"I love you. To be honest, I don't know what I would do without you," Sara confessed pecking her cheek. "Now, we still have a job to do. You ready for my drama?"
"How bad can it be?"
"You'll be surprised."
Ava rolled her eyes and wrapped Sara's arm around her hip, tugging her close, as they made their way to the bridge. They had only spent a brief amount of time away from each other, but despite that, they finally felt like everything was back to normal. Ava stared at her partner, recalling the amazing things this woman gave her. Forgetting the trauma of her childhood in place of feeling safe and carefree with her. The way she made her genuinely laugh and smile. Even when they fought, they still reconciled and loved and trusted one another. She felt like a stronger and better person in her presence. When they trained or meditated, she could feel their souls entwine and enhance one another.
Sara strapped herself into the pilot's seat, waiting for Ava to lock herself in the chair adjacent to her, and took off for her home planet. They blasted off into hyper-speed, stars zipping past them in a glittering and strobe tube of lights. In a moment, they stopped and jutted forward.
Ava gazed upon this solar system. She had surprisingly never been to Mandalore- because she was never allowed- and had been amazed by the beauty of this tan and olive planet. She could see the green cracks and lines of rivers that scratched across the surface of Mandalore; the way they spread out and littered it like a heat cracked window. It was a cloudy day across the lower-left corner of the planet and there was a flash of light over the clouds.
She glanced at Sara, unsure why she was flying through a thunderstorm. Sara twisted the ship through the clouds, passing by bright objects that seemed to tangle themselves in the clouds. Ava glanced back at Sara, watching a small grin spread over her features. She cocked her head and smiled as well.
"What's that mischievous grin about?" she asked.
Sara shrugged as they lowered into their spot. "It's just that I forgot that the Festival is this week."
"There's this festival they have every year that celebrates the Civil War"
"Oh, I heard about that. When I was studying to be a Sentinel, we had to learn about some of the great wars. It was our job to stop them, be guardians in our own right." Sara almost rolled her eyes, simply turning her head away and unbuckling her seat belt. "What, what is it?"
She sighed, sucking her teeth before curtly responding, "Nothing."
"Oh, my god, Sara, what is it?"
"We'll talk about it later, babe." Ava quickly followed her out of the ship and onto the war-torn planet. Sara turned back to her, shocking Sharpe with her sudden stop. "Just don't mention anything about being a Jedi. Mandalorians hate them."
"Yeah, you mentioned that, but why?" Ava asked as she walked around Sara.
"Oh, you'll probably see when we go out to the main square," Sara cryptically noted. "We just have bad blood with you guys."
"Is that why your people sided with the Sith?"
"Mm, uhh," Sara stuttered, thinking for a moment, "That's why our leaders sided with the Sith."
"Wait, why are we recruiting them then?"
"Because from what I heard, a lot of young Mandalorians are neutral with our cause, they just don't like the Jedi. Look," Sara pivoted, following the old path to her family's plot, "I can explain why we're not big fans of you guys later, I should first clear some stuff up with my family." she explained, waving her hands in a nervous manner.
Ava had to admit that seeing this side of Sara was very interesting. She watched her body position change as they walked closer and closer to her house. They must have been on her street because she was almost hiding her face behind Ava while they briskly walked down the crosswalk. Ava slipped her hand into Sara's, stroking the back of it with her thumb.
"It's gonna be alright," Ava comforted.
"God I hope you're right. If you're not then I blame you," she nervously joked.
Ava gave her girlfriend a quick squeeze before Sara turned off to one of the largest lots in the area. She gazed at the house that rested in the middle of the metal fenced-off area, following Sara up the cobblestone road to the front door. Ava's eyes followed the curve of the dome roof as it covered a circular house.
"Well, while we're taking our sweet time, why don't you tell me about this place?" Ava offered.
"Oh… well, it's just… an old piece of land my dad inherited from… I honestly don't know how many generations have owned this, but it was built about… four thousand years ago to train the Mandalorian Knights."
"Who were they?"
Sara stopped in front of the front door and took a deep breath before knocking. "They were Mandalorian Jedi."
"I thought you said-"
Suddenly the door opened to an older-looking man taking up most of the doorway. His entire being was scarred and freckled. His gray hair was shorn short enough to reveal his scalp below. Ava looked at his dark eyes that just darted up and down Sara's body and face. His eyes began to water and a warm smile spread over his lips. He lunged out from his spot to embrace Sara lifting her up off of the ground to hold her tight.
"Oh my god, you're still alive," he whispered.
"I learned to survive from the best." Sara smiled as he let her down again. "This is my dad, Quentin," she introduced.
"Hello, Mr. Lance," Ava nervously greeted, reaching over to shake his hand.
"You gotta name, youngin?"
"Oh, yes, Ava… Sharpe."
Quentin nodded shortly and stepped out of the way. "It's just me here, which is probably for the better. Why don't we talk in the kitchen, I'll grab a few drinks."
"Thanks, daddy," Sara nervously agreed, following him into the old home.
Ava watched him limp through the house and behind a wall into what must have been the kitchen. She tightened the buckle on her black jacket as she followed them in, a nervous rush flashing through her veins. This was something that she had never done before, she wondered if Sara could tell if Mr. Lance could tell. They turned the opposite corner to the kitchen and into the dining area. Sara sat down in one of the chairs, pulling out another one adjacent for Ava.
"So," Quentin began, "I don't even know where to begin."
"Neither do I."
"I guess… how's Ben been?"
"When I last saw him, he was an old and still sassy man."
"Hmm," he chuckled, handing them the opened bottles, "so not much has changed. What else… what did you do after your training?"
"I stayed on Tatooine doing what we do best."
"Um, performing Larceny," she proudly nodded, taking a long swig from her beer.
"So, I take it you're her partner?" he asked Ava.
"Yeah, but not in bounty hunting," she noted.
"Just in life then? Good for you two." Quentin smiled.
"A bit more, dad," Sara nervously began. "We're actually here for the Alliance to Restore the Republic."
"What are you talking about… I guess that explains why you're back," he thoughtfully admitted with furrowed brows. "It's not safe for you here, both of you, but especially you, Sara. I'm guessing you know?"
"She's actually a former Jedi."
"Oh, then you're even more at risk."
"Why isn't it safe?" Ava asked.
"Well, Mandalore has aligned with the Empire again."
"Really?" Sara noted in mock surprise.
"Yeah, so we're getting ready to move more Empire soldiers here in two months."
"We had to protect our planet."
"What's happened since I left."
"You've been gone for almost twenty years, a lot's happened. Things haven't been going too well and when the Empire came to take over Mandalore, we decided to help them instead. Our mercs are getting ready to ship off soon. I don't know where, though."
"We have to tell the Alliance," Ava told Sara.
"Yeah, umm… we should-"
"Sara, why don't you stay a little longer. Dinah and Laurel are coming by soon, and we'd like to know how it's been."
"Well, we don't actually have the time to catch up, especially if the Empire has a new base of operations," Sara solemnly informed him.
"Well, as you know, after Kryze started her reconstruction, I served as one of her guards until this one was born," he smiled, gesturing to Sara. "After she was born, General Kenobi of the Jedi Order came to Mandalore. He saw my daughter and told me that I needed to protect her. I honestly didn't understand until Order 66 happened. I knew I had to protect you, so I sent you to a colleague of his, one we had been protecting."
"Yeah, I remember."
"Wait," Ava interrupted, "You never told me it was General Obi-Wan Kenobi. I thought he was dead."
"Never," Quentin smiled, taking another swig from his bottle. "Now, how did you survive the Purge?"
"I was born in secret but I ran into your daughter after I got into a bit of trouble."
Sara glanced between Quentin and Ava, watching as the tension slowly faded and he backed down, "At least you two are doing something. I still don't really understand, but you're doing something."
"The Empire is trying to kill off any threat to keep the power with the old Senator Palpatine. They are against people like us, people who want a fair democracy or republic. They're already running their current land as Tyrannies and Oligarchies."
"I see," Quentin nodded and shrugged. "What can I do, sweetie?"
"Inform us on whatever you know so we can give all planets a choice."
"Hey, Dad, I brought some kri'gee and an orange tart," a voice called through the quiet home.
"Is that-" Sara asked.
Quentin nodded then called back, "Great, we're in the kitchen."
"We," Laurel laughed, setting the food on the counter. She looked up, spotting Sara's reflection in the mirror. Her face stuck in a single confused glazed look. She opened her mouth but then closed it as she looked at her. "Who- I thought you were-"
"Dead, surprise." she tried to joke.
Sara tentatively approached her sister. She was amazed at how much she now looked like their mom. So much unhealed time had passed and now the young dark blonde woman before her was a mere ghost of the bubbly preteen she was when they had last seen one another. Their dad finished off his beer before taking the kri'gee from his daughter.
"She's been in hiding," he briefly explained, pouring out four glasses.
"I can't even… I don't even know what to say."
"Then don't just listen."
Laurel simply took a glass off of the counter and downed the harshly tart liquor. Her face twisted for a second and then relaxed.
"This is gonna knock you off your ass," Sara nodded as she moved the glass from Ava's reach.
"We're here in our fight against the Empire."
"Yes," she firmly told Laurel.
"I agreed to help," he nodded.
"Good, because I've actually been working on a case against them."
"A case? This is an empire not a court, Laurel," Sara scoffed.
"I know, but this helps recruit people to my cause."
"Well, I'm a part of the Alliance," Laurel confessed.
"Me, too? What do you mean?" Sara pulled out a badge from her back pocket and showed her sister. "Oh, you, too. When?"
"Four years ago, you?"
Laurel pulled out an old rusted badge from the inside of her jacket, "When they initially went around the galaxy seven years ago."
"How have you just lived here, you said it was too dangerous for rebels?"
"Just a sec," Laurel nodded, walking past Sara and to their other guest, "Hey, Laurel Lance, and you are?"
"Ex-Jedi," Quentin explained, almost finished with his glass.
"Ex, what do you do now?"
"Recruit with Sara."
"Hm, okay, good. Did you two hear what happened with Alderaan?"
"No, what happened?" Ava asked.
"It was destroyed."
"Four hours ago."
"Oh my god," Sara muttered.
"We were going to go there last week and still would have been there now," Ava explained, wrapping an arm around Sara's shoulders.
"How did it happen?" Sara asked.
"The Empire's Death Star destroyed it," her sister informed them.
"What's going to happen next?"
"I don't know. The Rebels have gone quiet. I'm trusting that they have a plan, so I'm still giving them what they need."
"Me, too," Sara agreed.
"Death Star?" Quentin asked.
"A large ship that can destroy planets."
"So you're recruiting," he said pointing to Sara, "and you're gathering secrets, what if you guys had a secret base here?"
"You mean turning this place into a Rebel's base? Isn't that a bit dangerous?"
"Well, yeah, but no. When this house was rebuilt, my grandfather made sure it could still train and contain soldiers in secret just like Old Dorjander did."
"He was a Mandalorian Knight," Sara explained.
"He was the Mandalorian Knight," her father corrected with pride. "He's why you have your kyber crystal."
"The orange one," Sara told Ava.
"One of a kind."
"We should probably go update our commander before he gets worried."
"You're already leaving?" Laurel asked.
"A Rebel never rests."
"Please stay in contact," Quentin asked, embracing his daughters.
"Okay, before I cry, I should go," Sara joked, pulling out of her family's grasp.
Sara backed away, looking over her shoulder as they walked out of the old house. She glanced back to her partner, reaching for her hand to catch up with her. Sara had to admit that while she was fifteen when she finally Mandalore, she still missed playing and fighting with Laurel, watching their father work, and listening to her mother's stories. Leaving that house again, felt like too much. For the first time in her life, she just didn't want to be a part of the Rebel Alliance. She wanted to stay here and live a normal life. Listen to her sister's life and help her parents, but as she looked up at Ava, she realized that this was their destiny. Fight until they die, recruit until the Empire is defeated. Sara rested her head against Ava's shoulder and kissed the back of her hand.
Ava slowed down and turned back to face Sara, "Do you want to go back?"
"I shouldn't or else I won't want to leave."
"Nothing, I just wanted to let you know that I love you."
" I love you too," Sara nodded, knowing there was still something on Ava's mind.
As they finally got onto the small ship, Sara went to her study to retrieve that velvet box from a locked drawer. She sat down in her chair, flipping the box opened and closed. A soft knock on the sliding door broke her thought. Sara quickly shoved the box back into the drawer and locked it again, turning around in her chair.
The door slid open and Ava walked into the room, resting against the brown oak desk, "Hey."
"Hi," Sara smirked, raising a brow. "What's on your mind, babe?"
"I thought about it for a moment, and while we're airing our dirty laundry, I should at least be honest with you." Sara nodded and pulled Ava onto her lap. Ava rolled her eyes and just lifted herself onto the table, letting her legs dangle off the edge. "I'm actually not completely human. I'm a clone. I'll just let that sink in for a moment."
"A clone? How are you force sensitive?"
"Sensitivity is a bit random in genetics and rarely occurs in clones."
"How'd they know?"
"I was kidnapped and trained to be a Jedi. After that, the only place I knew was the Altisian way."
"What finally broke you?"
"You wouldn't believe it, but Sage Miktrull did. They showed me the true nature of the force. It was almost as if they had never truly died. I saw every secret of the Force and how easily manipulated it was by my own people. I couldn't knowingly belong to them after they showed me the true nature of the Force."
"You are still human, there may be others that look like you," Sara began, emphasizing her words carefully, "but they are definitely not my Ava." she smiled, pecking the back of her hand. "Now, I have something for you," she nodded, pulling herself between Ava's legs.
"What, a quickie?"
"No, well if you want, but you might like this more." Sara pushed Ava's legs out of the way to the locked drawer and presented the green box. "Open it," she offered.
"Sara," Ava smiled, her eyes getting teary.
Her partner only chuckled to herself and wiped away the small tears, "I don't know what you think it is but-"
"Shut up," she retorted, opening the box.
She took out the silver ring embellished with yellow red and orange jewels. The center reflected a fiery stone in the cheap lights of their room. She revelled at the small stones that encircled one of the double bands. Ava smiled and pulled her in closer to kiss her. Sara chuckled as she took the ring out of its box and held it out for Ava.
"Oh, my god," Ava tearily laughed.
"Oh my god yes or oh my god no?" Sara asked.
Sara smiled as Ava cupped her jaw up and kissed her cheek, then her nose, and finally her lips. She slipped the ring onto Ava's right ring finger, enjoying the color it added to her. Her hands slipped around her new fiance's hips and pulled the chair until it clicked against her desk.
"Wait, let me put this thing into auto-pilot to Dantooine," Sara muttered against Ava's lips.
She stood up and programmed the coordinates into her ship's navigation before going back to her current task. Sara stood up, wrapping Ava's legs around her hips, leaning against her until she rested on her elbows, one hand up to hold her chin.
A blaring alarm broke Sara's slumber. She glanced around, pushing up onto her elbows to turn off the alert. After a glance at the notification, Sara pressed the red button labelled, "Stop". The room fell silent before Ava began to stir awake. She tugged Sara back down, placing a few kisses on her bare breast.
"My lips are up here, you know?" Sara joked, watching as Ava's tongue glanced over her nipple. "Not that I'm complaining. We landed, so we should leave soon."
"God, I just want to stay in bed with you," she softly whined, placing a few more pecks against her chest and shoulders.
"Me, too, but we need to get going, baby-girl." Sara slid out of Ava's grasp, pulling on her uniform and locking her belt in place. "Something to get rid of your lady boner, I was gonna propose to you on Alderaan."
"You're right, it did kill my boner," she sighed, pulling the sheets off and walking to their wardrobe. "Now my boner is sad."
"Ms. Lance, Ms. Sharpe?" they heard Cracken call out.
"Who's gonna take who's name?" Ava asked.
"Ava Lance?" Sara offered.
"Sara Sharpe, though."
"I don't know. Not big on alliterative names," Sara shrugged.
"Sara?" he called again.
"Indecent!" she finally answered.
"Oh, when you're dressed, I'll be in the meeting room."
"Thank you," Ava called through the door.
Sara buttoned up her blouse and pecked Ava, quickly fixing her tucked shirt before escaping to the office. She jogged down the hallways, hearing Cracken's footsteps echo through the corridors.
"Hey, what's up?"
"I'll wait until Ava joins us."
"She'll be out in a minute."
"How were your trips?"
"Mandalore isn't safe anymore, but I have some plants who can help with spying."
"Good. The others?"
"Neutral or on our side."
Ava joined them on the bridge, resting against the map in the center of the room, cheeks slightly flush from trying to catch up.
"Everyone on Scarif died."
"Was that your suicide mission?"
"We're still counting," he sighed. "We did get something out of it though, a flaw in the Death Star. It's currently in limbo though. In the skirmish of Scarif, we also lost Princess Leia. She was intercepted by The Empire."
"They found her ship and now we have to find a way to retrieve the plans from her droids," he explained.
"Now that is a suicide mission." Ava laughed in disbelief. "You're joking right?"
"No. We lost too many people for me to joke around anymore."
"Are we having any help?" Sara asked.
"We're still going over the plan but I need you two to find out where her droids are. Or really anything about the location of her plans."
"This is our last stand, ladies, we need you. The galaxy needs you."
"You and your fucking speeches," Sara hissed, grabbing her jacket and swinging it over her shoulder. "Let's get started."