Kanan’s voice and footsteps echoed through the Ghost.
“Ezra, come on, it’s time to train! You’re already a half hour late!”
He entered the nose turret, found it empty, sighed, and climbed up the ladder to the flight deck. No one was there either. He wandered out to the common area again and found Hera sitting at the table with a cup of caf, watching the morning holonews.
“Have you seen Ezra?”
“No. I think he might still be asleep.”
“At this hour?”
“Kanan, it’s not even 0700. And he’s a teenager. He needs the extra rest.”
“What he needs is discipline. And to learn not to stay up so damn late.” He sighed and put his hands on his hips. “Is Sabine here?”
“She and Zeb were out first thing this morning. I sent them over to the scrap market in Kothal for hose clamps and a few spools of solder.”
“And Ezra didn’t go with them?”
“No.” Hera sipped her caf. “I don’t think he’s feeling well.”
“What makes you say that?”
“He was hobbling around last night. I saw him take a couple salicet in the galley.”
Kanan’s brow wrinkled. “Really?”
“Go and check on him. I bet he’s still in his bunk.”
Kanan turned and made his way down the corridor to Zeb and Ezra’s cabin. Sure enough, there was a small blanket-swaddled bundle nestled in the top bunk. A mop of dark indigo hair poked out from one end of the wrap, a pair of bare feet from the other. The lump shivered, shrank, and whined softly.
“Ezra?” Kanan climbed up the ladder until his head bumped the bulkhead. He softened his voice. “Hey. You okay?”
After a pause, a muffled voice: “My legs hurt.”
“What happened? Did you fall down?”
Ezra rolled over and showed his face. It was pale, pinched with pain, his eyes watery. “No, they just… ache.”
“Bone or muscle?”
Ezra rubbed his legs under the blanket. “More muscle, I think. My calves and my thighs. The front part of them.”
“How bad is it?”
“I mean, I can still walk and everything, but it really hurts.”
Kanan folded his arms around the top of the ladder. “You should have told me.”
“I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me. That you’d think I was just making it up to get out of practice.”
It took a moment for it to sink in. When it did, Kanan’s heart crumpled. “Do you… like training with me, Ezra? Is it something you look forward to?”
Ezra stared at Kanan a second before lowering his eyes.
That answered Kanan’s question better than any verbal response. “Ezra, please be honest with me: do you think I’m being too hard on you?”
A shrug. “Sometimes, I guess. You can be kinda strict. And impatient. And just… really intense sometimes.”
Kanan swallowed. His face was a gradient of sorrow and disappointment.
“But I do like training,” Ezra added hastily. “Most of the time. Like when you’re in a good mood.”
Kanan bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Ezra. A Master should never allow his emotions to affect his instruction, and I’m guilty of doing precisely that. Please forgive me.”
“It’s okay, Kanan.”
“No, it isn’t. I shouldn’t be so overbearing. I need to just”—his eyes began to mist over; he made a chopping motion with his shaking hand—“remind myself that you weren’t raised in the Temple crèche. That you haven’t had the groundwork most younglings have before they become Padawans. There’s no reason for me to be pushing you this hard. That’s—that’s my fault. My fear. I’m afraid.”
“You? Of what?”
Kanan sighed. “I’m not sure. Maybe time. I feel like I’m trying to beat the chrono. I lost so many years, Ezra, and you’re getting such a late start on your training, it’s all…” He made a vague gesture. “I’m letting you down without even realizing it. I’m sorry.”
Ezra tucked his bottom lip between his teeth. Reached out and touched Kanan’s wrist with his warm hand.
Kanan lifted his eyes. They shimmered with remorse. “I promise to do better from now on.”
Ezra pulled his mouth into a tight smile.
Kanan mirrored it. “Are we good?”
“Yeah, of course. We’re always good.”
“Okay.” Kanan nodded and released a windy breath. He scanned Ezra from head to toe. “I guess we need to figure out what’s causing this pain, huh?”
“That’d be nice.”
“Alright. Let’s get you down from here then.”
Ezra grimaced. “I don’t think I can—”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”
He scooped Ezra, blanket and all, into his arms and hopped off the ladder.
The Ghost didn’t have a real infirmary, so Kanan dropped Ezra off in his own cabin and left him on his bunk while he went to fetch a medscanner. When he returned, Ezra had made himself a nest under Kanan’s bedding and was loath to pull down the blankets. He did so reluctantly, revealing his pajamas: wrinkled orange shorts and a white tanktop customized by Sabine. His name was airbrushed on the front in blue and purple dye. Kanan sat on the edge of the bunk and ran a scan from hip to ankle on both of Ezra’s legs. Nothing abnormal was detected.
“I swear I’m not making this up, Kanan.”
“I know. Must be something else.” Kanan stared at the negative readout with lips pursed, pensively stroking his goatee. “No broken bones. No pulled muscles or tendons. Ligaments are fine. No inflammation.” He set the scanner aside. “It sounds like it might be growing pains, but you’re too old to be having those.”
“What’re growing pains?”
“You never heard of them?”
Ezra shook his head.
Kanan’s eyebrows sprang up briefly. “They’re muscle pains typically felt in the legs sometime in early puberty. Have your legs ever hurt like this before?”
“No. Not that I remember anyway.”
“Well, the good news is they don’t last long, if this is the case. Maybe we need to incorporate a stretching routine into our pre-training sessions. Come to think of it, we probably should have already been doing that.”
“Stretching? Sounds boring and painful.”
“Only if you’re not flexible.” Kanan took Ezra’s right foot in his hands and gently bent it upward.
Ezra hissed and dug his fingers into the blankets.
“A little. It burns.”
Kanan relaxed Ezra’s foot for a few seconds and then repeated the stretch. Ezra winced but was otherwise unfazed.
“Massage and stretching is supposed to help with growing pains. I figure it probably wouldn’t hurt in this situation.”
“Yeah, until it does.”
A beat passed. Then Kanan laughed.
Ezra smirked and laid back, folded his hands on his belly. Kanan stretched Ezra’s foot a few more times and then moved to his calf, carefully kneading the muscle with firm fingers. By the time he started on Ezra’s quadriceps, the boy’s eyelids were drooping. By the time he finished Ezra’s right leg and moved to his left, he had fallen asleep again. Air whistled gently through his nose.
Kanan smiled fondly at his Padawan as he worked.
One was never too old to have growing pains.