams. Most of these dreams were old memories on repeat. Training at the Temple...being chosen as a Padawan by Master Bilaba….Yoda’s wisdom...Order 66...living on the run...his mining job and drinking binges...meeting those who became his family, and all their crazy adventures. All these and more played in his head over and over until he lost all sense of time. His faith was shaken. This wasn’t supposed to be what the Netherworld was like. Was this some final test he had to pass...some last cruel trick of the Force? Kanan had no idea. He reached a state of knowing nothing but this perpetual limbo. But then a concrete feeling had at last returned, and it only brought further confusion. The Force was with him, as it always had been...but not just as an all-encompassing blanket in his dreams. It felt more...solid...like the sense a Loth-bat must have had using echolocation at night when passing from empty space into a mountain range. Actively using it was a chore, but he managed to discover he was in a place in which emotions ran high. And he wasn’t alone. The warm presence of a friend sat nearby, either resting or asleep. While he couldn’t remember exactly who this was, he knew them. But still he doubted. It wasn’t until the sense of touch returned Kanan knew he wasn’t dead. Whatever else death was, it wasn’t supposed to hurt. And Kanan hurt. As the moments passed and more senses began returning- hearing, smell, taste -the pain grew until it engulfed him, and he cried out. ...or he would have, if there hadn’t been a tube shoved down his throat. Kanan gagged and tried to take it out. But his arms wouldn’t obey. Neither fingers nor toes could do so much as twitch. He was paralyzed. It was a startling revelation. Kanan’s sense of touch had returned and he could feel every limb- each one caught in a vague ache -but none of them would move. Not even his eyes would open. His heart pounded, turning the rhythmic beeping on his left into a wild cacophony that matched his mood. That’s ironic. Survive an explosion only to choke to death on a tube. He wasn’t really choking. There was air coming in through the tube. But it was gagging him, and he could feel the bile rising. Unless someone or something took that tube out, he would choke. Why wouldn’t his companion do something? Were they as helpless as he? No. They had since jumped to their feet and let out a cry for help. Sounds were garbled as if underwater, and Kanan found it frustrating that he couldn’t put a name to that voice...but he knew it. Kanan grunted, gargled, and coughed, bringing an ache to his throat. All at once his eyes flew open. Hope rose when the light made him blink, then sank when the light faded to a dark gray blur. How odd to be disappointed about his blindness when he was about to choke to death… All at once a harried presence ran into the room, lifted Kanan by the shoulders, and took hold of the tube. They spoke careful, quiet words as a hand drew the tube out of his throat. Kanan gave a massive cough once it was out and felt something sour dribbling out of his mouth. When he tried to lift his hand to wipe it away, it didn’t move. He growled in frustration at his helplessness and kept glaring at nothing until the head of his bed was lifted enough for him to be a bit more comfortable. A gravelly male voice started asking questions...his name? What was his name? Kanan. That much he knew. It was the name everyone spoke in his dreams, the one that had been screamed during the explosion. He tried to speak...and all that emerged was a grunt and another cough. His throat was dry and neither his tongue nor his jaw wanted to cooperate. The male voice- probably a medic -picked something up and stuck it in Kanan’s mouth. Kanan soon realized it was a straw and weakly pulled at it. The water filling his mouth was refreshing, and swallowing certainly helped his tongue move a little better. It also made his ears pop and the rest of his hearing return. “There. Just breathe for a moment. I know you’re disoriented and probably frightened, but try to relax.” If Kanan had to guess, the pitch and tone of the voice made it sound like a Rodian. “Now, try again. What is your name?” Kanan licked his cracked lips and took a deep breath. Relax. You can do this. “K...k...Kehhhhhn...uhn.” He made as much of a face as his muscles would allow and tried again. “Kehh...nun. J...Jaaa...uhsss.” Even that effort left him tired, but it seemed to make his young friend and the medic quite happy. “Good,” crooned the medic. “One of your young friends is here. Do you remember her?” “Kanan?” It was a young, hopeful, and somewhat emotional female voice. “Hey. You remember me?” Kanan tried to nod, though his head wouldn’t obey. Her name returned quickly. Sabine. I know you, Sabine. He wanted to say this, but all he could manage was, “Ssss...Sssseh...b...biiiiin.” Equal parts frustration and sympathy rose when he felt her spirits lift. “Right! I’m Sabine!” She sounded almost as if she’d cry, which in itself was unusual. Sabine wasn’t a crier. “Kanan, it’s so good to see you awake. Wait’ll Zeb hears. Bet the big lunk’ll go right through the roof!” Kanan’s mouth twitched upon hearing the familiar name. Others returned, names of those he cared about and wanted news of….especially one particular female Twi’lek. He cleared his throat again. “H-Hehhhh...uh?” “Hera?” Sabine made a sound like she was wiping her eyes. “Don’t worry about her. She’s all right. In fact, she’s-” The girl paused, as if holding something back. A strange combination of joy and sympathy radiated from her. Instead she took one of his hands. “She’ll be over the moons when she sees you. She’s not here right now,” added the young Mandalorian, “but we’ll bring her. I’m heading straight to a comm to call her, and I know she’ll be here as soon as she can.” She’s safe, but something else is wrong. Kanan frowned in confusion, but couldn’t even ask any questions yet. So, Sabine, Hera, and Zeb were all right, at least. There were still two members of the crew unaccounted for. “Oh, and Chopper’s fine. He’s with Hera, up to all his old tricks,” assured Sabine with a grin. “He’s gonna bust his boosters!” Kanan didn’t miss the fact one name had been omitted. His empty stomach twisted with trepidation. Don’t jump to conclusions. “Eh….Ehhhhhz...Ehhhhz...aaaa...” The sharp jolt of grief and uncertainty from Sabine, buried but still fresh, made Kanan’s gut twist harder. Something stung his blind eyes, and he managed a minscule shake of his head. What happened, he wanted to demand. Is he hurt? Captured? But his mouth wouldn’t obey. “The patient is not in any condition to receive more than basic news,” warned the medic. That didn’t help. Sabine sighed and gave Kanan’s hand a squeeze. “He’s…he’s not here...” When Kanan grumbled unintelligibly, her hand moved to his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it right now. Just focus on getting better.” Kanan frowned. Something is wrong. Ezra is hurt or…no. Kanan pushed that thought from his mind. No. He’s not dead. I would have sensed it. But he had been in a coma for who-knows-how long. Could a Master sense the death of their student in a state like that? Yes, he decided. Ezra’s not dead. * * * * * It took several hours for Kanan to finish waking up, and even longer for him to find out what was going on. He didn’t even try and ask any questions about his own condition. All he knew was that he had somehow survived the blast from the fuel depot with all his limbs still attached. Many had been broken, however, and he had been badly burned from head to foot. Between that, and both spinal and head injuries, he had been kept in a coma for a very long time...just how long, nobody would say. All the medics did was work on getting him to exercise his jaw by speaking. They did assure him he would recover. It would just take time, since facilities on Lothal were very limited. They couldn’t afford the more advanced recovery equipment or medication. So, Kanan would have to relearn how to do everything the old-fashioned way. Kanan had been awake and asleep twice more before he sensed the one presence he’d wanted more than any other. She wasn’t alone, either. A new and completely unknown presence stuck by her like glue, and they were either very young or very small...probably both. While confused as to why Hera would bring some strange child with her, she had a big heart and was always picking up strays. That was probably why her gait sounded different as she arrived in the room, pausing in the doorway. “Kanan?” She was filled with too many emotions to keep track of...joy, pain, relief, annoyance, trepidation...but most of all, love. “Hehhh...w...w...” He made a face at how weak and pathetic his voice was. So, he tried again. “Heh...wa.” “Kanan-” Her voice broke. She entered at something of an uneven walk and was at his side in seconds. Her embrace was at once gentle and desperate, half clinging and half leaning away. Then she was crying and stroking the side of his face. “I thought I lost you,” she whispered. Kanan badly wanted to hold her, kiss her, tell her he was going to be fine and everything was all right...but his limbs continued to disobey. With a great effort, he slowly brought his head just a centimeter or so nearer, so he could feel her face on his. He wished Hera could connect to the Force so she could sense all the love and warmth he was sending her way. Maybe he could tell her. “Uh...uhhhhhhh-ah...ahhhh-eh...” Come on, idiot. Say it! “Ahh-eh...l...l...luhhhhhfff...y...y...uuuuuh.” A grunt of frustration made it past his lips as Hera pulled back, probably to try and figure out what the heck he was trying to say. “Ahh...luhhhf...y...y-yeh-” Then Hera put a finger to his lips, increasing his frustration...until she replied. “I love you, too,” she murmured, tears in her voice and her hand still holding his face. Then she leaned forward and gently kissed his lips. Kanan sighed through his nose in relief and felt his eyes start to sting. She knows. Oh Force, she knows! Annoyingly, his body’s next response was to shed tears. Embarrassment was profound as Hera had to be the one to wipe them away. “Shh. Don’t cry, love. I’m here. Everything is going to be all right now.” There was a gentle smile in Hera’s voice as she sniffed and wiped her own eyes. “I can’t even tell you how good it is to see you awake.” I’m supposed to be telling you that. Kanan managed a ghost of a smile. It faded quickly. There were so many questions he couldn’t ask, nor was there much he could answer. Being trapped in one’s own body was the worst sort of prison. “Can you see anything?” asked Hera softly. “Your eyes...they don’t look like they did when...when it happened, but...they are better than before.” Kanan sighed in regret. All he could see was a slightly darker blob in a sea of gray. “Nnnnnuh...” Hera was trying to hide her disappointment when she spoke next. “It’s all right. Kanan...I know it’s going to be a while before you’re feeling better, but...there’s something I need to tell you.” Judging by her hesitance, Kanan wondered if it had anything to do with the tiny presence in the room. Did she get a wild lekku and adopt something? Its presence was so close to her, they almost seemed merged. “Uh?” Hera, what did you do? Hera’s hand started shaking as she took hold of Kanan’s. “Remember that night we spent in Ezra’s tower?” Kanan’s mouth twitched for a second as the memory returned, then was overtaken with confusion when Hera put his hand on her. His brows knit as his thumb recognized her navel...but something didn’t feel right. It was too big, too round, too...full. When something shifted beneath his hand, he flinched and took in a sharp breath. No...it couldn’t be… All at once the pieces fell into place. The night in the tower...that new, small presence...the movement… With the odd sensation of both joy and terror, Kanan reached out with the Force to nudge the little life. It answered! More than that, the child’s parentage was obvious. Hera’s emotion coupled with the unique Force signature confirmed his suspicions. Kanan fell into something of a state of shock. His mouth hung open as much as it could. He began to tremble. And then, hardly knowing why, fresh tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. Hera’s pregnant. I fathered a child...a child who’s strong in the Force...a child I won’t be able to hold or care for when they come...a child I’ll never be able to see. His face then collapsed into full on weeping. Hera made a sound of sympathy, and brought him into another embrace. “Shh. Kanan...Kanan, it’s all right. Don’t cry. It’s all right. We’re fine. And you’re going to be fine. The medics told me this isn’t going to last forever. You hear me?” She took his face in her hands. “You are going to beat this.” That’s an order. Kanan recognized Hera’s tone at once and sniffled, twitching his head down in what he hoped she would recognize as a nod. “Y-y...yeh...ssss...mm...mem.” Hera sounded like she wanted to laugh as she wiped Kanan’s eyes. “Good. You’d better.” She walked with her awkward gait- Kanan realized it must be a pregnancy waddle -up to a chair and set it down beside him. Then she took his hand. “Everyone’s so happy you’re awake. Did they tell you how long it’s been?” Kanan twitched his head to the left. “N...nnnuh,” he mumbled. Hera’s thumb rubbed his fingers. “Six months.” Kanan blew out something of a dizzy breath. Six months? And I’m still helpless? It wasn’t an encouraging thought, especially when it hit him that Hera would be due in only three months. If his shoulders weren’t already limp, they would have sagged. “H...ha..www...l...llll-ahhhhhn...t...tihhh...ahhm… beh...behhht...t...t...” Kanan groaned at his blasted jaw and tried again. “Hawww….lllahn...tih...ah-m...beh...tuh?” “How long ’till you’re-” Hera seemed to wince, and she squeezed his hand. “I don’t know, love. Too soon to tell. Months...maybe years.” When Kanan shut his eyes and blew out a short breath in aggravation, she took his shoulder with her free hand. “Hey. Listen to me. This is no time to drop into another mood, all right? We need you. No matter what it takes, I know you can get through this.” Kanan opened his sightless eyes and strained to turn his head. Finally it flopped over on the pillow to face Hera. He moistened his lips. “Ehhzz...wah.” When there was no answer, he knit his brows. “Ehz-wah,” he said, a bit louder. That sense of grief, pain, and a hope nearly buried rose in Hera just as it had in Sabine. “T..teh...m..mmmeh.” Hera let out a long breath and hesitated long before answering. Then she took his hand in both of hers. “Ezra’s gone.” Kanan’s heart dropped into his limp feet. He struggled to twitch his head to the left again. No....no, please...not Ezra...“Nuh...” His eyes filled despite his denial. Hera winced for him. Her voice wavered as she spoke again. “He’s gone, Kanan. It’s a long story. Before we found out you were alive, he...he went up to Thrawn’s ship and got it to jump to hyperspace. But he did what you did; he gave himself to save the rest of us...to save Lothal. We don’t know where he went, or even if-” Hera took another deep breath and held his hand so tight. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Any tension that had made it to Kanan’s muscles left, and he went completely limp on the bed. Ezra, what have you done? Why did you do it? There had to be some other way. Ezra why? Why? More tears came. He could do nothing but lie there as they streamed down his face. Once again, Caleb Dume had failed the Jedi...and this time, instead of the apprentice failing the master, the master had failed the apprentice.