Author: Findswoman Title: Sixth Time’s the Charm Era: ca. 10 BBY, shortly after the events of A New Dawn Characters: Kanan Jarrus, Hera Syndulla, Chopper Genre: Fluff, 5+1, hints of romance to come Summary: Five gifts Kanan almost got Hera, and one he finally did. Notes: A little holiday gift to help cheer up my good friend @Raissa Baiard, for whom this has been a particularly stressful holiday season. Hope this brings you much cheer and many squees, my friend! It is also an ad-hoc entry in OTP Challenge #18: 5+1 and my first time with both Kanera and the 5+1 form—let’s see how it goes! Kanan needed to think this over. He’d been with Hera aboard the Ghost for a Standard year now. Well, okay, not with with Hera, as he hastened to add mentally. It was all strictly professional, of course. But all the same, he felt he should at very least show her some appreciation for all she had done for him, especially with Life Day coming up. He had been a reckless, feckless drifter for—oh, how many years? And by taking him in, by letting him be her partner in taking down the Empire cell by cell, town by town, and TIE by TIE, she had given him a new lease on life. Nor did it hurt that she was kind and caring and a good friend. And pretty, too… That wasn’t it, of course, Kanan hastened to remind himself. Not in the least. He would get her a gift because it was Life Day and because that’s what you did to show appreciation to someone who had done good by you. Master Billaba had taught him that long ago. But what could he give a woman like Hera? She had it all. Okay, perhaps not all—Clandestine Pilot-Operative-of-Some-Kind was not exactly the Galaxy’s highest paying job. But she had what counted: courage, determination, grace, principles… he could go on. Of course, Former-Reckless-Feckless-Drifter wasn’t exactly a high-paying job, either, and that was part of the problem. Because she deserved something good, not just something scavenged out of an alley or dumpster, and definitely not flowers or something that would just wilt. (Anyway, flowers would give the wrong idea, because they were one of those in-love-type gifts, right?) Well, at least it wasn’t quite Life Day yet, and they were here on Denon for a while. So Kanan at least had some time—and he resolved to put that time to good use. * * * 1. “Ugh, these are starting to split already,” said Hera in one day, coming into the common room of the Ghost and grimacing at the somewhat worn strap of the pair of pilot’s goggles she had just removed. “Sorry to hear.” Kanan looked up from holonews report he was reading. “That sounds… incredibly frustrating.” “My silly fault, I guess,” she said. “I should have known this cheap leathereene stuff wouldn’t last.” Kanan responded to this with a simple “Ah,” but his brainwheels were already turning. He remembered that Denon’s spaceport district had one of those Pilots Plus superstores. So, next time he was out running errands and meeting contacts, he decided to stop there and see what they had in the way of goggles. It was a bigger store than he had realized, and he was more than a little overwhelmed as he picked his way through the goggles aisle. Straps of bantha leather, nerf leather, styoprene, neoprene, leathereene—okay, perhaps not the leathereene. But then there was the question of UV protection, ultra-UV protection, super-UV protection—HyperGlare™ coating, HyperGlare™ 2.0 coating, HyperGlare™ 2.5 coating with E-Z-Aim Pseudopolymer—how and why in the name of the Force could there be so many options for just goggles? Weren’t they just supposed to, well, cover your eyes and protect them from flying… stuff? It didn’t help matters that he could feel the stern-faced Sullustan cashier watching him as he walked through the aisles, even noting a wisp of yup-this-one’s-clearly-a-newbie emanating from her in the Force. It really was more a curse than a blessing sometimes… “May I help you?” the cashier finally asked. “No, thanks, I was just looking,” Kanan replied, and left. * * * 2. “You really like the fleek eel one, don’t you?” Hera observed one day as she and Kanan sat in the common area eating lunch—a simple repast of various reconstituted CryoYum RationPax, washed down with jogan juice. “Yeah, I guess so,” answered Kanan mid-bite. “Kind of reminds me of the fleek eel fritters they used to serve at the Temple on holidays. But it’s not really the same.” “It’s never the same.” Hera took a sip of her juice. “I tried their Four-Mushroom Casserole exactly once. Didn’t hold a luma to the mushroom noodles my mother used to make.” “Mushroom noodles? Sounds good.” “Oh yes, they were incredible. We used to go gathering the mushrooms together in the woods. Jacey and I used to race to see who could gather the most. And the way the kitchen smelled while they were cooking…” A beatific smile crossed her face as she closed her eyes in memory. “It was paradise.” “Sounds like it!” Kanan said. He was smiling, too, because another idea had just crossed his mind: tomorrow was market day, and he remembered he’d seen piles of fresh mushrooms at one of the produce booths (even though Denon was an ecumenopolis, plenty of people grew fresh produce hydroponically or on rooftops, and the Centaxday market was a beloved local institution). Even better, it was the booth with the friendly, older, orange-skinned Twi’lek lady—so certainly Hera would be able to eat anything she sold. He would buy a nice bag of fresh mushrooms from her booth and bring it to Hera so she could make her family’s mushroom noodles again. So, he went there the next day and made a beeline for the booth. There, sure enough, was a huge crate of mushrooms, golden-brown and ruffly and luscious. “How much for the mushrooms?” he asked the seller. “Cred seventy-five per kilo,” came the reply. “All right, then, I’ll take a kilo, please.” “You got it.” She began scooping them up onto her scale. “Planning to make something special with these?” “Ah, oh, just some… mushroom noodles.” The seller dropped her scoop back into the crate of mushrooms and shook her head. “Oh dear, no,” she said. “No, no, no, no, no.You can’t use these with noodles. These are Rutian woodruffles. You use them for harvest festival soup and five-hour winter stew. If you want to make noodles, you use inkyblatts.” “I—I didn’t know,” Kanan stammered. “Well, do you have any… inkyblatts?” “Ha ha!” The seller threw back her head, her lekku shaking as she laughed loudly. “Oh no, my dear young man, you’re a good month too late! You can’t get inkyblatts at this time of year! Especially not here. Gets too dry in the fall!” “I see.” Kanan’s voice was quiet and sheepish. He thought it over for a bit. As appetizing as the Rutian woodruffles looked, he didn’t want to get Hera the wrong kind of mushrooms for her favorite childhood meal. That simply wouldn’t be right. So he sighed, thanked the seller, and walked to the fruit booth down the street to pick up the meilooruns from his list. * * * 3. “Finally—got—that—blasted—UGH!” A shower of sparks burst from the open control panel at this last utterance, nearly nailing Hera in the face; she averted her gaze just in time. “Ugh, these power couplings are the absolute worst!” “Can I give you a hand?” Kanan asked. He always felt so useless in situations like this. On one hand, he wanted to do what he could to help Hera with her repairs and not just be dead weight; on the other, he still really didn’t know a lot about starship maintenance and didn’t want to get in Hera’s way. “No, no, it’s all right, I think I’ve—got—it—NOW!” There was a loud, frizzing static noise as another volley of sparks flared up and just as quickly died down. Hera sighed in relief as she pulled her gloved hands out and replaced the panel. “Whew. Finally. I don’t know what it is about panel eight, but one of these days I’m going to have to—oh no. No wonder it felt so hot in there…” She looked down at her palm. There was a long tear in the black insulating material of the glove, and though the skin beneath was unbroken, it was tinged red-orange with a burn. “All right, guess I’m going to go put on some BactaGenic,” she continued, pulling off her gloves and throwing them on the adjacent panel. “Just one thing after another, isn’t it.” “Do you need anything el—” Kanan began, but she was already halfway down the corridor to the ’fresher. He sighed. Then his eyes fell on the torn glove and its mate lying on the panel. He remembered seeing pilots’ utility gloves like this at Pilots Plus; what if he got her a new pair for Life Day? Surely picking out gloves would be much easier than picking out goggles for a non-expert like himself. He picked one up to look at the label for its make and size. It was a Tragbonner GelGrip II, size XS. On his next run into town, he stopped at Pilots Plus. There was a whole display of Tragbonner pilots’ utility gloves, a whole shelf of GelGrip II utility gloves, and not a single size XS. He was sure of that because he had picked through the shelf three times, possibly more. The same Sullustan cashier was there, and he could feel her beady black eyes on him as he exited the store. * * * 4. One day, in the course of his daily errands, Kanan happened to pass the Denon Philharmonic Symphony Hall, where a large poster advertised that ticket sales were open for their 3267–68 season. He wondered if Hera might enjoy a nice symphony concert sometime, as a respite from all her cares and responsibilities. Perhaps that would be a good Life Day gift. (Just for her, of course; she didn’t have to bring him along if she didn’t want to.) He went up to the window of the box office, which was manned by a shiny secretary-model droid. “May I help you?” asked the droid as he approached. “Er… yes…” Kanan paused a moment. He hadn’t had a lot of experience with this sort of thing; going to the symphony was not exactly something he had done often as a reckless, feckless drifter. “I would like to purchase… some tickets.” “For which date?” “Er…” He hadn’t thought about that. “What’s available?” “One moment, please.” The droid tapped some information on a nearby computer, and in response a large datascreen lit up and hove toward the window. “Available dates are shown on the screen.” Kanan looked at the screen. It showed a calendar grid, with every date marked filled in red with a large X through it except for two dates in green. “Wow, you’ve… sold out a lot of dates,” Kanan remarked. “Yes. Ever since Morrgan Mooti assumed the baton last year, tickets have been selling with exceptional alacrity.” “I see.” Kanan silently cursed this Morrgan Mooti, whoever that might be. “All right, then, I would like one ticket for the fourteenth, please.” “Sorry, that is not an available option.” “Why not?” “That is the Love Festival concert, featuring Krubner’s tenth symphony, Krabtók’s first beshniquel concerto, and the Inner Rim premiere of Lorne Bel Fiora’s Nights on the Moons of Iego, and we are only selling tickets in pairs.” Kanan sighed. He took the credit chip from his pocket and looked at it. There was enough on it that he could buy two tickets if he wanted to—and not just the cheap ones up in the nosebleed gallery, either, but decent ones on the first balcony. It sounded like a beautiful program, too. A night at the symphony with Hera—it was awfully tempting— —but it would give the entirely wrong idea. Because their relationship was purely professional, after all. He looked at the other available date on the calendar. “How about the twenty-second? What’s playing on the twenty second?” “On the twenty-second the Garel City Light Opera Society will be performing ISD Pinn’afor.” Which, somehow, did not seem quite like Hera’s cup of caf. “Ah. Thank you.” He walked off, barely hearing the droid’s mechanical farewell: “Thank you for your interest in the Denon Philharmonic. Have a nice day.” * * * 5. “Hey, Chopper, do you have a minute?” The scuffed orange astromech droid rolled forward with an inquiring “Bwop?” “I wonder if you could give me some advice.” “Bwop bwop.” “And if you could, er, connect to the computer—like usual—that would be—” “Bwaaaahp! Bwop bwop bwop.” “Yes. Thank you.” Together they made their way to the common room. Kanan seated himself on the acceleration couch, while Chopper extended his interface arm to connect with the nearby scomp link so that his Binary utterances would also show up in Basic on the comm readout: SO WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU “Well, you see, Life Day is in just a few days. And I’d like to get Hera something. A gift, you know.” YES I DO KNOW WHAT THAT IS “But I don’t know what to get her. So I thought maybe you could… advise me.” WHATEVER IN THE MAKER’S NAME GAVE YOU THAT IDEA “Well, you’ve known her her whole life, she grew up with you, right?” YES THAT DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE EVER UNDERSTOOD THE ENTIRE BIZARRE OBSESSION MEATBAGS HAVE WITH HOLIDAYS AND GIFTS “Chopper…” HOW DIFFERENT IS ONE DAY FROM ANOTHER REALLY “Look, Chopper…” AND BEINGS SHOULD JUST GET THEMSELVES WHAT THEY WANT WHEN THEY WANT IT I SAY BUT WHATEVER “Sure, okay… but at least you have some idea of what kinds of things she likes? Chocolate? Flowers?” OH FOR THE “Perfume?” Kanan racked his brains to think of all the romantic gifts he had ever seen men giving women in holofilms. “Jewelry?” THIS IS RIDICULOUS “Or a nice… scented soap? Or, like, a music box or something? Or—” ALL RIGHT ALREADY “Sorry, sorry. It’s just—I don’t really—I just want to give her something to show my appreciation.” LOOK IF I KNOW ONE THING ABOUT HERA IT’S THAT SHE’S NOT IMPRESSED BY FLASHY MATERIAL THINGS IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SHOW HER YOUR APPRECIATION YOU’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING FOR HER “Okay, sure, like what?” SOMETHING THAT WILL HELP HER AND GIVE HER ONE FEWER THING TO DO IN A DAY SHE’S A BUSY LADY YOU KNOW “Yes, yes. I do know. Any suggestions? WELL FOR STARTERS THAT ’FRESHER REALLY NEEDS A CLEAN “Clean the ’fresher. Got it. Can absolutely do.” BECAUSE FULL OFFENSE NOW THAT WE’VE GOT TWICE AS MANY OF YOU MEATBAGS ON BOARD “No, no, no, I understand completely. I’ll get on it right now. Thanks so much, Chopper.” GLAD TO BE OF ASSISTANCE OR SOMETHING Chopper rolled off to the cockpit, and Kanan made a beeline for the supply closet. He was on the point of activating the lock when Hera blustered past, looking harried in the extreme and wearing a pair of large, bright orange rubber gloves. “Ugh, ugh, ugh, what a day it’s been!” she exclaimed. “First the primary navcomputer frotzes out, then the caf machine dies, then the duchess’s contact flakes on our meeting—and now silly old Fulcrum decides to send an urgent comm while I’m in the middle of cleaning the ’fresher!” And as she disappeared into the cockpit, Kanan buried his face in one hand. * * * +1. Kanan really needed to think this over. Life Day was tomorrow, and he still had not come up with a gift for Hera. All those good ideas he had had—he thought they were good ones!—and none of them, for one reason and another, had materialized. He started to wonder if he should even bother; after all, she was a decent, caring person and would still act decently and caringly toward him even if he didn’t get her a gift for Life Day—right? And yet it didn’t seem right to get her nothing, especially not after all she had done (and all she was). Kanan thought about it some more. This gift-giving thing was harder than he had bargained for. Perhaps there was something to what Chopper had said the other day: beings should just get themselves what they want, when they want it… That was it, of course. And, with that in mind, there was only one thing to do. He went back to Pilots Plus. The Sullustan cashier was there again. He went up to her. “May I help you?” she asked. “Yes. I would like to buy a gift card.” * * * The next morning, as they were seated in the common area together sipping their morning caf, Kanan presented Hera with the small red envelope. “Happy Life Day, Hera,” he said. “This is for you.” Hera took it and opened it. Her jewel-green eyes widened as she removed the small, gray card from the envelope, and her entire face lit up as she saw the words A GIFT FOR YOU FROM PILOTS PLUS. “Oh, Kanan! How thoughtful of you! Thank you so much!” “You’re very welcome,” Kanan replied, feeling himself grin ear-to-ear. “Oh, this is perfect! Maybe I’ll use it to get a new pair of goggles!... You really didn’t have to do this, you know!” Kanan shrugged. “Well, it’s Life Day, you know, and… and I just wanted to show… a little gratitude, you know. For everything.” He could hardly believe the words that were coming out of his mouth, but at this point he figured he might as well go whole roba. “You took me in and gave me something worthwhile to do for myself and the Galaxy. Which you didn’t have to do for me, either. So, it’s really the least I could do.” “Oh, Kanan, what can I say…” She sounded a little choked up as she glanced at the gift card and then back at him. “This was so sweet of you, and… oh, I’m just so glad you’re here. So glad.” With that, she engulfed him in a hug and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m… glad you’re here, too, Hera.” And as he returned her hug, feeling his cheeks warm and his grin widen, Kanan felt that he had just received a pretty awesome Life Day gift, too. the end Spoiler: Notes Denon is an established Inner Rim planet, chosen because of its relative proximity to Gorse (where Kanan and Hera meet and where much of A New Dawn takes place) and because it’s an ecumenopolis and I needed an urban environment for the various shops, etc. Mushroom noodles come up as one of Hera’s favorite family comfort foods in several stories by Raissa Baiard, including Teenage Rebellion, (Not) the Ballad of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus, Shadow of a Doubt, and And They Lived Happily Ever After. Rutian woodruffles and inkyblatts are my own fanon, however, the latter being inspired by the real-life inky cap. On fleek eel fritters at holiday meals at the Jedi Temple, see Caleb Dume’s Foofiest, Messiest, AWESOMEST LIFE DAY EVER! Morrgan Mooti: Named after two RL conductors in cities where I have lived, Michael Morgan and Riccardo Muti. ISD Pinn’afor (a takeoff on Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore) is my fanon and first appears in Insert Tab A into Slot B: A Story about Kanan’s Lightsaber. The Corellian composer Lorne Bel Fiora is my OC and first appears in Opus 66. The roba is an established type of porcine beast in the GFFA (like “whole hog”... har har har).