"We grow as we learn to let go,
Pushing through the black and white inside,
See in color."
- Finish Ticket
"You knew I was at the Academy, Ezra. I've never hidden that from you."
"Well, yeah. Sure. But I guess I didn't know…" he shrugs, tripping over his words, until he gets frustrated and stops, forced to try again. His eyes sear into her, and although Sabine knows that Ezra doesn't blame her for anything that happened, now or then, she can't help but feel guilty. She avoids looking at him and counts her breaths instead. Inhale. Exhale. In- "I didn't know what it meant," Ezra says quietly. His determined insistence pushes through her every effort to avoid thinking about her time in the grip of the Empire. Then, and now. "I didn't know what it would mean for you, going back."
"It doesn't mean anything, Bridger. I'm fine."
He's already started shaking his head before she's even finished the sentence. "You can't fool me, Sabine. I've got the Force."
"So what?!" she snaps.
Anger. Irritability. Resentment. Jealousy? He can feel it all.
Ezra hasn't ever thought about what it might mean to her, all this… Jedi stuff. There's a lot he hasn't thought about. A lot he should have thought about.
"Sabine, I'm sorry."
He reaches out to place a gentle hand on her shoulder. Unlike the smooth coldness of the armor plating he's used to feeling there, his fingers brush against the stiff dark cloth of the Imperial uniform she's still wearing. Her black hair sweeps across his skin as she turns her head to face him.
Ezra's used to thinking of this as a dye job, although he'd watched her wash out the brilliant purples, blues, and oranges that look right to him, and he knows that this dark and lifeless hue is the color her hair used to be, before she bothered changing it. It doesn't look bad, but it doesn't look like Sabine, either.
"Ugh, I hate this!" Sabine cries, sweeping helplessly at the short ponytail with harsh movements, almost threatening to rip it out. "I need to fix it!"
"I'll help you," Ezra stammers.
She sits down, heavily, and she can't sit still. Even in the chair, she taps her leg up and down, and drums her fingers quickly against the armrest. Her emotions continue to churn and boil even as Ezra combs through her carefully maintained locks. The familiar coloring agents sit on a small table in front of them. Ezra grabs one of the small jars, and begins streaking the bright blue paint through the Mandalorian girl's hair. "I can do it myself," she protests, but her heart isn't in it. She makes no move to pull the dye away from Ezra. If anything, she seems to be trying as hard as she can to pretend he isn't there at all.
"You can talk to me, you know," he points out.
"Get out of my head."
"Is that why you're mad at me? Because I can use the Force and you can't?"
"I'm not mad at you."
"You're mad at something."
"Not you," Sabine repeats.
As soon as he's finished painting the blue streak he's working on, she jumps to her feet, leaving her hair still mostly black, with one bright patch of color draping over right ear. "What do you care anyway?" she snaps. "You've barely talked to me ever since you decided you were in charge of us!"
"You volunteered for the mission, Sabine!"
"And you didn't even try to talk me out of it!"
"Why would I?!"
The question, screamed at her with all the volume and petulance that the adolescent Ezra is capable of stuns her into shocked silence.
They stand there, fists clenched at their sides, staring at each other across the invisible wall that has grown between them over these past months.
Ezra breaks the silence first. "I mean it, Sabine. Why would I try to talk you out of something I know you're capable of doing? You wanted to go… didn't you? I mean… you did the right thing. You got those pilots out of there. Antilles and Hobbie."
"Only because Hera got me out first," Sabine mutters darkly.
Ezra frowns, wishing he knew what to do. Though he's been trying to step into Kanan's shoes, planning missions and doing his best to lead the team, the truth is that he would so much rather just be able to make snap decisions on the fly, and trust that the people around him mean what they say. He used to keep to himself. The difference is that Sabine still does.
And he knows that when she talks about Hera getting her out, she's still feeling it like it just happened, even though Sabine had been one of the Ghost's first operatives. She hasn't been part of the Empire since long before Ezra knew her.
"You don't talk about it," he points out. He isn't sure whether or not he's trying to punt the blame, but he doesn't know why she's mad at him. How is he supposed to make good decisions when he doesn't have all the information? How is he supposed to know things she's never told him? "You've never talked about your family," he adds, more softly.
Sabine brushes her hand over her brightly painted helmet, and for a brief moment Ezra is reminded of the collection of stormtrooper helmets he'd carefully kept on Lothal. The memory seems to have very little to do with whoever he is now. And Sabine is a big reason for that. She'd climbed up to the top of the comm tower he'd lived in, back when no one else had taken him seriously. She'd sat there and talked with him. Despite her silences, she has always been willing to listen, and usually knows what to say. She's made him feel better every time he's felt irredeemably broken, and here he is helplessly stumbling through trying to return the favor.
He takes a deep breath, and tries. "You should. Talk, I mean. You can. I talked to you, after…"
"When you thought your parents might have been alive." Ezra nods. "That's the difference, Ezra. With my family, I always knew there wasn't any chance."
"What happened?" She shrugs, the same way she had when he first asked the question years ago, when they first met. 'The Empire' was all she'd said, back then. "Is that why you don't want to talk about the Academy?"
Sabine's silences can speak volumes. She glances at Ezra, cautiously, and sets the helmet down on the bunk beside her. She flicks her fingers against its bright pink swirls. "I was there for years, Ezra. The Empire took me in when I didn't have anybody else."
"But I thought the Empire killed your family! How could you-"
"Because it's more complicated than that. On Mandalore, it's always been more complicated."
"You're not on their side, are you?" The accusation there in the question is enough to set her off again. But he has to know. For sure.
"Of course I'm not on their side! Ezra, they killed my family!"
"No buts. The Rebellion has my full loyalty. You have my full loyalty. And having to pretend, even for a little while, that I believe in what the Empire stands for… it just reminded me of all the reasons why I hate them."
"I didn't think it would be that hard for you. To pretend."
"I didn't either." Sabine kicks off her boots and lays on her bunk, staring up at the low ceiling of her cramped cabin on the Ghost. This place is more home to her than Mandalore ever will be again. "It was hard," she admits. "The way those officers talked to me, it made me want to snap their necks. But I couldn't. I just had to stand there. Do nothing. Do what they said. They made me feel like nothing. They made me feel like I felt back then. When I was just a kid who didn't have anything else."
For a long moment, Ezra has nothing to say. He tucks his knees against his chest and wraps his arms around them. "That's how I used to feel," he admits.
"The only difference is, no one put a blaster in your hand back then. No one ordered you to fire it."
Ezra slowly nods. He is starting to understand what the Empire had given to Sabine, and what they had taken away. "Would you still take the blaster?" he finally asks. "If you had a chance to do it over?"
"Of course I would. The Rebellion needs people who can fight. It's up to us to protect the people who can't protect themselves."
"Would you still have taken the mission even if I'd tried to talk you out of it?"
"That's why I didn't try to talk you out of it."
"I know. Ezra, you're pretty damn smart for being a teenage boy."
He snorts, suddenly smiling. The grin makes him look younger, and for a moment it's easy to forget about all of the worries he's taken on these past few months. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you, Sabine."
"I know that, too." She draws him closer to her, and kisses him fiercely. When the kiss breaks, he stares at her with that familiar perplexed look on his face.
"Aren't we going to finish your hair?"
"It can wait."