Hello my dear readers, Nain Tarlow checking in.
Finally, the prologue part of the story is practically over, it turned out much longer than I thought. The heist coming to the end, and the story begins for real.
As usual, any feedback is appreciated, and thank you for sticking with this story.
Chapter 5 End of the beginning, beginning of the end
"Will you get up from your comfy seat before the stormtroopers get here?" Ezra asked with a shit-eating grin as he stared down at the old clone."Because I'm good, but eventually my distractions will run out and the Imperial will be clued into my plan."
From behind him, the sound of the explosives he hid in that elevator died down, alarms still blared and he could faintly hear the sounds of blasters, probably the liberated prisoners began to fight for their freedom. Right on schedule. Mostly.
"Only you." Rex laughed as he finally snapped out of his stupor and accepted the hand Ezra was giving him, the other rebels, four of them exactly following a bit unsure, especially eying Zane in stormtrooper armor with suspicion.
The two old friends, comrades, once mentor and student in a time that sometimes seemed lifetimes ago met each other with a strong hug, so many unspoken feelings and thoughts passing between them in that short moment.
"Well I didn't have much hope in the rebellion sending a rescue team for us, but not even in my wildest dreams had I thought that you would turn up." Rex said as he released Ezra and looked him over with that critical and judging eye that all older people seemed to possess."You look well. A little scrawny but still in good health. You have been taking care of yourself." there was obvious relief in his voice, but Ezra chose not to address it.
In response, he only rolled his eyes even as he grinned at Rex and handed him the blaster he took from one of the stormtroopers, before pulling out his own pistol, that like with the explosives he managed to sneak in.
"Captain?" one of the rebels, a tall teen around Ezra's age, with short black hair and tan skin tone spoke up as he cautiously stepped out of their cell, looking around, expecting stormtroopers to pop around any moment.
The former rebel regarded him, assessing him to decide if he could be a threat instead of a rescue. He looked like he could hold his own in a fight but he was scrawny and the way his eyes roamed enough, he thought he would be a pilot rather than a soldier, more comfortable behind a cockpit. Despite that, he looked the most confident of the group stuck with Rex, and Ezra saw a familiar shine of defiance as the teen looked at him in kind.
"Can we trust this...man?" he trailed off as he observed his attire, his skepticism rising at the hangover appearance of this.
They needed to sell the whole drunken brawl thing and what better way than make it real? Of course, his aching head would have liked to disagree but it was something he was able to cope with. After that run through an Imperial blockade, while he was drunk off his ass, very few things could phase him.
"What? Having doubts about good old Dev Morgan?" he addressed the kid because, despite their similar ages, he did feel more like a kid than Ezra felt in years. He also mentioned his name, so Rex could know he was using this specific alias. "You should never look down on someone lending you a helping hand, especially when you have so few options as you do. Or didn't they teach you that at the Academy?"
The panicked look he sent him as well as the tensing of his posture told him he hit the bullseye with his guess, which only made his smirk even larger.
"Come on kid, it's quite obvious really. You have that stiffness in your shoulders that basically was bred into Imperials, probably came from one of the core worlds, prime recruitment material. It's slowly fading but it's still here. My guess is that you recently joined." he started to recount and he was further pleased when with each sentence the teen's eyes widened further, confirming his guesses."You don't have the stocky build of a grunt, nor the arrogance of an officer. You are quick on your feet but your balance is off as if you are not used to the ground. You were a TIE cadet weren't you?" he asked and the shell-shocked teen could only nod.
Honestly, most of what he said was guesswork, luck, and a load of bullshit but he did know what he was talking about. After all, many times his life hung on the fact that he could pick out the undercover imperial agents in a crowd, especially in a noisy cantina. Reading body language and confusing the target to give themselves away was essential in his line of work.
"Hey, you leave Wedge alone, you hear me?" a teen of similar age if somewhat stockier build yelled at him as he stepped out, shielding his still shocked friend from his sight.
He had a very short, military cut, brown hair, and small black eyes. He didn't exactly look stupid, more down to earth but it didn't save him from Ezra's mischievous eyes.
"So quick to jump to the defense of your mate I like that. Let me guess you are his wingman, from how quickly you stood up, you have been working together for a while. Probably met at the academy, paired up, and stayed this way. Did you guys desert together?" he asked with a shit-eating grin and when the second guy stepped back with a wide look, he couldn't help but laugh."Oh the two friends at the academy, staying together to fight the good fight. It's so cute."
"You talk as if we weren't Academy kids at one time." Zane chimed in with a smirk, standing a few feet away and keeping watch, the both of them completely relaxed despite the alarms and the sounds of fighting around them."I do remember you were a pretty good wingman too."
"It's cute that you thought you were anything more than my wingman, to begin with." Ezra shot back but the two were interrupted by an exasperated Rex before they could continue their banter.
"Okay kids break it up. Dev, don't bully my man. Wedge, Hobbie, don't let him rile you up, he feeds on that." he reprimanded Ezra first than his two men, who looked down at the ground ashamed, while the former only grinned. Rex reached up to his temples and began to massage them to ward off a headache."I almost forgot how many headaches you caused me constantly."
"You know you love me, old man." he chirped back in response, not losing his smile. His answer was an annoyed grumble before the clone turned to the rebels.
"Anyway, this is Dev Morgan. A former rebel, a pupil of mine at one time, and one of the most reckless people currently alive that I know. But other than that, I trust him with my life, most of the time. The other is Zane Leonis a former imperial cadet and a rebel from another cell." he introduced Ezra and Leonis before doing the same for the other side."These guys are Wedge and Hobbie, one of the best pilots of the alliance and as you guessed former TIE cadets and the Rodian in the back is Izrik." the alien standing at the back waved nervously, probably not wanting Ezra to start analyzing him. He didn't have anything outstanding about him, the word average fitted him well.
"Huh, that's a lot less of you than I expected," murmured Ezra but Rex caught it.
"We were just a small group when the Empire cornered us. And we made them work for it." he answered grimly and Ezra's smile lessened, even he wouldn't make fun of something like this."Shouldn't we start moving? You said stormtroopers could be here any minute."
"You worry too much old man, those guys actually can get lost in their own complex," he answered back confidently.
Only for that smile to slip as a pair of stormtroopers rounded the corner at that exact moment. They didn't even have time to yell or raise their weapons when a shot caught each of them in the chest, sending them to the ground with a large sound that could have been heard even over the alarms.
"You improved," Rex said with a proud nod to Ezra as both of them lowered their respective weapons.
"What can I say, I had time to practice." he bragged as he gestured towards Wedge and Hobbie. "Okay let's get moving. Tweedledee, Tweedledum, grab a blaster and hope you have better accuracy than the average stormtroopers. At the very least try not to shoot me okay?" the two pilots grumbled but did as he told them after a look from Rex, grabbing the weapons from the now-dead stormtroopers. Ezra turned his attention to Izrik. "Okay Bob, stay frosty, you and Zane watch the rear. Rex with me, If I walk into a room full of bucketheads, I want someone competent at my side." he told them with a no-nonsense tone, and the rebels found themselves falling in line without complaint.
"Understood Commander." Rex gave a salute, though the smile on his face ruined the image as Ezra scowled in response. The old clone would forever deny enjoying that expression on his face.
"Oh shut up. I'm no commander. I'm just a smuggler, an awesome one at that but a smuggler nonetheless." he protested but began to lead them through the corridor the two stormtroopers showed up.
"You were one once, back in the rebellion." Rex couldn't help but bring up long-forgotten memories, not caring that he was clearly upsetting Ezra.
Those memories were painful and bittersweet after all.
"Those days are long gone," he said with a finality in his voice that the old clone recognized and backed off.
The awkwardness and tension between them were so thick that even the alarms blaring above them or the general chaos caused by Ezra's improvised riot wasn't enough to make it any less relevant. Behind him, Wedge and Hobbie looked uncertainly at each other before the former shrugged helplessly and silently told his partner to bear with it.
They traveled through empty corridors, thankfully empty of any enemies, the sounds of fighting sounding even farther away as they took various turns, Ezra seemingly knowing when to take turns and how to avoid any unnecessary opposition.
"You have a plan, kid?" Rex asked up softly as they found a working elevator but instead of going up topside, Ezra chose to go one floor lower, to the lowest floor of the complex much to the other rebels' confusion.
"I always have a plan," he replied cheekily before his face turned slightly more serious. "The other prisoners are trying to get out through the main hangar but even armed this base has still enough personnel to make it hard for them. So how do we help them and ourselves in the process?" he asked rhetorically.
"By making them split their forces in different directions?" Hobbie asked, feeling a little uncertain but receiving a nod from the smuggler.
"Now you are learning Bobbie," Ezra said with a bright grin, ignoring the grumble from said pilot for intentionally saying his name wrong. "There is a second, private hangar in small complexes like this, that is usually reserved for the commanding officer. Bound to be guarded by a lot of troopers, any cowardly officer would want their escape route secured in case they couldn't contain the prisoners, but most would be preoccupied with the fighting above. And after we made our move, they would scramble after us, giving the chance for the guys upstairs too to slip away."
"Risky, nobody would ever expect it and hinges largely on luck." Zane said with an impassive voice before grinning."Sounds like one of your plans, I'm in."
The two former cadets shared a fist bump, still acting completely relaxed despite potentially stepping out into a firefight any minute, with hardly any cover.
"Well, I don't like it." Wedge cried out, giving an accusing stare to Ezra who looked far from impressed. "He is a deserter, why do you believe he would help us? What if he is working for some of the Hutts and we are simply changing prisons?" he demanded though thankfully he had enough mind not to point his blaster in the small lift.
"You know from one deserter to the other, let me tell you something." he was rewarded by a flinch from the kid for bringing up the academy, no matter how low a blow it was."We are not so different, you and I. We saw a system that wasn't working and simply decided to look into alternatives before you either had to become someone you never want to see in the mirror or you get killed. The difference is between us. you immediately signed up for another impossible cause, ready to give your life and all that. Me? I'm a survivor, always was and always will be and I prefer to be alive and act accordingly."
As he was talking he was walking closer to Wedge who backed up until his back ended pressed against the elevator doors, the pilot no longer confident or angry as he was a moment ago. Hobbie tried to step to his friend's side but Rex held him back, silently advising him to calm down.
"That's even more reason why we shouldn't trust you." Wedge said but his words lacked their buster as he nervously looked between Ezra's stony face and the blaster resting at his side.
"Oh, sure kid. I am a stubborn bastard, a liar, a cheater, and a coward at heart but make let's one thing," he said, barely able to keep his anger at bay as he got into Wedge's face, the light overhead flickering. He didn't acknowledge the wary glances sent by Rex and Zane at his little outburst instead focused on the kid quivering in front of him. "I always clear my debts. Rex saved my life many times and it's high time I pay him back, so that's what I will do. But no make no mistake, you guys aren't necessary for that." he told him with a cold, dead tone.
"Dev, stop it," Rex warned him with his brow furrowed.
Ezra looked at the clone, telling him with a look that he didn't intend to keep quiet. At least he took a step back, giving the nervous pilot room to breathe as he continued talking.
"I'm here to rescue him because I own him at least this much. You, Bobbie, and Bob, you guys just happened to be with him, in his cell when I came to rescue him. You guys mean nothing to me, ergo your continued survival means just as much. I took you with me because a few more guns would be welcome but make no mistake. If you do something stupid I won't risk my life to save you, especially if you don't follow orders. So be a good little cadet and do as you're told." he told him with a stern tone, though, staring down Wedge who couldn't even muster anything back in response.
He knew he shouldn't lash out like that. Were their positions reversed he might have been just as suspicious and twice as confrontational. Unfortunately, he was hardly in a state of mind to listen to his own reasons.
He hated to admit it but he was rattled. The arrival of the girl, memories of who he was, of Ezra Bridger the Jedi, and the failure, definitely left the control of his emotions shakier than he would have liked. And with the Force involved, every loss of control meant the possibility of something disastrous happening increased vastly.
"I-I..." Wedge tried to form a response, completely shocked at the tirade he received from a smuggler who was hardly any older than him. Before he could try to come up with a comeback, the elevator let out a small sound as it stopped and its door opened.
He only had time to see Ezra's eyes widen before he was roughly grabbed and tossed to the side. Then blaster bolts began to rain down through the elevator doors, forcing all of them to the side to avoid being gunned down.
"Karabast. I knew the plan was going too well." Ezra cursed as he tried to flatten himself to the war as much as possible, to get into cover as much as he could but it wasn't easy. Imperial elevators were not made to be defensible.
Wedge remained silent, in shock, his attention wasn't on the blue bolts of plasma but on the smuggler next to him who was busy cursing up a storm and trying to think upon a plan. More specifically, he looked at the blackened spot on his side, where he took a shot for Wedge.
"Why are we meditating again?" Ezra couldn't help but ask with an impatient expression as he sat cross-legged in front of Ahsoka.
The two of them were in the empty cargo hold of the Twilight after Ahsoka declared they should meditate, while Rex and Sabine were busy checking on the old ship, to make sure it was capable of the return trip. Ezra, of course, didn't see the point of this and he was quick to voice his objections but at least he tried to remain civil about it.
After a shakier than preferred descent into Malachor's atmosphere, they landed on a barren, rocky wasteland, strange columns standing in the middle of nowhere, serving as silent reminders of something or the other. The whole planet carried a dead, foreboding presence to itself and Ezra felt a shiver run up his spine, not dissimilar from his first encounter with the Sith Lord Vader, though not as concentrated or strong.
He was eager to explore the ominous world, to find the key to defeat the Sith but much to his confusion instead of disembarking the shuttle, Ahsoka asked Rex and Sabine to check the ship's systems while she took him with her to the cargo hold to meditate.
"Because whatever awaits us will be challenging enough with a clear and focused head. The dark side of the Force is strong here, it shrouds the planet and who knows how many challenges we have to face. We better use this one chance, this small reprieve to arm ourselves with the Force before jumping into a sea of darkness." she told him, her face and voice expressionless as she lectured him.
Ezra frowned. He could see the logic in her worlds, even if he wasn't a fan of meditating. But there was an energy in the air around them, it made him reckless, unable to sit still, demanding him to move, to do something, anything. Though considering where they were, maybe it wasn't a good idea to listen to such impulses.
"It's just..." he hesitated, finding it a bit embarrassing, saying his thoughts out loud."It feels weird. We are so close to finding our answers, I just can't see the point of sitting down and doing nothing for a few minutes."
Despite what he expected the togruta gave him a small smile as if silently sympathizing with his plight.
"I know how you feel Ezra. I was the same at your age, didn't see the point of stopping and just taking a breath when there was so much to be done. But trust me, Ezra, it took me a while to learn this, but the galaxy is always in turmoil, there is always something else to do. It could easily overwhelm you, that's why you must stop sometime for a moment and just let go." she advised and Ezra lowered his head, unable to meet her eyes.
"I'll try," he promised and continued with a small grin when he saw her mouth open. "I know, do or do not, there is no try, that's what Master Yoda always said right? I heard it enough times by Kanan that I doubt I can ever forget it." he joked with a nostalgic smile on his face at the thought of his master.
"No doubt the reason he remembers them so well is that he was told those exact words so much that it stuck even in his stubborn head." Ahsoka smiled as well as the two of them joked at Kanan's expense.
It would have been even better if the man were here to get annoyed by it but both of them tried not to think about that.
"Alright. Here goes nothing." Ezra said to himself as he let out a large breath and let the Force in.
It was a unique experience, falling into a Force meditation, it was very hard to describe. In one part he felt himself filled with the essence of the universe, feeling so large yet still so small in a sea that he had no particular control over. The slightest loss of concentration threatened to sweep him away. It was a humbling experience, seeing how little effect he had on the galaxy at large, yet still, be an as important part of it as any other.
Yet he didn't just feel the essence of the power binding people together with it, the Force carried his presence and he felt his surroundings with clarity his five senses could never bring. Malachor's presence was much stronger in the Force, dark and heavy with death, with anger and sadness, of things that happened and those that never could have. It reeked of the dark side but even then, it wasn't just bad. He felt far lighter feelings, buried deep down, kept oppressed by the death. The promise of life, what life still lived on this planet, of the unwavering echo left behind the Jedi who came here before and probably never left.
He felt Ahsoka's presence in front of him, a bright pillar shining inside a fog. For the lack of a better term her presence felt neutral, neither a blinding light like the echo of Jedi he felt, nor the suffocating, vibrating darkness that was Malachor. It felt as if in the constant battle of two extremes, Ahsoka reached a balance, where she found the best of both worlds. That was the best way he could describe her presence.
Sabine and Rex had their unique presences, that reflected their selves, though strangely they weren't felt as loud for a lack of better term in the Force as Ahsoka. Maybe because they weren't Force sensitives he supposed. Sabine's presence was as colorful, as passionate as the one it belonged to, even recent events couldn't dull it, while Rex was full of weariness and fatigue but his light still managed to shine through it.
As Ezra fell deeper and deeper into the meditative trance, his connection to the Force deepening, he felt the past, the present and the future blur into an indiscriminate mess as the echoes ranging through the Force opened his mind and the visions started.
He felt something heavy press on him, his breath becoming ragged as voices, both familiar and unfamiliar began to yell around him, only able to understand a few of them, and even then the context was completely lost. His head pounded as he grit his teeth, trying to instinctively fight against a powerful presence that seemed intent on dragging him down to somewhere.
"They will be the architects of their own destruction."
"Call me, Old Master."
"After all they took us, from me, I have the right. I have the right to choose their fate and nobody can stop me"
Ezra shivered as among the unfamiliar voices he heard his own, tormented and enraged, barely recognizable. He couldn't let fear overwhelm him and he found himself fighting through it, digging deeper into the visions, trying to find the source of it all.
"I created a legacy so resilient that now you come before me."
"You think you can take whatever you want! Things you didn't make, didn't earn; things you don't even understand! You don't deserve to have this art, or Lothal."
"Good luck kid, you will need it."
"Find yourself again, you have."
"You cannot see. But I can."
"Your anger gives you strength gives you focus."
"Please stop it, it isn't you!"
"Whatever happens next happens to both of us."
"Welcome back, apprentice."
"Master! No!" a young girl's frightened voice cut through the haze that slowly engulfed him, causing Ezra to snap out of his trance and open his eyes as he sat up with a panicked shout.
Only that he wasn't in the cargo hold any longer and there was no sign of Ahsoka or any of the others. For a moment he thought he was floating in space, what with the all-encompassing darkness around him, only broken by a million faint stars shining on a black canvas, but he could feel the gravity of the place as well feeling sitting on something solid.
"Where am I?" he muttered to himself in wonder as he looked down, barely able to notice the general shape of some sort of invisible bridge that he was standing on, not noticing the strange echo in his voice, as if he was standing in a small cave where his voice constantly bounced back, despite the large space around him.
As he continued looking around, he slowly discovered there was more to this place than just some sort of empty space. There were countless barely visible bridges around him, forming elaborate pathways, leading to various circles in the air. He wondered what they might be, maybe some sort of doorways?
He pondered if he should decide to simply start walking when he suddenly felt compelled to turn around. As he did so, his eyes widened as he noticed someone standing a few feet away from his, showing their back to him.
The figure was tall, his form shrouded in a brown cloak with the hood covering the head, wearing armored gauntlets, shoulder pad, and a chest piece over it, holding the handle of what was clearly a lightsaber in his right hand. The figure was imposing and looked powerful, he was what he imagined the Jedi in their prime might have looked like after the stories he heard from Kanan and Ahsoka.
"Did you ever wonder? On the path that led us here, the countless times we could have chosen differently." the stranger spoke up with a masculine voice that sounded very familiar to Ezra but he couldn't place it where he must have heard it. The Jedi didn't turn around, despite clearly being aware of his presence.
"Who, no what are you?" Ezra asked as he watched the figure turn around with apprehension, his face still hidden beneath the hood but that feeling of familiarity grew to a degree that he was sure he knew that person but still had no idea, nothing to help him figure out their identity.
It couldn't have been Kanan, the way he talked and stood was way more different than his Master but he was also the only male Jedi that he knew. So where did he meet that mysterious man?
"You can say I am what awaits at the end of your choices, or the inevitable fate waiting for you." it was easy to hear the smile in the familiar man's voice as he answered cryptically. "Maybe it was simply my choice to accept what I saw as inevitable, who knows? I knew the path before me and resolved to follow it and that led me here. Led you here." he told him, further confusing Ezra.
Before the young teen could question him further, he noticed something behind the Jedi's back. The lights from those stars were fading rapidly as if something inherently dark swallowed them up and from the shiver, then ran past him, he knew whatever it was, it was getting closer.
It was as if the Force itself was swallowed up by that dark cloud. The death of the Force and the sheer thought terrified him.
"What is that?" his voice was small as he found himself falling to his knees, his body shutting down.
He felt an armored hand land on his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. He forced his head upward, and his eyes widened as he noticed that the so-far unnamed Jedi's hood was down, as he looked down at him with a small smile.
It felt he was looking into a mirror. A mirror that made him look older, his hair cut short in a military manner. He looked far, far older, but his eyes were even older, full of pain and loneliness. His face seemed to gain a few new scars since the two he got from his fight with the Head Inquisitor.
As realization dawned on him, his older self gave him a sympathetic smile as he helped him up before gently pushing him back. He turned back, facing the incoming horde of darkness. Activating his saber, a bright green blade emerged, so much different from his hybrid lightsaber, and so familiar to the one his master used.
As the older Ezra continued to walk forward, he started talking, his voice echoing in his younger version's head.
"Our destiny, the path that lies ahead, whatever you want to call it. My final stand, so the universe could live." the Jedi's voice was steady and without any fear as he raised his lightsaber and held it in a classic stance of form III."I do not feel despair because I know I did the best that I could do, I do not regret the choices that led me here because I met so many amazing people and I trust them to continue on. When your time will come to make the choice, I hope you can make the right one, my naive younger self."
Ezra felt his vision swim as he felt being pulled away from the vision, his surroundings and his older self's voice fading but he still managed to hear the last few words of the Jedi waiting steadfastly for the end.
"The Force is with me, And I am one with the Force..."
"The Force is with me, And I am one with the Force..." Ezra muttered as he tiredly opened his eyes, trying to take stock of his surroundings.
His head hurt and he entirely felt heavy as if he ran a marathon or something like this. From what little he could see through his hazy vision he seemed to be back on the Twilight's cargo hold.
"Ezra." Sabine's worried voice reached him as her face suddenly appeared in his vision and he felt one hand reach out and gently touch his face, her emotions visible on her most of the time guarded face.
She must have been really worried about him, usually, she wouldn't let her guard down. Especially not to him, who was prone to misinterpret her honest worry for him as something deeper when he was younger. No, to be honest, he was still prone to do but he was doing better not showing it.
"Hey." he gave her a weak smirk, trying not to lean into her touch.
"You gave us quite a scare, kid. Are you feeling okay?" Rex asked from his other side as he helped him sit up, steadying him when he looked a little dizzy.
"My head is swirling and I feel like I sparred with Sabine for a whole afternoon." he quipped and couldn't help but smirk at the rather weak punch sent to his shoulder by said Mandalorian before his face turned more serious."What happened to me?"
"You slipped into a meditative trance." Ahsoka who was standing in front of him, her arms crossed stated. Her face was hard to read as always, but he felt a certain kind of apprehension or nervousness coming from her. "It seemed to overwhelm you, you started to thrash and raise smaller objects around you, before it finally knocked you out." she explained as she stepped closer and kneeling in front of him. She was searching for something in his face and she seemed to have found it before she let out a very faint smile. "You had a vision, didn't you?"
He scrunched his brows as he desperately tried to remember, remember what happened after he started meditating.
"A vision? Yes...there were voices," he stated with uncertainty as he racked his brain but it was no use. The memories of those visions, like sand falling through his fingers, disappeared at a rapid rate. "Some were familiar, some weren't, b after that..." he trailed off as he grabbed his head, a sudden headache assaulting him."I can't remember."
"Don't force yourself," Ahsoka advised, putting a hand on his shoulder. "When the time will come it will come back to you and make sense. No need to worry about that, focus on the here and now." she said, and stood up, looking much more relaxed than before."We should move out in a few minutes."
"But what about Ezra? Shouldn't we wait until he gets better?" Sabine asked, sending a challenging stare at the togruta. Before she could answer herself, Ezra spoke up, gently grabbing Sabine's hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze.
"Give me a minute, and I will be alright. I already feel better." he said and he grinned when she seemed to not believe him."Scout's honor."
"What were you the scout of? Air vents?" she asked jokingly but he caught her shoulders losing their tenseness and she seemed to relent for the time being, though she didn't leave his side.
Even Rex smiled at their antics, amusingly shaking his head before looking at Ahsoka who hid her own amusement in favor of concentrating on their mission.
For now, for this little moment, nothing mattered. Not whatever them outside or the Inquisitors chasing after them. Not the weight of the rebellion and the fate of the galaxy on their shoulders. Not even the losses they suffered or those they will undoubtedly suffer.
For this moment, they were happy, they were carefree, they were together. Maybe for the last time.
"Heh," Ezra gave a pained chuckle as he blinked away the memories that were somehow surfaced out of nowhere. "I must be getting old, getting so nostalgic in the middle of the firefight." he muttered as he leaned back on the wall.
He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear it, thought the constant shooting next to his ear didn't help at all, then he raised an eyebrow at Wedge and Hobbie who were kneeling in front of him, their pale faces staring at him in horror.
"What are you two idiots looking?" he asked back with a scoff, only to quickly groan as his side pulsed with pain.
"You-you're..." Wedge couldn't form a proper sentence as he stared at his chest. Or more precisely at the scorch mark where a bolt clipped his side just under his heart.
As soon as the elevator doors opened, the automated turrets that were placed in front of the elevator for some insane reason started firing without care, not even stopping when all they struck was the back of the elevator that was turned slowly black by the dozens of blaster bolts slammed into it.
It was all he could to grab Wedge and throw him to the side, managing to snag Hobbie in the process as well but he himself just merely made it out of the firing zone. On the other side of the elevator Rex, Zane, and Izrik were flattened against a wall, not even daring to move thanks to the constant rain of lasers.
"Dev! Are you guys alright?" Rex called out as he watched on worry, grabbing Zane by the back of his armor and throwing him back when he tried to return fire, a dozen or so bolts slamming into the place where he was a moment ago.
Wedge opened his mouth, his body shaking but Ezra managed to speak up before him. The last thing he needed was for attention to be turned on his injury at the moment.
"Just peachy. The kid might have pissed his pants though," he yelled back, before letting a loud laugh, his voice heard even though the blasters. "Why the hell is it still firing when there is nothing that it can hit?" he asked, completely baffled by the lack of logic.
In theory, they could remain in place until the turrets ran out of ammo but they were on a tight schedule as it is. They had to improvise something soon, or their window would be closed.
"Basic imperial tactics." Zane yelled back, the amusement on his face clear even in this situation."If one shot is not enough, give it a hundred more until nothing is left to stand against you."
"Okay, we are truly screwed," Ezra said with a groan as he shifted his body to reach into one of his pockets but the move aggravated his wound, causing him to hiss in pain.
"You mean the turrets will...?" Hobbie paled even further if it was possible, hopelessness clear in his eyes.
"What? No, don't be an idiot." Ezra looked at him with a raised eyebrow, the look hitting that he was seriously doubting his intelligence."I was talking about Zane having a sense of humor. That's like a sure sign of the apocalypse or that something really bad will happen."
"Up yours, Morgan." the man in question shouted back.
"Enough bickering." Rex scolded the two of them, grunting as a shot really came close to catching him."Any ideas?"
"We could just toss Bobbie and Bob out. Have them sponge up a few bolts while we take care of the turrets." Ezra offered with a grin.
Hobbie opened his mouth, completely speechless at that terrible plan and the rodian, recognizing the nickname he was granted with, began to swear loudly, prompting Zane to hold him back, less he becomes a real human shield. Well, Rodian shield in his case.
"Dev!" Rex shouted at him, completely caught off-guard that he of all people would say something like that. Despite the admonishment, Ezra just grinned, far too amused.
"What? You said ideas, you didn't say anything against terrible ones." he joked while continuing to search his pockets, as much as his injury was letting him, giving a cry of triumph as he finally pulled out a larger grenade."Ah, there you are. My precious miracle worker."
"A grenade?" Wedge asked from him, his brow furrowing in confusion."What a single grenade can do in this situation?"
"Watch and learn kid." he grinned as he tested the grenade's weight in his hand before rearing it back and throwing it with all of his power. Only, he threw it in the opposite direction.
Wedge and Hobbie watched with confusion as the grenade collided with the back wall of the elevator, somehow avoiding all of the laser bolts flying through the air and bounced back, right out of the elevator door. A moment later, they heard the sounds of electricity discharging as well saw a bright blue flash, then the shooting stopped entirely.
"What was that?" Rex asked as he bravely peeked out of his place next to the doors, seeing the deactivated and slightly charred forms of two automated turrets.
"Ion charge. Quite a large one, I wager the wirings of those hunks of junks are fried beyond repair." Ezra explained with a grin, before silently indicating to the two pilots to help him stand up."And it's very expensive if you are wondering. That's why I don't do charities anymore, it's just a large drain on my bank account."
"Knowing you, I think you will survive." Zane quipped back, both him and Izrik leaving their cover, fanning out in case any other surprises were waiting for them. "You got hit?" he asked a little worried when he saw him leaning heavily on Wedge, with Hobbie uncertainty hovering behind.
"What?" abandoning his inspection of the turrets, Rex was already at his side, a heavy frown on his face as he stared at the scorch mark on his chest. "Why didn't you tell us before?" he demanded, clearly worried.
"Because there was nothing you could have done? We were pretty busy last I recall." he snarked back, even as he fought back a grimace as he gingerly raised his communicator."HK, we are on our way. Please tell me you completed your part of the plan or I swear, I will find that pacifist mod and install it into you."
There was a long moment of silence, which naturally made Ezra frown but thankfully the comm came to life, the passive, yet strangely annoyed voice of HK-51 coming through.
"Statement: The charges have been set Master and I am en route to our rendezvous. Mocking statement: Of course, if you are unhappy with my performance, I can simply slow down and miss joining you at the agreed time. Even if your death is caused by my tardiness, I do not believe it would contradict my programming." his words elected an uncertain look from the others around him while Ezra simply rolled his eyes.
"Yes, well if I died, there would be no one there to maintain you, as well as restoring your corrupted protocols. Don't think Aleena wouldn't sell you in a moment, you know how she dislikes you."
"Retraction: I will be there any moment now Master." the droid was quick to add before the call was terminated.
"You have a way with weird droids, don't you?" Rex asked with a smile, shaking his head. "First Chopper and now that cheeky droid you have there. What was that about anyway?" he asked, face turning serious.
"Just making sure that the odds are in our favor." was all he said with a cheeky grin before indicating toward the corridor in front of them."We should start moving, the hangar is close by and we don't want to be caught in another surprise attack like that."
In the private hangar of the imperial base, a group of stormtroopers was guarding a single shuttle, eying their surroundings with a strange mixture of wariness and agitation.
Their orders were to remain by the shuttle, in case any of the inmates tried to get out this way, which seemed unthinkable to them. Deep down they knew they were here to keep the shuttle ready and prepared if the unthinkable happened and the riot got out of control and the commander needed to get away quickly.
They were getting various reports from their communications, some telling them that they had the prisoners on the ropes, while others claiming that they were getting through the troopers in the main hangar who were caught off-guard.
Their attention was broken as a beeping sound began to echo in the hangar, coming from the direction of the shuttle. The apparent captain gestured to two of his men to check it out as the others raised their weapons, ready to fire at the slightest hint of any movement.
They approached it cautiously, one of them stepping into the lowered ramp. The moment he did though the shuttle exploded, taking the two troopers and a few of the ones who stood near it.
The captain coughed, having lost his helmet as he was hurled back by the power of the explosion with the rest of his man. He struggled to his feet, seeing only half of his squad moving, even though they were unstable and clearly injured to some extent or the other.
"Get up! The enemy ambushed us, we have to take defensive po-" that's as far as he got before a precise shot got him in the chest. To the horror of his remaining men, the captain fell onto his back, unmoving, his eyes forever containing the horror he felt in his last moment.
The sounds of heavy metallic steps forced the survivors to look around warily, only for them to recoil in horror. HK walked through the burning wreckage of the ship, unsigned by the detonation and holding confidently a blaster in its arms, glaring down at them with ominous red eyes.
It was the personification of death and clearly enjoyed its job.
"Declaration: Assassination Protocols activated. Prepare to meet your end meat bags. Lie: It will be quick and painless." it stated with a hidden glee as he raised his weapon at the frozen imperials.
They never stood a chance.
The last of the stormtroopers seeing his comrades killed one by one threw away its weapon and turned his back. trying to run away in a blind panic, begging for his life. It was not enough to sway HK's programming and it shot the coward straight in the back, just as the doors to the hangar opened, Ezra and the rest walking in with weapons raised.
"What the heck happened here?" Rex exclaimed in shock, instantly pointing his weapons at HK because of old instincts, the droid returning the movement.
"Did you really have to leave such a mess?" Ezra asked with a pitched expression on his face, one hand lowering the old clone's arm.
The droid looked around as if noticing its handiwork for the first time before turning back to Ezra, tilting his head in a very ineffective show of innocence.
"Rhetorical question: Do you require air to continue living Master?" HK asked back, making Ezra groan at his droid's apparent need for manslaughter.
"You know what? Forget it, at least you are good at what you do." he sighed, not at all in the mood to entertain his droid."Hope our ride is as punctual as always."
Seeing it received no further order, 51 decided to walk away, making a sweep for any surviving enemy, small the chance that it was, leaving Ezra and his odd group alone.
"Please don't ask," he said, pinching his nose. He didn't have to look at the others to see the dubious looks on their face."HK is weird but good at its job. Just, tune him out."
"If you say so." Zane seemed to fight a smile at the little interaction, though he kept a close eye on the homicidal droid just in case.
Before anything else could be said, their attention was drawn to the blue ship that swooped in the hangar, its ramp already down to help them get on board easily.
"Looks like our ride is here," Ezra said with a wide smile at seeing the ship gently touch down. "Pack your things up, go to a toilet because I will not turn around because you have a small ladder or because you left your favorite toy here." he called out as he began to walk toward the ship with Wedge assisting him.
Despite how horrible his joke was Hobbie let out a quiet laugh before he hurried after them, sneaking glances at the Silent Grace. Rex was not far behind them, his eyes constantly looking around, searching for surprises but even he had given the ship a long and hard look.
"Looks like a trusty, solid ship. Heavily modified too, both its armaments and armors. A bit too much for a simple smuggling vessel." he observed, sending a look to Ezra who could only sweat a little before trying to pull his attention away from this little fact.
"Well, you know how dangerous space is Rex. A little more security never hurts, but nonetheless, she is a real beauty. Just like the one behind the control." his smile turned more genuine before he shook his head."Let's get going, we still have to get out of here."
As if summoned by his words a new squad of stormtroopers, no doubt alerted by the explosion stormed in, raising their weapons at the prisoners. Before the first shot could be fired, one of them already was taken out by HK who calmly began to approach the ship, sniping the stormtroopers with deadly precision, forcing them to dive behind cover.
"Go!" Rex yelled at Wedge as he raised his blaster to join Zane and Izrik who already began to pepper them with shots of their own, slowly retreating toward the ship."Get Dev out of here, we will be right behind you."
Wedge hurriedly nodded as he continued to help Ezra walk forward, Hobbie joining at his other side to make it easier for them.
"Oi, don't treat me like an invalid or a cripple. All I got is shot once, don't need you two idiots to coddle me." he protested but his words were betrayed by the groan he let out as he felt his side flare up with pain once again.
He was helped into the ship, Izrik, Rex, and Zane following shortly. HK was the last one to get on, using the last moments to shoot as many imperials as he could, cackling in glee.
"We are on board. Get us out of here." Ezra shouted into his comm as the ramp closed and he felt the ship lurch forward as Aleena quickly left the hangar.
He had to grab onto Wedge at the sudden change in gravity, the Grace violently serving as the anti-air turrets of the imperial base targeted them. This close, even with the extra plating even a single shot could carve straight through the ship if it got a clear enough shot.
Thankfully they had one of the best pilots on this side of the galaxy behind the helm and despite the unfavorable position they were in, none of the shots fired them even went so far as scratched the paint job of the ship as they left behind the imperial base. Thankfully with small bases like that, even the turrets were for nothing more than show, so they cut as many corners with them, resulting in them unable to properly target them after a certain distance.
"See, I told you it will be a clean escape," Ezra told Zane with a smirk as the ship stabilized and began to ascend, intent on leaving the smuggler's moon behind. The latter man only rolled his eyes but held his fist toward him.
Ezra gave him a fist bump smirking at the childish moment between them.
"So what now?" Wedge asked, looking around a little uncertain now that the imminent danger seemed to pass, wondering what their fate will be. Ezra made no secret after all that he wasn't a rebel.
"Now I am going to turn you guys in at the bounty office," he answered with a shit-eating grin, enjoying the horrified look on Wedge's and Hobbie's faces before bursting out laughing. "You should have seen your face. It was hilarious." he managed to say in between his laughter, holding his side as the laughter made his injury flare up but it was still not enough to stop his amusement.
"I swear your sense of humor gets worse the older you get." Rex chuckled, earning a pout from Ezra before their attention was grabbed by a certain girl as she walked into the room, holding bandages in her hand.
"Mr. Morgan are you alright?" Mia called out in a worried tone as she eyed him, leaning against the wall with a wince, not noticing the others at first.
"Mia?" Rex asked in a small voice, looking completely shocked at seeing the young girl unharmed, a hopeful look appearing on his face.
"Don't call me Mister, I'm not even that much older than you." Ezra scoffed in distaste, before waving her away. "It's just a graze no need to worry kid. Rather, look who I got here?" he pointed at the still stunned Rex, grinning smugly."I promised you didn't I? That I would get Rex out. Well, I am a man of my word."
"Captain Rex! You are alright." she smiled brightly, the whole room feeling brightening around her, causing Wedge and the others to relax instinctively.
They were further surprised when she ran forward and wrapped her hands around the captain who could only blink stupidly and slowly return the embrace while his subordinates cracked up, all tension gone from their bodies. Even Zane who was meeting the girl for the first time couldn't help but quirk a small smirk at the scene.
The only one who didn't seem to crack or a smile or show any sign of relief was Ezra who was staying a few feet away from them, watching the young miraluka with narrowed eyes.
His mind was working furiously and he was busy bringing up mental walls to the forefront of his mind, to avoid the chance of Mia sensing his thoughts. The more he knew of the young girl and her abilities the more intrigued he became and he didn't like that at all. He knew what awaited on that ill-fated path of thinking.
Still, he couldn't help but wonder. He didn't make a mention of his injury to Aleena, the last thing he needed for her to get distracted and he knew none of the others could have given him away. That meant the only explanation was that she felt his pain through the force but it came with its own set off problems. To sense something like that, either suggested prior training which he doubted she received or her connection to the Force was much stronger than he anticipated.
There was one more possibility but he dismissed it without even bothering to think further on it. The bond between Master and Padawan was strong and beautiful, a bond of trust and camaraderie, it would let her feel if something happened to him but it was not possible. He barely knew her and they couldn't have formed a bond, especially not with him blocking and shielding himself from the Force.
His thoughts were interrupted when the ship began to rock slightly, a sure sign that they were leaving the atmosphere of Nar Shaddaa. It should have been smooth sailing from here on but his hopes were dashed as a few shots caught the ship, almost sending a few of them to the ground.
Cursing quietly to himself, Ezra started to move toward the cockpit when Aleena shouted down to him.
"We have a small squadron of TIEs on our tails. Dev I need the turrets to stall them until the navicomputer finishes the calculations for hyperspace."
"On my way," he answered but he couldn't even take a step when his wound flared up once again, almost sending him to the floor, only Rex catching him saved him from planting his face into the floor.
"You are in no condition to do anything." the older man told him sternly, even Ezra's glare not making him back up."You are lucky you were even able to stand and move after that shot."
Ezra opened his mouth to protest but then another shot landed on their ship and he closed it, forming a thin line. It was not the time to be prideful but to act in a way that would get them out of this predicament in one piece.
"Fine. Wedge, go to the cockpit, help Aleena pilot the Grace," he ordered the pilot who could only nod in muted shock, probably because Ezra remembered his name after all the nicknames before hurrying off. "Zane, Hobbie follow HK and took the turrets, keep those TIE's at bay." the two nodded, HK making no moves indicating it listened other than walking toward the turrets. "Hobbie, careful with the side turret. It has a small effective range, time your shots." he called out as he remembered one of the weaknesses of the ship.
"Yes, sir," he called back cheekily, causing Ezra to groan.
"Rex you-" he started to say, only to be cut off by a stern glare from Rex.
"You and I will go to the medbay and treat you. No excuses." he added when Ezra tried to protest, giving a glance to Izrik."Izrik please look after Mia, I will have to drag that stubborn ass there."
„Stubborn old-timer." he grumbled in response but still grabbed Rex's hand and let himself be led toward the medbay after he pointed out which direction to go to.
They felt the ship serve under their feet, the sounds of shots fired still all around them but none of them seemed to even graze the Grace as Aleena continued to run evasive maneuvers. Ezra could hear their own turrets coming online and return fire and he had to small at the large cry from Hobbie as he seemed to catch one of the less cautious TIEs.
"Will we be able to make it?" the clone asked solemnly as he let Ezra sit on the sole bed of the small medbay and began applying a batcha patch to the injury.
"Please." Ezra scoffed, none of his inner concerns showing on his face. To be truthful, his concerns had nothing to do with the fighters chasing them. "The Silent Grace wouldn't even get scraped by idiots like this, with Aleena at the helm especially. Don't know about your boys but I trust my crew and I can personally attest that Zane is a nightmare behind a turret." he told him with a pained grin as he removed his shirt, showing off his injury.
It looked even worse but thankfully nothing life-threatening.
"I'll take your word for it," he mumbled in answer, deciding not to worry about the space battle he could and finishing tending to Ezra's blaster wound, for the time being, both of them enjoying the comfortable silence between them.
"Honestly it's probably more than back luck." the former Jedi murmured, trying to take his mind off the itchy feeling on his chest, knowing from experience that touching it right now might make things worse."They have a token force here nothing more, but the Imperial fleet still has one or two ships here. One of them was probably close to our position in orbit and was able to launch the fighters after us. But I wouldn't worry, a moment and we will be a long way from here."
"I see. Then what happens to us?" he asked, looking him straight in the eye, a serious look on his face.
It was completely disrespected but Ezra couldn't hold back that small laugh that surfaced within him.
„What, you really thought I would give you up for a bounty? We will just let you call your men to send the ship you take the kid with you and everyone goes their way. You, to fight a losing war and me to my next job opportunity." Ezra explained, sitting up and absentmindedly stretching his back. Despite his laidback attitude, both of them knew he was deadly serious.
"Well things have changed and I had to make sure." Rex seemed to age decades as he sighed and sat down next to Ezra, massaging his neck. "Thank you for coming to rescue me. It meant a lot." he admitted, awkwardly not meeting the teen's eyes.
"You saved my ass that it was the least. I may have left but I don't forget about my friends. Not completely." Ezra had a melancholic smile on his face as he looked at the wall in front of him, thinking of simpler times. "Why did you send that kid my way? You knew I am done with that stuff." he asked, his face losing whatever happiness it had.
"Yeah. But we had no one to go. No more Jedi out there who could teach her. No mysterious guide appeared to show her a way, I was out of options. You, Ezra Bridger, were my only hope." he told him honestly, putting special emphasis on his real name.
Ezra's scoff told him enough what he thought about the idea but he held his tongue since Rex was just aware of how reluctant he would be to do something like that. He was after all there when everything turned to the worse.
"But I knew it was a long shot. So I had one more plan. I want you, Dev Morgan to take her and keep her safe. Away from both the Empire and the Rebellion."
"Isn't that the same thing? And why the sudden distrust toward the rebels?" Ezra asked, clearly intrigued by the sudden turns of events.
"You said it yourself. Ezra Bridger the Jedi is dead, it's no use arguing that. But Dev Morgan the smuggler is not a high-profile criminal, one more person among your crew will go unnoticed and you can teach her how to keep herself hidden from the inquisitors and the like." Rex explained and Ezra had to fight the urge to snort at his own words being thrown back at him. He had to give it to the old-timer, his mind was as sharp as ever. "And the reason I want Mia out of the Rebellion's hands is that if she will remain, they will destroy her."
He straightened out, looking at the old clone more carefully, watching for any signs of deceit but he found none. He was being serious.
"With no master to train her, she could be just as much a danger to herself than us or the empire. More importantly, command simply won't care about that. They need results and some of them are not as wary of what methods they use to get them."
"I thought the rebellion was doing relatively good." Ezra chimed in because despite leaving that life behind, he kept his ear to the ground, forewarned is forearmed after all.
"For now maybe. But you know as well as I, it will only mean that the Empire will look more closely at us and dedicate more resources, the more reckless we act. Unfortunately, some don't understand this and are pushing to more extreme solutions." Rex explained, causing Ezra to scoff.
"Yeah, I did have a few run-ins with those...terrorists." he spat out, remembering a particularly botched-up mission.
"Then you can understand why I am wary." the clone sighed before earnestly looking at Ezra. "I know that you have your reasons for staying away but that girl has no one left. Nowhere to go, no one to guide her. If she stays in the rebellion, she will be nothing but a ticking time bomb and she won't-" he was cut off as Ezra held up a hand to silence him and turned toward the doors of the medbay.
A moment later the doors opened and Aleena walked in with a smug smirk but Ezra who knew her well enough by now caught the worried look she sent him, so he waved at her to show he was okay. The sudden loss of tension on her stance told him he was right.
"Nar Shaddaa is finally behind us and we are already light-years away. I sent out one of the fake beacons in case they try to come after us, so we should be alright. Not that they had much chance against me. Feel free to be in awe of me." she told him smugly as she walked closer.
"I would but you seem to pat yourself on the back enough times that I worry for your ego." he snarked but smiled as he noticed the pilot give a closer look to the patch on his chest. "I know that I look handsome babe but we shouldn't do this while having guests." he joked, laughing at the suddenly uncomfortable look on Rex's face.
"You know me, the more the merrier. Maybe I should show off my lapdance skills. What do you think?" she played along, enjoying the joke.
The both of them burst out laughing as Rex cleared his throat awkwardly and looked away
"Okay, okay enough joking around. Introductions are in order I suppose. Aleena, this is Rex an old friend and mentor from my misguided days in the rebellion. Rex, allow me to introduce my partner in crime, Aleena. I think her skill speaks for herself." Ezra said with a cheeky grin, leaning away from the half-hearted slap sent his way.
"A pleasure ma'am." Rex did a textbook salute as he stood up, though he had a small smile on his face."Thank you for the rescue, as well looking after this reckless idiot."
"Oi, is that my thanks for risking my life for you?" Ezra asked, a little annoyed.
"Ignore him, he simply hates not being the center of attention." she dismissed him easily before facing Rex with a small smirk."And I was happy to help. In return, hope you can entertain me with a few embarrassing stories about my partner. He is always so cagey of his past, he must have done some embarrassing shit."
"What are you talking about, woman? I was always cool." Ezra protested with a look that dared Rex to disagree with him.
So of course he had to accept it.
"I'll be happy to oblige."
"I got no respect around here." grumbled the teen as he went to pick up his shirt, pointedly ignoring the amused duo.
Turning around Aleena started to walk out but turned back one last time.
"I almost forgot the reason I came down. We got word back from Vogga's people, it seems like the prison break was successful on their side, and made sure to take credit but still not admit anything. Hopefully, this will keep the Empire busy enough to not pursue us. Wedge also contacted your rebel high command or whatever is its name and set up a rendezvous. We will take a few short jumps to be on the safe side but we will meet up in two hours. Until then I will be running a routine check if you need me." with her piece said she walked out, making sure to sway her hips in the process. She was always a tease.
"Looks like it will be a job well done." Ezra commented as he finished putting on his jacket too, examining the burnt spot with distaste."You know unless you forget about the fact that I got no reward for it and it cost me a large cut from my next job, and Ion charge and a new jacket. Fun times."
"Well for some reason I doubt you would stick around until we gather a reward for you." he pointed out and the smuggler could do nothing but agree. The last thing he wanted to be around rebels who might or might not remember him and what he had done. "Ezra, about Mia..." he trailed off with a troubled look on his face.
Ezra sighed as he ran a hand down on his face, thinking about the girl too. She was a way too harsh reminder of times past and he couldn't help but feel on edge around her constantly. Not because of her but what she represented.
That the Force was apparently not done with tormenting him.
"You're really serious about this, aren't you?" he asked but the grim look on Rex's face was all the answer he needed.
He wouldn't budge, not on this. And truthfully the part of him that he tried he forgot, to keep under an uncaring mask wanted to agree.
"I am. I remember what happened when I stood by when a kid no older than her, after losing so much and left practically alone was burdened with so much responsibility. I saw the signs and I could have done something but I didn't. Maybe I was naive or just filled with grief but when the time came I couldn't help. But it will be different this time and you are her best chance." he explained passionately, reminding Ezra that despite his age and calm attitude the man was a soldier who fought for one thing only: for the freedom to choose.
"It's not the same. I had you and Sabine." he couldn't help but point out, desperate to find a reason to not see parallels with his own past.
"For what little it was worth it. But no one could really understand your struggle." Rex explained, an almost desperate tone in his voice."I'm not asking you to train her or do anything. Just...she needs someone who could look after her without exploiting her talents."
"How is she anyway? Didn't hear about her for a while, which is unusual since she loves making her presence known." Ezra was quick to change the subject but from the wince on his old friend's face it was not the best idea."I see, same as usual. Guess I should have known."
There was a silence between them before Ezra broke it up with a large sigh.
"Damn it, I must be an idiot," he spoke up, Rex looking up with interest at his first choice. "Fine, I'll take the kid on but only if it's her choice, you hear me?" he added sternly.
"Thank you, Ezra," Rex said with relief and Ezra ignored how he relaxed.
He was too busy cursing himself for being so soft.