“This one,” Fives says, a few hundred meters down the stairs. There's a silver door leading off the landing, a control panel beside it, and Fives has a decent sense of direction, of space. This is far enough down, and they have to be right beside the room with the trap.
“Think it needs a code?” Echo asks, frowning at the panel, but when Fives steps closer and brushes the dust off, the light at the top is green.
“It’s unlocked,” he says, heart in his throat, and touches the button. Hardly dares to hope, but—
With a soft click, the door slides back, and when Fives locks it open, it stays that way.
Shoulder bumping Fives’s, Echo slides in beside him, then taps another button. Within the room, there's a click, a rumble. Lights come up, and through the doorway Fives can see the floor rebuilding itself, tiles locking back into place in a fluttering sweep like shifting scales. The lights stay on, illuminating a bare, open stretch of ground with strange grey crystals set into the walls. Fives is entirely certain they're the same unnerving, unearthly crystal that served as the marker for this place on the galaxy door, and he wonders if they're native to this planet, if they're something that the Masters here were particularly fond of.
“Jon?” he calls, stepping into room. Echo follows, leaning down to wedge his blaster across the doorway just in case it tries to close behind them. Fives wants to appreciate the forethought, but his heart is beating a little too hard, his ears ringing. There's no sign of Jon, no Jedi in an oversized cloak sitting on the ground and waiting for them.
They hadn’t been able to see him when the lights went up and the paths rebuilt themselves as they were crossing. There wasn’t any hint as to where he was down here, and something like fear crawls up Fives’s spine. What if he landed somewhere else entirely?
“Jon?” Echo calls, pitched to carry, and Fives matches him as they step into the room, careful of where they put their feet. “Jon, we got it. Where are you?”
Still no answer, and Fives turns, puts his back to Echo’s as they scan the room. With the tiles locked together above them, it’s hard to say where the vault is, but Fives thinks he sees the jut of the stairs leading to it. A few meters over, there's a column of what looks like glass that’s full of golden sand, and Fives winces at the thought of how fragile it looks, how easily the whole vault could have come down if that’s what it’s holding up. A weight thing, maybe—too many people in the vault and it collapses. Which is clever, but brutal, so it matches all the traps they’ve seen so far.
“Where is he?” Echo says, full of sharp edges. “He jumped down here, I know it.”
“Maybe when we deactivated the trap, it covered some doorway he went through?” Fives suggests, giving the room anther sweep. Echo starts along the wall, headed right, like he’s looking for openings, and Fives turns the other direction, towards the glass column. He studies the wall, the floor, but if there’s any secret opening, it’s completely hidden. Maybe another Force-trap, he thinks, grim. If that’s it, they're just wasting time, and—
Something scuffs under his boot, and Fives pauses, looks down.
There's sand on the floor. It’s golden, soft against Fives’s fingers when he leans down to touch it. Not a lot of sand, but a definite scattering of it, in a way Fives wouldn’t have expected to be able to escape from a closed column. Frowning, Fives looks up at the glass, following the rise of the column up to where it disappears into the ceiling, and can't see any holes. Follows it down—
Catches an edge of something dark, buried in the sand.
“Echo!” Fives shouts, panic beating in his chest, and he throws himself forward, hears running footsteps close in. “Echo, the column, he’s in there, in the sand—”
“Karking hells,” Echo says, ragged, and slams his hands against the glass. “There's—there has to be a door, he got in there somehow—”
On the other side of the pillar from him, Fives sees the crack. “Here!” he calls, and digs his fingers into the seam, wrenches at it. His fingers slip, not able to get a solid grip, and he makes a sound of fury, shoves forward and hauls back again, and an instant later Echo is there too, pushing Fives’s hands to the side.
“Over, here, this side,” he says. “See, look, there's a divot—”
Like a handhold, right against the seam so that it’s almost invisible from most angles. When Echo grabs it, though, there's a faint shift, and Fives gets his hands into it as well, digs his heels in and hauls back just as Echo does, and with a groan, the door slides open a handful of inches. Sand spills out, covering their boots, but not enough. Fives grits his teeth and puts all his weight into pulling back, trying not to think how impossible this door would be to open from the inside, even with greater than Human strength, and he snarls, drags—
The door slides all the way open with a protesting screech. A cascade of sand spills out, and a body comes with it.
“Jon!” Echo cries, and he lunges, pulling Jon up and out of the sand, and Fives gets his other arm, helps haul him clear. He’s still, limp in their grip, covered in powder-fine grains of sand, and Fives thinks of sand in his lungs, of Jon drowning in sand like it was water and curses desperately. He rolls Jon up on his side, presses his fingers to Jon's throat and searches frantically for a pulse. They took too long in the vault, spent too long debating what was right, and Jon suffocated, suffocated in sand while they stood over his head and didn’t even think—
With a wracking cough, Jon jerks. He gags, claws at the floor, chokes and coughs as he heaves for breath, and Fives curses. He grabs Jon's shoulders, but Jon wrenches back, one hand coming up like he’s trying to block a blow even as he coughs, and Fives’s chest twists.
“Jon,” he says. “Jon, it’s us, you're all right. You're out of there.”
Jon doesn’t raise his head, doesn’t stop coughing, but his hand grabs for Fives, and Fives catches it, leans over him. He’s covered in sand, shedding it with each heaving cough, and Echo meets Fives’s eyes over his head, expression full of worry. Curling a hand around his shoulder, Echo braces him, pulling the canteen from his belt.
“Can you drink, Jon?” he asks. “I have water, if that will help—”
Jon shakes his head, pulling at the neck of his robes, and Fives gets it a moment later. He drags Jon up into his arms, bracing Jon's back against his chest, and starts pulling at his sash. “Echo, help me get this off, he needs skin for his healing thing—”
Echo doesn’t even hesitate. He starts stripping Jon, getting his tunics open. The undershirt he just gets his hands in and rips down the middle, and Jon makes a wheezing sound that’s probably thanks, splaying a hand over his own chest. There's no light, no sparks, no visible change, but after a long, long moment Jon jerks, hisses. His head falls back against Fives’s shoulder as he gasps, but this time his breathing is clear, deep. He doesn’t sound like he’s still halfway to suffocating, and Fives lets out a shuddering breath, wrapping both arms around Jon's waist and burying his face in sandy hair.
“Jon,” he gets out, ragged, and one of Jon's hands curls over his, grips tightly. He tips his head, and a moment later Echo makes a sound of pure, wrenching relief and folds down against him, wrapping his arms around Jon and Fives both.
“Kriff,” Echo manages, voice shaky. “Jon, you—that door could only be opened from the outside.”
Long fingers curl into Echo’s short hair, and Jon tips his head, temple resting against Fives’s. “Couldn’t think,” he manages, even rougher and raspier than normal. “Had my lightsaber, but—something in there—”
It was a test. A trap, but—one only a Jedi would have managed, Fives thinks, and has to swallow hard. Self-sacrifice, and selflessness, and then the only way to get out of the trap was to have someone come back for him instead of just leaving with the lightsaber.
“We’ve got you,” he promises, kissing Jon's cheekbone, his temple, the curve of his brow. “We’ve got you, and we’re not letting you go.”
A raw noise drags from Jon's throat, and he clutches at them both, hauls them closer. Fives wraps himself around Jon as best he can, feels Echo do the same, and they pin him between them, completely surrounded. Safe, and theirs, and Fives means it when he says they're never letting go. No matter what, no matter the reason, Jon's never leaving their sight again.
“Easy,” Fives says softly, and Jon nods, breathless even with the short climb back up the stairs. Fives is under his arm, holding him up, and Jon wants to be careful, not put too much weight on him, but he still feels shaky with lost oxygen, like the inside of his throat and his chest have been sandblasted raw. He’ll heal himself more when they're safe, when he’s had a few more minutes to recover, but right now, getting out seems like the best plan for all of them.
“Here,” Echo says, and pushes the door into the vault open a little wider, then reaches back, gets Jon's other arm like not touching him for even a few moments is too much. Jon lets himself be moved, too tired to think of why he shouldn’t, and Echo wraps his arms around him, all but picks him up off his feet, and sinks down with him, pulling Jon into his lap. Jon shudders, turning his head to bury his face in Echo’s throat, and Echo’s hitching breath says everything. He clutches Jon close, and they should get up, keep moving, but—
“We’ll just rest here for a second,” Echo promises, and Fives slides to his knees in front of them, looking worried. Not able to help himself, Jon reaches out, groping for his hand, and Fives catches it immediately, squeezing tightly.
“I’ll be all right,” Jon promises, and Fives makes a sound of amusement that only just covers the ache underneath.
“Yeah,” he says, sinking down and pulling Jon's knees over his own. “Now you will, because we’re never leaving you again.”
“Ever,” Echo promises, and the grip of his arms is almost bruising. “We—if we’d just left—”
His voice breaks on horror, and Jon wasn’t scared of dying, even like that, but it still makes a shiver of horrified resignation eat up his spine.
“Thank you,” he manages, curling a hand around Echo’s arm, tightening his grip on Fives’s hand. “I—thank you. For coming back.”
“We finished the mission,” Echo says, stubborn and set, like Jon can't feel his desperation. “We got the lightsaber, so it was fine. If we left you behind, there was no point in anything.”
A trap for a Jedi, but—not the death of a Jedi, Jon thinks, and closes his eyes, breathing out.
He wants to curl up right here he is, stay in Echo’s lap and sleep for a week, but they really do have a mission to finish. Squeezing Echo’s arm, he pushes up, careful, and Fives instantly catches him, pulls Jon's arm over his shoulder and braces him.
“Jon,” he says, concerned even as he helps Jon get his feet under him. “We can rest here—”
Jon shakes his head, trying to marshal his thoughts, put together some kind of response. “I need—Knol needs to know we made it,” he says. “She’ll know where we can go. And I need a shower.”
Fives’s laugh is rough, but warm. “Yeah,” he agrees. “You do. Echo?”
Echo gets to his feet, slinging his blaster back over his shoulder. “Need anything else from the vault?” he asks.
Jon pauses, a little startled by the thought. He looks around the room, for the first time really registering where they are, and has to swallow. There are hundreds of years’ worth of work on display, the creations of dozens of Masters who lived and died centuries ago. The lightsaber he came to find is just one piece out of thousands, and to think of all of them staying here, lost, to fall away into dust with the rest of the Temple—
It aches with a quiet sort of sadness that Jon's felt far too many times, thinking about the past and what the Order has lost.
Carefully, Jon pulls away from Fives and Echo, walks across the room to the closest shelf on unsteady legs, and then pauses there, running his fingers over the hilts. Psychometry isn't one of his gifts, but the care put into all of these is almost tangible, something soft and bright and warm. They're all beautiful, a hundred different designs and types, meant for different hands and different styles and different purposes. Jon's rebuilt his own lightsaber a dozen times over the years, found new crystals half as many times, but—his work is still impossibly rough and amateurish in comparison. The Jedi who crafted these really were Masters in all senses of the word.
Halfway down the shelf, green catches Jon's eye. A pair of lightsabers, one a smaller shoto, with sleek silver hilts. They're wrapped in thin green leather over the grip, with Brylark wood inlays in a pattern of delicate leaves. Jon's never seen anything quite so lovely, and he reaches for them, lifts them down with reverent hands.
“Pretty,” Fives says, from a pace behind him, and Jon can't help but snort at the understatement.
“Very,” he agrees softly, and the buttons to turn them on are carved like the knots on a tree trunk, tiny and precise. Jon ignites the shoto, and the blade is a green three shades darker than his own, edged with a touch of silver in a way he’s never seen before. It’s beautiful, and Jon hesitates, swallows. He has a lightsaber, but—
“Keep it,” Echo says quietly, warmly, and his hand closes around Jon's elbow, gripping gently. He’s smiling. “It suits you.”
“It feels…rude,” Jon says, but it’s hard to look away from the blade. “I came for a reason.”
Fives snorts, pressing their shoulders together. “You didn’t come expecting to pick up two clone troopers, either,” he points out. “Besides, lightsabers are meant to be used, right? I'm pretty sure none of these were meant to become decorations and just sit on a shelf until the end of time.”
They weren’t. Even if they were largely crafted for the art of the crafting itself, Jon is sure they were all intended to be eminently functional. And—
He can hear the crystals singing to him, the same way his own does.
Switching the shoto off, Jon sighs, but curls his hands a little more tightly around both hilts, then attaches them to the connector clips on his belt. He’ll have to find better ones, but—for now, these will do. It feels like a good decision, too, like something warms at his choice, and he steps back, then turns and raises his hands, bowing to the two statues beside the doors.
“Thank you,” he says quietly, to whatever ghosts are still listening. There's no response, but Jon wasn’t expecting one, and he glances over, offer a small smile to Fives and Echo. “It shouldn’t be too far to the mountainside.”
Fives grins back, stepping close and sliding under his arm again, one hand hooked around Jon's waist. “Good. I think I'm more than ready to leave this place behind us.”
“Me too,” Echo mutters, firmly closing the door leading down to the trapped room. He waits for Jon and Fives to pass him on their way up the other set of stairs, then pulls that door shut behind them as well and follows. “I'm going to have nightmares about walking across tiled floors.”
“Stairs,” is Fives’s verdict, and Jon can't help a sound of amusement.
“Even with what we did on the stairs before?” he asks, and Fives makes a low, desperate noise, grip tightening.
“Jon,” he complains. “That’s not fair.”
A hand settles low on Jon's back, fingers digging in lightly. “That was a good start,” Echo says pointedly, and Jon's breath catches. “But as soon as we’re near a bed and have a day to ourselves, we’re going to wreck you.”
A sound jars from Jon's throat, and he’s too tired to be thinking of it, but he can't fight the shiver that runs through him, the way he leans into Fives’s hold. Fives smiles at him, leans in and kisses the corner of his mouth, and murmurs, “Later. Promise.”
Because they're staying. They both want to stay. Jon closes his eyes, hardly able to believe it.
“You could—what about your unit?” he asks, raw. “Aren’t you going back to them?”
“We’ve already been reported missing in action, probably,” Echo says, and as the stairwell widens out, he catches up, falls in on Jon's other side and braces him, one arm around his waist. “Or killed in action. Like you, right? So it’s fine. We’re not leaving you.”
Jon can hardly believe it, doesn’t know if he should. All the reasons why he shouldn’t be a commander are still all too real, but—
“I can't—I'm not command material,” he says helplessly.
Fives snorts. “So? Don’t give commands. We all worked together pretty well,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be you as our general. You can just be our Jedi.”
“Makes it less awkward for us to fuck you, that way, too,” Echo says, and Jon makes a sound of embarrassed offense, ducking his head. Fives laughs at him and kisses his cheek, though, so it’s hard to mind the words too much.
Still. Jon closes his fingers more tightly over Fives’s shoulder, takes a breath. “You have to leave me,” he says, and even as Fives and Echo both make instant sounds of protest, he shakes his head. “No. if I ever hurt you, you have to leave me. Promise me.”
“Like your Master hurt you?” Fives asks, too quick, too clever. When Jon stiffens, he smiles crookedly, and Echo’s low sound is the next best thing to a growl.
“It was…training,” Jon says, ducking his head. His hair is full of clumpy sand, doesn’t hide his face well, but—he tries anyway. “She made me a Jedi, and made sure I wouldn’t fall to the Dark Side. But if I do—”
“You won't,” Echo says flatly, and takes two steps past them to hit the button on a panel beside a short doorway. It slides open, letting in a gust of icy wind, and as Jon and Fives stagger up the last few stairs, Echo catches Jon's arm, drags him up, then turns and shoves him up against the stone beside the door. Jon almost startles, but before he can even twitch away Echo is on him, hands on his thighs and hauling him up, mouth slamming into Jon's with bruising force. Jon gasps, clutches at broad shoulders made broader by pauldrons and armor, and Echo kisses him brutally, kisses him breathless, kisses him until Jon's head is spinning and he can hardly hang onto Echo at all. He whimpers, and Echo pulls away, too quick, too soon, drops him on his feet and shoves him up against Fives. Without hesitation, Fives catches Jon's face between his hands, kisses him as well, and his mouth his softer, but he slants their lips together, never long enough, just enough to steal everything that’s left of Jon's breath until he’s gasping, clutching at Fives and his teasing mouth and the smile Jon can feel.
“You won't,” Fives breathes against his lips, and presses his thumb against one of the marks he left just a short while ago. “You would never.”
Jon ducks his head, burying his face in Fives’s throat, and Fives smiles, kisses his hair—
“Ugh, sand,” he says instantly, pulling away and making a face, and Jon can't help but laugh, the sound shaking through him.
Echo snorts, wrapping his arms around both of them from behind Jon, and he tucks his face into the nape of Jon's neck, just breathing. “We were thinking,” he says, low. “About after the war.”
Fives is still smiling, pressed against Jon's cheek. “Yeah, we were,” he agrees. “About the old Temples, and how there are going to be a lot of clones with nowhere to go, and not enough Jedi to work like they used to. So what about restoring all the lost Temples and making them places for Jedi and clones?”
Jon closes his eyes, overwhelmed. He can see it, clear as day in his mind. A Temple full of clones and Jedi, in the Outer Rim, with gardens and rooms full of laughter and a crèche. A place brought back to life, brought back into being by many hands, with sunlight and warmth and a place in the Force, a duty they can finally fulfill completely, with no one left abandoned.
It’s more than he’d ever thought to imagine, but—he can already sense it, the pull, the call of that future pulling them onward together.
“Yes,” he says, ragged, rough, and grips Fives’s side, Echo’s arm as he tries to hang on and ground himself. “That’s—a good thought.”
Echo kisses the knobs of his spine, smiling against his skin. “We thought so, too,” he says softly.
Before Jon can answer, there's a quiet, insistent beeping. Jon lifts his head, and Echo fumbles for one of his pouches, pulling out Jon's comm and handing it back as he pulls away from Fives. Fives doesn’t let him go far, but loops an arm around his waist again, holding him up as he checks the code and then accepts the transmission.
“Vagrant!” Knol says, her shimmering blue image rising. “Finally. You’ve been giving me one long heart attack for the last eight hours.”
“Hello, Knol,” Jon says ruefully, and she stops short, looking him over. Her eyes go to Fives, then Echo, and she folds her arms over her chest and huffs.
“You look like bantha shit, Antilles,” she says bluntly. “Do I need to come down there and pull you out of trouble?”
“Echo and Fives already did that,” Jon says, tacit acknowledgement of what she isn't asking. “We found it.”
Knol pauses for a moment, then laughs, and it’s all relief and victory in equal measure. “Karking hell, Jon, I knew it!” She turns, and calls, “Nico, pay up, it only took him a day!”
From outside the holo, there's a loud scoff, and a credit chip comes flying at Knol's head. “Fay, you said it would be difficult,” Nico says.
Another face leans into view, and Fay tugs her hood down, smiling with bemusement. “Less difficult with help,” she allows, and inclines her head. “The back door is still open, I see.”
“Careful what you touch,” Knol advises. “Fay probably had sex on it six hundred years ago—ow! Violence from the Healer!”
Fay rolls her eyes, withdrawing her fist from Knol's arm, but tells Jon, “There’s a house about a kilometer down the mountain, next to the river. One of Knol's smuggler friends will be there in a few days to pick you up. With the shelling, we can't get anyone there sooner.”
“That’s all right,” Jon says, a little relieved, and feels Echo’s hand curl around his. “We could use the rest.”
Fay smiles, then turns her head. “I need to get back to Maul,” she says. “But I'm glad you're safe, Jon. It’s nice to meet you, Echo, Fives. Welcome.”
“Yeah, welcome,” Knol says, still rubbing her arm. “If you can make the drifter relax and actually sleep for more than four hours at a time, I’ll pay you a hundred credits for every extra hour, so have fun tiring him out and we’ll see you in a few days.”
“Knol,” Jon says, face hot, and Knol laughs at him without mercy.
“Test that crystal,” she tells him. “After you’ve slept. Later.”
The comm cuts off, and Jon sighs, brushing a hand through his hair. “Sorry,” he says ruefully, and Echo snorts.
“A hundred credits an hour, was it?” he asks, raisings a brow, and Jon refuses to look at him, instead reaching for the red hilt he’s carrying. It practically leaps into Jon's hand, and he catches it, turns it over in his fingers.
A hand settles on his waist, and Fives leans against him, watching curiously. “So what does this one do?” he asks. “Is it really enough to defeat a Sith Lord?”
“Not alone,” Jon says, but he raises the hilt, breathes out. No button, but he can feel the mechanisms in the Force, and it’s easy enough to touch them. The blade ignites, perfectly soundless, almost entirely transparent, and when Jon takes a step forward he can feel the ghostfire crystal’s resonance all around him. Near invisibility, with a shimmer of afterimage as he moves that would confuse even the best duelist, and he smiles as he deactivates the blade. “But I think it will help.”
Fives’s laughter is incredulous, bright, and he takes a step forward, grabs Jon around the waist and whirls him into a kiss that steals every last bit of Jon's breath. “Kriff,” he says. “That’s amazing. You're going to end the war!” He spins Jon once more, then lets him go, and with a grin Echo catches him, pulls him into another whirl and then kisses him as well, and Jon is laughing as he does.
“We,” he says, when Echo lets him up, and he curls his fingers into Echo’s curls as Fives presses up behind him. “We’re going to end the war. And then—”
“Then,” Echo says, tangling his fingers with Fives’s, leaning in to kiss Jon again. “Then we’ll rebuild.”