"Why?" he asked no one in particular, "Why did it have to happen like this?"
Something bumped the escape pod, but Leon was still in too much shock to notice Edge, he was gone he watched the separatist carrier jump to hyperspace along with the flagship the rest of the enemy fleet staying behind either too damaged to flee or being selected to cover the escape of their precious leader and weapon. Even though he could no longer see the carrier he felt it when it happened he sensed his friend's life vanish no matter how far the distance between them was he felt it as if it had happened right next to him. He was still leaning against the small viewport of the pod staring out into the darkness feeling an invisible weight bearing over him and finally he fell to his knees.
His injuries no longer pained him the shock and disbelief of Edge's death overruling his physical pain even after the pod suddenly shook and slung him to the ground landing on his broken shoulder he didn't even flinch. The goliath, The Judge was destroyed surely, but it wasn't worth the life of his best friend despite what anyone else would think there was no victory today. Leon rolled onto his broken shoulder and pushed himself up still oblivious to his pain The Judge, the Separatists, General Grievous, Count Dooku all of them, they took not one, but two of his friends from him.
Something suddenly began burning in his temple it felt like one of his nerves was being twisted around over an open fire. Losing Edge and losing Coins as well those thoughts sent of surge of anger of primal rage and fury through him and the nerves in his head and mind began burning bringing him away from his shock and slowly back to reality and finally he was aware of his pain once again. It came back to hit him like a storm dropping stones instead of water from the sky he dropped to his knees and screamed through clenched teeth the seething agony from multiple points all mixing together is a concoction of pain and fury unlike anything he would have ever thought imaginable. His broken shoulder, the blaster would on his abdomen, the shrapnel cuts and concussion from the grenade and the fractured ribs for him to have taken these kinds of blows without any kind of armor one after another it was a miracle of the Force that he was still alive. He opened his eyes and choked back his screams as he felt the pod shake and fall still he could hear a lot of overlapping yells from outside he had landed in the Resolute's hangar, he made it and Edge would have to if he didn't...
"Why" he asked no one in particular, "Why did it have to happen like this?"
Leon didn't think to try the door release for the pod he was once again lost in his own despair even though he could faintly hear the voices outside calling his name and then a terrible, violent shaking rocked everything and a deafening explosion reached him pulling him back to the real world. Another explosion this one very close and his pod began moving it was thrown a short distance and after it settled he heard blaster fire in high volumes. Only one thing could cause such a sudden change in pace, the enemy boarded the ship. Standing up and limping the short two steps to the viewport he could see them enemy droids filing out of boarding pods three of them each carrying probably a hundred troops. Looking as far as he could to the side he scanned the hangar through the viewport seeing dozens of crumbled bodies dressed in white armor and a few unarmored crewman in pale black uniforms and at the back of the hangar just at the edge of the window's frame he saw two green lights amongst the sea of blaster fire dancing green lights and then a third one.
Lightsabers, Luminara and Ahsoka they were already engaged in the fight and across from them marching forward in a dark brown formation of soulless steel and then…he couldn't think anymore. He felt it happen that part he could remember, again something had snapped in his mind the same sensation that could only be described as an on fire nerve twisting around until it snapped and then everything went red and then a bright flash of light and he just lost it. He felt as if he was trapped in his own head watching everything without any way of stopping himself and yet he could still feel everything.
Ahsoka stood at the front of the line next to Master Luminara the two Jedi defending as best they could against the advancing battalion of droids and only a dozen clones behind them reinforcements were on the way from other parts of the ship it would only be a couple of minutes they could hold out that long the only issue was her master was injured and until the enemy was cleared from the hangar the shuttle carrying him, Master Kenobi and Master Windu couldn't land. She risked a glance at the escape pod that contained Leon who still hadn't attempted to contact them, he was in there she could sense him, but something was wrong he felt faint. Edge said something about Leon being badly injured and there had been no communication from either of them since and she couldn't feel Edge's presence in the pod, could that mean?
Luminara yelled to her to focus and Ahsoka snapped back to the fight a blaster shot flashed inches by her head she couldn't afford to divide her attention against this many enemies, but not sensing Edge's presence and barely being able to sense Leon caused her far more worry than being outnumbered. Defending herself from a few more shots she managed to find a second to look at the escape pod again and she could feel Leon's presence explode. She heard him scream in her head a mixed eruption of pain and anger and then the escape pod's sealed door was launched away flying clear across the hangar and then she saw him step out.
His left shoulder was lightly scarred by the obvious sign of a burn a blaster shot had grazed him an injury she had seen before then she saw the much more serious plasma scorching on his stomach. A large ring of black carbon scoring another obvious sign and one that only caused her concern to grow even more. A mark like that could only have been made by a high powered weapon or a point blank shot and that still wasn't the end of his injuries there was blood smeared across the back side of his neck leaving a trail that even ran down and over the collar of his sleeveless jacket and various not deep looking, but bad looking cuts and punctures on one side of his torso.
She was only able to whisper his name before an eruption like sound tore through the air and the center line of the droid battalion collapsed on each other like dominos. That rumbling, the displacement of air when a force user pushes a target the sound was loud this time a powerful blast of force power enough to reach the opposite side of the enemy battalion. The droids behind the fallen rank began tripping over their comrades while the front half continued marching.
Leon watched trapped behind his own eyes as he charged forward lightsaber in hand and struck down the first droid his vision shaded a light red and the blood in his ears beating frantically in synch with his heart as he stepped forward and cut down the next droid before ducking and turning to cut down the next. A single step accompanied by a single swing two movements in a second resulting in another destroyed battle droid the enraged Jedi moved from one target to the next cutting his enemies down before they had the chance to aim at him. While he was trapped watching his rampage unable to stop himself he felt his chest tighten the pain of suddenly being unable to breathe hitting him just like it had so many times in the past and yet he hadn't stopped moving.
He was still fighting striking down droid after droid despite the fact he could hardly breathe he wasn't stopping. The pain was excruciating normally he would be using the Force to suppress the still unknown illness that plagued him even in combat he kept his attention divided to contain this virus otherwise risk a spell that could cost him his life. This time he placed no such restriction on himself he was pouring all of his power, attention and ability into the matter at hand not at all concerned that his lungs were about to seize up entirely he was fighting with everything in his arsenal a self-aware blind rage. He felt like he had no control over what he was doing and in his mind he did not care.
He was going to make the Separatists suffer for everything they've done especially Dooku and Grievous and if he ever met the genius that designed the goliath weapons he or she would suffer as well. He was done holding back done playing by the Jedi's rule book he was going to annihilate the droids currently in front of him and then he was going to track down Grievous and finish what so many so called "Jedi Masters" had failed to do before. He never had an impressive command over the Force and yet in the past he did demonstrate a control he didn't know he had once against Dooku and Grievous and again on Korriban. In times of overwhelming stress he remembered feeling like his mind was separated from his body no longer feeling any pain only whatever emotion was in his head at the time and now all he could feel was pure rage.
"Anger should be avoided at all costs" that was the first thing Luminara had directly taught him when he began his training as a Jedi. The one emotion that was hardest, but most important to guard against. There had been many times when Leon felt angered by something and although he was always able to get over it eventually he never let it control him until he and Ahsoka had crash landed on Korriban.
On Korriban he had gone through what could only be described a hell and it was there where he had first succumbed to his anger and although it was brief the oppressive dark side presence on the planet caused him to attack Ahsoka that moment was forever engraved in his mind. He had confessed to Ahsoka and his former master Luminara and his now deceased best friend that his greatest strength was the passion and love he had for those he cared about most and yet that was also his greatest weakness. It was that passion that allowed the natural dark side power that ran through Korriban to infect him to cause him to lose his mind and even willingly give himself to the dark side out of desperation to protect Ahsoka.
"Anger should be avoided at all costs" his former master's voice said again, "Anger alone has caused the fall of more Jedi than anything else in the Order's history you must always remember this or you will run the risk of falling to the dark side yourself".
Even to him those words rung true and he would ask his former master for her forgiveness later, but for now his anger was all that was keeping him going it is what was allowing him to move and strike so quickly despite the extent of his wounds. His muscles tensed and screamed with every movement his fatigue had reached its peak and his body was at its limit he could feel himself collapsing, but he pushed on he wasn't going to stop he couldn't not yet not until the droids all of them were destroyed.
The reinforcements arrived from the rest of the ship and finally Ahsoka stopped fighting, ever since Leon emerged from the escape pod her attention had been split now she was focused completely on him. She lowered both of her lightsabers the weapons switched off in her hands as she stared at Leon watching his wounded, still bleeding body and his silver lightsaber disappear into the battalion of droids she could feel his anger, his pain and she cried. She knew what had happened it was obvious for him to be fighting like this it could only mean one thing and her fear was confirmed Edge didn't make it. He was lashing out just like he did on Ruusan after Coins had died and this time she could feel just how deeply he was hurting he was hanging over a ledge dangling helplessly over an abyss and he needed to be pulled back up or he would be lost forever.
Her first instinct was to run to him to grab hold of him hold him in her arms and tell him everything would be fine, but Luminara was still fighting she would definitely see them. She could say she was greatly concerned as his friend and just acted to stop him, but even that excuse probably wouldn't work no, the Council was already suspicious enough of Leon's ability to control his emotions or lack thereof no she needed to think of something else another way to stop him, but she was also panicking. Seeing him like this able to feel his pain made it difficult for her to focus.
She watched him jump up and land in the middle of a small separated group of droids and his hand slammed into the ground first as he landed and the rumbling of displaced air roared through the hangar. A powerful blast of telekinetic Force power was shot into the ground as he landed shooting the droids into the four droids into the air and in almost the same motion Leon had cut them down and then as his pivoting turn ended and the diced droids parts fell to the floor their eyes met. Standing a dozen yards away from each other and she could see the mixture of pain and anger in his eyes and even though it was only for a second before he turned away she knew she would be able to stop him if she could reach him.
"But how?" she asked herself there was no way to reach him without being seen by someone and all it would take is one witness and their secret would be in dire danger of being revealed, but at this rate she would have no choice the longer she waited the more she could see him slipping she had to stop him.
She moved forward breaking into a run aimed directly at him, past the clones that were still charging around firing back at the droids and she reached her hand out covering an extra foot of distance between them.
"Leon stop…please" she intended to yell that instead only able to say them in her mind and yet as she finally reached him he stopped fighting.
"Leon" she said as gently as she could touching his arm and when he turned to look at her she saw the full extent of his pain reflected in his eyes.
He was seconds away from breaking down on the verge of tears and yet she could do nothing to comfort him without risking their relationship being discovered, but she had to do something.
"Its going to be ok" she said fighting back her own tears, she was afraid for him as much as she was of what had happened to him, but for now all she could do was tell him everything would be alright.
"Its going to be ok" she said again, "Everything's going to be ok".
He didn't respond to her their eyes met for only a couple of seconds and Ahsoka envisioned him again hanging over a ledge over an abyss of darkness and she was the only one that could help him. She reached out for him and he fell her hand missing his by less than an inch and she watched him fall. He fell forward into her arms almost knocking her down as she caught him the battle around them still going on as she laid him down on the ground, he wasn't breathing.
She looked up and yelled for Baron he was still here somewhere he and the remaining members of Titan squad were behind her and Luminara when the droids boarded the ship so he was still here somewhere. She called for him again and from behind her she felt a hand brush her shoulder and the clone lieutenant slid down to his knees dropping his rifle next to Leon his free fingers flying to his neck checking for a pulse.
"It's weak" he raised his comlink wrist, "I need a medical team to the hangar now".
"Where's Edge?" Baron asked reaching for Leon's eye and holding it open, "His pupils are dilated, possible concussion. Blaster shot to the abdomen scorch mark indicates close range fractured or broken rib maybe two".
"Is he breathing?" Ahsoka asked him.
"Barely" Baron replied, "He needs medical attention now".
A blaster shot flew between them and Baron dived for his rifle turning on his knee landing three shots into the chest of a battle droid. Once the droid fell back he turned back dropping his rifle and returned to examining Leon.
"Dammit this isn't good if he doesn't get medical treatment now he could die".
The words she didn't want to hear the words that lingered at the very back of her mind. Ever since that fateful day he saved Padme from a bomb planted in her office and as a result contracted whatever disease was in the hidden explosive. Ever since then since the first time the mysterious illness hit him she had been worried and every time since then as it grew worse and worse with each spell she became afraid that one day he would die.
"Finally" she heard Baron say and the emergency medical team stopped next to them and kneeled down to avoid being shot at by what was left of the droid forces.
Baron and the other medics lifted Leon onto the stretcher just as Boulder and Chip rushed over to cover them. Ahsoka escorted them out of the hangar and then returned to the fight knowing her attention would be needed there thankfully there weren't many droids left, the battle outside was surely over by now and the shuttle carrying Anakin was preparing to land their victory if it could be called such was only a few moments away. Try as she might it was impossible for her to fully focus on what was left of the fight she was afraid that something might happen to Leon she wanted to be with him right now.
The last of the droids fell just in time, Masters Kenobi ad Windu came out of their shuttle helping Anakin to walk both of them shouldering him as he limped on both legs. Following Luminara they intercepted their fellow Jedi just as a second medical team arrived to help Anakin, according to them while they were chasing Grievous the cyborg general had thrown a set an explosive against the wall that triggered when they moved past it. Obi-Wan and Master Windu were far enough behind that they escaped the blast radius, but Anakin was caught just inside it. He was going to be alright for the most part just some burns and shrapnel wounds on his legs nothing life threatening.
She was glad to hear that of course, but she was still worried about Leon.
"He's going to be fine" she tried to tell herself, "He's been through worse right?"
"Everything alright Snips?" Anakin asked her making her aware that she had been absently staring at him.
Ahsoka managed a small nod, "Yeah I'm just worried about Leon he's badly injured and…Edge didn't make it".
Each of them had a different expression, but they all had the same thought. Just like her each of them have seen how Leon reacts when he loses someone and long before Coins died Leon had prided himself on him and his team of clones always surviving a mission without casualties and unlike their relationship it was no secret that Edge was his best friend leaving no doubt that he would be taking it hard.
Obi-Wan folded his arms, "So Grievous escaped, we have no way of knowing if the goliath was destroyed and now Leon will likely be quite upset. What should we do?"
"We should keep an eye on him" Luminara said suggesting the obvious, "He has always been a passionate one and we've pardoned him on multiple occasions because he does keep himself in check most of the time, but him and Edge were very close friends".
Master Windu crossed his arms as well, "Which is exactly the reason we Jedi must detach ourselves from others. It can be difficult sometimes, but it is for the best. If he can't control his emotions in a time like this then maybe we made a mistake promoting him to knighthood".
"And lecturing him is going to make everything better" Ahsoka said sarcastically in her head.
"You have a point" Anakin said sitting up a little from the stretcher another medical team brought, "You all do, but Leon has proven that despite his emotions he's an outstanding Jedi and honestly in the short time since he's been moved to active duty he's done almost as much as any of us have. I think we should trust and have faith in him at least until we've heard his report".
"I agree with Skywalker" Luminara said, "After all let's not forget it was Leon's passion for his friends and myself that allowed him to fight back Count Dooku and General Grievous while I was injured. Also were it not for him the second goliath would probably still be a threat at the very least we do owe him some manner of trust and a great deal of gratitude. He may be impulsive, but his heart will always be in the right place".
"That may be true" Master Windu said, "But some of the worst actions in history were done with the best intentions".
Ahsoka felt her hands clench a bit of course Leon wasn't the most orthodox Jedi and of course he even danced on the line between right and wrong a few times, but he always had the noblest of intentions.
"I agree with Anakin as well" Master Kenobi said his shoulder shrugging a bit, "At the very least we should listen to what he has to say each of us here owe him that much".
"Very well" Master Windu said, "We'll let him rest for now and once he's recovered we'll question him about what transpired on the carrier".
Ahsoka watched the masters leave no doubt to the bridge to contact the Council and report on their mission leaving her with Anakin and the medical team examining him. Thankfully his injuries weren't that bad just some shock and nerve damage nothing some bacta wouldn't fix.
Seeing the distant look in her eyes as she avoided staring at him Anakin smiled at her, "Everything will be fine Ahsoka".
She nodded, "I know…Edge was a good man and so is Leon. The Council shouldn't be too hard on him".
"They won't be" he told her still smiling, "He's like us sometimes he lets himself get caught up in the moment, but he'll never do anything for the wrong reasons. You should go see him maybe see if you could cheer him up a bit".
Ahsoka stepped out of the way of the medical team as they moved Anakin onto a stretcher and carried him off. He was right, at a time like this Leon would want her there with him even if their relationship wasn't what it was now they were still friends. She turned around and ran after the medics and Anakin passing by them and to the infirmary. Leon was lying on his side staring at the wall in the corner bed monitors and other equipment next to him, but he wasn't hooked up to any of them.
"Leon?" she whispered as she approached him.
She saw him shift a little as he answered and as she guessed his tone was distant and sad. She walked to the side of the bed he was facing and sat next to him and grabbed his hand and as she did his hand tightened around hers.
"He's gone…" he said quietly, "He's dead and I…I couldn't stop him".
"Stop him? Doesn't he mean save him?"
As if he had read her confusion Leon tilted his head and looked at the corner of the cot he was resting on, "He could have made it out. We were both standing in front of the escape pods we were home free and he…he pushed me inside and closed the door".
Ahsoka's eyes widened a little everything was clear to her now Edge didn't just die he sacrificed himself to complete the mission and save Leon at the same time. Leon was a prideful person on top of being passionate and he always swore to protect his friends, but this time he was the one being protected. She didn't need to ask him for the details what he said was enough for her to piece it all together herself somewhere during their mission they had both been injured and even though they both had the chance to escape Edge choose to stay behind and see to it their mission was successful.
She lightly squeezed his hand, "You going to be ok?" she asked him leaning closer.
Leon's hand squeezed hers back and he sat up slowly at first and then he reached out to her and hugged her buried his head against her shoulder.
"It's going to be ok" she told him wrapping her arms around him. He wasn't crying no he was too weak for even that now he just held on to her as tight as he could.
"I'm here for you" she whispered to him and she felt his grip tighten just a little as he whispered back, "I love you Ahsoka".
He had finally laid back down and fallen asleep the stress and fatigue from the day becoming too much for him. After everything that had happened he was still able to fight as much as he did and as depressed as he appeared he was holding himself together remarkably well. It would take time for him to come to terms with Edge's death, but he would get through it eventually and she would be there to help him when he needed it. She gave his hand another light squeeze before getting up to leave ever since she first admitted that she loved him as well part of her had always been afraid that something bad would come of it, but she realized today that she was what was keeping him together that he really needed her. She was still afraid that one day their relationship would be discovered, but another part of her looked forward to a day when they wouldn't have to hide it, they made each other happy and he was able to make her laugh and she was there for him when he needed her most.
The greatest joy in life is the understanding and love one can have for another. She remembered hearing that somewhere before and at the time she heard it she didn't fully believe it as a Jedi should always remain detached, but now she realized how foolish such a rule is. While keeping one's emotions in control should always be an important discipline one should always have someone to turn to when the absolute worst of events occur, someone to trust, to hold onto, to love, to never let go of.