Fandom: Star Wars: Rebels
Characters: Depa Billaba, Kanan Jarrus
Word Count: 1,280
Summary: Depa stumbled free of the maze, back into the atrium for the Lothal Temple. There was just one problem. The man kneeling between the desiccated bodies of the ancient Jedi was not her master.
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Depa stumbled free of the maze, back into the atrium for the Lothal Temple. Stone ground on stone as the door slid closed behind her. The temple was a test, one which would determine her worthiness to become a knight. Master Windu had said she would know when she passed, but here she was, back at the beginning and the Force still hung over her like an unanswered question. It was almost a relief.
The truth was, Depa wasn’t ready to become a knight, no matter what her master thought. She’d say she wasn’t afraid, but that was exactly what she was. Jedi didn’t do fear. How was she supposed manage knighthood when she could barely manage her own emotions? Her master would have to keep her on as his apprentice now that the temple had rejected her and let her live.
There was just one problem. The man kneeling between the desiccated bodies of the ancient Jedi was not her master. Depa’s hand flew to the hilt of her sword, but she hesitated to draw it. She always hesitated. Just more proof she wasn’t ready. “Who are you?”
The stranger’s eyes snapped open. He surged to his feet, only to fall back to his knees as he stared open mouthed. “Master Billaba?” he asked, confusion and hope warring in his voice.
Depa’s hand tightened on her hilt. With his grubby green tunic and blaster, he looked more like a spacer than a Jedi and certainly wasn’t anyone she recognized. “How do you know my name?” And what did he mean calling her master?
His shoulders slumped. “You—you don’t recognize me.” He shook his head. “I know I’ve changed, but I’m still your padawan.
Her padawan? He was at least five years older than her, but it didn’t feel like a lie. Time moved strangely around the temple. In the maze, she’d been confronted with the failures of her past. Was he a glimpse of her future or something else entirely? She took a hesitant step forward through a thick layer of dust that hadn’t been there an hour before. A quick glance revealed the dead masters were even dryer than she’d remembered. Depa nodded. A vision of the future then. She hadn’t left the maze after all.
After a moment’s consideration, Depa settled down on her knees across from the man who would be her padawan. Or could be at least, assuming she made it out of here alive. He looked thoroughly disreputable with his spacer clothes, goatee, and twice-broken nose. Would she recognize him if she saw him again among the younglings? She set about cataloging his features. Hair? Dark. Skin? Brown, but redder and several shades lighter than her own. Eyes? Blue-green and so terribly sad as he stared at her with something like longing.
“Why are you here, padawan?”
His lips quirked. “Waiting for my padawan,” he said, jerking his chin towards the door behind her. “You?”
Depa resisted the urge to look back over her shoulder. “Knighthood trials.”
“Congratulations,” he said with a lopsided smile.
Congratulations? Depa frowned. Was that supposed to be joke? “I haven’t passed yet.” They wouldn’t be having this conversation if she had.
His smile widened. “Trust me, you will. You were a great master. I—” The smile slipped from his face. He looked away, running an awkward hand through his hair. “I don’t know what I’m doing with Ezra,” he blurted.
Depa reared back. “Why would you say that?!” What kind of master, what kind of Jedi, admitted to those kind doubts? Just how badly would she fail her future student?
“You told me once that you were damaged goods.”
The accusation was like a slap in the face. “I am not!” Her hands curled into fists. Just because she felt things no proper Jedi should feel didn’t mean she was damaged. She didn’t know what those feelings made her, but it wasn’t that.
“I am,” he said quietly.
She felt like she’d been struck dumb. How was she even supposed to respond to that?
“After—” he shook his head. “After what happened, you taught me that to move forward, to heal, you first had to acknowledge the things that were holding you back. It took me awhile to get the hang of it,” he admitted with a rueful chuckle, “but I think I’m getting there.” He shrugged. “More or less.”
Depa looked away, biting her lip. That was not the Jedi way. There is not emotion; there is peace. How many times had she heard that? But there was emotion and another, older, version of the Code. Emotion, yet peace. She’d never understood how either was supposed work. Was this the trick to it?
This temple was a test. This conversation was a test, one she needed to pass if she wanted get her master and herself out of here alive. Depa rocked back on her heels as she considered. One couldn’t fix a broken leg until they accepted that the leg was broken. Was this encounter the Force’s way of saying emotions were the same? She inhaled slowly, exhaled even slower, and took the plunge.
“I’m afraid.” It felt better than she’d thought possible to say it aloud. “I’m not ready to be a knight. I’m afraid I won’t know what to do without my master’s guidance. I don’t want to disappoint him or lose what we have.”
Her maybe someday padawan nodded slowly as she spoke. Had he felt like this when he took his trials? Had her master? Did everyone?
“I’m afraid,” he said once Depa had wound down. “I’m not read to be a master. There’s so much I don’t know and so much I can’t teach him. Ezra’s growing so fast and I—” He shook his head. “—I lost my path for a long time. I don’t want him to lose his.”
Had Master Windu ever felt that way training her? It was hard to imagine. He’d always seemed so confident. Would she feel that unsure when she met the child-sized version of this man?
“We’ve acknowledged our fears. Now what do we do?”
He leaned back, stroking his beard. “What do you think we should do?” For a man who was so unsure of his skills as a master, he’d certainly perfected sounding like one.
“I think,” Depa said slowly, examining every word as it came to her tongue, “we have to move forward. My master is counting on me to get us out of this temple, and your padawan is counting on you.” She raised her chin defiantly. “I accept my fear, but I won’t let it stop me and neither will you.”
There was a shift in the air as the lingering question in the Force answered itself. The door ground open behind her, spilling light across the floor. Master Windu had said she would know when she’d passed. He was right, as always.
“Told you,” her padawan said with a lopsided grin. “Can I congratulate you now?”
Depa rolled her eyes as she rose to go. He was going to be a handful. She could tell.
“Master,” he called after her. She turned back to find his smile softer and more than a little wistful. “It was good to see you.”
He really had such beautiful eyes. How long would it be until she saw them in a child’s face? “It was good to be seen, my padawan. I’ll be looking for you.”
She stepped through the doorway into the room she’d just left. Glancing back at the rough-hewn walls of the maze, it occurred to her she’d forgotten to ask his name. Oh, well. She’d find out eventually.