Juvan grew as far as the eye could see on the farm.
Riyo sat back on her knees and sighed, her fingers caressing the waxy leaves bundled in front of her. It was hard work, growing so much of the medicinal herb for the good of the Republic– or what was left of it, anyways.
The Rebellion was still in its infancy, but demand was already skyrocketing for Riyo's juvan supply. It'd been a stroke of genius, leaves could be crushed into a paste and applied in lieu of bacta, something that was all the more necessary with the new restrictions put in place by Emperor Palpatine. The practice had never left the Pantoran system, something that Riyo was now thankful for, as the Empire was largely ignoring Outer Rim planets. They'd be unregulated for long enough for her to form a large stockpile.
It was going to be slow-going work without any help. She wasn't able to use droids, since they could be hacked and their memory banks would be too big a liability for the Rebellion. It was safer without them.
And… Riyo thought that she needed some time alone. She's lost sight of herself while surrounded by the shallow-mindedness of daily life on Coruscant.
Who was she anymore? A senator willing to commit crimes to protect her people? To protect her lover? Herself?
Was she someone who did it for the rush? For the power?
Without anyone else around, she was forced to confront all of these darker aspects of herself that she'd tried to ignore for so long. Out here, there was no corrupt system for her to be a part of– or make worse.
It was for the best.
It was nice, re-honing skills that she'd learned in her childhood on her family's farm. This work was grounding and purposeful, something that actually mattered. It would save lives.
Despite her best efforts though, Riyo still had to retain some form of contact with the greater galaxy. There was her datapad and holoprojector that she kept switched off for most of her time on the farm, as she instead spent her time crafting or reading the physical flimsi books that had been here for ages, still a common enough sight this far from the Inner Core.
Then there was her comm device. The first weeks she'd been here, she'd left it off and hidden in the attic, wanting to hide away everything from her past. She could almost wake up and pretend that nothing terrible had happened, that her life in the Senate was just a dream.
But then she'd reach her arm out across the bedsheets to find Fox where he'd normally be laying next to her, and reality would slam into her once more. Her fingers would twist into the sheets as she screamed and sobbed her loss to the emptiness of her house. No one would hear her, and the universe didn't care.
Fox had been taken from her. Riyo was now alone.
She'd finally saved and pulled the comm unit from the old trunk it'd been stashed in after she finished preserving the first batch of juvan for the Rebellion. She'd told Bail she was more than willing to help in the fight for freedom that she'd once taken advantage of.
It seemed that it was only fitting that her comm would go off now, the moment her mind drifted back to it. The beeping could be heard from outside the house, thanks to how isolated her little farmhouse was. Riyo reluctantly brushed the nearest juvan bush goodbye before she got up and trudged inside to answer the call, stepping out of the safe bubble she'd created and back into the real world by crossing the threshold back into her home. The comm was on a shelf in the kitchen next to the jars of preserved juvan leaves she'd already harvested.
Riyo took a deep breath as she looked at the flashing light and raised it shakily to answer.
"Bail," she sighed, partly in relief and partly in reluctance. "How are you all?" She'd seen only bits and pieces of the latest news when she mustered up the energy to check her datapad, but it was impossible to miss the happy photos of Alderaan's royal family: Queen Breha, Bail, and their newborn daughter.
"We're doing well, thank you." His voice was warm as always when Riyo had heard him speak of his family. "And you? How have you been?"
Riyo let her gaze sweep over the quiet and nondescript house. She'd been here for several months already, and yet you'd hardly be able to tell anyone lived in the small home just by looking. "I'm doing alright." Lie. "It's lovely out here." Lie. She scrambled to find something stable she could talk about, something that wouldn't make her voice shake. "I'll have a new double batch ready for you in a few days."
"That's wonderful news," he replied, but there was now a hesitancy to his tone. "But that's not why I'm calling you this time."
"Oh?" Riyo could feel her Coruscanti mask begin to slip back into place as his words provided a new source of warriness. She'd wanted to get away from all this doublespeak and hidden agendas.
She should've known that even trying to help in a non-political way was going to drag her back to the very things she'd been trying to put behind her.
"I know we'd briefly discussed it several months ago, and I wouldn't ask if it wasn't time sensitive," Bail said. "However, this is time-sensitive."
Riyo tried to keep her sigh silent as she nodded, despite Bail not being able to see her. "You know I'm willing to help."
Lie lie lie.
"I've got a few old friends that need a little vacation. I'll be sending them your way. I think the fresh air will be good for them."
Old friends. Vacation. Fresh air.
Riyo immediately tensed at the inclusion of these terms. Most of the code terms they'd used before had been in reference to couriers and juvan that Riyo sent the rebellion. Now it seemed that pieces of the real conflict would be coming to her doorstep.
"I'll make sure to get things ready for them," she assured.
"Wonderful," Bail replied, and she could just picture his smile that he'd give when a deal had been struck. "Thank you, my friend."
"Of course." Riyo tried to imbue as much warmth as possible into her words. She was glad to help, truly, but at the same time… she didn't want to face this reality yet. "It was lovely to hear from you." And with a click, her connection to the rest of the galaxy was lost.
She stared blankly at the comm unit in silence for minutes, until her vision became blurry and she realized that tears were welling up within her eyes. She raised her hands to wipe them away, but suddenly her arms felt heavy, and her limbs were shaking, and her chest was growing tighter and she could no longer breathe. Riyo crumbled to the floor, curling up into a ball so her forehead was pressed against her knees as she tried to calm herself down.
"It's what I tell all the shinies," Fox's voice came to mind unbidden. "Head on their knees, arms around their legs, and think of three good things."
The memory of him only caused her sobs to break free, but at least Riyo knew she was breathing now, thanks to the heaving gulps of air she sucked in between her wrecked cries.
"What are three good things you think of?" She'd asked him, chin propped up on her crossed arms as she laid on top of Fox, the blankets tangled around their legs.
Fox had chuckled self-consciously and rubbed at his chin. "My batchmates, for one," he said, slightly forlornly. She knew it'd been a while since he's seen any of them. "They were what made Kamino bearable."
"I've met Wolffe, and Cody briefly," she hummed. "And then… Bly, correct?"
Fox had sighed. "Yeah. We're all that's left." He took a deep breath and continued. "Then… sunny days here on Coruscant. It always rained on Kamino, and the city was surrounded by water. At least we get brighter days here."
He'd looked at her with surprise before a full smile broke out across his face. "You, Ri. It's always you."
The past merged with the present as Riyo gasped, "I love you," but instead of it being a soft inhale as it once was, it now sounded as a mournful cry as she desperately clung to the pieces of what she'd lost.
The universe was cruel and cold, and Riyo cursed herself for not realizing sooner as her tears subsided. She fell asleep alone on the floor, curled up like a pup abandoned by her pack.
Riyo didn't know how much time had passed when she first blearily blinked her eyes open. Her limbs were stiff as she pushed herself off the floor and glanced towards the chronometer. Her incoming guests would be there in a matter of hours.
Outside of the kitchen, attic, and refresher, there was a living room, Riyo's bedroom, and one spare room. Not knowing how many people she'd be housing, Riyo set to work on tidying both bedrooms to accommodate them, and then moved a pillow and blanket to the couch in the living room for herself. She doubted she'd be getting much sleep with guests here, especially if they were injured like Bail had alluded to.
She also knew that with strangers in her house, with other people around her after so long on her own, that these first few nights would have her on edge. The couch would be safest for her– and them.
The next step was a makeshift medkit. Riyo gathered supplies from around the farm: juvan, clean cloth strips, towels, and even a few vials and patches of actual bacta. She wouldn't use the final items unless the injuries were beyond severe, but it was better to be prepared than not.
And then she waited.
Riyo heard the heavy footsteps coming up the gravel path before she saw them, but by then was already rushing to the door. She waited for them to approach closer, hands clutching her single blaster as she looked through the peephole to see who was arriving– just in case.
The Togruta poised to knock on the door couldn't be real.
Riyo flung the door open without a second thought, blaster aimed at the Togruta's face despite her shaking grip. "You can't be here. You can't be real," Riyo's voice broke. "The Jedi are all dead."
Ahsoka Tano managed to give her a strained smile as she raised both her hands by her head, showing she was unarmed. "I always was too stubborn to follow the rules," she replied lightly. "Her smirk died as she glanced over her shoulder. "Bail sent us here," she said in a rush. "We only just managed to get him out alive, and I think I've deactivated his chip so it should be safe, but he needs help now."
Riyo slowly lowered her blaster as she peered around Ahsoka to see two men in trooper armor, one who was clearly the only thing keeping the other upright, by the looks of it. She couldn't see the second man's helmet clearly, due to his drooping head, but the armored one next to him she'd recognize anywhere. The Jaig eyes were unmistakable.
"Captain Rex?" She could hardly believe the name falling out of her mouth was real, but she knew Ahsoka wouldn't have come with anyone else. Her gaze flickered over to the other trooper, where she could see a heavy patch of red leaking from under his chestplate. It snapped her back to reality, and Riyo felt something surge through her that she hadn't felt in months.
Purpose. Responsibility. Someone to help.
"Rex, down the hallway, first door on the left," Riyo ordered, stepping aside so he could bring the injured man in first. "Put him on the bed and get as much of his armor off as you can. Ahsoka," she paused, reaching out and dragging her friend into a bone crushing hug as Rex moved past them. "I'm so glad you're alright," Riyo whispered.
"Me too," her friend replied, and as they drew apart, Riyo could see her blue eyes had turned glassy.
But she had to focus. "Come with me," Riyo urged, and the Togruta followed her inside and shut the door. By the time it was locked, Riyo was already in the kitchen, collecting several bowls and beginning to fill them up with warm water.
"See that jar of leaves?" Riyo pointed at the large glass jar that sat on the back of the counter. "That's juvan. I need you to add one part water, three parts leaves to an empty bowl and mash them into a paste with this." She handed Ahsoka a stone pestle. "The paste needs to be an even spread– I'll be using this instead of bacta."
"I've got this," Ahsoka assured her with a sharp nod.
"Thank you," Riyo called over her shoulder as she took the fuller bowl of water and headed off to her room, where she'd sent Rex.
When she entered the cozy room, she nearly tripped over her own two feet in shock at the sight she was met with.
Both troopers' helmets were off and discarded on the floor, as well as the rest of the injured man's upper armor. Rex was knelt next to the bed, holding tight to the trooper's hand and pressing their foreheads together, as if his touch could somehow help him heal. It was when Rex leaned back, just as Riyo came in, that her heart stopped beating as she finally saw the second man's face.
Despite the sticky blood that trailed from a wound just above his eyebrow, the scar that bisected the right half of his face was unmistakable.
She remembered the first time she'd seen it, when Fox had introduced her to the most important person in his life. She may have chosen to love him for the rest of her life, but Fox and Wolffe... there was a bond there that was older and stronger than compared to most of the troopers she'd met. She hadn't given it a second thought before welcoming her lover's twin into her heart as well. What was important to Fox was important to her.
And as she stared at Wolffe's face now, she couldn't help but hear Fox's warm tone as he'd listed his three good things.
Three good things had come in through Riyo's door that day. A man who'd seen her at her lowest, a friend who'd helped her reach her best, and the last living reminder she had of the person who'd meant the most to her.
Riyo couldn't let Wolffe die. If not for him, if not for Rex and Ahsoka, then for Fox.
"Rex." Her voice was devoid of any uncertainty as she stepped forward and gained his attention. "He'll be alright, I promise. But I'm going to need you to hold him down."