Chapter 4: Scars
Ezra had decided, shortly after finding out that the Sentinel had been fitted with a fully plumbed refresher, that he would save the water for when a rescue arrived. Sabine's abrupt (and, if he was honest with himself, quite stylish) arrival had caught him off guard far from the shuttle. Now, as he savored the flow of hot water over his body for the first time in over a year, he regretted having not found a way to recharge the system so he could use it more frequently. Well, what's done is done. No sense dwelling on the past. He shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel as he did so. A few moments of drying off later, he looked at himself in the mirror. The short beard he had worn for months was now gone, although his hair was still longer than he would have liked, reaching nearly to his shoulders. Several new scars from various injures traced across his skin, including both the scar from Thrawn's blaster shot, and a trio of parallel roping scars stretching across his back from left shoulder to right waist, a gift from one of the local apex predators a few months after his arrival. As he dressed, he noticed that Sabine had thoughtfully packed one of his orange shirts on top of the stack of clothing inside. Quickly pulling it on, he started to fasten it, only to fall short part way up his ribcage as he couldn't pull it tight enough to close. "Hey, Sabine... You didn't alter my shirts, did you?" He slapped the door control and stepped out.
"Noooo... why?" She looked up to see Ezra's shirt partially closed. "I washed it once, when I put it in the bag. It can't have shrunk. Those shirts fit you quite well before."
"Uh-huh. But now it's too tight across the shoulders." He turned around and started to unfasten the shirt. "How long was this in storage?"
"Hera kept it on the Ghost for a few months, but most of the rest of the time I had it on Lothal at my place. So I doubt Chopper or Zeb messed with it." She walked over to Ezra. "Hang on, let me... Huh. That's really odd."
"It's not been altered?"
"Not unless someone made a seamless change."
"Well, that's just great. I assume there's another shirt of some sort in here?"
"Uhm... Kinda? It's... Hera gave me one of Kanan's shirts. She said it was 'just in case'. Now I think I know what she meant."
Ezra pulled out the top in question. "I... Is it weird that this feels kinda wrong to wear this?"
"No... I'd feel weird if Hera gave me some of her clothes. Or my mother."
Ezra looked at the green shirt before sighing and slipping out of his orange shirt. "Well, it's better than an old Imperial uniform. I've had my fill of wearing those." He turned around, and Sabine gasped. "Wha-Oh. Right."
"Ezra... what happened?" She walked over and started to trace her fingers across the scars on Ezra's back before she realized what she was doing... and that Ezra has shivered slightly under her touch. "Sorry, I just-"
"No, it's okay, Sabine. I got ambushed by a local predator a few months after I got here. The Imperials found me and, miracle of miracles, decided to put me in the bacta tank rather than leave me to die." Ezra pulled on Kanan's old shirt, which fit quite well, much to Ezra's surprise. "And yes, I'll explain why... but not now. It's a long story and we'll need something to keep us company during the hyperspace trip home, right?"
"Yeah... I guess so. It is a several day trip." She looked at the deck. "Sorry about the whole touching thing. I just..."
"I understand." He turned around to face Sabine, who was still looking at the deck. "Seriously, Sabine, I understand. They're pretty nasty. Besides, what was that saying you told me, back after we rescued Kanan over Mustafar?"
"'Scars are like tattoos, but with better origin stories.'" Sabine smiled. "We certainly have a fair share of stories we carry with us, don't we?"
"That we do." Ezra pointed to the datapd with the inventory. "So, what'd you think?"
"I can't believe you managed to steal all this stuff! I mean, sure, you were the best of all of us at theft, but still... A whole R2 unit? How'd you pilfer that?"
"Oh, the droid? They left it behind. Something about not having all the right drivers. I figured you'd probably be able to make short work of whatever problems it had."
"I probably can." Sabine set the datapad down. "So, we've still got an hour or so to kill until nightfall, right?"
"About that, yeah. Why, got any ideas on how to kill the time?"
Sabine snagged a fruit from the basket Ahsoka had left and tossed it to Ezra. "I missed being able to just... sit and chat with you. Like we did on Atollon, atop the Ghost."
"Well, this shuttle's not quite the same, but..." Ezra grinned. "I think we'll make do."
Sabine smiled back and walked out of the shuttle with a spring in her step. Stars, I've missed having him around. I don't know why, but... I'm not going to argue with that right now. She turned to look at the shuttle, planning her route up... only to start floating. "What...?"
Ezra laughed as he used the Force to levitate Sabine onto the roof of the shuttle's cargo bay.
"Showoff." Sabine stuck her tongue out at Ezra, who laughed again as he floated up the fruit basket.
"That's not showing off."
"Oh? Then what is?"
Ezra leapt up to the top of the shuttle, performing a graceful front flip as he did so, and landed without a sound.
"Okay, yeah, that.. that's showing off." Sabine chuckled. "Certainly did that a lot better than some of your first attempts."
"And I'm sure you crashed a few times when learning how to use your jetpack."
"True." Sabine selected a fruit and started to cut it. "You'll like this one, Ezra. It's kinda tart."
"Nice." He sat down next to Sabine, accepted the offered slice, and bit into it. "Mmmmm..."
Sabine smiled and leaned back against the vertical S-foil of the shuttle and eyed the sunset on the horizon. "Okay, that's pretty."
"Right? That mix of your two favorite colors... Purple and orange."
"They are, huh? How do you figure that?"
"Well, they always keep showing up in your work." He gestured to her armor and her hair. "Though you seem to be favoring the purple quite a bit more these days."
Sabine's smile grew to a grin. "See, I knew all those art lessons would start to rub off eventually."
Ezra grinned back and leaned against the S-foil as well.
Ezra and Sabine enjoyed a few minutes of small talk as night started to fall before trailing off into silence. Sabine watched as Ezra began to grow uncomfortable about something. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Sorry, I just... I'm sure you've got a lot of questions for me that you want answered."
"Just one, actually."
"Some variation on 'Why?', I presume?"
Sabine sighed. "I know exactly why do you did what you did, Ezra, and I don't blame you for that. Force knows I'd be hard pressed to say I wouldn't have done something similar had our places been swapped. Although the whole 'space whales' bit is just classic you." She looked down for a moment before locking eyes with Ezra. "I just want to know why you chose that particular plan."
Ezra broke eye contact with Sabine and looked upwards at the stars. "Because, that plan was the one that caused the least amount of suffering overall. I knew it would hurt everyone I was close to, but... I had to balance that against the people of Lothal, and their futures. I knew that you guys would pull through and would be, if not totally fine, then at least you would be okay. If I put you guys first, even only one person on the team... The suffering would have been immensely worse. From what you've told me about what happened with the Rebellion after I left, I know now I made the right choice. But that's with the benefit of hindsight." His gaze came back to Sabine. "I wanted to tell you, Sabine, I really did. But you probably would have tried to stop me."
Sabine's face flickered with emotion briefly, and Ezra noted a surge in the Force, but out of respect for his longtime friend, he didn't pay any additional attention to it, a habit he had fallen into nearly a decade before during his tutelage under Kanan. It took Sabine a few more moments to actually respond. "Actually, I... probably would have tried to go with you. But... that would have broken Hera. Three of her family lost in a week? She would have been crushed."
"Another reason I didn't tell you, among others."
"Did you see the other options? In the Force?"
"Not in detail, but the general outcomes were visible. If you stopped me... we all died. The crew, the team, and all of Lothal would have been killed as an example. If you went with me... there were three outcomes. One, we made it out alive, but, as you mentioned, Hera would be devastated. Another, we managed to take out Thrawn and the Fleet, but it cost our lives."
"And the third?"
"I... I don't want to talk about it right now, Sabine. It was... bad."
Sabine wrapped an arm around Ezra's shoulders. "Okay. But if you ever do... I'm here. Alright?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Sabine." Ezra grinned. "See, I knew I could count on you."
Sabine laughed and playfully smacked Ezra's shoulder. "Di'kut. So, what exactly did you want to show me? Or is it not dark enough yet?"
"A few more minutes, but we're getting close." Ezra looked up at the darkening skies. "There's only one or two nights a year where this happens, with the planet's night side pointed the right direction and all three moons below the horizon."
"And that is, what, some sort of meteor shower? Because I've seen a few of those. Don't get me wrong, they're still fantastic to watch, but... Not really worth sticking around for."
"Nope, it's even better. You can see a huge swath of the galaxy. First time I saw this, I knew I was out in probably uncharted space, just because of how much of the galaxy I could see."
Sabine looked at Ezra, then up at the sky... and gasped at the sight of the galaxy laid out so that the faint traces of the arms were actually visible. "Whoa... you weren't kidding! I mean, I've seen the galaxy in the night sky before, but... it was always in the plane of the disc. And I knew that there were definitely arms on the galaxy, and that this planet is well above the disc. But actually seeing it is something else entirely." She sprang to her feet, pulled out a folded up piece of flimsi from a belt pouch and a stylus from her armband canisters, and walked around to the back side of the vertical s-foil. "I have to make a sketch of this."
A/N: Sorry about the extended hiatus, folks, but I've had some significant changes in my life since I last posted for this story. New job, moving halfway across the US, stuff like that. Hopefully I'll be able to post a little more frequently now that things are stabilizing.