“So how was it, kid?”
Kanan’s first words to him in over a standard month. It was good to feel his voice in his ears again.
In the pink light of Lothal’s setting sun, Ezra unfolded his arms and summoned a nervous grin. The cloud of butterflies that had been churning in his stomach since he first saw Kanan coming down the Ghost ’s boarding ramp finally ebbed to a gentle, bearable tickle.
“Forgot what it was like to be on my own.”
Kanan regarded his Padawan, dressed in the crisp white uniform of an Imperial Cadet, and smiled with such warmth that Ezra could feel it soaking into his skin.
“You miss it?” Kanan asked softly, still smiling, but it was a worried smile.
Ezra understood. He was beginning to understand a lot of things now. Grownup things. Unspoken things.
He’s asking if I wish I was still on my own. If I regret becoming his apprentice. He wants to know if I’m still happy. Because he cares about me.
Color bloomed on Ezra’s cheeks. He turned his eyes to the ground, tried to focus on the question instead of the possible meanings behind it.
Yeah, there were some things he missed about being on his own. Fewer responsibilities. Fewer chores. His own room—his own place, even if it was a dilapidated dump. No antagonistic droids or grumpy Lasats to deal with. No authority figures to mind. No bedtime curfew.
But there were also a lot of things he didn’t miss. Big things. The constant hunger. Fear. Uncertainty. No friends, no one he could really trust. The helplessness he felt whenever he saw more troops arriving in his city. Having to beg or steal just to keep himself fed, and it was never enough. Never enough food. Never enough fuel. Never enough kindness. Sleeping in his miserable little rat’s nest of castoff blankets night after night and trying to keep his hopes up. Living on the singular feeble prayer of maybe tomorrow will be better.
Ezra blinked himself out of his reverie. Kanan was patiently waiting for him here in the present, just an arm’s length away—friend, teacher, Master, ally. Someone who cared about him. Someone who maybe even loved him.
How long had it been? How many years since he was last touched by a caring hand, until Kanan Jarrus walked into his life?
Ezra swallowed, put on his game face, and shrugged one shoulder. “Nah. It’s good to be back.”
A moment passed before Kanan chuckled and grasped Ezra’s shoulder. His hand was warm and solid. Reassuring. That fond smile returned, melting through the Force and touching the light of Ezra’s core.
“It’s good to have you back.” He slid his arm around Ezra’s shoulders and ruffled his hair. “Come on.”
With a giddy heart, Ezra mounted the ramp beside his Master.
For a brief moment he wondered how Kanan would have reacted if he had answered honestly.
Not as much as I missed you.